Tom Fabbri Extols Wisdom on How To Live Healthier Longer
In this interview, I sit down with Tom Fabbri, AKA the life wrangler. Tom is a private Jet and helicopter pilot, won Natural Mister Universe in his mid 50s, has climbed 6 of the 7 summits (the tallest peaks on every continent) and is launching a health and wellness brand called TM360.
This is the second of a series of interviews with Tom. In our first interview, we got into detail about Tom’s life up to this point, the origins of his love of health, and his dreams for the future. I strongly suggest watching, listening, or reading that piece at Climbing Everest & Changing How The World Moves.
Today we start by discussing Tom’s seeming lack of aging. In his sixties, Tom is the image of health. He is preparing to climb Mount Everest, engaging in such activities as cold exposure and The Wim-Hof method, and still flying professionally for a number of clients.
Personally, I expected recommendations regarding nutrition, exercise, breath control, and more, but the answers are so much better. Tom is a wealth of knowledge and I hope you enjoy this interview. I certainly did.
The following is a condensed version of the interview. I have endeavored to make our conversation much more readable without losing any of the valuable content. If you want the full interview, you can watch it in video format in the top of this piece.
How Old Are You? “I’m Not.”
Keenan: Alright, let’s get started. Today’s conversation is going to be much more focused on health, especially with regard to Aging. You were telling me that Tom Brady started a health company recently, and people are saying he’s too old but he’s only in his forties. Compared to that, you destroy the notion that age has to mean slowing down.
Tom: Yeah what’s up with that? Last night we flew from New York to DC and then Palm Beach, and started having a conversation with some of the folks on the airplane while we were waiting. At one point this gentleman asked me if I have any kids. I said “Yeah, I have a son, he’s 27.” This gentleman hears that and asks how old I am. “I’m not.” Which is the answer I give to everyone.
So, naturally, I asked him how old he is. He says “I’m 56, and I’m just worn out. My body is shot.” I’m like, wow, that’s interesting. Then I told him, in terms of aging on a calendar, I’m several years older than you.
I just don’t buy into that whole philosophy. A lot of it is mindset, individualism and forging your own path on what you believe. If you’d talked to me when I was 27 it would be a different conversation, but evolving over the years I became more of an individual than a groupthink kind of guy. I’m not into that retire-at-65 dogma. I’m into doing my thing rather than what you’re taught to believe.
In today’s society people are living longer but not living better. Think diapers and nursing homes, but you can be living better.
Keenan: Yes, this is golden. You talk about how we have this mindset in the west. At 65 years old, you retire and go finally enjoy your life… sitting on a beach doing nothing. It’s not a coincidence that mortality rates spike after retirement, even though 65 is not altogether old.
The number is hardly what’s important. Most people just retiring have a low quality of life.
I’ve become very interested in learning about Eastern culture, especially places like Okinawa Japan, and Hong Kong China. Despite the great pollution in Hong Kong, as a city, they have one of the highest life expectancies. Some of the things they do are move their bodies throughout their whole life, they don’t retire.
I want to ask you, as someone who is very healthy in general not to mention their specific age, What do you think are the keys to keeping that quality of life high as you get older?
Tom: Purpose. When I go, when I die, it will be because I’m done doing what I need to do. It won’t be from following someone else’s rules. I’m willing to risk everything to pursue my dreams and goals and purpose.
I believe everyone has a purpose in life, but most people are afraid to find out what that purpose is.
I want to change the world with regard to health and wellness and one of the big things is movement. That’s why our tagline is Life in Motion (for TM360.) We still need our body to live. We haven’t designed it out of our lives yet. We’re thinking beings but we’re still more-so “doing” beings.
Simple movement is key. You look at the Blue Zones around the world, and they all move. There are other things. Being social, eating well. A big issue with this pandemic are the social implications, but movement is huge.
Then finally there’s taking care of your body by feeding it good things, and I’m not just talking about food. Feed your body good books, read good material. You have to learn to take care of your body.
We also need to be careful about the science. If you just look at the science, it can limit you. Before Roger Banister broke the four minute mile, scientists said it was impossible. They said your heart would stop etc. Then Banister breaks the four minute mile and within a year several more people do too.
The mindset has to happen first. That’s why I don’t answer that question “How old are you?” We’ve been responding to that question since we were like 10 years old. How old am I? I’m not.
Keenan: Yeah, wow. There’s so much to unpack here. For one thing, I want to reiterate your point that purpose is the place to start. I think that it’s the true starting point for everything, be it aging, or career. People try to avoid admitting they even have a purpose.
When you said that you’ll die when you’re done, when you’ve accomplished all you need to do, it really blew my mind because I’ve heard it before.
There was this Chinese citizen who, according to birth records, lived to be over 200 years old. Now, this is obviously very debated. It’s not confirmed and people don’t believe it, but this man was at least a centurion, over 100.
Whether he lived 2 centuries or not, when interviewed on the secret to his longevity, he said something very interesting. He said he was still alive because he still had work to do, and that he’d die when his work in this life was done. You are the only person I’ve heard say that other than him.
He had other tactics, like Chinese herbs and taking care of his body, but his number one reason was that he still had purposeful work to do.
That’s not a common sense answer to how to live long and well, yet here you are, someone who looks like he’s no older than fifty. You have clients in their mid fifties who think you are younger than them. Yet in reality, you are much “older” on a calendar.
I know you wrote a book about aging well. Could you give me a summary of that book? What it was about and why you wrote it?
Tom: This philosophy and the book really came up because of conversations flying for the airlines. People commented on how I looked, and asked questions on how I stayed fit and healthy. They actually didn’t really ask my age much. Pilots have to pass screening tests showing we are healthy enough to fly, but even with that, most people didn’t take care of themselves.
In the early days of pursuing this health and wellness philosophy, I was being asked all these questions so I turned around and did the same. I started asking myself about wellness and aging. With the help of a ghost writer we put together this book, and of course there was nutrition and fitness, but goal setting was in there. Purpose was in there.
I asked people to really question themselves. “Oh, I want to be like Lebron James.” Well, why? Why would you want to be like Lebron James? Maybe you want to play basketball like Lebron but you need to focus on being you.
A big shift happened when I was bodybuilding (In my early-to-mid fifties.) I realized that this wasn’t healthy and I needed to do this for me rather than for my ego or appearance.
This all came together in my book “Ageless You.” It started with the questions I’d get at the airlines, and expanded.
There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression out there right now. I see it in younger folks. They’re stuck in this groupthink that they’re a victim of what’s going on. My philosophy is there’s an opportunity in every storm.
Keenan: It reminds me of a piece from Think & Grow Rich by Napolean Hill. I remember Napolean describing how he felt unfairly lucky during the Great Depression. While everyone else was so hurt by this time period, he was still relatively well off.
He felt that his way of thinking and pursuing opportunity caused independence from the tides of the economy.
Compared to the great depression, this pandemic is nothing. You know, I know so many people who complained about losing their jobs or say this is such a bad time to be alive, but none of them applied to work at Amazon or started driving for Uber. I know people with access to a car that just lost their jobs and became unemployed, and that’s it. These are young, low-risk people. for work. This time we’re in now, bad as it is, still isn’t anything compared to then. Don’t want to interact with people? Drive for Uber Eats.
Anyway, even separate from the level of tragedy, people with that individual mindset like Napolean Hill see the opportunities in the Maelstrom and weather these economic dips. Now, I think we entrepreneurs often have our own great depressions and recessions but it’s independent from the economy. We don’t suffer from lack of opportunity.
Back to the health side of things, I know you competed in Bodybuilding but I wanted to ask about that in more detail. Did you compete in an age group or against everyone?
Tom: I did both. I followed the footsteps of guys like Frank Zane, but I competed against everyone to show that a guy in his fifties can still do this. The one big thing I learned from bodybuilding is that shortcuts don’t work well. Bodybuilding is rife with shortcuts and it never ends well.
From cutting techniques to steroids or supplements, it’s rife with it. When I finally won, which took 6 years, it was after I stopped doing it for anyone but myself. I stopped all supplements and just started eating natural food. No fish oil, or arginine or creatine.
You know, I’d see people passing out on stage because they hadn’t had water in 3 days!
So I shifted my whole mindset towards self-growth. I made it for me and centered it on taking care of the body. Don’t destroy the body for looking good on the beach. In my last year bodybuilding, eating real food, not using supplements, is when I finally won Natural Mister Universe.
Keenan: Bodybuilding is interesting because on the outside, it looks like the fittest people you’ve ever seen. On the inside though, as you said, there are so many shortcuts.
I think bodybuilding can in many ways exemplify the mindset around health in the West. We like accomplishment, we like looking amazing, but we don’t as often do things just for ourselves or just for our health.
I love the United States for our innovation, and a big part of that is from this competitive mindset, but the ugly side is that everyone wants a quick fix. They want answers, but not lifestyle changes.
I think this is why we have these mindsets that you’re old when you’re forty. I mean how do you react to Tom Brady by thinking “he’s too old to start a health brand.” The guy is still going to super bowls.
So bodybuilding often is the image of that. Looks amazing. Isn’t healthy on the inside.
Tom: Right and I learned that even more when I started climbing mountains. I got out there and thought “there’s something wrong here. I’ve been in the gym for years doing bodybuilding yet I can’t keep up with these mountaineers.”
This is really how the fitness product TM360 came about. I wanted to find ways for people to use their body. I’ve incorporated all these different movements such as yoga, tai chi, and now also mace work. We get you out of this linear plane and into this 360 plane of movement.
It’s an interesting journey that I’m on. These thoughts come into my head and I act on them.
We were talking about the mountain climbing last night with this couple, and this gentleman was saying it sounded amazing, such an adventure, etc. But he’d never want to try it. That’s a true statement, everyone has their own Everest, but we have to find what that is.
I told this gentleman “at least 90% of the climb is from the neck up.” It’s all mindset. I could go to Everest on a perfect day, and if my mindset is bad, I won’t make it.
Keenan: I feel like it’s a muscle in your brain to face that fear forthrightly. I’ve been reading a book “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. He was 300lbs working for a cockroach company, and turned it around, became a Navy SEAL, then became an ultra-marathoner all while having a hole in his heart.
People hear about those guys and think “Oh you just have it naturally.” But I’m a naturally scared person, and so was David at the beginning of his book. I think what’s really the case is that you learn to feel that fear, and face it, and voluntarily move towards it.
I’ve struggled with panic disorder since about 2017 when my health crashed. There’s been a lot of stuff I’ve done on the physical side, but getting into these mindsets has moved me past things that I’ve been afraid to do for years.
Every time I felt a fear, and faced it, the fears would run away. I feel like fear runs away when you face it.
Let me know if you agree with this. I think what’s hard for people today is that they don’t get chances to voluntarily face their fear. They stay in their comfort zone because life doesn’t ask them to face fear.
I don’t know, I guess I’m asking if you’ll just speak on this topic of fear based on your experience.
Tom: I actually read David Goggins’ book. If you look at his life, adversity is a great tool. He had a lot of adversity growing up, and his was different than mine. He had this goal of becoming a Navy SEAL to become a badass, but in reality it took him 2 times to get through hell week.
He pushed his body to the absolute limit and it wasn’t responding. I think he learned the hard way. You get to the end of his book and his body just began to shut down. Eventually he recovered using stretching and body recovery, but he learned the hard way.
I promote pushing against your discomfort zone and bumping that ceiling up gradually. You don’t need to make it a do-or-die situation. Whether it’s a Tough Mudder or climbing Everest. When I was in Antarctica and we got caught in a storm, we had to just do what we needed to do to survive, but most people don’t put themselves in those scenarios.
You need to use your mindset and realize it’s just an experience. Shift your mindset and keep moving. Don’t fear failure. We’re taught to fear failure and criticized for it.
When I was in school, if you answered a question wrong, you were belittled. I grew up Irish Catholic, and was told I was a sinner, we were wacked and beaten and you get your genius beaten right out of you.
That’s why people learn how to take tests and prepare to go to college. Then you get prepared to take more tests to go on for more schooling. You’re not taught a purpose in life. The tests have no value for what you’re put on this earth to do. It’s preparation to be a factory worker.
Keenan: My Dad is an entrepreneur so I was always aware that college was just one path, not THE path. I did one year at college, just to see if anything reached out to me. While I was there, I noticed that so many people didn’t have a plan. In many ways, college was a way to delay actually figuring out what the hell we wanted.
I think one of the only reasons I was so comfortable leaving college is that I homeschooled for a year. My dad had me learn from textbooks, and I realized that it’s not that scary to live a life that you’ve never lived.
I wonder if there’s a parallel with the health stuff. It’s easy to think the solution is at the end of this road. You have to give yourself permission to start today.
Tom: Yeah someday never comes. There’s no guarantees with anything. I see what the government is trying to do today, giving you this security blanket of welfare and retirement checks, and it makes you dependent.
Depend on yourselves. You may get some safety but you lose your purpose and individuality. You become part of the crowd, one of the sheeple. There’s a reason there’s so much depression and anxiety. We aren’t living the way we need to as individuals. Sure, we still need other people. Isolation doesn’t suit us well, but you still need to be the individual within the group.
It takes courage to stand up on your own, but I found out that when you do, people see it. They think “wow, he’s doing that! I want some of that.”
I’m doing it by going out and doing my own thing regarding health and wellness. It’s not big tech and big pharma telling you that you need to take a drug for your restless leg syndrome. I’m on this path of speaking out against that by pushing forward with functional movement.
Keenan: You know it is interesting because even today, bodybuilding style health clubs are the norm. But there is a shift happening. I want to get more into the TM360 product you’re making. You said when you were climbing mountains, you felt unfit.
What did you mean by that? I mean you were an accomplished bodybuilder going into mountaineering. You said that this caused you to develop some new changes.
Tom: Yeah it was pretty simple. I thought at first that it was about having a certain look. Like wow, you look great, but when put to the test, I couldn’t perform. That’s what we’re taught, and sold, and what we’re buying: You have to have a certain look to be fit.
There’s really nothing wrong with that, but if your only purpose is to stand on the beach and look fit, I think that’s shallow.
It’s ego based. I still deal with ego on a daily basis, but I like to be transparent with my struggles and what I’ve overcome.
This is where I relate to David Goggins. He had this brutal father, and to let go of that pain, he had to go through a lot of self-induced pain. It created this mindset.
I use that a little bit. I like his book, but I don’t like the way he goes beyond the limits of his body to the point of destroying his body. However, there is a way to push beyond your limits, and the mindset you get from facing things is important.
I was on the track a couple weeks ago, walking a couple miles. I saw some trash along the side of the track, and I walked over, picked up the trash, and held on to it until I came to a garbage can. This woman behind was on the track and just said “Wow! Thank you!”
I’ve done this for the past thirty years now, and to me it’s just something I do, but it’s interesting when someone sees you. This woman who saw me went over, picked up trash and threw it away too.
When I do it and people see me, they’re always grateful and then they’ll go do something. It’s because you give them permission. It sounds weird, but that’s what it is. It gives them permission.
Imagine if every day, everyone picked up one piece of trash and threw it away. Number one, it’s a feel good moment for yourself. Then you pass it along if someone sees you. It becomes a ripple effect.
When you live “On Purpose” it branches out to other people, and that’s why I think it’s so important to get with the program and build yourself as an individual.
Keenan: Wow… I love that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said that way either. Living “on purpose.”
And I imagine just how the world would be if every person were the kind of person to pick up trash they saw on the road. Not just for the effect of the trash, but just that everyone was the kind of person who cared about the little things.
Tom: It takes courage. It takes facing others seeing you, and facing all we’re taught about failure.
I’ll end with this: Humans are very moldable and pliable. We’re born geniuses, but we’re taught from a very young age “No.” Not “why?” but “no.” Then you end up following the path that society wants you on. We admire the Elon Musks of the world who just go out there and do their own thing.
Keenan: Boom. Lets end with that.