Naveen Jain wasn’t always a billionaire who wanted to cure the world of chronic illness and inhabit the moon.
Though he now has a number of companies under his belt — Viome, inome, Intelius, TalentWise, and InfoSpace — Jain grew up a seemingly incalculable distance from pondering life’s biggest opportunities like elongated quality lifespans and space-rock mining. His early years growing up near Uttar Pradest, Roorkee, and later New Delhi in India peek through in his latest book, aptly named Moonshots: Creating a World of Abundance.
Forwarded by Sir Richard Branson and inspired in part by his work with X-Prize — the competition that encourages “big thinking” around Earth’s oceans, space, and health — Jain walks his audience through his approach to removing limitations to make anything seem possible. A week after the book’s launch we caught up with Jain for a dive into his own motivations and how we can take our very own moonshots.
GritDaily: Your life is full of contrasts, having started out in a village so poor there wasn’t enough to eat. Now you’re a US billionaire. Not all people have that contrast. What is the underlying driver behind your ambition that you think others could learn from?
NJ: I believe everyone has unlimited potential, many people stop believing in this potential and that’s where they may get stuck. We are the ones that put limitations on ourselves. People tend to view the world as it is rather than thinking beyond and see what it can be. That is a key to removing these limitations, to start imagining the world how you want it to be and then go out an create that world. That’s always been my drive, my own trick, is to focus on the possibilities.
GritDaily: We’ve heard you explain that most experts over generalize the plight of poverty. What is one key to poverty that most people miss?
NJ: I prefer to think of it in more of a lens – How do you get out of poverty? I believe family values are key to remaining successful. If the fabric of family unity is broken, that’s when you may be in trouble, it could lead to a lack of support and self-esteem. A strong family unit with unconditional love and support can help lift confidence, ensure a great education and lead to a greater chance of breaking the poverty cycle.
GritDaily: Moonshots implies that you might fail — or at a minimum, you don’t expect short term gain. How do you want people to see your latest life’s work?
NJ: My success isn’t defined by financial success, but by the number of lives we are able to improve in this world. Personally, my greatest success will never be what I was able to achieve, but what our children are able to achieve. We shouldn’t just focus on leaving a better world for our children, but also to leave better children for our world.
GritDaily: Viome tackles some of the most misunderstood concepts in biology. What story drove your decision to create a market around understanding the human biome?
NJ: If you look at some of the biggest problems facing humanity today, the keys to solve them are within education and healthcare. I believe for the first time in our history, we have the access to technologies that make it possible for chronic illness to be a matter of choice. These technologies can help us fully comprehend what is going on with our bodies at a molecular level. We can understand what is going on in the biome and learn through artificial intelligence how we can adjust our lifestyle to improve our bodies. I believe that through this system and through technology, we have a shot of making illness elective.
This is why I started Viome to take advantage of the cutting-edge technology with the audacious moonshot of making illness elective. If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we would be letting down future generations.
GritDaily: Are there other ways to achieve abundance outside of moonshots? Why is the “moonshot” a good way to conceptualize approaching the world’s challenges?
NJ: The term “moonshot” captures any audacious idea that on the surface seems impossible. I’m convinced that any complex problem that is approached with a moonshot mindset – whether it is healthcare, education, lack of fresh water or lack of energy – all can be solved. For example, instead of listing the reasons why we can’t live on the moon, change your mindset to what technologies already exist or what should be changed to be able to live on the moon. You will quickly realize that living on the moon can be possible. This can be applied to the largest problems we face today; it just takes the right mindset and the right moonshot.
GritDaily: For those who are following your work, where can people expect to see you speak next?
NJ: I will be at the 26th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas this December.
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.