Naveen Jain, CEO and founder of Viome, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges through innovation. A man who knows no limits, Jain pushes big dreams into action, spurring massive cultural and technological change. His audacious vision and magnetic personality continually inspire others to follow what feels impossible. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation with him for just the inspiration we need to rethink our goals for the next year—and the next decade.
Think so big, so audaciously, that people will think you are crazy.
Most people think that “moonshot” ideas are so difficult to achieve, they’re impossible. And we all know the only thing that’s impossible is what you believe to be impossible. The only thing that can limit our achievement is our lack of imagination. My mom would tell me when I was young, “You can do anything. You’re a bright kid. The sky’s the limit.” But the sky is only a figment of our imagination … something our visual system created. Of course, there are physical boundaries that we can see, but more often than not, we create mental boundaries for ourselves.
Don’t focus on what the world is, focus on what the world will be.
I know millions of people are benefiting today from what I’m doing. My hope is when they’re successful, they’re going to go out and help millions of people improve their lives, and that’s how we’re going to move society forward. There’s no problem that we can’t solve with technology and entrepreneurship. The only problems that can’t be solved are the ones we believe are impossible to solve.
Sometimes a faint voice based on instinct resonates far more strongly than overpowering logic.
People assume that if they think positively, wonderful things can happen. Thinking positively only allows you to take the first step, but if you never take a step, nothing is going to happen. So positive doing is what makes things happen, not positive thinking. We all are affected by the people with whom we interact daily; on average, that’s around five people. So if you surround yourself with people who are always doubting what you can do and always telling you that you can’t do it, then you ultimately have only two choices, either to continue to interact with them and not do anything or change the people around you in order to make things happen.
If you’re constantly feeling like you are held back by others … find a different environment where people encourage you to pursue your dreams. As I grew up, I started to surround myself with people who believed in possibilities, people who never said, “This can’t be done.” There was no one who told me, “Look at yourself, you can’t do that,” or “It’s not possible for you.” People instead asked, “How do you want to do that?”
You can feel the momentum in this virtuous cycle, a virtuous cycle of success and confidence. Taking a small goal and making it happen gives you confidence. Every time you succeed, it gives you more confidence, allowing you to take on bigger and bigger goals. Break down the things you want to do into smaller steps, and acknowledge each accomplishment before moving on to the next step. Start off walking. The next thing you know, you’re running and then you’re flying.
The sky is not the limit.
Our mindset defines and allows us to do what we want to do. If you believe that you can’t do it, you’re right. You can’t. But the minute you decide that you can do it, suddenly, you see a way. Use the words “what if” like a lever: Use it to explore possibilities.
“What if” is really the beginning of making the moonshot idea a reality. When I look at my life, I close my eyes and imagine a world I can have now. If we simply tell someone, “Just imagine,” then their busy mind suddenly stops and they’re willing to listen to anything you want them to say. Then give them something to visualize. That’s how it begins.
The biggest risk you take in life is not doing something.
People are always trying to pinpoint the moment that everything changes, but I think life is really a continuum. It’s never one single thing or moment that defines you. It is a series of small movements. I really think doing something small is much harder than doing something big, because one after the other, these small actions build up, and the last one becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Stay focused on the mission.
Set a moonshot. A moonshot can be as big as you want. It is something that you believe is important and possible. That’s all it takes. It is something you believe in and something you want to create. You have to jump out of bed, not just feeling passionate about what you’re doing; you need to be completely obsessed with it. Passion is for weak people. Your life has to be a life you’re willing to die for—and if you’re not willing to die for it, you can’t live for it either.
If you want people to like you, there’s a really easy thing to do. Do nothing, be nothing and stand for nothing. Do not challenge the way the world works or how other people think. But if you want to make a difference, question everything and be curious. You know what? You’ll find that you’ll start falling in love with yourself. Don’t worry about what people think of you; start thinking about what is it that you care about and what your life looks like as that thing becomes a part of you daily. The minute you stop looking for someone’s approval and focus on what brings you joy, you start to think in a way that can move the rest of humanity forward.
There is no better time than to start now.
You can always find excuses for not been able to do it now such as “I am waiting for a great idea”, “I don’t know much about the industry” or “I need a stable job”. All of these excuses are simply symptoms of not having found your obsession. It’s not about having the passion which I think should be reserved for hobbies. You can only dedicate your life to something that you are truly obsessed about. Ask yourself what are you willing to die for and then live for it.
Never be afraid to fail. You only fail when you give up.
We’re conditioned to think small. We’re conditioned to play small. We spend all our time on petty things because we think other people are going to take care of the big challenges. There are two reasons why society doesn’t move forward. Number one, we take away people’s power to dream. When people can’t dream, society starts to become, essentially, disconnected and people believe that it becomes someone else’s job. Every time we see a problem, we always say, “Why can’t someone solve this problem?” instead of saying, “What is it that I can do to solve this problem?”
The second biggest thing that really gets us stuck is our fear of failure. People believe if they fail, it will affect their reputation forever. An entrepreneur only fails when they give up. Your idea may or may not work. Every idea that does not work is simply a stepping stone to a better idea.
Your heart and gut are still your best guide.
I always felt that accepting kindness from others comes with a responsibility. I tried to reach out to several people who helped me during my life to become who I am, and every one of them told me they don’t need anything from me. And that is probably the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I feel burdened by the fact that I cannot pay back the people who helped me when I needed it most.
I decided the best way to pay back my debt to society is to pay it forward. That means I’m going to help as many people as I can, and by doing that, those people are going to feel exactly the same burden; they’ll feel the same inability to repay me for my kindness to them. Then they’ll go out and help another million people, and that’s how we’re going to move society forward. I’m on that journey. There’s nothing that has been more satisfying than meeting someone who says, “You changed my life.” It makes this life worth living.
Happiness is a choice.
I believe God gives us a choice to wake up and decide whether or not to be grateful for each day. You can always think of 10 reasons to be unhappy or unsatisfied. You may be rich, but you say, “Well, look at Larry Page. He’s flying a 747, and I’m flying in my Gulfstream. My life just sucks.” Comparison is the thief of joy.
We cannot let material things or any one person be the source of our happiness, controlling our ups and downs and giving them the remote to our self worth. Instead, choose the mindset of gratitude and say, “Oh my God, I woke up and I have no joint pain. I have an amazing husband or wife. I’m healthy and have the mental and physical ability to do what I love to do. The possibilities are endless for me this year. What an amazing life.”
One of Naveen Jain’s current moonshots is Viome. Viome’s mission is to help individuals everywhere take back control of their health and wellness. “We are driven by our goal to create a world where chronic illness can truly be a matter of choice instead of bad luck,” Jain says. By harnessing the most up-to-date knowledge and cutting-edge technology, Viome strives to bring the future to health care—and comprehensive health insights for individuals into their internal ecosystem. New year is a great time to re-evaluate your health and wellness choices. You can check out Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test to gain insight into your gut microbiome that can empower you to make the best lifestyle and nutrition choices for you.