Climbing Everest & Changing How People Move: An Interview of Tom Fabbri AKA The Life Wrangler
The Power of Dreams, and Changing The World By Thinking Big
You wouldn’t guess Tom Fabbri’s background, or why he’s referred to as The Life Wrangler, just by looking at him. It’s not that Tom is in any way unimpressive. Though Tom Fabbri is now in his early 60s, he looks no older than 45. A lifetime athlete turned extreme adventurer, Tom’s body has aged well, in that it has hardly aged at all.
The reason you couldn’t guess his background is because you couldn’t guess such a story by looking at anyone.
Over the course of his life, Tom has stepped from jailhouse days to the heights of private helicopter and jet pilot. From drugs, to being one mountain away from climbing the 7 summits of the world.
Despite a troubled youth, this man has become one of the world’s foremost adventurers. At the time of this writing he has climbed 6 of the 7 summits, the tallest peaks on each continent, and is training for Everest. After which he intends to dive each of the 5 oceans.
But Tom also harbors dreams of changing the world. Having been an athlete and bodybuilder throughout his life, he is a health and wellness expert (you don’t look like him at age 63 otherwise.) Tom’s current project is to create a global wellness brand centered around a product of his own invention: The Total Motion 360 bar. Designed to bring true functional fitness to everyone, this device is a blend of tai-chi, yoga, weight training, calisthenics, and barbell “landmine” training.
In this interview, we get in-depth about what brought Tom to this point in his life. We cover his personal beliefs and goals, how he escaped a background of drugs and jail, and his plans for changing the world through health. Wth much pleasure and no further adieu, I present Tom Fabbri: The Life Wrangler.
My dreams and fulfilling them are bigger than my fears.
Keenan: Alright Tom, as we were just discussing offline, we already know each other but we wanted to do this interview for people who may be curious about your story or about this product Total Motion 360 you are creating. With that said, we actually haven’t ever talked about how you started in health and fitness. Can you start there with your Origins in health and fitness?
Tom: Yeah so it all began in High school. At the time, I was the kid that everyone bullied. After a while my Dad found out and told my older brother to get me into weight-lifting so I could get bigger and not be bullied anymore. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was a cellar dweller. I’m talking the big concrete weights and everything. This was in the 80s so we didn’t have all the fancy equipment, but that’s how I got into Health and fitness. I was the kid who was bullied, and then I got bigger and became the bully.
Keenan: So that ties in to the rest of your story. I’ve not known you for long but I know you started out much differently from where you are now. As you say, you were the Bully, I know you had hardships during your youth yet now you are creating global companies and climbing the tallest mountains in the world. I don’t know if “rags-to-riches” is the right title, but can you talk about your beginnings for us?
Tom: Yeah so that’s the perfect analogy. It was totally a rags-to-riches story, and a rebel too. I’m still a rebel but you can be a rebel in a good way. You can go from being a rebel without a cause to a thought leader. Finding myself in the early days as far as health started as just a shell. It was armor against the things that I was afraid of. Even though I was exercising in the gym, I was still partying like an animal, drinking, doing drugs and getting arrested and I didn’t really shed that shell until I found Aviation when I was 28. That’s when I took my life to the next level.
Keenan: How did you come across aviation? What was the trigger point that brought that into your life?
Tom: Well there were several areas. For one, I was in the Navy and I worked on an aircraft carrier. I’d see these guys, these early-20 year old guys, flying multi-million dollar helicopters and jets. I look at you, you’re 25, and it was guys that look like you that were landing these crazy flying machines.
Keenan: I know that you look at things now and say “if they can do it, I can do it.” I’ve seen you do that with the marketing for total motion 360, obviously with creating the product itself. Is that “if someone else can, I can” attitude something you’ve always had or did you have to cultivate it?
Tom: I developed that later on. I didn’t have the mentors in my early years. My parents didn’t come to the baseball games or events. There was that non-involvement, but I still owned everything that I’d done. I took responsibility for my mis-steps. Heck, now those mis-steps are my mentors and very little scares me. I’ve had a gun held to my head and a shotgun in my face. I got arrested for a DUI going down the highway the wrong way. So all these things, being homeless, divorces, bankruptcy and all that, now there is not that much that scares me. Now I can face the fear, and on the other side there is usually a lesson.
Like with Covid. I take such good care of myself that I’m not afraid of the virus, and I’m a rebel and not afraid of the lockdown repercussions either. I’ve been working on this product and am launching during this recession or depression, whatever you want to call it.
Keenan: Right. It brings to mind an admiration I have developed over the years for certain kinds of people. People who are perhaps more blue-collar in their experience, though not exactly that. It’s based around life experience though, going out into the world and experiencing it directly, and learning through the hard knocks. I grew up in the suburbs and there seems to be a lack of real-life experience. People live their lives “on paper” and not in reality, to an extent.
All these things you say you’ve been through and now you’re not afraid of, well, many people could go through the same things and it would only hold them down and make them more afraid. What stopped you from giving up because of these things and instead you moved forward?
Tom: Because I have dreams. I mean that’s really it, and it’s very simple. As a kid I had dreams and I don’t know one person who as a child did not have dreams. For me it was being an adventurer. I used to watch The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. This is the guy who invented the aqualung, and he traveled around the world on his ship, diving and adventuring.
I wanted to become my own adventurer. My philosophy is that if you can dream it, just go do it.
My dreams and fulfilling them are bigger than my fears.
The Archetype of the Adventurer
Keenan: It’s so interesting because there is an archetype for the adventurer, and it’s not the same as the polymath or the renaissance man. I feel like the renaissance man is known for being multi-talented, or skilled, but he does his work inside a shop. The adventurer is multi-talented by the demands of life, by the challenges on the road or sea. The skill serves the Journey.
A lot of people I come across who are doing powerful things are vagabonds, if not directly then in spirit. They’re looking at the next big thing, in your case, literally the next big mountain with your preparation to climb Everest.
In that view it’s like the things in your past that would be terrible in other people’s lives are simply a part of your adventure.
Tom: Well, I can say that because I did push through it. For years I was embarrassed about my past but then I began to embrace it and own it, and I’m completely transparent. The truth is hard but that quote: “The Truth Will Set You Free,” is absolutely true. You cannot care about what other people think more than what’s in your heart.
People talk about the 1%, and in my view the 1% isn’t monetary. Being part of the 1% is about choosing to live life on your own terms, not what society has laid out for you. If you follow what society tells you, you’re “sheeple” in my opinion. You’re living what others tell you to live instead of what you’re meant to live. This is why we tend to idolize the Elon Musks of the world. If you follow your own path, then hopefully at the end of the day you won’t have any regrets.
I’m still making mistakes but that’s ok. It’s about moving towards your goals and not worrying so much about the mistakes.
Keenan: This makes me think of two different quotes, one is from the bible. I’m paraphrasing but in revelations Jesus comes back during Armageddon and says “those of you who are neither hot-nor-cold I shall spew from my mouth.” The psychologist who I heard discussing this said it was a disgust metaphor. Basically, it’s those who are neutral, neither hot nor cold, who Jesus will be disgusted by. It is better to try and fail and become something terrible or great than to not-participate.
The other quote is that we all get hit, whether we’re on the field or on the sidelines. We might as well be in the game.
Circling this all up, for those listeners who don’t know, Tom has started this product called Total Motion 360 which is a fitness product. I’m a health and fitness writer and it’s truly one of the most intuitive and incredible devices I’ve laid hands on. Tom, of all the things that you’ve done, you’ve done the mountaineering and the aviation, why are you doing this?
Tom: Because I dreamed about it. Not necessarily just the total motion 360 bar, but I dreamed about inspiring the world through health and wellness. It started with pursuing the adventure grand slam: to ski to the north pole, the south pole, and summit the tallest mountain on each continent. I never thought I’d be here now with Everest, the final mountain, looming.
But as I’ve told you outside of this call, when I began this journey despite being a bodybuilder, I looked fit but wasn’t fit. These climbs were kicking my ass. Then one day in the gym, I jammed a barbell into a bumper plate on the ground and started playing with it. After a few times I thought “There’s a product here.”
And this gets back to the one percenters. 99% of people will think of an idea and not act on it. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s a lack of action. one percenters act on their thoughts, that’s it.
So that’s how that started. 7 years ago I had the idea, and over 7 years we’ve gone from napkin sketches to renderings to the prototype and now getting funding with the Indiegogo for launch.
It can be daunting but my dreams are bigger than my fears. I dreamed about starting and owning a global company to inspire people to live their best lives through health and fitness.
The Mountain & The Ocean
Keenan: Mountain climbing is such a great metaphor for this too. When you climb a peak, you have this long arduous journey ahead with no guarantee, and if the weather or the attempt is bad, you have to be able to let go of the summit attempt and try again. Most people couldn’t do it, either the climb, or have the ability to try again if they fail. That commitment is huge, and I think that’s related to your ability to stick to this company goal over the time necessary where others would falter.
What is it you are trying to do for the world that you feel is lacking right now?
Tom: There’s a larger goal for me. I believe the good lord put this dream in my heart and that’s what gives me the faith to pursue this company. The company is going to give me the resources to go for two bigger goals.
One of my bigger goals is to obtain this yacht called the Alucia 1. Ray Dalio is one of the wealthiest men in the world and famous for his book Principles, which is his set of philosophies on work/life principles. He lives here on Long Island and I’m very interested in learning from him.
I wanted to know more about him after being gifted his book, and I came across this yacht while watching these videos about the deep blue sea. There was this yacht in one of the videos, with some submersibles and a helicopter pad, and the yacht was for sale. It’s for sale right now for 17 million dollars. I was wondering “what kind of person would own this yacht?”
Turns out, it’s owned by Ray Dalio and is for sale because he’s building the Alucia 2. Come to find out, it used to be owned by Jacques Cousteau who used it for his adventure tours later in life.
So this all circles back to my origins and my biggest dream in life: to save the world’s oceans. Total Motion 360 and this health brand will give me the resources to get the Alucia 1 and move into the next chapter saving the world’s oceans.
In a sense the oceans are dying because of all the pollutants and plastics and whatnot, and I want to address this and give back. Same with the fitness. I live this amazing lifestyle by taking care of my body, so I want to give back and combat the way we ruthlessly squander our health.
Keenan: I feel like many people are afraid of success, in a sense. There’s a book that I have not read but it’s called “the magic of thinking big” and I think one of the biggest reasons people fail at big goals is that they don’t have anything bigger to pursue past that. Do you feel like having dreams beyond your dreams helps you?
Tom: Well, yes but I needed some help on the way. I used to try doing too many different things at once. I’m flying jets and helicopters, I was doing speaking, I want to write another book. There was too much on my plate and I needed to narrow it down. My son helped my focus on Total Motion 360 because that will give me the resources to go out and do these bigger things, as opposed to anything else in my life.
If I focused all in on the climbing or these other things, it wouldn’t be on the path going forward overall. So that’s what we’ve been doing, I’m all-in on total motion 360 and when I finally did that, people started coming into my life: You, other fitness instructors, our current staff.
You have to be able to fail forward, and most people are so afraid of failure they won’t even start. Your dreams have to bigger than your fears. People live small because they let their fears make them small. Most people buy into that philosophy, my father said you gotta get a job with your retirement benefits. You need stability and people pursue that.
Keenan: And it’s not actually more stable
Tom: Thank you for saying that!
Keenan: Yeah I mean it’s just not. It’s not less risky to be an employee than to be an entrepreneur. I mean I tell people all the time, I don’t feel at higher risk by being an entrepreneur. I could go get a “small life” job and make fine money doing it, without a degree, any time. I could go work in medical recruiting or insurance, or construction. There are tons of job pathways for good money that are widely available.
Hell, most people going for stability instead of their dreams are ending up with less stability. You may make more than me but if you have $60,000 of debt, you’re basically indentured to the working world, so it’s not actually more stable or less risky at all.
It’s wild stuff. I am always pleasantly surprised by how many people are following their heart and you are such a great example.
If anyone thinks it’s too late for them because of jail-time, or drugs, or DUIs, I’d say, look at Tom. He’s a pilot, he’s climbed 6 of the 7 summits. There’s really no limit to what we can do.
Tom: The limits are placed on ourselves. We are very moldable and plyable creatures. It can take a lot to break the mold, go against your parents, or against your teachers and authority, but I’ve learned maybe-the-hard way that there is no security or safety out there. Look at all the people losing their jobs.
You have to look at it as opportunities instead of safety. The only thing we can control is ourselves, not the outside world. When we control ourselves we can make better judgments and decisions.
Keenan: I completely agree. If you could give advice to anyone going through similar challenges to you in your 20s, what would it be? If you could give your 20 year old self advice, what would it be?
Tom: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know that sounds simple, but when I tried to become a pilot I was told no. I was told I was too old, no college, no way, but when I started asking for help, someone appeared to help me.
When you have these dreams, don’t be afraid to ask the question. To ask for support. Once you do ask, you may get negative feedback but the door has already been opened. That’s going to lead to the door continuing to open, people coming in to your life to support you.
It happened to me. A few weeks after being told no, I met a guy who did what I was trying to do. He showed me the steps, and he helped me because he was mad that someone else had told me no. If I hadn’t been told no, I wouldn’t have had the story that got me a mentor that essentially let me become a pilot.
I went on to become an airline captain, no college, none of that stuff.
Keenan: I think asking for help is so overlooked. I think people who have done it generally want to help other people. If someone came to me and genuinely asked for help learning martial arts, I would love to show them how, and I think that’s how most people are.
With that said, I think that’s a great place to wrap up. Is there anything else you want to add before we go?
Tom: You know I think we covered it well but I do just want to re-address the health and fitness. We as a society, and as individuals many of us, take this body for granted. If you don’t take care of this body you can’t fulfill the dreams you have.
Everyone has dreams, but so many of us put them aside and say “that’s for the rich kids, that’s for someone else.” And then we lose our health and no one everyone says they can’t pursue their dreams.
Keenan: Health has been gaining popularity, and I think there’s a wave coming but it still isn’t mainstream. It’s becoming less of a hobby and more of a personal responsibility to care about your body. I love what you are doing and I think this will be a huge company for helping people get their bodies back and pursue their dreams. It’s hard to do that when you’re in a wheelchair.
Tom: Yeah it’s hard to climb a mountain if you can’t get out of bed. Heck, you can’t even lead a great family, it’s hard to take care of your kids and be involved if you can’t get out of bed.
People think it’s hard to do, but it’s just about educating yourself.
I deeply enjoyed the privilege of interviewing Tom for this post. I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people, but Tom has one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever encountered. I met Tom when they found my health and fitness writing through his step-daughter and contracted me as a content creator for their health brand. I did not have any idea about his background in mountaineering or the other goals he has.
It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside such a man, not to mention support such a powerful company. For more information about Tom, you can read about him on his website www.tomfabbri.com.