HomeArticlesHow this VC founder overcame poverty to become an NFL player and Harvard grad

How this VC founder overcame poverty to become an NFL player and Harvard grad

VC Founder and former NFL player, Isaiah Kacyvenski, didn’t grow up rich. In fact, his upbringing was quite the opposite. Learn how this Elo Member overcame homelessness to become a professional athlete, Harvard grad, and entrepreneur.

Anne Valta, Elo Health Coach
3 mins

When did you realize your regular approach to health was no longer working?

I grew up poor and, as a kid, I didn't really have a choice about what I put into my body. When I was a freshman attending Harvard University I came to the realization that food had a direct impact on the way I felt. For the first time in my life, I was able to control and understand the interconnectedness between nutrition, sleep, recovery, and sports performance.  

What made you feel like you were in control of your health?

It took a lot of guessing and intuition, and that process was so frustrating to me. If I didn't play in the NFL, my backup plan was to be a doctor, so I had a deep appreciation and interest in human physiology. 

What made the biggest difference?

My profound desire to feel my best was the biggest difference. I had moments of feeling great physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I was constantly trying to recreate the training, diet, recovery, sleep, and hydration regime that led to that. I was intent on finding that reproducible state of high performance.

What does ‘good health’ mean to you today?

Good health means the same as it always has to me: How can I feel my best when my best is needed? I am no longer an elite athlete, but I still try to find a prescriptive path for optimizing performance. 

What is your favorite unexpected health hack?

Controlling how I breathe from waking up to the moment I go to bed. The benefits of doing this have impacted me in ways I didn’t expect. 

What do you use to track your health?

Apple watch, Breathing app (Breathwrk), and a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM).

What eating approach works for you?

This is one of the most elusive feedback loops for me. I am gathering deeper insight with continuous glucose monitoring, but there are other inputs still needed. 

What moment in your life best captures sisu

There are two defining moments in my life. First, was rising from poverty and homelessness during my childhood. When I was 9, I realized that one day I would have a family and I didn't want them to have the same childhood experience as me. From that point onwards, I started investing my energy, positivity, and effort into that journey. It was an extremely powerful moment for me and I’ve never let go of it. 
The second moment was the sudden death of my mother when I was in high school while she was on a missionary trip. She was a one-of-a-kind, off-the-charts amazing woman with a heart of gold. She experienced an unbelievably tough childhood herself and spent the first 12 years of her life in an orphanage. 
My mother was very much my guiding light and taught me how to channel positivity, kindness, creativity, and a sense of worth when we had nothing. Her death could have led to a mire of despair and sadness, but I chose to focus on all the amazing things she taught me. She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

What's your biggest claim to fame? 

I would consider this more of a “little known fact about me.” I was drafted ahead of Tom Brady in the NFL Draft of 2000. I was the 119th pick and Tom was the 199th. He definitely got the last laugh on all 198 picks ahead of him. It’s a true testament to sustained intensity over an extraordinarily long period of time. My hat goes off to him - it’s a testament to his sustained intensity over an extraordinarily long period of time.
Member storyAthleteMotivationNFL