Rising Through Resilience: Francois Kress of Feelmore Labs On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Cove! We developed a safe technology which activates the natural pathways of resilience in your mind. 20 minutes a day while you can focus on other things (like one of the points above!) and over time your brain will strengthen the neural networks involved in resilience. Cove has helped thousands of people already.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Francois Kress.
Since 2017, François Kress has been the Co-Founder & CEO of the Apex Neuro Holdings Group, a Series B group of companies, including Feelmore Labs Inc, developing innovative consumer and clinical neuromodulation technologies to improve mental and cognitive life. This includes the recently launched Cove wearable device that is proven to improve sleep and reduce stress.
Prior thereto, Mr. Kress spent the last 25 years at the helm of the world’s leading luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Prada, Fendi, The Row, among others. A scientist by training, Mr. Kress became an Advisory Board member at Modern Meadow, a leather biofabrication company and a member of the Board of Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (KYTH) since 2010 and until the company’s very successful acquisition by Allergan in September 2015. With the launch of Cove, Mr. Kress brings together his passion for science and his deep knowledge of consumer markets by pioneering a new category of wearable devices that help you feel better so you can live better.
Mr. Kress received a Master of Science from the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique, France and Master degrees in International Business and Civil Engineering from the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, France. Mr. Kress provides an extensive background in branding, global sales, marketing, operational and strategic planning, as well as global executive and leadership expertise.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I’m originally from France but consider myself a citizen of the world. I lived and worked in several countries around Europe and Asia until finally becoming a new yorker about 20 years ago. My life started in pure science, mostly mathematics, for years until I joined the luxury industry and travelled the world leading some of the most prestigious brands, the likes of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Prada or Bulgari, until I got reunited with science by sitting on a biotech company’s board from 2010 to 2015 which made me realize that I could use my luxury industry track record to bring innovative and helpful products to the market. Long story short, in 2017 I left the luxury industry for good and started Feelmore Labs with the intention of making great science approachable to consumers.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
As an engineer and scientist by training, I started my career thinking that everything can be quantified. This is a trend we hear a lot about these days when data has become so prominent, and most decisions seem to be based on quantifiable measurements. But I learned quickly that when it comes to human behavior, especially when dealing with different cultures, the primary talent required of an executive is the ability to connect with people, to share a vision and try to create a workplace culture which makes it a pleasure to go to work and not a burden. It doesn’t mean that technical skills don’t matter obviously, especially when it comes to tech, but first and foremost constantly striving at keeping people working around you excited about the company’s mission is definitely a skill they don’t teach at school!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are bringing a completely new way to handle mental self-care. We assembled a very diverse team of neuroscientists, marketers, software, and hardware engineers and seeing them all work together towards a positive societal goal is very uplifting. Everyone is so excited to be educated in quite sophisticated and advanced neuroscience while our science team is also being challenged to produce science which makes sense for the average customer.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I attribute my attention to detail and work ethic to my great professors and mentors at Ecole Polytechnique in France, some of them Nobel Prizes or Medal Fields recipients. I was educated by some of the most prominent scientists in the fields of Mathematics and Physics and will always be grateful for the sense of curiosity and the scientific rigor they instilled in me. Furthermore, I was very inspired by the late Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton from 1990 until 2012. Most inspiring mentor and leader who built the most valuable luxury brand in history from a family business to a global powerhouse.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
The rigorous neuroscience definition of resilience is “a ‘timely neurobiological response to
onset of stressor accompanied by fast subsequent decline of such response”. This means that one’s reaction to stress isn’t delayed and doesn’t linger longer than necessary. Resilient people respond “appropriately” to stress: a response is necessary and healthy but shouldn’t be disproportionate and last beyond the triggering event. Resilient people are those who have a perfectly commensurate response to the stressor.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
That’s more of a philosophical question: courage is not defined in neuroscience. Courage is about overcoming fear. A resilient person is certainly more likely to be courageous in the sense that they won’t be unreasonably afraid of their reaction to a stressful or fearful event.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I just watched the film ‘King Richard’ about Richard Williams. Talk about resilience! This man, against all odds, was so determined to achieve his goals for his family — truly mind blowing.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
This is a recurring theme in my life! I wasn’t athletic at all as a child. On the contrary, I was often sick and quite fragile. I took it as a challenge later in life when I realized that I had the potential to become a decent runner and I started training intensively, up to the point of finishing some races in the top 3 of my age range here in NYC. Nobody would have ever taken a bet on it!
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
As a competitive runner, I learned to overcome pain: I even ran a marathon on a torn hamstring a few years ago which was completely stupid and incredibly painful but taught me how to listen more to my body which is a great strength. But physical setbacks are nothing compared to the curveballs life sometimes throws at you. Without sharing too many details of my personal life, a difficult divorce and bringing four children to adulthood certainly made me stronger!
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I think that the more you face adversity, the more you have the opportunity to develop resilience. It is a form of training (and by the way your brain learns all your life and stimulating it with stress will teach it to develop resilience). It started for me as I had a major head injury when I was 5 years old. I was hospitalized for a while and there was fear that I would never be able to function properly in life. Fast forward 50 years, I am doing OK! This accident was a tipping point for me. I remember thinking that it made me special and that I would have to be as good as I could all my life. Not that I recommend kids to experience traumatic events for the sake of becoming more resilient, obviously.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Develop positive relationships: genuine positive connections with other people are essential to developing resilience.
- Take care of your body: mindfulness, yoga, meditation, or simply active exercise helps people stay hopeful and positive, while often building connections with others.
- Healthy thoughts: everybody is faced at times by stressful challenges. We must accept them, rationalize vs catastrophize, and accept change as it is.
- Find purpose: set yourself realistic goals and achieve them. If they can involve helping others, even better! Developing a virtuous circle of accomplishments is essential to developing resilience.
- Cove! We developed a safe technology which activates the natural pathways of resilience in your mind. 20 minutes a day while you can focus on other things (like one of the points above!) and over time your brain will strengthen the neural networks involved in resilience. Cove has helped thousands of people already.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would encourage everyone to improve their interoception. This barbarian name covers something we all feel instinctively. Our brain is constantly receiving information from our inner body and skin, but very few of us are equipped to interpret it clearly and thoroughly. High interoception is a gift but can and should be developed by everyone. It plays a major role in regulating emotions and leads to better health in general. This subject is gaining tremendous interest at the moment (NIH, etc.) and our company has been working on it for years as we demonstrated that our technology essentially promotes better interoception, in turn builds resilience to stress.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Eliud Kipchogue comes to mind. He is a Kenyan professional long-distance runner who set the world record for running a marathon under 2 hrs. His admirable achievements are not only a direct result of his disciplined physical training but also his incredibly resilient mindset.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Instagram & Twitter: @feel_cove
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!