Following five years in the United States Navy, Dr. Seth R. Hickerson, Founder of Boost Mental Toughness and Leadership, embarked on a journey into the world of sports psychology. After completing his Master’s in Sports Studies at the University of Tennessee and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, he applied his education and experience to creating a system that allows anyone – not just professional athletes – to become optimum performers in their industry. Hickerson shared the story behind his entrepreneurial journey and explained why he’s so passionate about helping people improve their mindfulness, emotional intelligence, ability to cope with stressful situations and cognitive fitness.
“Before launching Boost in January 2017, I oversaw fitness and wellness for staff and students at the University of Richmond and also worked as the Associate Athletics Director for YMCAs in Oklahoma City,” Hickerson said. “While living in Oklahoma, I recognized an opportunity to develop a system to expand mental health training beyond the sports community. Much of the inspiration for starting Boost came from my understanding of the mental health challenges faced by the medical community. My ex-wife is a trauma surgeon and I saw first-hand the toll that line of work took on many of her colleagues.”
Hickerson continued, “As part of their medical curriculum, they don’t receive training on mindfulness, how to deal with high-stress situations or techniques to maintain and improve their mental health. As a result, surgeons have some of the highest rates of suicide of any profession. They’re also quitting in record numbers, which will eventually create a massive shortage of doctors by 2032. Many of my doctor friends are miserable. To make matters worse, they’re not the type to call a suicide hotline or lay down on a couch for therapy. That’s really what inspired me to create a system that’s designed around performance, tactical resiliency and learning how to remain mindful and present when things go sideways.”
It’s well known that the United States military is the number one training organization on the planet. Unfortunately, most non-military personnel do not receive adequate training. Further, as Hickerson shared, we live in a society that does everything reactively, not proactively.
“Our current mental health treatments revolve around treating a patient once mental health issues have presented themselves,” he said. “Unfortunately, our society doesn’t know what mental health training is. We want to prepare people to better handle situations in life and work so they’re ready when things don’t go as planned. Until now, this type of training really hasn’t been available to the general public.”
While still living in Oklahoma City, Hickerson launched Boost Mental Toughness and Leadership in 2018. His first steps were creating the infrastructure to delivery his methodology and training approach in a scalable way. Utilizing his background in performance and mental training, he focused on turning his knowledge into a product and designed a curriculum around high-level mental skills training.
“In the world of mental skills training, it’s usually done on a one-on-one basis and it’s usually reserved for the top 5% of athletes,” Hickerson said. “When I got turned on to this training, I was angry because I didn’t have it. It wasn’t readily available for someone like me. Even though, when I started the business, I was focused on athletes, after about a year I knew that learning to overcome stressful situations to focus on the task at hand was something everyone needed. We tested our training on several different markets until we found a niche in healthcare. Doctors and nurses face burnout and exhaustion in record numbers. Our training can prevent that from happening.”
Working through a handful of challenges, including COVID-19, marketing to the right groups and having to reestablish himself in a new community – after moving to Brevard County last year – Hickerson has grown the business through mostly word-of-mouth referrals. As a client, what to expect comes down to your preferred method of training.
“The boot camp is five weeks,” Hickerson said. “It consists of two online lessons per week and then in-person coaching sessions on Friday. During the Friday session, we review what was learned throughout the week and talk about how to apply it. Once you learn the techniques and skills to stay in your professional zone, you’ll be able to apply those skills towards anything you do in life. It’s like a cheat code.”
Hickerson continued, “The newest service I plan to roll out in January 2021 is more of a one-on-one mentor program. It’s usually a three month commitment where we look at aligning your spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. The end goal of getting you into that ‘flow state’ is still the focus.”
When it comes to what he enjoys most about owning and operating Boost Mental Toughness and Leadership, Hickerson shared the following. “I enjoy seeing people make breakthroughs and have those ‘aha’ moments when they realize they are capable of doing whatever they set their minds to. I am grateful to get to meet so many awesome people and organizations, and forward-thinking thought leaders and visionaries that understand the importance of providing mental wellness training within their organization.”
Looking ahead, Hickerson’s main goal is getting more involved and plugged into the Brevard community. He wants to establish a strong network in the area and provide training to organizations – of any size or type – that are looking for strategic ways to help reduce stress and improve performance of their people and business. His immediate priority is providing healthcare organizations with training to reduce burnout and the emotional exhaustion experienced by doctors and nurses. “The current pandemic has taken a massive toll on the health and wellness of our healthcare providers,” he said. “Our job is to serve those that serve us.”
What advice does Hickerson have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “To borrow Nike’s slogan, ‘Just do it’,” he said. “Believe me; I know it can be scary. Stepping into that uncertainty takes a giant leap of faith. Something I like to tell people that I work with is that if something makes you nervous but excited at the same time, you should probably do it. Most importantly really think about your ‘why’. What problem are you solving? What is your unique gift (because yes you do have one)? Why do you want to start this business? Once you figure out your ‘why’, you can Google the ‘how’. Also, have an idea as to what your main goal is. Do you want a lifestyle business, a ‘big’ business, or is your goal to create something you can sell or exit? Once you have those ideas in place, ONLY seek advice from people that have done exactly what you want to do.”