Dr. Frederick “Freddy” Starr: “Other people are not you”

How to manage and motivate people. Other people are not you. They do not share your vision, and you must communicate it to them, as well as find ways to incentivize them to work towards your vision. You must find out how to stimulate them and provide them with a job that allows them to […]

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How to manage and motivate people. Other people are not you. They do not share your vision, and you must communicate it to them, as well as find ways to incentivize them to work towards your vision. You must find out how to stimulate them and provide them with a job that allows them to do their best work, which is always the work that interests them most.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Frederick Starr, MD, FAACAP.

Dr. Frederick “Freddy” Starr is a computational neuroscientist and psychiatrist. A global leader in Mental Health, Dr. Starr is a renowned pioneer in the field of cloud-based remote QEEG guided Neurofeedback. Recently, Dr. Starr was recognized as one of the “Pioneers of Neurofeedback” by a group of his peers in a book entitled: Neurofeedback: The First Fifty Years.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My fascination with medicine and the brain began when I was a child. On my sixteenth birthday, I joined the Volunteer Ambulance Corps with the intention of attending medical school and I have never looked back. By the time I was nineteen, as a premedical student, I was performing complex neurosurgical procedures in Animal Models to obtain and analyze brainwaves. I went on to study Molecular Biology at Syracuse University where I began my career in Brain Computer Interface Technology. After graduating from Syracuse, I attended Columbia University School of Graduate Studies for Molecular Neurobiology where I worked in the laboratory of the principal investigator and Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel on the underpinnings of Neuroplasticity.

I was awarded my Doctorate from Rutgers University Medical School in 1999. During this time, I participated in human performance studies under a NASA grant, examining the electrical response of the brain to stress in space. Then, I went on to complete a pediatric internship and adult psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. While attending Boston University, I worked at the National Trauma Center in Boston and The Center for Trauma with Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. After I completed a Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, I served as Chief Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from 2001–2002.

I earned my Board Certification in QEEG and Neurofeedback in 2008, the same year that my daughter passed away. That event severed my tether to what I knew as “The Real World.”

I lived on various Hawaiian Islands and eventually found myself in the Dominican Republic, working as a technical writer and kite boarding during my free time. In 2012, I met and married my wife and moved to Costa Rica — spending my last dime trying to find my career path. I borrowed 30,000 dollars and began working using Remote Based Computer Assisted Cognitive Rehabilitation to treat clients all over the world from Costa Rica. Certainly, all of my experience from the time I was sixteen built the foundation for my career path, but you could also say that this company started out of desperation. As Plato said, more or less, “necessity is the mother of invention”.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I have had people try to cut me out of my own company multiple times. One of those times, I hired a marketing company and this company thought they could do my business without me. I will not go into detail here, but it is a story of not letting go of the strategic direction of my company, of figuring out who you can trust, and of separating my persona from entrepreneurship. I learned to make my role in the company vital to its direction and daily operations. I learned how to see the signs of untrustworthy people and when to walk away. Plus, I learned to let these types of issues be entrepreneurial issues and not internalize them as reflections of myself.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Several things gave me the drive to continue through hard times. My medical training and the grueling days of studying to become a doctor taught me work ethic. My desire to help people as an empathic healer kept me going — knowing that clients are suffering and having the tools to alleviate that. The intuitive knowledge that I would have successful outcomes also drove me. Most importantly, my family provided the drive to continue — both to financially support them and in the memory of my daughter, Anna.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

My business is running the best it has since inception, but I prefer to use the words persistence and consistency instead of saying grit and resilience lead me here. Hard times and my work ethic fueled the persistence and consistency that are needed to run a successful company. For years on end, I have woken up at 4am daily to work. I have been there for my clients every day, answering emails promptly though sickness, to computer issues, to environmental disasters and pandemics. Establishing this kind of work ethic is a must. To do so, you must “know your why”. This is not what you do or how you do it. It is your answer to Why Bother and the answer starts with Because….

If you know this one thing, it will keep you going. At the same time, I want to note the importance of giving yourself a break and remember “you are what you eat.” This is not just a statement about food.

It has been important for me to maintain an openness to learning, flexibility, and adaptability. It has served me when I was going through the ups and downs of trying to find my target market, developing my technology and products, and learning to turn a profit. I know that entrepreneurship is a full contact sport, meaning that there are no rules. I try not to take things personally and I believe that the world, through metaphysics or karma, will correct the wrongs done to me. As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.” No one is an island — you need to know good people. Those good people will tell you what you need to hear, even when you do not want to hear it. That is indicative of the kind of honesty and integrity I foster in my relationships. In the same vein, I have learned to leave things and people who do not serve me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Right before I started my business, I received my Real Estate Agent Certification, and I was going to sell homes in paradise. After some time, I started this company and was running both on a tight schedule. One day, I had a property dealing and a therapy session back to back. I showed up to the property on time, but the buyers were running late. As it began to creep into my appointment time, I had to hide my truck, lock the door and set up my laptop. I was in a therapy session when they showed up for the property showing and I had to pretend I was not there by hiding in the house while they knocked on the door. I was honest with my boss and we both decided that I should choose the business that I loved.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Myneurva is a bespoke direct to client, remotely guided Neurofeedback solution. Operating in up to as many as 25 countries around the world on any given day, we deliver Neurofeedback and Brain Imaging through a Cloud Based, Machine Learning, EEG reading assistant powered by a patented Artificial Intelligence System that I developed. Though my company stands out in many ways, I believe that the most distinctive quality is that our client relations are managed by me, as a doctor, not as a businessman. I took the Hippocratic Oath, a Greek medical oath, which says, “I will do no harm or injustice to them,” and I am committed to it. In a business, people will sell you products and services that you do not need or that are not the right fit to make money. Because the DNA of therapy is to always do what is best for the client, without exception, I put people first and do so with compassion. At Myneurva, I only recommend what is best for the patient, even if it is not my service.

One client, who had hundreds of sessions with another provider with no results, came to me needing help. They were distraught over how much time and money they had spent, were struggling with their brain injury, and needed results. I gave them a discount on price and gave my full effort to helping them, because I believe no client should pay that much money and go through therapy for that long without results. We did a quarter of the sessions and we got excellent results! We were both incredibly pleased with their progress and glad they finally had relief from the struggles of their brain injury symptoms.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The thing about burning out is that you do not know when you are going to burn out until you do. Then it is evident that there is no going further, at least not without drastic change. You must care for yourself daily because burn out is not a place you rebound from easily. I would say there are three essentials to thriving. First, you must do what you love. Your passion will keep you going. Second, you must take care of yourself and take the time to do human things — sleep, eat, exercise, and socialize. Lastly, you must practice good time management because time is your most valuable commodity. You must separate your structured, unstructured, and free time so that you do not have, for instance, work spilling over into your family time. Lastly, do not underestimate the power of brain heath. Daily meditation combined with Myneurva Neurofeedback training is my personal secret to success.

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?

Without a doubt, my wife, Kaz, is the person who I am grateful towards. She helped get me to where I am because she has been a consistent, supportive mate throughout my career. My home life is stress free, and therefore; I don’t have the cycle of bringing stress from work to home. She is very involved in my company, and in fact, she was our first CEO.

Early on, my wife and I were traveling around Costa Rica with our first child in our late model, dilapidated Hyundai Elantra, working from the car and hacking into any restaurant Wi-Fi we could find to deliver remote therapy sessions in the US and UK. She was and is essential to my life and this company. As my company demanded flexibility and adaptive behavior from the start, she was able to help me flow with it all. My wife has been a key player in getting us from there to here.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Goodness in the world is my success.

In 2008, my oldest daughter of 6 years old, Anna, passed away from epilepsy — a devastation to my life. I stepped back from my professional practice, relocated to the Hawaiian Islands, and was taken into the esoteric. I often went on 10-day meditation retreats in the jungle as part of the tradition of Vipassana. During one of these retreats, I had a calling, vision, or feeling that awakened me to the knowledge that there are people who cannot access meditative states because of their brain issues. I became aware that though I was able to practice this deep, meditative compassion for myself, there are many others who cannot. I wanted to foster that ability in others, so I began to explore this desire to apply my vast understanding of computational psychiatry to the aspects of consciousness and neuroscience that mainstream science tended to avoid. In 2012, after years of research, design, and development, factored through analysis of massive data sets of EEG scans, I began working using Remote Based Computer Assisted Cognitive Rehabilitation to treat clients all over the world for PTSD based disorders and other outcomes from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). I have committed myself to helping others with their brain’s functionality, as this affects all parts of my client’s lives.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. How to manage and motivate people. Other people are not you. They do not share your vision, and you must communicate it to them, as well as find ways to incentivize them to work towards your vision. You must find out how to stimulate them and provide them with a job that allows them to do their best work, which is always the work that interests them most.
  2. The importance of a plan for your business. There’s power in the written word and knowing, by writing, what you want. You must have an executive summary. As entrepreneurs say, you must know your ask. And if you want to raise money, you must have your plan on paper. (Which leads me to…)
  3. How you get funding. Growing organically is not possible when you need to run major marketing campaigns and to purchase new technology. You also need proof that you are turning a profit.
  4. The amount of self-reflection and self-exploration required to find what makes you tick. Know thyself. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and I live by that.
  5. The importance of accounting. Start your business with good bookkeeping because you do not want to find yourself backtracking years of financial accounting on the fly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 am inspired to change the overall knowledge of how brain injury affects people daily. One out of four people have some type of brain related complaint and I suspect this will only get worse. The brain is an organ that affects feeling, thinking, action, and behavior — there is a micro and macro social system effect of brain injuries. The effect of brain injuries permeates through all our social system, from people in political office, CEOs, police officers, therapists, your bartenders, your clients, to your family members. Do you know the symptoms of a TBI? Do you know how to interact with those who have PTSD? These are things I want people to know.

Let us go back in time to the history of epileptics. Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, has historically been a demonic, supernatural disorder with a belief that epileptics are possessed by the devil or a demon. In truth, these beliefs still flourish in developing countries where people are undergoing exorcisms for a neurological disorder because of entrenched belief systems, a detrimental influence on the possibility of appropriate diagnosis and treatment of the disorder. It’s devastating to read stories of people who have had to hide their seizures in fear and of people who were harmed by the long term effects of their seizures but could have been helped had their societies understood medically what was happening and how to appropriately treat their disorder. This is just one example. There are so many.

Please take with you the knowledge that not everyone’s brain is functioning at the same level. I want you to be more aware of this in your daily actions. In fact, even you might not know that you have had a TBI because the brain is designed to hide traumatic events from you. I want you to have compassion for others, because you may not know the underlying cause of people’s behavior — some people do not have control over their actions. Everyone wants dignity, but some people cannot have it with their brain injury.

If you are inspired, please do some research of your own on brain injuries. Read more on the history and current day affairs of epileptics. Research TBIs and PTSD and learn how this affects daily life. Do your diligence and I promise you will gain more compassion for others along the way. I also ask you to consider — Do you know the status of your own brain health and functionality?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

If you would like to contact us, please do so through our website www.myneurva.com

Email, [email protected] or call 844-Top-Brain (leave off the last N for Neurofeedback).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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