How and why did 2Mynds come to be? This is from a free-flowing conversation with Leon Bax, the founder of 2Mynds. Discover the origins of the method behind the madness.
“I grew up in Holland in a sports-minded family in which everyone moved a lot and most of us moved well. My dad introduced me to Judo at a young age, perhaps thinking it would come in handy for me, a relatively small kid, in later years at the schoolyard! It’s hard to define what the Judo experience did for me, but here is an interesting observation: a lot of my memories of Judo are extremely vivid. Even though I started it when I was four years old. So, perhaps a key value from that training was that it taught me how to direct my focus on something very deeply, without fears, without second guessing, just a lot of detail. That may sound serious, but it was all playful. I guess seriously playful, haha. Of course, I didn’t think much of it as a kid. And nobody was teaching me anything systematically or with the goal of turning me into what I have become. I was just enjoying the experience. Again, looking back though, I think I experienced it differently than most people. Especially the Judo part.”
(Leon achieved junior national rankings of #1 in Judo and #5 in tennis).”
Transition to tennis
“Here is a funny story: at some point, it became clear that I was also good at tennis. Initially, I approached tennis the way I approached Judo: I was serious about it – but serious about playing rather than winning. And that actually caused one of my teachers to tell my parents that I didn’t have what it takes: I didn’t have the killer instinct. I didn’t cry when I lost. Little did he know that I had won a national title in Judo and that I didn’t hesitate one second before throwing the other kid on the ground. But I did that because I loved the activity. Same with tennis. And when I lost, well… nobody sat on top of me or threw me on the ground really hard. So I just took it as a learning. Well, until puberty. That’s when I started to care what other people thought. And guess what: by the time I was 14, I was dreading bad results and the thought itself started distracting me, just like everybody else. That lasted a few years until I got re-exposed to martial arts via fitness training with a karate teacher. That turned things around again and I started involving myself more seriously in the more meditative aspects of martial arts (that I had previously just been exposed to as part of the playing).”
“When I say meditative aspects, I really mean the aspects that work towards a state of mind in which you are so in the moment that everything is more vibrant. A state of flow, really, but I did not know that word back then. While I wasn’t the best athlete in my age group, in tennis or Judo, I did perform pretty well to my own potential and even compared to others. I accepted a scholarship to play D1 tennis at the University of Texas at San Antonio where I continued to draw from my martial arts background while on the court. After deciding I would not play professionally, I returned to Holland to study physical therapy. I added Japanese culture and language to my studies, as my interests in aikido, iaido, and meditation continued to grow.”
Japan and more martial arts
“After completing my master’s degrees in physical therapy and clinical epidemiology, I moved to Japan where I eventually lived, studied, and worked for 8 years, becoming relatively fluent in Japanese. I combined science and research with martial arts, exploring nature and culture. I continued my studies and earned a Ph.D. in clinical epidemiology, and later a second Ph.D. in medical informatics. I then worked as an associate professor at Kitasato University Medical School. Much of my time in Japan was spent researching, presenting at conferences, or teaching, but during my free time, I would be training in a dojo or scuba diving, a new hobby I took up while living there. I deeply enjoyed my experiences in the dojo and underwater as they demanded full mental presence and created unique feelings of flow.”
From Japan to the US
“In 2010, I was recruited by a biotech company in Silicon Valley. After moving to the US, I picked up a tennis racket again after almost 15 years of not playing. It was then that I realized that so much had changed for me from a mental perspective! I struggled on the court until I decided to approach it the same way that I approached my meditative practices off the court. This helped me tremendously, and I wanted to see if it could help others too.”
Applying a methodology to mental fitness
“To continue practicing, I began to play with high-performance juniors at a local tennis academy. I saw that many of them hit so well in practice, but suffered from mental challenges such as anxiety, nervousness, or emotional instability with a detrimental impact on their matches. They had trouble competing under pressure and I saw that I could help. I started to work with high-performance juniors to develop their mental fitness. Through experimentation and documentation, I developed a methodology to develop mental fitness as we do physical fitness – by building skills through progressions. I designed 2Mynds using skills I had acquired while working and studying epidemiology and medical informatics. The system is replicable and can be taught to improve performance outcomes. The 2Mynds approach can also be used in the business world or any situation where you must perform under pressure.”
Checking in with pros
“I continued my professional work in biotech but was able to work on the road in 2017, allowing me to coach and travel with WTA doubles player Kaitlyn Christian, who I had met through the relatively small world of performance tennis. She and her coach wanted to explore the application of my mental fitness methodology. Traveling on tour as a coach allowed me to see what worked and what didn’t.”
From idea to company
Time to get serious
“In early 2017, I ended up in the hospital after contracting a virus abroad that compromised my kidneys and liver. The situation was potentially life-threatening. While in the hospital, I alternated relaxation techniques with visualizations of my body healing. At that moment, I realized the importance of this new path that I was on: using my talents for the health of society, not for the wealth of pharma executives. That week, I negotiated a 50% contract at the biotech where I worked and I started putting together the foundations for what now is 2Mynds, Inc. After a period of trial and error, we came to a formula that worked. My sister joined, started raising capital, and in June 2022, we finished our seed round.”
“I’m fired up to innovate mental fitness. 2Mynds is the first and only company that offers a methodical way to use mental fitness towards mental health. So far, no one has used principles of training from exercise physiology to create workouts for mental skills. We truly train your mind like you train your body. The unique strength of this approach is that it allows you to develop your mental fitness under progressing levels of stress, meaning that these skills work when it counts. So, we don’t train your mind on the couch or with waterfall sounds, we train your mind under progressing levels of discomfort. That may not sound very attractive at first, but everything that is worth something takes effort. This is firmly established and accepted when working towards physical fitness, but somehow this is not the case when it comes to mental fitness.”
Laser focus but broad scope
“Our focus is currently on sports. We not only help athletes with their performance and mental health but also their coaches and organizations with tracking their progress. However, our methodology and technology are applicable to the world beyond sports. Issues like depression, anxiety, attention disorders, and trauma-induced disorders may require clinical interventions but are all impacted to some extent by mental fitness. So, while we start with solutions for competitive athletes, we will soon be addressing everyone who is ready to embark on a journey toward mental fitness.”
INTERESTED IN THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE?
Intrigued about the solutions for mental fitness training that grew out of Leon’s experiences? Check out our training platform, learning courses, or our pro package that combines everything and even includes a free kick-off consult!