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peak performance

Peak Performance Psychology

Applying peak performance psychology in a business setting can feel like a flavor of the month platitude at best and like pushing a mule up-hill at worst. Yet today’s guest, a peak performance coach who has worked with elite athletes says your mindset and mental training is what separates the truly exceptional from the also-rans and he’s here to tell you how to use it for more competitive edge.

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What You’ll Discover About Peak Performance Psychology (highlights & transcript):

* Peak performance as an unstoppable mindset [2:13]

* The essence of peak performance psychology [5:37]

* How mental health training aids peak performance [ 7:44]

* Mental health training for non-athletes [9:44]

* Why peak performance requires slowing down [12:35]

* How the art of letting go is critical for peak performance [15:24]

* 2 Things to know about inspiring peak performance in the workplace [18:21]

* How to get on track to peak performance when you’re feeling overwhelmed [24:58]

* And MUCH more.



Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:01] Applying peak performance psychology in a business setting can feel like the flavor of the month platitude at best and like pushing a mule uphill at worst. Yet today’s guest, a peak performance coach who has worked with elite athletes, says your mindset and mental training is what separates the truly exceptional from the also rans. And he’s here to tell you how to use it for more competitive edge.


Announcer: [00:00:28] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matters to your bottom line.


Hanna: [00:00:40] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Brian Bergford. He’s an entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, including Bergford Performance Systems. Now, Brian knows exactly how to create an unstoppable mindset. You may say, oh, come on.


Hanna: [00:01:01] But here’s the story. He turned a lifelong phobia of being submerged in water on its head by learning to swim at 30 years old and then rising to compete at a national level. He’s worked with elite athletes. He understands the importance of operating from your strengths and is an expert in the psychology of winning and creating a winning mindset, being a great competitor and the art of effective communication and mastering effective teaching, coaching and mentorship.


Hanna: [00:01:32] Brian earned his degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, taking particular interest in neuroscience, psychopathology, clinical psychology and the principles of peak performance. He’s an avid learner to this day, studying leaders, coaches, athletes and enterprising high performers to support his continually evolving strategies for human development.


Hanna: [00:01:56] I’m a huge fan of continuous learning. It’s one of the main reasons I do this show. So welcome to Business Confidential Now, Brian.


Brian Bergford: [00:02:03] All right. Well, thank you for welcoming and having me on, and I’m very excited to be speaking with you today. So let’s get this party started.




Hanna: [00:02:13] Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I say. Let’s get this party started. Now, you’ve had quite a journey in creating this unstoppable mindset. Your experience in overcoming the phobia of being submerged in water and then learning to swim at age thirty is really pretty amazing. What happened that made you all of a sudden decide you were going to tackle swimming?


Brian: [00:02:36] It was built up over time. But the crux of it was I just got to a point where I had a belly full of, you know, allowing something that I was fearful of or had a phobic response to and having that dictate some of my life choices. And I just found that really frustrating. And I was like, this is ridiculous. I need to move beyond it.


Brian: [00:02:56] A similar thing with a fear of heights. I decided the solution would be to take up rock climbing. And, you know, that’s just the logical progression in my mind, I guess, although that was a phobia that was just more of a kind of normal fear. I think having my head underwater was definitely more of a phobic response. And I got sick and tired of it and decided to heck with it. You know, I wanted to feed fear of at “Suck It Sandwich,” and that’s really what led me into getting some swim lessons initially.


Brian: [00:03:28] And I, I remember specifically after one practice or one session with the swim coach that I had hired to kind of teach me the different strokes and helped me get through some of it after one of our practices. He said, you know what, you’re ready to join the Masters team. And I kind of wondered because he put me through a really tough, challenging workout that day.


Brian: [00:03:52] And when he said it to me, I was exhilarated and terrified at the same time. And the next day, before I could talk myself out of it, I went out, signed up for a master’s program and got rolling and just kept going, and going out into competing and never, never stopped.


Hanna: [00:04:11] Well, that’s great. You even won a few state championships, didn’t you?


Brian: [00:04:15] Yes, I do have that to my name, which is really just an honor, because I remember in the beginning I just said, gosh, I wonder if I could compete. One day I went and crashed a swim meet at the local aquatic center here. And I was watching, I think it was a high school state championship, I was like, oh, gosh, would be so great to swim at this place sometime in the future. And that was my initial vision.


Brian: [00:04:39] And then as visions tend to when you get rolling with it, when you’re putting the work in, it kind of turns into and morphs into something else. And then you can kind of see the next little piece. And I decided, well, not only that, but then compete in the state championship and then just got kind of addicted to competing and keeping myself accountable to that, liking to see that progress.


Brian: [00:05:02] But also knowing if I didn’t measure up, you know, the clock doesn’t lie. And so it kept me very, very honest and kept rolling competition, a competition until I could finally see, you know, be incredible. And I didn’t tell anybody this, of course, when it first occurred to me and just in my own head, what if I one day qualified to go to the national championships? Wouldn’t that be something? And wouldn’t that potentially inspire and encourage some other people that are maybe facing some things in their own life? You know, like he can do that, then maybe I can go a little farther. And so that’s really what drove me.




Hanna: [00:05:37] Well, that’s interesting. Speaking of transferability, I understand that most of us get this concept of peak performance, it’s very measurable, as you say, you keep going for the next rung, the next rung, and you see the progress. But tell me more about peak performance psychology. How would you describe peak performance psychology in a nutshell?


Brian: [00:06:03] Sure. Well, I guess I would think of myself. . . And what I do is, you know, I basically just coach athletic entrepreneurs as well as professionals and like leadership performance, personal fulfillment.


Brian: [00:06:14] And I make a distinction because I think that there is a very good field out there in life coaching. I think that’s really important. I don’t really cater to that so much.


Brian: [00:06:25] I learned very early on that I really loved working with enterprising, high performing individuals, whether that was in athletics, like when I was a personal trainer or just coming out of high school, I worked simultaneously in a gym working with the general public, as well as working with kind of high-octane athletes. Right. Collegiate athletes, football team.


Brian: [00:06:47] And I love the mentality. I love the mindset that these people have batteries included. They came to play. I didn’t have to talk them into anything. They didn’t need to be motivated. They showed up with that. And I absolutely love that. So I think of peak performance and psychology is really taking people who already have an edge in getting that little extra bit and a little extra bit. And frankly, the higher performing you are, the harder it is to get those gains. Whenever we take on something new, if you take on a new sport, it’s or just a new craft of any type. It’s easy to make a lot of progress in the beginning because you’re a beginner. And so you can see a lot of great progress.


Brian: [00:07:25] But the higher up the chain you get, you know, Olympic athletes, they might train for four years to shave one hundredth of a second off of a time. And so I really love working with people who are kicking butt in life and high performers already. And that’s really who I specialize in helping as opposed to more like the general public.




Hanna: [00:07:44] So this is really something more like mental health training. And you say that that separates the exceptional from the also rans. What does that mental health training look like?


Brian: [00:07:56] So I think a mental training, as it’s very similar to any other type of training, whether we’re talking about physical training, whether we’re talking about being in and working on your business and being there day to day and kind of grinding things out. Right. You develop muscles as you go through that. And then, you know, for people that are business owners and folks, you know, ask them like, how do you do that? I think it’s so amazing.


Brian: [00:08:21] And, you know, the simple fact of the matter is its people showing up the best they possibly can day after day after day. And I think when it comes to our mental training, it’s so important because it guides everything that we do. It affects everything that we do on a really, really profound way. If we you know, if I think all of us could look back at the days where we really went out, and it just sticks in our mind, like I was on top of my game. I was just at my peak and I was absolutely in the zone.


Brian: [00:08:53] And I could help anyone — that I had the confidence and the courage and I had the clarity of thought and the creativity. And I can move and I can shift and I could flow. And we remember how incredible it was to be in a headspace like that and the impact that it had on everything that we did and everybody we encountered, all of our interactions, the decision we made and that’s the piece that I really like to focus in on with people, is helping them have that as fine-tuned and highly tuned as possible, because it’s going to impact every decision they make, every encounter they have, every business deal they do, et cetera, how they show up and inspire and lead their employees.


Brian: [00:09:33] So it really does have such broad ranging impact across every area of our life that I’ve really dedicated myself to the art and science of mental training.




Hanna: [00:09:44] Now, you mentioned that you typically work with athletic business owners, but I’m sure there are some listeners out there who are not necessarily into the gym and the grunting and groaning and sweating that comes with it. And since this is mental training, can non-athletes do it, too?


Brian: [00:10:01] Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Anybody can and should be doing. And because when I talk about, you know, athletic entrepreneurs, I’m just talking about people that have some kind of attention for that, whether they were athletes in the past or they’re presently competing, or maybe they’re just that like to stay in shape. But staying on the forefront of that, putting in the work day after day after day, there’s a cumulative effect to that. There’s a compounding. And so anybody absolutely can do it.


Brian: [00:10:35] I find that people who are great business owners and people who are great athletes have a lot in common and share a lot of the same traits of resiliency and mental strength, and just they’re . . . They kind of stay on top of things. And so I really like that. But everybody should be looking at this.


Brian: [00:10:53] And frankly, I think we’re going to have to. We’re moving into a world that it’s not . . . the pace is not going to slow down. We’re just going to keep accelerating through technology and everything else. And so what it’s going to boil down to for me is the faster things go, I think the faster people in society feel like and especially entrepreneurs can get really caught up in this deal “Well, I have to speed up to catch up.” And I think it’s the exact opposite.


Brian: [00:11:21] I think you actually have to be able to ground yourself more than ever, be more centered than ever before and be able to slow down and clear the space in your head and create room so that creativity and these different drops can come through to inspire inspired action instead of just this frenzy that we tend to live in.


Brian: [00:11:43] So as much as I talk about high performance and I work with Type A people, we really have to strike a balance and have these dynamic different aspects to our lives so that we can be as balanced as possible. And I think when you have balanced mental training, it allows you to tap into all those different areas. So I hope that makes sense.


Brian: [00:12:04] I may not have even answered your question now.


Hanna: [00:12:07] I think you did. I hope you did. I hope the listeners feel that way. But I’d like you to drill down a little deeper. And I think you’re absolutely right that especially entrepreneurs and those in a startup mode particularly feel overwhelmed. There’s so much coming at them so fast. You’re putting so much in place. Some of it is systems and some of it is just things you need in a startup and they’re one-time things that you then build on. So you need a solid foundation.




Hanna: [00:12:35] But let’s talk about the your idea of slowing down and getting grounded. Can you give us a couple tips for how to do that? Sure.


Brian: [00:12:44] As you mentioned, the extreme pressure and kind of overwhelm people, especially in startup mode where you’re working constantly, like beyond what most people could even imagine out in society. It’s really, really rough and so slowing down, I think I can speak to it in general terms because obviously one on one, I’m getting into the nitty gritty of like who this person is as an individual and what they specifically need.


Brian: [00:13:08] But on kind of a broad level. I think you’ve got to know what feeds your spirit, what types of things can you recharge from, whether that’s videos that you’ve seen or just things that predictably inspire you or give you energy, whatever that is. For some people, that is very heavily rooted in something like prayer or it could be meditation.


Brian: [00:13:34] I do think that the busier somebody is, the more they also have to create emotional and psychological buffers in their life by feeding their spirit, right, by slowing down, by having these practices where they’re really bringing things down to a point.


Brian: [00:13:52] And for instance, I live in Colorado and one of the reasons the snow melts here so fast, oftentimes because we’ll have like a 70-degree day followed by a, you know, a 20-degree day where it’s snowing like crazy. But because there’s such a buffer of heat in the ground underneath, the snow melts really quickly here. It’s not like permafrost in the ground.


Brian: [00:14:17] And if you think of the ground as like your emotional warmth and your emotional development and anything you can do to feed your spirit into and to meditate and to make sure you’re taking care of your physical body, those things are tremendously important. And one of the best ways to slow down is just sleep.


Brian: [00:14:33] How many people speak about like performance hacks or how do I do this and tricks for rejuvenating and to recharge? I’m like, what is your sleep schedule even like? Is it consistent? Is it all over the place? Sometimes it has to be all over the place. But anything that you can do to give yourself an advantage of something like that, because sleep impacts certainly our physical health, but our mental health and our acuity and our ability to problem solve. So I think that’s a huge one, too.


Hanna: [00:15:02] Yes, sleep definitely is. But I also know that entrepreneurs in particular can be sleep deprived when they’ve got a lot on their plate and wake up at 3:00 in the morning and can’t shut it back down saying I know I need to go back to sleep, but they’re mental to do list is like running a mile a minute. So that can be really tough sometimes.




Brian: [00:15:24] You’re you know, you hit the nail on the head. That can be really, really, really tough. And I’m glad you brought this up. And this is where we get into the things that are not necessarily simple answers and get into some more than nuanced things. Because I believe that the art of letting go is so tremendously important, it’s just impossible to run constantly at a high level.


Brian: [00:15:48] So if you think about it like your computer, if you get too many windows open and too many things running, it bogs down the system. And we can be that way as entrepreneurs or we’ve got a lot of plates spinning. And if our mind starts to get overwhelmed like that, we just don’t have the RAM, the random-access memory. We don’t have the processing power, the raw processing power accessible to us in that moment.


Brian: [00:16:13] And so I think that finding things and ways of letting go and some of those things are mentality some of those things are shifts, some of those things people have because something in their life radically happens that forces them into a place where they recognize, like, oh, my gosh, you know, like my spouse almost died. Now, I have a totally different perspective on what’s important and it allows them to let go of things.


Brian: [00:16:39] Now, I don’t think that any of us want to have to go through something that extreme in order to have our perspective shift. And so I think if we actively seek those things out, tiny tweaks in our perspective about what is truly important, we can have a massive, massive impact on our ability to let things go.


Brian: [00:16:59] And like, hey, if I don’t get sleep and if I don’t fix something here in my life with my, personal health and I don’t take care of me, I’m not going to be able to support any of this other work that I’m doing and keeping things in proper perspective and putting them in proper perspective and sometimes having tough conversations with ourselves when we need to and just going like I’m totally out of whack here. And if I don’t get a handle on this, I’m going to like stroke out by the time I’m 50.


Brian: [00:17:28] So what changes, if I had to make them, would I make right now, if I was forced to and like I was going to be in a bad place, if I was going to die six months from now if I didn’t change this, what would I start changing tomorrow. Putting ourselves in that position sometimes to ask the questions in a very, very forceful, passionate way and putting it under some constraints can give us some really, really tremendous insight without necessarily reaching out to an actual coach.


[00:17:58] Something like I do is ask yourself really good questions. Put yourself in a pressure cooker and you’ll be amazed at what you come up with. And then it’s a matter of are you willing to actually put those things and put those things into action on a day-to-day basis? And that’s where the rubber, of course, meets the proverbial road where the discipline comes in, I would imagine.




Hanna: [00:18:21] Now, you know, it’s one thing when a business owner or someone in a business leadership position pushes themselves hard for peak performance. You talked about some of the things that they can do to stay grounded and so forth, and in order to really get in the zone and optimize their abilities. But do you have any suggestions for how they could inspire their team to raise their game without sounding like a judgmental drill sergeant?


Brian: [00:18:50] Yeah, I think there are two things that immediately come to mind when you ask that question. The first one is you’ve got to be inspired yourself. If you’re totally run down, people can get around you and they can feel it. They can sniff it out. And it’s not inspiring to be around exhausted people, that low level kind of like bumbling energy.


Brian: [00:19:10] And sometimes you’re tired, right? But like, you know, I’m on with the right people right here because business owners know how to suck it up. They can keep going. But we’ve got to really, really focus on bringing the energy to the table that we want our people to have. If we if we’re honestly not OK, if we’re honestly not exactly embodying the type of energy and passion that we would want people to have, then we’re kind of dead in the water.


Brian: [00:19:36] So I think that if that’s in place first, then you can really move on to the next piece, which I believe is people work really hard when they when they feel truly seen and actually cared for. Right. Like, are you truly connecting with people? Are you connecting with your people? Do they know? Can they actually feel, not just that you say you care, but can they feel it? Is it a visceral experience when they’re around you and there’s not a substitute for that?


Brian: [00:20:06] If your people know that you love them and you care about them and like you would die, you know, like going to battle with them, that is really, really, really inspiring to them. And so I think it comes back to a connection, especially now, you know, like we’re in the throes of the wonderfully fun Covid that’s going on right now. And I just don’t think we can get away with surface level connection with people.


Brian: [00:20:32] It’s now more important than ever that you’re in the trenches with people, that you’re mentoring them to that you can. And it’s not like you can do that with everybody in your company, but you can certainly do it with your front-line leaders and those are the people that you inject that to, who are going to go out and create a cultural shift in your business if you need it.


Brian: [00:20:53] But it all starts with me. And that just comes from my experience, having really, really screwed up really bad as a leader, doing everything I told you just now 180 degrees the other way and messing it up and then coming to a place where that created so much pain for me that I was able to kind of turn things around. And that’s really where a lot of that lesson comes from, this personal experience of getting kicked in the teeth.


Hanna: [00:21:24] Well, the School of Hard Knocks is definitely an expensive and painful way to learn. So kudos to you for making the transition.




Hanna: [00:21:33] I’m curious because when we talk about peak performance, there’s this whole idea of being 200 percent all in. And I can appreciate that some people want the benefits of peak performance or at least some of that increased performance, may not necessarily be the tippy top Olympic gold type performance that you may be familiar with because they’re still not ready to make those gigantic tradeoffs that that’s necessary to go that extra mile. So, OK, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. But are there some tips you could give them that could still help them up their game, even though they’re not maxing out at 200 percent?


Brian: [00:22:26] So I think that people have no concept of what even they’re one hundred percent. So I think that’s one thing off the top. We have a lot of arbitrary limits that we sometimes impose upon ourselves, and I think it’s tremendously unfair. So one would be, assume that you have no idea what 100 percent is for you yet. Also, being 100 percent doesn’t necessarily mean that you are revving your engine really hot.


Brian: [00:22:57] You know, a lot of times I think people look at that and they feel like, gosh, that’s just going to be so exhausting. I have to change all these things. And in my experience, a lot of times that comes back to oftentimes its subconscious excuse making, right? Well, I can’t do at one hundred percent. Well, it’s just not worth doing it. You know, if I’m going to do it, I want to be all in. And I think that’s a perfectly convenient excuse for people to lock themselves off the hook. Like I’m a fan for a people like peak performance is much different than making some basic incremental changes in your life.


Brian: [00:23:32] Peak performance, as you kind of pointed out, is for people that like I really want to take this off a few levels and I have for whatever reason, maybe it’s motivation in somebody’s life. Something happened. They just had a child in it. You know, it brought something up in them that they’ve never felt the weight of that awesome responsibility. And they’re inspired to move or maybe they’re freaked out because they had a realization in their life and now they’ve got to move.


Brian: [00:23:59] I think when people really want to move, they’re going to move. The easiest way to work hard is to try to work easy. I think that is where we can get really exhausted. I think all of us have been in a place where we were working our buns off. We were putting out, you know, a significant amount of effort. But it’s like all the effort was fueling itself. And this is so much about the alignment and the internal game that I think sometimes people feel like, gosh, it just seems so exhausting to have to perform at that level. Yeah, if you’re running on fumes like you are right now.


Brian: [00:24:35] But if you got some things in alignment in terms of, you know, just everything from getting some of those stupid self-imposed limitations out of the way, making sure your identity and your beliefs are in alignment and your mind and your psychology and your spirit and your body are in tune, and that doesn’t mean it has to be at 100 percent.




Brian: [00:24:58] But just to your point, I think maybe what you were asking for initially is, listen, if you’re in a place where you feel overwhelmed by some changes that you need to make, I just tell people, just start do something, do something incremental, get things moving, because we can be intimidated by inertia to get anything moving at all. Takes so much effort up front.


Brian: [00:25:20] I think if people will just start get going, they’ll be tremendously surprised by what happens and if they really want to make a change, go get around some people that are farther along and make you uncomfortable in the field you want to be and I don’t care how good you are. There are people who are outpacing you that would make you feel like I feel like I’m getting left behind. I better get moving.


Brian: [00:25:44] So get around people that are farther along than you, that are inspiring to you, that care about you, and you will be able to do more with less energy and you’ll be more on fire than ever before and you’ll be performing at a level that would have surprised you previously. So I hope I touched on some things that might be helpful for listeners.


Hanna: [00:26:05] It sounds like you’ve just wrapped up how they can get more competitive edge with even a small dose of your peak performance psychology.


Brian: [00:26:16] Absolutely. Hey, sometimes all you need is a little bit and that’s how everything great begins. But sometimes we have big visions and we don’t recognize that small actions can be some of the most powerful things out there. So if you have a huge vision, don’t be intimidated by it, be inspired by it, and don’t despise small beginnings. Like start small. That’s how all great things happen.


Brian: [00:26:39] And if you are somebody, one of the rare people out there who can be consistent over time, you will absolutely take it by storm. And that compound interest, you’ll be amazed at what happened down the road for you.


Hanna: [00:26:56] Wonderful I don’t think we can top that Brian. Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure.


Brian: [00:27:02] All right. Thank you so much Hanna.


Hanna: [00:27:04] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute. And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth.


Hanna: [00:27:25] And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or will stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to I’ll catch you on the next episode. And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.


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Guest: Brian Bergford

Brian BergfordBrian Bergford is an entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, including Bergford Performance Systems.

Brian knows exactly how to create an unstoppable mindset. He turned a lifelong phobia of being submerged in water on its head by learning to swim at 30 years old and then rising to compete at a national level. He’s worked with elite athletes. He understands the importance of operating from your strengths and is an expert in the psychology of winning and creating a winning mindset, being a great competitor, the art of effective communication, and mastering effective teaching, coaching, and mentorship.

Brian earned his degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado, taking particular interest in neuroscience, psycho-pathology, clinical psychology, and the principles of peak performance. He’s an avid learner to this day, constantly studying studies tremendous communicators, leaders, coaches, athletes, and enterprising high-performers to support his continually evolving strategies for human development.


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