Unlocking High Performance: A Coach’s Keys to Success in Business and Sports, with Brian Bergford

How can leaders build mental toughness to overcome adversity?

In this episode, mental performance coach Brian Bergford shares how he helps leaders and athletes overcome adversity and unlock high performance. After a difficult childhood, Brian studied psychology and developed an approach to get to the core “truth” of a situation.

He explains how he overcame a lifelong phobia of water to become a national champion swimmer. Brian emphasizes starting with small daily actions and failures to build mental toughness over time. His breathing exercise is one technique to control anxiety and excitement.

Though he coaches in sports, Brian mostly works with business owners, executives and other high achievers. He knows how to “pierce the veil” and address not just surface problems but the root cause holding someone back. Brian shares tangible ways to foster a champion mindset in yourself and your team.

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Transcript

Anthony (host):

Welcome to another edition of the Inspired Stories Podcast, where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing.

 

Anthony (host): 

Today’s guest is Brian Bergford, founder of Bergford Performance Systems. He is a mental performance coach who develops customized performance systems for athletes, teams, coaches, business owners, and executives alike. We’re also going to hear how he overcame a fear of the water to win national championships in swimming, and I’m also going to ask him why his friends call him the Piercer.

 

Anthony (host):

And we’ll learn about a very specific type of breath work that he developed. So we’ve got lots of fun stuff to cover today. Before we get into the good stuff, today’s episode is brought to you by my company, AdBack Benefits Agency, where we offer very specific and unique employee benefits that are both great for your team and fiscally optimized for your bottom line.

 

Anthony (host):

One recent client was able to save over $900 per employee per year by implementing one of our proprietary programs. Another client is going to save over $1,200 per employee per year by implementing a patented construct that we offer. Results vary for each company, and some organizations may not be eligible. To find out if your company qualifies, contact us today at AdBack BenefitsAgency.com.

 

Anthony (host):

Now back to our guest today, mental performance coach Brian Bergford. Brian, I appreciate you making the time to share your story today.

 

Brian (guest): 

I am super stoked to do this, man. Like, let’s get this going, all right. I love that enthusiasm, great energy from the beginning. Yeah, let’s start strong, man. 

 

Anthony (host):

So, Brian, tell me, how did you first become interested in your field of mental performance coaching?

 

Brian (guest): 

Well, I’ll try and make this not too circuitous of an answer, but there’s a little bit of background, so I think it was really came out of initially some interesting pieces of my childhood, and just like weird, emotional… hmm!

 

Brian (guest): 

Anyway, there were parts of it that were not great. Let’s put it that way, and that kind of drove me, from a pretty young age, to start asking questions about why do people do the things they do? Why do they behave the way they do? Why do they think the way they do? And it… you know, it just starts asking why? Why? Why? And I knew that if I understood more about psychology and the mind that maybe that would provide some answers. That’s what led me into like interest in psychology. I eventually graduated with a degree in psychology. Interestingly enough.

 

Brian (guest): 

Well, okay. So right before I graduated high school, if we back up a little bit, I had just got my personal training certification, and I went right after I graduated high school to like working in a gym. But at the same time, I was working at CU with the football team as an intern, with the strength and conditioning program, and that’s where I figured out really early on that the psychology of athletes and high performers and people that are just really, really elite level top of their game. That’s what I loved working with. I did not enjoy the general public whining like, oh, I’m so excited on Monday, and I’m like not excited on Thursday. Kinda BS, so I’m just like, you know, I don’t… I just didn’t enjoy dragging limp noodles along. Like, it’s really not fun. And I just knew that wasn’t my space. But athletes… absolutely loved it, their batteries included. And that’s kind of how I knew that I was gonna be working more in that type of a space, either that or like business leaders and people that are really, really high performance, high functioning already. But then getting into the psychology side, mental performance, and like the psychology that we have, our attitudes, our beliefs about things. It affects every single thing that we do. And people know, typically a lot about like mental.

 

Brian (guest): 

There’s more talk about mental health right now, and like you, mental health advocate, I’m like, sure, I guess. But really, I’m more of a mental fitness advocate. I’m like the front end. I’m not the repair. I’m more the prepare and helping just like juice every last bit of performance for people. They wanna take things to the next level, which gets surprisingly more difficult. The higher people go. It’s just like, if you take up a new sport, you make a ton of progress initially, right? Lots and lots of progress pretty quickly. But when you get to the top levels, you know, in the Olympics, people will go, and they’ll train for another 4 years to maybe shave one hundredth of a second off of a time.

 

Brian (guest): 

And so, wow! It’s almost like diminishing returns. But at that point, there’s such exceptional drive. And the people that they’re willing to just go to those lengths. And that’s the spirit that I love, whether it’s athletes, business owners, executives. I just want people kicking butt, taking names, and want to take things to the next level, but also really enjoy and appreciate life and have an amazing life. Not just turn into a performance machine, ’cause you can do that. But then people are like, but I’m dying inside, and that’s not a great place to be. So, that’s the other part of it, is making sure that we balance it out, which is really challenging, because for elite level performers, by definition, a lot of times they have to be out of balance. So it’s tricky.

 

Anthony (host):

So, I wanna go back to… you don’t have to, you know, dig super deep into the childhood thing. But I’m kind of curious to understand the bridge from childhood not being great to like… It must have been some kind of motivation to… Okay, I gotta figure a way out of this lousy situation. I’ve gotta… I’ve gotta fix what, how I’m sort of approaching it inside, you know, my own grey matter here. But yeah, ’cause I…

 

Brian (guest): 

yeah, I mean, I basically spent a decent portion of my childhood fairly suicidal. And at some point there’s… there’s a decision that’s made. You either like cave totally to desperation, to a point where there’s no return. But I knew that that was gonna be like the end of me, literally. And then the other option was to flip a switch and have some hope in the future and making yourself, fortifying your mind and becoming more and understanding more, and making decisions and distinctions and things that could lead you beyond the knowledge and the wherewithal that, you know, on what you grew up with. Basically, I had to become somebody totally different. And so that really, really drove me ’cause once I made the decision, like, nope, I’m gonna use this as fuel to move forward. You know, whether it’s anger, whether it’s whatever. Initially it wasn’t like pure motives. It was just like I’m depressed. But then I became angry, which is a huge upgrade from being sad and depressed, and like suicidal and then that kind of led into other pieces of consciousness where I just kept elevating, elevating, elevating, and that’s where it kind of led me, right, seeing the magic that could happen by making fundamental shifts in mindset. And sometimes that sounds like a big deal, but it’s not necessarily a big deal. A fundamental shift in a mindset a lot of times is like one tiny little tweak that sounds insignificant or almost indistinguishable when you say it in a sentence. But there’s fundamentally different outcomes in life from very, very minute changes in people’s beliefs, and how they perceive things and how they choose to look at them.

 

Anthony (host):That is amazing. Were you doing this sort of flipping these switches on your own? Did you have somebody who was helping you, some sort of a guide or a mentor that was kind of showing you, hey? These things are possible.

 

Brian (guest): 

I mean, the only thing that I could say that was a common thread throughout is, you know, God, the universe like whatever title name people want to put to it. But there’s just like these little like there can be so much darkness. But then there’s just these little specks of light along the way that can just help lead you in a slight direction. Just make tiny little changes. And so there’s people along the way. I don’t want to say like know that people didn’t affect me. But the only thing that I can say is really consistent through that is like a guiding sort of force or guiding hand that somehow helps me navigate, but not against my own will. Right? Because, like, that’s part of it, you have to participate in your own rescue, and apparently I was willing to do that, and I guess that’s the only thing. If I am gonna take credit for anything, I guess at least some level of willingness. And I only say that not for, like I’m special, it’s more hopefully that might hit home with somebody right now. That’s in a place where, like they may not be particularly willing and just asking themselves a question like, How willing am I, really? Because I’ve always I’ve always said that to clients you cannot teach willingness you know, like the person really really has to decide like that is on them. And if you force somebody to do something that’s really not in their will like it just it kind of falls flat, and you’re robbing them of the opportunity to make the decision for themselves and to be strong and basically like helping them continue to be a victim in something. And at some point people just have to step the frick up and like move right along and some people won’t do that. You know, I was with a one of my clients that’s an athlete recently and like you gotta fix stuff man like I did not have a nice way to say it. I was just like I got a level with you like I. The one thing you can count on for me is, I will be honest, and I will be straightforward, and I will love you and I and I care about you. Please hear where this is coming from. But I was like dude like these pieces have to get lined out, and you have got to make some different decisions for yourself. I’m not gonna do it for you like make the choice, yes or no, because it’s totally gonna affect the rest of your career.

 

Anthony (host):

So this is pretty powerful stuff, Brian. Yeah, for somebody else who might be listening to this, and is in one of those dark places that you’ve described. What can What is one thing that you can encourage them to do, to try to ask themselves to take a step? What piece of advice can you give them having been somebody who was there and was able to make a big difference.

 

Brian (guest): 

Making a big change. That’s a super good question. And I wanna preface, whatever my answer is gonna be that I haven’t formulated yet, because I don’t know. We’ll see what comes out. But I wanna preface whatever it is by saying that I want to be really, really clear, like, whenever I’m in a space of giving general feedback. Please keep in mind it is very general. So like, get some targeted feedback for you in your life where you’re at right now, what specifically you’re experiencing, and all the everybody’s individual makeup is so much different, and how they process information and perceive things, and what they’re motivated to like avoid in their lives, or what they’re motivated to achieve in their lives. Right? So this constellation that everybody has is so much different in their makeup that it’s really important that people don’t get stuck in only only because, initially, it’s like just latch onto hope wherever you can get it. Right? So if that’s through a podcast if that’s through a book, if that’s through a speaker. If that’s through like a role model like whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just have to grab onto something wherever there’s a foot or a hand hold like move. Take encouragement like, encourage yourself like, listen to something, take stock of what you’re putting in your head. Think about like, what are the media sources that I have right now? And like, if I like, I’m just gonna swap one of them out. You don’t need to make big changes, right? Everybody wants to make a big change, mostly because people are impatient. They want things to happen all at once, and they don’t. It’s tiny little changes, but just compounded like one after the next. Let’s put one foot in front of the other instead of trying to hit it. Grand slam home. Run just like Frickin. Do something. Whatever’s in front of you. Move toward it like trust yourself a little bit. Listen to your intuition, and at a certain point please connect with somebody that can contextualize the information for your situation, because I’m always like, in a way, hesitant. Give information, because sometimes, if it’s really specific people be like, oh, that sounds great to me like that totally makes sense, and they’ll run with it. But if I talk to them one on one I’m like, no, no, no, don’t do that right. If we get really specific about giving general information. If that even makes sense, I think it can be really tricky, because people need to appreciate that it’s worth getting in the hip pocket of somebody who knows how to put things together and build work with you to build a program for you based on everything you are and want to become.

 

Anthony (host):

That makes sense. II understand I can appreciate that, Brian. Can we talk about any of your current clients on air? I know you told me about really, one off air recently, but I don’t know if it’s okay to to mention and give voice to cause. It’s pretty cool. Here’s where we should talk in generalities, probably, and the only reason I say that is because I is mu like.

 

Brian (guest): 

I’m probably overly hesitant about speaking about this stuff in public. But I basically have this have somebody hand me a flashing neon light as a client that they’re like, please talk about this in front of other people, which you know doesn’t really happen a whole lot in the space of the clients. So I’m happy to talk about anything in a general sense, and we’ll just leave specifics out.

 

Anthony (host):

Who is your ideal client? Why would somebody hire you? I love the 2 comments you made. How did you put it? I don’t work with noodles and batteries aren’t included. 

 

Brian (guest): 

And you want to get things started and like great, I’m dead in the water here. It just sort of goes back to that thing when I was training clients in a gym, right? Like general public versus then I was at, you know, like a university level, like working with football team like that’s very, very, very different audience. And so I think. hmm! The primary thing is, it has to be somebody who’s high performing already, and sometimes people like, I don’t know if I’m high performing enough. And I’m like, probably not. Then you have to have a good enough self image to be like, yeah, I’m high performing, you know. They might be crap in the bed at the moment, and like not feel very good about where things are at, and kind of dejected or whatever. But at the same time you have to know in your heart of heart that there’s something much bigger than what you’re experiencing right now, and like having the heart of a champion again like that’s something to you can’t give that to somebody else. They have to decide for themselves. And so that’s part of why I put that out there. I’m like, if you’re high performing per person that has batteries included, meaning you’re already like moving. You have momentum, and, like all we have to do, is like, maybe tweak the trajectory or refine some things in terms of your approach, so that we can be more effective. But that’s very different than somebody who can’t get off dead center ever and just always seems to be like on just so. And you have to have made a decision for yourself, because. like. do, you gotta bet on yourself before you ask other people to bet on you? And that’s kind of who I’m looking for. So like do our. It’s. It’s not just athletes. It’s not just like business owners like I work with artists that work with like, I don’t really care like, really, really terrific, like amazing great parents who’s more more high performing than that. Somebody staying home like taking care of kids, especially like the daily, like day after day after day, and then trying to keep some semblance of order, and yourself, and health and self care, self care. Excuse me while raising the next generation. That’s an exceptionally high performing position. Right? So it’s really not I’m an athlete, and I’m a business owner. So like those 2 categories, make sense for me. But at the end of the day we’re all human beings, and the ones that kind of put themselves in that category of like. heck, yeah, heck, yeah, I have ambition. Heck, yeah, I have the ability to produce they may or may not be in the best spot at the moment. Heck! They could be like in the bottom of the barrel. But you have the heart of a warrior. Yeah, like, let’s say link arms, and let’s rock and roll if you don’t sorry like. Find somebody else. I know that sounds really horrible, but I just I found out a long time ago that I didn’t serve people. you know and I always tell people that when we have conversations, if like, I’ve got a phone call after we get off of this with somebody. And like, I’m just gonna kind of feel things out and see where I can help the person. And I may have nothing to do with it. You know I have some people in mind already that I may send him to, based on what he wants to do that are maybe more specialized in those areas. And I’m fine with telling people that, too, you know. No like you need to go talk to like this person or this person over here. You’re not a coddler. somebody who needs sort of a warm blanket wrapped around them. You’re more of a kind of smack them in the face and give them the hard, honest truth. Yeah. And but it’s it’s interesting, because in a in a very loving way, because if they, if they actually pick up on my spirit in the way that I actually relate to people, I really, really, really. really love people. And I a lot of times go out of my way to try and think of, like the words, to express something to somebody, especially specifically, that I’m sitting with in a way that they can receive that’s going to be supportive. I really do go to great lengths for that. But I just cannot. Like I just I just can’t. That that bothers me. It’s like, it’s it’s like a violation of truth, and that is not something that I am interested in whatsoever. So yeah, if you’re thinking of it, like. you know, if there’s a like in the in the let’s say the spiritual world, or something. You have people that are like saints, and like really just wonderful, loving ministers and things like that. And then you have a Zen monk, and I’m probably more like that, like I’ll pro like I’ll I’ll hit you with a little concentrate that’s great. 

 

Anthony Codispoti:

So how is your role? Let’s think specifically about your performance coaching as it pertains to athletes. How would your role compare to say, like a sports psychologist or sports psychiatrists?

 

Brian (guest):

Mine is very, very focused on like performance, based hyper hyper, practical and pragmatic from a performance standpoint. So like very, very much in the trenches on the ground. How do we? How do we take all these higher level principles and translate them to the environment that’s in front of us right now? You know, if you have, like clinical psychologists and and sports psychologists? Certainly not all the time. So this is like, broadly speaking, generally, that’s that’s more of an academic cadence, and certainly like on the clinical side. Right? That’s more, hey? Something’s going on. If you think of a clinical psychologist, they tend to be more like the equivalent of the doctor on the physical side. Right? Like you need to go to them. If like, something’s really going wrong like, you gotta get that stuff checked out and looked at by somebody has a lot of specialization, a ton of education like really, really brilliant same thing with a lot of sports psychologists right? Like they’re kind of in the middle of times, but a little bit more academic. And then mental performance coaching. At least you know. What I’m looking at is very much what actually works on the ground in the battle right now.

 

Anthony Codispoti:

So are you say you’re working with a golfer. Are you working with them on their swing like? Is it like to that granular level, or is it like, yeah? 

 

Brian (guest):

Well, it would be. It would be. It wouldn’t be swing mechanics, but it would be the setup right, like the pre-shot, the during shot, post shot routines. and how to think about and how to set things up and like, there’s a lot of different pieces to that sequence. Because when you watch something like golf on TV, and actually, golf is interesting, cause you can see some of their process right? Somebody will get up to step up to hit the ball. They’ll like wag a little bit. And they typically have a little bit of a routine that you can see. But what you can’t see is like the mental process they’re going through is going down their checklist sort of like a pre-flight checklist of like this. Okay, great, that’s on. This is on. Check, this check, this check, this awesome 2 of these, and like, ready to clear the mind, clear the mechanism, presence, and like, go and just take the swing. There’s a lot of moving parts beneath something that looks fairly straightforward if we’re watching it on TV, which, by the way, I didn’t really finish my analogy a moment ago, sometimes I rabbit trail and sidetrack, but which I’m gonna do now again, just for good measure.

 

Brian (guest):

But you know, if you think of like a clinical psychologist is on like the doctor side. I’m more on the athletic trainer, like strength, training, side strength, and conditioning right? So like they’re both under the guise of like in that case and that analogy like the physical side of things. And if you take that on the psychological right, like, I’m not on the doctor side. I’m more like the the training, the training, strength, and conditioning for the mind. Getting your mind right? Mind. Gym, that type of stuff. 

 

Anthony Codispoti:

As you were talking about watching athletes on TV, and how they’re going through through sort of like their pre-shot prep. 

 

Brian (guest):

You know, I’m thinking about. You know, I watch baseball players. I watch golfers, you know. They they do this, they they kinda have all these things. And in my mind, I I’m thinking, well, that’s some sort of a superstition like they got used to touching this and then that. And what? What percentage of that, do you think is superstition versus? This just helps them sort of get their mind and body and check to do what they need to do.

 

Brian (guest):

Apologies to all my baseball fans and players out there, but, like, there’s a lot of superstition in baseball. So it’s hard to tell a lot of times. And honestly, you know, mental training. It’s not heralded at the same level. Then this is gonna change over the next. You know. number of years. But it’s really kind of like the last frontier in my mind, especially in sport because we have so much specialization and so much support. Staff. Excuse me around athletes in particular, but this is the one area that it’s like not really built out very well. And so a lot of the stuff that you actually see is just things that are kind of superstitions of like, and I always do this, and I like always wear these socks, even if they’re dirty and and it’s on the road. I don’t care cause these are my home run socks, and it has nothing whatsoever to do that is nothing to do with mental performance other than if somebody truly believes that that works. Placebos are really powerful. So who cares like? In that sense? It’s probably worth it. Right? Well, placebo effects, like 30% of people will get the effect of the drug. Just when they 30% of the people with the placebo, they’ll get it. So more power to them like if your lucky socks get it for you. But I’m getting into the really, really specifics and nitty gritty, especially in like something like baseball pitchers have to have like, really, really, if they’re gonna be great and consistent, really, really tight mental routines, and some of them do it. Naturally, there’s always people in business and sport that just do things with such a. They were just like born to do it, and it’s very subconscious for them, and it always has been, because it kind of came easily to them. So it’s not that they don’t have a mental process. It’s just so unconscious for them that if you ask them what they’re doing. They’re like, I have no idea. And a lot of times those are like the the grades of history, right? They’re so good that they have no idea what it is that they’re actually doing for the rest of humanity. We have to really like, we have to really show up and work and apply ourselves at the stuff to actually get it done.

 

Anthony Codispoti:

Let’s talk about how you overcame this fear of water to become a national champion in swimming. I mean that that’s wild. II have a pretty intense fear of heights myself, so I feel like that would be like me becoming a trapeze artist in a circus or a skydiving instructor, which just are unfathomable to me. So I have some great now. I have some great ideas of what we should do next? Trapeze artists like that would be fantastic. So like, how did that come about? Is that what you want to know? Yeah. First, to tell me about the fear. Then I want to understand how you got from here to here.

 

Brian (guest):

Good question. I don’t hmm. I have my suspicions about where the fear, like slash phobia actually originated from. But I’m gonna leave that aside for now let’s just put it this way definitely from as early on as I can remember in my life. It was always there so, and it was a phobia of having my head underwater so like I had had fears before, like he was. You know, I had stuff specifically, that was less intense in terms of fear, and one of those was a fear of heights like it was intense, but it was still a fear. So it was something that I was like, Okay, let’s try. And this is what I did. Frankly, I was like, let’s try rock climbing. But I wasn’t terrified of heights. It was just made me really, really, really uncomfortable. The water thing having my head. Underwater was a phobic response, meaning, there’s no rational thought anymore. It’s complete panic, like your brain goes into like truth, just like run and hide in survival mode, and you can’t think straight, and it’s a total freak out like there’s no slumping the brakes on it and slowing it down and like calm down like. Just breathe it just like that. Doesn’t that doesn’t work? So I would not necessarily advise. If people are at that place where they have a phobia. They don’t mess with that on your own like, you really, really really need to work with a professional.

 

Brian (guest):

I kind of dodged a bullet on that. And thankfully like I did have enough background psychology and that type of thing that I was able to. I think, work through things that I would not recommend that other people do unless they maybe have a lot of extensive experience in that as well, because it’s tricky when you mess with phobias like if you met. If you mess up the the treatment. you can make things a thousand times worse. It’s just way more delicate than dealing with a fear because of fear. Still, there’s still a part of the mind that can be rational and thoughtful. Phobias. There’s it’s you’re gone right. And so if you mess up like on the treatment side. It can make your life more of a living hell. So that’s my! That’s my disclaimer. So that’s where it kind of began.

 

Brian (guest):

And then I was like 30, and I decided cause I recognize. Excuse me, this was still in my life. but it was really incompatible with how I saw myself. Which is another thing, back to your earlier question. What’s one thing you could tell people about, you know, if they’re in that dark place at some point. You have to decide who you are. Some point you have to decide who you are. So this was you flipping another switch back when you were 14. You right? Yeah, I was like, this is not compatible in any way, shape or form, with who I am and what I’m about, and like, what the hell am I doing right now? This is not walking and integrity in my life. And so I decided.

 

Brian (guest):

Okay, I have a phobia of water. What’s the next logical step? I know I’m gonna take up swimming because it’s a sport where your head is constantly under water. That sounds safe. I didn’t say I was the smartest human being in the world, that’s for sure. But you know it was like it was. It was gutsy, and I decided to take it up, and I found a swim coach, and I like ironically, a few years before that the seed had been planted watching Phelps at the 2,008 Beijing Olympics like pull off what he did, and it was just a little seed in my mind like I didn’t recognize at the time. But looking back, you know, like, which is another lesson like life, only makes sense in reverse. But you have to live it forward. So sometimes, when people understand truth like that. It also helps them like just freaking relax like, you don’t have to understand everything. You’re not going to. Certain things aren’t gonna make sense until you’re 30 years older than you are right now, and that’ll make perfect sense. But right now, like, stop crying about things, not making sense, and just take the next best step. So there’s so there’s that. But I went. Found a a swim coach. His name was Bob Bowman, which was the name of Michael Phelps’s coach. Things make sense in reverse, right? Like that’s really really weird. It’s not it. W. It’s not the same Bob Bowman, but it’s just like, what are the freaking odds? And the first day I went out to the pool to like meet him II was all just wigged out, and hey! There was a swim coach like coaching a group, and I walked over. And II was like, Hey, are you, Bob Bowman? And he’s like, no, and I was like. do you know, Bob Bowman, he’s like that’s Michael Phelps’s coach, and he just looked at me like you’re an idiot, and I was like dude. I know it’s fricking Michael Phelps’s coach. This is a different never mind. So anyway, I found Bob and he just over course of like a very short period of time. Like, you know, we work together. I really, really, I’m good at applying myself. And actually, I do like just doing what needs to be done, and like going above and beyond what a coach would give me. And so they taught me the 4 competitive swim strokes, and a couple of months later I was a lesson with him, and he goes. You could join a master’s program like, you’re actually at a point where you could do that. And that terrified that out of me. And so I decided. okay, while I’m still slightly enthusiastic about what he said to me, even though it’s terrifying. I’m gonna go sign up tomorrow. So I signed up for a master swim team like the next day I started rocking and rolling. Then that that leads to like a little bit more, and I’m still terrified in the water at this point, and and was working through that stuff for years. But I remember not too long into it. I got this thing of like. What if I could compete one day, you know, cause I dropped in at a high school swim meet because it’s the aquatic center that I swim at. To this day is like 3 min drive from my house. I dropped into this high school swimming, and it was really inspiring. Because I always love athletes and like being in that environment. II just get choked up in those places, just watching people in the competitive excellence and the collective energy that’s in a place like that. It’s so much different then, like, I don’t know a bar right? Radically different, energetic components to it. And I saw them competing. I was like, maybe I could compete someday. And then that led to eventually I did compete. And then one day I got the crazy idea that I didn’t tell anybody at the time like, maybe I could qualify like swim at nationals one day. What if I could just somehow get good enough to qualify, just to qualify, to go, to qualify, to go to Nationals like that would be super amazing cause the whole time, I’m thinking, like, what if it inspires somebody? Right? That’s hesitant, or like dealing with their own stuff? Because I had the benefit of seeing people that inspired me through my life, and that’s what I needed to maybe take, like the one more step that was a small, seemingly insignificant step, but became very significant because of where it led. And so this is a lot of driving motivation the entire time, and eventually, like I qualified for nationals it. It was just under 5 years after I started swimming, I think. I was at my first National Championship, and just kept going. And then in 2021, like one one a couple of events at nationals, and that was super exciting. And I’m I’m still rocking and rolling man. That’s incredible. 

 

Anthony Codispoti:

What are your top events?

 

Brian (guest):

Good question. I’m still figuring that out so pretty much any any strokes, and like not freestyle, but like backstroke, breaststroke. Butterfly really enjoy those? Probably at this point. Maybe I enjoy backstroke the most, but it’s close cause. I really love breaststroke and and fly is like right beneath them. And I just I enjoy the variety and challenging myself doing, being very versatile in what I do. So typically master’s practices. There’s a lot of freestyle, especially if it’s a triathlete. Focused workout is basically the entire thing is just freestyle, right? And I don’t really care for free cell that much like I can swim it, and it’s on the back half of like my IM, so usually I’m swimming like 200 400 in the backstroke breaststroke, and like the 200 individual medley and the 400 IM right? And that’s those are the ones where you swim. All 4 competitive strokes. and that’s how I practice, too. I basically am pretty even across my training for all 4 of the strokes.

 

Brian (guest):

So I want to go back to that first day of getting in the pool with the guy who has the same name as Michael Phelps’s coach cause. I hear you sort of talk a little bit about the trajectory like after that, like, you know, he recommend. Hey? You could get into a master’s program at this point. You are still scared to get in the water, but you’re doing it, and you’re working through the fear. 

 

Anthony Codispoti:

But I wanna I wanna talk about what happened on that first day. You were terrified to get in the water. How do you take that first step? What does that look like that? I’m here now, what like help me overcome this.

 

Brian (guest):

I mean, at that point I had done a little bit of work right before I started working with him, just to make sure that I could kind of keep my wits about me like in the pool. right? Cause I don’t want to show up to swim lesson like run run off the pool deck, crying head and hands like I did when I was a little kid, you know, when my parents tried to do swim lessons and like that didn’t work very well. So I kinda dip my toe in like, probably like the week leading up to it, and just making sure that I could kinda get in and be comfortable.

 

Brian (guest):

But I also have this hatch, and it says, and it’s great, because it’s just like this embroidered thing, and it says I won’t say the word, but it begins with F, so like F. It my final thought before making most decisions. And at some point you just have to put yourself there like effort. Let’s go like, let’s rock and roll. You have to push yourself for the edges. There’s not always people there to tell you like. It’s okay. And like, if you need a pad on the back all the time, there’s nothing wrong with Pats on the back. I think we all love it. But if you need a pat on the back all the time that really really limits your potential, what you can do, like patch yourself on the back. Why, why don’t you care as much about what you think about you as what other people think about you like? What’s up with that? And like every like to this day we’ll get. I’ll come back to your question, I promise, but like on the pool, because this might be really helpful for people like on the pull deck. It is pervasive across the swimming population swimmers coming up and like standing on the side of the pool deck, or like having, you know their legs and just like over the side. But they’re not in the water yet, and they always talk about how like this is the part I hate the most, especially if it’s a competitive pool, because the the water’s cold like it’s not like a Rec center pool. It’s not comfortable, sort of when you get in. It’s very uncomfortable. and I just train myself from very very early on like.

 

Brian (guest):

Get up there like. I don’t hesitate. Let’s rock and roll, and I actually train myself to enjoy doing the thing that nobody else enjoys doing. Because why? The hell, not other people hate this like I can love it. That’s how I pick events to swim. I pick all the things that nobody else wants to do. I don’t pick what I wanna do really? I look at? Where am I going to be competitive? And where do I line up? And that informs my decision. I’m like, Oh. oof!

 

Brian (guest):

Well, that’s the one event I didn’t wanna have to swim at nationals. But like, that’s what I’m swimming. And that’s kinda how I pick things. So that that first day. II think that’s really what it was is that mindset of you have to be able to like click into gear at a certain point. And you can’t have decision constipation you have to be able to like, not just no, we just make the decision right? And it’s a quality. And and how do you? How do you develop that capability?

 

Brian (guest):

One tiny frickin decision at a time? Just make the decision like, do things that are uncomfortable. And every time you do it you should be rewarding yourself and caring about it. Not. No, I’ll wait till something really big happens. Listen, if you can’t celebrate little victories like the big ones are. Gonna be hollow and empty, and you are going to crack afterward right? Like little things. That’s how all the best stuff is built, little things. So find something that you normally don’t like doing. And the next time you’re there, and you know you’re about to go into that moment of indecision or questioning yourself. I don’t know if I want to like, throw yourself into the activity like, just see what it’s like.

 

Anthony Codispoti:

You need a lax. You need a laxative for that decision constipation that you mentioned. You do, man, you do so give give yourself that that. They’re laxative. Brian, I gotta know. Why do your friends call you the piercer?

 

Brian (guest):

So that is, that is now more people will know about it. But I have a handful of friends like one in particular, that The person who originated this and then kind of word got out and like, now it’s really out this platform, which is great. It originated from. It, was a really good friend of mine, and he’s great guy, Super, brilliant like business owner, super high, performing awesome like I look look up to this guy in so many ways. He inspires me, helps me, looks at things from a different perspective. He just has a different energy, a different way of thinking and approaching things. He’s naturally super duper, intuitive.

 

Brian (guest):

I tend to be more in my head. which is great, because I know how to deal with being too much in your head, which is basically what all high performers deal with is the anxiety of getting stuck in your head and like just feeling like, Oh, my God! I can’t even function, and knowing how to come out of that is really valuable. So there’s less than that, too, right? Like the things that you’re not good at. When you become good at them. You’re you become an incredible teacher because it didn’t come naturally. And so you can go back and say, like, Here’s this step, and here’s this step, and you just know how to fine tune and fix things. And you can really help people in a different way.

 

Brian (guest):

Because you understand the process that goes into it. So anyway, this guy is just like naturally super intuitive and and but he would. We were talking once, and he needed coaching on something like just something he was struggling with and So I just like started coaching and going into things. And all of a sudden he’s he’s. you know, like his eyes kind of get wide. And he was like. Oh, wow! Or something I was like, I was like, what like, what just happened. He’s like, that’s exactly what it is like. I didn’t even that like never even occurred to me like holy crap. So when it’s like this, ability to sort of like pierce the veil and see what’s sort of behind the facade, especially when things aren’t going right. It can be really convoluted and difficult to happen upon, like what’s actually happening here. And where is the leverage point where we’re gonna get the most benefit. If we fix this one thing, that it changes everything else about the complexion of our business, our life or whatever. And I think that a lot of people spin cycles because they’re really like kind of playing whack-a-mole and just trying to deal with like the surface level stuff. But you’re playing whack-a-mole always, and it just keeps you busy. But you’re constantly fixing surface level problems. And like, let’s dive down beneath that like. Let’s just figure out what the hell is going on. And after he started calling me like dude, like my new nickname for you as the piercer. He told me that he’s like I now have your name, and my phone is Brian, the piercer, Burgford. He like sent me a screenshot of it. I was like, Oh, my goodness! So that’s where that started. But it helps me really understand. There’s things in coaching that I’m not particularly adept at that there’s coaches out there that are way, way, way, way, way, way better. And I’m like great. That’s why I said, like talk to that person. I just want you to get with somebody that’s gonna actually help support. You get to where you need.

 

Brian (guest):

But one of the things I’m really really good at is getting to the heart of the matter, plus, I’m kind of incapable of Bs on the truth level. And so I just have to like I have to bring it forward if I see it. But the thing is, it’s not saying that the truth will set you free. But first still piss you off, or whatever the saying is, and it is right like it’s. It’s very disarming at first, because you’re like Oh my God! Oh, wow! And it can be a little bit much on the front end. But then you’re like, Wait, hold on, though. I didn’t love how that felt initially. But now I can see a path out. This totally makes sense. I hadn’t considered this, and like now that I know the truth, you can’t. Again, it goes back to just like Biblical proverb, right? Don’t build your frickin’ house on sand like, right? The waves are gonna come up and it’s gonna wash it out to sea. You have to have a firm foundation, and you cannot build on top of lies. I mean, you can. And we see this in like, you know, Congress every single day of our lives. Right? Everything built on lies is a house of cards. But like, in our lives, things we really really care about, if we want functional lives, we’ve got to build. And if we want things to last, it’s got to be on a foundation of truth. How many relationships, long term relationships, do people really have? They’re completely built on lies. And if they do, it’s this exercise in keeping everything together and maintaining and like facades and stuff like that year after year after year, and it’s exhausting at some points, like, is it? Wouldn’t the truth just like be refreshing, even if you don’t like hearing it? Wouldn’t it be refreshing? And like, that’s what I want from people as well, especially coaches and mentors. I’m like, Just give it to me straight. I can get sensitive and like hurt in a lot of ways, pretty easy. You know, I’m not one of those people just with like a crazy, insanely, naturally thick skin. We’re like, nothing really bothers me, but what I value more than avoiding the pain of hearing the truth is the truth itself, and what you can create coming out of it. And that goes back to our conversation at the beginning of, like, some point. You have to decide who you are and what you’re really about. And you’re gonna have to make some really tough decisions about, okay, I’m willing to go to the place that I don’t want to go and do the thing that I sense that I need to do, but that I least want to do so I can actually know what the truth is, because I can’t live like this anymore. And I won’t live like this anymore. And the sooner you decide to make that choice, the less misery you have to go through. Right. Don’t be like, like, like me in childhood. It took me a really, really, really, really long time to get to that place where I made the decision to just okay, like, let’s look at the truth. And like, what do I really need to do? And like, stepping up? It took me a long time, so it was like depth of despair, for so for so long for so many years without any hope, and there was still a lot of not despair after that, but like really really difficult times afterward. But at least I started to know who I was and what I was made of, and like, if I can make it through this, some part of me knew I could make it through anything else that I ever faced in my life. And little things like that get you through little things, get you through, you know, and that’s the other thing, too, for people like Please, smile at somebody, encourage them, like when you’re not in the mood to talk to somebody at the gym like, take your stupid headphones out and say, Hi! Or like, fist bump somebody or do something to uplift somebody, because we just. And it’s, it’s, it’s Corny and cheesy, and like the ripple effect of kindness and whatever, but it’s, it’s really true. Sometimes people just need a smile. Sometimes they just need your presence. Sometimes they just need a glance, something, because they’re right on the edge. They’re right on the edge. They’re right on the edge, and sometimes we just don’t know how much we can tip the balance with something that is so inconsequential and seemingly meaningless to us, and it saves somebody else’s life, and they may never tell you. And if you need people to tell you all the time, you’re not gonna make as much of an impact as if you’re like, like, no, I just want to do whatever I can continue to contribute to the people around me to be intentional. And I’m an ex. I’m an introvert like highly introverted. So it’s not in my nature to like, I love people. And when I get around people like sports teams and like we’re working together and like I was doing that yesterday pro sports team and like getting everybody on the same page, and like a room, guys like in the locker room, getting everybody on the same page fired up, totally, firing on all cylinders, and bringing like I love that stuff. But I refresh on my own, right. I have to replenish by retreating and being away from people like that’s just me. I don’t recharge my batteries by being around a bunch of people. So anyway, as an introvert, don’t know where I was going with that. But the point being, Oh, it’s hard for you sometimes to extend yourself. So go out beyond just your natural inklings and your comfort zone, and the things that you’re comfortable and competent at doing. Because, again, if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not. There’s no now, being uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re growing. But being comfortable, comfortable for sure means you’re not growing, and there’s somebody I don’t know was a book I was reading, or something recently, but she was talking about like every night and after school, like when she would go home, they’d sit at the dinner table on her. Unless this was you like, okay, now I’m now I’m getting freaked out. But whoever this was, it was like I thought it was a daughter, but maybe as a son like the dad would go like, what did you fail at today, and would ask that every single night at dinner to her, and she she just thought it was such a weird question, because he would do it to her and her sister, and like Come on like, what did you? What did you fail at today? And that was always the question that came up at dinner and like, Why is that important? Is like, because if you’re not failing, you’re not. You’re not growing. You’re not pushing yourself. You’re not going toward your potential. And that was just a really really powerful thing. I thought.

 

Anthony (host):

Yeah, that is powerful. Thanks for sharing that, Brian. I’ve got one more question I wanna ask you. But before I do wanna make sure people know how to get in touch with you best place I’m guessing is your website, Bergfordperformance.com BERGFORD Performance. Is that the best place for people?

 

Brian (guest): 

Beautifully done, my friend, that is it. 

 

Anthony (host):

Last question I have for you. Is, I know you have an interest in particular types of breathwork, and you’ve even developed a very specific type of breath work yourself. Can you give us a brief description of it, and what the purpose or the benefit of it is?

 

Brian (guest): 

Sure and so, I think breathwork is great. It’s not a panacea. It doesn’t solve everything, right? Like there’s always when things become in vogue, there’s always this rush like, Oh, my gosh! Like, maybe this is the answer to all my problems, right? In society, and people are just like and then, like that thing dies out, and eventually, like a new wave comes behind and, like everybody runs to that. And I and I think, like, you know, I try and remind myself to temper that a little bit, because, like, no matter how awesome something is, it’s part of the greater whole. And like when you see it in context of like, this is one aspect of or a technique, or a methodology or a mode of becoming more complete, or helping yourself as a human in terms of like self development. Fantastic, and breathwork is one of those things. I think it gets a lot of attention, and it should. It’s not the fix to everything, but it can be really tremendously helpful in terms of things like even simple stuff, lowering stress hormones right? Like getting cortisol down, like, you know, testosterone up things like, you know, norepinephrine like we might want that stuff to go down a little bit like the stress hormones that are so pervasive, and that we live with, because just the pacing of our lives. Oftentimes we just live in this state of just like we’re just buzzing all the time, and it’s really unhealthy. So I think that you can shift the hormonal balance in your body. Your blood chemistry. You can completely shift with breathing exercises if you know what you’re doing. So that’s one of those things, too. I’m like, get with somebody who understands and knows what they’re doing. I think the specific exercise you’re referring to is a hmm.

 

Brian (guest): 

There’s a course, basically in my app. So I have an app like the Bergford Performance Systems app. And if people go onto my website and they hop on the email list, it’ll get them an invite, and they can go in. And there’s a bunch of free courses. There’s actually. I don’t know why I put so much free courses and material in there, because I’ve always like. I should probably charge for some of this cause I do have like hidden, and the meditation one is not a free course, but there’s a bunch of stuff in there but the meditation one is like really in a super inexpensive for what it is, but it walks people through this breathing exercise and this sort of the short meditation. The short one is like 14 min. There’s also like a 30 min version. But there’s 1 point in there where there’s like some really really powerful breathing going on. And after that, I kind of took elements of different styles of meditation, and like Yoga and and breathwork and kind of combine them in unique patterns and ways to just give people a different way to experience something like meditation that they typically think is really boring and like, just sit there and be calm and was like no baby. There’s points in the meditation that are like that, but it’s also really active. There’s points where you have to get after it, and if you sort of halfway commit, it’s just. It’s not cool, man, you know. It’s like I’ve tried it before. It is a very active breath. It is not like, just feel the breath coming in and out of your nose. Sorry. Go ahead. Yeah, no, no, and that’s exactly it. Right? Like you. You have to make a decision like to commit to it, and I think that that it goes back to that thing. It’s like a great exercise to do with yourself. Every day you go. And you know, do I want to do this? No, I don’t wanna do it. That’s exactly why I need to do it, because the things that you wanna do immediately that are like, Oh, yeah, I wanna do that are typically not very good for you long term. And all the things that have a barrier to entry upfront that you’re like. I naturally don’t wanna do that are probably really good for you. So that’s like a nice rule of thumb, but it’s a really active breath. And there’s a lot of different types of breathwork, too, but like that, one has been really powerful, I think, for a lot of people that have enjoyed that like use that like over course of months and years, and you can go everything from just like relaxing yourself to some more advanced breathwork which I don’t really go into in there. But like, you can have really really powerful like psychedelic type experiences, but without any of the like, you know, drugs. But but that stuff can be like really, really powerful when you understand, like how your body chemistry, when you understand how to shift it and how to change it. It’s just such a great life skill. Because then when you get on the playing field right, and you’re an athlete like for me as a swimmer. And I get on the pool deck, and you have all these different skills, and you know how to shift like your psychology like last moment, and like, change your change, your body and the state of mind that you’re in like at the drop of a hat. It makes everything else than like owning a business, and like working with and helping and supporting employees and dealing with customers so much easier because your benchmark, your set point right for, like really getting after things like what’s difficult and having to shift, you know, from over here to word like, I’m really, really super frustrated, and I wanna throttle somebody to like. I gotta be spot on cause. I got one of the most important meetings of my life in 10 min. And I better get this sorted out right now, because that is gonna have last lasting consequences. It makes that stuff so much easier. So it’s disciplining your body, disciplining your mind and putting yourself in that position over and over, and a lot of when you lose control of your breath, it’s over you. You don’t have control anymore. So when you go back to breathing exercises, it brings you back to the present moment, it’s taking control back. And that’s really powerful. 1 one last thing here there is. I don’t know who who the quote is from. Somebody could probably help us out with this, but it’s anxiety is excitement without the breath. Anxiety is excitement, but without the breath. So when anxiety like you, you’re not conscious of your breath, and if you are, you’ve lost control of it when you’re excited. So they’re like they’re like this, far apart excitement and anxiety. And that’s something like helping athletes and business owners, people. They’re doing presentations. Executives like this is the kind of stuff we’re up against is. I’ve got a really high stakes situation right now, and I have to keep control of myself. You have to be in control of yourself before you can be in control of your performance. That’s so huge and a big part of that is like you have to be able to regulate, and your your breathing and your body, and what it’s doing, and understand how to change those things, because otherwise it just feels like God. I’m at the mercy of everything around me, and I can’t seem to get ahead and like I do really. Well, and then I like fall apart. And it’s like you gotta be in control yourself before you can control what’s in front of you. That’s awesome, Brian. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a great conversation. II appreciate the invite. I I’ve been excited about this. I actually wanted to do it earlier. And then I just had a crazy week. So you know, I appreciate you hanging out like being patient with me like getting on here, but I didn’t feel very patient, cause I was just chomping up a bit to get here, so I’m blessed to be here. I appreciate you. And like huge just want, like to your listeners, to your audience. Just a heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to you for being here for for listening for being present, and that you care enough about yourself and the people around you to be constantly educating yourself to maybe pick up one little tiny tidbit from. you know. Maybe this entire thing. Maybe it does like one thing is gonna shift for you a little bit, and you would put in this much time to get one little thing, and that’s how champions are made. That’s how champions are made. So thank you for being that. 

 

Anthony (host):

I love it. That’s a wrap on another episode of the inspired stories. Podcast thank you for listening with us today.