Be Your Best

The Race Against…Yourself

by on Apr.02, 2018, under Blog Posts


It is interesting to think about the concept of “how you think” being the root cause of everything that happens to you.  Kind of abstract, but the reality is, it’s true.  Common sense leads us to believe that many things that happen to us, are out of our control or random.  But with all the research I have done, and interaction with both highly successful people and those not very successful over the years, I find that how I “think” is responsible for 97%+ of everything that happens to me.

So what?

Walk through my thought process with me, and I think you may extract some gems from this.  So, I kind of call this life thing the “Race against yourself”.  I call it a “Race” because the most valuable thing there is, and something you cannot get back once it has passed, is time.  So, in my life, I am racing against time at all times, trying to fit as much work, happiness, accomplishment, friendship, love, charity, rest/leisure, etc… as I can before I die.

And to “win” (if there is such a thing as winning) in this race against time, it means I have to make choices that will maximize my use of time to accomplish all the things that are important to me to accomplish, and/or make choices that will extend my time.  The word that is critical to both of these things is “choice”.

Choices are just…

I know this may be getting a little deep and abstract, but I think this is extraordinarily important stuff, so please keep reading and stay with me.  There may be a nugget somewhere in here that you find really helpful.

I just reasoned that winning the race against time/yourself is based on choices of what you do with your time, or in the choices you make to expand/extend your time.  To me, choices are just decisions based on answered questions (DBOAQ).  These questions, are questions you ask yourself.  Every decision I make, even about the most mundane things in daily life, is a DBOAQ.  Going to get a drink of water is a DBOAQ.  Turning left down this street vs. that street is a DBOAQ.  But a decision cannot be made ever, without a question being asked to answer.  Some would say that there was no question when you decided to turn left instead of right, but I would argue that in your mind it was simply a split second question that you answered to turn left.  What was the question?  “Should I turn left?”.  Many would just call that human instinct, but I choose to break down human instinct into mental questions and answers.  These questions and answers, to me based on my research, are just happening in micro-micro seconds — but they are questions and answers.

So if winning the race against yourself/time is about your choices (and nobody else’s) and choices are simply DBOAQ (decisions based on answered questions), then I conclude that the Question is the most powerful thing there is, period.  This is something I have concluded and thought critically and consciously about for over 30 years.  I remember telling my two daughters when they were about 4 or 5 years old (and repeatedly until they were about 12-13 years old, “do you know what the most powerful thing in the world is?  The Question!”.  After a couple years of repeating this every so often, I would ask them that same question, and they would answer “The Question!!”.

Questions of yourself, and questions of others

The more quality questions you can ask, the more answers you can obtain from which you can make a decision on.  Without a question, there is no quality answer.  Without a deliberate question, there are unconscious questions (that may not be productive to winning the race) being asked and answered.

But the big distinction is that most of the people I talk to about this topic only think of questions in the realm of those that they ask other people.  Until you think about the most important of all questions being those that you ask yourself (not out loud of course, although nothing wrong with that, but deliberately in your mind), you are missing the HUGE advantage you have to winning the Race Against Yourself.

Let me give some examples that I think illustrate how profound this simple, but powerful concept is.  Let’s say its Saturday and you are hanging out at home, not much on the agenda, watching TV.  Your mind is effectively asking and answering questions like: Q: “what should I do right now?” A: “watch TV in the living room.”  Q: “What channel should I watch?” A:”first thing that comes up that looks decent while I channel surf up the dial.”  This is basically “autopilot” mode of your mind answering and asking questions.  Does not seem like you are asking questions, but per my above sections, you are.  But what if you proactively “took over” this scenario and asked yourself: Q: “What is a good question to ask myself right now?”  A:”Ask myself a question about what would be a really valuable and productive use of my time right now.” Then, Q:”What is a super valuable and productive use of my time right now?”.  A:”How about reading one of those books on your book shelf.”

That little takeover of your internal questioning lead to potentially a very different outcome on that Saturday.  You pick up that book you wanted to read, and you start reading it.  You get some really great ideas from that book, that inspire you to start a new project or hobby.  Starting that new project or hobby turns into a key life goal….  You can get the picture.

The Mind Seeks The Answer, Like It or Not

Something that is interesting about the human mind is that it is like an answer-seeking robot.  No matter what the question is, your brain will search and seek for an answer, even after you stop consciously thinking about it.  Science has proven this, but you have your own proof if you are not so sure about this.  Have you ever had an idea pop into your head while taking a shower to something you thought about 2 days ago?  Or how about waking up in the morning with an answer to a question or a problem (which is just a “question” by the way)?  Once you plug a question into your brain, verbally or non-verbally, it begins to work on finding an answer.  The great news is this is the way it works, so if you can install great questions, great answers will come eventually.  The bad news is that if you let bad questions get asked, it will seek answers to those as well! Here is an example of a bad question: “Why do I always fall short at _____________?”  Your brain will deliver answers…that are not helpful.  You want to take over and replace that type of question with something like “How do I better approach ______________?” or “What specifically can I do starting right now that would help me improve at ________________?”  Answers to these questions can cause more questions and decisions (DBOAQ) that are gamechangers.

I hope I have made a persuasive argument for the incredible power of the “Question”, and that asking lots of consistent, high quality questions is the key to winning the Race Against Yourself.  Start asking better questions…of yourself!

Be Your Best,

Todd Gifford – President

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Everyone Needs Some Walls of Inspiration

by on Jan.15, 2018, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

Every single day of my life (except when I am out of town), I spend a fair bit of time early in the morning in my workout room.  This room is pretty darn small (somewhat of an afterthought room in our house that I make do as a workout room), but I have a lot packed in there — treadmill, bike, rowing machine, weight bench/weights, and various other items like resistance bands, bosu ball, foam roller, etc…

But the most noticeable thing about this room are the walls.  I call them my Walls of Inspiration and I have used these walls for motivation for decades.  Instead of having mirrors to make the tiny room look bigger or to look at my incredible physique (not!), I have a lot of things hanging on the wall that inspire me every day.  And I take very seriously what I put up on these walls — I don’t just hang anything.  What I put up on these walls has to be something that has very deep, personal, and powerful meaning to me and that will truly inspire and motivate me every day.  These are things I would not put up anywhere except for this room.  Not only would they not “fit” into any other room, I feel that I would be diluting their importance by having them anywhere else.

In much of the reading and studying of success and achievement I have done, it seems that 90% plus of extraordinarily successful people do their most inspiring activities first thing in the morning.  It makes sense.  You have the most energy first thing in the morning and your mind is not cluttered with the days’ inevitable distractions.  It is the start of a new day, and every new day is a great restart opportunity no matter how bad the previous day was.

Since walls are always surrounding me in that room, and since I go into this room every morning of my life, what I have on those walls hits me like a load of bricks every morning.  It’s kind of like unavoidable inspiration.  No matter how I am feeling, when I step into this room and turn on the lights, the Walls of Inspiration start speaking to me like a personal coach.  Now, to clarify, I have so many things hung up on the walls that I don’t see or notice everything every day.  I have maybe 100 different items on the walls in a fairly tight area.  In fact, it seems like every day I notice something “new” that I have not noticed for a long time.  And that is part of the magic of the Walls of Inspiration.

What is on my Walls of Inspiration?

What I am going to do in this article is reveal some of the specific things I have on my Walls of Inspiration.  Not enough room here to talk about everything I have on my Walls of Inspiration, but this should give you good glimpse into Todd’s workout room, and I hope may spark some ideas for you.  As you will see, there is quite a variety of the type of things that make it onto my Walls of Inspiration.

These are in no particular order.  I just looked around my room and picked out some examples to share.

Great Quote, framed: “The Secret of Getting Ahead, is Getting Started” Mark Twain.  As you can imagine, I have quite a few really good inspirational quotes on my Walls of Inspiration.  I type and print them out on 8.5×11 paper and frame them to hang — and easy to read.  I look at this particular one almost every day because I never “want” to start working out.

Framed Ironman Wisconsin Finisher Collage – a fairly new addition to my Walls of Inspiration this year is a large framed collage that my oldest daughter created for me to document my Ironman Triathlon completion and journey.  Full of photos and artifacts from my Ironman odyssey, as well as an important quote in the center: “Ironman is not about something you do.  It’s something you Become.”  Completing the Ironman has been a life dream goal since I was 15 years old, so this piece is incredibly inspiring to me every day that: anything is possible.

Another framed Great Quote: “Assume the Feeling of the Wish Fulfilled” Neville Goddard.  This one is more wisdom than inspiration, but still belongs on my Wall of Inspiration, because a common tactic that highly successful people do (but is very counter intuitive to do) is to consistently put your mind in a state of having already achieved the thing you want to achieve…to help you achieve it.  It is not easy to do, but fundamentally important to do, on the way to accomplishing something important.  See it and feel it first.

Framed copy of my Book “Shopping for Calories Lifestyle Weight Loss Method”.  Having this on my Wall of Inspiration provides me multiple forms of inspiration. First, it reminds me daily that I can do something (anything) that is very difficult if I just put my mind to it.  It also is a daily reminder of my system for maintaining my target weight (the system I developed and wrote a book about!).  Even authors need to be reminded of their own book’s principals from time to time.  My book is available on if you are wanting to learn about an enjoyable and sustainable weight management system that I created and use every day, and have for 6 years, to lose 16% of my total weight and keep it off.

Framed Hole-In-One Golf ball, scorecard, and newspaper clipping from Friday the 13th, 2007.  I have not played much golf in the past 4-5 years, but played a fair bit in the 1990’s – 2010.  I never thought about achieving a hole-in-one as a goal or bucket list item.  My dream golf goal was to be a 6-7 handicap player.  I was playing with a group of friends on a vacation in Arizona at Tucson National Golf Course, on Friday the 13th, 2007.  Hole #16, Par 3, 179 yards.  5 iron.  Hit it perfect.  Bounce, bounce, in.  I was sure I hit it over the green, but my golf buddies started running to the green (forgetting the cart and their clubs).  This one inspires me that good things, sometimes unexpected, happen when you work hard.

Framed Great Quote: “Overcome Fear by Attacking It”.  We all have fears that prevent us from trying things, starting things, from reaching our true potential.  That absolute best way that I have found through all the years of personal experience and reading to deal with and overcome fear is to “attack it” head on.  Lee Milteer, a personal success author, speaker, and mentor of mine always says: “Fear is just an acronym that stands for Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real”.  This quote reminds me that Fear gets in the way of a lot of things and must be attacked to reach success and achieve big goals.

Framed Photo and Pen of me with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.  Over the past 6 years, I worked in my spare time to get four Iowa State Laws passed to facilitate the rebuilding of a Dam and Spillway along the Maquoketa River in Eastern Iowa that was breached/destroyed in 2010 by a flood.  I have never been a political person, but there are road block situations when you simply have to pass a new Law in order to get something important done.  This photo with the pen used to sign the 4th State Law we passed inspires me and reminds me that you don’t have to be an expert at something to do something big.  Just takes focus, tenacity and guts.

Framed Poster from Ragbrai XII.  RAGBRAI stands for Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa and is today the longest, largest and oldest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.  A monumental life-changing accomplishment for me when I was 18 years old was to ride my bike across Iowa, roughly 500 miles in 7 days in the middle of August…by myself…camping in a tent every night…with no cell phones.  My mom dropped me off by myself at the Missouri River with bike and gear, and did not see or talk to me until she picked me up at the Mississippi River a week later.  7 flat tires, 3 days of rain, 95 degree heat and windy, and 18 years old = I can do anything if I am willing to endure some “pain”.

This was just a small sampling of the things that are on my Walls of Inspiration.  These walls are powerful, and I cannot imagine starting out the day not having spent time in my workout room being surrounded by them and the messages they are sending at me.

If you don’t have your own Walls of Inspiration, I encourage you to find a room and create some inspiration magic.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford – President

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How “Joe- or Josefine-Average” Can Become a Creative Genius

by on Nov.07, 2017, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

I spend a lot of my downtime reading.  I don’t read novels or comic books.  I read “how to” type books, and I focus in on business, success, personal development, etc…  And within this broad set of genres lies the topic of creativity and creative genius.  I have read a ton about triggering creativity and creating innovative ideas, as well as I spend a fair bit of time around some very creative and successful people.

My unequivocal conclusion about Creativity is that it is a science, not an art.  It is manufactured, not purely natural/born-with.  Creativity is a process, not a talent.  Anyone can be extraordinarily creative if they choose to be.  And who does not want to be creative and innovative?

Creativity and Innovation are at the heart of problem solving, growth, advancement, and…happiness.  Creativity can be applied to business, but is also a critical part of personal life.  Being innovative makes you extremely important to those around you because being innovative and creative involves positive solutions to challenges.  Everyone values people who are able to develop solutions and brainstorm great ideas.  In business.  And in personal life.

How Do You Become a Creative Powerhouse?

Here are 9 factors that are easy to implement that basically assure you will consistently be a creative virtuoso.  No magic and no Masters’ Degree required.  These are time-tested and proven, and I don’t mean time-tested for the last 20 or 30 years.  I am talking time-tested for 1000+ years.  These 9 factors come from a book called The Geography of Genius: A Search For the World’s Most Creative Places – From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley.  Author Eric Weiner set out to understand the world’s most creative geographic locations and figure out why those places produced, or continue to produce, the most innovative ideas (ie. Culture, environment, phenomena, etc…).

Although when I read the book it was interesting to understand the geographic and cultural aspects of his study as to ‘why that city or area is so creative?’, I was most compelled by the common factors that existed at ALL of the locations that he studied.  And, all of these common factors were simultaneously present whether it was 10 years ago, 100 years ago, or 1000 years ago, in every ‘most creative’ location on earth.

So here we go.

#1 Pressure

It is almost a let-down to find out that one of the most important fuels to innovative thinking is pressure…better yet, intense pressure.  But the fact is that the unforgiving deadline, gun-to-my-head-so-I-have-to-come-up-with-something situation is critical to creative thinking and innovation.  A consistent element to the most creative ideas is the intense pressure to come up with them.  So, if you want to become creative and innovative, you need to introduce PRESSURE.  This can come in the form of a non-negotiable deadline, peer pressure, penalty, etc…

#2 A Problem to Solve

This one is almost too obvious, but nevertheless, important.  You must have a clear Problem to Solve to generate great productivity.  Trying to be creative or innovative without a clear problem to solve will not be productive (aka trying to be creative for creativity sake).  The more urgent or bigger the problem you have, the more #1 Pressure kicks in.  Problems are easy to find.  The key is to ask yourself “what is the big problem?”.

#3 A Clear and Burning Desire

No matter how much pressure and how clear the problem is, you cannot be an innovative powerhouse if you do not have passion and desire about solving the problem.  There are other factors in the list of 9 that require energy, and without strong desire, you will not have the energy required to be a creative monster.

#4 Lots of Testing and Swings of the Bat

This one is probably the most important of all 9 factors, and may be the least known factor of the 9 that leads to innovative ideas and thinking.  Trying and testing ideas is the single most effective tool to ultimately arrive at a best solution.  The problem is that most people either don’t think that testing is an option, are afraid to test, or simply don’t have the energy (#3 Desire) to do testing and experimenting.  Testing and trying and experimenting is a Game Changer if you want to be creative.  The reason is that many times the early ideas may not be the best ideas, but trying out ideas to see what happens can quickly lead to incredible ideas.

#5 A Willingness to Fail Persistently

This one goes hand in hand with Testing (#4 above), but is fundamentally different.  This is about mindset.  You must look at failing as just a form of “testing” vs. something bad or that has gone wrong.  Trying and failing is simply Testing, and then getting Test Results.  Data.  Then you look at the data and think about what should be tested next.

#6 A Certain Amount of Knowledge (4th Grade level), but Not an Excessive Amount

Creativity is not about intellect.  It is about a process of finding ideas that anyone can find if you put in place a process or system to do it.  It has been proven over and over that innovation is far more about passion and trial & error than how much formal education you have.  Some knowledge is good, but anyone can quickly acquire or already has enough to be innovative on any particular topic or problem.

#7 An Open Mind Mindset

Notice that Factor #7 does not just say an “Open Mind”.  It has the word “Mindset” after the words Open Mind.  This is very important.  To be truly innovative, you need to adopt a permanent mindset of openness to possibilities.  This is not something you can just turn on and off.  You want to practice being open minded all the time so that when you confront a clear problem and have pressure and desire — your open mind mindset is already in gear.  Try not to be ‘dead set’ on anything.

#8 Resources or Resourcefulness

Many of the most creative people, companies, and groups have a lot of resources and money to spend in order to test, try things, gather data, see what works and what does not — on their way to innovation.  You and I don’t have this luxury.  BUT, the next best thing is RESOURCEFULNESS.  Creative thinkers are resourceful and don’t let anything get in their way.  Resourcefulness is manufacturing resources out of sheer desire (#3 above), having a willingness to fail (#5 above), and exercising an open mind mindset (#7 above).  Tenacity is a word that comes to mind.

#9 Close Proximate Group of People Who Are All Trying to Solve the Same Problem

This one for me is the least intuitive and possibly the most difficult to execute.  But, it is proven and historically time-tested to be a huge factor to creative and innovative ideas.  Whether it is a peer group or team that is tasked with solving the same problem, or a couple of your friends/family who you challenge (and/or compete with) to solve a problem, a close group of people will generate better ideas than a single individual every time.

There they are.  9 common factors that all exist or existed in the most creative places in the world at a time in history of their greatest innovation, creativity, and achievement.  See if you can take this Innovation checklist and put it to good use.

Be Your Best,

Todd D. Gifford – President

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A Life Journey to Complete a Single Goal

by on Sep.20, 2017, under Blog Posts


Two Sunday’s ago I completed a life dream goal that I have had since I was 15 years old.  37+ years later, now 52 years old, I finally was able to call that goal ‘completed’, ‘accomplished’…’conquered’.  I don’t know about you, but when I was 15 years old, I had not thought much about or identified very many “lifetime goals”.  I believe I had a total of just two lifetime goals as of 15 years old.  And one of them was to complete an Ironman Triathlon.  The Ironman is a 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim, followed by a 112 Mile Bike, followed by running a 26.2 Mile Marathon, all in one continuous event, and must be completed by cutoff times on the race day.

It’s interesting, funny, and sad that it took 37+ years from the time I set that Ironman goal to complete it, but as the cliché goes, time flies.  I guess if you shoot for the moon and the stars with your goals, they can, and should be, be pretty hard to complete.  And, in some ways, maybe the goal accomplishment becomes more significant or important as it ages?  I suppose I appreciate it more being older just because this particular goal gets more difficult with age.  But then again “no”, I think that is just a way of me “justifying why it took so long” to check that lifetime dream goal off the list.  The reality is that if I had completed this 20 years ago like I had originally envisioned, I would have set another big goal to replace it, and been far down the road hopefully on it’s completion.  But on the flip side, had I completed it 20 years ago, my kids would not have seen their dear old Dad attempt to do such a feat — showing them that if you put your mind to it and want something bad enough, anything is possible.

15 Years Old
I clearly remember watching one of the first Ironman events on ABC Wide World of Sports TV being held on the Big Island of Hawaii and being absolutely mesmerized by this “impossible human endurance test”.  I liked sports as a kid, and was a decent athlete playing hockey, soccer, and tennis…but there was something about these super long endurance and multi-sport events (Decathlon in the Olympics, Ironman, Triathlons, Tour De France, etc…) that were mystical to me.  I looked at the people who were doing these as human super heroes.

My First Endurance Test
Not many years later, around the summer of my senior year in high school, I decided that I would ride my bike in RAGBRAI, which is one of the first non-professional Bike rides across a State (a week long odyssey from one side of Iowa to the other, roughly 600 miles, in a week’s time).  But, my plan was to do this journey by myself.  No cell phones, no email, no text messaging.  My mom dropped me off at the Missouri River bordering Nebraska on Sunday, and I would hopefully show up in Burlington, Iowa at the Mississippi River bordering Illinois, a week later.  Throughout the week, I would set up and sleep in a tent each night, and set out for another 75-100 miles of cycling each day in the August heat and relentless rolling hills of Iowa.  3 rain days/nights, 5 flat tires, and 7 challenging days of riding on my own later, I arrived at the Mississippi River.  As challenging as it was, I felt this must be like what an “Ironman” finisher must feel like.  Browned leather like skin, wind-blown face and hair, and weathered experience beyond my years…a huge satisfaction of accomplishing something special and unique.

Years Go By
Years would go by, but I never lost sight of the Ironman dream goal.  It seemed mysterious and strangely expected that I would flip on the TV every October and somehow, randomly out of the blue and magnetically, always come across the Big Island Ironman Special TV show, recapping that year’s Ironman World Championship race.  This show would always bring tears to my eyes because, deep down, I wanted to achieve this dream goal very badly.  Watching the people who trained for many months for this event cross the finish line after 14, 15, or 16+ hours of racing — was incredibly emotional for me.  In an Ironman, when you cross the finish line in time, you hear the words “[Your Full Name], You, Are An Ironman.”  This is tradition going back to the beginning of Ironman, and this was the moment when you knew, and everyone watching you knew, you have just achieved something very special.

2017 Was The Year
As I have written previously, In October of 2016, I once again saw the Kona Big Island Ironman Recap Show on TV.  For whatever reason, I pulled the trigger right then and there, signed up and paid the entry fee for Ironman Wisconsin taking place in September 2017.  I guess I felt that possibly the hardest part was drawing a line in the sand, and no going back.  Get it over with!

11 months To Prepare
The next 11 months were challenging training months to prepare for my dream life goal I was now committed to doing.  Carving out time daily, dramatically improving my swimming skill, increasing my strength, developing an endurance hydration and nutrition process, and preparing my body to go distances I had never come even close to doing via running, biking, and swimming.  But having that Ironman event on 9/10/17 out in the future made the training meaningful and “mandatory”, even on those days I just did not want to do it.

9/10/17 Ironman Day
What seemed so far off when I started intently training for the Ironman, finally arrived before I knew it.  And because you are tapering off and reducing your training intensity for the 3 weeks prior to the Ironman to rest and prepare your body, it is extra stressful because you feel like you are losing all that endurance you had worked so many months to build up.  Treading water for the in-water Open Water Swim start at 7 am the cannon fired, and my Ironman had begun.  It was to be a very long hard day ahead.  I had many ups and downs, and reached many physical and mental high highs and low low’s.

At about mile 21 of the 26.2 mile marathon run, in cold darkness (10 pm-ish) I started to see the end of my life long journey to this monumental goal in my mind’s eye.  Still quite a distance to go, but at the same time, such a very small amount of time in between the very beginning of my goal and the achievement of my goal.  I hurt in several places and at this point could not take in any fluid or food any more — my body said “no”.  I kept running, some tears in my eyes and cheered on by my family, and then…crossing over the finish line, I heard the words I dreamed of hearing for 37 years: “Todd Gifford, You, Are an Ironman.”

This was a big reminder to me of just how gratifying and rewarding completing a dream goal is, but also a sober reminder and “nudge” that I need to get after those life goals as soon as possible.  Turn your dreams into constant action to move forward, even if it is just a small step toward the goal.  As they tell you at the Ironman athlete briefing: “DQDSDG — Don’t Quit, Don’t Stop, Don’t Give up.”

Be Your Best,  Todd Gifford – President

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Sometimes the Best Innovation and Creativity is to NOT…

by on Jun.15, 2017, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

Sometimes the Best Innovation and Creativity is to NOT…

After years and years of reading about creativity and innovation, working on becoming more creative and innovative, and speaking with some of the most successful people around who are considered to be extraordinarily creative and innovative, I have learned that sometimes the very best Innovation or breakthrough creative idea is literally NOT to try to “innovate” at all — but rather take a completely different approach.

Generally speaking, being creative and innovative, or when brainstorming with just yourself or your team, you have a fundamental assumption or belief that a “change” is necessary to get the result you are looking for, so all of your base starting points in your thinking with respect to applying all of the various creativity techniques are driven with: ‘we must find a new way’.  And, to a large extent, this is fine and productive.

However, this can also be a hindrance to highly effective thinking, creativity, and innovation.  Sometimes, the greatest innovation is something so basic, so simple, and sitting right in front of you (possibly for years), that putting your mind and a team’s mind into the fundamental state or feeling that our breakthrough idea must be “new” somehow, can overshoot what could potentially be the best idea or solution of all.

Here is a great example of what I am talking about.  Many years back, NASA, the United States’ Space exploration group, set out to solve the problem of being able to write notes on paper in space and to solve the problem of ink pens not working in space because of the different aspects of gravity when in space.  NASA spent about $100 Million in researching, brainstorming, testing, and developing the revolutionary “Anti-gravitational Pen”.  Worked great.  But Russia, another country deeply involved in the Space exploration race, who did not have as deep of pockets as NASA, and who had the same “problem” of ink pens not being able to write notes when in space, came up with an even more revolutionary idea.  They decided to use a “Pencil” instead of an ink pen.  Also worked great.  Probably the result of one small brainstorm session, if that, and maybe even just someone saying ‘hey, let’s just use a pencil instead of a pen’, and bam, problem solved.  Was the idea of using a pencil Innovative?  Breakthrough idea?  Yes and Yes.  But, definitely not what you think of as cliché “innovative” or “breakthrough creative”.  Elegant, simple, and creative — but most of all…highly effective and low cost.

A (non-)Revolutionary Method of Finding a Revolutionary New Idea/Breakthrough

To the point of tainting your creative thinking with the feeling or concept that the breakthrough idea or brainstorm must be “revolutionary”, here is a method that I personally have used and seen work tremendously for developing incredibly effective “new” ideas in many instances where all other creativity methods have not been very effective:  Look at past history and past historical data of the problem you are trying to solve.  Get as much empirical data as you can, but it must be real data, not anecdotal data.  That data can be your own, from your own company, or it can be empirical data that has been researched and known to be factual.  The data you are looking at should simply be the ‘situational fact data’ that documents the problem you are trying to solve being solved AND not being solved.  Note the data you are looking at does not tell you why the problem you are trying to solve was solved and includes situations where the problem was not solved, but also includes data/situations where the problem was solved.  So, for example, if you are trying figure out how to solve a quality problem that is reoccurring in the field, you would get a hold of all the data, going as far back as possible of every instance that problem occurred AND every instance where the problem did not occur.  This can be a bit counter intuitive because you typically only “want” or think you need to look at the data were/when the problem occurred.  But the data that may be most useful is when the problem did not occur, combined with the data for where the problem occurred.

Now that you have data, what I have found works best is to take each record of success or failure in the data set and notate next to each data record everything you can think or know of or the data fields are telling you about that instance.  If the situation is complex, then it helps to create multiple categories of info related to the situation, and for each record of data, fill in each category.  Who, What, When, Where, How, How Much.  This is very much a ‘you do not know what you do not know’ process, so it does not feel like you are getting anywhere while you are noting all these facts for each record, but press on and get through the whole list or as much of the list as possible.


Once you have noted all the “facts” about each incident where the problem was solved/did not happen and the incidents where the problem was not solve/did happen, step back and look at your facts across many of the incidents or situations, looking for common denominators, common themes, re-occurring facts.  Look at this in different ways.  Compare all the ‘problem did not happen’ record facts with each other for common themes, but also compare all the problem-solved/did not happen records with each other.  Then, compare and contrast the problem-solved/avoided ones with the problem occurred/not solved ones.  Inevitably, if you have identified enough facts about the records, a theme or trend will present itself.  This can take a little while, and you may need to go another ‘layer’ deeper with the facts — meaning that you may need to look at the facts you created/noted for each record, and then identify “facts about the facts”.  But, more often than not, this process will present a breakthrough idea.  And the beauty of this process is, that many times this breakthrough idea is something that you were either already doing/not doing but did realize its impact, or something extremely simple and low cost to change.

Looking backward in history for breakthrough ideas is not a ‘new idea’.  But many times, it is simply not done.  Or, the only past history data that is viewed is when the problem occurred, not when it did not occur.  It is obvious, but not natural, to simply look at where success or problem avoidance has actually happened in the past, and have that point to the breakthrough solution.

Give it a try.

Be Your Best,
Todd Gifford – President

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A Big Audacious Goal

by on Apr.07, 2017, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

We all have goals.  Some are written down, some aren’t.  Some goals are for the year, for the week, for the month —- and some are bucket list type goals you just want to get done ‘sometime’ during your lifetime.  How many of these are goals that intimidate you?  How many challenge you to the point of fear?  How many scare the crap out of you?!  Keep you up at night because they haunt you?  How many goals do you have that are truly ‘moon shot’ type of goals?

I certainly do not feel all goals need to be (or should be) the type that are extraordinarily risky or scary, etc… But I do think it is prudent to have some goals out there that do really stretch you to your (perceived) absolute maximum in some way.  They don’t even have to be every year, but certainly on the bucket list somewhere.  Without them, you may not push yourself to places that you did not realize you could get to, places or feelings you did not realize you really enjoy, or achieve heights of satisfaction of personal achievement only reached by truly tackling and conquering things you just were not sure you could do.

I have one of these goals that has been on my ‘must get done at some point’ (aka bucket list) list since I was 12 or 13 years old:  Completion of a Full Ironman Triathlon.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, the Ironman is really the original ultimate test of human endurance event.  The original idea for this event was conceived in 1977, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, during an existing Hawaii relay race type event.  There was debate at that time of several participants as to who was the most fit — and the idea was hatched to take 3 existing long distance events (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run marathon) and combine them into 1 single endurance event.  They proclaimed that whoever finished this event first, would be called “The Iron Man”.  The very first Ironman event happened in 1979 with 15 competitors, but this unbelievably hard endurance event quickly captivated and inspired people about what is possible to accomplish as a human being.

NBC TV has covered the most famous Ironman Triathlon world championships competition held each year on the Big Island of Hawaii going back to the late 1970’s, and it was on TV that I saw this incredible event as a young teenager that made me want to complete it at some point in my lifetime.  You know how things go in life — some of these ideas seem great and you have tremendous energy and passion for them…for about a half hour.  Other times these ideas pop up from time to time in your mind, and then they are gone again…only to pop up again a year later out of the blue.

Something Unbelievable and Strange

For me, something very strange or just a bunch of tremendous coincidences has happened every year about this Ironman Triathlon event for as long as I can remember.  NBC airs their Ironman Triathlon Hawaii show exactly one time each year (Emmy award winning show by the way, so if you can watch it sometime, try to).  I never pay any attention as to when it will be on Television, and I really don’t watch that much ongoing TV.  BUT, every year, for as many years as I can recall, I always happen to be flipping through the channels and land on this single airing of the show.  It is freaky.  I literally forget about this event and show, and bam, every year, I flip the TV on and there it is just starting or half way through, etc…  Well, needless to say, since this very show is what inspired my dream to complete a Full Ironman in the first place when I was very young, every time I watch it, I get re-inspired.  I say — “this is the year”.  And the fact that I back into this show every year must be telling me something important.

Guess how many years I have been saying “this is the year”?

… a lot of years.  Mind you, I have had some great reasons (excuses) over the years why ‘this year turned out not to be the year’.  We were doing a lot of relocating in my early years of marriage due to my career, so that made it tough.  Then, you have kids, and that makes it hard to train consistently.  Work makes things challenging to get all the training in very early or very late in the days.  But really, if I am honest with myself, I did not pull the trigger on this goal because, deep down, this goal scares the crap out of me when I think about what is required to achieve it.  It is something that until I achieve it, there is always that element of doubt as to whether I really can achieve this goal.  That creates stress, and then I back off —- “next year”.

This is The Year

Once again, in November of 2016, that strange phenomena happened where I was just flipping around on the TV and landed on the Ironman championships TV show.  Once again, I was glued to the screen and got that same inspired feeling that I always get.  But as I was feeling that inspired but fearful feeling to pull the trigger on this life-long Goal, I remembered a fundamental principle that I preach to everyone myself, that I have learned from years of experience and very successful people:  You must take action very quickly on an idea the moment you have the idea/inspiration, because your energy and passion about the idea will always fade very quickly.  The key is to take quick immediate action to get forward progress in motion.  Applies to every idea or project or endeavor.  Action conquers fear.

So, taking that fundamental principle to heart, I literally went on to the website the moment the show ended, and registered (and paid a very large sum of money $$$ to register) for a Full Ironman Triathlon event.  This year is the year.

Be Your Best,

Todd D. Gifford

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Super High Performance TV with Todd Gifford – Advanced Strategies to Climb the Ladder Faster — The Kitchen Timer, Testing, and Million Dollar Habits

by on Dec.17, 2016, under Blog Posts

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Take a Ride of a Lifetime…As Often As You Can

by on Oct.31, 2016, under Blog Posts

Pano from Hot Air Balloon Ride

Pano from Hot Air Balloon Ride

Recently I had a lifetime opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do, but just never quite got around to it or had things line up just right to do it — a ride in a hot air balloon!

I have always been a little mesmerized by hot air balloons, watching them up close and in person at mass ascensions when I was a kid.  We would go down to Indianola, Iowa, where, every summer they would have what seemed like hundreds (it was probably 40 or 50) of hot air balloons do a mass ascension into the sky.  As I got older, I would look at those hot air balloons in the sky and think “that looks like a pretty expensive and dangerous hobby”.  Setting up and taking off in what looks to be an extraordinarily expensive rig, having no control over the direction or speed of flight, and then you need to have a very understanding and committed friend drive around with no set directions to follow you from the ground so they can pick you up when and wherever you land!  And what if that fire burner apparatus fails?

Well, I finally got up in a Hot Air Balloon, and it was with my wife and daughters…and it was truly a ride of a lifetime.  Now I ‘get’ why the people who do hot air ballooning do it.  As I had always wondered as a kid watching these simple, but monstrous, rigs shoot up straight into the sky using nothing but heat, there was something magical and unique about this type of flight.  The first thing I noticed, and my wife and kids noticed it too, was that about 15 seconds after taking off, that fear and nervousness of unsafety completely went away.  We all noticed it at the same time.  None of us are ‘super paranoid’ of heights, but we are all a little uneasy or queasy when looking over the edge of super high places — that tingly sensation.  That feeling simply was not there like I assumed it would be in that little balloon basket.

Another surprise (but should not have been) was how peacefully quiet the ride is.  Other than the occasional blasts of fire into the balloon from the driver, the ride is literally silent other than a little wisp of the wind.  On the day of our ride, we went up at about 6 AM and it was cloudy.  Theoretically, you want a clear sunny day so you can see a lot from high up in the air…BUT, one of the most unexpected and awesome things that happened was that we went up into the clouds where it was completely 100% ‘white out’ up, down, and all around us, with no sound — bright white blank space all around with the added sensation of floating.  I have never experienced anything remotely close to what this was like.  And then, just as we were getting used to the nothingness of being inside the clouds, we popped out ABOVE the clouds to serene deep blue sky with the sun coming up in the East.  It was truly magical and incredible to say the least.

The Secret of Life (at least a big part of it)

Well, one thing I seem to keep re-learning is that one of the secrets of (a happy and fulfilled) life is that the best rides all have that element of risk and uncertainty and surprise to them.  By “ride” I mean any journey that you can take whether it be truly a physical ride on something, a journey by foot, or a symbolic or virtual ride/journey by mind and imagination.

We humans are creatures of habit, having our routines that we follow day in and day out.  We tend to home in on those things that we know how to do and do well, and stick to that pattern.  And there is nothing wrong with that … to a point.  Something I learned many years ago from Tony Robbins, a famous personal improvement and success coach, is that all humans have 4 very basic needs (outside of food and water and sex).  I read about this in one of his books in the early 1990’s and have been testing and confirming his theory ever since.  The 4 basic needs are: Security, Insecurity, Love/Affection, and Independence.  And the interesting thing about these 4 needs, is that each set of 2 are diametrically-opposed (opposite) of each other.  How can this be???  How can you have 2 of the 4 “needs” that are the direct opposite of the other 2 “needs”?

Security <> Insecurity

Love/Affection <> Independence

This is, to me, one of the most beautiful, but least understood and challenging paradoxes of life (or of happiness in life).  Most people focus on and think most about Security and Love/Affection as their key basic needs, but don’t spend time proactively thinking about or creating “insecurity” and “independence” in their life.  It seems counter intuitive and is not a very popular concept.  The reality I find proven over and over is that a truly happy and fulfilled life has all 4 needs constantly being met, consciously balancing and bouncing back and forth between Security<>Insecurity and Love/Affection<>Independence.

Security and safety is critical to have in life, but occasionally you need to take that Hot Air Balloon ride to create some insecurity and surprise.  Having love and affection of a significant other and friends/family is also critical, but actively creating individual achievement and challenge as often as possible is essential for high level happiness.

You may naturally achieve these 2×2 needs ‘balances’ automatically.  For me, I find it very helpful and productive to consciously and proactively make sure there is plenty of balance and back and forth.  Think about your balance of these opposed basic human needs — and see if you can drive up your happiness factor even more.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford


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The Absolute Hardest Part of Super Success Is….

by on Sep.16, 2016, under Blog Posts

Thought-ActionOver the years, I have really made it a science to constantly search for, analyze, and understand what things fuel and create success for people.  Obviously, I am highly interested in being “successful”, but aren’t we all!  I have a firm belief that success comes from thoughts and actions that are chosen, much more so than luck.  Luck always helps, but my years of research, extensive reading, and a lot of interaction with highly successful people in many different venues (business, sports, politics, hobbies, etc…) tell me that thoughts, choices, decisions, action, etc… are what drive the bulk of success for people.

So if you are with me on that, one layer deeper or more advanced than that is: that “Action”, more than “thought”, drives success.  In other words, you can ‘think’ success/ideas/strategies all you want, but nothing happens without action.  And then taking that concept another layer deeper, my conclusion is there is a *single most important moment* or point in each overall cycle of thought-and-action towards success that is the most critical point where success blossoms or is severely hindered.  This most critical single point is, effectively, the ‘hardest part’ of success in my opinion.  I think of “success” as the state you are in that is a result of many of these thought-and-action cycles running simultaneously, constantly being [cycles] completed while new cycles are started and completed over and over.  If you can learn to master the skill of moving through this single most critical point in the thought-and-action cycle/process, you will most definitely have a massive amount of success in whatever endeavors you are pursuing, and most certainly have significantly more success than you are having now.

The Single Most Critical Point

Make no mistake, this single most critical point is hard to do and master.  If it was not hard, there would be many more extremely highly successful people in this world.  But even though it is hard or tough, it does not mean that it is complex.  In fact, it is so simple, it seems almost impossible that it could be that most critical point in these thought-and-action cycles that lead to success.  But after years and years of study and paying attention to the science of success, I am fully convinced that this simple, but critical single point is the key that unlocks and increases success.  I will get to what it is first by identifying what it is NOT.

The Thought-and-Action Cycle

The cycle (if it is triggered or started at all) always starts out with idea in your mind.  The idea may come to you out of the blue, or you may work proactively towards generating ideas.  Either way, this step in the cycle is “easy”.  Everyone has great ideas, and anyone can brainstorm and apply creativity systems (see my Whitepaper Reference Guide I have written on Creativity Systems) to develop ideas.  The next step in the Thought-and-Action cycle is the “Decision”.  Deciding on something is harder than developing the idea, but it is still relatively easy.  Some people do really struggle with making decisions, but by and large making decisions is not what reduces or prevents success.  As you were probably thinking, the “Action” is the hardest part of the cycle —- but I break down Action into multiple categories, because it is only 1 portion of “Action” that is that most critical point or element that prevents or unlocks greater success.

Can you Guess What that Is?

Quite simply, it is the very “First Action” of the entire Action spectrum.  What I have concluded through all my research, personal experience, and interaction with other successful people is that taking the initial or first action is not only the hardest part of the Thought-And-Action cycle, it is also the most Critical and Impactful part of the Thought-And-Action cycle that leads to results and success.

The subsequent actions required and implemented after the “first action” are much much easier for a variety of reasons.  Visually, it is like that ‘first’ action is at the very tip top of the mountain being climbed, and after that first action is taken, executed, and completed, the next actions that follow are ‘down hill’ from there and significantly easier.

Why Is the First Action so difficult?

In one word, my conclusion of why taking the first action after a decision is made is so difficult is: FEAR.

Fear of the unknown.  Fear of Ridicule.  Fear of failing.  Fear of Embarrassment.  Fear of disappointment.

Fear is such a powerful intangible feeling, it literally stops most people, even very successful people, in their tracks from taking a first action.  Fear is a very powerful force, and if you can overcome it in order to take that first action or a quicker first action after a decision is made (after an idea was created or identified), the subsequent required actions will happen easier, flow better, and results are created more often and in greater amounts.

I am sure you have had plenty of ideas that you thought of, and potentially even decided were good ideas that you should pursue.  But then you did not pursue them.  No first action taken.  We all have dozens of these situations every week.  If you reflect on why no first tangible action step was taken on these decided upon ideas, I suspect that 95%+ of the time it was due to some type of Fear.  And if you don’t take the first action, you can never get to the second, third, fourth, etc.. *easier* action steps.

How to Conquer the thing that prevents that first hardest action step

If Fear of something is the reason the first action step is not being taken most of the time, then it would make sense that we need to overcome or conquer that Fear element that is in the way of the first action.  We all have our various ways of dealing with Fear, because we all have fears of this or that.  Most of the time, it is avoiding the thing that causes your fear altogether.  If it is a fear of heights, you can pretty effectively avoid situations that induce this fear.  But, when we are talking about the Thought-and-Action cycle to produce results on various ideas, you cannot avoid Fear, because you will not implement that first most critical action step.

I believe the best way to overcome or conquer fear is, ironically enough, to simply take an action.  The antidote to Fear is to “move” or “move forward”.  So that creates a bit of a circular equation or Catch22 at face value.  If the first action is being blocked by Fear, then how can I take a first action to conquer fear?  The answer is to chunk down the first action into a smaller first action.  Make that first action so innocuous, so small or insignificant, that there is no Fear.  But, move forward with an action.  Move.  Start.  This process is extraordinarily effective.  Heck, you could get someone else to do the first action for you —- and your first action is simply to get them to do it!  And if you can get that first critical action taken, the next following actions become much easier.  If the first action is to jump into the pool, and you have a lot of fear about that, then how about sticking just your hand in the pool?  or just your finger?

This seems so ridiculously simple that it would not make a significant difference, but the reality is that this is HUGE.  We tend to discount or not realize how big of an impact “just getting started” has on Success.  But the reality is that ‘getting started a lot’ pretty much equals Success.  So many times nothing ever gets started when ideas or created and decisions are made.

Again, it is a simple concept, but it is hard to put into practice without “practice”.  I encourage you to pay more attention to the ideas you have and the decisions you make —- and look at that point of the most critical ‘first action’.  If it is stalled or not happening, Fear is likely to blame.  Chunk that first action down to the point that the fear threshold is so low that you can “move forward” and get started with ease.  Then watch your overall results and success shoot up.

Be Your Best,

Todd D. Gifford

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Do you Know What Your Systematic Sources of Daily Inspiration Are?

by on Aug.19, 2016, under Blog Posts

Todd Gifford - Success Coach

Todd Gifford – Success Coach

Virtually all humans are creatures of habit.  We all lead tremendously predictable lives on a daily basis, with that occasional jolt of excitement or unknown emergency.  But this is not a bad thing — this simply is a balance of a couple of our basic ‘human needs’:  the balance of security/predictability with unpredictability/excitement.  Predictable and unpredictable.  We need both.  Just think about life with only one or the other!  100% predictability in life and life would be …. boring.  But 100% constant unpredictability, and what would happen?  You would probably fizzle out and melt down into dust (at a very early age), literally.  Constant chaos.

But something that I have identified that is absolutely critical to have as a constant on a daily basis in order to be as fulfilled and happy and successful as possible (regardless of how much security vs. unpredictability you have in your life), is: Inspiration.

Here is the dictionary definition of Inspiration: “The excitement of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity“

Whether you are a super regimented person, following a very well-scripted day, every day, with nearly zero surprises in life, OR you are a thrill seeker waking up every day not knowing if you are going to jump out of a plane skydiving, taking an alternative driving route to work every day — or anything in between, Inspiration is a key “fuel” driving happiness and success.

A Critical Fuel…Source

If inspiration is a fuel, then the source of that inspiration is worth spending time thinking about.  The reason is that having a “systematic” source of inspiration is a tremendous advantage for those as compared to people who get inspired, but in a random, by-chance way.  If we agree that inspiration is a critical fuel, you are well-served at spending time identifying what things really inspire you the most.  Write those down and don’t lose that list!!  THEN, think about what the source of those inspirational things is or what has to happen in order for those inspiring activities to happen.  What creates or causes that inspiring information/content?

The Process of Creating Systematic Inspiration

Example:  let’s say that you determine that collecting stamps inspires you.  Then, it would be interesting to know how often you are actually engaged in that activity.  3 or 4 times per month?  First observation might be:  I should put myself into that activity much more than 3-4 times a month.  How about 2x per week or more?  Then, you identify what has to happen in order to be engaged in stamp collecting 2x or more per week.  Write that information down, because it is right here in this process where you are identifying important barriers that must be overcome to create systematic and constant inspiration.  In our stamp collecting example, you might determine that the main time you engage in this activity is on Saturdays.  Why only Saturdays?  Maybe because that is when ‘most’ people engage in stamp collecting.

You get the picture here, and this is obviously a make-believe example, but the reality is that we all have important sources of inspiration that we are underutilizing, not fully aware of how powerful they are, and not fully tapping into.

Multiple Systematic Inspiration Sources

Not only is it important to identify the best sources of your inspiration, but it is also to ensure you have multiple ‘systematic’ sources of inspiration to tap into… 4 to 6 go-to guaranteed sources of inspiration is best.  Why?  Well, even those inspiring activities can get boring (too repetitive and predictable).  Being able to cycle among 4-6+ different sources of inspiration creates a freshness and unpredictability that you must balance with predictability.

For me personally, some sources of inspiration are: I love classic/old cars, reading non-fiction books on business or success, exercise and fitness training, writing, spending time with my wife and girls, volunteering, and home repair/upgrading.  I have more, but that is seven very important inspiring activities.  So, I look at how often am I engaging in these activities.  Anything less than 3-4 times per week — I would want to take a hard look at why?  Then, I determine how can I make these sources of inspiration happen more frequently, “automatically” or “systematically”?  The ultimate situation is where you have a bunch of these inspiring activities happening frequently daily, almost without having to even think about them.  They just happen.

The Biggest Hurdle

I know the biggest hurdle for most people is: “I can’t do many of my most inspiring activities very often because I have to work at my job.”  If this is you, then you have to get more creative about how you can fit these inspiring activities into your schedule.  This ‘I can’t’ thought process is a huge roadblock to installing more frequent systematic inspiration.  If you work 8-10 hours a day and sleep 6-7 hours a day, that still leaves 7-10 hours for installing more and more frequent inspiring activity.

Most of us have ‘dead’ time that we have built into our regimented daily agenda.  Try to locate these hidden time-wasting portions of your day and convert them into inspiring activity.  TV can be inspiring, but it may be sucking up a bunch of time and is not in your Top 10 most inspiring activities.  Procrastination can suck up a lot of time – filling time with ‘busy mindless work’.  A great technique is to combine two inspiring activities into the same time slot.  For example, exercise inspires me and classic cars inspire me.  To best utilize time and leverage inspiration, I read classic car magazines while I exercise.  Or I read or listen to non-fiction success books while I exercise.  Same can be done during lunch time.  Maybe listening to a certain type of music inspires you, and reading fiction books inspires you —- these could both be done at the same time over a lunch hour, even while you eat (if eating inspires you, then that is 3 inspiring activities at the same time)!

The key is to determine what your greatest sources of inspiration are and get those installed into your daily regiment and have them happen automatically.  Try it and I think you will see a big ‘boost’ in your enthusiasm and happiness and success.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford

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