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Jun 8, 2021

As a business owner, you make a lot of mistakes and it can make you feel like a failure. But, what if I told you selling mistakes can help you navigate your way to success? Learn why a business leader would want to buy a mistake in this episode of Hilary Topper on Air.

Tune in as Hilary speaks with Dan Schaefer Ph.D., CEO of Peak Performance Strategies who provides psychologically designed strategies to quickly separate individuals and companies from their competition.

Dan will discuss, how everyone right now is trying to sell solutions, when in fact there is an invisible solution that works on everyone’s behalf called, “short term discomfort versus long term regret”. Meaning, you don’t want to be looking back years from now wishing you had taken action sooner. Learn about the six-second, not 30-second, elevator pitch. Discover how selling mistakes is a lot less expensive than making one yourself. Dan will also provide insight into how professional mindset can be applied to sports performance strategies.

About Dan Schafer

Dr. Dan Schaefer, Ph.D., is a noted performance consultant, author, speaker, and executive strategist. He provides psychologically designed strategies to quickly separate individuals and companies from their competition. He is also a guest faculty member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and the graduate schools of New York University, Adelphi University, Hofstra University, and Rutgers.

About the Peak Performance Strategies

Peak Performance Strategies, LLC, is an organization dedicated to assisting individuals and companies in achieving the competitive edge quickly through enhancing both personal and business performance. Clients include professional athletes, performers, and executives throughout the United States, Asia, South America, and Europe. They describe PPS as “Street Smart Strategies for a Competitive Edge.” For more information visit: for a free consultation, or contact Dan directly at

Podcast Transcript

Hilary - Through my tenure, I've made a lot of mistakes in business, and it always made me feel really bad. But my next guest says mistakes are good on Hilary Topper, and this is Hilary Topper on air. Today, I have the great pleasure of speaking with my dear friend Dan Schaffer, PhD, and CEO of Peak Performance strategies, who provides psychologically designed strategies to quickly separate individuals and companies from their competition. Welcome to the show, Dan.

Dan - Good to be back. Really good to be back.

Hilary - So can you tell my listeners a little bit about you, your background, give a little refresher,

Dan - We don't want to start a third grade Hilary. So basically, when I got out of school, my family owned 225 year old businesses in Brooklyn, New York. One was a funeral service business, the other was a real estate company. And, when I started to work with them, I noticed with parents who will come in, who had losses had a tremendous difficulty in explaining death to their kids. So in 1986, I wrote a book called How do we tell the children it's a guide to helping parents explain death to kids. And at that time, I was teaching at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia, and dealing with Columbia University with medical professionals, anybody who had to deal with loss and life transition, almost immediately, people came back and said, we really need some help in explaining death to our kids when somebody is dying in a family. And so the second edition, which came out in 92, dealt with that. And that time, I was contacted by the Pentagon and I worked for seven years with the Pentagon on military loss over the impact that loss and life transition had on errors, omissions, accidents, and safety. So looking at external situations impacted personal performance.

The third edition came out in a printer when September 11 happened. So work with a lot of people met life in particular, around issues as to that September 11, looking at how those losses were dealt with, through that whole process, I became introduced to hypnosis and hypnotherapy. And I found that hypnosis had a tremendous impact on a whole variety of things. One of the things that impacted me particularly was, it helped me with my golf game. So I said, Look, you know, this can work on my game strategies, very quickly, getting people into a situation where they could operate at their peak performance and understand when they weren't. So from that point, I was introduced to Anthony Beck, who was at a tight end for the Jets. I was then introduced to Chad Pennington, who became my client in 2005. And we worked on strategies to help him both recover from injuries and play really well, even when he went down to Florida. So with that in mind, I started to look at some situations that came about.

One is that everybody who is like everybody else is trying to sell solutions, when in fact, there's an invisible dynamic that works on everybody's behalf. It's called short term discomfort versus long term regret. I may not want to deal with Hilary Topper’s company now, but I'll tell you what I really don't want. I don't want to be out in 2026, looking backwards wishing that I did. And so the objective is all of my clients today are in 2026, working backwards, so we look for anything that could possibly disrupt them. And so what we find is, that people who need to separate themselves very quickly, have relied on a couple of myths. One is a 32nd elevator pitch, when in fact you only have six seconds. So how can you separate somebody from their competition very quickly in the mind of the person they're talking to. And so what happens is that People really need to think about when talking to somebody, how do they pitch themselves and direct themselves in a way that generates conversation with me. When somebody asks me, what I do is I tell them very simply, I sell mistakes. And the first question is who, whatever by mistake, I said, somebody who doesn't want to make one, because it's a lot less expensive to buy a mistake than it is to pay for the solution.

So it's like you said to me, I'm going out with my family, I'm driving to LA. And I say, I have a book with all the radar traps routine here in LA, do you want to buy it now and not? Wait till you get to LA. So coming back, coming back to you as an example, you know, people may say, most marketing people would want me or somebody to put together a thought process in somebody's mind that says, I want to hire Hillary Topper. That's not the message I want delivered. I think it is a lot more powerful if somebody says, I don't want to not hire Hilary Topper. And that's designed through purpose, specifically designed conversations that somebody would have based on word is a language strategically designed for what they want to accomplish. So that's what I hope people do.

Hilary - Now, that's really interesting. And can you give me another real life case example of someone who was trying to sell mistakes?

Dan - Sure, a lot of people sell mistakes and don't realize, I have a client and a personal friend who's an expert witness in construction in the city. He was doing a very famous restaurant for the owner of the restaurant. And the owner called him and said, Alan, I'm not going to, I'll get into see you as soon as I sign this lease. And he said, Don't sign a lease. And he said, Well, this lease was developed and put together by my attorney, who's got a lot of experience in infrastructure lease, he said, Please don't sign it. He may be great with contracts, but he's not a project manager. So he said, I got the lease, I read the page lease and I noticed there was one word missing. He said, If you add latent into this lease, you'll protect yourself dramatically by adding the word latent into the lease. He saved $150,000 for his client.

I have an attorney who I talked to, I said, Give me a mistake that you've seen other people make, that you prevent your clients from making, because it's not the mistakes that you make, Hilary, that I make are the mistakes of my clients. Anybody who's interested who wants to send me a note, or go on my website there’s a whole list. There's a whole article on it, there's money and mistakes there. But the point is the guy said to me, I'll tell you about the $350,000 handshake. He said, My client now started a company with his partner, 15 years ago, on a handshake, they said, we're such good friends, we don't need to have any legal documents, we'll just put it together. So he said, I got that he's dealing with me now the company is coming down. And I said, Of course my client $350,000 to extricate himself in his company. Very, very costly mistake.

On the other thing, much more current now is I'm doing a lot of work with cybersecurity professionals globally, on helping people break into cybersecurity and deal with these issues, and mistakes people are making without even knowing it, without knowing the information that you have, what's not even being aware of the risks they're facing. And so it's like anything else, when you look at a situation and look out for what's there, but look for what's missing. It becomes a whole different picture. And so that the question comes back to how do you bring this back into your company? How do you use it personally? How do you use it economically for your company? How do you help your teams to perform more effectively with this? Because you know, today, when I ask people to put together a mistake list, I ask them to give me the list of mistakes your client has made before they became your client that would cost them money, emotion or reputation. And that's the kind of thing that people start to look at. But one of the things that's interesting about this is they don't talk about it. People who see these tracks, keep them very much under the radar to give them an edge. So that's the kind of thing we're doing.

Hilary - So, switching gears for a moment, I'd like to talk a little bit about preparing the sales pitch or a business meeting. And compare that to an athletic race. Right? I know that you do that a lot. Could you tell us how you see these two things connecting, and what the similarities are between them?

Dan - Sure, after just coming off two fantastic football games yesterday. Let's go back and relate it to football. Football fans are very much aware of the 42nd play clock. Somebody says “How can you compare a business deal to a 42nd play clock”, I said, easily. Every quarterback has 40 seconds to put together a business deal amongst his people, assess the talent that he has put a play together, read the defense, change the play in just before it starts. But on top of that, he has to realize that I don't have in at 40 seconds, any latitude to think about what didn't work well. So I'd have to be talking to myself perfectly, I have to be using the right language with myself, and decided if something didn't go well, in a previous play, I'm going to deal with that at another time.

Now, once again, while this is happening, does anybody notice it? No, not really. But I will tell you that and I use this example of Super Bowl three. Now, yesterday, you know what my granddaughter said to me “You were alive at Super Bowl three?” I said yes. But Superbowl three taught us a lot about preparing to compete. Because Dave Herman, who protected John Emeth and Bubba Smith. Dave was saved to 250 Bubba Smith was six, seven, I don't know 300 and some odd pounds. I said, How are we able to do that? He said, Well, I watched game films. And I figured, well, most people watch Game films and prepare. And he said no, he said, I figured what a guy that big, it's got to move forward, he has to be standing on one foot just a little bit longer than everybody else. So he says I never waited till the ball was snapped, I just waited till his foot came out, but he was sitting on one foot. I said to myself, if here's a guy who's got four quarters and numerous downs to win a game. He prepares it out degree, how does anybody who had a way of presentation?

Do they profile who they're talking to? Do they understand what the person wants to have happen, that a look at? And how do they talk to themselves? You know, I work with triathletes and I had a client who was a swimmer. And she said that was always afraid of the swimming portion. I was afraid of getting run over and all that. So with hypnosis, we changed the whole focus around where she wasn't seeing herself, swimming the event, she was standing on a shore watching herself come in. So it changed the whole perspective for.

So right now I have a young woman who's a swimmer who will swim every one of her events under hypnosis at night, just before she goes to bed. And the interesting thing is at exactly the time she wants to swim, and she sees herself performing that way on a regular basis. The interesting thing is, her subconscious mind where the performance come from never knows the difference between actually doing the event and actually swimming it or actually watching yourself though. You're very much familiar with as you do with your triathlons. I mean, I know how much you practice how much you were in the water. But you could practice being in the water without being in the water.

Hilary - Absolutely. Absolutely. I definitely agree 100% with you. Now before we move on, I just want to take one moment and thank our sponsors. for their support. Please tell them that you heard about them on Hilary Topper on air. Special thanks to the Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International galleries, Gold Benes LLP and the Pegalis Law Group. Now back to you, Dan, I want to talk a little bit about mind game strategies. Can you tell us what that means? And if you have any tips and strategies to get people in the right frame of mind, whether it's for business or for Sports, especially during this time of COVID?

Dan - Sure,the biggest issue for people today, if you want to boil it down, is how people talk to themselves. It's identical listening, I would say to you, Hilary, what is Hilary? Hilary saying to Hilary, when Hilary over his Hilary, talk to Hilary? What's the internal conversation like? And I've spoken to professional athletes, and they said, I need to increase my concentration, and to increase the concentration what gets in the way? He said, Well, I get distracted. I said, What distraction, they say I talk to myself. So when I worked with Chad Pennington, wrote the foreword to my book, click, we would start out as a minute the schedule was published for the year. And we get down to whole teams that he was going to play it. I said, like, give me the name of the team. You tell me what you hear yourself saying to yourself about that team? how we'd have to make sure that was in line so, hypnotically, because you're working with the subconscious mind, you can help change some of that language very quickly. So the question is what does it cost me to change it? What does it cost me just to let it happen away normally happen?

Well, it can be very, very costly. So you listen to the way you talk to yourself, and what distracts you, people, if they just started, just even now, after this phone call, if they hear this, just start to listen very carefully about the way you talk to yourself. And in particular situations. negative self talk is like trash talk on yourself. But you know why it's so successful, because it's your own voice. So I'll give you an example from wild, let's say you went to the city and your valet park your car, and the guy and you're on your way to Montauk. And the guy brings your car down, you get into it, he's got the radio blessing with music you absolutely hate. What do you do with it, you turn it off, or you change the station? Well, a lot of people don't have another station to change it to. But you can change it, I'll tell you what you don't do. You don't find yourself in Southampton halfway to Montauk oh, this stuff is still playing. So here's a quick tip. If you hear negative self-talk under any circumstances, and you want to change it, and you want to stop it, just push your tongue up the roof of your mouth right now, when your tongue is on a roof, your mouth can't think of anything. And so where do you need to apply that? Certainly in a race of things that are going well if you hear negative conversations going on. So you want to really make sure that you stop this negative self talk. The other thing is people frequently tell themselves, what they don't want to have happen in a room full of people.

Since all your performance is in your subconscious mind. The interesting thing, one of the interesting things about your subconscious mind is that it never hears a negative command. It never hears, don't I don't want this to happen. So as anybody who's teed up a golf ball over a waterhole and said, I don't want to hit the oil in the water. It's the worse though. So you know, it's just understanding and getting control so you can anticipate the negative conversations.

I ask people, if you hear negative self talk, when does it start? What starts? Who's around? I had a kid who was going for a college golf scholarship. And I said to him, when do you start to talk negatively to yourself? He said, I said what port what whole on a golf course. He said on a driving range. It's already been a driving range. He said we have one kid that comes to play in this league who dresses all on black? Is like Darth Vader, black hat, black shirt, jacket, black bag. Is it the minute I see him it throws me off. Well, if he anticipates that he could talk to himself differently but it's taking control of this stuff. You know how much this plays in performance Hilary, we've talked about this.

Hilary - Absolutely with everything that you do not only performance, but in business in life. Now I want to just before we end the interview, hold on a moment. Excuse me. I want to talk about the golf mind game. You tell people and I know I've heard you talk about this before is that you can help people knock three to six strokes off their golf game without touching a club? Can you just explain that?

Dan - Sure. People who play golf, if they would accept that the golf swing takes three seconds. If they shoot 100, they have to concentrate for about five minutes or around the golf.

If they shoot it at maybe four minutes of a whole round of golf, but I've had people come to me and say, God, I was out there for four hours, I couldn't concentrate. I said, you don't have to concentrate, as long as you know how to bring yourself right back into your performance zone. And I'm gonna flip from golf for a second over to my hockey players. I work with hockey goaltenders. So I said to this one guy, tell me what it's like when you perform at your best. And that's really important for people who want to improve performance. To know how it feels like, looks like and sounds like when you're performing at their best. Because when they know that they know when you're not, they know when they’re off. So I said to this kid, and he had been drafted by the NHL. I said to him, Tell me what's it like when you perform your best. He said I don't hear any crowds, the pockets the size of a dinner plate, and the game moves very slowly. He said, if anyone of those three things change I know I'm losing my concentration. I said, What do you do to get it back? He says, Well, I hope that it'll come back. I said, Well, hope is not a strategy. So let me show you how to get it back quickly. If you focus on a spot directly in front of you on your desk, and you focus intentionaly as if your eyes were laser. And you just become aware of something out of your right peripheral vision, and out of your left peripheral vision. When you get all those three things together, your mind shuts down and you're playing just from your subconscious mind. So what he would do is he focused on a POC, he'd become aware of something as right and left so he could control his mind.

The fear is that when an athlete starts to lose his performance song, who does he talk to? He's like a CEO who's running a company who's alone at the top has nobody to bounce anything off, no security, nobody can have confidence and he can't have people lose confidence in him. So he can't talk to his trainer. He's not gonna talk to his wife or girlfriend. Who does he talk to? So they are alone. These kinds of strategies implanted in somebody's subconscious really help them move forward. So when somebody starts a triathlon, what's your mind game? How do they talk to themselves in a swim? How do they talk to themselves on a bike? How do they talk to themselves on the marathon? And then what happens afterwards? How do they deal with this? I had a guy who did a triathlon went out to the Midwest, he said, I never thought I needed a plan B. He said, but I had to put a plan B together, because when we got there, we found that they ran out of Gatorade and water. So it was like, what are we gonna do next? So it's his plan with all of those things.

And then the other thing I tell people about the Golf is just as a football player that doesn't want to take anything over the white lines didn't apply to the game. You don't want to take anything into a business deal. It's not part of the business, or onto the golf course. And so a client of mine who's an ultramarathon runner who runs the bad water to Death Valley, 135 miles through Death Valley in the summer, and is now mixed martial arts cage fighter in 56 said to me, when I was running a bad war, my support crew had done something that could have gotten me disqualified very early on. So I was very angry with them. And she said, I realized that I carried anger for 100 miles. She said, it drain me. So I had to find a way to do it. And she helped me construct a trunk cord. So if you're going into a golf course, as long as you're triathlon, you have to trunk your car, you open a trunk up, you take out a card, and you write down all the things that go on in your life that you don't want to take onto the course with you. Whether it's a golf course, a basketball court, a football field, and you write those down. You put them in the trunk of your car and you slam the trunk. Anytime you're thinking of those issues as you're competing, they're going to distract you. So you snap your fingers, a trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, trunk, and your subconscious mind will let you go to the trunk and open it up and read those things and deal with them when you get back. But if you don't show it's in the truck. It's not playing a game with anymore. It'll say to you know, last time we were here, you told me you would come back, you didn't read them and now you're gonna pay for it. So that’s how you do that.

Hilary - That's awesome. Thank you so much. You are amazing Dr. Dan, I loved having you on the show. I want my listeners to know how to get in touch with you at peak performance strategies.

Dan - So it's if you send me a quick note about this, I can send you back a way to contact me by phone or go to my website, there are ways to contact me there I have a free consultation 15 minute consultation just going on register on my calendly. And we can talk about any of the other things that we work with student athletes. I have a bunch of student athletes now who are competing to get into college or already in college and they're looking for careers after they leave. So it's a simple question what's not happening right now that you need to have happen and away we go. And thanks, Hilary.

Hilary - Oh, thank you so much. This was awesome. And I want to thank our sponsors, The Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International Galleries, Gold Benes LLP and the Pegalis Law Group. And last but not least, I want to thank you, our listeners for tuning in. If you want more information on this show or any other show, please visit us at or you can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Apple podcasts, even Amazon Alexa, have a great week and we'll see you next time.