Success and failure are directly related to habits because every human being is guided by their personal habits. Bad habits are formed with little to no effort — they come to us free of charge. Good habits are not free — their development comes at a cost of personal initiative, self-discipline, controlled attention, accuracy of thought, and one’s willingness to go the extra mile.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David R. Ibarra.
David R. Ibarra is a leadership consultant, speaker, and author. After spending most of his childhood in foster care, David started his first business at 28 years old, beginning an entrepreneurial career that spans the hospitality, automotive, and leadership consulting industries. He is the founder of eLeaderTech, IBG, David Ibarra Enterprises and the Think and Grow Rich Institute – Latin America. Taking what he’s learned and through the creation of his patented performance management system, David has implemented the Cycle of Success in his own life to creatively combine his business, community, and civic interests.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My childhood was very non-traditional. I am the son of a Mexican immigrant farm worker father and a white rural Utah Mormon mother. During the 1950’s, relationships like my parents were simply not accepted in Utah and many other parts of the country. When I was two years old (and my brother Mickey was three), the inevitable occurred: my parents divorced. My father was immediately drafted and sent overseas. My 18-year-old mother just could not handle the responsibility of raising two young brown boys, so she gave us up to the Utah foster care system where we spent most of the first 14 years of our lives.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Mr. Robert E. Farrell was my first business coach and mentor. While working for him at 18-years old, I had no idea my dishwasher job at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Restaurant would turn into one of the most significant experiences in my life. He challenged me to study Think & Grow Rich by Dr. Napoleon Hill and become a disciple of its principles of success. Mr. Farrell helped me dream big, find my purpose, and gain the burning desire to achieve it. Just ten years later, I became a business owner and the youngest Farrell’s franchisee.
As I promised Mr. Farrell, I have dedicated my career to working with employed adults who often drift through life unsatisfied, showing up to jobs that they don’t like, suffocating in unhappiness, and wondering if success was meant for them. My leadership coaching career is focused on developing talent and teaching individuals how to become goal setters and scorekeepers to achieve a positive work experience. I believe this success creates the freedom to excel in life’s most important roles including family, faith, community, and sound health. This accomplishment – one person at a time – creates better parents, partners, neighbors, and communities resulting in a better world.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I spent much of my childhood wondering if I mattered and if I’d ever find my own happiness and success. However, everything changed when I was assigned to Mr. Sam Francis’ fifth grade class. Mr. Francis was much more than a teacher; he took responsibility for helping his students become believers.
I was one of 40 students in Mr. Francis’ class. Most the students were children of the nearby university’s faculty and I remember being teased by classmates because I could not spell many words and I was incredibly shy. Our class goal was for everyone to get 100% on our weekly spelling quiz. Each Monday, Mr. Francis would write the words on the blackboard and then give us a pre-test. Most students only missed two or three words, but I would only get one or two right. On Friday’s test, most of the class scored perfectly. I would only get about half correct. The class would laugh at me, but Mr. Francis stood up for me. He asked the class how many new words they had to learn that week. Because they came from homes with college-educated parents, most were only learning a few new words. He then asked how many new words I was learning each week. They all could see the discrepancy between the two new words they were learning, and the additional eight I was having to pick up.
Mr. Francis saw how this experience affected me. He dedicated after school hours to working with me and encouraging me. I will never forget the first day I scored 100% on a Friday test. The class cheered and stood up, giving me my first standing ovation. As I relished in that moment, I glanced at Mr. Francis and notice he had a tear of happiness in his eyes. Mr. Francis taught me to believe in myself. I will always be thankful for my fifth-grade teacher. It was that year I learned the power of developing talent.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
The mistake that stands out has to do with learning the power of being exposed to new things. While working for my first mentor, Mr. Farrell noticed that I was very shy and that my humble background had kept me from being exposed to many of life’s simple experiences. Mr. Farrell told me he had a plan that would change my life and cure my shyness. He directed the manager to move me to the front of the restaurant as a bus boy and challenged me to become a waiter within 90 days. While I was hesitant of the plan, I trusted his guidance and knew this would force me to get comfortable interacting with people I did not know from all walks of life.
As a new bus boy, I wanted to outwork everyone. It became my goal to have dirty tables cleaned and reset for the next guests before the customer finished paying their bill at the cashier. I would run to clean each and every dirty table. Then one day, a waiter needed some help and yelled out to me, “David take the entrees to table 21!” I looked at him but just kept cleaning tables. He called out again, “David take the entrees to table 21 and hurry!” I again kept to my cleaning task. The waiter now was mad and said, “David take the dinner orders to table 21 and DO IT RIGHT NOW!” After acknowledging the directive, I ran to the kitchen thinking, “so that is what an entrée is.” I had not had the luxury of dining out much, so the word entrée was foreign to me.
The lesson I learned that day was to never assume what a person has been exposed to. Explain the meaning of everything that is part of a person’s job role. A leader must care about how a team member feels. When someone feels positive, their actions are magical and their level of service cannot be matched by the competition. When someone feels negative, their actions reflect negative behavior and a lack of service is evident. This experience shaped my coaching and training career.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
My advice to young people is to get exposed to as many different occupations as early as you can. Learn what interests you and what doesn’t. Learning which career will inspire you daily is the starting point of all great success.
Next, determine what skills are required to achieve your career goal. List the skills you have and, more importantly, list the skills you do not have. Then develop a specialized talent team to gain the skills you need. Remember no one has every skill, but by developing a specialized talent team, you can use the skills of others as if they were your own.
Having a career that allows you to do what you love and that you are good at will ensure you never work a day in your life, because when you love your work it is no longer work it is simply fun.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill changed my life. The seventeen success principles were my first exposure to the formula of success. I learned that success is not an accident, it is earned and anyone can achieve it. Dr. Hill’s story of how the subconscious is seeded by thoughts, and that the only job of the subconscious is to make those thoughts a reality – both good and bad – had a lasting impact on me. I quickly learned that my mind was like a garden that could be cultivated with healthy vegetables or weeds, and it was my choice.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
My favorite quote come from George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”
We can choose to live life in a negative state-of-mind like those who “see things as they are and ask why”, or we can choose to live life in a positive state-of-mind and be one who “dream things that never were and ask why not.”
I have chosen to be the switch master of my own mind and always find a way to pivot to a positive state-of-mind.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
All my projects are related to the development of talent within people, which I am passionate about. Right now, my most exciting new project is the development of Think and Grow Rich seminars for Mexico, Central America, and the Latin Caribbean. To think as an 18-year-old I was introduced to this book and today I own the rights to teach it principles to the people of Latin America is amazing to me.
At Think and Grow Rich Institute – Latin America, we will not rest until we have shared this success philosophy with ten million residents of Latin America. As I promised Mr. Farrell, who introduced me to Think and Grow Rich and challenged me to become a disciple of its work, I will always pay it forward.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Success and failure are directly related to habits because every human being is guided by their personal habits. Bad habits are formed with little to no effort – they come to us free of charge. Good habits are not free – their development comes at a cost of personal initiative, self-discipline, controlled attention, accuracy of thought, and one’s willingness to go the extra mile.
Every performance improvement effort that I have embarked upon with companies that are not achieving what they want starts the same way: with an interview. I ask them to describe what they want and compare it to what they have. I always get the same answer consisting of a sentence or two of desired income achievements followed by obstacles, that are in reality excuses, that have created the gap. These explanations most often include sentences beginning with “but” or “you have to understand” or “we’re different here”. Immediately I will stop the conversation and ask the snapshot of discovery: are your thoughts negative or positive? They always reply “negative”. I then share how the brain works. If you seed the subconscious mind with negative, the subconscious will find a way to make that negative a reality. Habits start with thoughts, and thoughts are created by fear or joy emotions. Learning how the brain works allows one to replace a bad habit with a good habit, whether it’s a habit involving family, faith, community, health, or wealth.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Replacing failure habits with success habits have been a game-changer in my life. It begins with a morning ritual that I call the readiness self-talk exercise. While I’m shaving, I read my mission statement and personal goal statement out loud with enthusiasm. I review my schedule: who am I meeting with today? What is their expectation of the meeting and how can I achieve that expectation? I finish by reading the 44 daily, weekly, monthly, yearly actions related to my job role. I read them out loud, again with enthusiasm, knowing that I am seeding my subconscious and that my subconscious’ only job is to make everything I seeded within it a reality. I do this readiness self-talk exercise every day of my life because I choose to live life READY.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
One must write down every habit they have and put them into two columns: good or bad. A drifter will quickly determine that 90% of their habits are bad and only 10% may be good. Each of the bad habits should be recognized as negative and the negative thought emotion that created the habit should be written next to it. Then, take several of the bad habits and rewrite a new emotion that would turn them into a good habit. Those new good habits should be articulated back to yourself before ending the day in order to seed the subconscious with the direction to make it a reality. I call this exercise a controlled habit, because you are controlling the development of this habit until it becomes a success habit. A success habit is internalized when it happens automatically and there is no need to control it. One can stuff their brain with good thoughts or bad thoughts, it’s entirely up to each individual.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic many of us were quarantined and isolated. During this period, I thought about all the things I’ve wanted to do if only I had the time. I wrote down two of those items: finish writing my book, Stop Drifting, and get in the best shape of my life.
I developed a writing schedule and have since finished my book. I also studied sound health and got a nutritionist and health coach. We are taught to believe that our bodies simply change due to age resulting in fitness loss and fat gain. It’s just natural – or is it? My nutritionist taught me what to eat and what not to eat, cutting out sugar and adding in the proper mixture of good carbs, protein, and fat. Working out with light weights regularly was great for my body, but better for my brain. Taking a 45-minute walk in the morning, quietly meditating about what I wanted, was a game-changer. I started January 2020 at a 25% body fat and six months later was at 6% body fat. Today I’m in the best shape of my life and my book is completed.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
The development of a habit starts with a controlled habit, meaning it must be written down and paid for with personal initiative, self-discipline, controlled attention, accurate thought, and the willingness to go the extra mile. It must happen daily through mind exercises until it becomes automatic and results in a success habit.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
The habit of articulating the job role purpose is followed by the actions that are related to the fulfillment of that purpose. You must track your daily efficiency and execution of the job role actions and then score the achievement of your job role purpose monthly. It is interesting that most people have a job role they cannot articulate, not the plan or actions to achieve it. Changing that dynamic creates the rhythm of success. And the result is predictable: top performance.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Habits must begin by being controlled. Create daily readiness exercises related to that new habit. Create the nightly self-talk exercise, articulating the new habit prior to retiring for the night. This constantly seeds the subconscious with positive thought and the subconscious’ job is to make it so.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
Controlled attention is equal to focus. Develop the habit of time blocking, dividing the deliverables of your day — sleep, work, and spare time — into individual blocks that contain our actions related to that role. Cultivating controlled attention and focus allows us to be present in whatever moment or action we are in.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
The practice of the development of a readiness level self-talk exercise is the key to achieving success habits.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
To be “in the zone” or “Flow” can only be achieved while in a positive state-of-mind. I have learned to become the switch master of my own thought to reject fear emotions and only invite joy emotions into my thoughts. This act creates a positive state-of-mind, maintaining an individual in Flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I want to share with as many people as possible how the brain model works. Understanding how our subconscious, conscious, and imagination creates good and bad thoughts allows us to get what we want or avoid what we don’t want. The gift of becoming the switch master of your own thought and learning to pivot to a positive state-of-mind is magical, mystical, and powerful. It is a gift that should be shared with every human being to create better parents, partners, neighbors, communities with a ripple effect to create a better world.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
The optimal fantasy breakfast or lunch would be with my “shero”, Oprah Winfrey. I am fascinated with her life story and the good she has done for this country and the world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please visit my website
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.