The Garden of TAO

by Barry Polansky on August 18, 2014 · 4 comments

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I love metaphors.  They help me explain things better. Metaphors not only make our thoughts more vivid and interesting but that they actually structure our perceptions and understanding.  And perception, as you know is everything.

Think of the metaphor, “time is money.”  I used to think of that as a rule.  That I should live my life and run my practice like that.

Until I realized that that metaphor was causing me all kinds of stress.  But who was I to argue, after all, I had heard that metaphor throughout my entire life as if it were handed down from high above.

I’ve since learned that time is not money…time is time, and money is money, and these days time is worth much more than money.

Recently I was assessing my last forty years in dental practice.  I was using Clayton Christensen’s ideas from his book How Will You Measure Your Life?

Tough times make one very reflective.  Christensen advises to look back on your career and focus on all of the people you have helped through the years.  We tend to focus more on our setbacks.  It’s called a negative bias.

So I did.

Over the past forty-one years I have seen over 31,000 patients.

But my practice these days has slightly less than 1000 active patients.

Well, they’re more than patients—they’re members.  People who have subscribed to my approach to dental and health care.  People who know, like and trust me.  People who have mutual trust, appreciation and ownership of their health.

The nutriments of a healthy,  long term fee-for service practice….and the title of this Blogsite.

They’re like family members.

I am sure there would have been more.  People have passed on, people have moved…things happen.

Of course, there are people who just didn’t “click.”

There is an online marketing concept known as 1000 true fans.  It was taken from the idea of the long tail in using keyword search.  The idea is that a business doesn’t have to serve the entire market—just the long tail, to thriveWired magazine editor Keven Kelley created the concept of 1000 true fans from the long tail, and describes many successful businesses as thriving by concentrating on that “niche” market.

Then the metaphor came to me.

Through my years I have been developing and growing my garden…my Garden of TAO.

By using my examination process and nurturing the above mentioned nutriments of trust, appreciation and ownership…I have grown a very nice garden.  Trust, appreciation and ownership are blended into the soil.  They make relationships grow and thrive.

It takes time to build a garden.  Great relationships, in contrast to what the practice management people tell us, take time.  I didn’t know that early in my practice.  It’s the reason I wrote and developed the Arts of Examination and Case Presentation.

Of course, like any gardener you have to be very protective of the beautiful flowers you are growing.  You must tend to the soil, provide nutriments and supplements, but most importantly, keep the weeds out.

That is one of the reasons I am purely fee-for-service.

I have my own philosophy developed through the years.  The last thing I want is to hybridize the garden with foreign thoughts and ideas.  That’s how I maintain my autonomy…that’s why I have learned that time is not money.  You can always lose your money…time is more precious.





The Dental Question for Our Age

by Barry Polansky on August 12, 2014 · 8 comments

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Picasso once said, “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”  There are many interpretations of that quote but I see it as very appropriate these days…there are too many answers and not enough questions.

Being a long time listener of Anthony Robbins, I am also fond of his quote:

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
Just yesterday a patient came in that I hadn’t seen in seven years.  His mouth was a wreck, and he knew it.
It was so bad that all I had to do was shrug my shoulders to get the point across.  He then explained to me, “I don’t have dental insurance so…”
I put my hands up to signal him to just stop.   “So…so what?” We had a good relationship so I didn’t feel uncomfortable interrupting his thought pattern.  Besides in my book Art of Examination I referred to the “famous nine words: ‘At risk of insulting, you must tell the truth.’”
I repeated his question in the form of a game.  I asked him to finish the sentence in any way he wanted that might change his perspective, not only about his dental condition but his overall health…hell, maybe even his financial condition or even his relationship issues.
“Go on, give it a try,” I said.
He seemed lost.  Stuck almost.
“Okay,” I said, let me help you.
If you asked me the very same question I would have said…”I don’t have dental insurance so…”
Well, I’m not going to give you the answer.  Please leave your answers in the comments below.  Our answers say so much about the way we look at our lives.
It was interesting to me that this patient’s thought process had drifted to a point that would never have happened before our cultural devolution.  Is our culture teaching answers that lead to our ultimate demise?  Is entitlement a function of nature or nurture?
How would our grandparents have answered the question?  How do successful people answer that question?
Looking forward to hearing your responses…and feel free to use this line of thinking when trying to motivate others.
Leave your comments below.


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