(856) 264-9890
Download Our Free E-Book
Join The Academy Buy Our Books Attend A Seminar Contact Barry

Do You Have to be Happy to be Successful?

April 17, 2017

Filed under: Happiness,Pankey,Positive Psychology — Barry @ 1:41 PM


“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expressing personal opinion.” Proverbs 18:2



This is my first blog post in a long while. I bet many of my readers thought I just quit blogging. That is not in my nature…let me explain.

I just completed an eight month certification in positive psychology. It was intense. Most people truly don’t understand what positive psychology is all about.

On the night I received my certification we had dinner with friends of ours. I told them that I had completed my certification and the my friend started talking about positive psychology as if she were an expert. Then she asked how I could be a positive psychologist because I wasn’t so positive…or even happy for that matter.

For those of you who have read my book, A Short Guide to a Long Career (free download), you know that positive psychology is much more than being about finding bliss (although that is part of it). It’s about living the life worth living. It’s about living the good life.

Anyway, I went on to explain to my friend that positive psychology was more about living the good life. More about fulfillment than pleasure than the smiley face. The good life is more than just having fun. It is about building good days, one after the other so that we can accomplish what author Annie Dillard says: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Our well-being is mostly composed of our work, how we spend our time and who we spend our time with. In other words, what we do for a living, and who we do it with matters. When we ask ourselves the very important question, “what really matters?” our answers usually reflect work, family friends and service.

So, no…positive psychology is not just happiology.

I first became interested in positive psychology when I went to the Pankey Institute many years ago. L.D. Pankey was onto something when he created his “philosophy.” My gut tells me he would have been very interested in studying positive psychology which wasn’t defined until 1998 by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania.

He put science to philosophy and created the psychology of optimal human functioning…or how to flourish. Yes…today most of Pankey’s philosophy is backed by empirical evidence…and there are so many new ways to apply the knowledge.

Practical application is the key to any philosophy – and that is where most philosophy falls apart.

I meet so many people who do not put a lot of stock into the “softer,” human side of  work. Today there is an overemphasis on technology. They think the soft stuff–the fuzzy stuff is just pop psychology.

After finishing my certification I can tell you that dentistry needs to take this very seriously…for the well-being of every professional as well as the well-being of the profession itself.

Not only have I completed this program but I also completed another book which should be available in the Fall. The book is titled The Complete Dentist–Positive Leadership Skills for Success.

Yes–I have been busy, but I will be bringing you more and more articles and information on this very important topic. It just may be the key to your own career and well-being.





The 9 Turning Points of Mastery

May 1, 2013


I received a complimentary DVD in the mail last week.  I don’t usually give these free discs much attention, but this time I slipped it into my MacBook and started to watch.

And man, was I surprised.

It was titled The Path of a Master, Nine Turning Points That Changed the Practice of Dentistry.  Don’t look for a link because it’s not available for distribution to the general public.  That’s a shame because rarely do we get to see the evolution of a master dentist with such great clarity.

Firstly, I want to thank Jeff Baggett and Bill Lockard, from the Pankey Institute, for putting this project together.  Both did a tremendous  job of telling a story that the dental community needs to hear.

Most people who watch the video may just see a story, but as someone who has practiced dentistry for close to forty years, and had my share of ups and downs, I was reminded of how we all are on the “hero’s journey” as described by mythologist Joseph Campbell.

Campbell used to quote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.”  The DVD brought me to a point of reviewing my own life and career.  It reminded me of what my friend Chris Sager the retired Executive Director of the Pankey Institute told me about L.D. Pankey.

He told me that when the Institute fist opened in the early seventies, students would follow L.D. around attempting to “touch the hem of his garment.”  But he said that L.D. was as human as anyone of us…more so in fact.  We tend to deify our heroes.  I identified with Bill Lockard’s narrative because it emphasized how human L.D. was, and that the nine turning points could have happened to each and every one of us if we were aware and prepared.  There are distinct differences between a master and the rest of us, but little has to do with talent.  Sometimes it has to do with preparation, persistence and luck.

I am amazed that in my own life I spent so much time planning and goal setting when it was those few turning points that made all the differences.  I am not knocking planning and goal setting, but I am reminded of another quote from my favorite mythologist/philosopher, Joseph Campbell:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Pankey’s first two turning points occurred long before he became a dentist.  His story actually started with the story of Daniel Halley-Smith who he met years later on a trip to Europe.  Smith graduated Northwestern University Dental School in 1899 (where G.V. Black was the first dean), two years before Pankey was born.  He practiced in Chicago with Dr. Frank Davis who later retired in Coral Gables, Florida, where Dr. Pankey practiced.  Those of us who understand quantum physics also understand that (more…)

10 Reasons Why My Patients Love Me

December 10, 2011

Filed under: Pankey — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:18 PM
Does he hate the dentist?

Does he hate the dentist?

A few weeks ago a blog post ran wild on the Internet.  It was written by a young dentist who had recently left the field and wrote about 10 of her frustrations with patients.  The post went viral because there was a lot of truth in what she wrote.  Check out the post.

I laughed along with most patients and dentists.  For years we have been the brunt of comedians and the media who portray us as dullards who just inflict pain.  Some of the comments on the blog post were actually nasty.  There is no doubt that the image of dentists could use a facelift.  But what really interested me about the post was a comment I read on Frank Spear’s blog, by the author herself.

In the comment she claimed that she never really liked dentistry, and that was the reason why she left.  For that, I commend her courageous decision.  Later in the comment  she said she even took Pankey courses,  “which I loved, to try to help myself. In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

I will admit that having a successful career in any profession requires at least liking what you do.  I remember being thirty six years old and wanting to walk away from dentistry because of some of the same frustrations listed in the blog post.  Instead, maybe because I come from a different generation, I didn’t.  But I certainly can identify with the frustrations.

So many dentists try to cope with the issues by applying practice management principles…learning communication and language skills as well.  What I really feel helped me the most was developing a philosophy…no, more of a mindset, or if you can handle the word…an attitude toward life and work.  From that mindset, a culture developed, and I felt as if I had more control.  And when I stopped blaming the profession and patients…things changed.

I owe a lot of that change to the Pankey Institute and Dr. Peter Dawson.  I studied and applied the principles…the behavioral and philosophic ones were the ones that changed everything.  And today…my patients love me.

I know because they tell me.  Yep…they say it right out loud…to my face, to my staff, to their friends, online and offline.

Sure, there are those who don’t like me…but they are not in my practice anymore.

So here is my list of 10 reasons my patients love me: (more…)

Was L.D. Pankey Dentistry’s First Positive Psychologist?

April 21, 2011

Filed under: Article,Pankey — Tags: — Barry @ 9:27 PM

Most dental seminars and courses share similar traits. Lecturers generally speak for hours on some concept or technique while the audience sits back and takes notes. During breaks or at the end of the day, questions arise that have less to do with the technique and more to do with how to apply the technique in their own practices. In other words, after watching the speaker show incredible cases by applying the newest technology, the dentists have questions mostly concerning how to persuade their patients to accept the treatment.

It’s like listening to a telephone call from a patient who wants to try to break an appointment. They begin by making small talk and lead to the crux of the matter…”by the way, I can’t make it next Thursday.” People save the best for last.

Persuading people to do do the very best dentistry for themselves has always been the dentist’s greatest challenge. It requires many skills, mostly in the area of relationship building, communication and human behavior. Of course dentists see the value in learning these skills, but seem to spend more time and effort concentrating on the technical skills.

Further exploration of the the persuasion skills leads to the bigger questions. You see if you can’t get the dentistry off the shelf, the shelf just gets overloaded with all that great technique. That is frustrating, and is the source of much disappointment and unhappiness.

So at the heart of those questions about marketing, and persuasion are the bigger questions. Questions like:

“How can I find happiness and success in my practice?”

“How can I learn to love and stay engaged in my work?”

“How can I put more meaning in my work?”

“How can I get my patients to do all this incredible dentistry?”

These are the BIG QUESTIONS…the ones that were answered for me many years ago at the Pankey Institute. The unexpressed questions that are still being asked at every dental seminar today if you are really listening.

L.D. Pankey understood dentistry’s BIG QUESTIONS. That’s why he studied philosophy and created his own philosophy: to help dentists live better lives. He studied Aristotle. He could have studied Abraham Maslow or Carl Rogers as Dr. Robert Barkely did. Both Pankey and Barkely had a deep sense of what would truly help dentists create fulfilling lives and practices. They were unique in that regard. I was lucky to have seen them both. I haven’t seen that type of lecture in many years.

The word used for many years, even by L.D., to indicate the definition of a fulfilling practice is HAPPINESS. The problem with that word is that it has become a buzzword that has lost its meaning these days. Even Aristotle used the word as to represent man’s sole purpose in life. The problem is that “happiness” is an empty word that needs more explanation.

In 1997 Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania coined term “positive psychology.” Its goal was to describe what a life worth living looked like…a healthy model, rather than the dis-eased models of Freud. Seligman and his followers further described the goal of positive psychology as “well-being,” and use the term “flourishing” to describe those who have achieved this goal.

They measure well-being through 5 elements:

1. Positive emotion

2. Engagement or flow at work.

3. Meaning…or serving something that is bigger than the self.

4. Accomplishment–pursuit of success and mastery

5. Positive relationships

When I looked at the list I realized that is what I learned at the Pankey Institute. Those are the elements that allow me to get my dentistry off the shelf. Those are the principles that L.D. Pankey taught so many dentists during the fifties and sixties. And that is why I have a Pankey-style practice.


I’m not sure if Pankey had the language to express his philosophy that succinctly, but after reading Seligman, I believe that L.D. was dentistry’s true positive psychologist. Sadly, I am not sure that exists in dental CE anymore. There is way too much emphasis on high tech dentistry, high profit dentistry and high speed dentistry…that will never answer the BIG QUESTIONS.

Isn’t it time to stop the craziness? Time to slow down, maintain positivity, engage deeply in our work, find more meaning by treating people, not teeth, accomplish more through mastery and build great relationships. Start thinking about how to make dentistry work better for ourselves and our patients…start creating flourishing lives instead of reacting to the demands of insurance companies, irrational patients and salesmen.