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What Happy Dentists Know

February 12, 2013

Filed under: ARTICLES,Business of Dentistry,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:00 AM



I have a pet peeve.  It bothers me when dentists look at the very best people in the field and believe they will never achieve that level of success, because they don’t have the “hands” or the technical skills necessary to do great work.  This problem isn’t restricted to dentistry...artists and writers look at great works and judge only the result rather than looking at the process that the person went through to achieve the result.

No matter how many times I hear the story about what Michelangelo told an admirer when she called him a genius, he said,   “If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius, ” and I truly get it…so many of us turn to the beautiful photography on Facebook or the work displayed by dentistry’s masters, and say we can never do that because they are “genius’s”  and I just don’t have the hands or the skills to do that work.

The other day a dentist commented on some work I did, saying it wasn’t up to the “Pankey” standard.  He expected that every piece of work would be perfect if done by a Pankey dentist.  Well we’re all on the same journey.  When starting out our work can be just plain shitty.  Then after a few years it just sucks.  But eventually it gets good with the potential of becoming great.  The problem is that most people expect great every time.  Maybe the masters can do that and I certainly shoot for that, but the reality is we do our best and grow to be better and better.

And that’s all we can do.

But there is a problem…most dentists never get on the path.  They don’t grow.  They look at the work in the magazines and on the Internet and just get stuck.

Michelangelo, in the quote above, implied the answer.  What made him different than the other artists of his day?  Hard work and attention to a process.

There are many traits that separate the dentists…Pankey classified dentists with his Ladder of Competency (apathetic-student-adept-master).    I call this the shitty-sucks-good-great, cycle, because it clearly shoes what every dentist goes through in his own evolution…or not.

Here are some of the many traits I feel separate dentists:

1. They have a growth mind-set-  Stanford psychologist Carolyn Dweck, an expert in human motivation and potential, and author of the book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success explains it best:

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Einstein would be the final product that I referred to at the start.  The fixed mindset crowd gets discouraged when they see that…the others grow toward excellence.and understand that it is a process.  They understand that all growth is about change.  Change is the product of education so these dentists take lots of continuing education.

2. They understand process over product.  When they look at the final product they see the process and hard work that went into it.  It has been said that when Einstein looked at the Brooklyn Bridge he saw equations and understood the complexity way beyond what the average person sees.

3. They are other-focused.  You might say they work with purpose.  They see the patient as their end product and do whatever it takes to improve their patient’s lives.  They understand the adage, “It’s always about them, and never about you.”

4. They are resilient.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success in spite of any obstacle.  Willingness is another trait I put under the resiliency factor.  Willingness is like a muscle it grows the more it’s used.  Willingness is a strength.  They never give up and take on all challenges.

5. They are committed to mastery.  They understand the road to mastery is the key to their growth and success.  Through mastery their enjoyment and passion for dentistry increases.  The deeper understanding of the field the more they enjoy the work.  I am fond of saying that passion is a byproduct of mastery.  Most important is when mastery is achieved there is a sense of control over the work, and this control is powerful.

So what is the result of all of this control, passion, and gratitude? 


These are just a few of the things that happy dentists know.







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