Courage Versus Fear in Dentistry and Beyond

Tyler Williams, DDS

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Due to the coronavirus panic early in March, my weekend plans for an anniversary getaway to Lake Tahoe that my wife and I had been looking forward to were cancelled.

The first day of our Tahoe trip was going to be business related. We were scheduled for an office design tour to extract some ideas from, since construction of my new building was underway. I was excited to get some big picture ideas and further develop my plan for this new home for my team, our patients, and my family. 

We were pretty bummed that the trip had to be put on hold, but we knew it was the safer bet. Truthfully, we weren’t that worried about the virus itself. We were more concerned about being quarantined away from our kids or being confined in an airport or hotel. I hate acting out of fear, but we had to put our kids and our family first. 

Most of the news and media were speaking doomsday talk as the stock market had its biggest down day since the 1987 crash. School was cancelled. Church was cancelled. Spring breaks were extended on college campuses, and classes would probably resume online only for the duration of the school year.

Apparently the Costco near my home did $1.2 million in sales on its biggest day during the Christmas season just a few months prior, but went on to earn $1.5 million on March 12, with people lined up out the door to get napkins, paper products, and bulk food. 

Having Faith 

I strongly believe that there is a reason for everything, even when I can’t understand why. I am a man of faith, and I know that when one door closes, another opens. I’ve been frustrated so many times in the past when something didn’t work out that finally one day I realized I should always look for the opportunity in a good or bad experience. 

I have always been a glass half-full kind of guy, but I also have a short temper about certain things. I have let that temper get in the way too many times, only to realize how much limited time and precious energy were wasted on getting hung up.  

We’ve often seen winter storm warnings in my area that turn out to result in just a few inches of snow, which isn’t a big deal for us because we’re used to it and are typically prepared for it. But these reports are likely harmful to the sales and business of our local carwashes, restaurants, and movie theaters. Sometimes they cause cancellations at dental practices too. This COVID-19 warning turned out to be much bigger, but not something that will dramatically affect the long-term plans of 99% of our country. 

Through the many ups and downs of life’s adventures, I’ve learned that the quicker I can turn “skinning my knees” into squeezing out the valuable lessons and using them as a stepping stone for reaching my life goals, the easier it is to find the nuggets of wisdom in an experience. 

John Maxwell calls these “learning opportunities” and uses the term “failing forward.” I once read that in business we have only two outcomes from an event: learning opportunities and success. There are no actual failures. 

We can fail at something, but we shouldn’t label someone a failure based on one static moment in time. Schools are notorious for motivating us more out of fear of not failing,rather than the creative output that results from the right kind of motivation that inspires real learning. 

This may sound very idealistic to you. But if you develop this resilient mindset, it sure makes it a lot easier to sleep at night. Some of my biggest failures in the past have totally changed my practice model and my leadership insight for the better, even though it took time and discipline to develop.  

Plato is quoted as saying that courage is knowing what not to fear. This is more important during a virtual outbreak, stock market crash, or slow month in your practice. You can’t live in fear and lead a greatlife. Not only does it make you feel terrible, but it also doesn’t enable your creative mind to grow and produce new ideas and systems to build up your practice, taking your patient care to the next level. 

We don’t know how long or exactly what will happen while most of our practices are practically on hold, awaiting federal and state direction. There is still a lot up in the air. If we hang in there, though, we’ll find the answers and come out stronger. It’s hard to see the sunshine while we are stuck in the rainstorm. But it will come, and we will be more innovative and responsive when a similar event comes around again.  

Remember to stay ahead of the majority, because as Dan Kennedy says, the majority is usually wrong. Otherwise the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes, wouldn’t apply, nor would the most productive people or top athletes be where they are today. They are the minority.

Developing your mind, your education, and your team is one of the best ways to avoid living in fear and to live in a mindset of growth and abundance. When the economy zigs, it’s time for you to zag. Do the opposite. When you have to close for a few days or weeks due to unforeseen circumstances, use them as personal days or planning days to boost your morale and inspire bold new ideas to further develop your team and your practice. 

Dr. Williams is the founder of Pinecrest Dental and the author of a Reason to Smile: 11 Keys to Your Best Oral Health Ever. He has been featured on ABC’s Good Things Utah, on KTALK radio, and in several national dental research publications. He also is a member of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, the ADA, and the Utah Dental Association. He is currently a speaker and instructor on dental implants with the Implant Institute. He can be reached at twilliams@yourpracticegrowth.com.

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