Time-tested Secrets of Success

On a recent fall weekend I enjoyed a pleasurable reunion with an esteemed patron I had not visited for nearly 20 years.

On a recent fall weekend I enjoyed a pleasurable reunion with an esteemed patron I had not visited for nearly 20 years. This valuable resource served as a mentor in my salad days, helping me achieve financial freedom by age 40 after 12 years of practice and allowing me to retire at age 53. (My definition of financial freedom is accumulating sufficient assets to assure one will never be forced to work again just to obtain money.)

I would guess that a majority of highly successful dentists are also well-acquainted with my benefactor. According to my faded notes on the text’s back cover, I first made the book’s acquaintance in 1978 after I’d been in private practice four years. Despite having worked my way through eight years of post-secondary education and being personally responsible for 100 percent of my expenses, by 1978 I’d already paid off home, office, and school expenses - I had zero debt - and had begun a retirement plan. I revisited my friend in 1982 and again in 1985. These repeated sojourns occurred because I felt our time together was as valuable as mining a rich vein of precious metal. But enough table-setting. It is my distinct pleasure to introduce Napoleon Hill’s classic and timeless book, “Think And Grow Rich,” first published in 1937. Within this text, Hill penned the unforgettable and inspirational assertion that, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

My experience has demonstrated that the powerful concepts revealed within this book are universal truths, thus applicable in any situation, from obtaining wealth, to building a flourishing practice, to creating an effective weight-loss program, to developing a successful Sunday School class.

Although nowhere in this venerable text are the following stages specifically enumerated, allow me to share, in skeletal fashion, my interpretation of Hill’s principal pathway to achieving everything to which one aspires.

Meritorious achievements begin within one’s dreams. It is imperative, if one desires to excel, that he or she dares to dream. (And grand dreams are more inspirational than mundane ones.) Guard your visions as the precious clues to a better future they are. Don’t allow them to be damaged or destroyed by opinions of the masses, who seem threatened by anything new or unconventional and tend to reflexively react to suppress all innovation.

From these nebulous dreams specific ideas are born. And according to Hill, it is ideas, not knowledge, that comprise the foundation of every great success. (Hill avers, “Both poverty and riches are the offsprings of thought.” Or to quote Buddha’s words as recorded 2,500 years ago in the Dhammapada’s first verse, “Our lives are shaped by our minds; we become what we think about.”) Combining clarified ideas with emotions, thus empowering them, propels us to stage three.

From these emotion-laden concepts, one must develop a burning desire to obtain that which he or she has envisioned. This intense longing is nurtured by oft-reiterated affirmations (such as vividly visualizing, speaking, and acting as if one’s goal had already been achieved or repeating several times a day such succinct positive declarations as, “I will lose 15 pounds in two months,” or, “I will save $30,000 by the end of this calendar year”).

A burning desire guides one to the creation of a definite purpose. One is now able to codify precise objectives in written form. When this stage occurs, these clarified and emotion-laden ideas will have evolved into an all-consuming obsession that is never far from one’s thoughts. Creating and sustaining this energized and focused state of mind is an essential step to any significant accomplishment.

One should record several copies of precisely worded goals, positioning them on the bathroom mirror, one’s office desk - places where he or she will be certain to notice them repeatedly each day.

Explicit plans to obtain the object of one’s desires are now created. These written steps are specific, measurable, and should be reviewed a minimum of twice daily.

Given diligent effort, the final step of this process is the inevitable achievement of one’s worthy goal.

So our formula reads: dreams = specific ideas + emotion = burning desire = definite purpose = explicit plans = attainment of one’s worthy goal.

After assimilating the above information, one should begin to sense how implacable power can be derived from original knowledge that is intelligently and relentlessly directed toward a precisely defined goal.

Allow me to further elucidate my contentions by presenting one example (plucked from among many in my life) of this process in action. In 1985 after 11 years in private practice, I’d been successful by most measures. My practice treated 5,000 active patients and had five fully equipped operatories, a staff of seven whose company I enjoyed, and I was saving a minimum of $30,000 per annum, primarily in a tax-advantaged retirement plan.

But I had a dream that I could reduce my hours of patient care, thus obtaining more precious personal freedom while enjoying a greater income without increasing my labor. (Such a dream would be - and in my case was - rejected by peers as foolish and unrealistic. I trust none of my readers are guilty of such skepticism.)

The idea that emerged from my murky longings was to hire an associate dentist. This would allow me to take greater advantage of the significant capital invested in my office, enable our practice to better serve our burgeoning patient base, and grant me the free time I desperately craved.

This inspirational vision soon erupted into a burning desire. I was exhausted by my workload, and, despite having not accepted new patients for four years, my schedule was booked three months in advance. I often saw 10 or more emergencies a day and was too busy putting out fires to perform the quality of dentistry I desired. I was beginning to dread repeated long days in the office and was determined to change my circumstances.

This distress led to the creation of a definite purpose. The venture was never far from my thoughts. I placed an ad in the JADA and contacted every dental school within a 250-mile radius in my efforts to acquire an associate to help fulfill my aspirations. I also created an explicit practice strategy. I committed to employing two additional staff, determined how to split office hours into morning and afternoon shifts to maximize available treatment space, and decided to reduce my chairside time by one day a week, allowing me more time to manage the practice and instantly creating a significant patient base for our newest teammate.

I’ll allow readers to judge whether I was successful in attaining my goals. In 1985 (as a solo dentist), I averaged monthly collections of $40,000, endured an onerous 65 percent overhead, and had a monthly net of $14,000.

In 1986 (after adding an associate), our monthly production jumped to $60,000. Overhead, due to more efficient use of practice resources, decreased to 58 percent. Combined net for both doctors was ($60,000 x 42% net =) $25,200 per month. I paid my associate 30 percent of his collected dollars, roughly $6,000 per month. My monthly net now averaged $19,200 ($25,200 - $6,000). Thus, my net increased $5,200 per month ($19,200 - $14,000), or $62,400 per annum, while chairtime was reduced 20 percent.

Since this additional profit was money our family didn’t need for normal living expenses, much of it was saved in tax-advantaged vehicles (allowing Uncle Sam to subsidize approximately 40 percent of my retirement funding via tax deductions, although I confess that the quality and quantity of our family vacations also increased dramatically).

“Think And Grow Rich” is still available in book outlets everywhere, 67 years after its initial publication. If one has the requisite courage, desire, and determination to excel, this to me is required reading. The book’s greatest value lies within its ability to open the eyes of readers to the wonders available to all who refuse to settle for anything less than becoming the best they can be.

Dr. John A. Wilde is the author of five dental books and more than 200 published articles. His fourth book, “Dentistry’s Future, a Prescription for Success, Wealth and Joy,” contains a blueprint describing how he built a highly profitable practice (Dr. Wilde averaged a daily net of $6,673 in his rural practice in Keokuk, Iowa, population 11,000) while experiencing joy in the process. To enter into discussion with Dr. Wilde or to place book orders, call his office at (319) 524-1477.

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