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Is there room for improvement? Here's how to get better

May 6, 2022
Have you ever thought about what it takes to get better and who will help you along the way? How are you going to climb the ladder of success? Dr. Jeffery Hoos provides some direction.

There is something called the ladder of success. The steps of the ladder are clear. I won’t. I can’t. I don’t know how. I wish I could. I think I might. I might. I think I can. I can. I will. I did. I am successful. 

It is important to clearly define your personal definition of success. Do you have a short-term or long-term goal or a combination? This can certainly change over time. Unless you know where you want to go, you have no idea how to get there. In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says to keep the end in mind. What is your goal and definition of success? In simple terms, and what most people say is, it’s getting better. The big question becomes, “Have you ever thought about what it takes to get better and who will help you along the way?” How are you going to climb the ladder of success? 

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Attitude or aptitude

I did not have tremendous academic aptitude and I was not a gifted student; having said that, failure was never an option for me. I always had a can-do attitude. If something needed to get done, I figured out a way. I can honestly say it was all hard work. More importantly it took dedication, but also, I found help from the right people along the way.

It was with the help and support of others that I achieved my dream of becoming a dentist. I have said 100 times that without support from Betsy Smirnoff Hoos, it could not have happened. Of course, there were teachers and mentors, but there were also detractors who did not believe in me. Dentistry has been an amazing career, providing for my family and giving a living to my staff. I’m not even discussing the dental care we’ve provided as a team. Team support has allowed me to do what I do. Our staff has adopted a can-do attitude. This is because they see the practice partners with our can-do attitudes and dedicated work ethic. We lead by example. 

Competition or comparison

How do you feel when you attend a course or read an article that presents seemingly impossible dentistry? Perfect color, margins, occlusion, and of course, it probably costs about $60,000. Who gets to do these cases, and who can do this dentistry at such a high level? Everything looks perfect, and I’m simply trying to get a good contact between teeth.

Are these dentists who place and restore 40 implants a week your competition, or do they do only movie star dentistry? They are not your competition, but they may offer a comparison for you to look at when evaluating your own dentistry. Everyone knows that anything that provides the most satisfaction and pleasure does not fall from the sky. It requires dedication, work, effort, tears, and worry, but if ever if you fall a little short of your goal, you can really smile with satisfaction. The problem is nobody likes to finish second and most do not remember the second-place finisher. 

Here’s an example. John Michael Landy, the second man to run the sub-4-minute mile who lost to Roger Bannister in 1954, died recently. Very few people know who Landy was because he was second, but he had a wonderful career. Imagine what it took to be number two. The others in the race also spent thousands of hours to become great runners. Landy said, “I had to run a lone wolf race. It was a clean race. The better man won.” Bannister said, “My great respect for him made me bring the best out of myself. It was a glorious moment for sports.”1 

Reread that quote: “bring the best out of myself.” John Landy was second, but Bannister praised him for helping him. He did not do it alone, even though he was running with a real competitor. Who was his competition? Was it the other person or himself? How dedicated were these men? The competition brought out their best. 

Dedication or discouragement 

I was so discouraged at the beginning of dental school. Everyone was smarter and better at prepping teeth and everything seemed so easy for everyone else. I knew that wasn’t true, yet I was so surprised when someone asked me for my help. I would not leave the preclinical area at Tufts until I got the results I needed. Getting better is not worrying about winning the race, but putting in the work, and maybe finishing second. Avoiding discouragement and having consistent dedication will help you reach your goals. 

Effort or indifference

In the book E=mc²: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis, the author pays homage to Einstein. Just as importantly, he also pays homage to Einstein’s predecessors, the people who gave him the tools to create the E=mc2 formula. Einstein worked as a clerk in a patent office and barely made it through his math studies. But he was not indifferent about learning his basic math skills and put forth maximum effort. He could not have done the equation without the people before him. No one can do it alone, and we must build upon information that is already known. 

Think about this in terms of dentistry. We came from no handpieces, to belt driven, to air turbine, to electric, while always trying to improve the products and outcomes. Are you trying to become better every day? Do you have the staff to help you to do a better job for your patients? Are you putting forth the effort? Do you care about getting better, or are you simply indifferent? 

Be willing to put forth the effort, dedication, and compare yourself to the very best. Activate your can-do attitude.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Reference

1. Litsky F, McDonald W. John Landy dies at 91; dueled Roger Bannister in ‘Mile of the Century.’ New York Times. February 25, 2022. Updated February 28, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/sports/olympics/john-landy-dead.html

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