An interview with... Tony Robbins

One of the nation`s leading voices in the dental industry chats with Dental Economics about burnout, motivation, and other topics near to his heart.

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One of the nation`s leading voices in the dental industry chats with Dental Economics about burnout, motivation, and other topics near to his heart.

Dr. Joe Blaes, Editor

Editor`s Note: Dr. Woody Oakes is the founder of the "Profitable Dentist Newsletter" and has long been an admirer of Anthony Robbins. He has listened to his tapes and attended some of his live presentations. He would always find some ideas that could be applied to his dental practice in New Albany, Ind. Woody would always be personally motivated by Tony`s talks and would come back to his practice with renewed enthusiasm.

Dr. Oakes has a company, Excellence in Dentistry, that produces a seminar every year in Destin, Fla. This "Spring Break Seminar" has become extremely popular and sells out every year because Woody has always managed to put together a great group of speakers. These speakers have a wide appeal and many dentists bring their entire office staff to this annual event.

About five years ago, Woody thought that it would be a great idea to expose more dentists and their teams to Anthony Robbins and his inspiring message. Last November in La Jolla, Calif., Woody was finally able to see his "dream seminar" fulfilled. Excellence in Dentistry presented the "Giants of Dentistry" to a jam-packed room of 1,300 dentists and team members. I was privileged to give the opening keynote presentation at this meeting. Other speakers were Dr. Bill Dickerson, Dr. David Hornbrook, Dr. Bill Strupp, Dr. Cathy Jameson, Dr. Earl Estep, Kathleen Collins, and Joe Dillon.

But the highlight of the meeting was witnessed by only a handful of people. In a small conference room near the main ballroom, Woody and Tony finally met face-to-face. It was an exciting moment for all of us, but especially for Woody. I was pleased that I was able to be a part of it.

A few minutes after the meeting, a standing-room-only crowd of madly screaming people greeted Tony Robbins. I have never seen anything like it at any dental meeting. Tony went on to speak for five consecutive hours to a captivated audience. Nobody left with the same attitude that they came in with!

I must confess that Tony Robbins has been one of my mentors for years. I have all of his books and tapes and took my team to a live presentation in St. Louis years ago. I was able to interview one of my "heroes," and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Dr. Blaes: As a group, most dentists are introverts and do not have well-developed people skills; yet their ability to relate to individuals is perhaps the single biggest determinant of their success. How can individuals who are naturally introverted develop meaningful relationships with patients and staff?

Tony Robbins: It`s important to remember that you`re not in the dental business - you`re in the people business. It`s important not to label yourself as introverted or extroverted, or to think that you have to have a magnificent personality in order to connect with your patients and have a powerful impact upon their lives. I think the most important key to quality communication and interaction is developing an interest in the person you`re talking with.

Most women know the secret to a quality conversation is to ask quality questions and have a sincere interest in hearing the answers. In fact, the best communicators very often say the least. It`s not the extrovert who dominates the conversation that a client feels most connected with, but rather the individual who shows a real and sincere interest in knowing about the life of the person they`re talking with.

When dentists begin to realize they don`t have to be the "life of the party," but, rather, just a caring soul, they soon find out that learning from, and connecting with, patients is a much more powerful and rewarding experience than simply serving customers` needs. This creates an immediate expansion in the level of fulfillment that a dentist will feel in his or her work.

Dr. Blaes: Most dentists believe that, as health-care professionals, "sales" is beneath them. What can be done to help them see that this mindset is a disservice to their patients?

Tony Robbins: The only way to create change in anyone`s psychology or belief system is to show them the consequences of their actions - or inaction. Many individuals do not get the care they need because the dentist is not influential enough to get them to follow through.

I believe the first secret is for dental practitioners to think of what they`re doing not as sales, but, rather, as influencing for a higher purpose. All individuals, especially health-care professionals, want to be givers in their relationships, not takers. While they need to take care of their business, part of the beauty of a dentist is the person who truly wants to serve. The focus must not be on sales, but on what the repercussions are of failing to influence someone. Think of the joy they`ll miss from the cosmetic dentistry, along with the beauty, the self-esteem, the image, and/or the pain that they`ll receive because they didn`t handle a problem thoroughly or quickly. I believe that using the concept of selling with a dentist is the wrong concept to use, because it puts them in a mindset of a culture of manipulation, rather than a culture of service.

Dr. Blaes: Effective management and leadership skills are essential to success. Many dentists, however, do not care about leading. They see themselves as clinicians or craftsmen who only want to work on teeth. How do you teach these types of individuals the skills they need to run a thriving practice that, in turn, gives them the opportunity to practice their craft?

Tony Robbins: I believe the most effective thing to do with a dentist whose primary focus is on being a clinician or a craftsman is to help him or her develop a powerful management system and to be a powerful leader within the organization. The dentist does not have to be the leader of the business.

There are many examples of this in the arts, entertainment, and music industries. Dentists do, however, have to understand the system for managing the organization and to monitor its progress. I personally have eight companies, including a publicly held corporation. There`s no way I could run these companies while also being a craftsman and an artist, so I have the systems to manage them. I think that`s the secret to what Fortune Practice Management provides - a system that helps to accelerate the results of the practice, while maximizing everyone`s fulfillment. And also one of the great benefits of this system is having an outside force constantly measuring the progress and implementation of such systems.

Dr. Blaes: The dental professional is subject to a high degree of stress, which often leads to burnout. What preventive measures can dental professionals take to prevent burnout?

Tony Robbins: Self-development is the only thing that keeps a person from burning out. We all have many needs - the need for certainty, the need for variety, the need for significance, and the need for connection. But, ultimately, we must grow, and we must contribute in a meaningful way in order to feel fulfilled.

Understanding how to find the magic moments in your daily life is critical. If you subscribe to the philosophy that says, "My vacation will free me from burnout," then you`re waiting for a few days out of the year to make up for many days of stress. Instead, you have to be able to take mini-vacations on a daily basis. We teach how to take these mini-vacations, how to create these magic moments, and how to create an emotional flood of positive feelings that will not only give you greater fulfillment, but also will cause you to have a much more powerful impact on your patients. Then you won`t just be serving their teeth, but their spirits as well.

Dr. Blaes: Dentists are continuing-education junkies, yet they probably implement less than 10 percent of what they pick up at seminars and other events. What can they do to improve their level of implementation?

Tony Robbins: The first secret to realize is that your emotional or psychological state when you learn something becomes linked to the subject you learn. In other words, if you are sitting in a casual, relaxed state while you learn a valuable tool - and you think, "Boy, this is so useful" - you`ll feel equally casual about using that tool. You don`t have a sense of hunger or intensity attached to it. At Fortune, we train people in what we call "uptime" - being in a peak state - so that while they`re learning, they link driving emotions, hungry emotions, and emotions of action to that subject.

In addition, anyone who is going to succeed has to take what they learn and create what we call an RPM Plan - a Rapid Planning Plan. It allows dentists to very quickly take what they`re learning and decide what result they want from it. Implementing something you learn can be overwhelming when you get back to your practice and deal with your daily challenges.

Unless you`re absolutely clear on the result or outcome you`re after, you`ll get knocked off course by the daily distractions and the demands of your environment that appear to be urgent and important. This methodology also allows you to understand why you want to follow through. I`ve found that reasons come first, answers come second. If individuals know exactly what they want, but they don`t know why they want it, when the going gets tough - when they get distracted, frustrated, or overwhelmed - they will not follow through. This RPM Planning Process gets a person fully acclimated to what he or she wants and why he or she wants it.

The third step in RPM is the MAP - the Massive Action Plan. Unless a plan is put together while you`re learning something, you will not get the momentum that is necessary to follow through. But if you have a plan - you know what it is you want, you know why you want it, you have a couple of key immediate steps to take, and you schedule the time to do them while you`re still in the learning environment - then you will find yourself following through.

Dr. Blaes: What were your reasons or motivations for starting a practice-management company for dentists?

Tony Robbins: More than a decade ago, I was invited to speak by a dental-management company. I was so impressed by both the leaders of that company and the level of commitment that they had to their customers that I became extremely excited about the possibility of having an ongoing impact. I was thrilled to see clients who had been with the company more than seven years at that stage, and whose lives had been transformed. I also believed I had some unique skills, strategies, and tools that could take the organization to another level.

I spent the next year of my life with a variety of dental practices, deciphering the patterns of conflict and frustration that often came about in these practices. I set about creating what I thought would be simple - yet cutting-edge - solutions, while making a difference. Having the opportunity to spend a year with these practices, I was able not only to train these dentists and their staffs in the use of these tools, but to see them come back the next month and tell me the amazing stories of what did and didn`t work. Through that, we were able to refine the basis of the current Fortune Practice Management system. I love it because I love specifically serving dentists and other health-care professionals. These are people who, like myself, are committed to making a difference in the quality of people`s lives. They have a sense of mission for what they do, as opposed to simply working with individuals who are only looking to improve their job performance.

Dr. Blaes: What new skills will dental professionals need to become successful practitioners in the 21st century?

Tony Robbins: If there is any one skill that every professional must learn, it is how to brand himself or herself in the marketplace. We need to understand that the marketplace is so confused today. So many different individuals are marketing to patients that, unless you can separate yourself from the crowd, you`ll be left in the dust. A brand provides certainty to customers and lets them know that what they`re getting is the best. People don`t like to make decisions. Once we decide, for example, the kind of toothpaste we prefer, rarely do we change. Why? We have to make so many decisions every day in our lives that most of us are overwhelmed. Once patients decide on you as their dentist, they will more than likely stay with you if you meet their needs in the unique ways that we teach at Fortune Practice Management. However, mobilizing your customers so that they help to brand you and market you to all of their friends and family is a very specific science. To the extent that you manage these fundamental practices will be the extent to which you are able to create a practice that is thriving and wildly successful vs. one that is struggling or merely acceptable.

Dr. Blaes: What three attributes or character traits are essential for entrepreneurial success?

Tony Robbins: Before I answer your question, let me say that I don`t believe that all dentists need to be entrepreneurs. I think many can be artists or technicians. I don`t think you should try to convert anyone into an entrepreneur, because not everyone has that style. Nonetheless, someone who might not make a great entrepreneur can still be successful and own their own business by leverage.

Just as you and I may not have the skills of running a technology company like Bill Gates, we can still invest in Bill Gates, and we can ride the success he experiences through an investment in stock. So, too, can we invest in individuals who can run our companies, as long as we have the management tools to monitor them.

Leveraging management responsibilities can help you build your practice or business into a sizeable asset that will provide you with the economic freedom you desire, while simultaneously creating a work environment that serves the customer at the highest level. This gives you - and your whole organization - the pride of being the best.

Now, to answer your question specifically, I think the character traits of an entrepreneur very clearly are vision, faith, and determination/ persistence.

Without a vision there is no possibility of creating something larger than what al-ready exists. An entrepreneur has to be able to bring something to the table through his or her vision that is not being provided by others - a special way of meeting needs, caring for others, treating patients, or marketing.

An entrepreneur must have enormous faith. Risk-taking is critical to the development of an enterprise. You will not take risks unless you have the faith to do so.

Determination and persistence are melded together. Their basis comes from people who stay hungry and don`t allow themselves to get too comfortable. Entering a comfort zone is the fastest way to kill your drive and determination, at which point you begin to accept whatever you have as being "good enough." There is no self-esteem in accepting the status quo. There are tremendous emotional and psychological rewards that come with pushing yourself to break through past limits and, in the process, creating something of value for yourself and others.

Dr. Blaes: In what areas do you believe you can help dental professionals?

Tony Robbins: I believe that not only myself, but the professionals I`ve partnered with at Fortune Practice Management, can help a dentist maximize his or her personal and professional goals. That`s our job. Our job is not to put those goals upon a dentist, but to say, "What is it you really want? Where are you now? How do we close the gap between the two?" That`s why I tell people we`re in the "gap business." Everyone who is honest has a gap between where he or she is and where he or she wants to be.

If the practice is going well, often the dentist doesn`t have enough time to spend with his or her kids. If dentists have time for their kids, very often they don`t take care of their bodies. If their patients are happy, very often the finances of the practice are not in balance. If the finances are in great shape, very often there are staff members who are unhappy. This is just the nature of running a life and an enterprise simultaneously.

What I think we provide more than anything else are the skills and systems to create not only a successful practice - in which your patients are totally served, your staff is thrilled, and you are building an asset that will give you ultimate financial freedom - but also the tools to balance your personal life. It is our mission to allow dentists to experience the joy and fulfillment they deserve today, and not wait until "someday" when everything is perfect to achieve what it is that they really, truly desire. I think when you combine professional improvement and progress with personal fulfillment, you begin to create what most people would consider a dream life.

Dr. Blaes: What three principal things do you see facing dental health-care in the millennium?

Tony Robbins: Number one, as I`ve already stated, is the need to brand oneself in a world that is so competitive. Number two is the mastery of technology. More and more people want to use lasers, for example, to have pain-free dental work or want to enhance their smile cosmetically.

Unless a dentist is willing to invest in himself or herself and invest in the technology and the training of the staff, he or she will have difficulty taking advantage of a marketplace that will always be willing to pay for his or her services. That is the marketplace that believes they can have what they ultimately want in a pain-free manner.

The third thing is the mastery of time. This is the resource that people value the most today and seem to have the least of ? even more so than money. The ability of a dentist to be able to figure out how to accomplish the same amount of work in less time ? either through the use of technology, focus in the scheduling practice, or the ability to give the patient some entertainment while performing dentistry ? will be critical.

I know my own dentist uses a set of glasses that project a screen in front, and I?m allowed to watch a movie while my dental work is being done. It certainly makes the process more entertaining, and it makes me feel like I went to the movies instead of the dentist. This mindset will be very important for dentists to be able to command the time necessary to serve their patients at the highest level, especially at a time in our history in which people value entertainment almost more than anything else.

Dr. Blaes: You have touched so many people. How do you want to be remembered?

Tony Robbins: I want to be remembered as a great friend, an outstanding father, an amazing husband, and a good soul who always strived to serve God and man. And during that time of service on earth, I would like people to think, OHe brought joy, love, opportunity, and fulfillment to millions of people.O

For more information about this article, contact Tony Robbins by e-mail at tony@tonyrobbins.com.

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From left to right, Dr. Woody Oakes, Tony Robbins, and Dr. Joe Blaes.

Dr. Blaes: Are there any thoughts you`d like to share with our readers?

Tony Robbins: It is so important to remember that, as we travel through life, there will be so many events which we can`t control. These are things that seemingly alter our lives forever or become barriers for living a life of fulfillment. It`s important to remember that the ultimate experience of life is not to be controlled by events. We all have difficult events in our lives - the loss of family members or friends, economics, stress, litigation, government interference in our businesses, health challenges, etc.

Remember that it is not the events that shape our lives, but, rather, the meaning we attach to them.

If you become a master of meaning, you become a master of your life. Two people can have the same experience. One person decides that because of that experience his or her life is over, while the other decides that God has challenged him or her to step up, face the challenge, and become more than he or she ever was before.

So it`s not our conditions, but our decisions that shape our lives. I truly believe that it`s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. So choose carefully what things mean, and what to do about them. With conscious focus, a connection with our loving nature, and a desire to serve, we truly can experience heaven while still here on earth.

I wish for all of your readers not only health, vitality, and love, but large enough challenges to stimulate them to grow, expand, and break through and develop the kind of inner pride that comes from knowing that you`ve lived your life fully. Live with passion!

Love and respect,

Tony Robbins

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