Happy practice step 2: Obstacles

Feb. 1, 2004
The great artist Michelangelo was commissioned by the Medici family to create a statue for the main square in Florence. Before he began, Michelangelo had to find a piece of marble worthy of his task.

Barry Polansky, DMD

The great artist Michelangelo was commissioned by the Medici family to create a statue for the main square in Florence. Before he began, Michelangelo had to find a piece of marble worthy of his task. On a side street of Florence, covered with dirt and overgrown with weeds, he found a huge slab. He had walked down this street many times without noticing it. He looked more closely. As he walked back and forth, he began to envision the statue of David and saw it in its entirety. It took him four years of outlining, chiseling, and polishing. When the day came for the David's first public viewing, people came from all over Italy. It was breathtakingly beautiful. People cheered. Women fainted. When told how awesome it was, Michelangelo said they wouldn't think it was so incredible if they knew how much work went into it. They asked him how he had created this marvel. He told them he had seen the David complete and perfect in the marble — all he did was remove everything that was not the David.

Dentists understand very clearly what it means to carve a tooth from a block of wax. The Greek word kharakt_r is a "tool for marking." It means to carve out. The modern word "character" is derived from that word, and it means "qualities that make somebody or something distinctive." If we want to create a dental practice that brings us happiness, we must remove all that is not us. We must carve our practices into our own perfect truths.

Last month I discussed the first step in creating the happy practice. Essentially, I said, "You'll see it when you believe it." This is the reverse of the skeptic's mantra: "I'll believe it when I see it." My goal isn't to convince anyone that a specific way of practice is best. If you want a cosmetic-oriented practice, I only ask that it be your desire, not someone else's paradigm of success. For me, practicing comprehensive dentistry is the ideal because it fulfills my desire to serve people at a very meaningful level. However, I do believe what Dr. L.D. Pankey once said, "Success is a personal matter." Time needs to be spent in clarifying exactly what your practice needs to look like. The buzzword is "vision." What is your future in dentistry going to be like? What is your mission? What are your standards? What are your practice goals?

Most dentists begin fulfilling a vision (not necessarily their own) by working on their practices. I see this as a big mistake. First, we must carve out our own character, that is, expose our inner truth. We have protected ourselves from this truth with layers and layers of "shoulds." We have listened to the voices of our parents, teachers, friends, relatives, patients, and other assorted third parties until we no longer hear ourselves within. Those layers have imposed limitations — namely, our fears — and they prevent us from realizing our dreams.

I have found that the two biggest fears we have are the fear of not being enough and the fear of not having enough. Once we realize that we already are enough and that we have enough, the rest is easy. The first fear is often referred to as our self-image (or self-concept), also known as our self-esteem (what we really think of ourselves). It will be extremely difficult to create our ideal future if our image of self-capability is limited. We need to transform our beliefs about ourselves before we work on our practices. The great dental philosophers knew this. L.D. Pankey taught, "The first step in building your future is to know yourself."

One famous consultant many years ago would only accept pupils who went through therapy. When I was younger and still layered by too much ego, I thought this was ridiculous. I don't think so anymore. Before we can create goals for our practices, we must find out what is stopping us. I'm reminded of the cartoon character Pogo who said, "We have found the enemy and it is us."

Next month I will discuss our fear of not having enough and a third step to happiness — creating a winning philosophy of money.

Barry Polansky, DMD, practices dentistry in Cherry Hill, N.J. He is a member of the Visiting Faculty of The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education and author of the book The Art of the Examination: Why Patient Care Goes Beyond Clinical Correctness. Dr. Polansky also publishes a monthly newsletter titled Private Practice, and may be reached toll-free at (866) 428-4028, and also at www.drbarrypolansky.com.

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Enhancing Your Practice Growth with Chairside Milling

When practice growth and predictability matter...Get more output with less input discover chairside milling.