The Mentor Factor

Recently, I was privileged to interview Dr. Lee Sheldon, a wonderful periodontist/implant surgeon who practices in Melbourne, Fla.

by Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS

Recently, I was privileged to interview Dr. Lee Sheldon, a wonderful periodontist/implant surgeon who practices in Melbourne, Fla. At the close of the interview, I asked Lee if he had anything else to say. He replied, "Y'know, Eileen, all our lives we are in awe of certain successful individuals. We think we could never approach them, because we consider ourselves to be the lesser people, and that great people like them would never have time for us."

"But the truth is," he said, "those great people are great because they make themselves accessible to people like us who need help. They make the time, even though we find that hard to believe. So, find yourself a mentor, Eileen, and reach out to that person. You won't regret it." (Lee doesn't realize it yet, but I have adopted him as a mentor!)

His words meant a great deal to me. I thought about some of the mentors in my business life — certainly my parents, especially my dad, who always had time for me and who taught me how the power of a positive mental attitude can move mountains.

There was George LaPorte, DDS, a dentist who employed me as a hygienist in Wickford, R.I., in the 1980s. George taught me, by example, what strong leadership is all about, as well as the importance of belief in one's self. George always made time to talk to me, I suspect, because he knew I needed it, even when I didn't know it myself.

Another important mentor for me was a New Jersey periodontist, Dr. Tony Di Cesare. Tony's gift is the ability to make every individual feel that he or she is the most important person in the world. I believe that I am only one of hundreds who consider Tony to be their mentor.

I could go on and on about the mentors I have known and loved, but I want to make a point here. I recently had a conversation with a general dentist I have known for 20 years. It seems he has become disillusioned with his study club. The reason, he says, is that he considers himself to be at a higher echelon than 90 percent of the other doctors in the club. He is genuinely concerned that, by spending time around doctors who are not at or beyond his level, he is not going to move forward. Funny, I read the same philosophy last month, in a book authored by Gary Null. I disagree with that viewpoint, because of The Mentor Factor.

It goes back to the dialogue I had with Lee Sheldon about the truly great mentors out there. These individuals are paragons of wisdom; they realize that as they mentor others, they advance further on their own path to success. In short, if you help someone else, you will better yourself in the process. Everyone is on a journey, and some need more assistance than others. Help another, and the universal truth of "what goes around comes around" will apply.

I felt inclined to sermonize to this disillusioned dentist a bit, hoping he might realize that so many people in his study club probably look up to him. By making himself accessible to those less advanced, he will move forward on his journey to success ... and probably at an accelerated pace! I wonder if I got through to him?

If you are already one of life's success stories, avail yourself to those who might learn from you. Conversely, if you have some distance to go on your journey, take to heart the words of Lee Sheldon on finding the mentors in your life. I have. If there is someone I admire and want to reach out to, especially someone I automatically think would not give me the time of day, I take a deep breath and then call or email that person to ask my questions. I have come to realize that these great people are flattered that I would value their opinions. It's a win-win situation. Carpe diem

Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS, is a dental practice management consultant in Perrineville, N.J. Currently, she lectures, writes, and provides customized workshops for doctors and their staffs. She can be reached at (732) 446-1461 or EEMorrissey@aol.com.

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