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Tiger Traits

June 1, 2007
Nine lessons all dental professionals can learn from Tiger Woods
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Nine lessons all dental professionals can learn from Tiger Woods

In last month’s issue of Dental Economics®, we learned the first four traits that have helped shape professional golfer Tiger Woods’ incredible success on the golf course and in life. These “Tiger Traits” are:

  1. Identify and develop natural talents
  2. Create a clear and compelling dream
  3. Select teachers, heroes, and teammates who guide, inspire, and support
  4. Be confident

This month I will discuss the other five traits. They are:

  1. Manufacture magnificent mental models
  2. Let actions do the talking
  3. Constantly improve in good times and bad
  4. Be likeable
  5. Be grateful, give back

TIGER TRAIT #5: Manufacture Magnificent Mental Models

I use the term mental models to describe the brain processes that help us make sense of our world. Mental models are constructed in our three-pound brains using 100 billion neurons (nerve cells) and several hundred trillion synapses (connections between neurons).

Our mental models act like the director of a movie: they decide which scenes are included in the movie, where the camera is pointed in each scene, whether the shot is a close-up, wide-angle, or panorama, and so on.

These models also have the ability to distort the footage shot with “special effects.” In the end, our mental models construct “virtual reality” simulations (mind movies) of our world. We then act on these simulations, not external reality.

Through the years, I have read more than 20 books, dozens of articles, and viewed several DVDs by and about Tiger. From this mountain of information, I have discovered that he extensively uses four mental models. These models can be useful for all of us as we approach the great game of dentistry.

One of Tiger’s favorite mental models is called Zoom In - Zoom Out. When you zoom in, you focus more intently on the details of a situation. When you zoom out, you see the big picture. Before Tiger hits a shot, he zooms out by focusing on all the factors in his environment. Then he zooms in, focusing on excellent execution of the shot.

Zooming out and zooming in are important in your personal as well as your dental life. In your personal life, it’s a great idea to sit down at the beginning of a week and zoom out on all your family and personal desires for the week. Then, during the week, zoom in as you take action on individual desires. The same is true in your dental practice.

Whether you zoom in or zoom out first depends on the situation. If you are in a short-term crisis situation, first zoom in on solving the crisis. Then zoom out on why the crisis occurred in the first place, and how you can prevent it from happening again.

For a negative situation that is not a crisis, zoom out on the causes and the resources available. Then zoom in on the actions you need to resolve the situation. If you zoom out and are overwhelmed by everything you have to do in a day, zoom in by creating a “to do” list of specific actions to take and the specific order in which you will accomplish them.

TIGER TRAIT #6: Let Actions Do the Talking

Because of Tiger’s heritage (his father is one-half African-American, one-fourth American Indian, and one-fourth Chinese while his mother is one-half Thai, one-fourth Chinese, and one-fourth Caucasian), Tiger experienced racism on numerous occasions on and off the golf course as a child. Each time this happened, his mother said, “When you have been wronged, when you have been angered, you need not say anything. Let your clubs speak for you.”

Tida knew that two wrongs don’t make a right. She knew that if Tiger responded in a hostile manner to the injustices directed toward him, his actions would be controlled by the attacker. By letting his clubs speak for him, Tiger demonstrated that he was in control of his actions. He chose the road “less traveled” by many others.

Do you let your actions speak for you? If so, what are they saying?

TIGER TRAIT #7: Constantly Improve in Good Times and Bad

From Tiger Trait #3, “Select teachers and heroes who guide and inspire,” you learned about Tiger’s first victory in a PGA Major when he won the 1997 Masters, posting the lowest score in tournament history. He had just defeated the world’s best golfers by 12 strokes. Tiger was at the top of golf’s totem pole.

But he also had a golf swing that was not consistent. So, after the biggest win of his career, he decided to completely retool his swing. This, as any golfer will tell you, is no small task. Tiger told Butch Harmon, his swing coach, “I want to change it now!” Tiger knew that, even in the best of times, he needed to improve his swing to keep his dreams alive.

Tiger then went two years and played in more than 10 Major tournaments before he would win his second one. But this was just the lull before the storm.

In 1999, at age 23, Tiger won 10 PGA tournaments, including the PGA Championship. In 2000, he did even better. He won 12 tournaments around the world, including the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship.

The day after he won the PGA title, at a time when Tiger was the toast of the town, he was on the practice range near his home trying to improve his skills. With his win at the 2001 Masters, he became the first person to be the champion in all four PGA Majors at one time.

Tiger knew the secret to mastery at age six. By that time, he had already made two holes-in-one. People asked him, “How did you get so good, Tiger?” His answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

Tiger Woods says, “Tomorrow I will be a better player than I was today.” Can you say with the same conviction as Tiger that you will be a better person tomorrow than you are today? Can you say that your dental practice will be better tomorrow than it is today? You can if you make Tiger Trait #7 an integral part of your life.

TIGER TRAIT #8: Be Likeable

At its peak, the traditional television audience for a PGA tournament was eight or nine ratings points. Tiger’s triumph at the 1997 Masters was the most watched golf tournament ever, achieving a rating of 15.8! This indicates that almost half the viewing audience was composed of nontraditional golf fans.

Tiger Woods is admired by millions of people of all ages, backgrounds, and locales. He is also well on his way to becoming the first billionaire sports athlete. ESPN Magazine estimates that Tiger will earn $6 billion in his lifetime with 75 percent of this total coming from product endorsements. In 2006, it is estimated that Tiger earned $100 million from prize money, appearance fees, and product endorsements.

There are many reasons for Tiger’s spectacular endorsement success. Being extremely likeable is one of these. Tim Adams, author of the book “The Likeability Factor,” defines likeability as “the ability to create positive attitudes in other people through the delivery of emotional and physical benefits.”

I believe likeability is the overlooked secret to success. Think about it. There are hundreds of personal success books written each year. Most focus on the choices people must make in their daily lives to be successful. These books ignore one simple truth: Your success in life is primarily determined by the choices made by other people about you.

Isn’t success in your personal life determined by who wants to be friends with you, spend time with you, and have a romantic relationship with you? In your dental practice, isn’t your success determined by who wants to work with you, come to your practice, and accept your treatment recommendations?

Being likeable also will help keep you from being sued. Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer says, “People just don’t sue doctors they like.” Research done by Wendy Levinson confirms Burkin’s statement. As described in “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” by Malcolm Gladwell, Levinson recorded hundreds of doctor-patient conversations. She then divided the doctors into two groups: those who had never been sued and those who had been sued at least twice.

Levinson found that the doctors who had never been sued:

  • spent at least three minutes longer with their patients,
  • were more likely to engage in active listening by making statements such as, “Go on, tell me more about that,” and
  • were far more likely to laugh or be funny during the visit.

There was no difference in the amount or quality of information the doctors gave patients concerning the patients’ conditions or details about medication. The difference between the sued and non-sued doctors was entirely in how they interacted with their patients, not what they said.

TIGER TRAIT #9: Be Grateful, Give Back

Back in Tiger Trait #3, “Select teachers and heroes who guide and inspire,” you learned about Tiger’s stunning victory at the 1997 Masters. As Tiger teed off during the final round holding a nine-stroke lead, Earl and Tida Woods were among the thousands lining the first tee and fairway. But another very significant man had made the trip from Pompano Beach, Fla., to witness Tiger’s coronation. His name was Lee Elder. In 1975, Lee was the first African-American to play in the Masters.

At the conclusion of the final round following a 12-stroke victory, Tiger walked off the 18th green to the historic Butler Cabin for a television interview and to be fitted with the “green jacket” given annually to the Masters champion. Then came the trophy presentation ceremony back on the 18th green. As Tiger left Butler Cabin, he spotted Lee Elder in the crowd and shouted, “Wait!” The assembled throng became strangely silent as Tiger motioned to the older man, saying, “Lee, come here.” As the two men embraced - Elder, the first African-American to play at the Masters, and Tiger, the first man of color to win the Masters - Tiger whispered in Elder’s ear, “Thanks for making this possible.”

Tiger has made an attitude of gratitude a way of life. Two years earlier, at the same course, Tiger repaid another installment on his debt. His win at the 1994 U.S. Amateur gave him an automatic invitation to play in his first Masters in 1995. Tiger played well enough in the first two rounds to make the cut. Then, at the end of the second day, the young Woods did something that epitomized the person he had become.

In the early evening, after a long and emotionally draining day of golf, Tiger was still wearing his golf shoes when he left the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club and made a short trip to an overplayed municipal golf course.

Upon arriving, he met with the caddies of Augusta National. They were all African-Americans. Until 1982, all participants in the Masters were required to use Augusta National caddies. They had become a forgotten group since today’s professional golfers provide their own caddies. Tiger wanted to express his gratitude to these men.

While the act of expressing gratitude is valuable, it leads to another even more valuable act - giving back. This is what Tiger did by his visit with the caddies. On the same scruffy municipal course, he conducted a golf clinic for a group of African-American youth. Tiger had conducted golf clinics dozens of times at tournaments. But on this occasion, with his history-making Masters performance as a backdrop, this situation had a special significance.

Earl Woods summed up the day when he said, “This is the culmination of a very hectic, long day. This young man has made his first cut in a PGA tournament, and he made it in a Major Championship. I’ve watched this young man pass from adolescence to manhood, and I’m very proud of him.” From the beginning, his parents said, “We’ve raised Tiger to be a better person than he is a golfer.” That day in Augusta showed that Earl and Tida Woods had done their job well.

It’s interesting to note at what point in life people develop an attitude of gratitude. Some people need a near-death experience. Some people develop an attitude of gratitude only when something or someone has been taken. As an example, a parent dies and the surviving family now feels more grateful for those family members who are still alive.

Perhaps a man who has been unhappy that his spouse is working suddenly feels blessed that his wife has an income if he suddenly loses his job. Some people are only grateful once a year, on a Thursday in late November. But to gain the most from gratitude, don’t wait for a near-death experience, the passing of a loved one, or Thanksgiving to be grateful. Be grateful every day. Make it a habit.

Here’s a three-step plan for creating an “Attitude of Gratitude:”

Every morning: While you are in the shower or on your way to work, count your blessings. Answer this question, “What 10 people, places, things, and experiences am I most grateful for in life today?” Don’t do the same 10 every day. Mix it up. Of the 10, come up with five new blessings daily. They don’t have to be big blessings. Even small, usually unnoticed blessings are great.

During the day: On a regular basis, express your gratitude to those who have helped or are helping you in life. It’s the first installment on the debt you owe them. It can be expressed to almost anyone - family, friends, people at work, employers, employees, sales clerks, food servers, postal workers, garbage collectors, even perfect strangers. Express your gratitude face-to-face, on the phone, by an e-mail, or with a handwritten note.

Right before you go to sleep: Answer these two questions: “What events or situations occurred today for which I am grateful?” and “What people did I interact with today with whom I am grateful?”

The emotion of gratitude is important because people often feel obligated to give back. As you learned earlier, Tiger Woods has the Attitude of Gratitude habit. Tiger gives back on a regular basis. At an early age, his parents taught him the “share and care” philosophy.

In Tom Callahan’s book, “In Search of Tiger,” Earl Woods remarked:

“If Tiger had wanted to be a plumber, I wouldn’t have minded, as long as he was a hell of a plumber. The goal was for him to be a good person. He’s a great person. He always had a gentle heart. There was a time when Tiger collected coins, gold coins. They were his pride and joy. One day, after seeing a TV documentary, he came to me with the coins and said, ‘Dad, could you send these to the kids in Africa?’ Now I think everything he has given, and will give, as kind of like those coins.”

In what ways do you give back? Doing a smile make-over once a year for a deserving member of your community is a great way to start. Drop me an e-mail at [email protected], and I will send you directions on how to do one that can enhance your reputation.

I love the following poetic quote by Earl Woods about his son:

I look forward to experiencing what Earl Woods is talking about. I am sure Tiger will follow his dad’s advice and his legend will grow. When you follow the nine Tiger Traits, I know your life will do the same.

The preceding was from Dr. Booth’s newest book, “Tiger Traits: 9 Success Secrets You Can Discover from Tiger Woods to Be a Business Champion.” To order an autographed copy of the book or learn how you can have the author make a Tiger Traits presentation to your group, go to or call (800) 917-0008. Tiger Traits is an interpretation of Tiger Woods’ life example as compiled by Dr. Nate Booth. The author and the book are not affiliated with or endorsed by Tiger Woods.

Nate Booth, DDS, teaches comprehensive case acceptance at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. His in-office, video-based training program, “The ‘Yes’ System: How to Make It Easy for Patients to Accept Comprehensive Dentistry,” has helped hundreds of dentists do more big cases. Through his telephone-coaching program, Dr. Booth assists dentists in creating the practices of their dreams. For more information, call him at (800) 917-0006, or visit his Web site at

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