Breeding mediocrity

June 1, 2005
This month, I am fired up! Within this last month, I have seen, heard, or been part of a plague which infects us throughout our lifetime, and I am sick of it! What is it, you ask? Mediocrity!

This month, I am fired up! Within this last month, I have seen, heard, or been part of a plague which infects us throughout our lifetime, and I am sick of it! What is it, you ask? Mediocrity!

Complacency breeds mediocrity! I used to think this was a saying used only by my parents or that infamous group we only know as “they.” This saying has led me on a quest to find those who simply do not believe in this, because I find that far too many of us do. What do I mean? Well, let’s start with our early childhood where there was always someone with a better toy, or a bigger piece of cake, and all we did was whine about it to anyone who would listen! Fast forward to today. The only thing that has changed is the same message is delivered with big words which basically mean the same thing. What it all centers around is the status quo; the median; the average. Why are so many people caught up with what others are doing and how they are doing it? Why do they strive to make everyone conform to this dogma of mediocrity?

Last month, I read with great interest an article written by Dr. Richard Simonsen in the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry. In this article, he openly attacked something which I so adamantly protect: The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI). I think I understood his point of contention - that membership and title come into question by the sheer number of letters which follow a person’s name and degree; namely, the LVIM. His column focused on a protocol established by LVI to allow those who attend their courses an opportunity to test and challenge their skills and knowledge beyond the “average” education taught there.

Dr. Simonsen also said he thought fellowship in such respected organizations as the AACD (American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry) were not “earned,” since they were not degrees earned at a university. There was no mention of the AGD (Academy of General Dentistry) and its prestigious award of honor for excellence beyond “average,” nor was there mention of any other specialty practices and the ways in which they bestow honors, such as in pedo, endo, perio, or oral surgery.

The fact is that LVI established a way to create excellence in their graduates by challenging them to produce both clinically and didactically. This sets an extremely high bar for those who seek to jump over it. Just as in any other organization, group, or affiliation, there are those who seek more. There are those who seek to be better than average and better than they thought they ever could be. What better way to do this than to be scrutinized by your peers and challenged to perform to standards above and beyond what most will ever do in a lifetime?

Dr. Simonsen’s advice for those seeking restorative excellence through LVI - or any other hands-on program for that matter - is to seek a formal education in prosthodontics. I believe the restorative work performed by those at LVI or in the AACD is far beyond what the average prosthodontist does!

We all fall into complacency and mediocrity at some time in our lives, even me. Our profession as a whole has set the standard to do so. Insurance companies try to tell us we should all have similar fees, because, they say, UCR is based on an average of fees for a procedure done by offices in the same zip code. Continuing education has been broadened to the point where you can take a quiz every month in a dental journal and fulfill the necessary and legal requirements to provide continued dental care to your patients. Advertising is promoted as unprofessional and is strictly regulated, enforced, and controlled by the very people who lobby against its use: other dentists. How does any of this make sense?

I’ve said it before - average is OK if that’s all you want in life. But to accept the status quo because someone says you shouldn’t step beyond the line is like dying a slow and steady death. It’s time we all stopped pointing fingers at those who are capable and willing to set higher goals, go out, and do it for ourselves! It’s time we stopped listening to those who degrade and diminish what others have devoted their blood, sweat, and tears to building. Maybe it’s time we all evaluate that area of complacency or normalcy in our lives and make a change toward something that makes us feel uncomfortable - not uncomfortable from doing something wrong, but uncomfortable from doing something different. It’s time to stop breeding mediocrity!

Dr. Matt Bynum lectures internationally on esthetic and reconstructive dentistry, practice management, motivation, and team-building. He is a clinical instructor and featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and is co-director and co-founder of the “Achieving Extreme Success” lecture series. Dr. Bynum maintains a full-time private practice in Simpsonville, S.C. Reach him at (864) 297-5585 or [email protected].