There’s an old quote from the last 5 star US General, Omar Bradley:” We must navigate by the stars, not the light of every passing ship.”
Back in 1999, when I was practicing in Seattle, I used to see a ton of 23 year old Microsoft or other tech wunderkinds pull up in their Ferraris or Porsches, drop loads of cash on things and live like rock stars. My team would marvel at their lifestyles and remark about how successful they were. Then 2001 came along and reality adjusted itself. These former millionaires were no working in banks or doing whatever job they could to make ends meet and their 5 minutes of fame and wealth were over (for those who didn’t save).
Today, the world comes at us very quickly. The internet has allowed us the ability to have an internet presence and meet someone from around the globe without even thinking about the incredible dynamic of it. True billionaires are being created overnight as tech companies go public and there are tons of famous personalities who have done nothing more than start a company and make wads full of cash. Many look at them and call them successful. People turn to them and ask advice on how they “did it”. They had maybe 3-5 years of success and are now branded the new kings of their field. But are they really “successful” or did they instead achieve some success in one area of their life? If it sounds like a petty question, it’s not. Especially if you look at all the people chasing these so called “experts”.
If you define “success” as making a ton of money, sure they are financially successful, but isn’t there so much more than that? Is the success defined as the outcome where accidents or luck play a role, or is it the process, the hard work the decades of seasoning in the business world that forged an incredible character? It’s Warren Buffett vs. Tim Ferriss. I love Tim Ferriss and his excitement and what he brings to our lives, but if you ask him about speaking to your group, even he says he wants to ride the wave of his 15 minutes of fame. Would Buffett ever say that? Would you ever expect Buffett to say that? It’s hamburger versus steak.
For younger docs out there, find yourself a mentor who has been at it for a while AND isn’t an orthodontist. It’s cool to hang out and learn from our peers, but we have so much to learn about life, not just money. I’ve gotten practice tips from my friends who’ve run 3 million dollar ortho practices for a few years. I’ve learned life lessons from my friends who’ve run successful businesses for decades. Hamburger versus steak.
Go find someone who can teach you about life. Orthodontics, no matter ho much you love practicing, isn’t your life. It’s your occupation. When the day comes many years form now when they speak of you in past tense, what will they say? Who did you help? What path in life did you forge? Make your life exceptional and you’ll see the importance of your job fade away.
How you define success is up to you, but I see it as so much more than money and some practice success. That’s actually a very small part of my definition. My family, faith and friends are far more important than anything in orthodontics or practice and I’ve always chosen to navigate by the light of the stars. What about you?
All the best,
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