The year was 1992 and I was just out of dental school. I was working in several chain dental offices, doing the best I could in a system that simply isn’t geared for high end patient care. I spent a lot of time with my non-dentist friends and a number of the other GPs with whom I worked at the “chain”. I really wasn’t headed anywhere and didn’t have a plan.
Fast forward 4 years. We moved to Seattle and I found a mentor. Someone who genuinely took an interest in my personal growth. He introduced me to some of the most respected dentists and specialists and I started spending my spare time in their offices, soaking up whatever wisdom they dispensed. I found my practice growing, and my clinical skills become better. Some could make the argument that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s why I was growing. Others could make the point that I was simply further out of school and progression was natural. I have a different feeling on the subject.
It’s been said, time and again, that we are the average of the 5 people we spend time with. If you’re hanging out with a bunch of folks who party all weekend, use their spare time to plan said parties and rarely work on personal development, chances are you’re not going to be as productive as a person who surrounds themselves with high achievers with life goals.
My experience in my early days in Seattle taught me that I needed to be around people who helped me achieve more. If you’re a younger clinician, you need to surround yourself with people who will help you “raise the bar”. So, please allow me to offer a few quick suggestions:
1. Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be the kind of relationship where you meet with them every week, and it doesn’t have to be someone 25 years older than you, but there is immense value in having a mentor in your life. They’ve walked the steps you’re taking and can help you avoid common pitfalls. It could be as simple as getting together for coffee every now and then or a text exchange when you have a quick question.
2. Hire a coach. There is a difference between a mentor who helps you and a professional coach who guides you. There are a ton of coaches out there, both clinical and business, who can help you set goals and achieve them. While a mentor can be that business savvy guy or gal from down the block, a coach is someone who is generally trained to assist in personal development. Ask for references and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.
3. Join groups. Years ago, I had to join a local study club to meet peers. Nowadays, we can meet online in groups, both paid and free. There are many choices, and if you aren’t sure what you don’t know, just join any number of groups and within a few weeks, your eyes will open to the areas you need more help. You can still join a local study club and they have a purpose, but if the “set meeting times” thing doesn’t work for you, online groups might be the answer. Above all, be active. Don’t be the whiner or complainer or worse yet, a cynic whose only voice is one of doubt. Keep an open mind about everyone and everything and contribute useful and positive information. You’ll get out what you put in.
4. Spend time at other practices that are where you want to be in 5 years. Learn from those who have taken the steps that got them to the next level. These aren’t mentors, per se, but rather places to visit and learn. Sure, you may keep a friendship going after your visit, and the energy and lessons you bring back will help your practice get to where you want it to be.
5. Meet successful business owners from outside our profession. We tend to follow and learn only from those in our profession and forget that the nature of business is the same for almost all business owners. Things like business plans, HR, leadership and management are topics that are addressed by all owners and I would argue that most clinicians-even the successful ones- have a lot to learn in these areas. Some of the best tips I’ve gotten have come from non clinicians.
6. Evaluate who you spend time with. Yeah, I know, this isn’t the fun part, but is that friend of yours who sits on the couch playing Madden ’17 all day in a weed infused stupor the guy who’s going to help you grow? Do your weekend party friends really have a great influence on you? It’s been well proven that the people you spend time with have a huge influence on your future. So, don’t just drop them. Inspire them to do more and to grow if they want to be a part of your future. You can meet for the rare drinks or fantasy football league, but it’s been proven, time and again, that if you’re the most accomplished person in your circle of friends, it may be time to evaluate your social group.
Experience is a great teacher and you’re going to learn most of these things on your own. My goal is just to give you some ideas that I still live to this day, 25 years out of school.
Be positive, be curious, make a plan for your future and never stop learning. The people you choose to be around are going to make or break your success, so choose wisely.
All the best,
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