I can tell you from personal experience that having a mentor has caused exceptional changes in my life. He was (and remains) one of the most savvy individuals I’ve ever met and his prescient views helped me navigate many hurdles I’ve faced in my business and personal lives.
Every Sunday morning we would meet and discuss topics and he would dispense wisdom, teaching me about things from money matters to spending time with family. However, there is one topic that stood out among the rest, something I’ll never forget.
He said, “To become financially successful you need to make 3 great financial moves and avoiding that 1 costly one. You do that and you’ll be set for life.“
He mentioned that these aforementioned moves are ones that only you would be able to recognize. They’re not going to be like winning the lottery or being hit by a steamroller.
I remember him telling me that at that point in my life (age 29ish) I had already made two great moves: One was marrying the woman I did and the other was buying my practice. I explained that I understood about the practice (though it was a real dog when I bought it) but I didn’t understand about how marrying my wife was seen as a great financial move.
He explained that the woman I married played a huge role in the spending habits of my family. He went on to say that I married the daughter of two teachers. She never longed to have a massive house or a fancy car or super expensive vacations, which allowed us to live within our means at a time in our lives when money was tight. She also supported our dreams by allowing me to spend money and travel all over the world for CE, understanding that it was an investment in our future.
It was hard for me to understand at the time that not every spouse was wired this way.
20 years after that talk, I completely understand my mentor’s advice. Experience is the greatest teacher, and while I can’t tell you if going to ortho school at age 44 was that 3rd great move or the 1 bad one (I’m sure I don’t need to explain residency’s impact on personal finances) his advice was dead on.
Now that I’m nearing 50, I don’t think that it’s as much about the 4 specific moves, but more about making sure that every move one makes sends them down the right path to financial freedom and that one should never put themselves in a deal whose negative outcome could cause financial peril.
If I could sum up his words differently, I would say: “Take into account the long-term financial consequences of every decision you make from who you marry to where you practice to the first (and subsequent) homes you buy.”
All too often, our decisions are driven by emotion and we can “throw caution to the wind” and not think about the money side of things. It’s not to say that one shouldn’t do something because of the money impact, but that the money should always be considered.
I sold the practice in 2011, went back to school and in 1996, when my mentor and I were chatting in a Seattle Starbucks, I never could have guessed that I would be where I am today; An orthodontist in Dallas writing a blog post read by hundreds of people every day. But, both of us knew one thing for sure, and in August I celebrate 23 years of marriage to an amazing woman, about whom I can say a bunch of great things…
…but please never reveal to her that she was one of my “great moves”.
All the best,
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