How To Eat An Elephant

Ok, first off, I am most definitely NOT recommending that you eat an actual elephant, but rather, use that famous figure of speech to help you take control of your practice and life.

Every single day I have conversations with younger (and some older) clinicians who feel overwhelmed with their ability to run their practices, let alone balancing it with their personal lives. Staffing, overhead, marketing, treatment acceptance, CE, technology, and so on.

If you’re anything like I was for the first 5 years in practice, you find yourself constantly running from one “fire” to another, never feeling like you’ve caught your breath or that you’ve really ever accomplished anything. It’s just running from one crisis to another and repeating the vicious cycle over and over again.

If you’re an associate, it can be just as difficult dealing with a tough boss, an unknown future, team members that don’t get paid by you and finding your future “landing spot” in a very crowded world.

But there’s good news! You don’t have to stay on this psychologically terrifying treadmill forever.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already in a free peer Facebook group like Orthopreneurs. That’s a great place to start. You may also already be a member of a paid group like OrthopreneursRD where others are more likely to share secrets and personal information to help shorten the learning curve.  Perhaps you’ve hired a consultant or traveled to a course. All of these are great things to do, but back to the elephant in the room…

The average elephant weighs about 12,000 pounds. If I gave you 12,000 pounds of your favorite food and told you to eat all of it, you’d obviously laugh me out of the room. But, if you ate 1 pound per meal, 3 times a day, you’d have eaten it all in 11 years. 

I’m not saying you’d enjoy it or that it would be easy and it’s definitely not quick; like working on your practice a lot of the time you’d have to force yourself to “eat” when you’re not in the mood and you’d probably get tired of eating at some point, but you need to tackle a little bit every day, even when you don’t want to.

Practices don’t change overnight. Sure, you can get great tips from peers and follow what a consultant told you, but they are the proverbial elephants of our lives and take a LONG time to change.

It takes years of dedication for a practice to mature and many young clinicians try to tackle everything at once, only finding that they haven’t accomplished much when they look back at the end of the day.

Again, and this bears repeating: Your dream practice will not happen in 2,3 or even 5 years. It takes a while no matter how smart, talented or “gifted” you may think you are.

Every day, pick just one thing that you MUST work on that day. Maybe it’s a marketing idea or a policy for the team. Dedicate yourself to that one thing and stay true to it. Maybe it’ll take you three or four days, but stay on it. Of course you’ll need to put out fires, but figure out what is truly time critical AND important and stay on task.

Like my recent post about being true to who you are, this post is about staying true to your time abilities. Not everyone can go on minimal sleep or multi-task really efficiently like others you may want to emulate. Be honest with yourself about how much time you really have, what you can realistically get done in that time and then make it count. If you tackle one practice change a day, you’ll be amazed at how much you get done over time.

Irrespective of your abilities, the best news is that he/she who works the hardest ON their practice is usually the winner.

And don’t try to compare your practice to the other “dream” practices you see others brag about on social media. Facebook makes everyone’s lives look perfect; it’s what goes on when the camera isn’t on that really matters and I promise you, from personal experience, that these “perfect” practices face the exact same problems you do. Don’t get swept away into believing that they/I/we have it all figured out because nobody does.

You’re just as smart as anyone out there and I promise that if you tackle one thing at a time, the changes over time will be awesome. But you have to start somewhere  and you are NOT alone. Reach out to me (or others in your groups) if you need anything.

Oh, and the crazy thing is that you’ll actually end up eating about 40,000 pounds of food because when you become really good at tackling one task at a time, you’ll start taking on more and bigger challenges and your practice and life will be the one you always dreamt of.

Like I tell my kids: “If it was easy, everyone would have it.”

Now get your fork and knife because that 12,000 pounds ain’t gonna eat itself…

All the best,

If you’re not a member of our geographically exclusive OrthoPreneursRD Facebook group there are only two prerequisites: You’re an orthodontist (yes, you can be an associate) and you want to contribute to a group of like-minded peers who have come together to share our practice ideas and solve our common business, leadership and management issues. Email me at to see if you’re region is available.