Why are you so scared all the time?

The other day I wrote about anger and its presence in the online community, particularly on Facebook. I spoke about how it often consumes people at a time when all they have to do is either say something nice or keep their mouths shut.

However, there’s another emotion that often plays an even bigger role in our success or failure. It can paralyze clinicians and motivate behavior that destroys friendships and changes lives.

If anger is the uninvited guest in our relationships, then fear is his older big brother who eggs him on. It causes decent folks to say nasty things when congratulations are really in order. It makes otherwise amazing folks retreat into their shells and it can have life-altering consequences with no repercussions for the instigator.

We all know who those insecure folks are. They have nasty, cynical comments to make about everything and everyone. You tell people about your new car and they make a mean joke about it. You mention a trip you’ve booked and they mention that it’s hurricane season. Nothing is ever good enough and their posts scream “LOOK AT ME!”.  

They are really the most destructive people on the web and they look for victims to destroy. If you’re “friends” with them, unfriend them. If you’re stuck in a Facebook group with them just ignore them. Don’t listen to them and don’t associate with them. Just ignore them because they can only cause harm and inspire fear in others.

We’re all wired differently and thankfully, I’m blessed with a healthy (or unhealthy) disregard for fear (or for what haters say) when it comes to making choices. I left my dad’s chain of dental practice in NY to move to Seattle when I was 5 years out of school and was the oldest resident in the US when I went back to residency at age 44. Obviously, not everyone would take as large risks or look at the world through my rose colored glasses.

But would you consider orthodontists risk takers?

Remember, risk isn’t measured only by flying in squirrel suits and swimming with sharks. How many folks in the general population would risk starting life over $300,000 in debt before spending upwards of another $500,000 to buy a business?

In my book, that’s a risk taker, but I can’t understand why the vast majority of younger docs live their practice lives so scared of pretty much everything. It seems like every decision is motivated by fear of failure instead of hope for success. They’re on defense all the time, never offense, and that’s a dangerous plan.

I belong to a number of Facebook groups and me and my more experienced colleagues often watch in dismay as younger doctors run from one great “thing” to another, all motivated by fear.

This week it’s a new piece of technology, next week it’s a new philosophy of treatment and the week afterwards it’s a CE course on dermal fillers as a revenue source. Worse yet, most see the orthodontist with one lone practice 3 miles away as their “competitor.”


As orthodontists, we’ve got corporate dentistry, SDC, GPs doing ortho, price shopping patients and an overdue economic recession working against us and that’s what you view as your competitor?!?! When I personally reached out to an older orthodontist in my community, inviting him to lunch, his front desk paused and said “You do know he’s an orthodontist, right?”  As if two orthodontists should never go to lunch together. This is the definition of insanity.

If you’ve got a great orthodontist in your region, get to know him or her. Don’t be scared of them “stealing” your business (as I’ve actually heard docs say). You two could be resources for one another.

I’m not saying that you should share the most intimate details of your practice, but certainly you could collaborate on treatment plans and discuss broader business issues.

As I’ve said a thousand times and I’ll say it again, our biggest threat comes from outside of the private orthodontist’s office.

Most importantly, if you’re a younger doctor, the surest way to fight fear is with a plan. Everyone worries so much about others, but spend little time on themselves.

Make a written plan for where you want to be in 1 and 3 years from now, down to the smallest detail. Follow that plan to the letter and don’t deviate. It’ll give you a road map and a sense of peace. You won’t be running around wondering how to keep the sky from falling.

Ultimately, the longer you practice, the less fearful you’ll become. Life is never as good as it is when it’s at its best and certainly not as bad as it is when it’s at its worst. You’ll learn that. Just roll with the punches, follow your plan and try to keep a healthy balance of offense and defense in your practice life.

Take a few chances with smaller risk items like hiring that extra assistant when you’re not sure if you’re ready or inviting a local orthodontist to lunch. You just mind find that it worked out fine or you’ll learn from the outcome and gain this wonderful thing called “experience”. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

All the best,

If you’re not a member of our geographically exclusive OrthoPreneursRD Facebook page 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 Glenn@OrthoPreneursRD.com to learn more or to see if your region is available.