Is Humility the Key to Winning?

The reverse side of the Kentucky State Quarter...



In my last post I left you with one word: humility.  That was unfair because in the comments I realized that I didn’t tell you how to become humble.  And believe me I am not so arrogant that I think I can tell you, but I have learned a few lessons in my time.

And some of those lessons were learned at, of all places, the racetrack.

With Orb winning the Kentucky Derby last Saturday,  I was transported back to a time when I spent many of my leisure hours at the track.  I admit it…I was part of the subculture,  I already had the name…Doc, so I fit right in.  I used to spend a lot of prep time handicapping the races, and I did quite well.  I was known around the rail as someone who knew how to pick winners.

But picking winners is not easy.  I remember one guy, let’s call him Lenny because that’s a great track name too, who would always ask me who I liked, and then he would go and bet another horse…usually the favorite, because in the end, his decision making process led him to consult with what psychologist Robert Cialdini (Influence), calls the social mirror.

Lenny would cash a few tickets, and sometimes he would hit a long-shot…but there was no consistency.  No rhyme or reason to his betting.  But he was convinced that his process was responsible for his occasional success.  His losers?  Well, he always cursed his losers…they weren’t his fault.

I did much better, but I eventually lost interest and stopped going.  Years later I ran into Lenny at a local ice cream shop.  Same old Lenny, still chasing his dreams...he never stopped to figure out what he didn’t know…still telling everyone how good he was doing.  Lenny proved the old adage:

“You can beat a race, but you can’t beat the races.”

What did he need?

Humility…it probably could have saved him a lot of money.

So what is the connection to dentistry?  Most dentists don’t know what they don’t know.  They give themselves credit for the winners and blame their staff and patients for the losers.  There’s a lot more to interpersonal communication than meets the eye.  The late Walter Hailey once told me, “You have to kiss a lot frogs to succeed.”

I’d rather “know my frogs.”

You can learn humility in other places as well…on the golf course, at the poker table or at home with your spouse.

Life is the teacher.  But some people never get it…and what I learned a long time is that winning is a habit…and so is losing.






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What Makes a Dentist a Master?





This is a question that I have thought about for a long time.  Most dentists take pride in their “hands” work.  The quality of their prep and their impressions.

But I have seen dentists with excellent hand skills who truly do not understand the nature of the work.

And I have seen dentists with “average” hand skills who consistently produce great results and might even be considered masters.

The definition of a master is someone who has full command over the subject of study.  I can’t imagine calling someone a master who doesn’t possess the social skills necessary to control his or her environment.

Great communication and presentation skills are developed over time by a master.  This is true in any field.

From a technical view what I have noticed is that masters understand the complexity of dentistry.  In an earlier post I mentioned the definition of complexity:

  Nature favors complexity.  By that I mean things that are highly differentiated and integrated at the same time.

For example a single crown, or an inlay or filling is a relatively simple procedure.  Fairly uncomplicated.  After taking occlusion and perio into consideration it is a matter of preparing the tooth, taking an impression and making a temporary.  Pretty simple for most dentists.

In the laboratory we get to see dentists sending in work that is pretty complex.  Multiple units, in both arches that require a lot of information to restore at the bench.

Herein lies the difference. 

The master understands the complex nature of the work of dentistry.  Patients do not understand how complex work can get.

Insurance companies don’t really care how complex the case is.

Yet, continuing education programs teach dentists at weekend programs to take on cases that require the mindset of a master.

The mission of the Pankey Institute is to narrow the gap between what is know and what is practiced…that gap is pretty wide these days.



Build a Dental Practice You Can Be Proud Of

I do Bikram Yoga. 

Standing Locked Leg-Concrete- Like Lamppost

For those who don’t know, it’s 90 minutes of uninterrupted asanas, or postures, in a room heated to 105 degrees. 

The postures are meant to help with strength, balance and flexibility.  During one short portion, they call the spine strengthening series, there are three postures we do on one leg.

They call that one leg, the “standing locked leg.”


The instructor usually tells the class to think of it as one solid piece, concrete, like a lamppost.  It takes a long time to develop that standing locked leg.  If the student ignores the instructor and does too much, the leg begins to bend, wobble and shake.

The posture is over.  Everything falls apart…you crumble. 
In dentistry the masticatory system is based on something similar to the standing locked leg…centric relation.  If it is not established…well you know the rest.

Peter Dawson calls centric relation a starting point.  If we don’t establish a starting point, we have no foundation.

This goes for mechanical structures as well as the structures we build in our practices.  Building a successful practice is dependent on starting with a philosophy based on your idea of what it means to be successful.
I love this idea of the word “complexity.”

Nature favors complexity.  By that I mean things that are highly differentiated and integrated at the same time. 

If things are highly differentiated but not integrated they are complicated and don’t function very well.  If things are undifferentiated and integrated, they are plain simple.  Human beings are the most complex organisms ever created…they are favored to survive.
Our country is complex.  Highly differentiated and hopefully integrated…to survive.
Our practices, if they are to survive, and thrive, need a philosophy.  A set of guiding principles to act as the standing locked leg of our practice.
Join me in this preliminary discussion of philosophy.


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