It’s Friday in fixed pre-clinic. It’s custom tray fabrication day with this absolutely horrid material that we later learned is totally carcinogenic, FYI. We take the upper full arch practical. Two layers of baseplate wax for relief. Cut holes through said wax for my custom tray stops. Layer in the material for the stops. Fabricate my tray. Handle in place. Perfectly trimmed. Perfectly smoothed. And my grade … 0 out of 2.
I’m not a happy guy. I don’t get zeros.
So, being the meditative genius I am, I approach the faculty member who gave me the zero. Pretty sure he was inebriated at the time. True story … at which time, in his infinite wisdom he simply espouses that maybe I just don’t understand the concept of a custom tray.
The rest of that story, you’ll have to question me on in person. The ending may or may not be appropriate for print.
Flashback No. 2
It’s Thursday in Restorative Clinic. I’m working on one of those 37 surface amalgams we do in dental school. You know the one. Upper second molar. 78-year-old male. Medically compromised. No money for the crown, so we’re going to rebuild the entire tooth directly. My experience was 180 degrees from the first flashback.
I’m not only a happy guy, I’m blown away by my faculty member.
Dr. Whiz (short hand for his full name). Whiz was that professor we’ve all had who clearly was living his passion. I’m not sure what he loved more. The dentistry, or us, the students. He didn’t just teach me what was important, he taught me why. He didn’t just tell me why, he helped me see it, feel it, and most importantly, he helped me want it.
Whenever I had the opportunity to sign up with Whiz in clinic, I did. I did my best work with him. I studied harder. I prepared more. I showed up earlier and stayed later, and I loved every second of it. Whiz ignited my future!
Fast-Forward No. 1
I graduated dental school, completed a GPR, and I was ready to CRUSH this dentistry thing. Everything was lining up, even better than I had planned. I landed my dream associateship with Stay Ignited and Own it! David Rice, DDS Power to Succeed one of the part-time faculty members from my school.
It’s Wednesday of the third week. The office manager approaches me with a pan and asks if I can give her the patient’s perio probing scores. I say, “Sure. What treatment room is the patient in?” She says, “The patient isn’t here.” Well, this is kind of a clinical thing, so … Surprising to me, she notes that the owner doc (of my dream associateship) does this all the time.
Fast-Forward No. 2
Short story is, with some serious intention, a strategy and time, I found my dream practice. The dentist I purchased from was a brilliant clinician, businessman and CE junkie. The third of those three proved to be the most valuable, as one day, I found this one gem of an outlier amidst the standard clinical dental stuff most would have.
That gem led our team to multiple three-day weekend courses. We learned all about people. What made them tic. How to help them better based on what they valued. How to educate them in a way they understood so instead of buying the next iPhone or taking the next vacation, they invested in their oral health.
Short story is we grew so fast, we needed another doc, so we brought on my then-associate and now parter, Mark.
Sidebar No. 1.
It’s Saturday. One week after my associate Mark and his wife had their little girl, Riley Paige. Imagine your him for a second. He’s two years out of school. The dental school beatings are becoming distant memories. New house. New marriage. New baby.
It’s 2:23 p.m. exactly. You’ll understand in a moment how I remember that so clearly. I get a call from one of our dental assistants. She saw an ambulance heading into Mark’s neighborhood and thought maybe something happened to his little one. I, of course, manned up and thought she should just go have some fun on a Saturday. After all, Mark’s neighborhood had a few hundred houses and … ya know.
My gut got the better of me that day. I trusted it and made a call to the emergency room of our closest hospital. The one all of us in the ‘burbs would use. I really didn’t know what to ask. This call was so random. Anyway, I just blurted, “This is probably just me calling for no reason, but would you happen to have a patient xyzpdq there?”
Long pause …
“Sir, I don’t know who you are. But if you are anyone important, you should get here right away.” I can’t entirely share the chills I had in that moment. I can only share I have them again as I share this.
So I raced to the ER. I saw Mark’s brother. He pointed to this little private room. I guess all ERs have one for those moments. I walked in and saw Mark … rocking … with Riley Paige in his arms … his wife passed in the next room
6 Years Ago
This is the first time I’ve written about that day. It’s in fact the first time of written about any of the days above. Heck, I’m not even sure you’ve hung on to read this far. I hope you have. It matters.
You see, it’s not just my story. In a way, it’s all of ours.
We all know that first dental school professor who tried to drag us down. We all love that dental school mentor who not only pulled us back up. He or she redefined us and the way we look at the world.
You’re going to have practice experiences that make you question why the heck you’re spending all the hours your spending now. And then you’ll have the ones that do just what that mentor did.
They’re like that one golf shot you catch just right and fire you up to play again.
You’re going to know a Mark.
Today I want you to remember three very important life lessons.
We live life forward but understand it backwards
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had experiences and are likely having some now that for the life of you, you can’t figure out the lesson you’re supposed to learn. It’s okay. You’re not alone. Every single person on this earth has felt that way. You’re just not always going to find one’s that will say it out loud.
Burn the boats
I know you’ve been told to never burn a bridge. I get it. Kind of. I don’t want you to burn people. First, that’s not cool, not to mention highly illegal (had to lighten it up). You never know when someone’s just having a bad day, month or time, and they’ll come around later. I do, however, want you to burn the boats (a.k.a. bridges, in modern terms). Here’s why: In 1519, Cortes took his troops to Veracruz to begin his conquests. When he got there, he turned to his troops and commanded them to burn their only way out … their boats. Why? Because the only way out was victory. Life is going to throw you some negative times. When it does, don’t do what most do and wait forever because you’re scared of the what-ifs. Trust your gut and move on.
YOU are the angel in the marble I’m guessing you’ve heard of a friend … Simon Sinek. Simon’s core message is to “Know Your Why.” Why do you do what you do? Why do I do what I do? Why igniteDDS?
It’s simple really.
I am you. I’m simply a little further along the dental timeline. I’ve had your bad dental school days. I’ve enjoyed your good one’s too. I’ve survived the first few practice experiences you’re going to have. And very thankfully, I’m living the best one’s that will come your way.
You are the future of dentistry. You’re the next great associate, practice owner, mentor and leader.
I challenge you to step up. I challenge you to be a leader in your class today and in your community tomorrow. Lastly, I challenge you to see the real you. You are not the marble many try to chip away at to bring down to their level. You are far more than that. Own it.