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Time Has Come Today

April 14, 2020

Filed under: Philosophy,The Stoic Dentist — Barry Polansky @ 10:01 pm

One of the more frequent conversations I hear during the recent pandemic is people not knowing what to do with all of the time in isolation. I hear people saying that with all of this time they can finally get things done – yet as each day goes by they spend more time watching more Netflix.

Readers of this blog know that I retired from clinical dentistry almost two years ago. As a retired dentist I feel a bit arrogant giving advice to the still working. I could never imagine what it must feel like to practice during these trying times. Certainly I practiced through some tough times like the HIV epidemic, but this is much worse. I hope I don’t offend anyone.

But this may be the best time to finally get some very important things done for the future of most dentists. One thing we know: things will not be the same, and I just can’t figure out the tele-dentistry thing. As dentists we are so used to the word “production.” The problem is that most dentists are finding this almost impossible. Having virtual Zoom meetings with staff can only go so far when it’s production we’re after.

As an observer of young dentists I have noticed how many have developed an overachieving mindset. How tough it must be to stay at home and develop new workout routines or cook new recipes while their practices are suspended in limbo. I don’t envy the young dentist who is devoted to self-optimization.

I thought back to my career and how I put my practice together forty years ago. I spent innumerable hours reading, taking notes and working on a practice philosophy. Writing policies and systems. It was something many dentists never found the time to do. Most just went to work everyday with one goal in mind: produce dentistry.

But it was these hours I put in up front that gave me the production capability that enabled me to build a successful practice. And now many young dentists have the time to sit and reflect on what’s most important in their lives, and to create that vehicle to get them there.

I am reminded of a story from author Steven Pressfield from his book Virtues of War. It is a great lesson of leadership and with all of this down time, one to think about.

Alexander the Great and his armies were finishing up after a battle when a young man ( future philosopher) approached the great warrior. One of the soldiers told the young man to kneel. He pointed to the lad and said, “This man has conquered the world! What have you done?”
The young philosopher replied without an instant’s hesitation, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”

And so the lesson is to get to “know ourselves.” This is philosophy – the first step in developing a strategy for our lives and practices. Most do not take the time to do this…now we have the time—I can think of nothing more productive.