LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY DAD…ABOUT MANAGING A DENTAL PRACTICE…AND LIFE – JUNE 2022
In early April I lost my Dad. He had lived a long productive life and impacted many people, In honor of Father’s Day on June 19th, this month I want to tell you about the “Lessons I Learned From My Dad…About Managing a Dental Practice…and Life”.
LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY DAD…
ABOUT MANAGING A DENTAL PRACTICE…AND LIFE
My Dad was an incredibly humble and quiet gentleman, who possessed a strong voice when it came to his lifelong passions. He was a very proud veteran of the Korean War and channeled his experiences into a long career of political writing, speech writing for local and national candidates, and campaign management, even into his 90’s. His other lifelong passions were golf, baseball, model aviation, and caring for his loved ones. For 18 years, from 2002 until 2020, my dad woke up every hour, on the hour, every single night, to care for my mom who had a severe medical condition that required around-the-clock care.
My dad, humbly, was a great teacher. As one of the founders of Toastmasters, he had me learn the art of public speaking while in high school. Little did I know then, that 40 years later, it would become a major part of my career. The ability to communicate in front of others is one of the greatest determinants of success in almost any field of endeavor. As dentists, a most important role we have is inspiring our patents to make the best decisions for themselves regarding their oral health. Our ability to communicate clearly is greatly impacted by our ability to speak.
One of the most profound experiences of my life was delivering my Dad’s eulogy. Because so many people have a fear of public speaking, it is said that many people have a greater fear of delivering a eulogy than being in the casket. For me, the opportunity was an absolute privilege, and I found great comfort in the experience. In closing my Dad’s eulogy I summarized the three most important lessons that I learned from him throughout my life.
The first was something he taught me when I was learning to play golf, “Keep your head down”. This is one of the greatest challenges when learning the golf swing, but it was far more profound for the rest of my life. It was also my Dad’s way of telling me to always work hard. It inspired me through my years in school and during my entire career. When you keep your head down, and to the grind, you achieve far more than picking your head up to watch others do the work. In my dental practice it meant spending time working “on my practice”, and not just working in it.
The second lesson was about hitting a baseball. When I had trouble hitting curve balls in my early years playing ball, my Dad repeatedly told me “Don’t step in the bucket”. When you “step in the bucket” you have given up on maintaining the position necessary to hit a pitch that tails away from you. This lesson when applied to my life was to never give up and maintain a posture that enables you to consistently succeed. For me that meant attending as much continuing education as I could to become as masterful as possible in performing oral surgery, endodontics and implantology. Never stop attending continuing education and always seek knowledge to advance your career…and never give up.
The third lesson was to “Earn my playtime”. When I was young it meant that I would have to do two to three hours of chores around the house before I went to play ball with my friends. When I went to school it meant working hard enough to earn an academic scholarship so I could afford to go to college and playing a sport so that I could receive a grant to live on campus at the college of my choice. I worked nights driving an ambulance for NY City EMS so that I would be able to afford Dental School without taking crippling student loans. Applying myself in these ways enabled me to “earn the playtime” that a successful career in dentistry later affords you.
The bonus lesson from my Dad came from delivering his eulogy. It was an incredible experience to speak lovingly and with pride about the great impact my Dad had on me and so many others who he touched throughout his lifetime. It was easy to speak eloquently about such a wonderful man. It was so easy that’ll afterwards, it made me think about why I had not told him those things enough while he was alive. So the last lesson is that you should not wait until it’s too late to tell someone how much you love them, or how much you appreciate them. Because when they’re gone, no matter how much you cry or shout, they won’t hear you anymore. Tell your family you love them everyday. Everyday, tell the members of your dental team that you appreciate them.
Dad, thank you for teaching me so much about managing my practice…and life. Come Father’s Day, I will miss you, but I will honor all that you taught me. I continue to “keep my head down”, “avoid stepping in the bucket” and “earning my playtime”.