Make It Happen


Let Life Evolve and Success Will Follow.

A new year has just begun and you have a new opportunity to make this your most productive year yet. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share some of the most important insights that have helped me improve my life both personally and professionally. I am confident that these ideas have the potential to help you become a better and more productive dentist.

Before anything that I write can be of benefit, you need to remember an important fact—you aren’t “born” anything—life is an evolving process. We all have to learn to be successful. It is not something that just happens. The reason that success seems so difficult is because many people don’t look at their world and see it for its potential.

Most people, including dentists, tend to react to challenges as if they are problems to be handled, rather than the opportunities they truly are. To avoid this pitfall, it’s important to understand yourself and what makes you tick. Then you can begin to understand others (including your patients).

To start this process, you should be conscious of conformity and its role in your life. Most people conform to what their neighbors are doing; you want to be just like the dentist down the street. But that dentist wants to be just like you! People lose their identities by looking, dressing, and thinking alike. By embracing fads, you lose your identity, and when that happens, you are no different from any other dentist. Strive to develop your own identity so people can see it and feel it.

After 40 years in this business, I’ve learned that everyone needs two key things in order to be successful:

  1. An Individual Identity. People want to be recognized as different from everyone else. As dentists, we want to be known for providing a level of care that is above the rest. Patients want dentists who are like this, too. Patients will travel a long way to visit a dentist who delivers a higher level of service—one who calls them by name, listens to them, and helps them achieve optimal dental health, regardless of their perceived ability to pay.
  2. Change or Stimulation. No one wants to get trapped doing the same things everyday. We become depressed when we don’t have something to stimulate us. Dentists get depressed when each day is the ordinary, insurance-based, drill-and-fill dentistry that every other dentist is doing. We want to provide treatments that enhance the quality of our patients’ lives. Implants and full arch reconstruction cases are a great way to bring the excitement back to dentistry, in addition to bringing variety to the daily schedule. If you aren’t currently doing these kinds of cases, now is the time to start. Get out of your own way and let your life evolve!

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle said, “A person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder”—he or she drifts without any specific port in mind or any course plotted. But what about the ship that has a hold full of valuable cargo, a course charted with a captain at the helm, and an active rudder? A valuable reward awaits at the designated journey’s end.

Think about what you want and where you want to be in five years within the context of your individual identity and the change you want to realize. Craft an image of the future and start working towards that vision every day. Make certain that your goals are realistic, otherwise they can become frustrations. My only goal in life was to be a dentist—and to be the best dentist that I could be. Everything started evolving from that central focus and the result is greater than I could have imagined or planned for.

The way we see ourselves determines our actions and our inactions. Too often, we find ourselves seemingly stuck and unable to progress towards our full potential. This is due mostly to our memories, which can be the most devastating part of our minds. Memories remind us how inferior we are, how shy we are, how incapable we are, etc. Memories are the voices in our heads that tell us we can’t do something or that reinforce a negative experience.

The solution can be found in another part of the mind—the imagination. Imagination has the power to unlock your potential. How you envision yourself is the way your future will be. If you can see yourself being extroverted, outgoing, and patient, that is the way you will be. If you imagine yourself doing large-case dentistry, you will find yourself seeking out the opportunities that will make it a reality.

Now is the time to take action towards a higher level of success. When fear and doubt threaten to hold you back, let faith and hope fuel your imagination. I know it works because I have experienced it and I know that it will work for you!


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Dr. Dick Barnes is the leader in practice development for today’s cosmetic practice. A graduate of Marquette Dental School, he began his general dentistry practice in Rialto, California. As his practice, skills and reputation grew, he became known as one of the world leaders in cosmetic dentistry. In addition, Dr. Barnes taught at Loma Linda University and the University of Southern California, at their respective dental schools.


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