If You Could Not Fail, What Would You Do This Year?

It’s that time again: New Year’s resolutions.  We join gyms, we start diets, we quit bad habits. For a while, anyway. But what if you were really looking for change at a deeper level?Cliff jumper small

There is a fantastic question that life coaches will ask, which is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  The question attempts to dig deep enough into yourself to find out what it is you really want to do, try or become.  And it’s not easy to get there.

The framing of the question is specifically designed to free yourself from that vicious internal censor of yours, which is always there to point out the risks, the potential losses, the likelihood of failure. That voice is deliberately silenced for this exercise.

I suggest grabbing a piece of paper and see what you come up with. I’m going to prompt you with some random thoughts, some based more on your work and what might be your role in it, and others based on more personal or artistic dreams.

For example:

  • You’re a dental assistant, but you know you can do more. You understand the science of dentistry, and the delivery of it. Are you ready to become a dentist? (Censor says school expensive, hard to get in, competitive, starting a new practice is difficult.)
  • You want to bring in an associate, but you’ve heard horror stories. Yet you have a desire to pass on your knowledge. (And to let someone else do the Class III’s and IV’s.)
  • You miss music. You played guitar (or piano, or drums, or the oboe), and you realize it has totally slipped away. But you want to start playing again, ideally in front of people. (Censor says you’re too old, you’re not talented enough, there’s no money in it, nowhere to play.)
  • You think you’re funny, Standup seems scary, but in an appealing way.
  • You know you have a novel in you, or a screenplay, or a book of poems. (Censor says: what makes you think anyone would read it?)
  • You’ve been doing dentistry for 20 years, and it’s routine. You’ve heard CEREC re-invigorates the dentist and the team. (Censor says: so expensive, patients don’t really mind an extra office visit, staff will rebel.)
  • You’ve done a few implants, but wish you could do more involved cases. (Censor points out that big cases are a huge malpractice risk, and require a lot more training.)
  • Something is wrong with your team. Actually, someone.  (Censor says you can’t do without her; the practice would fall apart.)
  • A consulting firm has told you they can increase your production 20% in the first year, which would change your life. (Censor says any number of suspicious and unfounded statements.)
  • You want to teach. (Censor says so does every other dentist.) But you believe you have something special to offer–hard learned, and hard earned.
  • You’ve heard of Kilimanjaro, and even though you’re not sure where it is, you think you might want to climb it.

So write some things. No one is going to look at them but you, so get as wild and irrelevant and as fanciful as you wish.

This doesn’t mean you ought to immediately quit your job and start pursuing this new dream.  What it means is that this is something that will add meaning, purpose and happiness to your life, and you need to find a way to start including it, in whatever way you can manage, and not ignore it anymore.

(By the way, if you write down that you want to retire in 5 years, my question will be: and do what?  Retirement isn’t a goal, it’s just an end to one type of activity. You may want to stop working, but you’re not going to want to stop living.  Find a new dream.)

Here are some suggestions based on those dreams:

You want to learn CEREC or other CAD/CAM?  Buy one–then you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it.  (Do it before the 31st and take advantage of Section 179, which allows you to deduct the whole thing this year–talk about a New Year’s resolution commitment!)

Same goes for implants. Buy a Galileos or other 3D cone beam scanner, and take your implant cases to the next level.

Enroll in courses:  Implant classes; CEREC training; Hygienist school; Take a business management class, or a software training class. Or finance class. Local colleges or your dental product distributor can help you with these.

Take expanded skills training, if you’re an assistant. Or apply to dental school.

Find a dental practice where you’re treated with respect, where people have fun taking care of patients.

Join a band. Or an orchestra. Or a choir. Start local, start small. But start.

Write one page towards a novel every day. Don’t go to sleep until you do.

Open a separate bank account and start saving for that trip to Africa, and put $20 a week in it.  Kilimanjaro is waiting.

If you’re an office manager, pursue a fellowship with AADOM.

If you want to teach, enroll in the Faculty Club at Spear Education.

Bring a consultant in. Successful people know they need coaches. There are many good ones, some of which are listed in my favorites on the right.

Fire that pain-in-the-ass employee.

In other words, do something different!  Stop expecting more happiness from the same course of action.

Also, be mindful that sometimes our job isn’t the dream, but it supports the dream. In fact, that’s what happens for most of us. At 1-800-DENTIST, a number of our operators in the call center do their job, and do it well, so that they can pursue acting, or music or art.  And they know it’s unlikely that they will be able to feed themselves pursuing their passion, but they don’t abandon it. And it makes doing the day job worthwhile.

The brilliant and inspiring speaker, Gary Zelesky, reminded me this year that he is not passionate about airports, or hotel rooms, or lousy food on the road, or negotiating his fees. He is passionate about speaking, about motivating people, and he endures all those other things so that he can do what he is passionate about.  We all have to pay our dues, no matter how closely we are pursuing are passion. The aging rock star misses his family, but still fills stadiums with raving fans, so he keeps touring.  The famous author sits in bookstores, endlessly signing copies his latest novel. The filmmaker negotiates relentlessly with the studio to produce the film he envisions.  The dentist sacrifices weekends to refine his skills, to offer the best care to his patients.

I’ll say it again: stop expecting more happiness from the same course of action. To put your change in motion, make a real commitment.  One that’s hard, if not impossible, to back out of.  You can make it to yourself, but I’ve observed there is something powerful to declaring your goal publicly. It gives you that little extra motivation when you’re falling behind on that dream.  In fact, if you want to declare it as a comment on this post, I welcome that. (I might check in on you next year, though!)

So, why not make this your leap year? Because the only real failure is failing to try.

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8 thoughts on “If You Could Not Fail, What Would You Do This Year?

  1. Fred,
    Loving your blog messages….as usual. I am in need of a bit of help. Can you re-direct me to Vic–the gentleman who works for you that I met at the ADMC conference. He followed up with me a month or so ago, and I am not sure where the infamous sticky note ended up with his number on it.
    Thanks!
    Lisa Knowles

    • Ah David, this means you have to try some things. In your case, life is like a box of chocolates, in that you have to sample some things to see what appeals to you. Think out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be something life-changing. Take a salsa lesson, or just a random class at your local community college. Got to an event like South By Southwest. http://www.sxsw.com. Open your mind this way and things will come at you from unexpected directions.

  2. David, what do you enjoy doing? What are you really good at? Think about a time when you lost track of time, what were you doing?

    You may want to think about hiring a coach to work through it as well.

      • Hi Don thanks for the comment. I loved (and still do) playing videogames but just find I don’t have the time particularly if I want to spend time with my wife when the kids go to bed. sad to say I love dentistry and love reading articles, blogs etc so I have been doing a lot of that as well as reading business books. my problem with this is it not bringing your work home with you?

I welcome your comments--don't pull any punches!