Dr. A was a 62-year-old general dentist. He came to see me because he had recently passed a new milestone in his career. He had produced, with his two hygienists, $1,150,000 in the previous 12 months of practice. He had finally passed the one-million-dollar mark, and he was proud (actually, I would say he was gloating). He wanted to brag to me about reaching this production milestone and see my response.
Dr. A was not a big man, but he sat tall in his chair that day. “Yes sir,” he said, “One million dollars plus of collections for last year, what do you think of that?”
I admit I was impressed because Dr. A had a reputation for being an excellent dentist. Dr. A was 62 years old and still had a lot of energy. He was working four days a week, and he ran an efficient office. There was no managed care in his office, only fee-for-service patients for him. He had the confidence to present the treatment and did not flinch when fees were discussed. He knew his care and treatment were worth the cost, and the patients apparently agreed. He had the highest fees in town, and his patients felt this provided added assurance that he was the best dentist in the city. Consequently, they paid his fees without hesitation (I wish more dentists would feel this way, but unfortunately most do not).
Dr. A then told me that this was no fluke, that he would produce over a million and a half dollars the coming year as well. He asked me what I thought of that, and I told him that it was great as long as that was what he wanted to do with his time. Dr. A’s pension plan was funded, and he had saved a lot of money and made some sound investments. He was financially sound and this in itself was an extraordinary thing.
I said, “Dr. A, if you think you should still be working this hard at this stage in your life, then that is the right thing for you to do.”
“However,” I said, “You need to remember that there is a wall out there and sooner or later we are all going to run into it someday. We don’t know where this wall is, but we are all going to run into it, and when we do, our lives will be over. Right now I get the impression that you are racing towards that wall at 200 miles an hour. It might make you feel good to be reaching these production goals, but no one wants to be running a race that finishes at the wall. But, once again, if that is what you want to do, then that is the right thing for you to do.”
“If I were you, I’d be more inclined to wonder why I was racing to this wall in the first place. I think I would want to get out of this race alive and travel at a much slower pace on the way to the wall. I would try to stop and smell all the roses I could along the way. I would prefer to let someone else race ahead and gladly allow them to run into the wall before I did.”
“And for me, at least, that would be the preferred method of reaching the wall. Like I said, there is no right or wrong; you should only do what you feel is best for you.”
“I suggest, however, that you consider the fact that you are human, and that you were a person before you were a dentist. You weren’t born a dentist, and you don’t have to die a dentist. You don’t have to work until you drop over dead just because you are a dentist. Dentistry should be a means to make a living, not a life. I can assure you that there is more to life than doing dentistry.”
Dr. A’s wife was a lovely lady who I could tell had a real zest for life. I asked her what she enjoyed most out of life. She said that she loved the beach. She enjoyed her time with her daughter and grandchild who lived near their condominium at the shore. I asked her why didn’t she spend more time at the beach, and she said she could not because she would miss Dr. A too much.
I told her that Dr. A was in a race to reach the wall so she should probably get used to missing him.
Think about it, and do something about it before it’s too late. Don’t race to the wall and don’t hit it any sooner that you have to. There are better alternatives that can considerably improve your Quality of Life now and can extend your life. Remember, you weren’t born a dentist, and you don’t have to work until you die because you are a dentist. It’s time to call AFTCO!