While considering this next myth, I began to think of one of the words in the title that most of you may have just glossed over. Most of you registered and understood the word “myth” but I’m willing to bet that no one really thought of the consequences or implication of the word “chasing”. Everyone has heard of myths, but most know to discount this as just a story or fiction. A myth can be interesting, but certainly not anything that you should actually believe in. Well, the title for each of these recent posts begins with “chasing”. By definition, chasing means, “seeking to attain, make further investigation of an unresolved matter, and pursuing in order to catch”. The reason that I used the word chasing was to emphasize the engagement, dedication, and attention that many of you commit to, in order to chase a false solution to your current situation. Just imagine the success and momentum you could generate if you put the same effort into “chasing” real solutions instead of false assumptions? I know dentists who have actually wasted a career chasing the phantom destination that they thought was a magical service, system, or piece of equipment that would give them the quick fix they seek. This never occurs. It always comes down to understanding that there are things that you think you know that just are not true. Secondarily, there are people out there who make their living building a great story about what they have to sell you. Herein lies the challenge of raising the bar in your practice. Each and every one of these myths, if held long enough, can become truth to you. Once they become truth, you will use them to make decisions and take actions based on a limiting belief that is not true. Don’t let your limiting beliefs based on myths destroy an otherwise great future. Decide today to be selective of those you take council from, be sure to keep learning, but verify the source and the validity of the facts. Don’t allow biased opinions from those with very little experience define your perspective on anything.
I would like to now turn our attention to chasing the myth of debt for life being a normal part of our practices. We need to go so far as to say that most of you reading this actually assume always being in debt is normal. These people borrow money for cars, Christmas gifts, homes, vacations; pretty much everything. These same individuals that hold this limiting belief of perpetual debt have become prisoners of, and slaves to, their monthly payments. With this mindset, I assume they just think the Tooth Fairy will show up later in life and wave her magic wand and reverse a lifetime of poor choices and bad habits when it comes to personal and business finances. The facts show conclusively that the average dentist will spend 50% or more of their lifetime earnings paying off debt. Guess what? The credit card companies, along with the mortgage companies and the banks, have trained you in this belief. They have developed a proven profit system that keeps you in debt for a lifetime so they can steal half of your life’s income. You have become their cash cow.
It has become so “common place” to see the poor management of credit and debt that when we look at doctor’s finances, it is crystal clear that this insidious lie has crippled your financial future. Less than 5% of dentists ever become financially independent. The mistake here would be to think that you will be in the top 5% that won’t make the mistake that the other 95% makes: That you are different. This is not the time to assume you will not be one of the sad statistics of the myth that debt is normal. As I said, this is “common place”, and endemic in our profession. Many of you are still thinking: Say it isn’t so. As part of your debtor’s argument, you justify most of your borrowing. Every young dentist sees the doctor down the street driving that new car, working in that new office, and getting great reviews. What you never see is that they and their spouse find that they have to rob Peter to pay Paul every month. They run up multiple credit cards and, by working harder and longer, just barely stay ahead of the bill collectors. All along, they live the lie of “debt fueled affluence”. From the outside they are living the dream. But the truth is that they are trading time for money without the faintest possibility of getting ahead or securing a future with options. Later in life the symptoms start to show: divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, kids that end up following their parent’s model of excess with a bill that has to be paid with future commitments. Debt is the tax on future earnings: a loan allows you to spend money you don’t have against the possibility that you can repay the debt “someday”. In every debt scenario, you will remember that at one time or another you told yourself you would not do this again. Then life happens, and you borrow again against your future. Instant gratification and entitlement are thieves that rob you of future choices. Debt is always the foundation for stress and a life poorly lived. These doctors that you see “killing it” in public and on Facebook are mere illusions with very little substance. It’s not that the 5% who become financially independent are not attracted by the same temptations that the other 95% are. It is that they have decided that “common place” is not the same thing as “common sense”. That “common sense” dictates that they borrow money only for appreciating assets and strategies. Their money goes to actions that create a high return on investment. They have the common sense to delay their gratification until they have saved, invested, and can pay cash for those things that do not move them closer to financial freedom. Yes, they borrowed money for that practice or home but they also did not increase their lifestyle and instead, paid off the home and practice in 5-10 years while still saving 20% of their take home so they could invest in assets and strategies that create passive cash flow. As in most things, it is this fundamental foundational difference in how they look at money that will make all the difference in the world. The challenge here is that too many will be “sheeple” and follow the herd and do what is “common place”. The few will turn their back on common place and use common sense to redefine their future. Each of these myths is challenging some very foundational belief that you have built your practices and lives on. I understand how difficult it is to read someone’s opinion that challenges the cornerstones of what you do. The wise will take the council of others and reevaluate these challenges as an opportunity to modify or even change your opinion and strategies to improve your momentum and trajectory. Those wise enough to rethink and embrace change will be the ones that move themselves to the highest point of success.
Don’t get caught up in the addictive behavior of entitlement. You don’t deserve and should not buy those things you can’t afford. Your partner in all of this is “credit” worthiness. For just about any silly car, house, toy, or trip you can think of, there is a credit card company or bank that will loan you the money to pay for it.
Don’t become the doctor that consistently throws money at empty promises from the latest expert that has the never-before-discovered solution to all of your practice woes. Just sign this irrevocable 24-month contract and pay 100% up front to learn the secret mystic powers of the few, the proud, the bankrupt doctors that blindly follow the new street prophet who has the one and only strategy for your success.
Don’t be the doctor who consistently just throws money at every challenge without actually looking at what you could do yourself to extricate your practice from the clutches of a pandemic, staff turn-over, lack of new patients, or any number of calamities that are common place struggles for every practice. Accountability demands you first admit and understand how you contributed to your wins and losses in the game of successful leadership and practice management.
Don’t be that doctor that is mesmerized by the newest “shiny object” that is sure to turn the corner in your sinking practice. You can’t “borrow” your way out of poor decisions and lack of preparation.
Finally, don’t be that doctor driven by “fear” (False Evidence Appearing Real), where every object, service, or strategy always costs money. Most of the time fear is not really an unsurmountable issue and debt is always a “house of cards”.
I want to close with a quote from one of the greatest philosopher/speakers I have known. It is from Jim Rohn and is entitled “The Four Reasons You Should Think Like an Ant”.
“When was the last time you saw ants reach an obstacle and give up with their heads down and head back to the ant hole to relax? Never. Here’s another question: How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for winter? All that it possibly can. Imagine what you could accomplish if you never quit and always did all that you could do. I think everybody should study ants and their philosophy. It’s simple, but it’s powerful:
1. Ants never quit. That’s a good philosophy. If ants are headed somewhere and you try to stop them; they’ll look for another way. They’ll climb over, they’ll climb under and they’ll climb around. They keep looking for another way. What a neat philosophy, to never quit looking for a way to get where you’re supposed to go.
2. Ants think winter all summer. That’s an important perspective. You can’t be so naïve as to think summer will last forever. So, ants are gathering their winter food in the middle of summer. An ancient story says, “Don’t build your house on the sand in the summer”. Why do we need that advice? Because it’s important to be realistic. In the summer, you’ve got to think storm. Think ahead.
3. Ants think summer all winter. That is so important. During the winter, ants remind themselves: ‘This won’t last long; we’ll soon be out of here.’ And the first warm day, the ants are out. If it turns cold again, they’ll dive back down, but then they come out the first warm day. They can’t wait to get out.
4. Ants think “all you possibly can. How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for the winter? All it possibly can. Ants don’t have quotas or “good enough” philosophies. They don’t gather a certain amount and then head back to the hole to hang out. If an ant can do more, it does. What an incredible philosophy, the “all-you-possibly-can” philosophy. Never give up, look ahead, stay positive and do all you can.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. As a starting point to control your debt, let me encourage you to go to www.doctorace.com “The secrets of debt relief”. You will find the roadmap to financial freedom along with the tools you will need and the best thing, it is free. Don’t wait, do it now and take back your future.