Episode 181 – You’re in Control: How Dentists Stay Rational in the Middle of Chaos
“Instead of succumbing to obstacles with inaction, we need a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us. ” ~Regan Robertson
It’s inevitable. There will be obstacles in your pathway to your dreams. How you deal with them is often the difference between success and failure.
Dentist, maybe more than any other professional, must be resilient. You have a business to build, a team to lead, patients to care for, a family to raise, and your own goals to map out. And if you’re anything like most dentists, life seems to enjoy throwing you curveballs, boulders, and just about anything else it can get its hands on.
You can’t change that. But you can control your reactions to all the obstacles dumped in your path.
We love to make your lives easier! So we are bringing you the next in our sub-series of business book reviews with The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday.
If you are ready learn the keys of calm rationality in the middle of any storm, join us as we explore:
- Keeping an objective perspective on obstacles in your life
- The benefits of recalibrating your brain to stoicism
- What to do when an obstacle is out of your control
Hi Dr., Regan Robertson, CCO Productive Dentist Academy here and I have a question for you. Are you finding it hard to get your team aligned to your vision, but you know, you deserve growth just like everybody else. That’s why we’ve created the PDA productivity workshop. For nearly 20 years PDA workshops have helped dentists just like you align their teams, get control of scheduling, and create productive practices that they love walking into every day. Just imagine how you will feel when you know your schedule is productive. Your systems are humming, and your team is aligned to your vision. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. We can help visit productive dentists.com/workshop that’s productive dentist.com/workshop to secure your seats now. Instead of succumbing to obstacles with inaction, we need a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us. And as humans, we want to we want to approach obstacles with our best intent forward. We want to act you know definitely smoothly like we are just experienced, but but obstacles are just that that’s a challenge. It’s a puzzle to overcome. Welcome to the everyday practices Podcast. I’m Regan Robertson, and my co host Dr. Chad Johnson and I are on a mission to share the stories of everyday dentists who generate extraordinary results using practical proven methods you can take right into your own dental practice. If you’re ready to elevate patient care and produce results that are anything but ordinary. Buckle up and listen in.
Dr. Chad Johnson 1:45
Hey, everybody, it’s Chad Johnson here with my co host Regan Robertson Regan, how are you?
I’m feeling productive today, Chad.
Dr. Chad Johnson 1:53
I love that you skipped over the fact that you don’t feel the best listeners know that she chose optimism there. Well done. So today on our podcast, everyday practice Practices Dental podcast today we are talking about the obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday a book within the last few years. And if you listen to it on Audible Ryan Holiday reads it himself. And also has I would call it a postscript podcast style interview at the end of the book, and he’s just a seemingly just a really down to earth guy that you know, well. And you would expect that from this kind of book. So Reagan, start us off trying to explain, in your opinion, having just read it, what the obstacle is the way is about I think, I think
it’s a great condensed version of you could take 20 or 30 individual business books, say for example, so if you’ve read anything on business, any sort of self help book or improve your business book, they will have one sort of controlling idea about the book, the obstacle is the way takes the lesson like like books A, B, and C, each one may have a lesson a Lesson B and A Lesson C you will find a condensed version, I think, in in this book, all of them in this one particular book about how to
Dr. Chad Johnson 3:24
Yeah, mindset is, is what it’s about, you know, like controlling your response to. And it goes along the lines of what was that last class that you were doing last week that you were really excited about? That was you know, gosh, how would these relate? Positive Intelligence
is the the book that the coaching is based off by Shirzad extra zard I’m gonna butcher this she’s already shameen I can’t remember I need to do that in our editing. But Positive Intelligence is the book she was hired as the creator of it and, and he teaches you how to raise your positive potion. I love that you went there. Because if you look at the chapters of the obstacle is the way and and a way to describe this is a boulder drops in your path. So Ryan explains this in the book chat. We are on the path and a boulder goes in the way now we have an obstacle, the obstacle becomes the path. And that was one of those few sentences that made me go whoa.
Dr. Chad Johnson 4:25
Terrible was that a king? But this obstacle in the way to see who would figure out or you know, like what people would do. And finally this one guy rather than complaining figures out well, why don’t we just move this out of the way. And then he finds a treasure underneath with a note that says you know the obstacle is the way and so that was yeah, definitely a cool parable.
Totally. So yeah. So in this in, in that philosophy of kind of like reframing your mind. It’s, you’ve probably heard us on our podcast before say It’s easy, but it’s not simple or it’s simple, but it’s not easy. So there’s a chapter about practicing objectivity. And if you’ve ever given a friend advice, like, oh, Chad, it would just be easier if you just got up at 430 instead of five, and just went ahead and learned your extra, I don’t know, got your extra swim laps in or something like that. It’s easy for me to say that, but I’m not in your shoes. I’m not feeling how you’re feeling in that moment. And I think that this book, paired with Positive Intelligence is important because you almost have to have a really healthy sense of self before, you’re going to put all of the practices in the obstacle as the way into practice. And that’s why I was saying a little bit earlier, that experience, failure time, you can’t cheat those things, you can probably speed up your failures. And you can also speed up how fast maybe you learn from those failures and your mindset around that. But you almost have to get up to the point you’re at today, everything is leading to a point to be able to understand that. And the reason I say that is I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius for a very long time. And I’ve read books like this for the past 20 plus years. But when I read this one, it almost spread like melted butter, it was really easy. And I thought that’s because I’ve done a lot of the work. In order to get me to the place I am now where I can see how I am applying some of these philosophies already. And then where oh, I need to lean into this a little bit more. Or I can I can look at this from a different perspective. And I think Ryan does a great job in telling these stories through current figures, like professional athletes, and very famous figures that we can relate to like Abraham Lincoln dealing with constant depression, and how he still managed to leverage that obstacle in order to be successful. And that was one of my other side, sort of inner critics. So in the Positive Intelligence book, it says, You’ve got these inner saboteurs that are attacking you all the time, and one of them is an inner judge, they will judge you, they will judge others. We’ve all judged people. Let’s be honest, we all do it to an extent even though we shouldn’t win, right, Chad?
Dr. Chad Johnson 7:17
No, I would say there are times when it’s good to judge which is totally contrarian, but like my boss growing up working at the waterpark always said, listen, there are some kids that you can tell are weak swimmers. discriminate against them, watch them wholeheartedly. You don’t have to watch the mom that’s in the shallow end standing up as much as you do their kid and they wouldn’t have any problems. Now saying it out loud. sounds horrible. But but but he’s like, it’s the truth. You need to know who like if you said, Well, I’m going to spend the same amount of time of my eyeballs on everyone. It’s just like, that’s not right. And can we get it wrong? Sure. But like, it’s not necessarily wrong to go, Hmm, that guy looks lost. I should ask if he needs help. And you go up and you say, Do you need help? And if he says no, why what? Why would you say that? You know, sometimes you might not hit it out of the park. But other times, it’s like, no, you just had, let’s call it an intuition. Let’s call it something or another that that led you to the proper discriminatory right answer. And that is way wrong to say in America, because we don’t want to discriminate wrongly. And I understand that, but when we another word for discrimination would be discernment. If I said, Do you want discernment? And oh, yeah. You want to decide between right and wrong. And between, you know, who the weak swimmer is and who’s not weak swimmer is and, and stuff like that. And sometimes we get it wrong, but you know what, like, that’s okay. And again, I apologize to anyone that that really hurts their feelings that I’m saying that but I don’t see any problem with rightful discrimination slash discernment. It sounds bad. What’s your thoughts on that? Ryan?
Well, my point to it was it was a good that was a good explanation of, you know, your viewpoint on on judgment. My my point to it was, I love it very much when my inner judge is proven wrong. And so I’m delighted when it is and my inner cynic or my inner judges, we jumped into this book, as I first was reading through the first few chapters, there was, you know, there is a fine line, just like in the Positive Intelligence book, with I would call it toxic positivity. So there is a point where if you are too optimistic, I think you can cross over into avoidance, and this is absolutely not that type of book, but my inner judge was, you know, the point of this, this whole book is any obstacle can become an opportunity and gift in your life. Anyone My brain immediately goes to like a child dying or some horrific accident occurs. And so I was having this sort of run in the back of my head as I was listening to the chapters and reading them. And I thought to myself, when’s this going to come up? When is it unfair? When is an obstacle come up that you really, you know, there is no positive sight to it. And and Ryan dives into this instead. And I thought that was really fascinating that there are I think he used who is that actor? Superman, Christopher Reeves. Yes, he used him and Michael J. Fox, as examples of, you know, that it was out of their control, which gets back to the Serenity Prayer. Yeah, it was out of their control. So what are they going to do with that knowledge and with that circumstance, and with that situation that happened to them in their life. And so I was very excited to have the judge shattered. And once that little occurrence happened, I was very open to, you know, hearing what the rest of this book had to say. And it was just it. There were so many pieces of it that I think blew my mind. What, when did you read this book originally? And what have you felt like in rereading it and re reviewing it? what stuck out to you this time around?
Dr. Chad Johnson 11:13
Yeah, just for this podcast. I went through it again, the last couple of weeks. Previously, it was after COVID hit. And it was a good mindset book, because I think we have to recalibrate ourselves to stoicism. Because we want to deviate from it. But there’s a lot of wisdom to it. And I don’t I don’t know, differentiating you know, the times that I went through it, but this time going through it. I mean, it just it reaffirmed, I feel like everyone should occasionally recalibrate because you might not be ready for a certain lesson with a certain maturity level or what you’re going through at a certain time. But you might be you know, able to take a bite or two. And then but you have to keep on going back to it. So like you said Marcus, a really as you know, like reading his stuff, or did you notice too, like when he was talking about Seneca and he said listen, there’s there’s three lessons to Seneca imagine that you’re advising yourself as a friend. To keep an objective perspective. Number two, large obstacles also have large weaknesses. So whatever the biggest strength is, something is good. I in fact, I brought this up yesterday at our girls soccer game, I said, Listen, the wind is over 20 miles per hour, those girls are also playing against 20 mile per hour winds. So we have to get in the mindset, like it’s cold out here. I mean, it was a cold, windy day, and everything like that. And I said, let’s, let’s let them get get down more in their heads over this than what we’re going to let it. So be doing jumping jacks get warm, we need to stay warm and let that affect them more negatively, we’re going to kick with the wind and defend against the wind. And then you know, like, just check by chance, when we get the ball, we’re going to again kick with the wind. And when we’re against the wind, we’re going to have low kicks to our targets, be direct. And so you know, I tried using the mentality, it’s just like when we’re going into this fight, which is what games are right? There are many wars and battles, you know, that’s what they’ve become is little, you know, game games practice sessions of mentality and will mentality when so just yesterday, again, I was using this. So we are live large obstacles, large weaknesses, that’s number two. And number three of the great lessons of Seneca is that you should use your will to accept what you can’t change, and then change the things that you can and so you know, when bad things happen, like COVID, you know, to go okay, well, listen, I can’t change the fact that COVID is happening. But I can change the fact that blank. And you know, being more resolute about saying, Well, this is what I can change, and therefore, that’s what I’m gonna focus on and the other stuff I can’t write.
Yes. Oh, absolutely. You just and in that in that story. That’s a really good example right there because the things that you could control is so Mark is a really is also one of the quotes I think that was pulled out is life is died by the color of your thoughts. And that’s what I was trying to say about before you even start to read this book, you you have to have a certain mindset in place and you were teaching your team, you can control your thoughts, right, you can study your own nerves, and that which is a section of it.
Dr. Chad Johnson 14:46
We were even acknowledging I was like, Yes, of course it’s cold. Yes, of course. It’s windy and yeah, you don’t like it, but guess what the other team doesn’t like it too. So knowing this, let’s let them suffer more over it and let’s just get over it. Have you
had you know what it is? Oh, one of the Okay. One of the stories in the book was about I think it was a ninja fighter. So excuse me if it’s not a ninja fighter, but it was something about martial arts. And it was saying instead of being natural defense is to push against correct in this one you hope. And I had the best visual of Ronda Rousey when she first hit MMA because I was big into the UFC fights. And I remember she just came out and took every woman off her stance almost immediately. And it was that same mentality almost have a pole. Yes. Like, I am not going to defend I am here to just I mean, it just that whole mindset flip. Completely took the enemy off guard,
Dr. Chad Johnson 15:42
watch this. It’s really cool. They talked about the Benjamin, Benjamin Franklin effect. And so he was trying to figure out how to work with one of the other senators or congressmen. And he, he thought what, you know, he thought for a while, what should I do in order to get the results that I needed, you know, to be able to get his vote. So he went, and he asked the other congressmen, he said, and I, he knew that he really liked books. And he had a chairs price book, and he said, can I borrow that book? And when he borrowed that book, then he just put it on a shelf for a couple of weeks. He didn’t even care about the book. But then what it left, is that that other guy to think about, well, why did he want that book? Why would he want me to? Why did he ask me for this book? Maybe he likes me, maybe he knew that I would often. So the cognitive dissonance that went into effect was, why would this enemy of mine, you know, want to borrow this book? If he thinks I’m that bad of a guy? And why would? Why would I actually loan it to him? If I think he’s that bad of a guy, and he ended up then, you know, being able to foster a relationship with this guy. And because he basically was getting the other guy to loan him stuff. He wasn’t. He wasn’t asking them for, like, it’s not from, from giving them loaning them something but asking them to loan you something. And and I thought that was pretty cool that, that it’s along the same lines of instead of pushing like, Hey, I’m gonna loan you this book. I don’t want your book I never liked you to Hey, can you do me a favor? Can I borrow that book? And that got the person thinking? And it was a poll, it was a poll move? Yeah, it told me Yang stuff, you know, yeah.
I think this book is designed to help us take action to I noticed, one of the quotes that I heard from Ryan was, Instead of succumbing to obstacles with inaction, we need a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating and acting upon the obstacles, life throws at us. And as humans, we want to we want to approach obstacles with our best intent forward, we want to act, you know, definitely smoothly, like we are just experienced, but but obstacles are just that that’s a challenge. It’s a puzzle to overcome. And, and each little framework exists within I think that the chapters outlined in it and living in the present moment, altering your perspective, recognizing your power, each of these are like little bite size chunks of what the stoics point to as how you should live your life.
Dr. Chad Johnson 18:25
Well, even within dentistry, perfectionism is quite a thing. But he’s just like, one of the things he said was think progress, not perfection. So they go into that, and, you know, that was one of the thoughts and I was like, boy that’s big in dentistry is like, we almost cherish the perfection is um, and it’s just like, No, no, no progress. And another good point that I read was, you know, that success is tied to how we view failure. And a lot of this was the aberration that because like, instead of worrying about everything, you’re only worrying about what you can control. Go ahead.
Well, what about you? What about SpaceX? Just last week, or two weeks ago, the rocket right exploded, didn’t work. Yeah. And they were and they were touting it as a success. No, it was hotly debated. I noticed in the scientific community on what equated to a success or not, but when you said that it’s largely how you look at failure, they definitely are a key entity that looks at what they were trying to succeed at, as scientists what they wanted to have happen. Was it perfect? No. But what did they learn from that so that they can modify and go different and I think a lot of times for myself, even I tend to want things to run so smoothly. You know, I want things to go off without a hitch and we forget that there is in the obstacle, a lot of where that growth happens, as cliche as it sounds. So yeah, how do you handle failure? I think for me, it’s changed. It’s definitely changed over the years
Dr. Chad Johnson 19:54
was cool, the Thomas Edison story, and he talks about how When he was 67 years old, that his whole laboratory burned down all of his prototypes, experiments, research notes, everything. And he, he was pretty excited because he said, Well, I’ve gotten rid of all the old rubbish, and what he invited his family out to see the explosion. And that almost is, is the overoptimism like that you’re talking about? It’s like how do you celebrate your your loss? It’s like when you heard those people cheering for Elon Musk’s SpaceX thing blowing up? They’re like, Yeah, it’s like, yes, once, but this guy was almost giving the same thing. But you know why? Because he wasn’t left with a lot of what are you going to do? cry about it? Like, what’s that going to help? I mean, increase your oxytocin. Sure. But like, this guy was like, Yes. And then he brings a family out, and they’re like, why are you so celebrating? He’s like, you’ll never see such a cool, like, demonstration of exposure. This is awesome. And I’ve not failed. I have not failed I fent. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
So I was gonna say, you know, what builds what built up to that present moment? Was him going through the book explains to readers that that Edison went through 6000 Different filaments. Yes. When trying to create what the light bulb 6000 filaments, that’s a lot. That’s I mean, can you even find 6000? Of anything? Yeah, little I think beard hair was one of the Yeah, like, it was really crazy. And so that forges you into a person that can that can look to something like a factory fire, and have and go at it with such fervor that you can say, hey, you know, go round up, round up all of my family and friends. Let’s go look at this gigantic file.
Dr. Chad Johnson 21:52
Right. Right at the beginning of the book, there’s a quote at the beginning of the first chapter, and it’s F Scott Fitzgerald. And I actually looked this up on Google. So I could read it, but it looks like you can buy little posters or what are this, you know, for around your house. Genius, is the ability to put into effect, what is on your mind. And there’s something empowering about that, like basically, this book was not a killjoy of stoicism, but it was. It was an empowering stoicism book and I really liked it.
Me too, what was what’s the one area where you feel like you might have to lean into and work more at?
Dr. Chad Johnson 22:37
Oh, communication and positive affirmation for people.
Really, that surprises me for you positive affirmation for others or for yourself.
Dr. Chad Johnson 22:50
Here’s, here’s why it’s almost stoicism, because I just go well, of course, you’re doing a good job. I’d tell you if you weren’t, you know, like, so it’s kind of funny, because and when Joanne hears this, you know, my my coach from productive dentist Academy laughed because she knows it’s true. But yeah, it’s it’s always I think it’s, if I’m, if I’m intentional, I can have good positive affirmation, but it’s not my MO. I just kind of just assumed you’re sure, yeah, that I’m just like, you know, if someone’s like, well, they need positive affirmation. I’m like, I guess, you know, they’re like, Don’t you like positive affirmation? I’m like, I suppose but shouldn’t you just do the good job just because you should do the good job. And it almost goes along the line of stoicism where it’s just like, I guess I’m just controlling, you know, like, I don’t want to manipulate people and this and that. It’s weird. I don’t know what to make it. I’m not making a defense of it or anything like that. But I think that gets in my
way. I like that. I think that’s a good I mean, that’s a good one to work through. For me that control your emotions was the one area that I like, circled and highlight and everything because whenever any situation comes up, I know I’m a feeling person on the Myers Briggs. So I know I’m going to feel it, I’m going to feel it somewhere in my body. And especially when you have you know, a snap minute to make a decision. I would love to be like that samurai warrior. All I picture is like that sward so smoothly sailing, I would love to be able to wield my emotions and control them in a way that the stoics seem to be able to do that. They demonstrate it and I think that’s my biggest puzzle piece that I’m like currently working on is how to give it that space because that’s what you have to do. You have to almost give it space. And we had something happened this weekend at home. I won’t put it on the podcast, but I would say we had something happened this weekend at home. And it was an accident. It was nobody’s fault. I mean, it just happened in the moment. And I reacted as how I knew but and it was good. I didn’t explode. I didn’t. I didn’t go straight into emotions, but I kind of like I could feel myself trying to kind of separate ate, and then walk everybody through the process. And that at the end of it, it still wasn’t a great, it was not a great accident. It was not a super exciting outcome. It kind of tanked my feelings for the day. But I felt like you know, I’m going to honor this moment because I’ve been reading this book, I’ve been going through Positive Intelligence, I think it’s working in a little tiny baby step because it won’t be perfect. But that these two books, the Serenity Prayer, like really helps us understand that as business owners, as parents, as spouses, as community leaders, whoever we are, we’re going to have things in our control and out of our control. And those obstacles are going to come no matter your circumstance in life. And that was something that Shirzad had said, even if you had a perfect childhood, perfect, your parents were perfect, your community was perfect. You will still develop self saboteurs. You can’t get away from it. Just like you can’t get away from obstacles. So why not? Why not learn from the stoics in this nice condensed version? We’re not dealing with the these in the vows. It’s spoken request. So kudos, Ryan Holiday, great book and great recommendation chat.
Dr. Chad Johnson 26:08
Hope you all enjoyed the podcast discussing the book and be a stoic or don’t.
Thank you, Chad. We’ll see you guys soon. Thank you for listening to another episode of everyday practices podcast. Chad and I are here every week. Thanks to our community of listeners just like you and we’d love your help. It would mean the world if you can help spread the word by sharing this episode with a fellow dentist and leave us a review on iTunes or Spotify. Do you have an extraordinary story you’d like to share? Or feedback on how we can make this podcast even more awesome. Drop us an email at podcast at productive dentist.com And don’t forget to check out our other podcasts from productive dentist Academy at productive dentists.com/podcasts See you next week.