Originally published by Dental Entrepreneur Woman, February 11, 2020.
By Victoria Peterson, Co-Founder and CEO of Productive Dentist Academy
Dentistry has been the backdrop to my adventures for nearly 40 years. It has allowed me to be a dental hygienist, to 4x Inc. 5000 dental consulting firm, dental practice owner and most recently a doctorate in spirituality. In every role, I played the position of leader.
When Anne invited me to share my story, she had one question: “How in the world have you accomplished so much?” My first thought was, “Of myself, I can do little.”
And it’s true.
If I had put my faith in my (human) self, I would have crumbled in the face of my personal shortcomings. Call it love, source energy, God, Goddess, Creator, One, there is no doubt in my mind there is a force greater than me flowing in my life.
Combining business acumen and soul purposes has changed every aspect of my leadership. It allows me the space to be less judgmental, more accepting and more inclusive of others. It has also brought forth a sense of ease and grace, knowing that I’m never alone; I’m always tied into the universal flow of innate intelligence and support.
Spirituality teaches us that once we are clear on “what” we want, the universe will organize itself to aid in the “how.” Think of it this way: a gardener selects the seeds, but the tomato seed contains within it the blueprint to grow and bear fruit. The role of the gardener is to support optimal conditions for growth.
As my mentor, Kendra Thornbury often shares, “The more successful we become, the greater support is required. The greater support we receive, the greater success we experience.” Here are three of my top lessons:
Lesson #1: Be open to receive
One of the roughest times of my life brought the greatest gift. The decade of my thirties gave me two beautiful pre-term children, a marriage that wasn’t built to last, and the need to shift careers to gain flexibility.
Life seemed to be pushing me out of the operatory. The needs of my children prevented me from working full-time. I came face to face with the reality of being a single-income household. I needed to increase my earnings and have flexibility. What a tall order! But how? Looking through a spiritual lens, my role was to figure out the ‘what’ and release the ‘how’ to spirit.
Perhaps I could become a speaker.
My parents recognized my talent for public speaking during high school. I competed state-wide in extemporaneous speaking (which is code for ‘can make stuff up on the fly’). Fortunately, my parents fostered this talent by sending me to a series of workshops called “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Leaning into Dale Carnegie Training, I wondered if I could make a living as a public speaker or dental consultant. I joined the National Speakers Association and began the exploration.
The first local chapter meeting (Georgia) hosted my hero and incredible DeW, Linda Miles, as a keynote speaker. I sat in the front row…she came and sat next to me. We were asked to turn and share our biggest dream. Uh-oh! My dream was to become as successful as Linda. How did I share that! Holding my breath, I knew that if I could be open to receive, this iconic woman could share so much! Her kind words and advice live with me today.
“Vicki, consulting is like a fire;
it can keep you warm or burn you up. There really are only two paths for consultants: (1) you’ll be very good at what you do, and you’ll have a hard time balancing family with demands of consulting; (2) you will not be good, and you’ll choose something else. My bet is that you will be fantastic
My advice is to take out a purple marker and pre-block all the days that are sacred to you: family birthdays, holidays, school plays. The things you’d look back and miss. This way you can say, “Yes” to the speaking engagements and consulting clients without missing out on the important moments in life.”
Big dreams begin with small steps. A phone call: “Are you available to do event coordination for a dental consulting firm?” YES! I went behind the scenes to learn how events were produced. The level of detail, the thoughtfulness of the content, the management of the various personalities and needs of the audience. What an education. I fell in love with speaking and coaching.
Linda, I’m so glad that I was open to receiving your wisdom. If you are reading this, that purple marker continues to be my #1 life balance tool.
Lesson #2: Success requires support
Leadership is about knowing when to let go. After eight years of successful consulting on the east coast, life was once again shifting me in very big ways. In the aftermath of the twin towers’ collapsing, I felt the need to leave Atlanta and create a slower pace of living. My children and I each packed two suitcases and a pillow. We moved from Atlanta to Anacortes, a small island north of Seattle. I took a year sabbatical and embarked on an amazing adventure.
I have to admit, having the time off was wonderful and, yet, boring! Leadership is in my DNA. Big dreams began to resurface – small steps began to appear. I was invited to Texas to observe a friend’s course on productivity (Dr. Bruce B. Baird). He wanted to begin providing team training. Within two days, we instinctively knew that our philosophies aligned.
Productive Dentist Academy
A handshake, an agreement “doing good while doing good” and fifteen years have laid an incredible foundation for the Productive Dentist Academy. We began with seminars, added consulting services and then developed a marketing firm. We’ve been listed 4x on Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies and work with an award-winning team of 40 employees across the country. My leadership skills have been tested and elevated year after year, honing deep spiritual connection in the process.
From 2010-2018, I purchased five dental practices and successfully sold the network to my partner. Along the way, I also met and married Pete Peterson (yes, we always call him by both names). He brings joy, laughter and play to our family, and I adore him!
These are the top notes of this decade, the outer appearance of success that we all seem to strive to achieve. People have described me as empowered, inspiring, generous. I am tenacious in the face of adversity, a trailblazer, a rebel and a compassionate mentor. And, yet, in the midst of success, I was sometimes feeling a bit burned out. I had a sense that things were happening “to” me and that I was not in control.
I found myself running o-u-t of s-t-e-a-m…
Even as we grew, I didn’t know how to create an infrastructure to allow me to let go of day-to-day decision making. I was (and still can be) the bottleneck in two multi-million-dollar organizations. It was definitely time for another change.
The spiritual lesson that came was to let go and allow others to support me. It’s a very difficult lesson for most entrepreneurs: letting go of “how” people gained results, knowing their method would be different than mine; letting go of micro-managing; trusting that I had embedded the cultural DNA that would sustain the company and continue to serve our clients.
The question I could not answer as a leader was, “What do YOU want?” At some point, the needs of the business and others became stronger than my own needs and desires. The next journey was one of relaxing into self-care.
Lesson #3: Self-love is a requirement of leadership
To relax, Pete encouraged me to take up a hobby. I bought a bit of red chalk paint to refresh old wooden chairs. The paint hadn’t dried on the second chair before I found myself looking up domain names like “redchair.com.” No doubt, I was seriously addicted to work. “Hello. I’m Victoria, and I’m a workaholic”.
Let’s be clear: addiction is a chronic disease. It is the inability to control how you use a substance or partake in an activity (be it work, gambling, video games, etc). You become dependent on it to cope with daily life.
The hustle and bustle of achieving was taking its toll, and it was real. A glass of wine with friends turned into a nightly binge to numb out. Working from 8am – 5pm turned into 5am – 8pm. I was in the center of a self-created storm. I’ll have to admit, that confidence on the outside felt like self-doubt on the inside. I bought into the grind in an effort to avoid facing my own anxiety and emotions.
In so many moments over the years, God spoke to me in big ways and small to simply slow down; to embrace grace over grind; to stop attempting to “do it all” to please others.
Here is a short-list of my mind-trash that kept me in that loop for far too long:
- People are depending on me; I can’t let them down.
- If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.
- I can’t afford to hire more staff or delegate.
- You have to work twice as hard as a woman to be equal to a man.
- My family will understand my absence (I’m working).
- I wish I could just turn it off at night – I’ll just get up and get this one thing off my mind.
Perhaps you are a “Type A” achiever and can relate to how difficult it can be to slow your mind and simply “let go.” Radical self-care became my mantra. I’ve spent the past four years earning a Doctorate in Spirituality. The coursework included meditation, mindfulness, yoga, Reiki energy healing, emotional intelligence, self-love and divine connection.
Spiritual lesson: self-love is a requirement of leadership. We know that all results are based on actions. Actions are based on habits and beliefs. Beliefs are influenced first and foremost on our beliefs about ourselves. So many limiting, negative beliefs embedded by outside influences surface in the crucible of leadership.
Bringing it all together
Our Divine potential is the unique role we are here to play; a unique usefulness. We are called to take who we are and what we have and be useful. Everybody has this, so part of our challenge is to become aware of this. What is yours? Mine? What is it that I bring to life that no one else does? Sometimes it’s so natural it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Sometimes we are holding on to old patterns so tightly that our soul gives us a nudge. True leaders bring out the best within themselves and others.
The spiritual work is about unconditionally loving and embracing who we are, in each moment. No one can do this work for us, and we cannot do it for anyone else. It’s ours to own; and, at its core, it asks these questions:
- Can I love myself if I fail?
- Can I love myself if I succeed?
As humans, we have difficulties with both spectrums. Primarily because ego keeps us chasing material appearances of success. Isn’t entrepreneurship the perfect medium for putting these two questions front and center in our lives!
Matthew 22:39. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
All biblical and spiritual traditions of the world teach us to seek love. Imagine a world where self-worth is not connected to net worth.
Perhaps these foundational lessons can help:
- Be open to receive.
- Success requires support.
- Self-love is a requirement of leadership.
I caught a glimpse of this new world order at the inaugural DeW Life retreat. I stood witness to the passion and purpose of this community. We claimed our strengths and celebrated common ground. As Anne says, “Good DeWs seek good DeWs.”
A good friend once called me a dream releaser, and I just love that. So, please feel free to shoot me an email, friend me on Facebook or comment on the monthly DeW Coffee Cup Coaching blog. I’d love to know what topics interest you or what challenges knock the wind out of your sails and bring you back to the spiritual center.