Know Thyself.

One of the most difficult tasks I face as a coach and consultant is helping doctors better understand what it is they want and who they want to become. It’s also the most rewarding part of my job. Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become who he potentially is.”

I’ve spent private coaching days with hundreds and hundreds of doctors and small business owners from all walks of life. Often, these clients walk out of the room with an entirely different mindset and clarity of thought, able to implement new strategies with renewed energy and enthusiasm. They leave with a vivid image of what they want to achieve in life. Sometimes, however, doctors struggle to “give birth” to themselves. They can’t see their own potential.

I’ve been doing this long enough to understand the difference between the doctors who quickly double or triple the size of their practice, those who expand confidently and open new locations, hire more doctors, see a bigger vision for their world and achieve goal after goal and those who are stuck. Would you like to know the secret?

The doctors and clients who are able to achieve so much more than their counterparts in much less time are all very realistic about who they are, where their strengths lie and are completely honest with themselves about what that means in terms of chasing down their goals. They understand other people and human behavior not because they are more gifted, more charismatic, better leaders or recipients of good luck, but because they have taken the time to get acquainted with themselves.

They are able to work backwards from their goals and list 50 ways their own biases, tendencies and weaknesses will get in the way. Then, they never go there. They go around.

By knowing yourself, you can do the same. Spend some time this week somewhere quiet. Go for a hike early in the morning. Sit and watch the sun come up and ask yourself these two questions. “Who am I and what do I want to do with the rest of my life.”

The smartest and most successful people on the planet have extremely clear answers to these two questions. Everyone else cannot know and understand others, cannot leverage and organize human capital to achieve big things and will never understand why because they don’t understand themselves.

Some Things Never Change.

The Smithsonian magazine reported recently that archaeologists uncovered an ancient Roman bathroom, decorated with suggestive mosaics, meaning dirty jokes were built right into the walls. Just like bathroom humor has been around since the dawn of time, there are many things that never change, even in today’s fast-paced, always-on, hyper-connected society.

For example, your patients will always want to know certain things from you before they buy, before they refer, before they pay in full, etc.

Each year, Jeff Bezos and Amazon ask, “What do we know about the consumer that never changes?” This is an extremely telling secret hidden in plain sight. The world’s #1 disrupter of many industries is not asking, “What’s new and always changing?” He has thousands of software engineers and towers filled with experts who can keep up with the day-to-day details of running the world’s biggest online retail firm. Instead of focusing on up-to-the-minute minutiae, Jeff Bezos wants to know what never changes. He wants his eye focused on the horizon. Yours should be too.

Complete and unrecognizable disruption will one day transition the orthodontic industry so that 100% of treatment is delivered direct to the consumer. How orthodontics is paid for and reimbursed by insurance companies will change. How consumers connect with providers and what they demand in return for their investment will change. Those who set the laws, regulating our profession will change.

Set amid all of this disruption, there will be winners and losers. The winners will have asked and provided solutions to the fundamental question, “What do we know about orthodontic consumers that never changes?”

What fascinates people. What makes them laugh. What makes them fearful, jealous, spiteful. How do they behave when they are happy, sad, excited, eager, hungry or tired. What would stimulate their desire to enhance their smile. Why they would come see you, considering all of their options, including the option of doing nothing. These are the things that never change.

Study them, and you hold the keys to human nature that can unlock a lifetime of success, so that everyone around you thrives. Ignore them, and you’re doomed to continuous struggle, inconsistent results and a lifetime of frustration.

Belief and Doubt.

One of the best television commercials in history only aired one time. In it, a young girl is shown in a field, picking pedals from a flower she holds in her hand. As she pulls off each pedal, she counts and then drops them to the ground. The commercial starts off warm and makes viewers smile, but just before she reaches the final count, she looks up at the camera with a suddenly worried expression.

The camera quickly zooms towards her face as a man’s voice starts counting backwards from the number ten. When he reaches the number zero, the camera has zoomed all the way into the young child’s worried eye and the scene abruptly cuts to a series of atomic bomb mushroom clouds. President Lyndon Johnson’s voice speaks over the images of nuclear catastrophe.

“These are the stakes,” he says, “to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must love each other, or we must die.”

An announcer’s voice then encourages the viewer to “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” The President’s political opponent, Barry Goldwater, led an enormous outcry after the commercial aired. For obvious reasons, Goldwater and his supporters knew the ad’s intention: to remind viewers that if elected, he would lead the country into a nuclear disaster. Yet, the spot never mentioned Goldwater.

These advertisers were brilliant. They knew in advance what people would think after watching it because they knew what they thought before they saw the commercial. The commercial simply amplified the nation’s current thoughts on Goldwater’s nuclear position.

They destroyed Goldwater’s campaign with a single ad that aired a single time without ever mentioning his name. They could have jammed fact after fact into the ad about Johnson’s position on civil rights, his accomplishments in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination and his plans for the future of this country. Instead, they demonstrated enormous self-restraint and led people to make the desired assumption: Goldwater is trigger-happy. Vote for President Johnson. It worked.

One of the most powerful marketing lessons is on display in this example: people sometimes believe what they are told, but they never doubt what they conclude.

Look around your practice marketing and advertising and you’ll likely find a ton of reasons why patients or parents should buy your products or services. Your positioning and marketing tell everyone what to believe but there are probably only a handful of practices in the world who allow parents to come to their own conclusions.

Smile Direct Club is doing it brilliantly. They don’t tell consumers what to believe. They show them the facts and let them come to their own conclusion: “orthodontists are charging you too much.”

Years ago when I decided to do something about my moderately-sized practice and average net income, I decided to craft a message that allows parents to come to their own conclusion: other offices are cheaper for a reason. It worked. Parents came to love our satisfaction guarantee, lifetime retainers and never-miss-work-or-school guarantee. We grew from a few hundred case starts per year to 1,904 very quickly.

You choose your marketing message and how you intend to deliver on the promises you make. What you can’t do is sit around trying to tell consumers what to believe or why you think they should get orthodontic treatment. That’s a recipe for failure.