I’ve received many positive comments about relating my family experiences with my kids to the practice of orthodontics and running a business. It’s not difficult to see how most aspects of life are interrelated and how business is business, no matter if it’s in the health care industry, the tech industry, the hospitality industry or the legal profession. (I believe this lesson was taught to me during Michael Gerber’s keynote lecture at the AAO winter conference several years ago.)
While neither of the two children I’ve previously mentioned has entered the field of orthodontics, both have lived lives with many shared experiences that we can relate to.
The daughter I’ll discuss this month, however, probably has the most direct correlation to what many of us have experienced as it relates to dreaming, applying, educating and practicing our chosen profession.
First, outstanding achievements
Stephanie, being the middle child, was often found in her room studying, cramming, achieving and finding herself at the top of her class. My oldest was always being shuttled to baseball games, hitting coaches and the like, while the youngest … well, she was the baby. Stephanie, meanwhile, was the one who addressed the parents of her senior classmates regarding the European Graduation tour with polish and detail. In other words, she always found a way to get it done well.
Like my others, she benefited from a great school system in our hometown and took advantage of all of the opportunities that were available. She was able to travel to China for the Olympics with her high school band—by now, she has more stamps in her passport than her mother and I do! So it was somewhat scary when, at the start of the Great Recession, she asked if she could attend a prestigious private college on the West Coast.
At the time, she had an offer on the table for free tuition at Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College and was debating whether to take it.
Seeing our college fund cut almost in half during the market crash made her mother and me nervous, and as parents we were conflicted because we had both attended public universities (with the exception of my professional schooling) and we believed that they served us well. Being rational and practical parents—and, dare I say, somewhat selfish— we persuaded her to take the free ride, and promised to pay for advanced degrees at a later date if and when she decided on a final career track, because at the time she was still undecided.
ASU was a great choice! Stephanie excelled, experienced many college activities, and ended up choosing a career and writing a thesis based on millennial luxury fashion. Her dual major in finance and marketing enabled her to gain employment right out of college. She graduated with many honors and worked in the industry for two years.
Then she remembered my promise. One day, she approached me and said that after working in the fashion industry for two years, she had determined that she wanted to become a fashion lawyer.
I felt much more secure by then—Fordham University, with the help of Diane von Furstenburg, had created a Fashion Law Institute, and Stephanie was determined to be enrolled in one of the first classes. Not only had she found her niche, but the college fund had recovered and the family felt better spending the necessary funds for her to pursue her dream and desire.
But then, a sobering
And here is where many similarities to our profession and readers may appear. Always a straight-A student with honors and achievements, at law school Stephanie found herself surrounded by dozens of similar overachievers. (Sound familiar?) Her first semester was eye-opening—competing with absolutely brilliant students, she found herself in the middle of the pack, which in law school gets you almost nowhere.
The second semester and year were more fruitful, as our daughter worked herself up the ladder of success and landed an internship in one of the larger firms in Manhattan. After that summer, she—like those of us in dental school and residencies—could focus on the business at hand and
was able to take elective courses in the chosen specialty of law or dentistry. Within the past year, Stephanie has graduated, passed her bar and become sworn in to the legal profession in New York.
Here’s what we can
learn from our kids
Libby, my youngest, showed us the importance of understanding the millennial generation, a large part of our practice demographics.
• She is constantly connected.
• She is part of the group that wants it now.
• She orders most things online and has them delivered.
• Randall, my first, shows us the importance of systems.
• He understands that procedures are necessary to run an effective business, hold people accountable and train staff.
• He works to build teams so that he has free time—or at least can trust that the tasks are being accomplished.
Systems make it possible to hire, train and implement the business procedures and deal with multiple employees and turnover.
• The takeaways from Stephanie’s experience show us that:
• Things don’t always work out immediately as planned.
• Sometimes you need to do things you don’t want to do in order to find your niche.
• If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
• Your previous experiences, even if not your final goal, may help you in the end.
• Don’t burn bridges.
Which is to say: Congratulations—now that you’ve achieved your goal, you get to work like a dog for the rest of your life! Professional work, if you haven’t already noticed, is kind of piecework … just in nicer clothing.