A Voice in the Arena: Stoking the Flames of Passion—for Orthodontics by Dr. Chad Foster

A Voice in the Arena: Invested, Yet Indifferent  

by Chad Foster, DDS, MS, editorial director

This month, I’d like to share one of my all-time favorite quotes—one that hits home every time I read it. It makes me think of orthodontics and fills me with gratitude for this life I get to live. I first heard the quote, which is credited to NBA legend Allen Iverson, from the always inspirational Dr. Anil Idiculla duringStudio4 an AAO lecture a handful of years ago. It struck me as a great quote at the time but didn’t really sink in until it popped up again a few years later, after I had weathered a few sea changes in my personal and professional lives. The quote now adorns a space in my home office, as you can see in the accompanying photo.

“A jump shot can get you a shoe deal, a big house, a supermodel, fancy cars, a bunch of yes-men, a Swiss bank account. But none of these things can get you a jump shot.”
                                                                        — Allen Iverson

Damn. For me, that’s orthodontics.

Many of us could have chosen a number of different career paths. As a group, we orthodontists tend to be overachieving types (to say it nicely), so it’s reasonable to assume that most of us would have carved out a nice living no matter where those different paths would have led. But are the trappings of a nice living all that matter? “The Answer” (Iverson’s nickname) didn’t think so.

A career that’s a passion, not just a way to fund one

Like most of you, I’ve had friends with all sorts of careers, both normal and unusual. Included in that list are those fortunate enough to be considered “high-income earners,” such as doctors, lawyers, small-business owners, upper-level corporate executives, private equity partners, entrepreneurs and “old money” trust-fund-beneficiary types. I have found that most of these people tend to be what I would call “invested, yet indifferent” when it comes to their careers. For these folks, the career is a means to make a great living. That living, then, might offer a means to truly find their passion—which lies outside of their career, of course. Said another way, their work is not their dream; it’s a necessary burden to afford them the opportunity to find their dream elsewhere.

I can say that in my experience, I have found it exceptionally rare to meet another “high-income earner” who is as passionate about their life’s work as most of my orthodontist friends are—so rare, in fact, that I can recall each of those few specific people immediately. It’s that striking and memorable for me to meet someone else who loves what they do as much as I do. I usually connect very well with those people, because I can feel the heat of their fire and it makes me genuinely happy to see it in someone else.

As my career continues into its second decade, I don’t find myself as much wishing for “the nice things” that orthodontics can get me. I wish more often for my fire to continue to burn, and greater than before. In my experience, when the fire burns high, the nice things are never scarce.

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