Teaching continuing education classes nationwide gives me a closeup view of the lessons and mantras with which today’s smartest young doctors are winning.

By Jarron Tawzer, DMD

THERE’S MORE KNOWLEDGE than ever at our fingertips, but also more self-proclaimed experts and dubious YouTube gurus. As a highly motivated under-40 doctor myself, I know how hard it can be to spend our limited free time sifting through the mud for flecks of gold. Luckily, I get to connect in person—and compare experiences—with dentists throughout the country when I’m teaching dental and investment CE courses or attending them as a lifelong learner. It’s heartening to see so many young (sometimes very young) doctors trying to become more business-savvy. With that in mind, here are the top five things I see today’s brightest young dentists doing to position themselves for long-term success.

1. Understanding the difference between assets and liabilities. Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad didn’t become the bestselling personal finance book of all time by accident. One of his best lessons: Assets put money in your pocket, liabilities take money out. Sounds simple, right? Except houses can also be an asset (most of the time). Then again, treating yourself to the occasional liability (a sports car, say) can be a worthwhile investment in your personal well-being. The point is, we simply need to be honest with ourselves. I own several liabilities, but I make sure to acknowledge the money they take from my wallet. That necessitates having sufficient assets to put even more money in each month.

2. Investing in themselves. There’s no shortcut here. Every brilliant and successful person I know invests vast sums of money and time in improving their craft and skill. If you’re going to be cheap, make sure it’s not with yourself.

3. Investing in their practices. Many dentists want great clinical results without spending time and money on the essentials. Regardless of your skill as a doctor, you won’t excel without help; highly functioning dental practices treat, pay and support their staff in ways in which other practices fall short. You also need to invest in technology, equipment and systems that help generate and support clinical excellence. I’m not advocating for wasteful spending on every new piece of flashy equipment (ask me how I know it’s a bad idea). However, proven advances that elevate the standard of care belong in every practice: a CBCT, digital X-ray, IO scanner and more.

4. Surrounding themselves with success. “If you’re the smar­test person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” As clichés go, it’s profound. My first job as a clueless grad possessing only basic clinical chops (and zero people or business skills) was in California working for Dr. Greg Bower. His leadership was awe-inspiring; I was constantly taking notes on my phone of things he said and did. This shouldn’t change as we get smarter and start mentoring others. Of all the familiar faces I run across, the ones with the most success are those who insist on always surrounding themselves with those they wish to emulate.

5. Believing failure is not the opposite of success. Dale Car­negie once said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” Understan­ding and accepting failure’s relationship to success is essential. Not every investment is high-yield, not every implant will integrate perfectly, not every staff member you hire will be as committed as you are. But the most successful dentists and investors I know all share one attribute: They learn from failure and strive not to repeat it.

Naturally, as dentists, we still spend the majority of our CE time building clinical skills. But if you’re like the 40 Under 40 honorees in this issue, or aspire to be, you appreciate why personal and professional success are complex pursuits. While these five things aren’t the only things, they’ve guided countless top-performing people to greatness. Take them to heart, and they’ll do the same for you.

JARRON TAWZER, DMD graduated from Oregon Health and Science University. He currently practices cosmetic and implant dentistry in Logan, Utah, while also indulging his entrepreneurial side. He is the owner of several businesses and many real estate developments and acquisitions. Dr. Tawzer also writes and advises on real estate investment.