On Mastery

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

On Mastery

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                                                                 M. William Lockard, Jr. DDS


            Within each of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution to what really matters – to really make a difference.    Stephen Covey                        It all begins with your dream of the life you want to live and the person you want to become: it is a matter of choosing and believing.                                                                                                           

                               Are you doing what you really want to do?                                                           

 The exceptional dental practice is based on values, principles and a purpose-driven vision to create a life of meaningful service by helping people improve their quality of life. This requires a commitment to continuous personal and professional growth which is a never ending spiral of learning new behavioral, organizational and technical skills; then applying the new knowledge and discovering new lessons you must learn. We learn by doing.  

Mastery is not really a goal or a destination, but rather a process, a journey that will take you along a path that is arduous and yet exhilarating. The path of a master is a commitment to the process of learning – doing – and applying what was learned.          

Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress followed by a slight decline to a plateau at a higher level than before. It requires diligent practice to improve your skill to gain new levels of competence. During your journey most of the time will be spent on the plateau. It is important to be in the hands of a master teacher who involves the student in the process of learning not just hearing a polished lecture.                       

 Some people are willing to stay on a plateau forever. This is the doctor who doesn’t bother going to learning seminars but feels he is OK doing things the way he has always done them.  Practice, practice, practice is the path upon which the master travels. The dental practice that is only a collection of patients and a way to make money is not a master’s practice. Mastery is staying on the path.                                                                                              

There are times when it becomes necessary to give up some familiar skill or procedure in order to advance to the next level. You may need to assume the mind and attitude of a learner at the beginning of a new experience in growth.                 Ultimately, you will have to decide if you really want to spend the time and effort it takes to get on and stay on the journey; because, lifelong learning is the special province of those who travel the path of mastery, the path that never ends.                                                 

                                      The Masters Path Creates a Life That Matters

Many years ago Dr. Pankey told us that: 2% are masters, 8% are students  36% are adept (average) and 54% are indifferent (mediocre). That may be hard to believe until experience proves otherwise. I have also questioned many lawyers, policemen, builders, physicians, plumbers, CPA’s, etc. about their profession. They all agreed with the percentages. 

After observing dentists and how they practice, some things cannot be learned from a lecture, DVD or books. They must be learned by doing, hopefully under a guidance of a Master.                                                           

Mike Schuster, DDS suggests: There are three areas in dentistry that you must gain competence and then master.

1.    Technical excellence.  You can’t be a master of every area in dentistry. You will only become a Master in one or two areas. You can do endodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, etc. but you will not become a Master in all these areas. No matter how many technical courses you have taken and have achieved a high level of excellence, technical excellence alone has never proven to be the only requirement to become a Master.                                                                                                           

2.    Communication and Behavioral excellence. No matter how much you know and how excellent your technical skills, if you do not understand human behavior and have the communication power of influence, becoming a Master will be impossible.                                                                                                                                         

3.    Organizationally excellence. In addition to the Vision (what we want to create), the Purpose (why we want to create it), and the Philosophy (principles, values), the Master must have:

Systems to provide a structure and standard of excellence that drives your practice from the vision to reality.                                                                                                           

People are the most vital and important element to any business – the right people who work interdependently in harmony and share common values.                        

Time – as doctors, we must structure our time to be efficient with things and time effective with people. A person’s energy is an important element of time.      

Money – how the revenues are created and the costs of doing business are critical to the success of a business. Cash flow systems are management structures. 

Masters are dedicated to the fundamentals and committed to be continual learners. If you choose this path, you won’t work for insurance companies. You will be busy separating yourself from the average and mediocre practitioners.


            This is your life. You only get to live it once. It’s a matter of choice.




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