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Climb Your Way To The Top

We say it all the time at ACT, but leadership is lonely. When you’re the one at the top, you don’t always have someone to talk to, and that can get dangerous. Your thinking gets skewed when you’re working in your practice all day, and you all too often start to tell yourself an inaccurate story about how well you’re doing—like Kirk says, “80% of self-talk is negative.” Unless you’re able to put yourself in the room with other people who are in your shoes, you never realize that other dentists are making the same mistakes and going through the same challenges as you. The day you realize that you’re not alone and the story you’ve been telling yourself isn’t totally accurate is a hugely powerful one.

To do that, you need a community of like-minded dentists, and one of the best ways to become part of a community is to join a study club. At ACT, we just recently held our quarterly team week, in which we all came together from across the country to truly walk our talk. We used that time to get aligned, plan, organize, set our goals and priorities for the next quarter, and celebrate the hard work we’ve done. At the end of the week, however, we hold our own study club—To The Top.

Climbing the Mountain

We call it To The Top because we think of the dental profession as climbing a mountain without a top—you’ll never have everything figured out. As you climb, however, you reach clearings where you can learn more perspective about where you are. There are people further up the mountain than you, and when you dialogue with them you can learn about their journey and what to expect in your future.

Growing Together

Talking to other dentists makes your life better, especially when they’re the type of dentists who participate in To The Top. The study club members are humble, have a growth mindset, and legitimately want to help one another be their best. There’s no bragging or focus on making a bunch of money—it’s just a group of human beings looking to improve themselves and their peers. Being around these like-minded individuals fires you up, and when you go back to your practice, you’re a better dentist with a renewed passion for the profession.

The way you think changes when you let yourself be around other minds, because you’re exposed to different ideas. It’s like Adam Grant says in Think Againwe need to expose ourselves to alternative messages so we’re forced to constantly re-evaluate the way we think. If more people understood that it’s okay to change your mind and update your beliefs, the world would be a better place. Pride often keeps us from changing our beliefs, but understanding our weaknesses and surrounding ourselves with people who help us overcome those weaknesses will take us to the next level.

It may feel daunting for young dentists to hop into a study club, but there are other options, such as the Wisconsin Dental Entrepreneur Program, which is geared towards recent graduates of dental school. The program melds ACT, the Wisconsin Dental Association, and the Marquette School of Dentistry into a community that teaches the skills to become private practitioners and run a successful business. There are some key processes and systems that make every dentist better, and the DEP filters down the knowledge from experienced dentists and coaches and helps to give them the nuts and bolts for:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Setting your vision and communicating it to your team
  • Strategy
  • Marketing
  • HR

A new dentist can have four decades of practice ahead of them, and the sooner they can get set up with their core values and systems, the quicker they’ll have a great life. Having such expert advice from experienced dentists in the ACT community gives you an incredible resource you can rely on whenever you feel alone or you’re questioning your path. I want people to feel supported and that they can do it—because they can.


We were never intended to do this alone, so schedule a meeting with the ACT team and become a part of a greater community, because when you realize you’re not alone, it’s incredibly powerful. When you surround yourself with other people, that mountain doesn’t seem so tough anymore. There may not be a top to it, but along the way you’ll discover that while climbing it, you’ve created a Better Practice and a Better Life!

Dr. Barrett Straub is the Director of Education at ACT

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is the Founder of ACT Dental, a customized coaching company for dentists. He has invested his entire professional life studying the top dental practices in the world and the leadership that guides them. As the founder of ACT, his vision is driven by the commitment to provide highly personalized care to the dental profession. By creating a talented team of experts, Kirk and his team continue to positively impact the practice of dentistry one practice at a time. His personal mission is to use up every ounce of his potential. He lectures all over the world to help individuals take control of their own lives. Kirk has been recognized as one of Dentistry Today as one of Top Leaders in Dental. Dr. Peter Dawson called him “THE best motivator I have ever heard.” He loves cycling, basketball, stand-up comedy, and most of all, spending time with his wife, Sarah, and children Kinzie, Lily, Zoe & Bo.