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Episode #610: The 3 P’s to Avoid Burnout – Dr. Christian Coachman

How do you enjoy dentistry for 72 years? To reveal that secret, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Christian Coachman, founder of Digital Smile Design, to share the story of his father and the three things he does to keep his love for dentistry alive. If you’re tired of it before 50, there’s a problem! To learn how to reignite your fire and to hear how DSD can help, listen to Episode 610 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

Take good care of your physical health.

Find ways to keep your passion for dentistry alive.

Maintain your beginner’s mindset and be ready to learn.

Create a legacy through your dentistry you can be proud of.

Figure out the unique “cool factor” that you and your practice have.


“Dentistry is tough. It’s very stressful. If systems are poor, we go crazy very easily.” (3:07—3:15)

“Dentistry is an extremely stressful profession. It’s known. We know that. It’s scientifically proven. There are articles about it. It’s one of the most stressful professions out there. It’s an amazing profession. Amazing profession, but also a very stressful profession. And the distance between amazing and very stressful is very little. There’s a thin line between, ‘I’m loving what I’m doing,’ and, ‘I’m not loving it at all.’ So, first of all, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge how stressful dentistry is and to understand the reasons why dentistry is so stressful, physically and mentally, and then start to ask ourselves why some dentists are not stressed at all, why some people can just work, work, work and have fun working, and others — what I see, unfortunately, the majority are struggling.” (6:30—7:46)

“I always use, as an example, the story of my father. My father is a dentist. He’s 72 years old. He’s in great shape. He’s still working more than ever, Monday to Friday, at least. He does charity on Saturdays, many times, treating patients. And in Brazil, it’s very common that people work like 12 hours a day. He’s been doing that for 50 years — five decades. I compare this to some of my friends, dentists — even good dentists — that are tired. They are not even close to the age of my father, and they’re like, ‘Man, I want to do something else. Maybe I can start lecturing to break the routine. I need to diversify the way I make money because I don’t know if I can do this for ten more years.’ These are common comments that you probably get as well, ‘I want to get out of it. I want to exit.’ When you’re thinking and feeling like that before you’re even 50, or around 50, you have a problem.” (7:49—9:10)

“I started to ask myself, what makes the difference between going in the direction that my dad was able to go, and going in the direction that you feel like you’re struggling. And I was able to find three things that my dad — consciously or unconsciously, I don’t know exactly — did that I believe are the magical recipes for him to still love what he’s doing and every single morning say, ‘I want to do it again.’ I call it the three P’s: passion, pride, and performance. I was able to realize that my father, from time to time, is able to reignite his passion for dentistry, cyclically. He never lets passion drop, and he finds ways to be passionate about it. I realized that my father is always reframing his pride for what he does — expanding his pride, finding things that gives him more meaningful pride. And I realized that my father is constantly open to improving his performance, to challenging himself, to having an open mind for new things, new ways of doing what he’s doing, even though he is a very good dentist. Thirty years ago, he was already a very good dentist. And he’s constantly reinventing himself. So, for me, this is the magic formula. You’re nurturing your three P’s. So, the question is, how can we nurture our three P’s?” (12:30—14:38) [cut out 32 seconds 15:23—17:08]

“How can you keep your passion going? I believe that passion comes from knowing that you’re doing something different. Many times, being different is more powerful than being better. I love analyzing the difference between being better and being different. For me, being different is more powerful than being better. As you find ways to do dentistry in a different way, you keep your flame alive. Being in the comfort zone is the killer of passion. Doing things the same way you always did kills passion, so you need to leave some time — of course, you cannot create chaos by changing everything all the time. And many times, you’re doing things very well and you want to keep that. But you need to always leave some time every week for you to think about, ‘How can I be different?’ Not only being different, but making people see you as different.” (17:16—18:53)

“For me, a compliment that somebody tells me [is], ‘Christian, you are great.’ That’s a good compliment. Fantastic. But if somebody comes to me and says, ‘Christian, you are different,’ that is, for me, ten times a better compliment. So, it’s not only about being different, but making people perceive you as different. That makes you feel alive because you know you’re creating an impact in a different way. [It’s] one thing for people to come to you just because it’s convenient to go to you. [It’s] another thing for people to go out of their way and drive to the other side of town — or to fly into a different city — to see you because they feel like you’re different. So, making your team also understand that what you guys do is different and special makes the team more passionate.” (18:53—20:00)

“I think that there are many ways to be passionate about what you do. One way is to practice this exercise of asking yourself, ‘How can I be different? How can I make people perceive me as different?’ Just this pursuit makes you alive again. So, I think that it’s something that we need to exercise. And if that doesn’t really fit you, you need to ask yourself, ‘How can I reignite my passion from time to time?’” (20:02—20:41)

“What I noticed in my father is that he’s very proud of his work. He’s very proud of his legacy. He’s very proud of his team. He’s very proud, not only about his dentistry — and that’s the difference here. Of course, when you do a great surgery, when you finish a great case, when you bond a great composite, when you do a great implant placement, when you perform something very well and you know you did well, you’re proud. But that’s a technical proud. Right? That fades. You’re proud of your implant placement once, then twice, then ten times, a hundred. But when you get to 500 implants and you’re doing it exactly the same way, and you’re doing it very, very well, you’re not proud anymore. It’s just in auto mode. So, technical high performance makes you proud, yes. But it’s not the type of pride that I believe will make you do dentistry for 50 years, or even 30 years. The pride that I’m talking about is the pride of generating a much deeper impact on the people around you. So, not only on the patient, but mainly on your staff.” (22:13—23:42)

“What I realized about my father is that he’s proud of his dentistry. He’s proud of the compliments that he gets from his patients, yes. But above all, he’s proud of his team and he’s proud of how his project made their lives better. That’s the ultimate level of pride, for me. If you want to not be tired of doing dentistry, you need to generate an environment. You need to transform your practice into a project that makes the lives of your team members better. When you see that happening, you’re so proud of yourself, and that pride feeds you forever. You wake up, and even on a tough day you find the strength to get through when you look at your staff. You look at the project that you started, your practice, your baby, your little company, and you realize that this does not belong to you anymore — it belongs to everybody. And everybody there feels like that, and they live for that. They are proud of being there, and they want to be there forever. Their lives are better because they are there, and their spouses are proud because they are there, and the kids are having a better life because they’re there, and everybody is growing together. You look back, and you see people working with you for 10, 20, 30 years. My father has people working with him for 30 years. And you say, ‘Damn, this is amazing. I can do this all over again.’ That’s the level of pride that I’m talking about. And so, my suggestion is to find that inspiration with your team by making changes and creating the structure to make your team have a better life because they work there with you. This is going to be an auto feed of energy that will make you not want to quit.” (23:43—26:06)

“Great leaders don’t get tired of doing what they’re doing. Period. If you see great leaders, they do what they do forever, and they’re never tired. Why? Because of the legacy that generates this pride. One thing is to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, get everything, save your money, build your financial situation. And then, of course, if you’re working for that, you will always dream of the exit every single day because you’re working for that. You created that scenario. And even unconsciously, your team feels it energetically. And I believe in energy. Energetically, people know when you are there to cash out . . . And then, you don’t feed this circle with this beautiful energy that comes from pride of being there.” (26:30—27:43)

“My father was able to build a legacy where even patients felt like part of the project. It’s amazing. Patients felt like part of the project. I would speak with some patients of my father, and they would speak to me as if they were partners of the practice. They felt like investors. They would defend the practice, and they would compliment — they would talk about it to others as if they were shareholders. They were emotional shareholders. That’s how I would call them. Many patients and many of the staff members were emotional shareholders in the practice. I think you cannot be more proud of it than this. You look around, and you see this happening. He can see this, and that keeps him going.” (28:13—29:13)

“The third “P” [to help you avoid burnout] is performance, because you can be very passionate about something but very bad at it. I’m very passionate about guitars, but I suck. So, that’s two different things. You can be very good at it and not be passionate as well, the opposite. I’m very good at whatever, but I’m not super passionate about it. We see people with natural talent. So, the beauty is to combine both, to love something and to be very good at something. Again, being a good dentist by itself will make you want to continue to be a dentist. But that’s not enough, because I mentioned the example of colleagues that are very good, and they are struggling emotionally, and they’re tired. So, just performing very well is not enough.” (29:13—30:21)

“What I saw in my father when it comes to performance — being good is a given. You have to be good. Right? But the plus comes from being open-minded to reinvent your performance. It’s the beginner’s mind. That’s the lesson I learned from him, the beginner’s mind. There’s a beautiful Buddhist description of the beginner’s mind and why, as we become good at something, we stop learning. And the key is to always learn. Become very good at something and continue to learn. That means that even if you are a master at something, you need to pretend you’re not. You need to pretend you are a beginner. When you’re listening to others, when you’re going to a lecture, when you’re listening to your assistant, when you’re listening to your technician, pretend you are a beginner. Take your super expert hat off and put your beginner’s hat on. And just by mentalizing and pretending you’re a beginner, you already listen in a different way.” (30:22—31:39)

“Listen to learn. This is something that I learned because I was always very good at answering. I missed many opportunities in my life to learn because I was listening to somebody already building my answer, and I was eager to show the person that I had an answer for whatever they were saying. I realized later on that I was missing an opportunity. I was behaving like an expert and not like a beginner. I was not wearing my beginner’s mind and I was stuck. So, for me, the third “P” is to not fall into the temptation of, ‘I am a master. I know what I’m doing, and that’s enough for me.’” (31:44—32:34)

“I could add that fourth “P”, that is having an external hobby that makes you passionate about life that feeds your passion for your dentistry as well. You need to find — I don’t like the word balance; I have to be honest. I gave up many years ago trying to find balance. I was being very, very hard on myself because I was not finding balance. I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to give up finding balance,’ and I felt very good about it. Balance, it’s overrated. It’s about enjoying the moment, I believe. So, if you’re doing something, ‘Oh, man. I’m doing too much of this and too little of that,’ of course, you can discuss balance, etc. But just deep dive in whatever you’re doing and do it the best you can. And if you want to really go full power on something — how can you write a book? I’m in the process of writing a book. How can you find balance when you’re writing a book? You need to deep dive, and do it, and go crazy, and work over nights and weekends. And balance — there is no balance. If you think about balance, you’re not going to get things done. And so, I don’t like the word balance. I like the words, living in the moment and enjoying the moment.” (33:58—35:38)

“People say, ‘I’m not healthy because I’m not balanced. I’m working too much.’ But the problem is not working too much. If you’re working too much for a certain period of your life and you’re loving it so, so much, this is not going to harm you. That’s not the problem. The problem is that you’re working too much and you’re doing too many things that you’re not enjoying. That’s the problem. I could play tennis eight hours every day. This is completely out of balance. But I know I would love every minute of it, and I could do it for ten years, full power, and I would not be tired.” (36:46—37:31)

“You need to feel like you are cool. That’s another thing that makes you want to work on what you’re doing, whatever you’re doing. You need to look at yourself and say, ‘Wow, man. What I’m doing is cool. I feel cool. This is cool. My practice is cool.’ Patients come here and they say, Damn, this is cool.’ I go out with my team members, and they say, ‘Boss, you’re cool.’ So, you need to make your environment cool. And there are all kinds of ways to be cool. I’m not talking about this stereotype of being cool, wearing an Italian suit and some handkerchief. No, no. There are all kinds of ways of being cool. You need to find your way. What makes you look cool? What makes you feel cool? What makes other people say you are cool, your practice is cool, your team is cool? Not nice. Nice can be a tricky compliment. ‘Oh, everybody here is nice.’ I prefer, ‘Everybody here is so damn cool.’” (37:49—39:01)

“Separate some very high-quality moments of your week to define what success means for you. It’s definitely something away from money and fame, money and reputation. This kills us. The pursuit of money, the pursuit of reputation, kills us, and the pursuit of growth.” (40:25—41:00)

“Unfortunately, our society defines as success something that is always growing compared to last year. I’m completely against this. This year, our company had a profit of whatever, or grew 10%. Definition of the Western capitalist world — if next year, you grow five instead of ten, you are a “failure”. You had a bad year. Explain to me why. Crazy process of eternal growth. The curve needs to always go up. Why doesn’t stability mean success? If I had a good year, I had a good life. I took a decent amount of money home. My team is happy, they had a good life, and my patients are happy. If I copy-paste my performance of this year next year, and I do exactly the same, why do investors and businesspeople look to my numbers and say, ‘Eh’? I think this is wrong. And I hope that the pandemic helped us to reset this a little bit to see that, suddenly, the whole world stopped growing and all the numbers went down. We survived, and many people had many months of a healthier life because, suddenly, not growing was normal.” (41:01—42:45)

“We need to be smart, business wise, of course. But this eternal pursuit of growth and money and recognition can kill us.” (42:54—43:07)


0:00 Introduction.

1:28 Dr. Coachman’s background and about DSD.

5:51 The story of Dr. Coachman’s father and the three P’s.

14:39 Ways to keep your passion going.

22:09 Have pride in your legacy.

27:46 Reinvent your performance.

33:17 Balance is overrated.

37:38 Find your “cool factor”.

40:06 Last thoughts on the three P’s.

43:14 More about DSD and how to get in touch with Dr. Coachman.

Dr. Christian Coachman Bio:

Combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions, Dr. Christian Coachman pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded Digital Smile Design company (DSD). Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses and workshops, such as the renowned DSD Residency program.

Dr. Coachman is the developer of worldwide, well-known concepts such as the Digital Smile Design, the Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, the Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation, and Digital Smile Donator.

He regularly consults for dental industry companies, developing products, implementing concepts, and marketing strategies, such as the Facially Driven Digital Orthodontic Workflow developed in collaboration with Invisalign, Align Technology.

He has lectured and published internationally in the fields of esthetic and digital dentistry, dental photography, oral rehabilitation, dental ceramics, implants, and communication strategies and marketing in dentistry.


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