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Science shows us how NOT to suck!

The three steps to transition your thinking during times of feeling like a failure. 

Every dentist feels like a failure from time to time. It’s okay. There’s actually a name for it: Imposter Syndrome. 


Impostor syndrome, also known as impostorism, describes a psychological phenomenon wherein individuals harbor persistent doubts about their skills, talents, or achievements, fearing internal exposure as fraudulent.

It’s real,  it’s natural, and it also will hold us back if we don’t know what it is, why we are feeling it, and how to move on from it. 

Psychologist Alfred Binet, inventor of the IQ test, famously stated, “it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.” Present day expert on intelligence, Robert Sternberg, wrote that whether someone becomes an expert “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” 

Next week the book we are giving our clients that join us at To The Top Study Club will receive our quarterly book, “Hidden Potential” by Adam Grant. (By the way, you too can be a member, you just have to join.) In it, he writes about a 30 year retrospective study that found that kids with teachers focusing on character development at least as much as cognitive skills were far more successful in life than those in education models only focusing on advanced intellectual training. 

You’ve heard us state our core value of #Always Be Growing (ABG). It really applies here. Psychologist Carol Dweck, in her best selling book, Mindset,  introduced the concepts of 'fixed mindset' and 'growth mindset.’ 

Fixed mindset - entails the belief that intelligence, talent, and other attributes are inherent and immutable. If one lacks proficiency in a particular area, they tend to believe they'll never excel in it. This mindset frequently shows up as a need to validate oneself, fear of failure, reluctance to accept feedback, and subpar performance.

Growth mindset - embodies the belief that skills and abilities are primarily cultivated through learning and effort. This mindset typically fosters heightened levels of endeavor, perseverance, creativity, learning, and achievement. 

These mindsets are not black and white and certainly not fixed in place. We all switch back and forth between them multiple times per day. However, intentionally pushing yourself more toward the growth mindset will help you think better, perform better, and show up as a more skilled leader. More than anything, the growth mindset loves a challenge and doesn’t mind failure since there is so much learning in our mistakes.. We all will feel imposter syndrome from time to time. How do we pull ourselves from out of the fixed mindset and into the growth mindset? 

Here are three quick ideas to remember and apply as soon as we feel that “I suck” feeling. 

  1. Always focus on character over success and honor your values over your reactionary instincts. I might contend that there really is no such thing as failure when you are being true to your principles. 
  2. Embrace failure as an opportunity. Easier said than done I know. Failure is an opportunity to learn what went wrong and what might be required for success in the future. In many ways, real learning only happens via overcoming challenges in life. 
  3. Use the power of “not yet.” You are still a work in progress, regardless of age. The science of neuroplasticity allows our brains to rewire itself, develop new ways of thinking, and to learn better ways to solve life’s problems. The idea of “not yet” is so much more inspiring than, “I can’t.” 
A “better you” is a long journey or a mountain without a top. It’s also fun and exciting. Keep climbing! 


Watch Carol Dweck’s Ted Talk on the power of Not Yet

Dr. Barrett Straub

Dr. Straub practices general and sedation dentistry in Port Washington, WI. He has worked hard to develop his practice into a top performing fee for service practice that focuses on improving the lives of patients through dentistry. A graduate of Marquette Dental School, his advanced training and CE includes work at the Spear Institute, LVI, DOCS, and as a member of the Milwaukee Study Club. He is a past member of the Wisconsin Dental Association Board of Trustees and was awarded the Marquette Dental School 2017 Young Alumnus of the Year. As a former ACT coaching client that experienced first-hand the transformation that coaching can provide, he is passionate about helping other dentists create the practice they’ve always wanted. Dr. Straub loves to hunt, golf, and spends winter on the ice curling. He is married to Katie with two daughters, Abby, and Elizabeth.