Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Your Teeth Drilled

Getting Your Teeth Drilled

How often have you heard someone say “I’d rather go to the Dentist and get my teeth drilled”?  Fact is, nobody would ever choose to get their teeth drilled in lieu of some other unpleasant event or experience. Frankly, I’m not sure if that’s a knock on dentists or the fact that many of us areoverly sensitive. And let's face it, even though Novocain is always an option, it’s rarely offered.  That’s what was going through my head as I prepared for my visit to a new dentist last week.

Being away from home, I was also away from my regular dentist who I’d gotten used to.  The thought of going to and getting used to a new dentist caused me enough anxiety to put it off; and the more I put it off the more I needed to find a new dentist, which caused more anxiety. And it’s always the unknown that scares me the most.

 A colleague at one of my clients here suggested I go to the NYU Dental School – there the students work under the supervision of faculty dentists, and they practice on patients like me as part of their senior year studies.  How’s that for a real dental ‘practice’. It seemed like a good idea right up until the ‘student dentist’ called my name in the waiting area. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting old, but that kid looked awfully young!  I mean, how much could they know, and how much have they experienced, and how many patients have they really had???  It wasn’t easy to release my white-knuckled grip on the waiting room chair and I walked behind that student into the examination area like a man going to… you know, get their teeth drilled.

But then an amazing thing happened. This “kid” was great.  She examined my head and neck, under my tongue and around every tooth, and was genuinely interested in learning about me.  Every part of this experience - the X-rays, the deep cleaning, the needle and the Novocain, her overall manner – was so un-dentist like.  The faculty was around to answer questions and reassure the patients, the student dentists were cheerful and smart, and the visit was over before I knew it.  It was anything but the feared trip into the unknown.

And then it hit me: they’d been studying all the latest techniques, and they’re doing this for grades - so why shouldn’t they be good?  I’ve done lots of college recruitment and been so impressed with all the students I’ve met and recruited over the years, so why should these students be any different? I guess it’s because we have this jaundiced view of dentists as well as the fear of the unknown.  But that’s unfair.  Just as unfair as all the other snap judgments we make about any number of things we don’t generally like or understand.

There are some lessons here: don’t be so afraid of the unknown, don’t make snap-but-uniformed judgments, don’t be afraid to try something new, have faith in the recommendations of friends, and don’t judge a book by its cover. Society is slowly turning over every aspect of the world in which we live to the next generation, and if we’ve done a good job preparing them then they just might surprise us by doing things differently and better.  If you get the chance to work with, train or mentor a student, do your best to prepare them for the real world that awaits them. From my experience with these next-generation dentists and hygienists, soon the trip to the dentist may not be like getting your teeth drilled.

My message this week is about always being prepared for and positive about the things that await us in life:                                                                                                                                        

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (born 21 May 1944) served as the seventh (and first female) President of Ireland, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate.

How often have you felt badly about something you’ve done?  When that happens, you feel badly immediately – right?  And then you’d like to take it back, and do it over.  But getting to do things over is generally not how life works.  That’s why it’s usually better to stop and think before acting – not unlike a carpenter who measures twice and cuts once.  But hey – we all make mistakes, so when that happens, it’s best to own up, fess up and apologize immediately. That’s why it’s usually best to approach everything as if it’s leading to a new ending. To do that, you have to think about what you want the ending to be, even before you get started, and then work thoughtfully and carefully towards it.  That’s the best way to avoid having to think about starting over, because you can’t go back and start over – you can only start right and work towards a good ending.

Stay well!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Game of Life

The Game of Life

I’ve never been much good at sports, and although I’ve rarely been to any live games, I sure like to watch them on TV - especially at the end of the season when the playoffs and championships occur.

So it was a nice surprise last week when my neighbor, who’s the announcer for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, offered me a ticket to a game; and not just any game, but one where they were playing against the Boston Celtics (my all-time favorite basketball team). I held that ticket like it was an invitation to a Royal Wedding; I had to take a subway and then a Port Authority (PATH) train to Newark, and then walk the block and a half to the Prudential Arena. There were lines of people out front, buying and eating hot dogs and hamburgers; and throngs of people in the arena buying more to eat and drink and wear, and then making their way to their seats.  Wow: me and all these people – out at the game.

My neighbor started announcing and got the crowd all excited and into the event.  There were the Net’s Dancers (cheerleaders), and the old and young Net’s Kids groups (who also danced), The Dunking Divas (hey – they’re just what the name says), two Net’s mascots (one tall, one short; I think they were supposed to be foxes or wolves), live on-air broadcasters, big screen graphics, and lots of noise and flashing lights. It was definitely more alive than the live TV broadcasts.  Everyone was out at the game and into it.

The dancers danced and the divas dunked and all did amazing acrobatics, the mascots joined in; there were giveaways that I guess you had to be in the know to understand (the one where the mascot had a gun-like contraption that shot rolled up t-shirts high up into the cheap seats was pretty cool). All of these were intended to keep the live crowd focused and excited during breaks in the game – and they certainly did. I don’t remember being so aware of all these things when I watched games on TV.

The best part was being out of the house and there, in-person, at the game, able to see the live faces of the players. I could watch them as I chose, not having to rely on the camera guy’s chooses. I could see all the things that went on away from the ball (as they say).  And that’s the great benefit of getting up and out, and attending anything and participating live and in real time. No TV production stuff to point me where the guy in the booth wanted me to go – nope, it was all where I wanted to go. And that’s the beauty of getting out and being there versus the made up glamor of television or the surfing nature of the web.  Maybe that’s why I always hated sitcoms – that canned laughter never seemed genuine, and it often made me feel stupid if I didn’t find the laugh lines funny. But by being out at the game,  I was a real live spectator, just like I am in real life. And real life is oh so much better than the pasteurized stuff we’re offered and fed by the media or the find on the internet. So the moral of this story is get up and go out, and do things live and in-person if you want to get the real experiences and benefits that the game of life has to offer.

My message this week is about the majesty of life and its ability to inspire us.

“A lot of people have heard about the bald eagle, but you don't really appreciate the majestic nature of a bald eagle until you actually get to view one.”  Scott Root

Scott Root is President and CEO of Astra Tech, Inc., a maker of dental implants.

Ever seen a bald eagle in the wild? While most people haven’t, nearly everyone can describe one. That’s because the white mane, colorful beak and giant wingspan of America’s national bird and symbol are firmly planted in our minds. But as with anything in life, seeing it for real is so much more impressive than looking at a picture. In this same vein, you should realize that others probably have a picture in their mind about you from things they may have read or heard about you.  What do you suppose those pictures are like – and how do you compare in person? Are you more thoughtful and kind in person, are you more helpful and creative and wise than others may have expected?  Will those who get to see you “in the flesh” come away with a greater awareness and respect than from what they’ve heard or read about you?  They should, and you should always be aware of that.  Because just like the bald eagle,  whatever others have heard about you, they probably can’t really appreciate how much more you might be until they actually get to meet you.

Stay well!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Holidays and Trees


Holidays and Trees
It’s the Spring holiday season – Easter and Passover – when most everyone celebrates.  And these celebrations often extend outdoors to places like Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, which is a great place to walk and enjoy a bit of nature in the middle this big city.  Last weekend there were lots of people, families, and dogs there, doing all the things that people do when they’re relaxing outdoors, including enjoying the trees.

100 years ago they planned this park as a place for families to relax and to view the many different varieties of trees.  There’s a trail through and around the park; the path, like the rest of the park, is lined with all kinds of trees, and most of them have descriptive plaques telling what they are. These include: Magnolia, Ginkgo, European Beech, Northern Red Oak, Norway Maple, White Ash, Japanese Zelkova, Japanese Pagoda, Honeylocust, Silver Linden, Common Hackberry, Mulberry, Black Cherry, Amur Corktree, Himalayan Pine, Scots Pine, Sugar Pine, Pitch Pine, Jack Pine, Black Pine, Eastern White Pine, Pin Oak, Bur Oak, Osage Orange, a Tulip Tree and a Golden Rain Tree. There are many more without any identifying plaques…and then there are plaques in front of stumps, most of which once were and are all that remain of the Elm trees that used to be there.

As I looked at the plaques for what were the Elm trees, I couldn’t help but think back and reflect on my life.  I grew up in a city in upstate New York that was known for all of its Elm trees.  There were beautiful, tree-line avenues where the big Elm trees grew up and their branches connected overhead to form canopies.  We played in these trees, and where there were large stands of them in the parks and backyards, we pretended we were cowboys, and soldiers, and Robin Hoods among them.  There were lazy afternoons spent in and under the trees, and countless hours of carving our names and initials in the trees.  And in the fall, we raked and burned the leaves that fell like others had done for countless years before.  Cars crashed into some of the trees, kids fell out of others; birds built their nests in the trees and the squirrels scampered up and along their branches; sunlight shined through the leaves and branches, and ice and snow stuck to them in beautiful patterns.

And then Dutch Elm disease struck, and in a short span of years the trees started dying and falling.  The demise of the trees seemed to reflect the demise of life as we knew it in that rust-belt city.  Companies and jobs moved away, kids like us went to college and settled in other towns (unlike our parents and grandparents who had stayed), and the close-knit neighborhoods slowly changed.  It seemed if we couldn’t have the trees, we weren’t going to have any of the rest of the good things that used to be there. I’m not sure these were actually connected, but it seemed that way to a young kid growing up at that time.  So much was changing in that decade known as the 60s, and this just seemed to exemplify all of that.  Again, I’m sure they weren’t connected, but it sure seemed that they were.

But, like in Fort Greene Park, new trees get planted, new roots grow, and once mighty things get replaced by new ones that create their own stories and legends. And pretty soon the vestiges of the old are replaced by the realities of the new.  Nothing much is lost in the long run, but during the transition there’s an unsettled feeling until that which is new gets rooted and accepted.  I guess it’s just the reflections through these old eyes that takes some getting used to.  So as I sadly stood there in front of the space where once a mighty American Elm used to stand, I took heart in all the new and vibrant trees that are living and growing there now.  Life truly does go on, reflections of things past continue to nourish the soul, and awareness and acceptance of things present offer hope for the future.  I guess the trick is to blend them together to form our views and perceptions of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And maybe that’s the real message of the Spring holiday season.

My message this week is to passionately remember the past and embrace the things we have now:

Arte Nathan“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.”  -Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904 – 1991) was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for his children's books written under the pen name Dr. Seuss.

If today is your day, then what will you do to make sure that the day goes the way you want it to go?  Will you try to influence the things and the people you’re with, with the things that you know and way that you feel?  Or will you show them the way by the way that you act and open their eyes with the things that you see?  Each of these – a feeling or act – can help others to know and to know how you want them to feel and react.  Because those are the ways that are best to be used when you are trying to show them the you that is you and the best things to do.  So remember this simple but very good rule that you’ve got to believe in and always should use: that showing your passion and feelings and such should always be used and will always be cool.  And oh, by the way, as a way to help others it’s a very good tool. Yep – today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.

Stay well!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Smile: Pass It On


Smile: Pass it On – I saw this message attached to a picture of the Mona Lisa on a bus stop this week. It’s a  New York City public service campaign that’s on billboards, busses and papers. I’d like to think it isn’t needed.  But you never know.

So I stood off to the side and watched to see if anyone took note of it directly – none seemed to. And then I thought I’d test out whether they either needed or heeded the reminder: I started smiling at the people I passed. Well, first I had to catch their attention, and then I smiled. Don’t you know that more people smiled back than not. Not a very scientific survey, but it was encouraging.

I’d like to think that in this densely populated city, a smile has the power to make that density a positive thing. On the streets, in subways, on busses, going through doorways, up and down stairways and escalators, walking across busy streets, sitting in the park, sitting in restaurants, hanging out with others, walking the dogs – there’s not a place here (or anywhere) that a simple smile doesn’t have the power to make wherever you are or whatever you’re doing better.

But wait – isn’t that obvious? I mean, do they really need a public service announcement or campaign to remind people to smile?  Well, in a perfect world I suppose not, but then what’s the harm. We often tell those we love that we love them – does that imply they forgot? No. We remind our children to look both ways – does that mean they don’t remember? No. We listen to repeated news stories and weather forecasts – does that mean we didn’t hear them the first time? No. So it seems normal to remind people to Smile – does that mean they don’t or won’t? Well, no.

Because in life, we need to continually reinforce the things we want repeated – just like we learned in Psych 101 class. So we often repeat the things we want others to remember or focus on, and in this world where everything is repeated repeatedly, this is one of the better ones to repeat and reinforce. What’s the harm?  Nothing!  So wherever you are, take time today to Smile, and Pass It On.  It can’t hurt. And it just might help!

My message this week is about being responsible for making people and things better:
Arte Nathan“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.”   -Mother Teresa

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (1910 – 1997), more commonly known as Mother Teresa, was a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, in 1950.

It seems we always take for granted those we know and care about the most. Think about the people around you – you probably give the most work (or grief) to those you like and trust, and the people who really don’t perform all that well probably get the least attention from you.  And the ones that are always on time, who always do a little extra, who care the most and try the hardest, probably get everything to do because people know they can be trusted. But what if everyone took the time to explain these thoughts to those who are not the best; what if we made the effort to coach them and mentor them; what if a few extra minutes a day could transform those who are not the best performers into better performers. Do you think that would help? Wouldn’t you want someone to do that with you? Think about it. And then trust those around you to handle and do good things today.  Pass it on!

Stay well!

An added note: this week’s picture is of the iconic figure in the sign of the Blue Angel Motel in downtown Las Vegas. The smiling angel, along with the sign and motel, are slated to be demolished soon. Hopefully she will be rescued and relocated to the Neon Museum where all the famous old signs go when they’re retired.