I was asked the other day why others and I are constantly striving for more and shouldn’t we just settle down and enjoy what we have? I get this question all the time and it is very much part of our collective dental mindset – the belief that each of us is doing as much as is reasonable and anyone doing more than we are must be lying, cheating or stealing… Of course there is another, perfectly logical possibility as to why someone else is doing more but we rarely consider that one! Anyway, I wanted to share my response (with some edits) here so that we might discuss the idea of constantly striving to improve. My hope is that others might learn, much earlier than I did, what is possible and seize control of their lives!

Thanks for the question!

I would start by saying we all believe that what we do should be used the gold standard for how things should be done, but that’s simply not the case because it’s all relative. Some people will look at what you do and think you should settle down because you’re working too hard and you have plenty, but others might think you have a long way to go. This applies to all of us. We can never know what’s in the hearts of others so I don’t even try to divine it any longer. It doesn’t matter to me – to each their own. I do what I do because I like it. I don’t do things I don’t like to do. That’s freedom.

I also love to learn, grow and improve. Every day. It’s fun to me and it’s rewarding. That’s fulfillment.

I get to spend an incredible amount of quality time with my wife and kids. We are very close and make memories daily. Nothing brings me more joy and love than my family time but family, work and everything else touches in this life. Life is much more like spaghetti than waffles! (The 5 Love Languages) You can’t neatly separate aspects of your life and close them off like the rooms in a house. You cannot be a different person depending on what you’re doing or who you’re around and be happy long term. It’s a myth. You gotta be you! Your true self. And you gotta discover who that is. Also, I want to model for my kids what it took me so long to learn. I want my kids to see that you can find something you enjoy and get good at it and do well – then it’s not work at all. I don’t even differentiate between weekdays and weekends any more. It’s all the same to me. I do all I do for my family and with my family. That’s purpose.

Then there are my practices and OrthoPundit, ProOrtho.com, TheMKSforum.com, my speaking events, Smile for a Lifetime and all that. I consider these endeavors all the same. I find no greater joy in life than helping others get what they want. Watching someone realize that they have it in themselves to grow and improve and succeed beyond their wildest dreams is the ultimate experience and it’s my drug of choice. I’m high on life and the result of my life’s work will be thousands of people who are better off than they were before they met me. That’s legacy.

Finally, my life didn’t start off too well and, as a result, my attitude was very negative for a long, long time. In my mid 30s though I realized that I had a choice and I could be happy and productive if I only decided to be so. I’ve lived more in the last 6-8 years than I did in the 35 preceding. I live more in one morning than most people do in a month – not because I’m better or smarter or particularly clever – but because I have worked hard to find out what I’m good at, what I like and how I can get better. How? By reading constantly and seeking out and learning from peers and my betters. I would love to live to be 100 but I can honestly say that if I was told I would die today I would not be disheartened. Life is about quality because that’s all we can control. No one knows when they will hop off this rock no matter how fit. You see it all the time – none of us will get out of here alive.

Seize the day in all aspects of your life! No matter how well we are doing, we can always do better – with our spouse, with our kids, with our patients and with our friends and peers. People think you have to sit still and be quiet to show you’re satisfied. That’s not true at all. I’m extremely satisfied with my life but I’m also hopeful and eager and enthusiastic to learn more and do more today.

That’s life!

Live it to the fullest in whatever form you choose and don’t judge how others live their lives.

11 thoughts on “Lust for Life

  1. Really loved this. Thank you for sharing but even more so, thank you for living such a great example to others. Definately sharing this with clients.

  2. Great post Dr. Burris. Thanks for sharing it. Best wishes! Luis

  3. Thanks Dino! It means a lot that you would take the time to say so.

  4. Thanks Luis! It can be hard to gauge how this kind of post is received by my peers so your feedback really helps. So glad you enjoyed this piece.

  5. I can definitely relate to having that negative mindset and making a choice to be more positive so I could grow and improve. Thanks for sharing and continuing to lead by example.

  6. Ben, this post really resonated with me a lot. I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing. US News and World Report just announced something we’ve known for years. So lets remind ourselves to take a step back, and really appreciate the wonderful gifts we’ve been given.

    For me, “constantly striving for more” means striving to enjoy life more, not necessarily working more. That will mean different things for different people and thats great.

    Thanks for the post!

  7. I am a richer man for knowing you Ben, from a family stand I wish I had met you much earlier. My practice has blossomed with the time we have spent together. You will probably never know the respect I have for you and Bridget.

  8. You are so correct —I only wish I had discovered your website and its great ideas/thoughts yrs ago but I surely am going to adopt /steal /plagiarise them now !LOL.
    Too many of our colleagues spend far too much time in indulging in negativity regarding their colleagues that try something new/different—you are a breath of fresh air !

  9. Thanks for the kind words brother! I can’t tell you how much our friendship means or how much I grow and learn in your presence.

  10. Adopt and copy away, Andrew! I wish I’d figured this stuff out a long time ago as well but you know he old saying – the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second best time is today. Better late than never and better today than tomorrow.

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