Do you work for a living?
Do you feel like the work is getting harder?
Have you ever asked yourself these questions and overwhelmingly answered “Yes”?
Maybe it is because the work load is more demanding today or the business environment has changed. Are the real-time analytics and the urgency to perform taking the fun out of work? Could it be that the data has made you more accountable and that’s translated to more stress? Maybe it’s your resistance to adopt new strategies or learn new software applications that’s causing you to have anxiety? Or maybe you’re just getting older and you’ve lost your ambition?
Do you feel like you’re a member of the “Rat Race”? I seldom use the words “Rat Race” because it has a negative connotation and I believe much of the pressure to conform is self-inflicted. To me, “Rat Race” attempts to describe the chaos we endure while trying to complete tasks, meet deadlines and acquire wealth and power. This quest to improve ourselves is driven by personal aspiration and demanding expectations at work.
Many older Americans, seem to be trying to keep up with technology and are reinventing themselves while satisfying an ever-changing workplace environment. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed in the ‘here and now’ and I’m sure I am not alone. I’m concerned about my kids (now 22 and 26) and how todays politics will affect their future. I’m concerned about the changes in the dental landscape, my career five years from now, and the funding of my retirement portfolio.
Having said that, I am still trying to have my best year yet. I am a young fifty-eight and still fascinated by innovation and technology. I am excited about artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and many of the other advances that will enhance our lives and the way we work, play and communicate. I can imagine driver-less cars reducing congestion, accidents and parking space shortages. I believe drones will enhance delivery, surveillance and our ability to share products with others. They will add speed and dimension to an already revved-up and ever-changing economy. In the next few years I believe AI (artificial intelligence) will become a main stay in our homes and at work. Before you know it, we will talk to a device that recognizes our voice and is familiar with our likes, dislikes and routines.
Imagine that the box below is an AI device from your favorite dental distributor. It will be strategically located so that it can hear you anywhere in the office.
“Hey Henry, I need cotton rolls, A2 flowable and ten cans of lidocaine”
Henry knows your purchase history so the order will be at your door step the next morning with the appropriate quantities based on your utilization. If you are in a rural area, your order may even be delivered by a drone. AI devices don’t really know our likes and dislikes but they run thousands of mathematical computations based on our previous commands. This allows them to respond with incredible precision based on predictability.
While I’m excited for the future I, very much, want to stay engaged and keep up with technology through my elder years. I wonder about the impact all this technology will have on life as we now know it. I fear that millions of people, particularly unskilled laborer’s, will lose their jobs as technology becomes more accessible and affordable. The amount of dislocated people will exceed anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. I fear it will grow the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” and the educated and less fortunate. I truly believe our government must develop extensive training programs for the dislocated (a partnership between with private and public donors) and we must encourage the next generation to pursue education and training towards the careers of the future.
On the upside, we will create new industries and jobs for the future and these technological advancements will lead to invention and innovation. The cycle will continue. While the uncertainty about the economy, innovation and politics may be enormously distracting, there is good news about dentistry. Dentistry has a very bright future. It will serve more people and will deliver better outcomes in the future. The relevance of dentistry will continue to grow as we confirm the systemic relationships between dental and medical disease. Same day dentistry will improve the public’s perception of dentistry and will make it less intrusive. I expect the menu of services will continue to grow as dentists and small groups look for new revenue streams. And more people will go to the dentist because of education, marketing and our movement towards greater access to oral healthcare.
While I have shared some personal thoughts, observations and predictions this month, it does not lessen the cloud from all the uncertainty and immense change around us. I struggle to stay positive and maintain my enthusiasm sometimes but I know my role and responsibilities to my clients and company. Often, I think back to simpler times when I had a milk run of sorts. Back then I called on ten plus offices a day. I would spend a few minutes schmoozing, reviewed products and promotions and discussed growing their business. I did this in just a few minutes while taking an order. In those days, if you asked me what I did for a living I would tell you that “I visit ten good friends every day and help them grow their business”. Today, 20-25% of my time is in the car and the “milk Run” schedule has suffered. The number of requests via e-mail and text, not to mention over 100 cell calls a day, have forced me to conduct business differently. There are mornings that turn into afternoons at my desk just responding to the previous days’ communication. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful team that supports me and we touch more clients and deliver twice as many services, with better results, than we did just a few years back. While this new way of working will take some time getting used to, I still take pride in my work. I provide valuable expertise, honest feedback and unique opportunities to my clients!
As I write my closing remarks I am smiling because I know a little secret. I know that in every economy, every slow down and in every revolution, there are winners and losers. I know that the people who pay attention to their business survive but the people who pay attention and invest in their business – thrive. So, lets pay attention to our business and invest in our future.
I wish everyone a great fall, 2017!