President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” I remember finding great wisdom in that quote and I’ve always held it close to me. Here’s an example of how it played out in my career.
In 2001 when I joined the Speaking Consultant Network (SCN) , the group held a “give us 10 minutes of your best stuff” impromptu session. I remember members were in shorts, flip-flops and jeans with their hair pulled up in ponytails. It was very casual, yet the presentations were very powerful. I vowed I would one day be a presenter.
Two Years Later I Returned to SCN
I was chosen to present at Spotlight on Speaking. I arrived to find that instead of a square table with 24 attendees, we were in an auditorium with a stage, lights, cameras and dozens of people! Oh, and, we were being limited to exactly 10 minutes. At 10:01 the microphones would go silent. No pressure, right?
When the 2-minute sign was held up in the back of the room, I realized there was no way I was going to finish on time. I improvised as my time drew to a close, by saying, “Invite me back; we have so much more to talk about.” It was a better way to finish than ending in the middle of a sentence, but I was devastated thinking that I had failed in such a public way. I walked down the aisle and straight out the back door to catch my breath. On the verge of tears, I was surprised by a tap on the shoulder from Steve Diogo, the then managing editor of Dental Practice Report who said, “I loved your presentation, you’re just who I’m looking for. I’d like you to write for my magazine.” Wow – talk about a rollercoaster of emotion!
The Next Seven Years
I wrote the Practically Speaking column in that magazine for the next seven years; it played a pivotal part in building my business. One lesson from this experience that I want to share is that as women, we tend to be too hard on ourselves. I hadn’t failed at all – my planning and preparation worked – my core message came through – and the results, while not as planned – were better. I also learned another valuable lesson in that we can’t do what we do, as dental entrepreneurs without learning how to improvise, to dance from time to time. Try as we may, we can’t control everything. We will find from time to time that the technology, electricity or fire alarms will challenge us; we just never know. A fellow speaker told me he once tripped on a wire on the stage, falling flat on his face in front of 500 people. He sat up and said, “I will now take questions from the floor.” The audience loved him! None of us will escape these crazy moments. I learned to laugh at myself, trust myself and dance. I highly recommend nurturing this skill.
My purpose at SCN was to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and to step into speaking to grow my business. The surprise was that instead of speaking, the path for my initial growth ended up being writing. My strategy changed, but my message, my purpose did not. I’ve learned that the ultimate joy of over-preparing is that I can now trust myself to be willing to throw the agenda out the window if I sense the team or the audience I am working with needs something other than what I had planned right at that moment. “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
This lesson came full circle last year as I was writing a book to help dentists redefine and step into practice leadership, so they could enjoy spending more time in their clinical joy. I chose the title, PIVOT after learning that the business definition of pivot is to change strategy without changing vision. As I look back, I realize that my career can best be described as a series of pivots. Don’t you love how life has a funny way of keeping us grounded and grateful!
Now in my 20th year in business, life is only getting better, more interesting, and made all the more rewarding by the wonderful friendships I’ve made along the way. Cheers Dental Entrepreneurial Women, I love sharing this journey with all of you.