Don’t sweat the small stuff
Don’t sweat the small stuff
The need to feel in control is quintessentially human

By Ross Martin, Management Consultant at Hive Business

Accountants like simple questions that produce right and wrong answers. So do dentists. Question: can I afford to buy that dental practice? Answer: yes. That’s not enough in my view.

Binary questions only skim the surface and they’re borne of the inward looking silo culture that surrounds us. They have the whiff of cowardice, of professionals covering themselves, avoiding the risk of not knowing the answer.

A professional might have to suppress their good instincts to stick to the script. The outcome? No surprises, good or bad. And what about all that bountiful grey fog in between the black and white, the not knowing, the fulcrum of creative genius? Strangled at birth.

There’s too much of this control mentality around, and it’s a shame. People are operating in silos and allowing themselves to be constrained by awfully narrow viewpoints. This is nearly irresistible for humans because we don’t like risk.

Control is comforting, but it’s so limiting. Being at ease with uncertainty and big question marks is the mark of an individual who is learning about reality. Who asks questions that challenge their assumptions? The person moving on to greater things.

This person accepts that things fall apart, and they appreciate that running a business is not just, even not primarily, about order.

Meanwhile their counterparts plateau: they see revenue levelling off, don’t take financial freedom and surrender to a rat race slog to pay the bank back. For whatever reason they are unable to embrace the inherent chaos of business and develop non-clinical skills and behaviours.

Our programmes at Hive aim to help dentists develop non-clinical behaviours that can save them from this fate. We aim to stay in the grey area and sit with the big question marks because it forces us and our clients to expand our awareness of the factors affecting their businesses. We don’t trust comfortable.

The need to know everything and feel in control is quintessentially human, but it’s a scarcity mindset that can’t lead to exponential growth. When you’ve been in the fear-control system — the rat race — for long enough it can seem impossible to break free. Then you get to 70 and wonder what you’ve done with your life.

I’ve trained as an accountant and I can tell you that all those rules have a narrow application in the real world. I’ve learned that they’re not necessarily that helpful in running a business. Life in the control mindset feels like painting the Forth Bridge, the job is never finished.

But you can choose an alternative. Take a global view. Accept that life is a permanently moving target, let loose some arrows, let go a little. Don’t get stuck in the fear-control matrix, the voice that says: “I can’t do this piece of marketing before I have that piece of marketing,” or “I can’t submit the forms to the GDC until I get my referral pack, and I can’t get the referral pack until I get that paperwork sorted…”

Trust me, I’ve lived with that stuck feeling. I developed OCD behaviours because of my role. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I learnt another way since having kids, because they forced me to accept that sometimes it’s better to let go. Sometimes they use the jam spoon to eat breakfast. Sometimes they won’t go to bed. I’ve had to stop sweating the small stuff, and life feels better that way. So does business.

Ross Martin
By Ross Martin Management Consultant
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