Why we open our mouths at the dentist
April 15, 2024

Why we open our mouths at the dentist

by Brian de Haaff

Why do we open our mouths at the dentist? I told a friend about the concept behind this blog post as I was beginning to outline my thoughts. She confessed that she actually could not open her mouth during one visit — the fear was too great. But she knew that regular cleanings are critical to overall health. So she pushed past the mental block. Now, she almost looks forward to her appointment every six months.

Confront the pain now or experience worse pain later — this is a scenario we often face in life and in our professional work.

Company founders and leaders wrestle with this daily. You inevitably need to do things that you do not relish. Some of us struggle with writing. Others do not like to dig into data. Dealing with conflict, job performance, and interpersonal issues is often draining and difficult. No one looks forward to the gristly parts of leadership.

But you do it all because you must. You cannot pick and choose, leaving others to complete what you avoid. And you must also learn to do that work well because collective success depends upon it.

Customers and teammates rely on you to go forward boldly — the consequences of doing nothing are too great. You cannot reach your goals unless you commit fully. It is an exercise in discipline.

If you choose to take the path of entrepreneurship — and are fortunate to experience success — you will be stretched in uncomfortable ways.

When you are in a focused role, you generally do what you enjoy. Specialist work is often an area where people find great joy. After all, it is the intersection of both your skills and interests. Sure, there are down days or particularly thorny problems to solve. But you are learning and growing expertise in a discipline you are passionate about.

My focus here is on company founders because the role comes with unique responsibilities. Folks who are responsible for the overall health of the business have a broader swath of associated work — not all of it (and maybe not even a lot of it) being enjoyable. There are activities you approach with caution, and even dread.

Personally, I do not like the administrative work of running a business that does not obviously contribute to customer or team member value. It makes me impatient. But I do the work to the best of my ability.

Other types of leaders and the specialists mentioned earlier are not immune to the metaphorical dentist. You too can open yourself to looking at so-called drudgery in a new way. Below is how I prepare myself mentally for those tasks — starting with some reminders to myself:

I embrace the opportunity to contribute

First, I reframe my mindset. Rather than view the work as a chore or burden, I ground myself in the reality that it is a privilege. It is a gift to do what I do every day. The opportunity to serve others and deliver value is rare — I embrace it with sincerity.

I am grateful for the skills I have

We naturally gravitate towards areas where we have innate talent or interest. I might not be drawn to certain work. But that does not mean I cannot leverage the skills I possess to be successful. Before I jump into the task, I take a moment to be grateful for my current aptitude and the capabilities into which I can extend.

I do my best for the greater good

Our time is limited. And no one wants to spend it doing lousy work. A lot of to-dos are not fun or immediately rewarding, but I try to give my whole and best self to whatever I do. There is a higher purpose that is more meaningful than a momentary struggle. This context steadies me if things get rocky.

The struggle is what makes us — how we respond to tough things becomes our legacy.

That struggle does not get easier. With more success comes more effort. Founding a startup, launching a product, leading a team — once you get comfortable with what makes you uncomfortable, there will be a new hurdle to challenge you.

But as you do what must be done, you will grow stronger and more resilient. You become who you are meant to be in the process.

So open your mouth at the dentist. And then make an appointment with yourself to do it again — for your health and the success of the team.

Aha! hires exceptional people who want to achieve. Ready to join us?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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