A Slight Edge – The Thin Line That Separates Success From Mediocrity

In 2005, Lance Armstrong made history as he crossed the finish line in the world’s premier long-distance bicycle race, winning his seventh Tour de France. For 2,232 miles the cancer survivor and American cyclist fought fatigue, competitors, and even allegations of drug use by the foreign press. In the end, the winner of 2 stages of the 21 stage race was crowned victorious.

Despite the glory and rewards that go to the victor, Armstrong’s winning time of 88 hours, 15 minutes, and 1 second was only 280 seconds ahead of second-place finisher, Ivan Basso of Italy. In other words, Armstrong was only about 1/10th of a percent faster than his nearest competitor. In fact, the top ten finishers were all within 4/10ths of a percent.

In the end, Armstrong carried himself to victory with only a slight edge.

In the same way, success in the game of life is often determined by only a slight edge. It’s called “the Slight Edge Principle,” and by using it, you can phenomenally transform your practice and your life.

The foundation of the slight edge principle is that small actions repeated over and over again generate massive results. Let me explain…

Take health and fitness as an example. Eating a Big Mac and fries for lunch today will not cause you to immediately resemble a sumo wrestler, just as eating lean fish and a salad will not immediately give you the body of a supermodel. However, each time you choose to eat healthy, you gain a slight edge, slowly and systematically developing a healthy body and lifestyle.

Keep in mind that choosing what you eat for lunch is not a monumental decision. It’s not like you said, “From today on, I’m going to be a super-jock and never eat anything with fat in it again.” You simply decided to put in the extra effort to eat healthy that one time. But, as you make that same decision consistently over time, you achieve far-reaching results.

It’s the same thing in your practice. Small decisions made consistently over time confer a slight edge, enabling you to build a highly profitable practice.

We often talk with our clients about making “post-treatment care calls.” These are follow-up calls the dentist makes to patients who have just received treatment. (Not just major treatment, but any treatment.) Calls can be made a few hours after treatment, the next day, or even on the weekend. What’s interesting is that post-treatment calls are not a new concept-yet we have found few dentists who have made them consistently throughout their career.

What’s more interesting is that dentists tell us that these calls average only about thirty to sixty seconds and that most patients are unbelievably appreciative of the doctor’s call.

Now, let us offer you a choice:

1. Spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new X2000 Thing-a-ma-jobber that supposedly patients will go gaga over.

2. Spend just a few minutes each day to call patients who appreciate it, give you an emotional boost, and will even tell their friends about you.

Gee, I’ll take curtain number… Unfortunately, we get calls every week from dentists who want the “quick fix magic pill marketing system that will dump hypnotically responsive filthy rich new patients in my lap.”

Well, I got news for ya: the guy who searches for the magic pill usually gets ripped off by the newest con artist on the block. But the guy who makes the post-treatment care calls will build a monster practice every time. That’s because the guy who makes the calls is taking advantage of the slight edge principle.

Think about it. How many times could you do something small, simple, and easy like sending a handwritten note or making a post-treatment care call to show your patients how much you care for them? How many times do you send the note or make the call? Your answer shows your level of mastery of the slight edge principle.

Make no mistake, the slight edge principle is the foundation for success. Sure, it’s true that luck, brilliant ideas, and calculated gambles play a role in success, but the slight edge is often the basis for these popular attributes.

Consider Thomas Edison. You might correctly say that a brilliant idea was the basis for his invention of the lightbulb. However, Edison would tell you that the slight edge principle was the foundation for his brilliant idea. You see, Edison tried thousands of different variations to finally come up with a working lightbulb. Think about it. Thousands of tries. How many of us have had the tenacity to continue trying to do something when we’ve already failed thousands of times?

But Edison was the master of the slight edge principle, staying up late, sleeping in his workshop, giving it just one more try, then another, then another. He focused on just one try at a time, slowly and steadily eliminating possible solutions. And, in the end, he gave us electric light.

In other words, Edison successfully utilized one of the most powerful aspects of the slight edge principle: consistent willingness to do the same thing over and over until it leads to success.

Dental seminar gurus will tell you all about the “new paradigm” of dentistry-take more time off, provide only your favorite types of treatment, reduce your staff, accept only cash payments, see just a few patients each day, make millions, drive a Ferrari, just follow the yellow brick road…

Okay, it’s time to click your heels together and wake up again in Kansas. (If you believe all the garbage those guys tell you, I’m selling stock in “brooklyn-bridge.com,” please give me a call.)

You see, your practice will never be absolutely perfect, especially overnight. But you can eventually build a great practice if you put in a lot of work. Not “hard work” in the traditional sense, but the kind of consistent action that led Edison to success in his invention of the light bulb.

If you’re like many dentists, you have probably attended a seminar where you learned some great new ideas or more likely, some great old ideas. You left the seminar highly “motivated.” You even held a staff meeting and told everyone about what you learned. You “committed” to using those great ideas. But somehow, somewhere along the way, maybe several weeks or months later, you stopped using those ideas. It’s not that the ideas didn’t work-everyone thought they were fantastic. It’s just that you got too busy or lost a staff member or went on vacation or… In other words, you were no longer “motivated.”

This is where most people lose their slight edge, because you must continually motivate yourself and your team if you are to benefit from the slight edge principle. Remember, the slight edge principle works through a process of consistent action. Great ideas are cool. But simple ideas performed consistently are better.

So, back to those post-treatment care calls. We find that most dentists like the idea immediately. (Again, it’s not that they’ve never heard of this simple concept. It’s just that they’ve never actually used it.) These dentists start off strong, making the calls on a daily basis. Then, eventually, as the calls become more routine, they quit making some of the minor treatment calls. “I’m just calling those people who might still be feeling some discomfort,” they say. Eventually, they hand the phone numbers to their staff members. “Just having someone from our practice call them is good enough,” they say. And, finally, no one calls at all. “We’re just too busy right now,” they say. And without warning, the opportunity to leave patients with an impression that will last a lifetime slips away.

Think about it. Lance Armstrong rode 2,232 miles in his last Tour de France. Throughout 88 hours of grueling competition, his level of motivation certainly fluctuated. However, he persevered until the end, maintaining a slight yet consistent edge over his competitors. In other words, he was “self-motivated.”

We give a lot of lip service to being “self-motivated.” Yet few of us really understand what it means. You see, self-motivation isn’t found in a vacuum. You can look to your family, your staff, and your patients for the encouragement that motivates you. You can attend seminars, talk to your coaches, set goals, read articles. All of these things can help you motivate yourself.

But regardless of how you motivate yourself, you must understand that motivation is not a feeling! Motivation is really the product of taking action. Often, you may not feel like making post-treatment care calls. But when you make the calls, you will get an emotional boost and feel great that you did it. In other words, you become motivated by working through your feelings!

Let me say that again… you become motivated by working through your feelings! Motivation is the product of taking action.

So, drive yourself to consistently do the small things that lead to success, taking action even when you don’t feel like it. After taking action, you’ll be more motivated to take action again. You’ll create momentum. And momentum makes it a lot easier to maintain a slight edge.

The slight edge principle is the most powerful tool you can harness to dramatically change your practice and your life. Start using it now!