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It seemed fitting that the CEREC 30th Anniversary Celebration would happen in the biggest party town in the country, Las Vegas.

CEREC 30 included rich learning opportunities around the latest technology for practices, and continuing education credits, and it was definitely a party! With Sirona and DENTSPLY merging to form a company with $3.8 billion in net revenue, there are BIG things happening in dentistry, and we celebrated with amazing get-togethers and incredible music. It all added up to a full, morning-til-night schedule. Fun exhaustion!

My friends Dr. Mark Hyman, Fred Joyal, Judy Kay, Bernie Stoltz and Jennifer Chevalier, were of course some of my favorites, along with NFL player – turned – entrepreneur Emmitt Smith drew a big crowd.

Of special interest to me was the world-renowned life success and leadership coach Tony Robbins. As he does with his high-powered clients, (which include Bill Clinton, Serena Williams, and others) he challenged us.

Tony asked us to interact with the person beside us. The topic: What is your “WHY?” That is, WHY you must be financially comfortable? I sat beside a dentist from Miami. His father came to America from Cuba with next to nothing. That took a lot of courage. When the dentist was a boy, his father gave him an envelope with $14 inside, to remind him that’s all he had in his pocket when he came to the U.S. Can you even imagine trying to start a new life with only $14? His father wanted him to look at that envelope and always remember that he came from humble beginnings. Now, this six-foot-two man is a successful dentist. He choked up with emotion and became teary-eyed remembering his father’s sacrifice, coming to this country to achieve something better for himself and his family. That sacrifice was his WHY, and it made him what he is today. It was a powerful story.

Tony Robbins has told a similar story. When he was a young man, he was heavily in debt, lived in a tiny apartment and had $21 to his name. Sometimes he went to a cheap buffet restaurant where he could eat a lot and still have a few dollars left. One day as he was finishing his meal, he saw a little boy come into the restaurant with his mother. He treated her with ultimate respect. Tony was impressed, and went over to tell the little guy so. He told him it was cool he was taking his mom to lunch like that, but the little boy said he didn’t have a job or money, so he wasn’t taking her to lunch. Tony took the remaining money out of his pocket – all he had in the world – and gave it to the boy so he could treat his mother to lunch. Tony said it was the most free he’d ever felt in his life, even though he didn’t know where his next meal would come from. Well, the next day, $1,200 came in the mail; someone was paying back a long-ago loan. Tony asked himself WHY this money had shown up right when he needed it most. As he considered that, he realized he had become a wealthy man the day before, in the buffet restaurant. He achieved freedom from the fear of money controlling his life when he gave away his last dollar to that little boy.

After I heard my new dentist-friend’s story, I thought about my own WHY. For me, my WHY is my purpose. When I was a child, my mother fought debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It completely altered her life, and – because we were her kids – it altered my life and my sister’s. If my mother believed something was a contaminant – toys, clothes, shoes, even money, anything – it would have to be thoroughly washed or thrown away. All through our childhood, we did all we could to avoid triggering our mother’s uncontrollable need to wash. Everything.

My sister and I did anything we could to avoid pain and erected barriers against the things that were, to our mother, contaminated. Imagine being a child who would have to take three, four, even five or six baths every day, for hours. My sister and I lived that way. On the upside, we were very clean children, and I even became a hygienist.

My mother’s condition affected the way I looked at life then and now. It gave me the gift of being able to read people, and thus I have a keen awareness of my patients and my loved ones.  So, my WHY is to create personal safety and freedom of choice that I longed for as a child, not just for me, but also for others.  That brings my WHY full-circle.

Tony Robbins has said, “Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.”   I’d like to think I’ve taken my gift of life to become more so I can give meaningful care to my patients and my loved ones. Caring for others is a priceless gift, and it’s the most important aspect of my life and career.

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