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From Burnout to Liftoff: Are You Ready?

Posted July 14, 2021

Tonya Lanthier, RDH

This past weekend, I watched along with the world as Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, made history as the first to launch civilian passengers (including 3 of his employees) into space with his Virgin Galactic Unity flight. I watched in awe, tears streaming down my face, feeling pure joy for my friend as he achieved a dream more than two decades in the making. And this dream did not come easy. There were some serious heartaches, setbacks, and burnout along the way.

I met Richard through the Entrepreneurs Organization when he generously hosted our group on Necker Island in 2014. Since that time, he has been instrumental in inspiring and supporting me in achieving my goals and dreams as an entrepreneur, always showing me that no dream is too big. And also that the dream doesn’t come without hardship. But those failures and challenges are all a part of what makes the success that much sweeter. 

from burnout to liftoff

Richard has long inspired me to look at life and business differently. That we can build things that create a great life for our families, others, and ourselves! As I celebrate Richard, who has long been a source of inspiration in my own journey as an entrepreneur, I reflect on all the people who have been apart of my own journey, helping lift me and DentalPost along the way. There have been countless dentists and dental industry mentors who helped me, and I am forever grateful to them: Dr. Dina Giesler, Dr. Raymond Gyselinck, Dr. Roy McDonald, Dr. Troy Schulman, Dr. Jonathan Dubin, and the Hinman clan to name a few. And most of all, my DentalPost team!

Richard Branson group photo

When I built DentalPost, there were no job boards designed specifically for dental professionals like us, and the path for finding temp work left those of looking to go it alone. Some days were much harder than others, but I always pushed forward having been taught that nothing worthwhile or long-lasting ever comes easy. 

Are You Part of the Liftoff Crew or Keeping Us on the Ground? 

It’s been a challenging time for our dental community. We’ve been “grounded” and dealing with what seems like a series of setbacks. We’re feeling burn-out and we’ve not been shy about telling each other how much. But now, we are starting to fire up the engines again as more and more dental professionals engage back into the dental labor market. We have an opportunity to go where we haven’t gone before, reach loftier heights and be better than our Pre-Covid days. 

Just last year, as we were working hard to help dental practices fill positions so they could support their emergency patients through the Covid pandemic, I found myself under attack. A dental hygienist sent me a message telling me I was “part of the problem” for supporting practices that were operating during Covid. Normally, I do not respond to messages like that because they come from a place of anger and fear. But this time I did respond. I asked her what she was doing to help the problem? Did attacking me help the situation? Did it make her feel better? It definitely didn’t help me during an already stressful time and I don’t think it helped her either.

Our reactions to negative situations are completely under our control. We can choose fear or we can choose joy. We can do nothing, or we can move forward to make our industry stronger. I choose to give my time and energy (no matter how little or how much of it I have) to lift us up. 

The Other Side of Burnout Is Liftoff

Like many, over the last year (or last few years, if I’m being honest!) I’ve felt a long “hangover” as a result of overcoming the stresses and challenges in both my professional and personal life–– a divorce in 2018, a total revamp of our DentalPost platform while purging a toxic employee in 2019, the launching a new CRM system in 2020… and then Covid! We’ve all been deep in it together for the last 18 months. Many of us have felt undervalued, maybe even a bit disgruntled. It’s real. We’re feeling the burn-out. 

But the thing is, none of that will propel us forward in our career pursuits and in achieving our potential. So, find your passion and drive and be relentless in the pursuit of it. 

The Virgin Galactic Unity22 crew
The Virgin Galactic Unity22 crew. Source: Virgin Galactic

After Burnout Comes Freedom and Weightlessness

In rocket science, the actual “launch” and space adventure truly begins after what is called “burnout”–– the termination of rocket or jet-engine operation because of fuel exhaustion or shutoff. At that point, the spacecraft being fueled is free and soon thereafter those inside become weightless. And that’s sort of where we are after our burnout––free. Free to create something new, something better, something different. We can choose weightlessness over all the heavy.

Virgin Galactic
The VSS Unity glides during a 2018 test flight. Photographer: Virgin Galactic

Whether you are rising to the challenge and thriving through the pressure or you are stressed to the max, it is time to reevaluate the way we have always done things. Consider this giant pause and slow down the wake-up call we all need as leaders to be more open and adaptable to change. Change is already happening as we have a new generation of dental professionals entering the field, bringing with them new attitudes, values, and ideas. We’re boldly shifting to the new and we are still moving forward into the unknown. 

Ask Yourself: What is Your “Orbit” Moment”? 

This is what Sir Richard Branson had to say after his epic flight: “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”

Virgin Galactic

What does the view look like from your loftiest goal? What’s it look like looking down from the 250,000-foot view floating above? What do you aspire to? Will you know it when you get there? When was the last time you lifted your head up from the day-to-day grind and hustle to set a goal?

And the biggest question is this: Can you get there by continuing on your current path? By doing what you’ve always done? If the answer is “no,” then start being intentional about your dreams, goals, and pursuits. 

Leaning Into the Unknown

If we lean into the unknown, embracing the unfamiliar and unknown, we have an opportunity to make a profound impact for ourselves, our communities, for each other, and for the world.

This is the moment where we get to choose. We can try to keep living in the past or we can start to move forward and add value. Ask yourself – which do you want to be? 


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