be the best you

How to Be the Best You

Answer yes or no: Are you the Best You you can be?

I don’t know you personally, but my guess is that you answered “no” to that question. I’m guessing you feel like you have a long way to go towards being your Best You. We all do. We have a vision in our minds of what ourselves and our lives could be, and we don’t measure up to it – at least not yet.

This isn’t meant to be depressing, but inspiring. Because I believe that how to be the Best You is not by being the Best You. Instead, it’s by continually improving yourself to become a better version of yourself. Here are some of my thoughts on self-improvement and why it’s powerful.

We Love Stories of Change

As a culture, we love movies and books in which a character evolves and grows. At the end of Casablanca, Rick chooses sacrifice over selfishness. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz learns a lesson about valuing home. Red from The Shawshank Redemption begins to hope again.

We like stories where the characters change not only because we like a happy ending, but because we recognize the truth in them. People change in real life all the time. When people change for the better, their stories of self-improvement can be a beacon of inspiration and hope to others. Think of how many high-profile figures share stories of their difficult childhoods or rough beginnings. We don’t focus on who and what they were at the start, but on who and what they became later on.

It’s the same for you. Being the Best You means constantly evolving and working to be better than you were yesterday. If you have your own story of a difficult childhood or rough beginning, as many of us do, you can’t let that hold you back. Instead, let it inspire you to make an even greater change over the course of your own story. You never know how many people your own story of self-improvement will inspire.

It’s Never Too Late

At the start of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserable and miserly man with money but no friends or family that love him. After visitations from the Ghost of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, he realizes he’s living his life all wrong. He discovers love for his fellow man and wakes up on Christmas morning a happy, generous person. It’s one of the most beloved stories of all time that’s been told countless times.

Some people make excuses and lament that it’s too late for them to improve themselves and their lives. But remember that Scrooge is already an old man at the start of the story, yet we’re moved by the improvement he makes to his character overnight.

The moral is, it’s never too late to change for the better; as George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” Just as you can’t let unfortunate beginnings stop you from working towards being your Best You, you can’t let your age stop you, either.

Self-Improvement Never Stops

If you want to be the Best You you can be, then you need to get used to working on improving yourself to become the best version of yourself you can be. The truth is that no matter how much we change, there will still be room for improvement. That’s because as we continue to achieve our goals, our dreams become bigger and bigger, too. The only way to be your Best You is to accept that you can really only be the Best You At This Moment – and that’s good enough.

become a leader

Become the Leader You Were Always Meant to Be

Are you the leader you want to be? Whether you’re at the top of a multi-national company or the leader of your family unit, it’s always smart to work on becoming a better leader. I believe that anyone can be an effective leader as long as they are deliberate. Here’s my advice on how you can become the leader you were always meant to be.   

Know Where You’re Going – and Have a Plan to Get There  

You can’t be a leader if you don’t know where you’re going. Having vision on behalf of a group is one of the hallmarks of a successful leader. You need to be able to see what the end result will look like and express that vision to the people you’re leading.  

Now that you know where you’re going, make a plan to get there. This plan will consist of one overarching goal and many smaller goals that help you move from Point A to Point B all the way to Point Z. Don’t leave too much to chance. It’s better to have a plan that you later change than to have no plan at all. When you have a plan, you can measure your progress against it and make sure you’re still on track. Without a plan, you may find yourself leading in circles with nothing to show for the work you’ve done together.  

Work Your Goals  

Write down your goals. It’s not enough to have them in your mind. You must write them down. This is a simple exercise but a very powerful one that is the first step in making your dreams manifest in the real world.  

Once they’re written down, read them aloud twice a day. Speaking them out loud into the universe is another simple but powerful exercise. It signifies that you’re not keeping your goals to yourself, but sharing them with others. It’s also powerful to share your goals with other people. They can hold you accountable along the way.  

Another powerful thing happens when you write down your goals and share them with others. You get your mind working on your behalf. While your conscious mind may be on other matters, your subconscious mind is going to work without you knowing it, looking for solutions and opportunities to bring to the surface when the time is right.  

Go Get What’s Yours  

Don’t wait for others to hand you what you want on a silver platter. If you think life works that way, you’re in for a rude surprise. You have to go out there and get what you want – get what’s yours. You’ll never find a shortcut that means you can achieve your goals without taking action and doing the hard work, so stop looking for one.  

Instead, commit to the hard work and cultivate discipline in yourself to do what you need to get done every day. This is how leaders and other successful people achieve their goals. 

Become the Leader You Envision  

Great leaders blend practical skills with the ability to dream clearly and dream big, and that’s what the steps above guide you through. You can see that when it’s broken down like this, it’s not intimidating. You can become the leader you’ve always wanted to be. Start by believing it’s possible, then take the next step.

Stay the course and never give up

Stay the Course: Never Give Up & Never Stop Growing

Imagine you’re in a taxi on the way to the airport to catch an important flight. Your ride could go off without a hitch: traffic is light, you get green lights the whole way, and you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare and no stress. This is the way you wish it could be all the time.  

Or it could go the other way: there’s heavy traffic from door to door, you encounter nothing but red lights, and you get to the airport a frazzled mess with minutes to spare. This is what you’re hoping will not happen.  

Though one journey was more pleasant than the other, the result is the same. You got to the airport. You were able to catch your important flight. By the time you reach your destination, you’ve probably forgotten the taxi ride, because the most important thing was getting to your destination.  

Can you even imagine being in that second scenario and deciding at some point to just give up? “Getting to the airport is just too difficult and it’s no fun. I don’t want to catch my flight anymore. Just let me out here in the middle of the highway and I’ll go home.” Of course you wouldn’t. This scenario is ridiculous. Even if you were truly late, you’d still go to the airport and try to get on the next flight, because you know the important thing is not the ride to the airport itself, but getting to your final destination. 

When Do You Decide to Give Up?  

Forgive this long metaphor but I hope you can see where I’m going with this. The goal you’re currently pursuing in your life is where you’re flying to. The work you’re putting into achieving it is the taxi ride to the airport. Sometimes it goes even better than planned, and sometimes it’s a disaster filled with roadblock after roadblock.  

If you’re truly committed to your goal and you believe that achieving it is important, then you won’t let those roadblocks stop you, no matter how many you encounter. Getting out of the taxi on the side of the road is like abandoning your project halfway through. It’s just as silly and counterproductive. It also misunderstands the relationship between a goal and the work required to achieve it.  

You don’t have to enjoy the work every step of the way when you know that the thing you’re pursuing is truly worth it. You just have to have faith that if you keep working towards your goal, you will eventually achieve it – roadblocks or not.  

Learning to Love the Roadblocks  

We all want to be in the first taxi. That’s not realistic, though. When pursuing goals, especially when they’re of the Very Large variety, you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into some roadblocks along the way.  

Rather than hating them, you should learn to love them. That’s because they’re teaching you something new each time. With each setback that keeps you from progressing towards your goal, you have to do something new to get beyond it. You may need to learn a new skill, try a new tactic, or work with a new person. Or it could be internal. You may need to learn to develop patience, or grow a backbone, or commit to being honest at all times.  

This is how you continue to grow as a person. We don’t grow when we’re in our comfort zones. There’s no reason to. We only grow when we’re pushed outside and have to deal with things we’ve never dealt with before. This is why you should learn to love the roadblocks that are (temporarily) keeping you from your goal. They help you become a better version of yourself.  

Stay the Course  

No one said the journey to your goals was going to be easy and fun. I’m actually here to tell you that the journey will not always be easy and fun. If your goal is big enough, it will stretch you, and that can be painful. In the end, it’s worth it. Commit to your goal, stay the course, and you can’t help but grow in the process.

The Honesty Double-Standard

As kids, we learned that “honesty is the best policy” and as adults we all agree that it’s an important value. Yet so many of us do not practice honesty at all times. In fact, although honesty should be straightforward, our relationship with it can be downright complicated.

The Honesty Double Standard

Some people have two standards when it comes to honesty. They want the right to be brutally honest when talking to someone else, but they don’t want that same brutal honesty directed back towards them. They may tell others (and themselves) that they really do want honest feedback, but when they get it, they don’t know how to handle it.

It’s similar to how many people are about accountability. They are the first person to blame when other people make a mistake, but they have difficulty accepting accountability for their own blunders, so they pass the blame on to someone else.

This is hypocrisy, pure and simple. These kinds of behaviors do not do anything to improve the world and only reflect badly on a person’s character.

Honest Some of the Time

It’s easy to be honest when that honesty can’t hurt someone. It’s when we face the prospect of hurting people’s feelings that we figure a little dishonesty can’t hurt. This happens a lot in minor social situations. For example, you tell the proud parents of a not-so-cute baby that their baby is the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen. Or you tell your friend that no, that outfit does not make you look fat, when it really does. Or someone asks you to guess their age and you shave off a few years because you know that what they really want is not for someone to guess their age, but to get reassurance that they look younger than they are.

Not wanting to hurt people’s feelings is a good thing. It’s perfectly understandable why so many people are lax about honesty in situations like the ones above. Yet it’s still dishonesty. It’s still upholding a double standard that in some cases, honesty is the right thing, and in other cases, honesty can be cast aside.

Getting Over the Double Standard

First, be real with yourself. If you say that you’re the kind of person who wants to hear the truth, then learn how to handle it well when it comes your way. When someone tells you what they really think, you must thank them for their honesty, even if you don’t like what you hear. This is the only way people will learn that they can actually take you at your word and be honest with you. You don’t have to agree with what they say, and you don’t have to act on it, but you do have to respect their honesty.

You also have to commit to honesty as a value that you don’t compromise on. Yes, this may lead to some awkward moments at first. Over time, however, you’ll be teaching people that they can trust in you, because you always speak the truth. You’ll also be developing your true character, one of the greatest assets a human can have.

Have the Courage to Dream Big

Our culture can be very harsh towards dreamers. There’s an unspoken belief that dreaming big is just for children, no grown-ups allowed. We ask four-year-old Billy what he wants to be when he grows up and he says, “I want to be president. And an astronaut. And a garbage man.” We smile because we know that no one is all those things when they grow up, as Billy will be taught in time.

I find this very sad. I believe that dreaming big should be encouraged in everyone, even adults. Dreaming big is how we explore our truest desires and special gifts we have to share with the world. We just need the courage to do it.

Big Dreams Take You on a Journey

Having big dreams is not an ego trip. God wants us to dream big so we can reach our greatest potential. The great thing about having big dreams is that if you reach them, you get what you want. If you don’t reach them, you’re still far beyond where you ever would have ended up if you’d never dreamed at all.

Big dreams force us to stretch ourselves in ways we never imagined. We stretch ourselves by believing that we’re capable of more than we thought. We stretch ourselves in the actual work we do as we pursue our dreams. We stretch ourselves by facing our true nature as we struggle along the way, coming face-to-face with the things we love about ourselves and the things we aren’t so proud of. It’s an incredible journey.  

The Universe Takes Notice

When you dream big and start taking action towards making your dreams come true, the universe notices. That’s when things start aligning for you. Opportunities appear that you could never have anticipated. People show up with the connections or the words of encouragement you need at just the right moment. It can start to feel like magic – and it is. You just have to be open to letting the universe help you on your way.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Dream Big?

I believe part of it is our culture that doesn’t encourage big, outlandish dreams past the age of 8 or so. I also believe that many people who used to dream big stop believing in themselves somewhere along the way. They look around at the life they’ve created for themselves and they see the responsibilities they have rather than the opportunities that are in front of them. In the end, they have a much smaller impact on the world than they could have had, and they keep their unique gifts to themselves rather than sharing them with the world.

It’s easy to let this happen as we go about our daily lives. The fact is, we do have responsibilities and families and bills to pay. But being responsible and dreaming big are not mutually exclusive. We can do both. We just need the courage to allow ourselves to dream.

Having the Courage to Believe You Can Do Something Great

There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that you may have heard that speaks to this idea. It goes: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” This is the mindset you need to develop the courage to dream big. The question is not whether you are capable or worthy of doing incredible things. The question is, why wouldn’t you be?

Go dream big. It’s what you were meant to do.

One Door Closes, Another Opens: The Story of How I Became a Dentist

Every person has their own story about how they got into the field they’re currently in. For some people, they drifted into their jobs without any forethought. For others, they weighed the pros and cons of the careers they were considering and chose the one that was the best fit in terms of education, income, lifestyle, and skills.

Still other people ended up in their profession due to a life-changing event. They were called to their job and are deeply committed to it because it’s so personal. This is how it was for me, and this is the story of how I became a dentist when I originally wanted to be a musician.

How My Grandfather Changed the Course of My Life

When I was a teenager, my grandfather was diagnosed with throat cancer. This news devastated me. I loved my grandfather and I also looked up to him as a mentor. At the same time, I had a scholarship to Central Michigan University just waiting for me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do though, as my whole world was in chaos. I ultimately decided that it wasn’t right for me and I remember the moment I told my mother that I would not be going to college right out of high school and instead was going to turn down a full ride.

Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t happy about this news. She was also dealing with the news of my grandfather’s – her father’s – throat cancer diagnosis. She told me she didn’t have money saved for my education if I wanted to go to college in the future. I told her I understood and I’d never ask her for a dime. In the end, she supported my decision because she knew I was committed to it.

My grandfather lived for three years from the date of his diagnosis before he finally passed on February 3, 1994. At that time I was still not in school but pursuing a career in music, which I was happy with. His death set me on a new path when I realized I needed to honor him after all he had done to bless my life.

Choosing a New Path

I had originally wanted to be a medical doctor but my wife Sabrina, a registered nurse, felt that being an MD wasn’t right for me. She knew how devoted I was to my family and while I might like the patient interaction and the work itself, I wouldn’t like being tied to a pager my whole life.

That’s when I knew that dentistry was the right choice for me. It would allow me to remain devoted to my family but still build a thriving career. It would allow me to work closely with patients and give them exceptional care. It would allow me to help people with throat cancer and make a difference in people’s lives by helping prevent the terrible disease that had taken my grandfather’s life.

It took a long time but I did it. Nine years after my grandfather’s death, nine years after making that decision, I graduated from dental school and began my life as a dentist and I haven’t looked back since.

Honoring My Grandfather

I believe that everything worked out as it was supposed to. My decision to turn down Central Michigan was a scary one at the time, but I knew in my heart it was right. I was able to live my dream of being a musician for a few years before turning my attention to dentistry, which was ultimately the right career choice for me. I have my grandfather to thank for it. Because of him, I’m able to honor his memory and help change my patients’ lives every single day.

Planting a New Seed (Trying Something Different)

The universe rewards dreamers. It rewards people who go and get what’s rightfully theirs. It rewards people who work towards their goals and never give up.

I like to think about it as planting a seed for future greatness. Each time you embark on a new journey towards a new goal, you’re planting a new seed. These seeds are like the seeds that sprout basil or strawberries or marigolds. They need nurturing and attention. They need patience and time. They require faith – you can’t dig up the soil to see if they’re working. You simply have to have faith that things are unfolding as they should, even though you can’t see it. This is how you plant seeds for your future greatness and allow them to grow.  

It’s About Mindset, Not Money

How often do you see people living off government assistance turn into millionaires and achieve great things? Not often. It’s not because people raised in poverty have less potential than people brought up in different circumstances. It’s because they live in a culture that tells them “can’t.” “You can’t be this. You can’t do that.” This message becomes a deeply rooted belief that stops people even trying for something great.

It doesn’t take the right amount of money, it takes the right mindset. A mindset that tells you that you can do it, you can change your circumstances. That needs to become the deeply rooted belief you hold about yourself – one that says “you can” rather than “you can’t.”

This subject is not theoretical to me. It is very real. Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. But I didn’t let those circumstances stop me from dreaming big and working for what I wanted. I worked hard, and with the support and sacrifice of my family, I became the dentist, business owner, and author I am today. None of it would have happened if I hadn’t believed in changing my fate.

It Takes Commitment, Too

Mindset is necessary but it’s not sufficient. You also need to work towards your goals. This work needn’t be hard, but it must be consistent. It must come from a place of commitment. You have to take step after step after step towards your destination, even when – especially when – you don’t have any proof that what you’re doing is working. This is the aspect of faith that separates people who are truly committed from those who aren’t.

Just remember that you have to make the changes you want in your life. You can’t wait for someone else to do it for you. That’s not how life works. No one else cannot believe for you or commit for you. You have to do it yourself if you want to claim what’s rightfully yours and see your seeds of greatness come to fruition.

Dreaming of a New Destiny

What is your destiny? Is the vision you have for yourself so big that it almost scares you? That’s a good thing! Dreams are meant to be big, and dreamers are meant to reach for the stars.

This is how people change their destiny and the destiny of their family. You could be the one who sets a new standard for your family, as the first person to graduate high school, or to get a PhD, or to open a business. What was once unheard of in your family can become the new norm. Or you might create something incredible the world has been waiting for. Or you might touch the lives of the people in your community and beyond in a profound way. All because you believed in your dream and planted the seed.

Stay True to You: How to Never Compromise Your Character

Do you stay true to you? By that, I mean, are you your true self in every situation you find yourself in life? Many people behave differently depending on the current circumstances. They behave differently around their spouse than around their friends. They interact with other people depending on whether their spouse is with them or not. They act differently when they’re alone compared to when they know they’re being watched. Someone with true character does not alter themselves or their behavior depending on their current situation.

Mickey Mouse as a Role Model

Mickey Mouse is more than a cartoon character. He’s a good example of what it means to have character. Mickey is the same no matter what situation he’s in. He treats others kindly and is honest, friendly, and well-behaved. He never smokes or drinks or cuts loose. He doesn’t flirt with anyone other than Minnie. You will not see Mickey being anything other than the Mickey you know. Walt Disney was adamant about this. He wanted Mickey to retain the qualities of his character that he is so identified with. He knew that if Mickey’s character was compromised, it would be detrimental to Disney, as well as to the people who had grown to know and love Mickey.

Determine the Character You Want to Have

How can you become a person of true character? Start with figuring out what you value so you can work towards living those values in your life. Here’s an exercise to help you do that. Start by writing down all your character traits on a piece of paper. These may be things like patient, loyal, or sincere. Think of this like a character in a movie. This is what the movie is like right now.

Now picture the same character at the end of the movie. Maybe by the end of the movie, this character looks more like someone you admire and have great respect for, such as a family member, mentor, or historical figure. Now write out their positive character traits. Then analyze the differences between the two lists. You likely have some overlapping traits with the person you admire. You likely have some traits missing, too. These are the character traits you need to work on to become the person of true character you want to be.

Up until now, this has been confined to paper and to your imagination. Here’s where the work comes in. Come up with ways to begin expressing the character traits you want to develop and be proactive in expressing them. If you want to develop the trait of generosity, think about how you can be generous in your own life. You can give more of your time to help out a family member. You can give money to support a cause you believe in. You can even practice generosity by being more loving or patient with yourself.

Do this for each character trait and continue to work on making those traits part of your core character. This will help you develop the character you admire in others.

Be Uncompromising

Being uncompromising about your character means you don’t put your core values aside depending on the situation you’re in. If you’re generous and kind in public, you’re generous and kind behind closed doors, too. If you value loyalty and fidelity, then you’ll interact with others the same no matter whether your spouse is by your side or not. True character upholds you with Christ and through the people you spend time with and the people you lead. It’s something no one can take away from you. Do you have true character?

Trust Your Instincts

You’ve probably had this experience with your GPS while driving: your GPS tells you to turn but you miss the turn anyway. Your GPS then announces that it’s recalculating and comes up with a new route to get you to your original destination. It may take a few minutes more, but you get to the same place in the end. The GPS never wavers in where it’s guiding you to. I like to think of each of us as having an “internal GPS.” I suppose this is another way to talk about our instincts. When we listen to our instincts – when we follow our GPS – it invariably leads us to the place we need to go.

Using Your Internal GPS

How do you use your internal GPS? Start by programming it with the coordinates of your destination. Ask yourself where you want to go today, this month, this year, in your life. Next, check that the coordinates you’ve programmed in align with the goals you’ve set for yourself. Does the destination you’ve chosen move you closer to your goals? Or does it move you further away? Your internal GPS is one of the strongest tools you have in your toolbox to help you achieve your goals, so make sure it’s leading you on the right path.

Trust in your internal GPS. If you’re clear on where you want to go and you know it aligns with your goals, it won’t steer you wrong. It will even work with your subconscious and the universe to get you where you want to go. It’s the best in the business.

Getting Off Track in Life

Sometimes life gets in the way and prevents us from following our GPS to our destination for a while. Other times, we’re the cause of the detours that take us off track. An associate of mine got off track in a big way several years ago. He spent more and more time drinking and taking prescription drugs than he did practicing as a dentist. He even lost his license for writing prescriptions using other doctors’ names and went to jail for a while. His wife left him and took the children. His old life as he knew it was gone.

But at a certain point he decided he’d had enough and it was time to change. He changed his priorities from drugs and alcohol to rebuilding the life he had before his addiction. I’m happy to say he succeeded. He’s broken free of the demons from his past and he’s working again as a successful dentist. His internal GPS was still there when he was ready to listen to it, trying to guide him back to the life that was meant for him. It’s the same as when you’re on the highway heading towards your destination and you punch in a detour to the gas station. As soon as you leave the gas station, the route to your original destination is still there. You just have to follow it.

No matter whether the detour was caused by you or circumstances outside your control, understand that detours happen and they don’t mean the journey has come to an end. It may turn out that the detour has happened for a reason, perhaps to teach you a lesson or make you grow as a person. Just commit to getting back onto the route as soon as possible.

Listening to Your Internal GPS

When you find yourself at a crossroads, be still and tune into your internal GPS. It will tell you whether to turn left or turn right or carry on straight ahead. Follow that voice you hear telling you which way to go. The journey it takes you on may not be easy – in fact, I can almost guarantee you that it will be difficult – but when it’s aligned with your bigger goals, the universe will work to lay the right path open at your feet. Trust in your GPS and you’ll go places you never knew possible.

Why & How Planning Gets You to the Top

Imagine you’re in the middle of an unfamiliar place. You have an idea of where you want to end up, but you don’t know how to get from where you are to where you want to be. You have no map. It’s the same with goals. Many people have an idea of what they’d like to accomplish in life, but they have no plan – no “map” to get to there. Yet a plan is essential if you want to reach your goals.

A Game Plan for Your Life

Football teams practice all week in preparation for a game. They have plays they run over and over until they know them by heart. They have strategies in place based on their knowledge of the opposing team. They have a game plan for game day because they have one goal, to win, and they know there’s no chance of winning if they don’t plan for it.

Do you have a game plan for your life? If not, why not? You know where you are now (your starting point) and you know where you want to end up (your goal). This is the basic information you need to start putting together a game plan for your own life.

Without a plan, you may stumble towards the vague direction of your goal, but you will never be able to make the purposeful strides towards your goal that enable you to become a top performer. You need a plan with a purpose.

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

It happens. The football team’s plays don’t work. Your plan to reach your goal wasn’t quite right. This is not the time to give up on the goal. This is the time to make adjustments to the plan and adapt to the new situation.

Though this may seem like a setback at first, it can actually be a great opportunity for growth. A setback requires you to think about how to reach your goal differently. It may require you to go outside your comfort zone to try something new. Football teams do this when they run a brand new play. You can do it, too.

I learned this lesson about being flexible after being a business owner for many years. I realized the game plan can change every day, and it’s recognizing that change, and being able to adapt to it, that helps me continuously evolve into a better leader.

Top Performers Plan

It’s probably not surprising to learn that people who are the top performers in their fields all have a game plan that helps them win at the game of life. They have a goal and move towards that goal systematically. They understand that when their plans don’t work, it’s not a failure, but rather an opportunity to change the plan to something even better and grow in the process.

You can be a top performer in your field, too. You first have to create and commit to a plan. Know what you want. Work on your craft every day and embrace the practice and repetition that’s required to get better at it. Put your plan into action and expect setbacks along the way; embrace, them, too. They’re what help you grow along your journey. By keeping your plan front and center in your mind, you will have the map that’s the key to achieving your goals.