Career Advice from a 20 Time Loser?
Here’s a question to ponder…
How many times would you allow yourself to fail at something before finally giving up?
It has become part of popular folklore that Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he was finally successful in creating the first light bulb.
His famous quote, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have successfully found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb…” demonstrates his remarkable resiliency and unique way of viewing “failure.”
The day that I graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BA in psychology was one of the best days of my life.
Yes, I was happy to have cleared the first hurdle on my journey to dental school, but more importantly, I was proud that I was able to self-finance my education and living expenses by working three jobs while going to school full time.
I can still remember the feeling of pride and accomplishment that I’d never experienced up to that point in my life.
But what I could have never guessed at that moment was that the next three years of my life would be filled with failure, disappointment and frustration.
While completing my undergraduate degree with zero personal or student loans was a noble goal, juggling the overwhelming workload and academic schedule took its toll on my GPA.
My first attempt at the dental school applications process left me with ten rejection letters out of ten applications. At this point, most reasonable people would have moved on to a different career path… but I was determined to give dental school another shot.
Knowing that I would have to wait one full year until I could re-apply to dental school, I took my resume, bought a cheap suit and pounded the pavement. I applied for every entry level corporate position that I could find.
I went on dozens of interviews… and got exactly zero job offers.
I was forced to swallow my pride and crawl back to the three part time jobs that I worked while attending college; a bouncer at a local bar, a personal trainer and a kick boxing instructor.
To make matters worse, since I had given up all of my seniority at each job, I was barely getting enough hours to support myself.
Things got so bad that for a time I was sleeping on friend’s couches and eating whatever was left over in the kitchen at the bar where I was working at the end of my shifts. It was one of the toughest times of my life.
But eventually, things started slowly getting better.
In a strange series of events, I ended up borrowing enough money to purchase a catering truck franchise. Yes, you heard that right, I became a “Roach Coach,” driver! And during that same period of time I was accepted to the executive MBA program at the University of San Diego.
But my dream of becoming a dentist was not dead…
On my second attempt at the dental school application process, I applied to another ten schools… and once again I received ten rejections.
By this point, I was coming to the realization that my odds of getting into dental school had gone from long shot to near impossibility.
So I took the opportunity to sharpen my entrepreneurial skills, read every book I could find on small business ownership and applied it to my Roach Coach business. At the same time I continued my executive MBA classes.
Within a year of buying my franchise, I had paid back my initial start-up loan and had become one of the most profitable trucks in the fleet.
The experience was teaching me invaluable lessons about running a successful small business. I learned how to recruit and retain a good team, how to attract customers, how to read and interpret financial reports, how to maintain a budget and control overhead, and how to develop systems of efficiency.
Around that same period of time, I met the love of my life and my future wife, Leslie.
And three years and twenty-one attempts after starting the dental school application process, I finally got my one and only acceptance into dental school.
Fast forward sixteen years… I am grateful every single day for the blessings that the profession of dentistry has brought into my life.
Six successful dental practices, 150 dental assisting school locations, an international best selling book, a podcast with listenership in over 110 countries, and a community of like-minded dentists from all over the world that reads my articles, watches my videos and attends my live events…
I often reflect on all of the “failures” that I’ve experienced in my life… and it’s clear to me now that without them, I simply wouldn’t be the person that I am today.
If you’ve had a recent challenge or “failure,” in your life or career, remember this… any obstacle that you face has the potential to bring you one step closer to the life of your dreams.
*****As a quick reminder, the Dental Success Summit 2016 is scheduled for June 3rd and 10th in beautiful Auckland, NZ and Sydney, AU. Register in the next 11 days for 60% of the regular price! This one day event includes breakfast, lunch, cocktails and some of the best dental speakers in the world.
All the best,
Mark Costes DDS
Founder, Dental Success Institute
Founder Horizon Schools of Dental Assisting
Author, Pillars of Dental Success