The Wisdom of Insecurity

A Message for an Age of Anxiety

The Wisdom of Insecurity

British Philsopher, Alan Watts, said the only way to make sense out of change is to “plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” In my favorite book of his, The Wisdom of Insecurity, Watts tells a story about his childhood desire to send someone a parcel of water in the mail:

“The recipient unties the string, releasing the deluge in his lap. But the game would never work, since it is irritatingly impossible to wrap and tie a pound of water in a paper package. There are kinds of paper which won’t disintegrate when wet, but the trouble is to get the water itself into any manageable shape, and to tie the string without bursting the bundle.”

I work with orthodontists, coaching them in their attempt to solve complex problems in their practices. They want to grow, enjoy a better lifestyle, become more efficient and, overall, they want to prosper in this life. Unfortunately, I have a front row seat in an arena where extremely talented and gifted doctors “wear out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to get the water of life into neat and permanent packages.”

Clients invest $19,400 for a single day of consulting with me, only to discover they have been on a useless quest for “neat little packages.” They want to know the “one thing” they can do to triple the size of their practice. They want the “one solution” for an underperforming employee. They seek “one way” to help more patients say yes to treatment. They see change all around, but refuse to plunge into it. They fear what the currents of change will do to their “neat little packages.”

My role as your coach and mentor is to remind you of the countless packages I’ve attempted to tie or actually succeeding in tying, only to watch them come apart. Your job is to listen, pay attention and avoid making those same mistakes. I’ve lived through so many failures and endured so many frustrating challenges that I can describe them in painful detail. I wake up each morning expecting someone or something to massively disappoint me. I’m no longer surprised by it. Frankly, it seems to happen faster and faster, the bigger my goals. Watts was ahead of his time in predicting modern society’s role in making our packages seem to come apart faster and faster every day.

A private client recently described his smart decision to expand hours and open the office on Saturdays, once each month. Patients loved the new hours. Referrals, conversion, same-day-starts all increased significantly. Within 6 months, two of his competitors had expanded their hours. Packages come apart. Luckily, this client is wicked-smart and has 12 other ways he will “plunge into the uncertainty of life, move with it and join the dance.” He’s too curious, too full of energy and gratitude in his life to sit around expecting things to come to him in neat little packages.

He fundamentally understands how this thing called life works. Do you?

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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