On Memory.

On Memory.

I listened to an interesting report on NPR recently about police hypnotists, which I didn’t know existed. Apparently hypnotism is one of many tools detectives will use in Texas to help get more information from victims and suspects. The problem and challenge, as you might imagine, is the power of suggestion and the imperfect nature of our memories. Because spring is the season of renewal, I’ve been thinking a lot about memory, particularly as it relates to all the financial pain and suffering, in addition to horrible loss of life, that started a year ago with the pandemic. 

One year ago, the S&P had dropped 34% in five weeks. Economies all over the world were shutting down. Millions of people lost their jobs and investors were terror-stricken. 

Here were are, 12 months later, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have each gained 76%, the best annual performance for either index since 1934. What an unbelievable year of financial gains, but the problem with this explosive growth is that it allows us to forget about the pain, loss and tremendous fear from just one year ago. That’s the trouble with memory. It changes over time. We forget how much we suffered and when the pain no longer feels as painful, our motivation to avoid future setbacks seems a little less urgent. Hence, we take bigger risks and the process repeats. 

I’m not suggesting we live in our pain. That would make life unlivable. But we don’t need to see the past through rose-colored glass either. We can choose to see things as they are and we can remember the past without wallowing in it or allowing it to derail our plans. 

For years, I’ve suggested my members keep a big 3-ring binder of all the marketing campaigns, both internal and external, that they’ve deployed during the previous 12 months. With a simple ROI Excel sheet, one can track what worked and what didn’t. We can measure. We don’t have to rely on our memories. 

Too often, we’ll expend excessive energy on things, people or processes that aren’t producing results. Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, and I discuss this on his Burleson Box podcast interview. When we divert our attention and energy away from the things that are working, we set them up to fail in the future through unintentional neglect. 

We have an inside joke in marketing and advertising that we stopped doing a campaign or marketing strategy because it worked too well. Something or someone gets great results and we forget all about it because we’re already onto the next thing. Something or someone fails, however, and we spend way too much time trying to get these people or systems to perform at an average level. 

So, make it a rule this year that you will not rely on your memory, feelings or opinions about things, systems, processes or people. Objectively measure and write down the results instead. 

For example, you don’t have to rely on your feelings or opinions that one of your treatment coordinators is exhausted or that one of your associates is over-performing. You can go to the data. If one treatment coordinators sees 84% more new patients than all the others, you can explore the scheduling system and start asking why and how to address the issue. If one of your doctors does 52% more same-day-dentistry than the all the others, you can start asking questions about why and how that is possible in your system and what he or she might be able to share with the rest of the group.  

Similarly, it’s not anyone’s opinion when one of your Facebook campaigns or Google Display Network ads is outperforming all the others. You can track cost-per-click, webform submissions and new patient starts from each campaign. The data can be measured and recorded. 

Where in your practice and in your life are you at risk of forgetting the past or seeing it through rose-colored glass? What will you do this quarter to avoid future setbacks in the areas of management, finance and marketing? Write them down. Don’t trust your memory. 

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