Better, Richer, Stronger: Unveiling the Resilient Spirit of Dr. Alan Stern


Podcast Summary

In this powerful episode, Dr. Alan Stern, a seasoned dentist, and author, shares his inspiring journey of transformation and the pivotal moments that led him to become a beacon of hope and leadership in the dental community. 

Alan’s story is deeply influenced by his mother, a Holocaust survivor, whose resilience and strength shaped his perspective on life. He recounts poignant moments, revealing how her experiences impacted her, and consequently, him. From self-inflicted wounds due to traumatic nightmares, to her enduring spirit, Alan paints a vivid picture of his mother’s unwavering courage. 

One remarkable twist of fate occurred when a photograph of Alan’s mother, captured by a New York City Street photographer, went viral. Initially labeled “the Joker” due to her expressive features, this photograph ultimately found its way into an art gallery retrospective. The synchronicity of this event, coinciding with the anniversary of his mother’s passing, left Alan profoundly moved. He shares the wise words of his rabbi, who saw divine intent in this coincidence, suggesting that life often communicates with us in mysterious ways. 

Shawn Zajas, the host, reflects on his own mother’s premature passing and the impact it had on his family. He touches on the challenge of filling the void left by a beloved matriarch, emphasizing the importance of honoring those who shape our lives and using their legacy as a source of inspiration. 

Throughout the conversation, Alan addresses the imposter syndrome that often accompanies stepping into a leadership role. He candidly admits that he grapples with self-doubt, but as he begins to share his insights, he recognizes the value of his contributions. He advocates for embracing imperfection and vulnerability, recognizing that these traits can be powerful tools for transformation. 

Alan emphasizes the significance of replacing negative words like “failure” and “can’t” with positive, empowering ones like “curiosity” and “connecting with your true self.” He encourages action, reminding listeners that the pursuit of positive impact is a lifelong journey. 

In conclusion, Alan Stern’s journey from self-doubt to empowerment serves as an inspiring testament to the potential for growth and transformation within us all. His story is a beacon of hope, urging listeners to embrace their imperfections, share their stories, and make meaningful contributions to the world. Through vulnerability and authenticity, Alan demonstrates that it is never too late to step into one’s purpose and inspire others to do the same. His words resonate as a call to action, inviting all to replace self-limiting beliefs with curiosity and a genuine connection with their true selves. 

Connect with Dr. Alan Stern.
FB: @betterricherstronger
YouTube: @betterricherstrongeralanst572

Podcast Transcript

Alan Stern  00:00 

It is okay to project myself as a human being. It is okay to show myself to people, because you’re relatable, you’re more relatable to them. And you will attract the types of people into your practice that you want to be working with. 


Shawn Zajas  00:17 

The future of dentistry belongs to the innovators. Welcome to innovation in dentistry. I’m your host, Shawn Zajas. And I believe that the future of dentistry is going to be unbelievably great over the next decade in two decades. But the question isn’t that the question is, are you going to be part of what makes dentistry great? So today, I get the opportunity to be with Dr. Allen stern, and I am beyond excited to be with you, Dr. But before I set you up, let me just say, thank you so much for joining me today. 


Alan Stern  00:59 

It is a pleasure. We’ve known each other for about a year. And I just love being in your company. So yeah, let’s have some fun. 


Shawn Zajas  01:08 

So, Alan, innovation in dentistry can mean so many different things, right? There’s like clinical innovation, there’s technological innovation. There’s different innovations in business models that shaped dentistry. But at the heart of all of it, there’s some crazy person that has some mindset or beliefs that that says why not me? Like, why can’t I step up? And lead and right now the way that you’re pioneering the way that you’re leading with your book with the way that you speak? I absolutely love it. But before we even get into all that, what, like how did you even get into this crazy industry called dentistry? 


Alan Stern  01:49 

First of all, thank you that was that was really generous, and it means a lot to me that a gentleman of your caliber thinks so highly. How did I get into dentistry? I got rejected from medical school. How else do you get into dentistry? Come on. You know, it’s, it’s like anything else, Shawn. You have an adversity in your life. It hits you in the face. You get up, you dust yourself off. And you say now what? And I was rejected by 23 medical schools at the end of college. My mother also got very seriously ill at that time, and I actually had to drop out of college. Four months before graduation, I had to drop all my classes because mom was sick. And so it went that I have to go an extra six months to finish up my BA. And I got a job in a retail store. And I was cruising along just fine. I figured Hey, what the heck why go through all this nonsense if I have a job. And pivotal moment, I went to my best friend was his dad was my dentist. And we went out to the swim club with Mark and Dr. Bob and their family. And Dr. Bob’s and Mark was off to medical school. And Mark is a very well known cardiologist out in LA. But Dr. Bob said to me, so what are you doing with yourself? I said, Dr. Bob, I’m just working at the store and having a good time. And Dr. Bob use some language that I don’t really want to use this is Family Radio. But he said, how would we say it stop reproducing around and go to dental school. And I spoke about I don’t want to stick my fingers in people’s noses come on out and grow up, stop reproducing around, come watch me in my office. And I went down to Dr. Bob’s office and I saw it look over his shoulders. And then there was this beloved guy playing around with things making people happy. And he had a powerful relationship with while he was relationship before relationship was fashionable. And he was the community doc. And the people in his office were with him for decades. It was like going into Dr. Bob and another family said yeah, I can do this. 


Shawn Zajas  04:12 

You don’t know how many stories I’ve heard where it started with a dentist actually coming alongside someone else and being like, hey, like what are you up to? Why don’t you come check out what I’m doing? Like, like, this is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard this. And I’m just wondering, like do dentists. They’ll do this? Like, are you responsible at all for being with some, you know, younger individual and being like, hey, come check out my practice, like does this still happen? 


Alan Stern  04:38 

Yes, yes, it does. And I apologize to all those kids that I’ve mentored who are now suffering. I’m in touch with a batch of them. And by the way, I just started a dental student coaching group that I do for free for dental students, and it’s very gratifying. Well, we’ll joke about This all we want you there is a very important part of who I am and what I do and why I do it. But yeah, well, you can, you can influence somebody with your passion. Absolutely. And it’s contagious. 


Shawn Zajas  05:15 

Okay, so when you get invited, you see that this guy is getting to, I don’t know, improve lives, and have a great time wasn’t something where you just realize, like, okay, I can see myself doing this, did you still have some hesitation at that time? 


Alan Stern  05:28 

Well, it was definitely plan B. And sometimes, even to this day, I feel like a square peg in the round hole of dentistry, because my technical skills are good, I’ve worked very hard to get the technical skills that I’ve had probably harder than most. But it wasn’t natural for me. What I’m doing now is natural for me, and we could get into this later a little bit. But I’ve made a good career on a dentist’s a really good career. And I’ve learned a lot of painful lessons. And I’ve used those lessons to make my life a whole lot better. So I’ve got no regrets. But it was absolutely plan B was absolutely something something I did not imagine myself doing. But hell as long as I was doing it, I’m in this farm, I just want to make the most of it. And I just dug in. So very, very good stuff. 


Shawn Zajas  06:23 

So you graduate dental school, then like, what the what the first five years look like? Are you doing an associate ship because at that time, I think people also were just like crazy enough to try to get their own practice is that something you dove into, but  


Alan Stern  06:35 

No, first five years, darker hair, a beard. Not as muscular as I am. Now. That’s that’s the truth. The first five years, I graduated dental school as a very insecure individual have three letters after my name, but not a whole lot else. Not a lot of self esteem, not a lot of self efficacy. And so I did a GPR for a year. And then I worked for somebody for five years, before I decided to open my own office. So I really was not very confident in I wasn’t I wasn’t bold, I was not bold, I dipped my toes into the water. And remember at the time that I graduated, it was 1981. And the interest rates were about 17% inflation and recession were upon us it was the end of the Carter years in the beginning of the Reagan years. So the economy was in a very, very bumpy transition. So that made it hard for 1981 graduates to go out and and open on their own. 


Shawn Zajas  07:46 

So when you made that leap, was that something that because of like you saying kind of not feeling super confident at that time? Was did that feel like a big risky decision for you to step out when you did? Or at that time? Was it just something that seemed like the next logical kind of decision? 


Alan Stern  08:03 

It was the realization, Shawn, that my employer was clearly not interested in anything other than exploiting me for as long as he could. And he presented me with contracts in terms of partnerships that were 100%. I wouldn’t say unacceptable, I would say repugnant. Wow. And that was God, Shawn, that was 36 years ago. And my good friend and my mentor, my coach Mark LeBlanc, growth, he says growth happens at the intersection of anger and opportunity. And I was mad as hell. I was really upset. My wife had just given birth to my son. I was promised a partnership. And I was given a contract that nobody in the right mind would even pick up off the table top, let alone read, let alone sign. So I decided at that point that I would just kind of smile and carry on in the capacity I was at. And I planned my office. I planned it ethically and honestly I had a restrictive covenant. I was not going to mess with that. Absolutely. As awful as the business dealings were at the time, I decided I was going to stay aboveboard. I opened my office some 30 miles away from dead scratch with nothing but loans. 


Shawn Zajas  09:30 

Oh my god,  


Alan Stern  09:31 

I worked for a corporate office three days a week. I worked my office on my own office three days a week. Two of those days were nights. And I rolled up my notes Aha, yeah, not ah, it’s Aha. And you know why Shawn, because all of that junk, made me what I am today. And what 


Shawn Zajas  09:56 

what does that like five years look like or 10 years look like so you’re in Private Practice. Like you said, you’re you’re just you’re hustling, you’re doing everything you can you have this newborn, you have this family you’re providing for. You said, you’re still not exactly sure who Allen is in a way of like, owning it be at peace, being at peace with it, like, like aligning your strengths and fulfillment. But yet you’re still giving it your all. Yeah, like this seems like a really pivotal transformative time in your life. What did that decade look like? 


Alan Stern  10:31 

But pivot pivot or transformation came very late in my career. I did a lot as as a practicing dentist, I still do a lot. I got involved in community affairs, I got involved in my synagogue I got involved in a movement to stop an insert garbage incinerator for being built in my town. And we beat Westinghouse Corporation. Wow, we, we did so many things. I used my credibility as with the title Doctor, to really help a cause that I believed in all the while doing the good things of dentistry that I did. But I’m just building it seems like the first 30 Some years of my career, were designed to make me realize who I am. And it wasn’t until I paid the price for business mistakes that I made. And I own every one of them. I hired a financial advisor who was not right for me. I hope we can edit this out my throat is still I’m recovering from bad sinusitis. Give me a pause for just one second. 


Shawn Zajas  11:55 

Hey, no worries. 


Alan Stern  11:58 

Go to the God of halls here. 


Shawn Zajas  12:00 

It works. 


Alan Stern  12:03 

I didn’t have time to bring a glass of water up. I hired a financial adviser who was not right for me. Why? Because the rich guys hired him. I bought a house. That was a little bit out of my range, because I felt that I deserved that house. And I did because I’m a nice guy. I bought a Lexus. I had the wrong marketing firm guide me to a weekly radio spot which I love. You know how much I love speaking a man. Five minutes on the radio on Morning mornings. Dr. Show Wow, we and you’re gifted at that? Yeah. And what wound up and I wrote her the wrong the wrong financial planner. And it left me all of these things left me about 200 plus $1,000 in debt, with no increase in income to pay for it. In my late 40s and early 50s. 


Shawn Zajas  13:02 

Oh my gosh, that’s not supposed to be what the dream of dentistry takes you to right like, this is where you’re supposed to be getting this wide base of financial freedom and investments and money to set aside so that you can retire at will. 


Alan Stern  13:20 

Don’t forget about the boat. Yeah, that’s true. But I didn’t get a boat. I was too smart for that. I get seasick. So I didn’t go there. So I was languishing. And in my it had been in my early to mid 50s. I found the right financial advisor. And this gentleman is old enough to be my son. And he looks at me and he says my friend, my wife and I were sitting with him. He said how’s $3,000 A month sound to you in retirement? You want to talk about pivotal. You want to talk about a gut punch. I said, well what do we do? And he set a play put us on a plan. And he said Alan, I want you to sell your house. So what house my status in a beautiful neighborhood a beautiful house. We’re all that people are. Alan, look at the numbers. Your kids don’t need the school system anymore. Their high school sell their house. And this is a very condensed version of a long story. I sold the house. I gave up the radio spot. But I kept the Lexus. So at that moment at that time, it wasn’t that long ago. I cried. I absolutely sense of the word I cried. I drove past the old house wondering what I did wrong or what if. But then something happened. We had a cashflow. We had money. So Shawn Zajas comes into the office, and I present to Shawn, five crowds, two root canals and a partridge in a pear tree. And Shawn Zajas says to buzz off in four words, I’ll think about it and leaves the office and never comes back. Yeah, okay. Before it was the end of the world. And we have money to go on vacation like we like we have money for personal trainers, and nutritionists, which are very important for my wife, me. And that’s, that was the moment when I realized, I’m good. And then I speak to a lot of dentists Shawn and people like to talk to me. I have no idea why but they do. And I realized that many dentists are in the same position that I’m in. So I am I figured out I had a two and two and my goodness, my role in life is to help dentists. Reverse the misery, experience the joy, and understand that they do sacred work in the world, that can make them a very comfortable living, if they know how to do it. That was pivotal for me. And that’s that, and I now live with that intent. 


Shawn Zajas  16:29 

I mean, Alan, that’s a big deal. To have to be faced with this crossroad. Where it’s like, here is, I don’t know, the superficial dream, the status, which means so much to our sense of worth, right? Our sense of ego, here you are, you’ve sacrificed as a dentist, you’ve done all these things, so that you could have, again, whatever that that dream is, and yet to have the courage to look at that and be like, that doesn’t define me, that isn’t who I am. That doesn’t bring fulfillment. And yet taking care of my wife, us being able to be healthy, and experience the joy of getting to travel and do what we want is so much more important. And it’s about dentistry, on my terms, like that must have been one of those things where almost like you kind of stared down a fear. And yet you realize on the other end of it, you get liberated. And you realize why, like if I could help someone get free of this 20 years earlier, but yet you had to walk through that. Yes. So that that actual lesson that I don’t know, like, so many times, we want to erase the challenges in our life, we want to erase those difficulties, those low points. And yet, therein lies the goal that can truly help define who we are, and allow us to realize the giftings that we have to serve people, but 


Alan Stern  17:57 

We don’t know it in the moment. 


Shawn Zajas  18:00 

Right? It’s terrible in the moment 


Alan Stern  18:02 

I It wasn’t Yeah, it was miserable. And I’ll tell you, I have no problem saying I use I got lucky and I found a world renowned therapist. To help me through my struggles. Unfortunately, Dr. Ahn Lazarus passed away a number of years ago. I wish he could see me now. Because the work he did with me was was life changing. My good friend, Dr. Dana Ackley is a peak performance coach. He applied Dr. Lazarus his principles to active dental practice. And there’s a handful of guys that I can look at men and women. And I said, I’ve said to them, I wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for you. And yet, when the students ready, the teacher appears. And adversity is adversity. I mean, it’s not funny living paycheck to paycheck and your 50s. It’s not funny when when a professional tells you 3000 a month, and that’s it for you, pal. That’s not funny. But if you understand that the same time and this is what I’m trying to explain to the people I work with, that this is happening for a reason, you just got to find it. And we work with them to try and find that reason. And also to just shape their careers a little bit so that they can pursue their own version of success. My version of success is this. My version of success is a guy like you calling a guy like me and saying, hey, I want to interview you for my podcast, because you have a message that does it for me. Do it. And you know, I had one dentist challenge me privately in a very disparaging condescending way. Dentists want to know how much you make. I make enough. I make enough friend and I my wife and I define what he Enough is. And could we have more? Yeah? Could we have less? Yeah. What makes us any different than all but one human being in the world? Or to the one who has the most in the one who has the least? There’s only two people like that in the world. There’s the rest of us. So, no, it is not about comparing your material wealth to anybody else’s mind is just fine. I could stop working tomorrow. And I could live. I’m not going to, but I can’t. Because I did what I had to do. I made the sacrifices. But you know, if your version of happiness, Shawn is, you know, three Mercedes in the lot, with a Tesla on the way, and vacation home and every resort city in the world? Great, go find it. But there’s a price to pay for that. Are you willing? Are you able to pay that price? I’m just not. 


Shawn Zajas  21:02 

You know, an Alan, I also hear the stories about the people that arrive at that destination, that elusive destination. And they get there and they look around. And honestly, they don’t have the people that they love anymore. In that moment, after the grind after the sacrifices that they shouldn’t have made. They look around and realize they’re not connected anymore to their spouse. They don’t know their kids. And that’s when it hits them this entire time. I’ve been chasing something that left me completely alone. And it doesn’t mean anything. I have no one to share it with. 


Alan Stern  21:39 

Yeah, or here’s even better. And this one I’ve seen where somebody is attached to further and further material gains, and is never happy when they get to this point. I never get I, right 


Shawn Zajas  21:50 

 Because it keeps Yeah. 


Alan Stern  21:54 

And one of the things I talk about, give away one of the standard lines I use in almost every talk I give we are endowed in this country with three unalienable rights, Sean, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of a Tesla. No, no, the pursuit of a big house No. Pursuit of Happiness. And happiness is for each of us to define. And so that happiness in practice, happiness in life, happiness and family, happiness in your physical well being. 


Shawn Zajas  22:28 

So you said earlier, people like to talk to you. And it makes so much sense to me. I think it was maybe eight years ago, I had already been in dentistry for about eight years, I think, kind of working with my dad’s business, doing a little bit of stuff on the side. And I was really getting disillusioned in dentistry. Because guess what, I didn’t like dentists, because I would talk to them 


Alan Stern  22:55 

and be like, Oh, what are you doing with me then? 


Shawn Zajas  22:58 

Here, there’s a redemptive side of this. And I talked to them. And I’d be like, hey, like, how are things going? You know? And of course, I’m not a dentist, right? So right away, they’re like, oh, things are great. I’m crushing it. Like, I’m like, pretty much every single response was, I’m living my best life, and I’m crushing it. I don’t need any help. And I wasn’t looking like I wasn’t a coach. I was selling manual toothbrushes at the time. And I was at trade shows. But I was just trying to connect to the humanity in them to find out if they were experiencing any pain, like I was, if they were struggling at all with business, like I was, if they had any identity issues of finding just just normal things. I was trying to connect with that. And all I was getting was these fake. I’m crushing it. I’m a machine. I can’t relate to you. And then I met Dr. Allison house. Ah, then I met Dr. Kris Volcheck. And those two people were unafraid and had the courage to just be who they were, and share with me the reality of what was going on. And they kept me in dentistry. And I realized there is the shift. Now that’s been happening, I think for like a decade where it just seems like because of pioneers like you because of amazing dentists like Dr. House, where it’s like, you don’t have to fake it. You don’t have to have this. have it all figured out. You now have permission to just share where you’re at in the struggle. And I think that is so beautiful and so liberating. And that’s exactly why people are drawn to you, Allen, because you have the courage to just shoot straight and be honest and be an open book and be like, hey, look, if any of my pain if any of my struggles can help you. You share generously. Yeah, and I just want to honor you for that. Thank you. 


Alan Stern  24:48 

That is really kind and I can I’ll go a little bit deeper later on in the interview as to what this does for me but a comment like that from the likes of you means more to me than you could ever, ever imagine. I was, I am the son of a Holocaust survivor who experienced pain from from the outside and pain on the inside. Her survivor’s guilt was horrible, her parents were killed, and she was not. She married and abusive, self hating narcissist, who pounded on her end on me every opportunity that individual got. 


Shawn Zajas  25:33 

So that’s your father? 


Alan Stern  25:33 

What’s that? 


Shawn Zajas  25:35 

That’s your father. 


Alan Stern  25:37 

No comment. Draw whatever conclusion you want. I’ll tell you that I came out of my childhood and into dental school with two beliefs that were very, very difficult to deal with. One was my hero mother’s paradigm of the world that Jewish people were putting the world to suffer out, you know? How do you blame her for that, and the two, that I’m kind of sort of worthless from the other side of it. And so when I hear things like that, coming from the likes of you, it touches my soul in a way that you don’t even know how deeply that that affects me in a very positive way, what the universe is telling me. So I do appreciate that much more than words can imagine. And it also goes to one of the things that I do by intent. In almost every interaction, I have to say something nice. Or buy something in the store, I’ll say something nice. Why? Because it helps somebody. You don’t know what kind of garbage somebody’s carrying around on any given day. And if you could be the source of a little bit of an aspirin, to relieve that pain for just a moment. That’s cool. So I’ve learned from receiving things like this, that the more I give them, not based on BS not based on anything that I make up just on observation, the more I validate and other human beings existence. It’s so important. So thank you for that. And keep doing it. 


Shawn Zajas  27:18 

Thank you, Alan, when did you? When did you even have the courage to start, like letting it in and start believing that you could be worthy, right? Because you grow up with this lie? You grow up feeling like you don’t have anything to give? You’re never enough, right? You’re insufficient, all these lies as oppression? When did you all of a sudden start having the courage to be like, maybe that’s not true? Maybe what my wife says about me or these people say about me? I can actually start letting it in.  


Alan Stern  27:49 

Yeah, well, part one, I married the right girl. 46 years later, however, the best years of her life, by the way, she got five years out of it. So she’s got nothing to complain about at all. 


Shawn Zajas  28:04 

Wasn’t expecting that. 


Alan Stern  28:09 

We have two beautiful children. They’re just fantastic young adults. I just effusive in my praise of them and how proud I am that I was able to co parent in a way that I was not parented. 


Shawn Zajas  28:26 

Wow, it was really cool. And that’s a miracle, by the way, that’s a miracle. Cure is do what you did not see. And instead of at that point where you can either succumb to the nature that you have and what you saw, actually choose a different path and say, that is not me. That’s not who I am. I will not continue that. Like that’s amazing. 


Alan Stern  28:49 

Yes. It’s not to say I don’t have that wiring back here that I have to overcome that I have to just redirect. But yeah, you can do it. But I think when I started, you know, the wrong financial advisor from years ago, had some very disparaging words about my practice, that it wasn’t the 10 zillion dollar practice that this individual wanted me to have in order that I can get what he thought I should have. The right coach came along. And this relatively unknown woman out in Oregon, named Merrily Sears. I was done with coaches. I was done with consultants. I have blown so much money on them. And friend, my wife felt the same way. And Jess are Hi, Janice has been with us for 15 years, and is really emotionally and she’s totally invested in the practice. And in frenemy, as we are in her, she said, Nah, you don’t want to do that crap again. And I said give this woman a lesson. And we did. And we wound up entering into a coaching consulting relationship with her and she helped me turned my practice around. And Merrily is also old enough to be my daughter. And she really caused me to believe in myself and figuratively held a mirror in front of me and said, Look at, look at you look what you’ve done. You have a gift to the world, you did this, you got to show others to do it. That was the a little bit below the ground floor of Better, Richer, Stronger. And I know I have a gift for speaking. So I joined as CNN, I joined Vanessa Emerson’s group, also a jumpstart on evolution around so Mark LeBlanc, who is my speaking and business coach. I ran into Marty Shala, who’s my one of my speaking coaches. And Mark says to me, you’re writing a book. Mark, I’m so damn busy to write a book. He says you’re writing a book. But Alan, you’re writing the book. There it is. And book number two is on the way, by the way. And that’s 


Shawn Zajas  31:10 

and you’re sending me a signed copy. Is that Is that what the agreement? 


Alan Stern  31:14 

Oh, damn right. Do you have you have Enjoyed The rRde or not? 


Shawn Zajas  31:18 

Oh, I do. It’s behind me on my shelf. Yeah, yeah. But 


Alan Stern  31:22 

this one is going to be called destination you with wisdom and a glass of whine. And it’s either 18 or 20 Alan isms. Oh, I love that. It goes to some of the things you’re talking about. Show me a person without stress. And I’ll show you a cadaver. Show me a person whose life is a perfect storybook and I’ll show you a liar. Don’t let your hormones overtake your intellect. 


Shawn Zajas  31:48 

Well, I was gonna say not just a liar, but a coward because it takes courage to just show yourself to the world. Yes. Right where you’re at the way you’re at, in process in journey like every other human being. And you 


Alan Stern  32:01 

know what, Shawn, we are so inculcated in school and physicians have this problem also, that we have to be invincible. You know, you’re laying in the chair and you’re I’m going to fix your teeth like nobody else can because I am the greatest right? Nobody can do it like me. So I have to project that. No, it is okay to project myself as a human being. It is okay to show myself to people. Because you’re relatable. You’re more relatable to them. And you will attract the types of people into your practice that you want to be working with. You know, we had one incident a couple of weeks ago, Mr. McNasty came into the office and he slipped through the cracks. And there was a miscommunication and entirely goodwill miscommunication. He barged into the office screaming. That doesn’t happen. I was totally taken aback took care of the problem. And I asked him to please find another dentist because you don’t belong here. Yeah, that’s what I said. But I was what I was thinking was very New Jersey, we won’t repeat that. But you know, when you’re treating people that you like, first of all, outcomes are better. It’s much less stressful. And we have so much fun day to day. Bad dad jokes come out of my mouth day in and day out. Everybody gets a laugh. Everybody gets good dentistry. The work we take seriously. But we also take, you know, that psyche part that we treat, and we take that very seriously, and I want people comfortable and at ease with me. And I want to be at ease with them. I don’t need I don’t need Mr. McNasty sitting there looking me in the face and say Man, oh, man, if you just so much as flinch, I’m going to jump on you. I don’t need that and nobody needs that. I don’t think any dentist in their right mind should be treating people who are hostile. And Dr. Panky said never worked on a stranger. take that to heart. Never work on a stranger? You did a really good job showing when you were in dental sales at the trade shows you tried to get to know these guys first. Not you know, hey, I got the latest and greatest for you. Why don’t you come see this? I’ve got the answer the cancer right? You know, Hey, Doc, how you doing? Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your practice. Maybe I have something for you. Maybe I don’t but let me get to know you. That’s the way you select for customers or clients or patients that you’ll enjoy working with and we’ll pay you with gratitude. 


Shawn Zajas  34:48 

Well, you put words to what I talk about all the time. So like the branding side of me that’s always wanting to brand something and help dentists it’s like hey guys, like the best way differentiate yourself and set it up so that there’s like a moat around your practice where other people really can’t compete with you is to find out who you are authentically. And to just own that, because no one else can compete with that. And if you happen to attract people, according to the way that you’re wired, according to your passion, your perspective, then all of a sudden, there’s a fit. But if you’re attracting them based off of the modeling you think you have to do to become the best dentist, or the performance that you think you’d have to do to be like that one dentist you like growing up? Well, then you’re faking it every day. And subconsciously, people can tell if you’re not really being you. Yeah. And they don’t know what it is, but just seems off. And there’s not a real connection. Like it’s heart to heart, soul to soul, whatever you want to say. So people don’t actually sense that they belong. In your practice. Yeah, where you they know you, because you have the courage to just show who you are. That attracts the kind of people that are going to almost connect and jive. And then it’s like family, you just get to enjoy the people that are coming to your practice. Instead of being like, Man, why do I keep attracting all these people that I don’t like to be around? And now all I am is miserable, and clear. 


Alan Stern  36:11 

outcomes are better. Yeah, they’re just better when you’re just in your groove, and not worrying about any nonsense that might get thrown at you. In fact, so you’re sitting in my chair, I like you, or at least I can pretend to. And so I’m going to sit down and I’m going to focus. I like this guy. Let’s see what I can do here. Right. Okay. 


Shawn Zajas  36:35 

So I want to get to your, how you’re leading right now and what you’re doing. But before if I could just take one pitstop. And if you don’t want to talk about this, this is totally fine. But I’m very curious as to how your life was shaped, having the mother that you had, simply because I wasn’t too long ago that I read Dr. Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And that book, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop reading. I just needed to know, what was it like? What was it like to the psyche of a person that was going through this? So again, if this is something that you don’t want to talk about, I can respect that completely.  


Alan Stern  37:18 

Oh, no, no, no. I can’t. I’m just warning I can break down when I talk about this. Okay. So if you really want to know what went through my mother’s head, Elie Wiesel wrote a book called Night, he actually wrote a trilogy of books about his Holocaust experience. Some of the stuff that Ellie was L. Rope, were things that my mother expressed to me. She didn’t talk too much about it. But she did do an interview with my son when he was 12 years old. My son is now 37. It was an adolescent interview very amateurish on a really crummy VCR. But her her descriptions were beyond belief. My mother, my mother self inflicted a lot of things on herself. I’m not going to go too much into detail with it, other than to tell you that she used to have dreams that the Nazis were coming after her and she scratched their eyes out. She wound up with scratches on her own eyes. There were other problems that we ran into with her that I didn’t understand until many years later. So the way it shaped me is that I know pain. I’ve witnessed it. And there are syndromes that we children of Holocaust survivors inherit, some say genetically. Yeah, I understand that. And if only I could have taught my mother what I know now. Maybe I could have made a difference. But instead her suffering was 100% unjustifiable, no way that should happen. But I am determined that I know this to be a vehicle by which some people suffering ends. And beyond that, it’s not just about ending suffering. It’s about bringing happiness to people that my mother only knew intermittently, very intermittently. And so that is a driver. That is a driver. I’ll tell you a story. May I keep going. Yes, this is this is really cool. Couple of years out, my mother died in 2012. A couple years later, I get a Facebook message from my brother. He says get a look at this. I’m not sure that you could see it. But you see this picture? Yeah. And it was from a street photographer in New York City of real artists. And it was depicted in New York City. Third Avenue in 1978. The year after Fran and I got married and moved away. This woman in the white dresses named Best Meyer since she was a Miss America. And a very well known New York celebrity. And right here in the foreground, this angry lady with the sunglasses and the angry pursed lips with the exaggerated cornice. He labels her the Joker. From movies. That’s my mother. No, yeah. So some random shot of some woman on the street by a street photographer in New York City. snarkily calling my mother the Joker. My brother got a little hangry. And I, you know, I can understand that. But I messaged him. And I said to Mr. Sandler, the woman you have depicted as the Joker was my late mother who’s a Holocaust survivor. I’d love to talk to you about her life, so that you could be a better artist. So of course, he apologized profusely. No, she had a sense of humor, it’s okay. And we became friendly. Couple of years, not many years later, about eight months ago, he sends me a Facebook message. He says an art gallery in the Bronx is doing a retrospective of my work. May I use your mother’s picture and talk about it in an interview? I said, Of course. He sends me the news article of this thing coming. It was on the anniversary of my mother’s passing. 


Shawn Zajas  41:57 

Oh my gosh, 


Alan Stern  41:58 

I call I said we have to talk. He said yes, we do. It gets even better. He I talked I talked to him by voice for the first time. And he said to me, I first of all, I told him that the coincidence is ridiculous. He said, What’s even more ridiculous is a dealer, a gallery in France called me and wants to pay me serious money for your mother’s picture. And he’d never had $1 Wow, he was a starving artist. You said your mother’s an angel. 


Shawn Zajas  42:32 

That’s just beautiful in such a redemptive way. Yeah, and especially because it’s like you. There’s, you are justifiably like okay to have the same response that your brother had. Yeah. And reaching out to the artists and being like, Look, you depicted my mom wrong. How could you you didn’t know. But instead, you opened up a conversation. And you shared something. And somehow in the midst of it, she gets honor. And at the same time, he gets some sense of recognition. Yeah, like, it’s just, it’s beautiful. 


Alan Stern  43:07 

Yeah. Yeah, it’s really cool. I showed that picture to my rabbi, when I first saw it. And I explained to him that coincidence, just random shot, he said, God’s telling you something, you just have to figure it out. And Better, Richer, Stronger, is born. 


Shawn Zajas  43:26 

Wow. And honestly, that’s what, you know, my mom passed away prematurely when she was 62. And it was such a, it was difficult for our family. Let’s just say that. And I remember in the wake of it being like, all all of us in the family don’t necessarily know exactly what to do, because she was like the matriarch. She was the leader, she held things together. But more than that, she just brought so much love. And then here, she’s gone. And I’m thinking, she wouldn’t want her departure to make me better. Or to bring me down but she would love for it to be a match. They can insight in me even more passion to make a difference. And take the gift that she poured into me my whole life and use that to shine even brighter to touch lives. And that’s exactly even what you’re doing. Like I just I love that because today’s day and age, I don’t we don’t have a lot of honor. When it comes to like legacy honor. You know, it’s like my best life now. It’s all about me, I want to do my own thing, be my own person. And there’s nothing wrong with the be my own person and do my own thing. But in the midst of that we lost honoring those that sacrifice for us that gave everything so that we could have this chance at life. 


Alan Stern  44:46 

Yep, you’re gonna be so much tells you stuff. The universe tells you things. And you just have to be alert for it. You got to see it. And some people can some people can’t some people will some people won’t. But I think for people like you and me, the gift comes in a the journey and betta giving and really doing it’s about doing things for others. Really what is our what is our whole economy based on anyway? Making things are doing things for others? Yeah. So if you emphasize the doing things for others and making things for others, then the reward comes back not only materially but in other ways to enhance your life. 


Shawn Zajas  45:32 

So Alan, here you are, you’re going, you know, I don’t know, 20 years, 30 years, I don’t know when this exactly is in dentistry, and then all of a sudden, all these things are happening. And you realize, okay, I, like, I need to step up, I need to write this book. I get it. It’s my turn to lead. What was that like? For you? Like, was that something where there was ever some sense of imposter syndrome? Oh, my gosh, maybe the time is not right. Or I’m a little nervous? Or? Or was it just one of those things that there was a grace? And you were like, you know, I absolutely know, this is what I need to do. And I’m just going to face it. And there wasn’t any sort of tension attached to it. 


Alan Stern  46:09 

yes to both. yes to both. I, I have impostor syndrome all the time. I got on a group coaching call last night with my with my group. And I’m thinking what am I have an outline of what I want to do, but is it gonna? Is it going to be okay, I get up to speak. And I, I get a dose of it until I first start running my mouth. And then as I get into the groove of it all, I understand that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. And as my my talks or my coaching sessions, or my group sessions go along it, the voice inside of me is saying, hey, this stuff’s pretty good. I don’t know how you’re doing it, Alan, but this stuff’s pretty good. And it’s better than it was a couple of years ago. It’s not as good as it’s going to be a couple years from now. But it’s pretty good. But I impostor syndrome all the time. All the time. 


Shawn Zajas  47:15 

I love that because the point of this podcast one is for what I would say is I know dentistry is advancing. And I know it’s gonna be great in 10 years, and I see all these pioneers that are helping to make dentistry great. And I look to the left to my right, and I see that we’re all advancing dentistry together. And because we, some of us know each other, we’re able to enter into some sort of synergy. Maybe do collaborations, partnerships, that’s great. But when I look to the left in the right, I also see vacancies. And I realize there’s still some people on the sideline, playing it safe. Wondering, I don’t think I’m ready yet. Maybe maybe the time is still out there. Or maybe I’m not skilled enough yet. Or maybe I just need more certainty or more of a guarantee. Or, and they just keep waiting. And my encouragement in letting pioneers like you share their stories is that people realize, like, there’s no better time than now. To just follow that passion that’s on their heart. Like the book that’s in them that only they can write, you know, and maybe not everyone’s called to be a speaker. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying, I want people to have permission to pursue what it is that’s burning in them. 


Alan Stern  48:27 

Yeah. Yeah. What’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen? What is the worst thing that’s gonna happen? I, I was deep in the hole in my 40s and 50s. What’s the worst thing that could have happened? That I didn’t write the book. That’s the worst thing that could have happened. I think telling a story. Telling your story is important. Brene Brown has done some incredible work, encouraging people like me and like you to really get out there and do it because I am imperfect. I am enough. And not not a single one of us. anybody listening to this, who looks at you looks at me and sees something. Well, I’m glad to see it. I’m glad to see a happy successful guy. I’m glad you see a guy who’s really into what he’s doing. At an age where most people think I should be sitting on a rocking chair. Doing nothing. By the way, the big problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re done. But we’ll get into that another time. But, you know, you got one shot at life. And the more you make other people’s lives better, the more you make your own life better. And if you do try on the goodness of your heart, to try to bring good into the world, and it doesn’t work quite as well. Then you dust yourself off and go to plan B. But never stop. Never stop trying to do something impactful or contributory in the world. 


Shawn Zajas  50:02 

I don’t even know. Like exactly where dentistry would be if you hadn’t decided to just step up and step out and share your story and be like, Hey, I wasn’t doing great when everyone else was says they were doing great, or when I felt like I should have been doing great. And there’s this natural shame or stigma attached to, did I do something wrong? Like, was I inadequate, and yet you have the courage to just face it, own it. And yet, they will say pain is actually the best teacher. 


Alan Stern  50:34 

It is. I don’t encourage anybody to seek pain. I’m not into that show. I have not I’m not into that stuff. But you look at, you know, I’m working on another list of Allen’s 3030 30 words that you should never ever use failure is one. I can’t there’s another one I’m afraid of is another one. These are dirty words. Replace them with curiosity. Replace it with connecting with your true self. Can’t go wrong. 


Shawn Zajas  51:13 

Okay, I just love what you’re doing. So if someone’s listening right now, and they’re like, Okay, I want to learn more about what Dr. Allen Stern is doing how I can either get the book and be part of your coaching or where are you going to be next? Where do you want their eyeballs to go? 


Alan Stern  51:27 

My Facebook group is the best way to go better, richer, stronger. Email betterricherstronger at Gmail. I do have a website. It’s a little stagnant and needs some work. And I’m starting to learn Instagram, look out once I hit Instagram, oh my goodness gracious. But faded. My Facebook group is very active. I’ve got 3200 people in there. I’ve got interviews, by the way, you’re going to come on my, my videocast sometime soon, sir. I’m from New Jersey. So we will either bribery or blackmail you whatever works. And what we’ll have fun with that, too. But I’ve got all kinds of really good things going on there. I have a thought of the day that I broadcast on there. It’s all pretty good stuff. And it’s the best of it’s me. It’s me on expurgated. And if you like it, if you like what you hear, join me and if if it’s not for you, and you know, you can’t be all things to all people. There are wonderful people out there doing similar work. Laura Schmidt, Karen to the Laura Brenner, these are all people that you know, I know our friend Lauren King, I just got to have lunch with her. There’s a lot of really brave, heroic, brilliant people out there. Somebody will resonate with you. Because you know, as well as I do, Shawn, wherever you want to go, no one gets there alone. Amen. If you want to get there fast, do it yourself. But if you want to get there and stay there, find somebody I did. I have a handful of coaches that I work with all the time. Michael Blanc, Marquis Shala, merrily, Sears Mary Osborne shown on T shirts. Countless people have helped make me what I am today and keep me there. So and they have coaches, everybody needs somebody. So if I honor me, give me a call. If I’m not, I can find you somebody 


Shawn Zajas  53:25 

I want you’re just a rock star, even for that talk about honor and generosity, inaction. It’s like I’m saying, let me put the spotlight on Alan and you’re like, Here, here’s how I can share about five other contemporaries and five other people that even that I went to. I love your heart to serve. Okay, so here’s the final question. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. You probably are. But you’re born ready to hear this? Yeah, no. So here’s the question. You’re walking down the street. And you see 18 year old Allen in the distance. And you know, you only have a brief moment to communicate one sentiment to him. What do you share,? 


Alan Stern 

stay the course. Lose the doubt stay the course. 


Shawn Zajas 

Well, let that be the bow on top of this episode. To all of our listeners that that’s it, like stay the course. Don’t give up like Alan was saying earlier, find what it is about you and just own it. It’s gonna be your quickest way to success and fulfillment and liberation that comes from just being in the gift that you are and not trying to be something that you’re not. I want it has been such a joy and an honor to get to interview you and honor you as an innovator. As a pioneer. I love what you’re doing with your Facebook group. If people haven’t heard you speak it is an utter delight. Your book is amazing. I am in In Your Corner 100% Thank you so much for letting me interview you today. Thank you. Thanks for listening and be sure to follow so you never miss an episode. To learn more about what’s going on in dentistry, check out innovation in 

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