Bold Moves and Resilience: Dentist’s Journey through Crisis and Transformation with Dr. Chad Johnson


Podcast Summary

Dr. Chad Johnson, a dentist, joins Shawn Zajas in a podcast conversation where he opens up about his experiences and challenges in the field of dentistry. The discussion covers various topics, including the dark times in dentistry, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Chad’s journey to overcome adversity. 

Chad begins by acknowledging the struggles faced by dentists, such as overwhelming debt, isolation, and the pressure to maintain a successful image. These difficulties have unfortunately contributed to high suicide rates in the profession. Chad then shares his own personal struggle during the pandemic when his dental offices were forced to close, just as he had acquired two new practices and accumulated significant debt. 

The sudden closure of his offices and the financial strain that followed took a toll on Chad’s mental well-being. He experienced panic attacks, something he had never encountered before. Feeling uncertain and anxious, Chad reflected on his trust in God and the need to relinquish control. He recognized the importance of addressing his own fears and anxieties and made a conscious effort to trust in a higher power to guide him through the challenges. 

Chad describes his decision to transition his practice to a fee-for-service model as a pivotal moment in his journey. Despite the risks and uncertainties involved, he took charge and sent a letter to his patients, explaining that his practice would no longer participate in insurance networks. This bold move allowed Chad to prioritize quality over volume and align his practice with his values. 

This episode reveals Chad’s unwavering commitment to personal growth and learning. He emphasizes the value of audiobooks and recommends continuously expanding knowledge in various fields to become a better leader, businessman, and individual. He mentions “Way of the Wolf” by Jordan Belfort as a particularly impactful business book. 

Throughout the conversation, Chad’s resilience shines through. He shares how he utilized exercise, particularly long bike rides, as a way to clear his mind, exercise discipline, and focus on problem-solving. Despite the challenges and the toll it took on his mental health, Chad remained steadfast in his determination to lead his team and steer his business towards success. 

In closing, Shawn expresses his admiration for Chad’s accomplishments and the impact he has made in dentistry. Chad offers his support and mentoring to others in the profession, emphasizing the importance of seeking guidance and sharing experiences. 

Overall, this interview paints a picture of Chad’s journey in dentistry, highlighting his ability to confront challenges head-on, adapt to uncertain circumstances, and remain true to his values. It showcases his resilience, personal growth, and commitment to continuous improvement, making him an inspirational figure in the dental community.

Connect with Chad Johnson:
IG: @drchadjohnson 
Linkedin: @drchadjohnson

Podcast Transcript

Chad Johnson  00:00 

And we all have the potential to be cowardly. So what I’m saying is within our human nature, we have the potential to be cowardly each of us and that we also have the potential to be brave. 


Shawn Zajas  00:12 

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? Hey, guys, so here I am with a dear friend of mine, Dr. Chad Johnson. And I just want to say first of all, Chad, you do not fit a mold. If there’s one thing I would say is that you are just out of the box. And I love your perspective, your the way your mind works. So welcome to the show. It is great to have you, 


Chad Johnson  01:04 

Sean, thanks so much, man. I’m looking forward to some fun conversation is too bad. We don’t have three hours in front of us because we could do it. 


Shawn Zajas  01:14 

Uh, yeah, I remember meeting you chat at a PTA workshop. And I was it was kind of after hours. And I’m sitting there, journaling, probably reading some some book. I see you like about to get on the elevator. And I just shout out to you. Hey, Chad. And all I know is that it was already laid in probably two and a half hours later, you finally were like, Okay, I probably need to go. 


Chad Johnson  01:38 

Right. But because I think we started at nine o’clock. And honestly, that’s like bedtime for me. And so I mean, but you know what it was so worth it. But there, there came a point where we were approaching midnight or after midnight, where it was like, Okay, I want I actually want to keep going, but I don’t think my like I don’t think I can think and we’ve been so engaged. It was it was fantastic. And our friendship from there on forward has been has been just as engaging. And so it’s it’s quite a pleasure to be on this podcast to have listeners, co engage with us. 


Shawn Zajas  02:15 

So you not just run a very successful practice. Your team members rave about you, but you also have your own podcast. Just tell me about that. 


Chad Johnson  02:25 

Yeah, so Regan Robertson and I are both within the productive dentist Academy sphere. And that’s where obviously I met you. And so we’ve been doing podcasts for let’s see, three years together before that I was with Victoria Peterson doing the podcast, but she passed it off to Reagan, to co host with me, and we’re coming up on our 200th episode. So people can check that out at productive And I think it might be slash podcast or podcasts. Dr. Bruce Baird also has podcasts that are within there. And Victoria Peterson has investment, investment grade practice, investment grade practices, podcast. And so yeah, within the productive dentist Academy, or what we call PDA sphere, we have three podcasts that are different topics. And ours is more casual with talking about business concepts. It’s not clinical. It’s talking about business concepts. Victoria is talking about it with investment grade practices, talking about how to make your practice worth keeping or worth selling. But you know, making the your your business bottom line work. And Bruce does more of a monologue style, like I told you. And his is basically just talking about stuff that he shares at workshops, how to get your practice, you know, the button gear for your practice and getting yourself better as a leader and all the stuff that he talks about at a workshop. He brings it up 15 minutes at a time on his monologue. And it’s really cool because I mean, man, it’s not like he says, well, and I I’ll share the last idea with you. If you go on the, you know, the workshop, he shares it all. It’s really cool. I think for posterity’s sake. You know, 2040 years from now people can still listen to Bruce’s business advice and it’ll still be pertinent. It’ll be timeless stuff. So that’s awesome that he’s doing that for for his legacy. 


Shawn Zajas  04:28 

You know, I feel like all of you guys at PDA have that same just spirit of generosity. You know, when I meet Regan you, Victoria, Bruce, you just want to make dentistry better. And I’ve noticed with any high achiever that I see in dentistry, that I feel like there’s a like mindedness with me is that they’re playing the long game. They’re not trying to get on top of people or do some shortcuts so that they can reach some Pinnacle on their own. They really want to pour themselves was out and serve. And it’s just a super easy way to honor Victoria. You, Reagan and Dr. Baird. Okay, I need to ask though. I have no problem on this podcast. Do you want me to call you Dr. Johnson? No. Are you sure? 


Chad Johnson  05:16 

Yes, Chad is just fine. I mean, so then sounds I know doesn’t it sounds so fancy and that’s just not me. So I grew up around this area, here in the Des Moines Iowa area. And so all my patients are, well know a good amount of my patients are old, you know, longtime friends and family and, and stuff like that. And they just know me as Chad too. And it just, it doesn’t bother me. It’s just realistically authentically down to earth. And I like it. So Chad is just fine. Okay, J otro. Cinco all of it. Yes. 



Oh, that’s you. That’s me. 


Chad Johnson  05:53 

i It’s been me the whole time. I just do football on the weekends. Yeah, 



our video producers like wait a second, you’re interviewing Chado? Just think I’m like, No. The dentistry one right, the more famous, 



more famous Yeah, that’s right. In our circle. Okay. 


Shawn Zajas  06:10 

So how is it that you? I don’t know, I don’t feel like you. I don’t know, I wouldn’t have thought when I see you, oh, that’s going to be a dentist. Now at the same time, you are very nuanced in your craft in you’re also very gifted, you know, socially. So I guess that that does fit. But how did you end up in dentistry? Is this something that you just knew this Guiding Light was over your life and you’re like, I’m gonna be a dentist. 


Chad Johnson  06:34 

Yeah, in eighth grade, I got hit playing basketball in my front tooth and had to visit, you know, a bunch of dental stuff. And I was just like, this dentistry stuff is pretty cool. There was a dentist at my church that was that I admired looked up to and, and I was like, you know, I want to check more into this dentistry stuff. And the more I checked into it, I was like, so it’s the quintessential stuff, you know, like, I get to run my own business and call my own shots. It looks like it makes good money. The hours are great. You get to be good with people, science, art, you know, in business and all that stuff. And I was like this, this just seems you know, pretty cool. I don’t know if I can make it but let’s give it a try. So, up until that point, I really hadn’t tried much in school. And once I started getting interested in dentistry, then I started deciding, you know, that I was going to start trying at school. And so that’s when I was kind of changed from more of a Bart Simpson to a book nerd type. So yeah. 



I don’t even know where to go with that one. Because 


Shawn Zajas  07:45 

I know, right? No, I’m thinking about the whole Bart Simpson. So is that in the sense of like, social comical, like, center of the class kind of attention wise? Oh, yeah. Okay, because Oh, yeah. Charisma. Yeah, 


Chad Johnson  08:00 

that didn’t stop. It’s just that it was more focused on, I always thought that there were smart kids. And, and I wasn’t one. So I’m just serious. And, you know, so I thought, well, there’s smart kids, and then there’s me and smart kids are smart. And you know, like, tough luck for me. And when I started actually learning, and I think it was from basketball, like the discipline of bass of sports, that I figured out, if I try hard I can do as well as, as the smart kids. And then I started, you know, certain things outperforming what I deemed as the smart kids in class, and then it was it really came down to when, you know, they started saying, hey, what, you know, how did you do this project? Or how did you study for this test? Or whatever, I’d be like, Why are you asking me I’m this, you know, like, you’re the smart kid, you know, but then I realized I was like, wow, like, maybe I’m smart, because I like there’s naturally smart people and then like I’ve made up for it by trying hard. And you know, like that there’s effort people that and I don’t still consider myself necessarily a naturally smart person. But I think because I’ve put in effort, that it either mimics or competes or fools people or myself into, you know, being intelligent or whatever. But then, at some point, what’s the word mean? A rose is a rose, you know, like, if I am wise, slash witty slash intelligent slash, you know, finding ways to get stuff done like you’re an innovator, then call it what you want. I feel like there’s people that are natural at it, and then there’s people that try hard at it, and then there’s people in the middle and I’m just a hard Trier. I try hard to, you know, to solve whatever is in front of me, I am just a hard worker. So, 


Shawn Zajas  09:57 

so I wanted to interrupt you there so many times. I because the audience needs to know, I, I’ve been in the dental industry. I mean, loosely since I was 14, you know, I was going to dental shows with my dad. And I’ve interacted with a lot of dental professionals, namely dentists. And when I met you, you had one of the sharpest intellects of any of the people, I’ve met Chad. Oh, that’s nice. So just for the audience to know. But then it’s fascinating what you shared because I love this idea of identity. And I didn’t identify myself as a really smart person. Originally, you had maybe some social or emotional IQ that was or EQ that was really high, and you weren’t as confident in the IQ. And then all of a sudden, like, I almost see you as an artist, this fusion of like a creative, that’s very gifted, at the same exact, I’m sure you have to work hard at certain things like I don’t want to take that away from you, your your diligence. But I also feel like you have these these gifts and talents that are very unique, which I think is even led to why it is that you will even so sorry. So the backup for innovation in dentistry. But this isn’t about technological innovation. Thank God, no, it’s not about clinical innovation, because it couldn’t come from me, I’m not a clinician. It is all about the mindsets and belief sets that we have, correct, empower us to want to pioneer and step out and make dentistry better. And you did that from like clinical dentists, which is more than enough to all of a sudden, I want to be part of a tribe and I want to start leading and podcasting what happened there 


Chad Johnson  11:46 

is 2012 that I had an associate leaving. And my goal was I think financially driven at one point, it was that I wanted to make as much production money the following year without that associate as when she was on board. And mostly because I was like we kind of need to to pay bills. And so that’s when I started checking into productive dentist Academy. And that I think was what accelerated my leadership, learning and leadership ability and training and honing in on that skill and craft. And after a few years, I started getting better at being productive and seeing my weaknesses as a leader and then kind of digging in. And that’s a lifelong journey. But you know, digging into that and figuring out, okay, how can I get better. And over time, they asked if I could come to the workshops, and start telling people because in essence, Bruce has arrived, you know, like, he’s, he’s made big progress. And then to have someone more like me that it’s like, okay, for example, in 2018, I think when I joined, productive dentist Academy more as a faculty type position, and they didn’t even really have the term, but that I was coming to the workshops, and letting people know that it’s like, you know, I’ve been within this journey for five years, you can within the next few years, you know, catch up to where you want to be as well as a leader as a clinician and stuff like that. So in one sense, when I think about innovation in dentistry, the podcast title or the subject matter altogether, there was recently and I’ll give you a link that you could share with the audience. But I saw this short on YouTube, that was with Elon Musk, and it’s entitled in case someone needs or wants to look it up later, Elon Musk laughs at the idea of getting a PhD and explains how it how to actually be useful exclamation mark. And how he worded that was someone said was so do you think getting a PhD is important? He said no. And then he said, he talked about the utility of, of getting a degree. And the end that I took more in innovation in the general term, that he said, If someone has a way that they can help a lot of people a little bit or help a few people, a lot of it, you know, it’s basically multiplying two axes, right? You know, that you can be powerful within one small industry a ton, or you can help you know, fluoridate water for example, and help a lot of people in a small way that they don’t even care but you know, like, you made a huge difference, that both have a lot of use. And he said, you know, if you’re trying to get a PhD, the question would be, what kind of utility Are you hoping to get out of it to help, you know, greater society, or, you know, a specific amount of people and that both are useful? And I thought that was cool, because I was trying to think when I thought about the title of this podcast, am I really you know, an innovator or do I help The people that I touch in small ways, and I think that’s, that’s maybe my gift is through a productive dentist Academy workshop and through just the patients and the interactions, for example, yours along the way that I just try and have meaningful conversations meaningful dialogues, that that impact that person enough that it helps, you know, shape who they are for their future self. And that was a long diatribe. Sorry. But it’s just a thought. 


Shawn Zajas  15:32 

No, no, that it’s really great. Although I don’t want you to downplay what you’ve been doing. Just on the podcast, you know, I hope searching approaching the 200th episode is no small thing. No, it’s you’re right. You know, and I think a lot of dentists would like to be like, hey, you know, I would love to have a platform or be able to have more of a voice to influence to lead to pioneer. And I don’t even know where to get started. And yet somehow, because you’re trustworthy, because you connected with a tribe of awesome people like PDA. And right away they saw wow, like, Chad is like, He’s talented. He’s, he’s passionate. He loves dentistry, like that all comes through. And I think one of the things I try to tell dentists is like, your most sustainable advantage is always going to be finding out how to be yourself, and infuse that into dentistry. And it’s a really challenging thing. Because, you know, as we’re growing, we start off by modeling. And that’s how you grow. That’s how you learn language. That’s how you, you know, we ended up having heroes and we’re like, man, someday, if I could be like, like them, or if I could be like, Dr. Bruce Baird, right, who arrived, and he has like, he even started a company sold it like, he’s, he’s doing good. You know, you’re right. But at some point, we have to be like, fulfillment only comes when I recognize that this is who I am. Not that I can get inspiration from that I can get inspiration from that hero, I can take the best. But I still have to find a way for it to be me. And I feel like that’s what you own yourself. So well. I just saw a YouTube short or Facebook short that you did. Oh, it was I don’t know what you’re doing. It was hilarious. But it had to do with the song lyric that Oh, that was assault or your punch. Oh, poor sugar on May. 


Chad Johnson  17:21 

Oh, yes. On May. Yeah. And so is the Def Leppard song, you know, pour some sugar on me. But I’ve always thought it was weird, funny, whatever, that they would say, pour some sugar on me. And so I was just, you know, I was leaving my workout that morning. I was like, oh, it’s May 1. And of course, everyone always does the you know, it’s gonna be my, you know, for Justin Timberlake. And that’s funny, too. But for some reason, it just came to my mind. I was like, You know what, there’s a coffee. There’s a coffee bar at the workout place. And I bet they have a sugar packet. And I’m going to work right now. I bet if I grab that sugar packet, and then I printed off a little sheet of paper that said May so that we could show the context. And and then I basically I grabbed my, my marketing guy, because I have an in house marketing guy, another innovation that a lot of people don’t do, but I have an in house marketing guy. And I. I said, Hey, video me real quick. And he’s like, What are we doing? I said, Just follow me. Let’s go. And so as you could tell, it was pretty impromptu. I said, you know, I’ve always wanted to do this come out here. And I had already dropped the sheet of paper outside. And so I go and I say, I’m pouring some sugar on me. And it’s just dumb stuff like that. But you know, some people number one wouldn’t want to put their neck out there because they risk looking dumb. And it goes back to this. Think about this, Shawn. I don’t care about looking dumb, because sometimes I’m like, I’ve never felt smart. So what do I care if I look dumb? Because I just think it’s entertaining. Whether you actually think I’m dumb or not. I’m comfortable being me. So like, if I’m smart in some areas, I’m smart in some areas, if I’m not, it’s just like, I don’t I don’t care. I don’t have any pretense to hold up to people like, and maybe that’s the authenticity part because I can so many people want that pretends to be like, you know, I’m not, I’m not that or, you know, like, I don’t want people to know that I’m only 99% smart, not 100% genius. And for me, I’m just like, I’ve never thought it was in the first place. So I don’t care what you think. And I hope that maybe I inspire you. But in the end, it had nothing to do with like whether, you know, Oh, that guy doesn’t know, you know, calculus as well as a genius mathematician, I’d be like never said I was that’s not that’s not the important part. But yeah, pour some sugar on me. 


Shawn Zajas  19:37 

So I’m watching this and I’m genuinely like, Okay, I’m captivated. And I’m like, Where’s he gonna go with this? Right? And then the finale came and I was just like, again, if I was your patient, I’d be like, that is absolutely Dr. Johnson that that is Chad. That is who he is. Yep. It’s not him seeing a tick tock real and going. Oh, 


Chad Johnson  19:57 

I mean, I’m gonna copy it. Right right. 


Shawn Zajas  19:59 

It Was it was unique it was you and it just builds connection to anyone in the community that sees that they’re like, that’s my dentist. I love this guy. So like, congratulations on that like, yeah, that was amazing. It like made my day like I was so happy. Because I want people to just occupy the space that only they can occupy. 


Chad Johnson  20:23 

Right? And I’m not trying to take over the world. I’m just trying to invite people into, you know, as you see on for example, my office is called veranda dentistry. And so if you go to our Facebook page or Instagram, whatever, veranda dentistry and you can tell I like barbecue. Why? Because we put that out there. And what does that matter? I mean, am I such a narcissist that I need people to know that I like barbecue? No. I like other stuff, too. But it’s, it’s a way to connect with people that they go, hmm. Especially in Iowa. We’re a pork state. Okay. And, you know, to have people go, all right, you know, like, he’s just down to earth. He likes barbecue, like, you know, my uncle does or like I do, or, or, you know, my dad always like barbecue or, or, you know, my sister, it’s just a way to get people to go, you know, meals are a way to connect with people and just having silly pictures of me, you know, sometimes, you know, as we’re eating barbecue, or sometimes I’ll do a presentation of some kind of giveaway that we’re doing where I, you know, am recording at the bar, because a meal is quintessentially human right? I mean, you know, like to sit down and commune with someone and have a meal. Absolutely. 


Shawn Zajas  21:35 

All cultures, food is one of those cultural staples that 


Chad Johnson  21:39 

yep, I had a, I had a Jewish rabbi professor at the University of Iowa, who his class was, Oh, crap, I can’t remember. Really, it might have been like, religions one or something like that. But his, his thesis his topic was, there’s three common things that connect everyone. And this is, but he said, every culture should be able to identify with this. It’s these three things food, sex and death, and how we deal with those and how we, you know, and it was almost quirky, but you know what, it resonated well with me because he has, you know, I’m, but I, I connected well with him on, you know, talking about those. Why? Because I’m human too. He’s human. And why would uh, would a, you know, gringo you know, white Protestant guy, like me connect well with this Jewish rabbi guy at the university. Because it’s, it’s universal language. And so, again, back to, you know, the stuff that we’re doing on our social media, it’s, it’s to connect with people. And we try not to put any judgy stuff like you should floss more, you know, like, people, people advertise that kind of you should floss more. And it’s like, that might be true, but that’s not what they want to hear. That doesn’t resonate. Like you’re a good friend, when people come into and they’ll say, you know, I haven’t floss much. And I’ll be like, Listen, you don’t need me to tell you, you need to floss more, that might be true. But it’s the last thing that you want to hear from me, when you want to floss, you’re gonna floss more. If you don’t want to floss more, you don’t need me to tell you that you know it. So it’s the no judgement kind of stuff that we try and portray in our office. 


Shawn Zajas  23:18 

Okay, so you did say something a while back that I wanted to circle back to you were talking about Chad, when you realize like, yeah, things are lining up, and dentistry can be cool. And you know, it’s, it’s this opportunity. And then there’s the, you know, this part of it, and there’s some money and there’s always things. So, if you can go back to that you have this kind of idea of what Dentistry was. Tell me in the first two, three years, when did something all of a sudden, like, show up? And you’re like, wow, like, I didn’t realize Dentistry was so much more than that. And I don’t mean in a good way. I mean, like, Oh, my God, like, this is the crazy profession. I wasn’t expecting I also have to be this, what would that be? 


Chad Johnson  24:01 

Probably the HR, you know, with with the team, that’s always tough. I, you know, I had an assistant that I got rid of after, I don’t know, something like three to six months of being open. And she was nice and all it’s just I felt horrible about, you know, having to let her go, because it just wasn’t working. And here I’ve been 25 at the time, you know, I’m 25 years old, owning a business, that’s a dental office, honestly, like it’s it’s almost unheard of these days, but this was 2005. And, and I’ve I’ve learned that patients are tough, but team is even tougher to to deal with and manage and you know, whatever word you want to use to it. But yeah, the team expectations and the team dynamic is, historically the tougher part. I’ll give some have some hope to people, though that I have found that now that I’m coming up the summer on 18 years of being a business owner, that I’m getting better at it. And I think I’m a solid B plus or a minus at this point, you know that, like I’m getting there, I’m not perfect. And I try and be gracious when I’m not that, you know, like, sometimes it is probably me. And sometimes, you know, like, it’s that I’ve got shortfalls of my personality that either isn’t going to make this relationship work or whatever. But yeah, it’s the HR stuff after dental school. 


Shawn Zajas  25:38 

So one of the things in my business journey, a mindset that I really had to, I’d actually don’t want to say my business journey, it’s still has like plagued me up until the last few months. And it was the immature mindset that I was linking everything I was doing to an outcome instead of to an output because I couldn’t I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control whether the marketplace says yay, we love what you’re doing. But outputs I can control every single day, if this is what I need to do. I can do those. And I can feel like it’s a success. But I keep linking things to outcomes. And I get disillusioned. I get discouraged in this arc of 18 years of business ownership. Are there any mindsets that you just finally had to shed and let go of because they weren’t serving you? 


Chad Johnson  26:29 

I think the thing that I’ve embraced better so I’ll say what I’ve gravitated towards, is what you’re saying is stoicism. It’s funny how ancient Greek philosophy can have a huge impact on your so we can’t control like we can’t worry about the things we can’t control, right. I mean, that’s a repackaged way of what you’re saying. And it’s like, that’s stoicism. And so I’m, I’m more and more gravitating towards being like whatever I can control, then all worry about if worry is even the right word. And then it actually stoicism kind of has some negative connotations that it’s like, well, no feelings and No, no happiness, because you don’t want to set yourself up for failure, that you’re not going to be happy down the road and, you know, just just be glum. And and that would be one perception of stoicism. But stoicism also has a an optimism about it that it’s like listen, you can’t control everything, and be alright with that. And actually, at the end of the day rest well knowing that you controlled what you can control and, and that your your response is an important factor to it. And just because you perceive something one way doesn’t mean that that is the truth of how the relationship is, you know, between someone or or something. So stoicism was what I gravitate towards. Let me stop because I’ve been giving long answers and then you have to back up. What’s your thoughts on that, that stoicism? 


Shawn Zajas  28:05 

I don’t think I’ve ever like actually like linked. Like I don’t know much about the concept behind stoicism. I probably heard the term whether it’s in a movie or in some sense, but I’ve never actually researched it. 


Chad Johnson  28:19 

So check it out. I’ll help you in a tangible way because we’re audible buddies. The Ryan Holiday is the author and the book is called the obstacle is the way and it’s a fantastic synopsis of stoicism. But it doesn’t get all preachy in the philosophy of stoicism. It’s very practical stoicism it beat, but it comes down to you know, like control what you can control, then quit trying to control what you can’t control. You know, like, and 


Shawn Zajas  28:50 

it sounds so obvious, but we’re hardwired like because think about it reads, If you’re you grew up and you’re like okay, even even it says I was just quoting this the other day. I think it’s in First Corinthians where it’s like, run the race in such a way that you can win the prize. That’s a it’s a very literal, like, there is an objective prize. You know, if you’re your kids playing a game, it’s like there’s an actual winner in a team that just fell short. You know, we watch the Olympics, we watch people strive all the time. And there is a marketplace and there is an actual outcome sometimes of being on top of arriving somewhere. So it’s like sometimes in our goals, or in our objectives or the things we’re shooting for. It’s actually there’s a locality to it. And yet, that’s where disconnect like I don’t know how like striving for that but still somehow not. I think I get in trouble when I link my value or my worth, or my momentum to how I’m interfacing with that. Yeah, that makes sense. It does. 


Chad Johnson  29:56 

And these are deep thoughts that everyone just has to wrestled with. And like the book title is the obstacle is the way, the way you get there is to wrestle with that obstacle. And the, the journey is important. So backing up, though you asked, you know, like, what have you shed? And I almost like, unfortunately for the podcasters sake, you and I will message each other back and forth later when I’ve had some time to think about it. Because 



I know it’s come back chat, right? Question? 


Chad Johnson  30:31 

Well, I appreciate it. I mean, maybe that’s what I’m setting myself up for is just, you know, why don’t you? But that’s one that I’m going to have to think about what what did I what mentality did I shed? Oh, okay, I’ve I mean, I’ve got a really tangible one. And it goes back to coaching, and PDA productive dentist Academy. I mean, this isn’t, my goal isn’t to plug them as though I have some financial stake in, you know, our ownership in the company. I’m just such a fan. And my mindset back in 2012, and prior, so, you know, from oh five, when I graduated to 2012, the first seven years of my practice was, if, if you hire a consultant, they have no skin in the game, they tell you what to do, you pay them a lot of money, then you’re on the hook still for coming up with you know the results. And they. And that’s one way of looking at it for sure. It’s a very negative way of looking at it. But I thought that was just like the realistic way I don’t have let’s say at the time, I don’t have 30,000 bucks to give to someone to tell me what to do with my business. Things I don’t want to do. And on the other hand, if you find a consultant that you are comfortable with, then come to find out in my journey, I wish they never pressured me to do what I didn’t want to do. They just say what do you want to work on now, and it was a choose your own adventure? And and I kept on seeing results after results. And here I am, you know, 11 years later, and I’m still using coaching and I never would have saw that coming. Because now I’m I’m still seeing progress in myself and I just I that totally blew me away. It was I was very cynical about consulting. But if you find someone that you trust, then they’re worth it. That would be my take home. 


Shawn Zajas  32:36 

Okay, so that that is absolutely brilliant. Because the greatest achievers in any endeavor, have someone that is helping them. I mean, Tom Brady, the Tom Brady still how to coach, a quarterback coach, that would help him on mechanics to just still make his throwing form. Better, we’re talking 18 years in 20 years in Tiger Woods, all these greats are still submitting themselves. Yeah, to get even if it’s like point 5%. But we’re not even talking one person, like any edge they can get. And I really understand what you’re saying about the I don’t know, for me, I think I also have been, at times either cynical or a little jaded about who to trust because if you get burned, you almost want to isolate and become an island and be like, Look, I’m just gonna look within myself, you learn at a distance and figure it out. And it is very difficult to actualize to, you know, become the greatest version of yourself on an island, you won’t chasm 


Chad Johnson  33:38 

because I’ll be bold, and I’m not, I’m not calling anyone out. But that’s cowardly. And we all have the potential to be cowardly. So what I’m saying is within our human nature, we have the potential to be cowardly each of us and that we also have the potential to be brave. And to be brave, you have to put yourself out there, wouldn’t it be nice just to have no opinion and no stake in any game ever, ever. But you’re not going to you know, it goes back to the Rod Stewart song tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. You know that you’ve got to stick your neck out. And it reminds me of another book by Geoffrey Colvin. That is called Talent is Overrated. Talent is Overrated is a book about when you’re purposeful, about like when you do intentional practice that you can get better. If he talks about Tiger Woods and stuff like that, and you know, and hiring a coach to re structure his form. Why? Because you know, getting the Pareto principle to the 80th percentile is maybe maybe somewhat of a challenge, but that last 20% or to get to the top 1% And then the top point 1% And the top, the top in the nation, the top in the world. Yeah, that takes a lot of effort to get to that. I mean, you see that in physics and chemistry, you know, the electrons that are near the outside, you know, are taking so much more energy. So there’s, there’s so much that goes into that it’s not just some kind of like, mental philosophy, it’s like no, you see that nature in physics and chemistry and biology and stuff like that, that getting to the top, it purrito principle is based off of nature. You know, he saw it in nature and stuff that you give everyone 100 bucks. And sure enough, a year later, some people have done some stuff with 100 bucks, other people have squandered it. And if you gave them all 100 bucks again, it might be the same people that end up, you know, outperforming and because we don’t have equity of, of outcome, we can have equality of input, but the output, it goes back to output. My goodness, this is fun, Shawn. 



You You’re awesome. Okay. But this is also part of the demo that we have. Yeah, I was like, I need Chad to come on. 


Chad Johnson  36:04 

Because well, you’re awesome, too. That’s what I love. And you know, I love the concept of coming on onto this. This is, this is good times. And yeah, if I were to be so bold, I you know that we could have more discussions like this because? Well, we just, I mean, we always have. 


Shawn Zajas  36:23 

Okay, so there’s, there’s two different things I want to hit on. And one of them is about the fact that dentistry in general, you know, has had some pretty dark, dark times where, you know, some of the best in dentistry, get taken out by the profession, because some of the lows can be very, very low, which are massive debt, feeling isolated, this whole idea of I have to keep appearances and show everyone that I’m a successful dentist. Yep. And that’s led to suicide rates being commonly high. And combine that with what is what’s been the dark night of the soul for you in dentistry? And how did you come out of that, because some of our listeners may be in the midst of it, or some might be sliding into that. And it’s like, here you are, you’ve made it 18 years in or whatever you said, you’re, you’re at a place where there’s so much clicking, you’re podcasting, you’re leading you’re doing, but it probably wasn’t always that way. So just appear into the humanity of chat and that struggle. 


Chad Johnson  37:30 

For me, it was COVID. And when they first closed down the, you know, dentistry, and the state board, you know, said you can’t open indefinitely except for emergencies. And I had just bought two new practices. So I had just paid off one, my first practice, and I was, I was buying two more, because I was basically expanding my brand and wanting to kind of go that route. And a couple million in debt again, and all of a sudden, my offices are closed. Well, how do you pay for your mortgage on a couple million bucks when you’re closed? Right? So that was I just, I’ve always loved going to work. Until then, like, every day, every day, like I’d be, you know, people would be like, you know, those tough days or, and I’d be like, No, or they’d say, you know, but like those tough weeks, and I’d be like, no. So it just didn’t resonate well with me, because funny and one of my other little hacks is I don’t really listen to my feelings about you know, like, I can block out stuff pretty well, which can be a benefit and detraction, you know, like, it’s good to be in tune with yourself. And I can do that if I’m purposeful about it. But otherwise, like, I’m good at just, you know, and like, for example, I do triathlons and stuff and zoning out of, you know, like, if it’s my hip hurting, it’s like, don’t ask, just run, right, you know, or like, I feel like my ankle is like, well ask yourself again and a half a mile because Sure enough, after a mile of kind of getting stretched out, you feel fine. Yep. And so like quit asking, and then like mental blinders, mental blinders, and it’s so beneficial when you want to be a trooper. But then there’s times when it’s like, Dude, you’re bleeding. And I remember laying in bed during COVID Maybe it was the first few days week that we are closed and thinking, so much of my identity was being around being a dentist and thinking I’m, I’m technically unemployed, and laying there and my heart was pounding faster. And thinking like, what what am I feeling is so foreign to me. I’m like, What is going on? And I realized and self diagnosing laying in bed I’m like, I’m having a panic attack. I’ve never had a panic attack. Hmm. This This, huh? I’m, I’m nervous. Now I want to have a trust in God, where I come from, you know, like my soul I want to place my trusting this is a foreign feeling to me, Why am I feeling this? Why don’t I just give it to God? And, and let go? Why? And sitting there trying to like work through like, what is? Why am I not trusting him to, you know, to see me through this? I mean, like, have we gotten this far for him to just drop the ball on me? Or, you know, do I not have the resolve also, on my own end to take care of my family in the business? And you know, whatever, like, won’t we see through six months from now, hopefully Won’t we be out of this, but I still was, like, my heart rate, when I get ready for bed, it starts to go under 50. And I’ll wake up my, my, my little aura ring will tell me that sometimes I’m in the 30s. And right and so like, I knew something was wrong when my heart rate was, you know, like 70 or 80 When I’m laying down for bed, and I’m just like, why is it this way? So that was the worst time? How did I like how did I resolve out of that? I, I, I mean, man, at that point, we were growing the brand right at the time when everything shut down. So I was at 2324 employees. And, and I decided to zig when others would zag and I just went total fee for service, I sent a letter to all the patients saying we’re not going to participate in your network, I don’t think that I can feasibly charge what we need to charge to have this place be safe, when you know and give the quality that we need to when when insurance dictates to me what we need to you know, like what we can collect. And so with variable expenses going up, the volume game doesn’t work. I was like, Screw this, I’m done. And so I took charge in that direct manner was getting rid of the insurances. And then over time, we I started crafting the office to become more of what I need, needed it and wanted it to be. And that started relaxing me me more, we were closed nine weeks. And when we opened up, it still is tough because patients weren’t coming in. And about a year later, man that was rough. Because I was like it was the first time a foreign thought that I was like, I really don’t like work. I think I think I’d rather just go ride my bike, or Honestly, I’d rather get my CDL and drive a truck right now. Because just putting up with patients putting up with teammates that are worried or you know, like I have to worry about my own nervousness. I don’t want to worry about their nervousness, too. So I recognize that I wasn’t the best leader during that time. And that was tough. But I was quick to admit it to myself, because I’m like, I know what good leadership looks like. And I’m cocky enough to think that normally I provide pretty good leadership. And it’s not happening right now. We’d have we’d have zoom calls. I just I’d be like, I don’t care. I don’t want to sit around and talk about this. I don’t want to mull over this more. It’s just really getting, you know, like, but they’d be like, it’s healthy. Let’s talk it through. And I’m like, maybe but I’m mentally sick right now. And I don’t want to participate. I just I’d rather just go to bed. I’m like it. So depression. I don’t know. It was weird. And I’m glad that I got out of it. But I’ve been there before and it was rough. 


Shawn Zajas  43:33 

Okay, so in this moment, yeah, who gave you a guarantee that your strategy was gonna work? 


Chad Johnson  43:39 

Oh, no one says so 



you had no guarantee. Whoa, what if it failed? 


Chad Johnson  43:44 

Yeah. It’s I mean, I answered that rhetorically, as much as the question was a rhetorical it’s like, yeah, it could have and you know what, I was just like, we’re burning the ships. Um, and we’re, we’re gonna plant ourselves in this new space of fee for service. And if if fee for service doesn’t work for me, then screw it. I’ll, you know, like, but I’m going to take this either to new levels, or we’re going to sink by this leadership. I did. 



So was that terrifying? 


Chad Johnson  44:19 

No, it felt I felt more in control. Because I was making the course and just choose, you know, because sometimes it’s not the right against the wrong. It’s choosing and sticking to a decision. Massive Action versus inaction. Yes. And so I just I was like, you know, because they’d be the same or maybe we should and I’d be like, nope, ain’t gonna happen. This place will close. You know, you will find jobs elsewhere and I will go work as a realtor before I go back. And they’ve heard me say that I’m like, I’ll go into Realty. I will. I swear, I’ll get a I’ll get a truck license. And I’ll just drive truck or something, but I’m not, I’m not gonna go back to doing high volume. Fast dentistry. I’m just I want to provide quality. 


Shawn Zajas  45:11 

Chad being on that, that cusp of the unknown, that precipice of just like looking into the future and being like, I have no idea this could totally just take the practice. Everyone’s knocking on my door looking at me as a team, I need to lead I, I’m uncomfortable with with the unknown with the lack of certainty. And the fact that you somehow got composure, boldness stepped out lead, and it did work. Like I just want to honor you for that like, like, even as me as an entrepreneur, I don’t feel like I was naturally an entrepreneur. A lot of people were like, Oh, I was like that the whole way. I don’t think that was me. And some of the most uncomfortable parts of being entrepreneurial to me has been the lack of certainty. It’s been the what if I fail and trying to figure out if I’m going to fail, I don’t need to fail forward. Yeah. You know, and it’s actually true learning that takes place when we interact with the market and not just theorize and I don’t know about you, I kind of a feeling. I love theorizing, like, I could just learn and be an educator, and never have to interact with reality. Just stay in my my realm of thoughts and concepts and exploring that. And now maybe I wouldn’t be fully satisfied. But intellectually, I love that space. 


Chad Johnson  46:32 

Yeah, I had a lot of time for thinking I like when we were closed, I go on five hour bike rides, I just would go out and ride out in the country. And I’m just like, this is healthy for me to burn off some of this energy. And I’m just gonna go out for a five hour bike ride. And 


Shawn Zajas  46:48 

bike brand. What is it? Specialized? Surveillance? Oh, isn’t that Italian? 


Chad Johnson  46:53 

It is. Yep, sir. But it’s kind of big in the tri sphere. Yeah. Is it a tri bike? tri bike? Yep. Tt bars? Yeah, yep, yep. So I would pop in my earbuds and I would listen to Audible, just one after another after another, just hour after hour. I just even remember on a bike ride. I mean, a five hour bike, I think I got all the way through the Psalms, one through 150. All in one ride, you know, you could do that I could, I could. One time, I’m trying to think, like, when I was on 1.8 speed, if I even I would just crush through stuff, you know, and, and the goal wasn’t to get done. I was thinking about stuff hour, minute after minute, hour after hour. And so I was exercising, which is healthy for your brain and your body. And I was thinking which is healthy for an entrepreneur, for your brain and body. And it it that really helped focus me, I think it’s just like a rat on a wheel. And they’re not necessarily going anywhere. But you know, like, at least they’re doing something. And I’m not saying doing something is better than doing nothing, because sometimes doing nothing. But for me, the focus was good. The focus was good being on that bike ride. And, and and you’ve been there before. I mean, you know, that exercise, and that discipline, discipline, maybe that’s what it was was, was even though I was in a prison camp, I was gonna get up and salute and walk in formation, and do little things that kept me in the mindset that I’m still a soldier, and I’m still, I still own a business. We might not be making money. But doggone it, I’m the captain of the ship. I’m the owner of this business. We’re going to see it through. 


Shawn Zajas  48:39 

And you’re still literally in motion. Yeah, yes. Literally. Something about I remember I went and visited you know, where I’m from in New Hampshire on a vacation and I didn’t have a vehicle. And the family I was staying with they let me borrow just like a bike that they had. You know, it’s a small town, but stuff still pretty disconnected. Like the speed limits. 30 miles an hour, right? Yeah. And I just started biking. And again, this isn’t like a road bike. This is a mountain bike. I’m not going fast. I don’t want to get super sweaty. But I wanted to go to friends houses or different places where I could see people and having that time and that. I don’t know, almost like that pace that was broken down. Like to just think and be with my thoughts and almost kind of made me think like even back in like biblical days of Paul walking from Samaria to 



Judea. And having 


Chad Johnson  49:35 

all that time to think yes. Hey, which part of New Hampshire where are you from? 


Shawn Zajas  49:39 

Southern New Hampshire. It’s just north of Nashua south of Manchester Merrimack. 


Chad Johnson  49:45 

Okay, London, Barry Merrimack. I’m looking on Google Maps in case someone wondered how I knew that. I didn’t. I was just looking it up. So yeah, near the Stonyfield Farms factory. Yes, that 


Shawn Zajas  49:58 

is a Budweiser and how Heiser bush with it actually even has the Clydesdales in Merrimack New Hampshire in Merrimack. It’s our claim to fame. Yeah. And all the hops when you’re driving 


Chad Johnson  50:07 

beautiful up there. It’s a beautiful, yeah. Okay, 


Shawn Zajas  50:11 

so this is where I want to go and close. I have a question that I’ve been asking. And it’s just a fun question. But before I ask the question, is there any? Is there anything you want to bring attention to either like, hey, follow me on Facebook or check out what I’m doing in my practice, or there’s a workshop for PDA? Like what do you what would you want our shirt? Listeners their eyeballs to go right now in this moment? Yep. 


Chad Johnson  50:34 

Because I’m just a dentist like, I’m like, I’m not. Well, what I’m saying is I’m not promoting my own stuff. So I haven’t you know, you can check out veranda dentistry, but it’s more or less for your own interest. If you wanted to push yourself, I would say there’s one finite thing that you could do is twice a year, currently, and historically was three times a year, but twice a year, we have our PDA workshops, it’s normally March and September. It’s normally in the Dallas Fort Worth area around where Dr. Bruce Baird lives, if you want to check them out, like I did, go to YouTube, and also Vimeo, and check out Bruce Baird, you know, some of his stuff, I was hooked on his Enigma, you know, like, there was something about him that was just really fantastic. And I knew I could trust him without even having met him. And so a very relatable. So the workshops are for PDA, twice a year, check those out, bring your team would be my recommendation, someone recommended that I do that. And I took them up on that. And that made a big difference. The bigger broader thing I was gonna say was, listen, get audible and be listening to books, I’m not talking about self help books for the sake of helping yourself, per se, though, you know, books do help you in that they, they, the author of that thought brings to mind a meditation that you’re having on a certain idea and helps you ruminate it and cultivate it and become more formed in how you think about those things. And I just can’t believe how much time I have 10 minutes here and five minutes here, and 20 minutes there that I’m listening to Audible and it really helps me connect with the best thought provoking authors you know, on topics all over the board, but that makes me a better leader and a better businessman, a better father, a better husband, all that stuff. 


Shawn Zajas  52:35 

Okay, so before I close, yes, sir vol. Name a challenging business book that you’d recommend to our readers 


Chad Johnson  52:42 

way of the wolf by Jordan Peterson, not Jordan, Jordan Belfort and it’s the same one as the movie The Wolf of Wall Street but it’s the business book aspect of selling and that guy’s genius as selling. It’s fantastic has nothing to do with dentistry and everything to do with dentistry. You would love the book to so way of the wolf by Jordan Belfort. 



Okay, and why did you answer so quickly? 


Chad Johnson  53:11 

Because that is that has. That’s been my favorite book. Not that I keep on rereading it. But I was so impressed with that book. And it just is it’s my answer for like if someone says, Hey, give me a book. And if they’re a dentist or an entrepreneur way of the wolf, for sure. 


Shawn Zajas  53:30 

Okay, so here we go. Here we go. I think you’re, I think you’re gonna be ready for this. Let’s go back 18 years. If you want to say how old are you? 


Chad Johnson  53:40 

I’m 43. Now I was 25. Right then when I graduated. 


Shawn Zajas  53:43 

Okay, so you graduated 25. chat today is walking by 25 year old Chad should have one sentiment, you can communicate to him. What is that sent? 


Chad Johnson  53:58 

I took a deep breath for this the moment has already passed. This is like 



your wait time Chad. I know you’re like pick them up, put them over your shoulder and walk a bit while you’re thinking it’s okay. 


Chad Johnson  54:24 

Oh, this almost sounds so corny. But it’s like you have the skill set and the drive to do what you’re going to accomplish over the next 20 years. Do it be true to that and just do it? I think that’d be it. That my goal would be to give him resolve that in fact, there’s not a nugget, you know, out there that it’s gonna be like, wah, you know, but like, just man 25 year old Chad is just as genuine as 43 year old Chad. Just do it. implement it. 


Shawn Zajas  55:01 

I absolutely love that. Dr. Chad Johnson, thank you so much because they are as well Shawn, you are an innovator. I love the difference that you’re making in dentistry. And I love the fact that you’ve had the courage to just own who you are in the space. And you do it brilliantly. I’m behind you in all of your future endeavors. I just want you to know that. 


Chad Johnson  55:25 

Well, thank you very much. And I appreciate listeners if you want to get a hold of me personally. Chad If you’re in a mess, and you want someone objective to give his two cents worth, I’m glad to give my thoughts. They’re, they’re worth what you paid for him, but I’m willing to hear you out. And I love mentoring people. So bring it on. And Shawn, let’s do this again. 



Sounds great. Thanks so much, Chad. Thanks, buddy. 


Shawn Zajas  55:53 

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