Defying Dentist Burnout: Finding Purpose Beyond the Operatory


Podcast Summary

In this insightful podcast episode, Shawn Zajas engages in a candid conversation with Dr. Laura Brenner, a former dentist turned Career Coach. The dialogue revolves around Dr. Brenner’s personal journey from dentistry to coaching and the pivotal moments that led her to this transformative career shift. 

Dr. Brenner begins by recounting her initial foray into dentistry and the pride she took in being viewed a certain way in her community. However, she delves into the complexities of the profession, emphasizing that the clinical skill set of dentistry is highly specialized and doesn’t easily transfer to other clinical settings. She acknowledges the sense of entrapment that can arise from these factors, compounded by the weight of student debt and societal expectations. Despite the work ethic and resilience required, a pervasive lack of confidence often plagues dentists, leaving them questioning their choices. 

The conversation pivots towards the process of burnout, a significant theme in Dr. Brenner’s journey. She astutely distinguishes between two types of burnout – one stemming from a dislike for the profession, and the other arising even when one loves what they do. The treatment plans for these two scenarios markedly differ, highlighting the need for a nuanced approach. Dr. Brenner advocates for a diagnosis of burnout to understand which category one falls into and proceed accordingly, either by reducing work hours or considering a complete career change. 

The discussion then touches upon the pivotal moment when Dr. Brenner decided to step away from dentistry. This process was gradual, spanning seven years, during which she underwent a profound transformation, both personally and professionally. She candidly shares that her struggle with perfectionism and self-doubt played a significant role in this prolonged journey. Ultimately, Dr. Brenner’s transition into coaching was spurred by her desire to bridge a gap in the dental community, providing support to others grappling with similar challenges. 

Shawn Zajas praises Dr. Brenner’s courage in leveraging her pain to create a meaningful career that helps dentists navigate their own transitions. He commends her for turning adversity into an opportunity for growth and transformation. 

Dr. Brenner’s coaching business, Lola Bees Career Coaching, is not just a name but a reflection of her journey. The bee, symbolizing community and resilience, encapsulates the essence of her approach in helping dentists redefine their career paths. 

The podcast concludes with a reflection on the dentists Dr. Brenner serves. She emphasizes that her ideal clients are those who seek more from their careers, whether through finding fulfillment in dentistry or exploring alternative avenues. Her coaching ethos centers on empowering individuals to design their careers on their own terms, breaking free from conventional constraints. 

In a closing question, Dr. Brenner is asked what message she would share with her 18-year-old self. She imparts two pieces of advice: to never give up on oneself and to trust in one’s own journey, and to avoid overthinking and instead keep moving forward, confident that things will work out. 

This episode offers a profound exploration of career transitions, burnout, and the resilience required to forge a new path. Dr. Brenner’s story is an inspiring testament to the transformative power of self-belief and the potential for growth even in the face of adversity. 

Connect with Dr. Laura Brenner: 
IG: @drlolabees 

Podcast Transcript

Laura Brenner  00:00 

If we are in this career or any career and you’re not willing to do what it takes to create your success or get what you want, it might be that there’s a misalignment with like your joy, your purpose or whatever excites you. 


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? Today, I don’t think I could be more excited to have the chance to interview Dr. Laura Brenner. And Laura, before I set you up, let me just say, thank you so much for letting me interview you today. 


Laura Brenner  01:00 

Well, Shawn, thank you for interviewing me today. I’m excited to be here with you. 


Shawn Zajas  01:11 

So it totally froze. Did Did you hear my introduction? 


Laura Brenner  01:19 

I heard you say was that you’re excited? Like, let me start with an introduction. I’m excited to be here with you today. And then you passed. And so maybe I thought you pass over at my turn, turn to jump in and say thanks for having me. Did you get that? 


Shawn Zajas  01:34 

I didn’t, I didn’t hear you. Because it just Yeah. So um, I’m like, since it’s in the very beginning. I’ll just start over. We don’t have to stop recording. We’re just keep going. 


Laura Brenner  01:45 

Perfect. We’ll do it again. Exactly the same. 


Shawn Zajas  01:53 

Okay, so today, I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Laura Brenner. But before I set you up, Laura, let me just say thank you so much for letting me interview you today. 


Laura Brenner  02:05 

Oh, Shawn, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. 


Shawn Zajas  02:10 

Okay, so I’m excited because first of all, I’ve heard so much about you. And we’ve been in a lot of the same places in the same circles, but I don’t actually think I really had the pleasure of getting to know you. So it’s exciting for me when I know that someone is great, but I don’t know a lot about them. Because it’s it’s a much better interview. So, Laura, like you mentioned, innovation in dentistry. There’s there’s a lot to that, you know, there’s the clinical side of things. There’s the technological innovations. But for this podcast, what I’m really fascinated in is what, what mindsets and what belief sets get someone to be like, Hey, why why can I step up and lead? Why can’t I be the one that pioneers positive change? And from the little bit of what I’ve understood about your story, you are a dentist, but I don’t think you’re practicing dentistry at the moment. So can you tell me how you got into dentistry and what you’re up to now? 


Laura Brenner  03:16 

That is correct. I am a dentist, I guess once a dentist always a dentist, right. But I don’t practice anymore. And to your point that you started out with is what I love about this is how can we be more creative, more innovative in our thinking in dentistry. And so that’s something I had to do in my career because I practiced for 10 years. I started in 2001. And I hated dentistry. It was my third year of practice that I I became so burned out that I was like, I hate this. And this was early, it was 2004 nobody was really talking about burnout the way they are today. So I didn’t know what it was I didn’t know what I was experiencing. I just knew that I was really unhappy. And by the way, thought I was too young in my career to be burned out. So I just chalked it up to hating what I did. And then ultimately, because I couldn’t ever find the right solutions to create more happiness for myself in dentistry, I had to leave and in my 10th year of practice, I just completely quit dentistry and left left altogether and then several years later came back to dentistry in a different capacity. 


Shawn Zajas  04:36 

Okay, so that that is like absolutely fascinating because I know almost like the rites of passage to become a dentist. It’s very challenging the investment, emotionally, financially. So here you are you find yourself in 2001 as a dentist now, are you an associate? Did you jump straight into private Practice what was happening there? 


Laura Brenner  05:01 

Yeah, so I was an associate in private practice. And it was a very busy practice, we saw about 30 patients a day. I mean, now, you know, we hear about all of these very fast paced high volume practices. This was one of them, that was a private practice. And it was hard because I was juggling so many different patients all at once, that I didn’t feel like I could take care of each of them the way I wanted to. And I always felt afraid I was, I was worried that I was gonna get sued, or someone was gonna get mad at me, I was gonna get in trouble in some way, something was gonna go wrong, you know. And so I felt like I was, it was just the most stressful practice. And, you know, when I was in dental school, everyone always said, if you really want to be happy in dentistry, find it, you know, find a practice where you can take your time, and get to know people and spend time, like building those relationships. And I didn’t get that. So I thought, This is what I need to seek out. So I found a practice, it was the total opposite. If I was seeing 30 patients in a day, in this practice, though, this new practice I went to, it was about four years in to my career was a startup private practice, no insurance. And some days, I saw zero patients. And that was equally as hard. Because as a new associate, I didn’t realize that it was unique to you know, I didn’t, I guess in a way, it was unique to be in a practice where patients were just being fed to me all day long, right. And when I went to the second practice, I was like, oh, it’s gonna be the same. And then to go and sit in a place where, you know, you’re defining yourself based on your achievements and your successes. And then your one patient for the day cancels, you know, I would, I wouldn’t go into the bathroom and cry, because plus I was not making any money. So I would go into work all day. And sometimes if I got to do a sealant, I made $6. And so we I had those two extremes, where, actually, when I did that job, that private practice job, I was making a fifth 1/5 of my income, my previous income, but you know, a lot of I was pretty naive. There’s lots of things that I could have done to make it better. And there are a lot of things that the people I was working with, could have we, you know, together could have made it better. But I just didn’t know how I think, 


Shawn Zajas  07:48 

well, and I think that’s, that’s normal, like you have these ideas of what dentistry is gonna be like, you have to make a lot of sacrifices, and then all of a sudden, you arrive there, and you just don’t know what you don’t know. And you don’t know in what ways the experience of dentistry that you’re going to have, is even going to align with what lights you up? And what brings fulfillment, and where all of a sudden, are you finding joy in the midst of this? Or are you finding like, why am I why am I doing this? So is that kind of what was going on? Year three, and year four, as you start experiencing burnout, where you start questioning, like, why am I a dentist, like what what was what was happening, like, internally during that time, 


Laura Brenner  08:34 

that is so much of it, like, you know, I just said I didn’t know what to do, I knew what to do, I just was in denial of what to do, I didn’t want to go out and do the things that we need to do to be successful in dentistry. And so sometimes that’s a sign. You know, like, if, if we are in this career or any career and you’re not willing to do what it takes to create your success or get what you want. It might be that there’s a misalignment with like your joy, your purpose or whatever excites you. Sometimes I hesitate to use the word passion, because not everybody has a passion, right? And I don’t want to create I don’t want to leave anyone out because I didn’t have a passion I do now. But it’s it’s not a term I like to use so much. But yeah, I think that really, that disconnect made it hard for me to invest in myself in this. And so what particularly like very specifically happened in year three is I knew like in my first three years I was like this is going to be really hard. Like I know dentistry is going to be hard right? Getting out of school starting from scratch, like whoa. And it was but knowing that it was going to be hard. I was able to like grit my way through it. You know, people tell I got grit a lot, I had a lot of grit, I was like, I’m going to try this procedure, I’m going to do that. And this is just part of learning, and it’s gonna get easier. Right? But the problem was, when year three happened, it just wasn’t getting easier for me. So add that to, not really being excited about the work I was doing. And in fact, being in a lot of pain, I was in a lot of pain it was for some people. I mean, there’s for everyone. There are moments where for everybody dentistry is painful. We’re just gonna admit that right. But for some people, dentistry is painful in every way all the time. And I was one of those people. So when I got to that year three, and things weren’t getting better. I think I lost hope. And when you lose hope, like, you lose everything. And that was when I started saying, I want to quit and all that stuff. 


Shawn Zajas  10:59 

But but you still went seven more years. Like that’s where it’s like, so you encountered this in year three. It’s terrible. Like you’re you’re feeling all sorts of like suffering. And then what happened? Was it simply because you didn’t know there was another way for seven years? Oh, my like, because that must have been miserable, losing hope, and then still going through that grind for seven more years, Laura? 


Laura Brenner  11:27 

I mean, that is so well said Shawn. Like you were like the voice of reason there. That that now that’s that’s what I think that’s what I said. Yeah. I mean, even the way you said it was like, yes, it makes no sense, right? But this is what we do as dentists. It’s really hard. I’ve never seen a career that’s so high level. And so amazing. I’ve never seen a career, like so many people who’ve been so successful feel badly about themselves. And that was me. I didn’t think I had other skills. You know, we go into dentistry thinking it’s going to be our forever, I often compare it to a marriage, like Dentistry was going to be my happily ever after. And so this was kind of like, facing getting a divorce, and not really wanting to do it. And, and so really, in year three, losing hope was saying, all right, is it the job? Or is it the career, because I’m like a dog. I’m, like, super loyal, I stay. I’ve in the 10 years, I only had three jobs, which if you talk to a lot of people, that’s not a lot in dentistry. You know, some people are getting a new job, every six months, every year, if it’s not working, they’re out there. I’m like a dog. So I would just stay and stay. So at this point, I really wanted to leave. But well, actually, you know what I, I invited my my rep the support one of our demo supply reps out to lunch. And I was like, hey, like, Can we meet? I want to talk to you and I and he was really nice guy, we kind of became friends. And I was like, Look, I’m really unhappy. Can I do what you do? And are there positions available? Being a rep for your company? And he talked me out of it. He was like, no, no, no, you’re way overqualified. Like, the grass isn’t always greener, you don’t want to throw away your dental career. And this was the mentality like this is how people thought in these days was like, you don’t want to throw away your dental career. Right. So that just kept feeding me. It just got in my head of why I should should have stayed right. And so yeah, it’s so so we believe that, for lots of reasons, we stay stuck also thinking we have no other skills. And so when I had that discussion with him was when I said, All right, I guess I need to try another job. I owe it to myself to which is true, right? I mean, if I’ve only had one job in dentistry, and I hate it, you gotta try something else. And then I did that. And then I did it again. And it didn’t really change much. I didn’t change the environments, which was good. I got to see that it was the career not the job. But I think that’s a really important question for all of us to ask if we’re questioning that. 


Shawn Zajas  14:25 

Okay, so the job is, I’m in this particular office, with this particular team, particularly leadership. And am I unhappy here versus the career is regardless of whether I’m in the state or the state or working for a DSO or private practice. I don’t like dentistry, right? 


Laura Brenner  14:45 

Exactly. Like this work. And I don’t like for me, it’s not necessarily the dentistry it’s actually the hardest part for me is the dynamic of the dentist patient relationship. That just 


Shawn Zajas  14:59 

I do Do you identify that early on like, this is the challenge point? 


Laura Brenner  15:04 

I’m probably because I wrote that blog post titled 10 reasons, your dentist probably hates you too. So that was kind of representative of, I guess, our sovereignty. And look, it’s not that I hate patients or hate people, I just and it took me probably a longer time to understand how to carefully explain that, that isn’t really that I hate patients. Because I loved my patients, the good ones, I hated that dynamic. And I still hate that dynamic. It’s a dynamic I wouldn’t ever want to go back into. 


Shawn Zajas  15:38 

So is part of it. And again, this is just me, like on a whim, like, it’s part of it the whole. So the bad patient is the one that doesn’t understand the care how meticulous you are about the dentistry you’re doing. And they’re, I don’t say misunderstanding, but, but there is some fundamental misunderstanding about the care you’re providing and what they’re receiving. So all of a sudden, it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like, they’re, they’re looking at you, like you’re either trying to take their money. Do something that just makes you feel like worthless, and yet, you’ve put so much work into this, that to feel that. I mean, it’s kind of almost like people that don’t like sales, right? It’s not that they don’t like, when there’s agreement, or there’s a great client they’re talking to, it’s when they get cast as like that solicitor or that annoying, and it’s like, look, I I’m just trying to do my job, but don’t make me feel like I’m some monster, because I’m telling you about what I do. Is part of that the dynamic that was just like, impossible to handle 


Laura Brenner  16:47 

100%. I mean, that’s so that’s very astute of you to notice that without having specifically been in that because so for me, it’s really, like I love connection, connection is my important thing. Like the most important thing to me, when I connect with people, I feel great, I feel on top of the world. And in fact, to the point that I would call it my life purpose, like my life purpose is to connect and be connection. And so we all define that differently. And for me what that means really, the best way I have connection is through meaningful conversations, and really feeling like the other person and I get each other, like we’re just jivin. Right. And in dentistry, I think many people can feel that connection. But the way I saw dentistry and the way I see connection, dentistry actually felt the opposite of connection to me for that very reason that you’re explaining is like, my patients have one agenda. And I have the opposite agenda. And it’s not because I want to have the opposite agenda. It’s just because that’s my job. You know, like, they don’t want to, they don’t want to spend their money. And I’m sitting in my chair, and I’m like, having them take, give me their money and putting them in my chair. Right. And so it always, it never felt like this true, authentic connection. In fact, it almost felt like they never understood me. And I never, I mean, I did understand them, because we’re patients too. But you’re right, I always felt on the defensive and could never feel that true. I could feel that connection with some of the patients. But for the most part, I always felt really on the defensive. 


Shawn Zajas  18:36 

I mean, the way I can understand that is also when it comes to like the whole extrovert introvert thing. You know, people that know me are like, Oh, my God, Shawn, you are so extroverted. And I’m like, typically when I when I do a test, I’m 5050. I’m right there. So sometimes I score introverted. Sometimes I score just extroverted. And with me, I tell people, if I’m having a meaningful connection with somebody, or a group of people, I literally have the energy to do that stay up all night, like I can continue with a meaningful conversation and meaningful connection ongoing. If I made a context where it’s not meaningful, or I’m being misunderstood, or there’s just not that connection, it drains the life out of me. And I don’t like that at all. So I imagine if you’re wired the same, or in a similar way, and the whole context is like, look, you’re, I don’t know, dentistry, it’s like, oh, I don’t want to be here. You know, you’re just out to make money. You know, like, I don’t enjoy this anyway, like, there’s so many negative sides from a patient’s experience of dentistry. And if you, I don’t know, get cast in any of those as the caring empathetic dentist that would really just like to have a better connection, but truth is, you can’t spend a lot of time with every patient. 


Laura Brenner  19:56 

Exactly. And but what’s cool about it is the same time there are dentists that really like someone might thrive on connections that aren’t that are more like shorter conversations, right? And that that like, small talk 


Shawn Zajas  20:14 

that small talk banter small, 


Laura Brenner  20:17 

exactly making jokes, and some people might be able to find that connection. And I’m sure those are the dentists who love dentistry because, you know, most a lot of them love dentistry. My world is very skewed. Because I talked to the people who aren’t that happy in dentistry. But I think you’re right, in the sense that it’s like, what is it to you? Like, what is that feeling of connection to you? And can you get that in that relationship dynamic? And for me, I never could. 


Shawn Zajas  20:48 

So I imagine you’re talking to loved ones, you’re talking to people that you care about during this time period and being like, hey, like, this is what I’m struggling with. Maybe it’s hard to put words to it. But when did that like, path to liberation start where you’re like, maybe I don’t have to be a dentist. Like, when did you give yourself permission? Hey, Laura doesn’t have to be a dentist anymore. 


Laura Brenner  21:12 

Yeah, so I came home one day crying like I always did. And my husband was like, we can’t do this anymore. He gave me an ultimatum. He was like, You need to sort it out. He’s like, I don’t care what you do. If we need to sell our house if we need to move, like sorted out because our marriage isn’t gonna survive. I mean, he was serious. I mean, it wasn’t really an ultimatum, right? But he was serious. He was like, and I never thought about how annoying it would be for him to have his wife come home every day and be complaining all the time, and crying and miserable. Waking up at 2am not sleeping. So really, that ultimatum was permission. So I wasn’t what it wasn’t giving myself permission, needed that one person in my life, who was the other person who could give me that permission to really believe in me and push me in. And that was when I said, okay, like, I need to begin this process and make it happen. It still took a long time from then, but you got to give yourself permission first. 


Shawn Zajas  22:23 

So I was gonna say, Where was that in the in the time period? So is that like, two years before you exit dentistry? Is that five years? 


Laura Brenner  22:29 

I think that was around year seven, of 10. And in year seven, I started the process, like, really seriously, you know, and, and what I did is what I see people do all the time. It’s like, in year three, I was like, I hate this, I want to do something different. And I’m going to Google, what are different things I could do, right? You google and you spend two weeks Googling, and then you get ideas that you like, Now, that doesn’t sound good. And I still have to deal with people for that, or I’d have to work weekends for that. Now, I couldn’t do that. That wouldn’t be enough money, like you make excuses for everything, right? And then suddenly, dentistry settles down a little bit. And you’re like, No, this is fine. I mean, to answer your very first question of like, how did you stay after you lost all of us hope this is what we do, we then start to rationalize, no, it’s fine. Like, I can do this, I kind of like it, it’s okay. And that’s, I call that the Google spiral. Like, we just get stuck in Google land, and we spiral into researching and then we give up, and then six months later, something bad happens and you feel horrible again, and you start with that all over again, we have to start from scratch because you stopped you haven’t done it, you didn’t get anywhere. So you start all over again. And then this pattern can happen over and over and over for years, it can happen to people. So, you know. Finally, in that year seven, I started really saying, Okay, I gotta commit to this. And it was a kooky crazy process. That didn’t make sense. But there was no one really talking about how to do this at the time. So I was kind of making it up as I went. 


Shawn Zajas  24:21 

Yeah, I was gonna say, Were you. I mean? I’m trying to think about how I would feel just simply because even like being a dentist or something, no, like, really, like a good pride in that, like, I’m a dentist, like, you know, people view me a certain way in the community. And there’s a certain status associated with that. And not to mention, maybe the student debt that you’re still paying. And you’re constantly reminded of that investment and that sacrifice of all that work. So So you almost feel like I don’t want to say like just trapped because it’s all hard to, like in like what you’re saying it’s such a specific skill set that you are like the clinical skill set doesn’t transfer. Like you can’t take your clinical skills and just go into another clinical setting. Did you hear him saying like, it’s a very special specified knowledge that doesn’t seem like it would translate. So yes, hard work ethic. Yes, you can learn things. If you’re a dentist, you have resilience, Rosie wouldn’t have gone through or graduated dental school. But like, I don’t know, there’s a lot to let go of by embracing something new. And that’s why I could see why it’d be easy to just try to make it work or settle in. But at some point, the pain of what am I missing out on right? What could I be experiencing? If I decide to take a leap? So was it gradual? Or did you just just take that leap? 


Laura Brenner  25:56 

It was gradual, because of all the things you just said are absolutely dynamics. And again, like, to this point about, I’ve never seen another career be so amazing, make people feel more more more badly about themselves is like you said, you have to have resilience, you have to have resilience, you have to have critical thinking. So so many amazing things you have to do to be able to do the work we do as dentists. And and most of the people who end up feeling the way I felt, feel a total lack of confidence. And part of that is because we think we should be better we first of all, we dismiss the hard work that it is that we do. We don’t even acknowledge it. And and we dismiss how special it is. And we we do because it’s a lot of pain. For us. I think it’s hard to recognize it because we’re in so much pain in the moment. But we don’t even like we think things like, oh, maybe I’m lazy, maybe I actually don’t really feel like working because like I should really I have like on paper, I have this dream life. Right. And so I should love this. But what’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I don’t like to work. So we turn it on us. But really that pain. I think a lot of times for for a lot of us that pain has to become a big fire that we need to put out in order for us to take action. I know that was for me, I always say that I needed. Like my desperation was what allowed me to get out and like we hate to feel that way. But what a gift that desperation was to me, for me, because it allowed me to say I need to make a change, to create this better life that I want, right. And I got to a point where I was like, I think life’s supposed to be more fun than this. And that fun really drove me I was like, why? Like, why do I have to show up every day in a life that feels really awful and isn’t fun? And like, Why do I have to? Like is that what life’s really about? Do I need to suffer my way, like a martyr through this process to feel like I have this impactful and meaningful life? And I was like no. And so, you know, it was a lot of work. It was a lot of mindset work, which I would say is like has to be number one mindset. I worked with a career coach, I got therapy, I read a lot of books on personal development. So it was really going from saying I don’t have any skills because dentistry so specific to saying dentistry so hard, and most people can’t do what we can do than I can do anything. 


Shawn Zajas  28:55 

Totally. Okay, so you might have just answered the question I was going to ask I was gonna say so from from year seven to 10 as you are stepping up kind of stepping out and preparing getting ready. What mindset did you have to embrace so that you were you were ready to step out? And you’re 10? Was it? Was it the whole, you know, I’m resilient, I can do anything, you know, some self confidence. What else might have been there that you had to embrace? It 


Laura Brenner  29:21 

was a little bit of that the biggest thing I had to embrace? There were there are two things I would say. And they’re very tied. And they’re gonna sound crazy because I think dentists are like what come on Play and creativity. Not getting, you know, I had to get so you mentioned we settle in, right. That was a great, that’s a great word that I really like to use a lot. Because we settle into this identity. We disconnect from who we really are inside because we’ve gotten all this Ray’s from the outside world who thinks we’re amazing. And we settle in, and we’re like, This is who I am. And we stop listening to ourselves, and we stop paying attention to what’s important to us. And we even a lot of us, if we, if we aren’t intentional, we lose any sense of creativity that we have. One of my biggest problems during these years was I felt like I had no connection with any create. I was like, I’m so uncreative. I’m not creative at all. And that I felt, I felt like I was bored. And boring. Now, I mean, come on, who wants to live that way? Right? Right bored and boring. Like, that’s so sad. So really, like reconnecting with any type of creativity, it doesn’t have to be, you know, the typical ones, like playing a musical instrument, or singing or painting or, you know, it could be knitting, it could be cooking. It could be writing, you know, when I started blogging, that opened up my world. And so when I talk about creativity, it’s really maintaining that connection with yourself. So you can like yourself, and like what you’re doing. And it stimulate your creative thinking, so that you can begin to see the world differently. That creative thing, so that was one piece of it, then the other piece of it was the play. Like I had to stop taking this and myself so seriously, like, just play with it. You know, like, like, okay, just like, you don’t have to find the perfect plan B. Because every time I was searching for the perfect plan B, I went back into that, oh, no, that won’t work out because of this institute. I have to work on weekends, right? That’s never, that’s always going to keep you stuck. But when I shifted, it was like, You know what? Okay, this is the other analogy is like, no strings attached. It’s like, start dating my career again. Like, we’re just dating, we’re going on a date. I’m just playing no strings attached. If I like it, great. If not, right. I mean, that. One of the things I did that really broke me out of my really negative, stuck energy state. You’re gonna love this. I entered visit video con, I like created. I like entered these, like video contests, right to create videos like these creative videos. And they were like to become travel show hosts. 


Shawn Zajas  32:37 

So we are like, yeah, so random. 


Laura Brenner  32:40 

It changed everything. One day. My husband was like, he was reading the paper. And there was this little tiny spot in our local paper that was like, there’s this website, I don’t remember the name of it. Paradise Hunter. There’s this website, Paradise Hunter, they are doing a contest, where if you submit a one minute video of yourself, like doing a being the paradise Hunter, and like featuring a certain vacation or trip in this one minute video, you’ll be entered into this contest. And if you win, you get to host their travel show. And then you can at the end, win this like $250,000 House anywhere you want. And at first I was like, There’s no way I could do that. Like, I’ve never been on camera. I’m not creative, like I don’t. And I started just playing and looking online at some of the submissions. And they were really not very good. And I was like I couldn’t do something better. So I ended up making this really funny video that I submitted. And I had the best time doing it. And I and I knew I probably wasn’t going to win because there were some like professional show hosts who entered. And I knew I wasn’t going to win, but it changed me and it opened up my world to different opportunities. So that’s just an example of I was just playing with it. And then after that every time people would send me like, hey, look, here’s this contest, and I made like three or four video videos to enter into contest and it was just fun. It was just like, I don’t care what the outcome is. I’m just doing it to like, build up my energy because our energy matters. Our energy is everything, you know, and of course, staying in that stuck, dark. You know, negative energy, we’re never gonna get out of it. 


Shawn Zajas  34:33 

I love what you said about play because it’s like in order to learn, you have to go back to like beginner’s mind. And when you look at children, and they’re unafraid to just try something new play something new. Play almost disarms the whole like you said connection to outcome. Well outcome is, is does the market like what I’m doing or not? Do I win the the, you know, submission con Test or do I not. And if that outcome is negative, that means I’m not good, I’m insufficient. But if I’m not connected to the outcome, and I can just be, and and play an experiment, like you’re saying, it keeps your energy level high like the, and yet, you’re getting to express and just start being in motion. Because something in motion is so much easier, it’s so much easier to find where you belong or where you should go. When you start walking, instead of just waiting. What I used to always do is I tried to learn everything, and then I would try to launch. And I realized it’s so much easier to launch than learn. is weird as that is, it’s like, it’s so much better. And yet I imagine there’s a lot of listeners now that are like, how do they know Laura, whether what they’re going through is just like a yellow flag of you. You can. There’s some things you can learn, but dentistry can still be fulfilling for you, versus this is a red flag. And maybe this means that I should look to other career options outside of dentistry. Would you be able to speak to that to kind of help evaluate which is which? 


Laura Brenner  36:10 

Yeah, absolutely. It’s actually something that I’m this very week working on a presentation about that. So it’s perfect timing. So I’ve come up with this concept of how important it is for us to diagnose our burnout. Because, you know, all burnout looks the same, but there are actually two different kinds of burnout. And, and I figured this out. When I was I figured this out two times. The first was, you know, I mentioned in 2004, no one was talking about burnout. And I was so burnt out that I thought I hated my career. Well, in 2019 15 years later, I was doing a talk for the Rocky Mountain dental convention i i chose burnout because it was kind of a buzzword at that time. I’m like, let’s do a talk on burnout. And as I was researching it, I it was an eye opener, because I was like, I couldn’t believe that 15 years ago, when all of the pain in dentistry started. I like look up burnout in the dictionary that was my face, you know? And so you think, well, if I knew that it was burnout, could I have changed things? Could Hi, could I have found a way to stay in this career right? Now? I know the answer. We won’t, I won’t give it away. But then fast forward to three years after that, I started I became very burned out again, as a coach doing what I do now doing what I love. And I went on a vacation. And I came home from my vacation feeling really refreshed. And I was like, I had this moment like it’s like the clouds parted. And it was like this perfect clarity epiphany. And I was like, oh, there is a difference between how I feel now with my burnout, and how I felt in dentistry with my burnout. And so what I’ve decided, is that there’s two types of burnout, burnout when you love what you do, and burnout when you hate what you do. And most of us are, it’s not that complicated. It’s not some sort of complex, you know, medical term. It’s just, it’s it, but it’s so significant because they both look the same. But the treatment plan for burnout, when you love what you do is not going to work when you hate what you do. And that was me in dentistry. Like I could have gone on as many vacations as I wanted. And instead of feeling refreshed coming home, I felt worse. Actually, not did I feel medium, medium. And the same. I felt worse because I was like I have to go back to my life that I hate. 


Shawn Zajas  39:02 

Even the dread must have been so high. Yeah, 


Laura Brenner  39:05 

starting on day two of seven, right? Because you’re like, Oh, I would spend the whole time daydreaming of having a different life. These are clues, you know what I mean? Now, I love what I do. And I burned myself out so much because I like it’s my own fault. I choose because I’m like, I gotta get this done and that, you know, I have fun with it, but it’s too much. I need to take breaks all the things that help with burnout when you love what you do. vacations, breaks, taking care of yourself eating healthy sleeping, it works. So if you are finding yourself feeling really burned out and you’re trying all those things, you’re exercising all the things I just listed, you’re getting support. Oh, and the one that we don’t ever talk about is is working on your mindset. But we’re starting to talk about it more now. Your perfectionism stuff like that how you interpret the different events. In what burdens you need to emotionally carry for everyone else in this world. When you address those things, and you like what they do, it works. So if you’re working on yourself, and that when it’s not working, and that nagging feeling keeps coming back of how burnt out and unhappy and you are, and maybe you still feel like you also don’t like dentistry, then you’re probably burned out and hate what you do, or I know people hate. People don’t like the word hate. You don’t like what you do, we could use that instead. The cure for that is to do less of it. So either go down to two days a week and do something on the side to make more income, or you gotta leave dentistry completely. So. So actually, career change is a I guess it depends how we’re looking at it a treatment, or a cure for burnout, it really can be. So that’s, that’s my final answer, Bob. 


Shawn Zajas  41:01 

Okay, so you’re out of dentistry you get out? And how long does it take you to dial in? Wow, I am. I’m a Career Coach. And this is what makes me come alive. How long is that journey 


Laura Brenner  41:15 

for you? Well, yeah, and by the way, I want to be clear, I think you got this. I don’t know if anyone’s listening. I know I’m talking to Shawn, not Bob, that was just sort of an expression. So, so often, our passion comes out of our pain. And this whole story I’ve just shared with you, was really the most painful time in my life, up until up until a certain point. And so I was really, and I was very isolated. And no one was talking about it. And when I tried to open up to people, they didn’t understand it. And so I saw that there was a hole in our community, I saw that something was missing. And I just got really passionate about talking about this and knew. And so well, I mean, it really started with my blog. So I was blogging about food and travel, and using my career, like learning my creativity, and then that and then one day, I saw a blog post titled 10 reasons I hate the dentist. And I was like, Okay, fine, here’s 10 reasons, your dentist probably hates you to her. And that changed everything. Because I realized that there were like 1000s 100, probably 10s. I mean, I don’t know 10s of I mean, the hit, the post got 300,000 hits in three days at that point. So there were definitely lots of people who felt the same way. And so I just was like, we need to do something about this. And my experience working with a coach was really good. And for years, I was like, I’m gonna go back, and I’m going to become a coach, and I’m going to help other people deal with what I’m dealing with. Because there was no one like, my coach wasn’t in dentistry, she didn’t get it. She was great. But like, there are things that we understand that people outside of dentistry don’t often get. And I was like, This is what I’m going to do. And I’m going to actually help people career change, because it was it took me seven years, like that’s way too long. But what stopped me was my mindset, and my inner critic voice was like, Oh, well, you’ve only quit dentistry. Oh, you’re really good at quitting. So how are you going to help somebody do something. So I had to kind of prove to myself and do a couple of other things along the way, and build up my confidence in different ways. Till I was finally able to say like, so what and, you know, all of the other things I did along the way were not as successful as my coaching business. Right. And so it just says, It just tells me that this is what I was meant to be doing. Right. So I didn’t mean, like, I didn’t need to prove my success in those other things along the way. But I needed to maybe build my confidence. And so it took me six years to decide to go back and become a coach after leaving dentistry. 


Shawn Zajas  44:40 

Wow. So during that time, that’s when you you’re building up the confidence because I’m sure that time of struggle, kind of obliterates your self worth because you kind of wonder like, why couldn’t I make it work like like, other people are succeeding in this? You know, I was given this amazing opportunity to be a dentist. So many people seem like they love it. What’s wrong with me? And I’m sure, yeah, building yourself back up into what was true, it’s crazy, the same thing can happen. But we can get a completely different conclusion from that event, right? Like we can either let it affect our narrative where it means that we’re worthless, and not competent. Or it can mean that we were made for something completely different. And this is now an opportunity for us to take all that struggle, and all that pain, and sift through it and find the gold the gold is that you went through something for 10 years, Laura, that now equips you and qualifies you to be an expert on how you can help other dentists find fulfilment in dentistry, or beyond. And that is incredibly valuable, like incredibly valuable, like, I love what you do. Why Lola Bees like, where did that come from? 


Laura Brenner  45:54 

I love that. Because I know it’s such a weird name, isn’t it? And the best way I love it. So well. Laura B, is a little bit of a nickname of mine. And back in the day, I had a when I got my first email account on AOL. That ages me, I put in lot Laura B. And it didn’t happen. And I ended up morphing it into Lola bees, like bumblebees, because I thought that had a cute ring to it. So when I started blogging in 2010, and I was like, I don’t care what I’m going to name this, I’m just naming Lola Bee’s. And my tagline was buzzing the world one day at a time, Lola bees buzzing the world one day at a time just made it up. And this is the thing with perfectionism what you talked about, like getting the whole plan out there and starting, just do it. Right. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, or what my tagline is, I just had to do it. But people will start when they’re starting blogs, it’s like, they won’t get started because they’re too busy finding the right name. You know, or other businesses or anything. So yeah, so I had a bit of a, I had a bit of a community already started in from the lola bees blog when I decided to turn the blog into a website for my coaching business. And so I just thought, well, I’ll just name it Lola Bee’s career coaching. Because again, like, I’m sure there are some marketing experts out there that would say, you know, but oh, you should do something. But that’s not me. Like, I don’t care. If you like, like, my, to be honest, my my work email is still Hotmail, because I don’t, because, like, I’m sure I’m doing it wrong, but who cares? That’s not what’s important in life. Right? So, so anyway, so yeah, so both of these career coaching, so the Bumblebee is my logo, my, my spirit animal we’ll call it. And what’s pretty cool about it is kind of an accident. When I researched what the beast symbolizes, it symbolizes community, right? Because these all work together as a community to protect the queen bee. But but it’s all about community connection. And the coolest part about it is Did you know that bees are not supposed to fly based on how their bodies are designed? Physiologically. No. Right? And somehow they defy the odds and are able to fly. And so I just thought, well, that’s pretty cool. Like that’s kind of what we’re doing with people who want to leave dentistry is we’re helping them defy the odds when they don’t think they can as a community. So it I don’t know, it just kind of all clicks. Can I keep playing? Do I have to rebrand myself? 


Shawn Zajas  49:04 

No, no, I think it’s great. So just this morning, I read a passage all about what happens when a mature hive in the queen. Something about like a new queen getting born. Have you heard about this process. So when a new queen is getting born, they surround it with like royal jelly. They do all these things, too. So it can get incubated. And the second it’s ready, like almost the entire hive and the old queen leave. And they leave in they have to find like a new hive in like, I don’t know a few days or else they’ll die. And yet they don’t mind just venturing into the unknown. Just so that next generation can live. That new queen that new smaller hive can can stay establish and they’re willing to just take that risk who So it’s just so weird that even there even there’s the parallel. I mean, it’s like, yeah, so you got it right with your name. Who knew that’s like the perfect branded name? 


Laura Brenner  50:10 

And then what do we do we make honey. 


Shawn Zajas  50:13 

Yeah, thanks. Wow your life. Okay, so if I’m a dentist and I’m listening right now, who is like the ideal dentist that you reach out to you that like ideal for the type of dentists you serve?  


Laura Brenner  50:27 

Yes. So dentists who know they want more out of their lives, and who want to create more in their careers and don’t know how does not have to come from a place of pain. But often times it does come from so if you’re really hurting, if you’re like, I hate this, I’m really unhappy in dentistry, I’m lost, I’m stuck. It could be that as well. It could be people who want to figure out how to start a side gig because they just want to work a couple of days a week to make that good income, but then do something fun the rest of the time. People who just want to make their lives better, because my journey was so much about mindset and personal development. That’s a lot of what I want of what I work on. So I’m really people who want to try to people who are open to looking at the world in a new way. So they can design their careers and then their lives on their terms and break, break the old rules, write new rules for yourself, and just do whatever you want. 


Shawn Zajas  51:39 

I absolutely love that. Okay, so do you know what the closing question is? Are you ready for this? 


Laura Brenner  51:43 

You may have told me but I don’t remember. 


Shawn Zajas  51:47 

I have not. Okay, so, so Laura of today is walking down the street, and often the distance you see 18 year old Laura. And you know, you only have a brief moment to communicate one sentiment to her. What do you share? 


Laura Brenner  52:13 

Oh my gosh, there’s some really this is a good one. I bet you get the most do you answer the ask this every time? I do you I bet you get the most interesting answers because I’m wanting to go in two directions. One, I’m gonna I guess I’m gonna want to say Can I can I give a couple of answers? Sure. Yeah. Okay. So part of me wants to say like, never give up on yourself, like invest in yourself and trust in you and never give up on that. And then another one I want to say is, like, don’t sweat it. Like, just keep going, it’s all gonna work out. It’s all gonna be okay. 


Shawn Zajas  52:58 

I love that. I think that’s even just great advice. For the listeners right now, it’s like, stay in tact with like, who you are, don’t give up on your dreams, your passion, your identity, who you are. And then the same exact time. Don’t, don’t overthink, and don’t put this crazy pressure on yourself. Like it’s going to work out if you end up starting a side hustle, or like a hobby or ended up even leaving dentistry because you know, it’s toxic, and it’s not the right fit for you. If you decide to do that, I would say go and work with Dr. Laura because she has some really great services. If that is you and you’re looking to do that, Laura, it has just been so easy to honor you as an innovator, like I love what you’re doing. And I just want to thank you so much for walking the walk that you did, for going through the hardships, so that you really could find that gold that can provide such liberation, freedom and value to so many dentists. I know that was incredibly difficult. So thank you so much for that. And I just want to say like, thank you so much for letting me interview you today. 


Laura Brenner  54:10 

Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. This was an amazing conversation. You’re a great pod podcast host us great questions. And I’m just grateful to get you don’t want by the way, like every interview that we do is different. And, and what’s cool about this one is totally different stories came out. So well. I’m 


Shawn Zajas  54:32 

glad I’m glad that dentistry gets maybe another side of Dr. Laura Brenner that they haven’t heard before because you’re truly fascinating. And who knows, maybe in like a few months, we can do a part two because I feel like there’s so much more here.  


Laura Brenner  54:50 

That sounds great. I love it. 


Shawn Zajas  54:52 

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, so much. 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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