The Blueprint for Making Life Changing Decisions: Practical Tips with Karan Nijhawan


Podcast Summary

In a captivating podcast episode, Shawn Zajas engaged in an illuminating conversation with Karan Nijhawan, a trailblazer in the dental industry, about his journey, insights, and guiding principles. Karan’s narrative underscored the transformative power of embracing discomfort, taking risks, and making decisions that propel personal and professional growth.

Karan’s journey was marked by trials and tribulations that ultimately shaped his trajectory. He emphasized the pivotal role of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, a notion that has been central to his achievements. He debunked the myth of waiting for the “perfect moment,” stressing that action, even imperfect, trumps inaction fueled by fear. With remarkable candor, Karan recounted his evolution from a place of apprehension to one of empowerment, revealing the profound impact of taking deliberate steps towards his dreams.

The concept of “fear setting,” a technique he adopted from entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, emerged as a game-changer in Karan’s philosophy. Fear setting involves dissecting worst-case scenarios, devising strategies to mitigate risks, and envisaging the consequences of not taking action. This method offers a practical way to face fear and uncertainty head-on, a principle Karan shared as an antidote to the fear of the unknown that often holds people back.

Karan elucidated the power of incremental progress through a captivating analogy of adjusting a flight’s trajectory by a few degrees. The seemingly insignificant shifts compound over time, leading to radically different destinations. He emphasized that transformations don’t necessarily require home runs every day, rather, the consistency of stepping up to the plate matters the most.

The interview resonated with the theme of authenticity and self-discovery, with Karan advocating for the importance of questioning everything. He believes this will be the overarching theme of the next chapter in his life, highlighting the potency of self-inquiry and the willingness to explore uncharted territories. His message extended beyond dental professionals, encouraging anyone to engage in self-reflection and define their ideal life, thus setting a foundation for meaningful growth.

The interview concluded with Karan imparting invaluable advice to his younger self: “Everything will work out if you keep showing up.” This sentiment encapsulated his belief that persistence, determination, and the willingness to keep moving forward are fundamental to achieving one’s goals.

In essence, Karan Nijhawan’s journey served as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of self-belief, calculated risk-taking, and incremental progress. His message transcends the dental industry, encapsulating universal principles applicable to anyone seeking to overcome fear, redefine their path, and embark on a purpose-driven journey of growth. The conversation urged listeners to grasp the reins of their aspirations, question self-imposed limitations, and embrace the unknown with unwavering determination.

Podcast Transcript

Karan Nijhawan 00:00

So if you can define your problem, just step one of defining the problem oftentimes, if you can see it, you can touch it. If you can smell it, the problem actually becomes a lot smaller.


Shawn Zajas  00:09

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? Okay, so I could not be more excited today to have the opportunity to interview Karan Nijhawan, and Karan, before I set you up, let me just say, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m guessing it froze. Korean Are you there?


Karan Nijhawan 01:07

Yeah, I think I lost you right away.


Shawn Zajas  01:09

It honestly, it always stalls right in the beginning. Okay, so all I said was before I set you up, let me just thank you for joining me today.


Karan Nijhawan 01:21

Thanks, Shawn. Super, super glad to be here. Glad we can make this happen.


Shawn Zajas  01:25

Okay, so Karan innovation in dentistry. What does that mean? Because as you know, innovation takes on so many different forms. And I like to say that eventually, innovation ends up with some sort of innovation in clinical or innovation in some sort of technological way that advances dentistry. But before any of those things can happen, it has to first take place in our heart and mind as some sort of belief set or some sort of mindset. And who better to talk about this topic? With the new. I am so curious, even just what your journey has been that has led you to be in dentistry right now.


Karan Nijhawan 02:04

That’s so cool, man. Great question, by the way, and innovation, like you said, sometimes people think it’s clinical or it’s just based on technological advancements. But I totally agree with you. I think it’s more of a mindset and a belief shift first. And dentistry is one of those professions where a lot of people have done things a certain way for a long time. And you ask them why they’re doing things a certain way. And they say, well, that’s how we’ve been taught, or that’s how we were taught in school. And it reminds me of the story of the Christmas ham. You ever heard that story? The the Christmas ham? No. So it’s Christmas time. A girl is getting ready to cook a family dinner and her mom right before she puts the ham in the oven, cuts both ends of the ham to put in the oven. And the child asks her her mom, hey, why are you cutting both ends of the ham off? She’s like, well, that’s how my mom did it. So they call her grandma. Hey, Grandma. We’re just wondering like, why did you always cut the ham on both ends? Before we put it in the oven? She’s like, well, that’s how my grandma did it. So they call their great grandmother, the Great Grandmother, why did you always cut both ends of the hand before we put in the oven? The great grandmother great grandmother says my oven wasn’t big enough. And it’s It’s little things like that. I’m just asking the question, why are we doing things a certain way. And you realize if you get to the root of the thing, oftentimes it could be for some foolish reason. Like there’s this idea of the Blue Zones. Blue Zones are places in the world. With the largest number of centenarians, centenarians, meaning the most, the largest population of people that lived to be 100 plus. And they they asked the founder of the blue zone, like why did you call it the blue zone, and he said something about like, that was the first color he saw or like that was the color of his marker. And all of a sudden, you’re like what we just based our entire life on like this little thing of like either the oven being too small or the color of the marker. So innovation in dentistry, to me is pushing the envelope, pushing the belief of why Have things been done a certain way, and realizing that the only box that has ever existed that will ever continue to exist in one’s life is your mindset. And when I came into dentistry, which about 14-15 months ago, the thing that irked me was that hearing a dentist who’s struggling with their career or struggling with their relationships or with cash flow or with depression or with suicidal thoughts or alcohol was that they figured for whatever reason, beliefs and stories, that they had no skill set outside of dentistry. So they would label themselves as just a dentist. And I’ve seen that in countless professions where people box themselves in they give themselves some sort of an education in a formal based profession and and feel like well, that’s that’s who I am. Now my entire identity is wrapped in this idea of just a dentist or just a lawyer or just a plumber or just a gardener or just an author. And it’s these self limiting beliefs, these self limiting stories that I feel like are responsible for 99% of our stresses that mostly live in our head. And Seneca said we often suffer more in imagination than we do in reality. And I think that is so true for dentists as well, because they’re struggling to grow the business, they’re not taught human resources in school or marketing or lead flow or strategy or business. They’re taught really good dentistry. And they’re amazing at what they do to the millimeter as you know. But when it comes to outside of dentistry, they think that they’ve got no other value to give outside of their identity. So innovation for me is discovering what more lies inside of you. What is that deep desire, begging to come out of you. And I think all of us, in our own ways, whether it’s dentistry, or something else, I believe all of us are artists in some way. And every single day, there’s artwork, trying to escape this, begging for it to come out. And all it takes is for someone to say, well really give you permission to give you a blank canvas every single day and say, Here’s your paintbrush, go.


Shawn Zajas  05:47

Okay, so a you dropped so much right there. I’m getting inspired just hearing you. But I think I also didn’t introduce you the right way. So to our listeners, so Karan, literally just showed up on the scene 15 months ago, you probably know of him now because he’s everywhere, as a coach, consultant speaking at events, or really, you just level up dentists, wherever they need to be leveled up. And I think you do exactly that you find out where there’s the those limiting beliefs, where are those boxes, and then you remove those, remove those, whatever excuses are in the way. And then you’re like, Okay, you have the freedom and permission to make that change that you want. And that’s exactly what I am sharing on this podcast. Like, my whole hope is that the listeners here will realize that there is a vacancy, and there is a void in dentistry. And it just happens to have the unique shape of them. And I don’t want them on the sideline anymore. I don’t want them. Like you said in the quote, struggling with the what ifs just in their imagination. But But what if it doesn’t work out? And what if I look goofy? And what if it’s like, no show up, play big. And just be true to who they are. Because this whole idea that, like, I’m not threatened by the dentist that hasn’t stepped up yet. They can only fulfill the role that they can fulfill. They’re not competing with me, they’re not competing with you, me and you, we might even have similar messages. But the way in which we go about it is different. And that’s why I applaud what you’re doing Karan and I’m just okay. So I’m amazed. Did you always have this sort of wiring? And kind of No, this was your mission, when did this crystallized for you?


Karan Nijhawan 07:31

Well, like most dentists, and not just dentists, but any profession who invest in education, formal based education, we start to identify as our job titles, right. So if you introduce yourself, as hey, I’m a podcaster. At an event, all of a sudden, the person that you’re meeting for the first time, who’s got their own set of beliefs, their own set of worldviews, their own set of experiences, and backgrounds and relationships. Whatever they think a podcaster is, they now get to bucket you into their version of what they think a podcaster is, unfortunately, for you, at a first introduction, you get boxed in into a category. And oftentimes, the thing I hated most about live events back in 2016, was that the job title was The dreaded question of any event is what do you do? And all of a sudden, it’s like you gotta get you gotta be like, Well, I do this. And I went to school for this many years. And I’m a professional, I promise, I got my shit together. And right, it’s just, it’s such a dreaded question because it just puts you on your back, and all of a sudden, everything in your life that you’ve done, all aspects of your life have to be dumbed down to one statement, I am a dentist, I am a coach. I am a podcaster. But you are so much more Shawn, I met you in person, dude, your energy is off the charts. Right? So how do you introduce yourself as someone who’s like, Hey, I help people vibrate and increase their energy. They’re gonna look at you like, what are you talking about? Like, because they don’t understand because of again, societal norms. It’s very easy for us to identify somebody by bucketing them into what we believe that person does. So in 2016, I went to a networking event. I had a nine to five job at the time and oil and gas. Yeah, super fun, right? And I was at a networking event and I introduced myself as a category associate. But what f is a category associate? And the guy who I introduced myself to, I gave him my business card. I said, Hey, my name is Karan. I’m a category associate for an oil and gas company. And the look on his face just went like you’re just wondering like, you could tell he was checked out of the conversation already. He glazed


Shawn Zajas  09:36

Glazed over disconnect immediately. It


Karan Nijhawan 09:39

just completely based my value as a human on the words that came out of my mouth after the question, what do you do? And I thought, wow, never do I want someone to feel so disrespected like that. So let me go and create anti networking events where the only rule this was back in 2016 was you’re not allowed to bring your business card. Wow. Not allowed to bring your business card at a networking event, what am I going to talk about? Well, at the dinner table, we would talk about life, depression, suicide, business troubles, relationship troubles, the things that really affect all of us, regardless of our job titles, and dinner by dinner, I started noticing that people were craving this sense of connection, this community, this this open, safe space to unleash the deepest darkest things that were on their mind, in a non judgement free zone, sorry, in a judgment free zone, where they could just absorb feedback and feel like, hey, I can breathe, I’m safe here, I can tell you what’s going on. Because I can tell you that most humans that are going through something challenging or who have gone through struggles, it’s very difficult to actually open up to loved ones, it’s very difficult to open up to people who know you like the things that I could tell a stranger, I have a hard time telling my wife or, or my best friend, sometimes if I’m going through something really difficult. And I and I’m talking to Sean every single day, well, I gotta, I gotta maintain my persona. I gotta pretend like everything’s okay. But if I meet a stranger at a dinner party, who has no investment in seeing me grow, who has who’s super disconnected and detached from my life? Well, I can open up and be real, because a part of me thinks, well, I’ll probably never see this person again. So let me just open up and share what’s going on. So I started realizing that other people were also craving this level of connection, this level of vulnerability. So the events just slowly graduated, if you will, to retreats all over the world, Mexico, Peru, New York, hosted events in Israel, Denver, Arizona, you name it, and the commonality, the retreats are powerful, not because of the destinations we’re in, but because of the type of people that are attracted in discovering their life purpose, or their life mission. So long winded answer, but that’s why I came into dentistry because I found people that I believed were successful on paper, but deeply miserable inside.


Shawn Zajas  11:52

Well, so that’s, that’s I was gonna give you some pushback, like, you know, current Dentistry has everything figured out, you know, dentists don’t struggle at all, with the complexities of having to balance clinical and the business side of things. You know, suicide rates are non existent in dentistry, I don’t think anyone’s struggling or drowning. You probably just need to find a different industry. Joke. Laugh sarcasm, this is the perfect industry for someone like you to come along. And be like, Who wants a just a dose of reality, authenticity, and like you said, in a safe place, because I know so many dental professionals that are that are drowning, and they don’t know where they can be themselves. And they don’t even know that it’s okay to be themselves. And to have that permission, like, wait a second, this is going to be okay. And it’s like I tell people all the time Karan, people want to have a competitive advantage. They want to differentiate, right? And yet, then they do what everyone else does. And I’m like, honestly, the best way for you to succeed in dentistry, long term, is to find out who you are in this space that’s unique to you and just show up. Well, that sounds scary. Yeah, but every, it’s scary doing nothing. It’s scary. Just blending in. It’s scary just going along, and trying to be like everybody else when you’re not like I love that you mentioned the word art. And that there’s some expression of art that’s inside of people that’s waiting to come out. And it’s like, even to our listeners right now, in this moment. This is what I love about. We’re saying things, but what they’re hearing between the lines that’s coming up in their mind or in their subconscious of like, oh my gosh, I’ve been holding that back. I’ve been talking myself out of why I shouldn’t step up and step into this identity, expression, new business, whatever it is. And that’s where I’m just like, Yes, do it, do it. Now. Don’t Don’t, don’t feel like you have to have the perfect plan in order to step out. And here you are Karan, you’ve been in the industry for 15 months, you’ve already done so much transformative work, and you’re just getting going. But going back to still you I love this idea of okay, I was at this event. And all of a sudden I become like marginalized based off of what I do, not who I am. People, you know, they reduce who I am to what I do to a label to a title. And I love that that sparked some sort of, lets go against the grain. But there was still something in you ahead of time that was even willing. Like getting that idea is one thing Karan Why do people get ideas? I tell people all the time ideas are really, really cheap. If you don’t have the courage to execute them, when you were in that moment, and you’re like, you know, let me just start an anti networking event. Were you also hearing the whole trend? That’s a dumb idea. It’s not going to work. Do your research. You’re not ready. Like was there that whole self doubt you know? imposter syndrome, or was that something you already conquered in a previous season of your life?


Karan Nijhawan 15:04

No, I think that version of imposter syndrome was very real. being somebody who was in a nine to five job who wanted to hang out with entrepreneurs and business owners. I thought, Who that crap Am I to have an event for entrepreneurs and business owners? I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a business owner. I work as a category associate at an oil and gas company. But I thought, hey, you know, what, if I hang out with enough business owners, the what if they said earlier, I thought, What if one day? What if this wild dream What if one day I could have my own business? And that was enough for me? Because I spent a lot of my life thinking about the bad what ifs, right? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I lose money? What if I lose this job? What if I lose this relationship? What and that’s where most humans operate from right 95% of our days, really, based on how yesterday went yesterday is based on how the day before when and that’s just our subconscious mind runs us entirely. So if you’re only if you wake up, and you can only control let’s say, 5% of what happens today, based on your thinking, what’s gonna take a lot of effort not to let that 95% of pre programming since you were seven years old, overrun what could be today. And that’s why a lot of people bring their yesterday into today, therefore completely disrupting their tomorrow. Right? So if you want to create a better past, will create a better today. Because tomorrow, today will have been the past. Yeah. So how you show up today will be a great reflection of your past next week, and a year from today. And five years from today. It’s like every moment, this moment, was not true that by tonight, this moment will have been the past. Oh, well, if I want to recreate my passion that make this moment the best that I possibly could. Amen. So there was that? Yes, there was impostor syndrome. Yes, there was that worry of what if it doesn’t work out, but it’s the exact same reason and exact same thoughts I had when I came into dentistry, you wouldn’t believe the amount of people that said, no one’s gonna listen to you, you’re not a dentist, you’re not from our industry, don’t even bother. A dentistry doesn’t need another coach, a you’re not going to, you’re not going to know what to talk about. And listen. Great. You know, I love when people bet against me, in fact, I believe is one of my superpowers. And I think maybe for a lot of entrepreneurs, it’s like when someone tells you, you can’t do something, you have this grudge on your shoulder to prove them wrong. I feel the same way in acting right. I’m an actor, I get rejected all the time. But I also have, you know, a bunch of checks from successful projects. And that’s awesome. That’s what fuels me. So I think Dentistry was the same way. It’s like, I got a bunch of no’s. And I just view the word failure differently than a lot of people like I’m constantly looking to mess up. I’m constantly looking at failure as first attempt and learning. Because how else are you supposed to learn something for the first time and the first time I went to the gym, I sucked, I couldn’t even do a bench press. The first time I played basketball, I airbelt. The first time I tried to do anything I missed, I used to have my you know, first time i my first podcast episode sucked compared to my 50th Compared to my 100. It’s just, it’s this constant evolution thing. And just one more thing I’ll say here is there’s this notion of sunk biased costs. I was talking to Brandy, my wife about this this morning. Sunk bias cost means when you feel like you’ve got too much in the game, you’ve invested too much of your life of your resources into this thing that you’re just afraid to let go because you’ve got too much invested yet, you know, you’re playing a bad hand, it’s similar to the term in poker called pot committed, right? You put your chips in the hand, you know, you’re gonna lose, you know, probably the other person has a better hand than you. But because you have so many chips already in play, you say you keep putting more in because it just want to see it through. And then sure enough, the dealer shows and you lose, because you have pot committed or sunk bias cost is the same thing as like, look, I put all these years into dentistry, I put all these years into profession, I went into so much debt, to go to school to start my practice to grow my team to buy the equipment, I’ve got so much owing on my credit cards, and you just feel like you have no other option than to stay in the game because you’ve already got sunk bias costs you’re already invested. But the moment you realize that, if you’re lucky, you have about 4000 weeks to live, which is roughly 80 years old. And we know that 80 is not even promised. So how many people do you and I know that never see 80? How many celebrities do we hear who never make it to 80? Or we’re just friends of ours or family members who never made it to AD. And in fact, something I just hit me the other day I said, Well, I say ad but really, it’s a lot less because every 24 hours, most humans are sleeping for at least eight. So that means we really only have two thirds of every day of consciousness to be attend to be active. So that means for every year that we live for every 12 month cycle, isn’t it true that we’re only awake for eight months of the 12 months. So all of a sudden I started to see even my goal setting differently. I’m like, Well, I don’t have 12 months to do this. I actually had eight months of awake time to doing this. So 80 is if I’m asleep, but really it’s like 63 or something. So I just completely changed my relationship with time, with money with ideas with desires, and quite frankly, every time I’ve said A small goal and a big goal 100% of the time, it requires the same level of effort 100%.


Shawn Zajas  20:08

Okay, there’s again so much to unpack right, you’re just, you’re just dropping dimes here. So going back to what you were saying, about you starting it, having the imposter syndrome. It’s like already you have impacted countless hundreds, if not 1000s of dental professionals lives already. And it’s like, okay, so let’s just imagine you decided to play it small. Let’s imagine you let the self doubt when you stayed on the sideline. Oh, so now we just have to erase all that impact all those 1000s of lives that have been touched. Why? Because you played it small because you don’t I’m saying like the world doesn’t win, when we decide to take our gifts and minimize them. And when we take our abilities and say, You know what, I don’t know, I just don’t really want to shake things up. I don’t want to cause a ruckus. What if all of a sudden people misunderstand me. And, you know, I was telling you really, candidly, at the Venice Emerson event about how so many of those playing small things have plagued me because of some stupid false humility. And that’s why I keep doubling down on this message. Because I’m preaching to myself, I don’t have regret, over the times that I tried and fell, I have regret over the times that I didn’t try. Because somehow I was nervous or paranoid that I might look like a fool. Like I have videos five years ago, six years ago, when I was starting wanting to try a YouTube channel. And I would record and then I looked at them, and I just couldn’t, I couldn’t handle it. And I think Man, who knows where it could be, if I would have just said, You know what, no one’s even watching. No one’s paying attention. Let me just start, let me ship it into the world. Because that’s where I truly learn. And that’s why again, you drop so much when it comes to failure, I try to tell dental professionals, failure is a really scary thing to hear, especially when you’re thinking of it in a clinical lens. But when we’re talking about the entrepreneurial world, or we’re talking about being like a visionary, we’re talking about making real change in the world. Failure is not this liability clinically, where I’m going to get a lawsuit, failure is the only path forward. So you have to fail forward and fail fast. If Karan fails 100 times this year, and I only fail five, you learn 95 more things that I learned. And now you’re that much closer to the crazy breakthrough. Whatever it is. So that’s why oh my gosh, like every mindset that you have is just so life giving and encouraging. And again, you’ve had to fight for these mindsets, like almost like the ground that you’ve obtained didn’t just come by you passively chilling, you don’t I mean, the fact that you went from being an employee, to starting on your own in this complaint, Did someone come to you at that time and say, you know, current, we know, if you step out and you start doing your own thing, it is going to be wildly successful here is the guarantee. Do you want to start it because now you at least you know, there’s a guarantee now, right? That’s probably what happened, right? You just got a guarantee. And then you were like, Okay, I can start.


Karan Nijhawan 23:21

You can just tell by my demeanor, my demeanor just completely changed. Because you just made me laugh, right? I almost fell out of my chair. Like, if someone’s waiting for a guarantee, you will never start my friend. If you wake up. And you’re trying to improve a part of your life, whether it’s your relationships, whether it’s your finances, whether it’s your health, whether it’s your rituals, whether it’s your your faith, whether it’s your your family, if you’re trying to improve any part of your life, it would be extremely naive to think that there would be no friction in that growth. Me and Brandi always talked about we always had this friction in transition, because it’s true. It’s like how does a diamond get made? well under pressure, right, diamonds don’t just appear because they’re beautiful. It’s like no, it takes a certain level of pressure for them to grow. And to create change requires tension. And tension is not a bad thing. I think, in fact, tension is the thing that will get you to a radically different life, not an incrementally better life. And I think even when dentists or other people that I talked to mostly business owners, they’re trying to they’re trying to set bigger goals for themselves. Well, their goals, unfortunately, are incrementally better than they were last year. So let’s say they made 100 grand last year. Well, now there’s this you’re like, Okay, well, I made 100 grand, that’s about 10k a month. Well, now I want to make 120 This year, is that really going to inspire you? Is your life radically going to change? If you make 20% more? Is it radically or what if we set some crazy goal that seems so far fetched that equally excites you? That’s equal parts nerve, nerve racking, and then all of a sudden, it’s like you’ve you’ve given someone permission to dream. And I think that that is the greatest gift that this podcast and You as a podcaster, among many things you as an artist can give to other people is the permission of having conversations like this. It’s the permission to dream bigger. And like so many things in life are already boxed for us, right? There’s certain things that we just can and cannot do. Well, dreaming is one of those things that doesn’t belong in a box. Right? If someone imagine I gave you I said, Hey, Shawn, here’s a blank piece of paper. And I’m gonna give you two of these, these markers, a red and a blue, and I want you to paint me your dream life. Well, what if red and a blue? are not your choices? What if you need green? What if you need pink? What if you need yellow? What if you need maroon to fuel your lifestyle? Well, I’ve, I’ve completely screwed you over because I’m only giving you two of the seven possible timelines that exists. And I think all of us have these timelines, these these realities waiting. It’s like if we say no to this, well, another timeline opens. If we say yes to this infinite timelines open? Well, if we say no, again, another infinite timelines open and close. We said this thing about regret earlier, it’s like, one of the one of the most famous studies about regret was done by this nurse in a Palliative Care Center, who literally would talk to people on their last day, right? You’re about to take your last breath. And this nurse would ask you, do you have any regrets? Can you imagine just, that’s just the power of just what I just shared without even telling you what those Five Regrets are? Imagine it’s your last day? Are you? Are you really going to be thinking about well, you know, that post only got three likes, or hey, you know, I put that event out there and only sold three ticket sales, or hey, you know, I started this brand and like, we only got it to 50k in revenue, we could have got it to 250 like, No, you’re not gonna you’re not gonna think those things. And the number one regret of the of the dying, is I wish, I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not a life that others expected of me. And if you just take that statement and run with it and apply it, not just hear it, but yeah, that makes sense. It’s cool, it’s motivating. I’m gonna put it on a sticky note and see it every Monday on my windshield. That’s not enough for you, right? You got to really own it. So the first one, I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. The second one funny enough, was I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I mean, who doesn’t need to hear that one. The third one, this one’s a tough one for a lot of people is I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. The fourth one was, I wish I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. And the fifth one is I wish I had let myself be happier. And when it comes to happiness, we play this what if or if then now thou game, if I have x amount in the bank, then I will be happy. If I get this red Ferrari, I will be happy if I And dude, I struggled with some of these things myself, right? I tied my happiness to my bank account, I would tie the quality of my day based on whether or not I made a sale, I would tie the quality of my relationship to how many arguments were were mitigated. And like these are, these are such, again, these are stories that we’ve been taught. Money equals happiness. No, some of the greatest learnings of my relationship with brandy have been during an argument. Right? They haven’t been when things are rosy, and everything’s great. And we’re hugging and we’re kissing. It’s like the reason we’ve been in a relationship for five years. And we still feel like kids around each other and we’re poking at each other. And we’re Lovey Dovey, and like, we’re just like, we always ask each other, like, Is this ever gonna change like we, you know, in previous relationships, to be honest, like, by year two, or three, like, I was, like, I wasn’t the same Karan anymore. Like I wasn’t the same enthusiasm level. But with brandy, it’s like something. Something’s different in this relationship. But it’s because we have such open and open communication, we joke a lot, we play a lot, we mess up a lot together, we mess up a lot individually. And most importantly, we just, we just know that as long as we can be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, like anything is attainable. And that’s one thing I had to learn the hard way growing up in a household where like, it was very male dominated, right? The man did this, the woman did not do this. The man went to work the woman stayed at home. So again, being in environments, whether it’s with your partner at home, or at events, or at masterminds, or or hiring a coach or mentor, it’s being around environments. That question your belief systems is one of the greatest life hacks there is right so when people subscribe to a productivity hacks and hey, I’m gonna do the Pomodoro Technique gonna work 25 minutes, take five Off 50,10 Off, like sure those are great hacks, but like look for look for the compounding life hacks. Like who you marry, where you live? What do you call your, your, your calling like those are you figure out those three life hacks? You’re good?


Shawn Zajas  29:39

So let me just take a moment and honor you for the fact that you you’ve overcome that you’ve let yourself embrace the tension and fight through the tension so that you could live a life that’s, that’s aligned and empowers other people to be aligned to like Thank you for laying down your life almost in sacrifice so that you could actually let what you learn become a gift to others. I just want to honor you for that right now. Because I’m just seeing that in such a strong way, like, Thank you, because that’s not easy. You could have gone the convenient route, you could have gone the route of ease of just selfishness and you didn’t Karan like so thank you so much. I want to circle back to what you were saying about courage. And like, I don’t know, three of the last five regrets that that nurse was hearing about all had to do with I wish I had the courage to I wish I had the courage to and honestly courage. What’s so crazy about that is that it’s incredibly individual. And it just unmasks us in the most personal way, like what I need courage for is probably very different than what you need courage. For now we’re in the humanity of it all. There’s some similarities, I’m sure. But that’s the crazy thing. It’s like for some people doing this or that may not be a challenge. But when it comes down to the listener, like right now, you know, the areas in which it’s like, oh, man, I’m shrinking back. And that’s where the self respect comes in, in, in the mirror at night, before you go to bed. When you look in your own eyes, you know, did you really go for it? Did you really face the hard things? And you can try to lie to yourself, you can lie to other people about you know, on paper, it looks like I’m doing it. But only you really know if you’re going to be true to yourself, like, did I actually show up? Or did I shrink back. And so much of my life, Corinne was dreaming of the adventure. Like if we use Lord of the Rings, I wanted to be on that adventure to Mordor trying to save the world. But I was just pretty happy in the Shire. Like, let’s just be honest. It’s like, my friends are there, we can go to the tavern at night. It’s predictable, it’s expected. And yet there was a part of my heart that was dying, because it wanted more it knew I was meant for more. And yet, there’s something so crazy about that tension of freedom. You can do something today, whatever you want to do to change your circumstance. But put some sort of guides on it. Well, there really isn’t any aside from the fact that you should be ethical and true to who you are. You can do anything. Oh, that’s just sounds so scary. So insecure, and we don’t want insecurity, we want security. We want proven we want. But when we’re talking about innovation, when we’re talking about someone being true to themselves, I’m sorry, we can’t give you a playbook that this is exactly what you need to do. Now, yes, when it comes to best practices. But one thing you said Karan also super, the biggest breakthrough for me was when I separated outcome from output. And I realized, if my goals are based off an outcome, I can’t control that. If my goals are based off of an output, I can control my own outputs. I can show up every single day, I can study when I need to study, I can give and be present with those people that are in my life. And that gives me self respect. At the end of the day. If the outcome is that means it changes the world. That means the marketplace responds, that means I get a nice car, I can’t control those things. And to me, that was a huge shift that I’m still having to remind myself that whenever I get discouraged, I’m like, wait a second, is it because I’m linking my happiness right now to an outcome? So Karan right now you’re doing so many different things. What was a mindset you had to shed in order to get to where you’re out today? And I’m sure there’s a ton of them. But just think of one that maybe was the most either nagging, or the most difficult for you to identify? And when you did, you’re like, oh, my gosh,


Karan Nijhawan 33:47

man, there’s too. I wish I was taking notes. Because there’s seven things I’d love to say right now in no particular order. But all seven, I think would be helpful.


Shawn Zajas  33:56

Well, so hey, how about this, though? How about, let’s just, even if this is like a meeting, I feel like some of the people I interview aren’t meant to be interviewed once. It’s more of like, they’re part of the tribe. And they’re part of the collective and whether that’s quarterly, I don’t know. But I just feel like one interview is not enough for you. So go ahead


Karan Nijhawan 34:16

here’s, here’s a couple things that I’ll say. And I think this will help anyone listening, this may help you as well. And this is probably gonna help me again, as a reminder, the first thing is, is that when I first heard the phrase, you’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with. I really had to look at my five and cut some people out. Right, friends, colleagues, sometimes it could be family members. It’s like, Yes, you are. Again. It’s that whole sunk boss a sunk cost bias like Well, as you know, I went to high school with Sean I went to university with Sean, we’re on the same basketball team. It’s like how can I cut them out of my life? Well, if Shawn doesn’t support your goals, Sean’s the guy who laughs at you every time you have an idea of Sean’s the guy who talks crap about you behind your back when you’re at home. Well, is he really on Team curtain or is he not on is in I don’t your team. So I think looking at your environment looking at who do I spend the most time with. And really, that statement is really the truth is true for all aspects of your life, you’re the sum of the five foods you eat, you’re the sum of your five behaviors, you’re the sum of your five movies that you like, it’s kind of like that whole Parados 8020 rule. It’s like you become your environment. And I love that you said focus on the process, not the product. Because the process you can control who knows what the outcome is, who knows the product is another big leap in my life was really when I discovered that life doesn’t have to be linear. A linear life looks like this. You go to school, by a certain age, you graduate by a certain age, you get married? Well, after you get married, yeah, you buy a car. Well, after that you buy a house well, after that, you do this, and you do this, and you have kids, and you do this and all of a sudden, it’s it’s a very rigid and structured life. And this is very true, especially in small town, small cities, like the one I grew up in, it’s like a life was essentially, it was like a prescription. It’s like, here you go, I got the next 70 years mapped out for you follow this rule, find the job, stay for 40 years, and everything’s gonna be rosy, you get three weeks of vacation every year, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a fourth week vacation if you hit your bonus. And as long as you continue to help our company make millions, millions will still give you a couple dollars. I was like, Wow, that sounds amazing. Like really? And then again, when I had to question that norm, but again, having other people in my life that thought differently that didn’t reside in that world or that type of thinking. It’s only then when I realized that life is not linear. You can actually make quantum leaps in your life. You there’s no rulebook that says, well, after step one is step two, what if after step one was Step seven? What if you could make that leap and avoid steps 2345 and six? Well, I’ve, I’ve done that in my personal life, I’ve done that, specifically, in my financial earning capacity. Right, you can go from 100 grand to 500 grand without having to go to 202 50 and three and 350. Like, sure, that’s a very linear way. But you can make quantum leaps in your life. And the moment, I realized that, I realized that that’s true for all aspects of my life, I could have a completely new friend circle by next year, it doesn’t have to take a decade, I could have a completely new relationship with brandy this month, it doesn’t have to take the next six months. So these false timelines that we’ve created as to what things have always done been done this way, it kind of goes back to that whole oven story, right? Well, if, of course, if the ham was always cut this way, because the oven wasn’t big enough? Well, if you keep telling yourself that, that’s one thing, but if you’re aware of it, and then you keep telling yourself that well, that’s now you got to take some ownership, now it comes to radical accountability. So if you know better, you can do better. And once you see you cannot unsee. And I feel that’s true for a lot of aspects of my life. Like once I saw something for the first time, there’s no way I could go back to my old level of thinking, this is not possible. Because I now have seen the other side. It’s like the matrix like blue pill, red pill, it’s like when you take the better pill, so to speak, everything opens up. So I think like those things have really helped make quantum leaps in my life, both energetically financially, and my relationship like all aspects of my life. And I would argue that now I spend the exact same amount of time giving credit to the what ifs that are positive, that I used to give to the what ifs that were completely negative and didn’t serve me. Right, the natural tendency when you’re about to make a change in your life, leave a relationship, start a new business, start a side hustle, whatever that next step is for you. The natural thing is well, I don’t I don’t have that right now. Well, of course you don’t, because your current level of habits and thinking have not allowed you yet to do that. But doesn’t mean you can’t get to that level. And isn’t it true that in order for you to get to another level, you must become someone new. If you want to have things a certain way? Well, you need to be someone put those two words together be and have, you need to behave a different way. So if you want to have something you’ve never had before, you must become someone you’ve never been before, only by your behavior. And we can’t control what happens at the end of the day. But we can control what happens right now and the next five seconds and the next 10 seconds and the next five minutes. Well, we have we’ve got a lot of that at our fingertips. And I think the reason why people don’t get started on these big, hairy, audacious goals is simply because they completely overestimate what they can do in a month. And underestimate what they can do in one, two and three and five years.


Shawn Zajas  39:24

That’s a mic drop moment right there. So this is a dangerous episode, if someone’s listening to it, because if they went in thinking,


Karan Nijhawan 39:32

just just one more thing, it’s like people, people that hang out with me, tend to quit their jobs tend to do big things tend to just go all in on their dreams. And I’ve seen it enough times now. Where I can I can bet my my bank account on it, right? So if I spend enough time with somebody and you look at their life, three months later, six months later, 12 months later, I’m not saying I’m some guru or some rocket scientist like I’m not I’m not I just I show people that they can sell it Write their darkness. Instead of having to hide behind it, I show people that their dreams and their their capabilities are so much more. And I can see people that just by turning two to three dials every single day gets you to a radically new destination. Right? I’m in Toronto right now, if I was to go to the airport, which I can see from my window, and I got on a plane, and we took off, but I shifted the dial three degrees, well, in the first 30 minutes, that three degrees wouldn’t really mean much, right? So they’ll be going in that same direction. Let’s say I’m going to London, England, they keep shifting three degrees. And now it’s been a 12 hour flight. Well, now I skipped London. Now I’m going to end up in Vancouver. So yes, we started on the same path, but just the small dial, it’s like the dial didn’t change. But the compounding timeline changed. So what you do today may not seem like a big deal. But five years from now, the thing that you’re going to have the life you’re going to have is because you did the thing today, the reason I’m on this podcast, the reason I do retreats, and the reason I’m all in on myself, is because of that one dinner in November of 2016, which was really because of that one business card exchange that didn’t serve me which was really because of right so you can connect the dots looking backwards, be like, Oh, that was the day that I decided. And a lot of people think you have to hit homeruns every day to have a radically new life. I don’t buy that. One bit I used to. And now I am completely okay. baseball analogy. I’m completely okay. Hitting a single hitting a double, hitting a triple hitting a homerun or striking out. The thing I’m not okay with is not getting up to bat.


Shawn Zajas  41:34

Wow. So I’m telling you, that’s exactly why I was saying this is an incredibly dangerous podcast for anyone listening. Because if you’re just thinking it’s about inspiration, like current literally just knocked down every single wall and every single excuse that you might have as to why you can’t step up, step out right now. So Chris, I want to know, I think a lot of people are like, but what if that like terrible worst case scenario happens? Sometimes I refer to as almost like the dark night of the soul in the last 10 or 15 years? Was there a time that you hit some sense of rock bottom? And obviously you didn’t give up? You’re here today? So what did you do to get back on the horse? And to get back up? Could you just describe that scene a little bit.


Karan Nijhawan 42:21

Some of the scariest moments in my life, have led to the greatest transformational opportunities, moments that I put off for far too long. Whether that was leaving a relationship that wasn’t healthy, whether it was leaving a job, where it was just a job. And the reason I think it’s hard to make those decisions, the reason I struggled with those, those big things was this idea of regret, more importantly, was the fear of the unknown. And nothing scares me more than fear of the unknown. And I think nothing scares most people more than fear of the unknown. It’s like, I’m not a pilot. And I still hate turbulence. Quite frankly, I travel a lot, but I hate turbulence. But if I get on every flight, thinking Well Is today the day turbulence is going to take down the plane, and I’m never gonna hop on a flight in my life. It’s just not possible. I think well, how many events I’ll miss out on in my lifetime. It was the same reason I didn’t learn how to swim is because somebody in grade six called me chubby at a field trip. And for the next 20 odd years, I didn’t learn how to swim. Well, how many things that I miss out on in those 20 years because of my own insecurities. So I think there’s things like that have happened. And it forces me to think about what what is the worst case scenario here. And there’s two kinds of there’s there’s two concepts that have really helped me in moments like this. Number one is this idea of fear setting. Fear setting was something I discovered by a very popular entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss years ago. And he talks about the worst case scenario, it’s like, well, what’s, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen? So let’s say someone’s listening to this, you’re listening to this right now? You’re about to make a big change. But to leave your relationship you’re about to start a new company. Are you about to leave your business altogether and just go live in Bali on a surfboard? Cool, do you? That’s awesome. I’ll visit define your worst case scenario. I don’t know about you, man. But I had this boogey monster in my closet. I’ve never saw it when I was growing up. But I’m telling you, it was there. There was every time I get my parents, like, Yo, there’s something in my closet or something in my bed. Sure enough, there’s nothing there. But I’m confident was there right? That was my worst case scenario. That was my Loch Ness monster that was the monster in the closet. So if you can define your problem, just step one of defining the problem oftentimes, if you can see it, if you can touch it, if you can smell it, the problem actually becomes a lot smaller. It’s when the problem is unknown. Like when a scary movie comes on, and you just hear the sound like doo doo doo and you can’t see the monster like in your head. That monster is the scariest thing out there because the music and the other senses are activated, and you don’t know what’s going to come out of that water or out of that closet. So the monster all sudden, this beautiful puppy appears you’re like, ah, that’s cute. But I think that’s what happens with our problems is we can’t see it, we can’t touch it, we can’t smell it. So therefore it gets bigger because of the other senses in our life. So if you can define your problem, and then figure out well, what are ways if this if this thing did happen, what are ways that could prevent it from happening? Or what are ways that could repair it from happening if this worst case thing actually came true? The next part of that entire protocol is all the reasons why you should do something. Right? All the reasons you should bet on yourself all the reasons what if this does work out, and you get exhaust that list like to to a point where you just over whelmed with enthusiasm and passion, and gratitude and belief and abundance. And then the last step, and this is the one most people miss is the cost of inaction, you need to ask yourself, if nothing changes in the next six months, what will life look like? Well, if nothing changes in the next three years, what will life look like? And what if nothing changes in the next five years? What will life look like and Brandi and I do this exercise even as a couple. And there’s some big goals that we have for both of our businesses. And if we don’t go after them, we did our fear setting. We said, well, what if what if we don’t do this? And what if in five years, we begin to resent each other, that leads to a separation? You know, that’s a very real possibility for I think any relationship as the relationship grows apart, so that fear setting concept, to me it was it was an absolute no brainer. It’s something it’s something that it will take you two seconds to do. And then the other concept that completely changed my life. You’re gonna like this one, Sean is asking myself whenever I don’t know what to do next. I asked myself, What is the best next step? Not the next best step. Same words, different order, the best next step, and the next best step, the next best step implies you got to settle implies that you know what I really wanted was this, but it’s not available. So let me just go for this. It’s like brandy wants sushi. I want pizza. Yeah, whatever, we’ll just get sushi. Well, I settled. It seems like a small deal. But I settled, the best next step is the counter opposite. It’s like what would be the best possible thing that I can experience right now. And sometimes the best next step, again, is just going up to the plate, forgetting about the home run, forgetting about the audience, forgetting about the picture in front of you. It’s like what is what is the best next step. And anytime I’m in a, I’m in a period of mourning in my life, or I have grief or something crappy has happened. And I need to figure out what to do next. Go for a walk, do a quick meditation and ask myself, what is the best next step? And if I didn’t know what to do, I know I don’t know what to do. But if I didn’t know what to do, what might I do?


Shawn Zajas  47:43

Okay, so I think you’re gonna like this, because I did like that. If I’m listening right now, and I’ve gotten challenged, I’ve gotten inspired. And I’m thinking, Man, the best next step for me is probably to contact this guy current, and see how I can align myself and work with him. Where do you want people’s eyes going?


Karan Nijhawan 48:09

So you’re right, somebody could be watching this may feel inspired, may feel a sudden rush of motivation, curiosity, inspiration, and of course, you could, you know, email me at Or go to the retreats. But even that step for a lot of people is like step 10. When really step one is getting out your journal, looking at a blank page mean, like in this exact moment, what does my perfect life look like? Maybe the best next step is taking an hour to yourself, go grab your favorite coffee, go sit in a park nearby, take a couple of deep breaths and said, Hey, if I only had another 30 years finally had another 40 years if I only had another 10 years, what does my ideal life look like today, forgetting about any sort of sunk cost bias forgetting about everything for just a moment, give yourself permission to dream a little bit. And just take a blank journal a blank piece of paper and ask yourself what is the best next thing for me? What is the next what what would be a dream come true scenario? And I don’t mean dream come true. Again, like, Well, my life was incrementally better. My house is just a little bit better. And my car is a little bit faster and my I got a little bit more money. No, that’s a very, that’s not going to motivate you, like incrementally getting your life better, will not motivate you when the times get tough. And we know times get tough because again, if you’re trying to get something you’ve never had before, or be someone you’ve never been before, you’re going to face that resistance. So I think the first step for anybody is a self reflection, exercise, self inquiry, if you will, and just being really honest with yourself. Okay, based on today, based on this day in the calendar based on this year of my existence. What do I want the next decade to look like? And just giving yourself full permission, full permission to just free flow, whatever comes out of you express everything that you’ve held back, we have this. This milestone here in Toronto is called the CN Tower. It’s this big manmade tower gets struck by Lightning of infinite like 70 100 times a year. It’s a beautiful, beautiful sights, mostly touristy attraction in Toronto. It’s a big building with a restaurant up top. Well, that CN Tower is called the CN Tower. It’s 17 176 steps, right? Nobody ever walks up this thing unless it’s for charity. And so like, like, like a fundraiser, then sure people run up it. But 17 176 steps, if the architect of that building, talk themselves out of, well, how am I going to create step 1500? the CN Tower never would have never been a thing. And I’m not an architect. But I bet one of the questions they asked was, What does the first step look like? But what does the next floor look like? Right? They they built it step by step, just like you would build a house, you can dream of this beautiful house, but the step one is around your foundation. So I think if we just incorporate these very simplistic tools, and honestly, if we just dumb down the process, I think if we overcomplex if we overanalyze something, that’s when indecision really appears. It’s like this paradox of choice. It’s like too many decisions lead to indecision. And I struggled with that so much, probably up until I met brandy. Brandy was probably the one who said, Hey, if you if you make a decision that you don’t like, you just make another decision. I’m like, wow, you made that sound so easy. She’s like, well, it is because if you make a decision, and it’s not the right decision, you just make a new decision. And again, just that simple statement is something I find myself thinking about a lot as well, when I’m making decisions now big or small, is if I make the wrong decision. It’s okay, because a decision is better than no decision.


Shawn Zajas  51:34

See, I love that, because I’ve interviewed so many people, and everybody says where they ended up and where they’re at now is somewhere that they could not have necessarily predicted. So the pressure that’s on the listeners of hey, your first step has to be perfectly aligned with where you’re going to go. And if it’s not, then you screwed up. It’s like, well, no, actually just take a step. And then just take another step. And in moving, you start getting clarity, you start getting understanding, you meet somebody, and maybe you’re gonna meet someone in two months at that show, because you decide to step up and step out and go for it. And that’s the partner for your next business. And the light bulbs turn on, but you can’t figure that out. You could not have anticipated that. And yet, you just need to go for it instead of just staying on the sideline, not getting on the ship, keeping anchored down and dreaming about what could possibly be. So Karan two questions in closing, number one, assuming your life was like a book, what would the chapter be called for the next five years of your life?


Karan Nijhawan 52:42

next five years of my life, the chapters title would be question everything.


Shawn Zajas  52:50

Like that. Okay, so hopefully, that’s not the same answer. But question number two. So you’re walking down the street. And often the distance you see 18 year old Karan and you know, you just have one moment to communicate one sentiment to him based off of everything you’ve learned, what do you share with him?


Karan Nijhawan 53:13

Everything will work out if you keep showing up.


Shawn Zajas  53:19

I love that. Again, that’s a perfect cherry on top of this entire episode, like for the listeners. Right now, Karan and I are both encouraging you everything that you’ve heard between the lines of what we’ve said, that dream that came up that you’re scared of, maybe you keep repressing, because you keep making excuses for why you don’t do it. Do that, you know, I keep saying I look to the left and to the right of me. And I see there’s so many people in rank, that are all advancing dentistry together. But I still see vacancies, I still see spots where I know people are supposed to be showing up. And dentistry is better. There’s greater synergy when we all come together and just get to shine that light that only we can shine. Karan it has been such an honor today for me to get to interview you it has been easy interviewing you and honoring you as an innovator. The the ways in which you think the ways in which you see people your commitment and your mission to level up dental professionals and provide for them just a chance to go for the life that they desire go for the life of their maid for thank you so much for the ways in which you you conquered in private or no one saw no one saw the ways in which you got out of bed when he didn’t want to. And you kept saying yes to sacrifice and challenge just so you could get to a point to where you’re at today to be able to bring so much life and impact to dentistry. I just want to say again, thank you so much for letting me interview you today.


Karan Nijhawan 54:48

I appreciate you man. This was so much more than an interview. This was such a cathartic experience of just sharing what’s what’s behind the curtain, the behind the scenes, if you will of the stuff that really is responsible for the Things You see physically or you know, with your eyes. And there’s just one more thing I’ll share is like, my, my worst case scenario. And I believe in a higher purpose or a higher God or spirituality, whatever that is for you, let’s say you you believe that there is a Creator out there for you. The worst thing that I think could possibly happen is you get to, you know, you leave your physical life and you meet your Creator. And the Creator shows you what life could have been. Right? You present Hey, God, like, look, look at look at what I did. I created this business, I ran this marathon, I had this many friends, I hosted this many retreats and this and like, you’re up pumped herself up, and God are creators. Like, yeah, that’s great. But here’s what you could have been, like, here’s the path I had for you. Right? You were actually meant to do this. You were meant to run Ironmans you were meant to have this global business. You were meant to have this many. It’s like, so you want to you want to get to a place where like, you don’t regret that conversation, right? Because that conversation I think is coming for all of us. Even if it’s with ourselves on our last breath. The worst thing that could happen is you taking your last breath. I mean, like what if, what if life could have been different?


Shawn Zajas  56:09

Okay, and this just goes back to how generous you are currently. Just continue to pour out and give and give. Thank you so much. Seriously, it has been such an amazing time. So I really appreciate it today.


Karan Nijhawan 56:21

Thank you. Appreciate you, man. Thanks for all that you do.


Shawn Zajas  56:24

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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