The Power of Change: Greatness Lies Beyond Your Comfort Zone


Podcast Summary

In this insightful interview with dental industry innovator Melissa Turner, conducted by Shawn Zajas, the two delve into the themes of change, discomfort, and growth. Melissa, a successful businesswoman, mother, and influencer in the dental world, shares her experiences and wisdom on embracing challenges and transforming them into opportunities. 

The conversation begins with Melissa reflecting on her journey as a mother and how discomfort has played a significant role in her personal and professional growth. She discusses the tendency to avoid discomfort, but points out the importance of acknowledging it and using it as a catalyst for change. Drawing a parallel with coal turning into diamonds under extreme pressure, Melissa emphasizes that true growth comes from facing discomfort head-on rather than seeking shortcuts. She credits her renewed resilience, gratitude, and sense of fulfillment to her willingness to walk through discomfort and emerge stronger. 

The discussion then shifts to the topic of rejection. Melissa shares that as a leader, rejection is a common part of the journey, whether it’s in business or personal life. Understanding that rejection is a numbers game, she encourages listeners not to take it personally but to keep moving forward and trying new things. Shawn also adds that rejection can be part of the process in entrepreneurship, but Melissa’s perspective provides a valuable reminder that embracing rejection is essential for growth and success. 

Throughout the interview, Melissa’s passion for dentistry and her desire to empower others in the industry shine through. She speaks about the importance of making positive change, innovating, and elevating the field of dentistry. She encourages dental professionals to start pursuing their passions and ideas, reminding them that they are capable of bringing positive change to their industry. 

As the conversation unfolds, Shawn asks Melissa about her plans for the future. Melissa shares that she sees the upcoming decade as an opportunity to “unleash” her potential fully. While her focus has been on her role as a mother for the past years, she anticipates a shift in her priorities as her children become more independent. This transition will enable her to channel more energy into her career and continue her journey of personal and professional growth. 

Finally, Melissa offers some words of wisdom to her 18-year-old self, encouraging her to embrace change fearlessly. She shares how she has learned to shed preconceived notions about herself and allow herself to evolve and adapt. Melissa’s journey of self-discovery and transformation serves as a powerful reminder to the audience that growth and change are essential for personal development and professional success. 

In conclusion, this interview with Melissa Turner provides valuable insights into the power of embracing discomfort, overcoming rejection, and embracing change. Her story serves as an inspiration for dental professionals and entrepreneurs alike, encouraging them to pursue their passions fearlessly and unleash their true potential. Melissa’s experiences and wisdom will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the audience, inspiring them to embrace growth and innovation in their own lives and careers.

Connect With Melissa: 

LI @melissakturner

Podcast Transcript

Melissa Turner 00:00 

It is okay to change. I think so often, we don’t allow ourselves to do 180s. Right. Like we know. For instance, if we know we’re on a dark path and we know, we’re surrounding ourselves with negativity, if if we understand that we can change a full 180 Tomorrow,  


Shawn Zajas  00:24 

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 am as excited as I probably could be, because today I have the honor of getting to interview the one and only Melissa K Turner. Don’t Google Melissa Turner known as Jerry. Ah. So before I really dive in and set you up, Melissa, I would just like to say thank you for letting me interview you today. 


Melissa Turner 01:18 

Thank you, Shawn. And yeah, you do not want to you don’t want to Google Melissa Turner, because there’s some crazy things in the news right now. And it’s not me, I swear. 


Shawn Zajas  01:28 

So literally, that’s what I did. Because I was like, Hey, let me just do some research. You know, I know Melissa, I know. She’s a huge deal. So for anyone listening. What does Melissa not do? Like? So I had to write it down. So it’s like, okay, so you’re doing the I Woman podcast you do. The Dentistry Is Gone Wild podcast, you’re the host of the Shinobi awards, are the hosts of the national mobile and teledentistry conference. And I think there’s two other things, but I didn’t even capture what they were, what are those other ones? 


Melissa Turner 01:57 

You know what I kind of lost track, but it’s a lot it is. But the bottom line is that I’m having fun. And it all kind of goes together. It all kind of correlates with one another. And the bottom line, Shawn is to move dentistry forward in a way that’s makes positive change. And I’m sure we’re gonna dive into that later. But that’s the bottom line of everything. 


Shawn Zajas  02:22 

Well, so the reason why I have this podcast, Melissa is because I am fascinated with innovation. But there’s so many different ways innovation can go, right? There’s technological innovation, where there’s this, this technology that comes along and all of a sudden, bam dentistry is no longer the same. And there’s clinical innovation, where all of a sudden, you know, some pioneer discovers like a better way to do something in the mouth, and they just start creating beautiful, whatever on for on something. But for this podcast, I’m just fascinated by what is it that causes like dental professionals to say, Hey, why can’t I just be the change that I see? Like I see a problem? Why can I step up. And there’s nothing wrong with staying in the shop as a hygienist or as a dentist. But for those that have that kind of hunger, and they’re like, Yeah, but I think there’s more I just feel this. Like, there’s like that is you in a nutshell, your hygienist. But But you’re so much more than that. And you just stepped up in Pioneer positive change? Why, like, Tell me your story of how you went from just being in dentistry to all of a sudden leading and pioneering the way that you are, 


Melissa Turner 03:29 

you know, and where to begin. But I mean, I will begin somewhere, but it’s the story of my life. And there’s a lot of things that people don’t know people do know and time will come and I’ll reveal those things and it’ll be exciting and you’ll be shocked but the things in my life 


Shawn Zajas  03:49 

so much mystery there. That is so awesome. I’m still not going to tell you yet but it’s coming someday you’ll get to know 


Melissa Turner 03:57 

just not ready yet shot I’m not ready. Okay, but but those things in my life. And we all have those things you have those things everyone listening have those things, these pivotal moments that have kind of shaped who you are and, and if you look back on my life, from little on up, those moments have always been where I was an outsider, I was an outsider in a lot of different ways in my own community and my own family growing up. And then even when I started in dentistry, I just I still felt like an outsider. And part of that is because like you’ve been saying, I am a big picture person and I see where things are going. I see the change that has to take place and that needs to take place. I see the pain in the people around me. And I see the need there. And so my heart, the bottom, the core, the most deepest part of my heart, is to kind of take a society take a community and say, Hey, we need to change. We’re going to go here now. Well, let’s get there. And let’s get there as fast as we can, because it’s going to be better for everyone, once we’re there. And so I think, me being an outsider, always in my life and kind of feeling that way, and clinical Dentistry has allowed me to kind of take that burden and carry the burden and be like, okay, like, let’s, let’s be inclusive, let’s learn how to be diverse in dentistry, let’s learn how to move the needle forward, instead of just sticking with tradition all the time. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you. But that’s, that’s the nutshell that I can give right now. 


Shawn Zajas  05:35 

So this is the thing, Melissa, like I literally talked about, I don’t know, maybe it was the second or third episode, because the first four I just recorded as like foundations of innovation. But then since then, I’ve just been interviewing amazing innovators like yourself. And and one of those early ones, I was like, literally talking about how there’s these moments that people almost wish they could erase from their life. And what they don’t realize is, those are the moments where there’s gold, where they can find out, okay, what gift that I get from this adversity from being excluded. And now that you’re like, Look, I’m just owning, I was excluded for so long, growing up, and even in dentistry. So now, I’m taking that almost chip on my shoulder, or the gift that was given and saying, I’m going to include people, I’m going to lead and pioneer to a future where there isn’t, there isn’t going to be people that get excluded, you know. And I think that is amazing, because it’s like, I always want to encourage people, like discover what it was about your upbringing, your perspective on life, your unique experience. And that’s where, like, that’s where the true gold is where you can identify, hey, this is who I am as an authentic brand, here’s my authentic message, because it’s going to come from a place that’s deep inside. And I see that when you when you share that there is such a resonance to like, Oh, this is who Melissa is. And there’s power in that. 


Melissa Turner 06:53 

There’s power and there’s connection and authenticity. And if there’s, if there’s two things that you know, could be all about what I am, it’s its authenticity, and, and communication and just connect, connecting with people. And I think and you could probably relate to this too, but I knew who I was, and then I had kids. And I realized, oh my goodness, like, now I need to fight forward faster than ever to build a legacy to make the world right. For my daughters for my eight year old or my six year old. Right? Like, it’s it’s one of these things where, okay, I was just living life and doing good things. And then I had kids and I’m like, Okay, we have to do this major reset, because now there’s a huge purpose in life. And who knows if my kids are gonna be in dentistry someday, maybe they will. But hopefully, the the trickle effect of what I’m doing and going to do in my career will kind of, you know, come come down to them, and they’ll, they’ll have a better life and a better career because of it. But that’s what I can help. Yeah. 


Shawn Zajas  07:54 

So Melissa, when I see you, I, I honestly was just like, man, like the heights that you’ve risen to, and the impact that you’re already making, I just would have assumed that you are like 100%, just a career woman, and not that there’s anything wrong with that. So to know that you are balancing your impact, even with raising children like, wow, I just want to honor you for that. But that is that is no easy job. Like, I think just being a mom in general is probably one of the hardest things in the world and balancing that with what you’re doing in dentistry. Like my I’m not wearing a hat. But if I was, I would take it off for you right now. 


Melissa Turner 08:30 

That means a lot. I mean, you’re one of these. You’re one of these people, that’s super encouraging. And you know that about yourself. And so don’t you dare make me cry. I’m about to, but I have to tell you what I did this morning. So my kids are home from school. Now this is the first full week that they’re home from school. And usually when when these times when we have these transition times, it takes a while for my work schedule to really catch up and realize, oh, no, the kids are home all day long. How am I going to have a full day of meetings if I had to give them lunch, right? So today was one of those days where oh my goodness, I had to do a content photoshoot, you know, with products and things like that. I have back to back meetings. And my kids, they’re great, but they just need some help every once in a while. Right? They need me to get lunch and so I was walking around reading the script for this photo shoot video shoot I was doing while I was blowing up really a huge pink tube floaty. I was blowing that out while I was writing this. I’m like, This is classic like work from home mom mode and I love it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s stressful. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. 


Shawn Zajas  09:36 

I almost wish you did a vlog just so we could peer into the craziness. But that’s life. And that’s the beauty of it. Like, I think so many people even weighed the parallels between being a parent and stepping up and innovating. Positive Change are so like beautifully connected. i A lot of people talk to me, they’re like, Oh, I’m not ready to be a parent yet. I’m not ready. I don’t have all my ducks in a row and I’m like you’re never We’re gonna be because the kids that you end up having, they don’t have a playbook. Like there’s no, oh, this is how you raise this one versus this is how you raise this, but you have no idea you just have to kind of lean into and trust, I’m gonna figure it out. And in that same exact way, with innovation with trying to bring value into the marketplace, there’s no playbook that says, This is exactly how it’s gonna work out. Now, again, you’ve done so many, seven different things. Like, I’m guessing you’re just as human as the rest of us, like, at one point in time, when you’re starting this, where you’re just like, oh, my gosh, what am I doing? Like? What if it doesn’t work? Like? Did you hear those voices of like, Melissa, who are you to do this? Or you’re not enough? Or did you just like, didn’t have to block any of those things out? Because I don’t know, maybe? Maybe you’re special? Or maybe that’s just not something you ever struggled with? 


Melissa Turner 10:48 

No, that’s something I constantly struggle with. But I don’t even know I’m struggling with it. Right? It’s one of those things where I think I’m good. I think I can do things and I go do things. And then a year or two later, I’m like, Oh, my God, like that was, that was freaking fantastic. I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I had that much power to change that situation. I can’t believe you know, that social media posts got 60,000 views, right? It’s it’s those things that I’m like, Oh, my goodness, like, it’s only in retrospect, can I start to see the value of my own life? And so yes, to answer your question, I’m always struggling with that always struggling with it. When I think that’s where, you know, my life partner, Andrew, my husband, Andrew, and certain really close friends and mentors around me can help speak that life into me. And that’s, that’s something that is so valuable, isn’t there’s a phrase, there’s a saying, I’m not really good sayings. But there’s a saying that’s, that’s something like you are the five people who surround you, right? You are them like that is what’s going to come out of your attitude of your aura of your vibe, the five closest people that surround you. And I fully believe that and I fully you know, going forward, I’m only gonna keep close the people that do breathe life into me and help me understand myself. And the difference I can make. I remember, probably about eight years ago, one of these people said to me, Melissa, what’s your 10 year plan? Where are you going to be in 10 years? And it was right when I had just had my first kid and I had, like, I didn’t want to work clinical anymore. And so I’m like, what else? What else can I do when I knew I was student council president in high school, I was like planning all these events. I’m like, I knew that I wanted to be some kind of a leader, maybe a public figure in dentistry. I just didn’t know how to get there. I also didn’t feel like I was accepted. See, there’s that running theme. So I’m like, Well, why don’t I just start this 10 year trajectory, make a 10 year plan and kind of carve my own path and do some A B testing some beta testing, throw things out there, see what comes back and see what dentistry is ready for, and see what this except at this point. And so that that was a pivotal moment. And when he asked me that question, what my 10 year plan was, Shawn, I, I knew I didn’t have one, because I had never done that before. I never had thought, really, that my life was valuable enough to have these goals and to go after them, and to really strive for making a huge difference that I knew I could make. And so I told him, I said, I have no clue how to answer that question. But I’m gonna work on that answer, I’m gonna work on trying to figure it out and have a path and have these objective goals. And so I’m well on my way in that and it, it really feels good. Like I said, looking in retrospect, and understanding, okay, this, this is my path, and I can make change. And I hope I can inspire my kids and those around me to also kind of be that positive light in in life. 


Shawn Zajas  14:02 

So you actually went where I was just about to go cuz I’m like, as I was listening to your response, right before this, I’m thinking well, I’m super curious. Like, what, what was that transition from? I’m a hygienist. I’m in Dental. And now all of a sudden, I’m aware of that there’s something more you know, because like one of the things I like talking about is that before we can believe in something, we actually have to be aware of it. So almost like we have to be able to conceive of something something is possible before we can even start believing Well, why not me? Right. Like, can Melissa Turner, bring sorry Musa que tenemos que yeah. Can she bring her strength to bear be aligned in who she is? And show up in dentistry in a way that is true to who she is and blaze? Just a trail that’s, that’s you? And will the market respond? Mm. And I love that, you know, as our listeners will know, like there was no guarantee at that moment that it was going to work out. There was no guarantee that you stepping up stepping out deciding to start doing anything was going to resonate with the marketplace. How did you handle that? That uncertainty and not just simply unknown? 


Melissa Turner 15:24 

I think I think that’s where I thrive in the unknown and the uncertainty. And I don’t know if that’s a talent, I don’t know if that’s a flaw, it’s yet to be really, you know, understood, at least for myself, but my, my husband, and he wouldn’t mind me saying this, he doesn’t want he doesn’t want to talk about himself, but I’ll talk about him. But he, he’s one that doesn’t take risks. He’s one, he works in a in with the government. It’s a systemic, you know, function organization. And he thrives in that he doesn’t know how to take risks, he doesn’t know how to make things from scratch, build businesses, build brands, and through kind of watching him be like, Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you did this, or you did that I could never do that, I began to realize that, that uncertainty, that unknown is what makes me thrive. And I’m getting so excited just thinking of it. So on the you know, a lot of people know me for being a hygienist and for the public facing side of me, which is the traditional key opinion leader, speaker. And then the influencer side. But what most people don’t know is that most of my time is spent working in innovation with product and service and technology companies behind the scenes. I’m an executive consultant, I’m a fractional executive officer, for you know, some of the biggest brands in dentistry, I work with them behind the scenes, building products and, and launching products and working on brand strategy. And so that’s for me, that’s where I thrive the most. Because innovation is unknown. It’s It’s It’s uncertainty. And my favorite companies to work with actually are startups because I’ve been there. But also it’s, if you’re a startup, if you’re in the first two to three years of launching a product, or building a brand, or getting a 510 K FDA approved, you’re constantly living in uncertainty and unknown. And it’s one of these things where I love to witness it, I don’t always want to be completely like a part of it, because it’s stressful. But I love to witness the growth that comes through these founders, like yourself, who have this passion, who want to create this product or this technology, and who see it through to the end and who have to live that uncertainty for years and years and years. And that can be a tough, tough to watch sometimes. But for me, that’s where I thrive. And so a lot of what I do when I work with startups is I’ll come alongside the founder, and I say, Hey, I’ve seen this before, you’re not alone. Let’s morally help you move along, get the support you need, make sure you get the sleep that you need. And I’ll help you come along and like figure out the right messaging to launch the product and help build it so that it is successful. When when it is time to kind of have certainty and launch the product. So I think I think I do like uncertainty, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. 


Shawn Zajas  18:31 

So was that something you were aware of? Like meaning like, when did you connect the dots to like, man, most people I really think are wired more like your husband. And I would even say most people in dental and I don’t mean that as an offensive statement to dentists. I’m just saying like, it’s always good to acknowledge. Okay, so if this is more of the way I’m disposed to, then I probably do need people’s help that that can function in this with a lot more grace, a lot more latitude, a lot more expertise. Because, you know, I read a lot of Seth Godin, I just like the way he thinks, and he’s constantly talking about the fact people actually don’t want more freedom. Like the reality of freedom is actually what terrifies people because you can do anything you want to do. Where we wait, what do you mean, you can do anything you want to do? Like, you can start a podcast, you can start a movement, you can start events, you can start a company that doesn’t exist in dentistry to solve the problem that only you see. But with that comes the responsibility of like, well, but it’s on you, like, are you going to do something about it? But that’s terrifying because it’s like a like, I’d almost rather No, I, I have to follow this proven path. There’s safety in this certain tried and true method, course of action. And I think a lot of people like that. You’re saying, hey, blow all the rules off, blow blow everything off. I am still going to function super well. When freedom. Yeah, there is no constraints except what’s ethical And with what the market will either reward or say, No, you need to iterate. Like, that’s why I love the way you think, Melissa, because you are that classic visionary entrepreneur that can really dance in that tension of what is not yet and say, okay, like, like even said this when you were starting, let me just see what the market is gonna say. And then I can just kind of be agile and iterate. Like that is like, advanced thinking that it takes even some entrepreneurs decades to figure out, oh, my gosh, learning isn’t in the boardroom learning is in the marketplace, when the marketplace says, change this up a bit. Or we don’t really resonate with that. Like, did you always see yourself as an entrepreneur? When did you connect the dots? And you’re like, oh, my gosh, this is just who I am. 


Melissa Turner 20:46 

Oh, I have no idea. I mean, I don’t know, I don’t even know if it’s still people ask me what I do. And I say, I’m a speaker, always with that inflection at the end. Because I don’t know what I do. Because I’m just having fun. But, you know, I have to credit, credit, my family, my parents for who I am today, because they have always been entrepreneurs, they were small business owners, they would own one thing, and then own another thing, and then own another thing. And, and, and kind of just hard working, make their way and carve their own path. And I think looking back on my life, that is those that was life changing for me, you know, to see them, make their own decisions about things take time to see them buy a business, and say, Okay, we’re gonna completely change this business, do what we want to it and make it succeed. I that, that witnessing that was probably, you know, what led me to who I am today. And then, and then the one thing that I have always known about myself is that I color outside the lines all the time, you know, if if there is if there is if everyone’s doing this over here, and I find myself in that group, I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna walk over here, and kind of do this over here, because I don’t want to be mainstream. I don’t know why. But I want to continue to pull the group over here to what I’m doing and move things along. So I always color outside the lines, except when I need to keep the peace, right, then I’ll then I’ll color into ethically right, a color inside the lines. One of the things that I think is kind of lacking in dentistry right now, are those people who are bridging the generational gaps. So we have the more traditional dentists and dental hygienist and dental professionals, and then we have the more progressive the younger ones. And I feel like it’s very important to have an I put this burden on myself is to have people who can connect the two generations because we need to pull from, from the tradition, to innovate, to make change, to help lead the the young, the really young ones that are just entering the, the industry. And so that’s when I also color inside the lines is to help connect to help bridge the gap between generations and not even just generations. But one of the things that I love about the conference that Sania Dunbar and I founded, it’s called the National mobile and teledentistry conference, one of the things I love about it, and I’m super biased, because it’s my own conference, it’s my own brand. So of course, I’m going to be biased, but it pulls together, people in dentistry who otherwise would not come together at all. So it pulls together the public health, dental practices with the private practice, dentists, first of all that that never happens. And it also pulls together the DSOs and pulls together the hygienist who own practices. And we’re all on the same page. And so to me, that is a huge step towards innovation. There’s no ego at that conference, everyone is on the same page, trying to move dentistry forward. And to me, that’s one of my favorite times of the year because I can sit back and I can watch these groups come together that would never ever communicate outside of this event. So yeah, color inside the lines, color outside the lines, I’ll do whatever needs to needs to happen to kind of make make things move forward. 


Shawn Zajas  24:27 

Mostly, you’re just a great example of like just being true to who you are. And playing to your strengths. Like one of the analogies or I don’t even know if it’s an analogy, but just like a visual expression. I even shared it with you when we just met up at IDEO. Was that like the future I see is that we’re all kind of holding the same line wanting to advance dentistry. And when you look to the right or left of yourself, you’ll see that there’s some vacancies where people haven’t stepped up yet to be who only they can be. And you don’t know what could happen when we’re not meeting these people at conferences, or not meeting them in networking, because they’re still trying to get over their own shit, so to speak of like, am I enough? Can I play it big? Can I step up? And and I do empathize. I’m not trying to be harsh, like, I probably could have stepped up a lot sooner had I not listened to that voice on my side saying like, Who are you, you know all that self doubt. But what I what I’m encouraging people to do is like when you dial in, like who you are, and what’s unique about the way that you were made your perspective, it, it’s not trying to be somebody, no one can be Melissa K Turner, like this is just who you are. You have the savvy to know when to innovate, when to color outside the lines, and then at the same time, that wisdom to be like, you know, I want to honor those they went before us. I want to honor those that have already pioneered and that got dentistry where it’s at today. But we don’t want to just be like, Look, we’re beyond you. We don’t need you anymore. Let’s Let’s unite and then let’s bring the older generation and the younger generation. And together let’s make what dentistry, like dentistry, all that it can be like, I’ve never heard someone share that vision. That is just like that is so inspiring. Thank you so much. And I didn’t know what you were doing behind the scenes, with startups. And with different companies that are wanting to launch innovative products and everything like you are the perfect person. For that. Again, I just keep finding you’re playing the games that you were meant to excel at, where you can bring value where you can shine. And you’re like, I want to interview people like you. Because this is what I’m trying to tell other people like, hey, look what Melissa did, you can do it. Now question. Did you ever have like a season where there’s like a dark night of the soul where you’re just like, I don’t know if I can keep doing this? Because maybe maybe traction was taking longer to catch on? Or I don’t know, maybe there’s just more self doubt. Like, did you ever have one of those moments where you were really, really low? And what did you do to get out of that? Because obviously you’re here right now. 


Melissa Turner 27:09 

I mean, that’s that’s something that I’m constantly fighting. We’re all I feel like we’re all constantly fighting that but I’ll share with you Shawn. The I think the launch pad that really got me where I am today was right after you sit you say dark nights who right after I had my first kid, Maggie, she’s eight now almost nine. She’s like nine going on 36. So I don’t really know how old she is. almost 10 years ago, I had we had moved to a new city in Minnesota. And I was eight months pregnant. And we knew that 


Shawn Zajas  27:45 

by the way, I don’t think you can say it that way. I think you need to say Minnesota, 


Melissa Turner 27:48 

Minnesota. My northeast accent isn’t gonna come out then. I had to. But we moved to Minnesota and eight months pregnant first kid freaked out I was totally I was so scared. Right. Didn’t know anybody didn’t even have a house when we moved there. We moved there. We lived out of it and extended stay hotel for for a couple months till we got a house will really be moved to the house two weeks before she came. And she came early anyway. So this is like I’m not going to tell the whole birth story. That’s if you if you want to hear that that’s over a glass of wine or something. We can swap stories. But anyway, the dark moments came after that. There was an entire year of postpartum depression. And those oh my goodness, if you haven’t reached rock bottom, thank God that you haven’t because when you do, your whole life changes my whole life change. They’ll tell you. I didn’t even know if I was going to make it to another day. Right. I remember on her on Maggie’s one year birthday. I literally just like she blew out. She was in her diaper outside. You know, we gave her her first like cake. Right? Where are those parents? So she had it all over herself. And it was just a mess and her highchair. And I remember thinking to myself, I had this like big like sigh and almost a physical kind of like, I don’t know, a quiver of that just like released. And it was I literally thought to myself, oh my god, like who? I kept her alive for a year. Like, we’re good. Now we can move forward. And it was out of that it was over over that year of just darkness of I mean, literal darkness because we were in northern Minnesota but also mental and physical and emotional darkness. It was over that year that I really learned to fight. That was the launchpad to say okay, what am I going to do with my life? What am I gonna do? And I wasn’t working. That was when I kind of stopped working clinically full time. And I said what can I do in dentistry? That’s not clinical, that I can kind of help make change and be a leader. And so that that is the the mud and the mire and the murk and that’s, that’s the shit that happened, where these beautiful plants are growing, you know that that was the manure, like I come from farming community, I understand that you have to fertilize the ground, and you have to live in shit for a while for things to really to get that fruit to get that green to get that luscious life that will grow from that. And so, you know, one of the things once once people really get to know me, it’s one of these things where until you’ve reached rock bottom, you might not know why you’re living. But once you do, then you know why you live. And then you can you can also see in other people oh my god, like, I know they reach rock bottom. I know that much like you can sense it and other people too. But it’s I mean, everyone has a story. Everyone has a story. And this is why you’re doing this podcast, too. So thank you. Thank you for having me on to share, to share my story. 


Shawn Zajas  30:56 

Well, Melissa, I’m just thinking like, How many times have I changed the trajectory of where I was going? Because it was uncomfortable. You don’t have the ability to tap out as a mom, I mean, okay, maybe, maybe, maybe you could have tried to through childcare or some other means. But I’m saying oftentimes, I feel like I’ve made this mistake. And I see other people do it, where it’s like, they want to get out of that discomfort instead of yielding to it, and allowing that coal to become a diamond, right, that’s exactly how diamonds are. They’re just what coal under extreme pressure over time, it creates a diamond. And there’s really no shortcut to that. And there’s no other prescription to that you emerge from that. Almost like a phoenix out of the ashes. Like there’s something I love about living here in Phoenix. And it’s just the idea of the Phoenix 


Melissa Turner 31:51 

when I think of Harry Potter to as you say that we just finished reading that with my kids. 


Shawn Zajas  31:56 

But really the fact that it rises out of the ashes, what you get as a backbone, as a, I now have a cultivated resilience in me, I now have a renewed mission of renewed gratitude for the opportunity, I have to be able to live this life, because I’m not shrouded in darkness anymore. And it’s almost like you’ve emerged victorious. And you can almost dance with risk in a way where you’re like, I’m not scared anymore. I don’t know. Like, yeah, I’m still normal. I’m so human. But almost like my greatest fear came upon me. And I realized, I’m victorious. And I feel like that is even your message with a woman you just you have conquered. And then you’re like, hey, who can I? Who can I empower? Who can I release into the greatest version of themselves, so they can find that same exact sense of fulfillment. So thank you, for not giving up during that crazy year. Thank you for not short circuiting it for not taking the shortcut, but actually just walking through that and having the courage to do that. As a new mom, that is such a difficult thing. Like I remember, you know, we have five kids, postpartum depression is real. And I would tell all my my friends that were guys look like you kind of think everything leads up to the pregnancy. And that’s like the the mountain top yay, we had a baby. And you don’t realize, now what do you do with it? How do you make it feel cared for? Like, I don’t know, I don’t want to I don’t want to get into all that. But the fact like that is such a real thing. And even just giving women permission to for it to be messy. And for them to have hormones and for them to have dark times instead of them feeling like there’s something wrong with them. Like there was nothing wrong with you. You know? So I just Yeah, I just want to honor you for that, Melissa, thank you for overcoming. And then using everything you’ve learned to just elevate the people in dentistry? 


Melissa Turner 33:55 

Well, you’re welcome. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s just what I meant to do. I think you hit the nail on the head. And, you know, it’s it’s funny, one of my, one of my favorite things to do. So I go to a lot of conferences, as you know. And one of my favorite things to do is to almost pre judge somebody, like so for instance, if I see somebody who I don’t don’t know yet, who I who I’ve seen on social media and maybe interacted on social media, or heard about, right, you have this, we all have this prejudge of who somebody is before we meet them. And one of my favorite things to do, Shawn is to just kind of like hang around that person for a couple of minutes, and then start talking to them just to get their vibe or whatever, and then start talking to them and in that first, like 60 seconds of talking to this person who I’ve never, you know, really interacted with before. The pre judgment, the it just all changes it completely changes. And that’s one of my favorite moments ever in dentistry at these conferences and I bring it up because you know, it’s in those 60 seconds those first 60 seconds of interacting with somebody, where you realize they have a story where you realize they’re trying to do they’re doing all they can to make positive change to, to make things to innovate, whether it’s through a product or, or mental health or something. We’re just all trying our best. And so when I meet somebody for the first time, that’s when it really comes to the surface. And it’s those moments that I never want to forget. Because they’re so precious. It’s it’s like, okay, I thought this person was one way. But no, no, no, here’s their story. This is what they’re all about. And now we can move forward, because it’s going to take all of us and you know, this, it’s going to take all of us working together and working in parallel and working at different levels, high level, you know, whatever, to really make innovation and dentistry happen, and as well as other industries, too. But, yeah, it’s all it’s going to take all of us to move things along. And it is it’s just in the last, I don’t know, even since COVID. But in the 20 years that I’ve been in dentistry, I’ve seen it change so so, so much, and not that everything in dentistry was bad. No. But there are definitely innovation and improvements that we can make. And I am way off topic now aren’t I? I don’t even know how did I go? 


Shawn Zajas  36:28 

But so the cool thing is Melissa Kay Turner just revealed that it only takes her 60 seconds to get past any pre bias. Don’t hold that. That is amazing. Um, I I know that two of like, my like, all time best friends are people that I originally got offended by when I met them. Really? Yeah. Because I miss judge them. They actually miss judge me. And it took us a while. Like then all sudden, 346 months later, we’re still around each other because we’re in the same community, whatnot. And all of a sudden, we were just finally both open enough to see wow, like, I didn’t realize I totally bombed it with the way that I saw you. I thought you were this, this and this. And so I think it’s amazing. It must, you know, there must be some level of emotional intelligence that you have. That maybe not every just so you know, not everybody has that. That’s amazing. But Melissa, going back to what I just told you, I thought you were pretty cool when I met you, but I was like, okay, Sonia, she’s my girl. Me and Sonia. I also gave Melissa, I don’t really I don’t know, I don’t think we’re vibing at all, I think we’re kind of pretty different. And then at the DEO is the first time I actually got to talk to you in like, a real way. And I was just like, oh my gosh, I even apologize because I was like, okay, like, it wasn’t like it was I thought you were bad. But I didn’t realize how amazing of a person you are and how aligned you are, to just serve and make dentistry great like, like, I, you are such an inspiration. And that’s why I want to interview you. That’s why I wanted to tell your story. And like thank you for letting me know you weren’t off topic on that last one. Okay, so here’s a question. In the last 10 years with this journey, was there a mind set that you had to shed? Or what was one of them? Maybe more challenging ones for you? For you to get to where you’re at today? Either one that you had to shed or one that you you embrace? Either one? Either way? 


Melissa Turner 38:25 

Yeah, I think I think the idea of rejection was one that I had to shed. I mean, of course, don’t get me wrong, I always am like, Oh, my God. Are they going to like me? Right? Are they going to like what I do is this message that I put onto the committee is it going to be accepted, but what I’ve done is, I’ve realized that if, if if someone chooses to be a leader, it’s going to be a lonely, lonely road, whether it’s a leader in technology, or speaking or any kind of position, it’s going to be a lonely road, and it’s going to be full of rejection, you’re gonna get rejected over and over and over and over again. And then you’re gonna have the one time where you don’t get rejected, and your career moves forward, or your business moves forward. And so to me, what I’ve realized and what has helped me with the actual shedding of rejection, is knowing that it’s almost a numbers game. You know, if if we’re finding sponsors for an event, or a podcast or things like that, it’s almost a numbers game just like that. Like, if we reached out to 30 sponsors, we might get one back. And it’s kind of the same, same mentality when I’m thinking of rejection, and mindset, you know, I’m going to try 30 Different things before one thing and succeeds and along the way, people are gonna reject me, businesses are gonna reject me. You know, my abstract may not be accepted for You know, to speak at a certain event. And but but it’s a numbers game. And so taking a step back and understanding the big picture of being like, Okay, I just pick back up and try again, if somebody says no, that’s the worst they can say they say, No, I move on. And so shedding, like, like being able to shed that rejection and help, I don’t know, maybe quantify it has really helped me move forward and not live in fear of what’s going to happen. And I think that kind of correlates with the uncertainty that we were talking about earlier. Also. It’s, it’s what I 


Shawn Zajas  40:35 

know, it also makes it less personal. Yeah. Because because you care. So if you’re going to be heart centered, and you’re going to care, you can’t care what the people that could reject, you would say, like, because then that throws you off your mission. Right? That makes it. So like, literally, as you were saying that this is also why I do this podcast, because like, I’m getting blessed. I don’t know what else to say minister to because as you’re saying that I’m like, that is still something that I have struggled with, like, if I can name a mindset that I need to shed so I can go where I need to go over the next decade. That is though it for me, like I have not succeeded in that. I, it’s hard for me to detach that and make it impersonal. So it doesn’t say something about me. And then I love that you made that parallel to that’s also business like, you know, you’re not sugarcoating if someone’s wanting to start a new idea, right now, the idea of them hitting that grand slam on their first idea, it’s so small, it is so small, it’d be better to just start with the expectation of, hey, if your 30th iteration is the one that’s going to work, then please fail through those one through 29. As fast as you can commit to it, sign up for the journey, there’s going to be the crazy highs and lows, but if what you’re doing is on mission, then then you’re going to continue doing it like that is I mean, do I owe you something for that? Do I need to pay you for for that golden nugget that you just dropped? 


Melissa Turner 42:05 

Just start a meme or something we’re good? Well, but along with that, too, Shawn, and I want to make it clear, you know, along with that, it’s it’s, it’s, it’s experience, it’s being in this industry, since I was a teenager, right? For 20 years, it’s now understanding the players now understanding how it works, how the relationships work, what it means to be a practice owner and have a team what it means for DSOs to come in and landscape. You know, a lot of this comes from just being exposed for two decades, with the ins and outs of the industry. And the same thing to you know, because I’ve had to, and this has definitely helped. Because I’ve worked internally and in bit on advisory boards with a lot of different product and technology companies, I’ve been able to see the tries, there’s 29 tries before the 30th is successful, I’ve been able to see the fails and the reiterations that have to happen. And so, you know, the mindset that I have, I don’t expect everyone to have it, and especially not right away. You know, it’s it comes with just being exposed for long periods of time, to these kinds of methods into this mindset into the business world, really. So I don’t want to I don’t want people to think that like, oh my god, like, how can I get there? How can I? How can I do that right away. But it’s it’ll come with experience. And with time, it will. 


Shawn Zajas  43:33 

But that’s kind of like almost like circling back to the whole parenthood thing. Like, just like the message to the audience is like, just start now. Yeah. Oh, but I don’t know if I’m ready. You’re ready enough? If you’re a dental professional, you are smart enough, resilient enough, capable enough to Oh, my gosh, okay. So normally, I don’t like connect the dots between people. But I interviewed Minal. Yeah. And she said that. Yeah, she said that a therapist of hers or coach, way back when said, if you are able to think of something, then you actually have the power to do it. So like, meaning, if you have the power, if you think that maybe someday you could have an event and host it and lead you actually have the power within you to do that. Like that’s just like up. Wow. So our listeners right now, if they’re thinking because that’s what I love, we’re able to share things but the real takeaways that people are getting are what’s between the lines of what we’re saying what they’re hearing in their head of like, that’s the thing I need to do. That’s the passion that I’ve been making excuses as to why I’m not doing and I just want to be like forget the excuses like no one. No one’s looking at you and there’s no one’s gonna like shame you if you step up and try something. Like just just go we actually like you and we want you to succeed. We want people to step up and own the gift of who they are, and shine the light on that Only they can shine. So Melissa, if someone’s listening right now, and they’re like, oh my gosh, like this, because one thing you can do because of your experience is you can actually help short. Really, there is actually shortcuts when it comes to like you can help someone identify, instead of 29 tries, maybe it’s just going to be six or seven, because I can help with intelligence, with experience really just, I mean, it’s the whole idea of parents saying that you’re there, their ceiling becomes our floor that that’s the whole point of inheritance of legacy is to pass on to the next generation so they can do a better job. So if someone wants to get a hold of you and say, hey, I want to work with Melissa K Turner, where do you want their eyes to go? 


Melissa Turner 45:40 

Well, you know, any social media is fine. So the tooth girl on Instagram, you can slip in my into my DMs that is perfectly okay, it might take a while to get back to you. But Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, I am I am on tick tock. But it is confusing as hell, I have no idea what to do on tic tac. So don’t reach out to me there. But you can do any other social media or go to my website at Melissa K There’s, there’s a Contact Form widget on there that you can that comes directly to my team, and they’ll send it to me. And so that’s probably the fastest way to get a hold of me. But then as soon as I meet you in person, I mean, I’ll give you my phone number, and we’ll be texting every day. So there you go. BFFs forever. 


Shawn Zajas  46:25 

Okay, so I’ve had two questions. One of them I’ve never asked, and the other one is kind of like classic, classic clothes. So if we’re looking at the next decade of your life, and we’re recognizing the it’s like a chapter in the book of you. What is that chapter titled? 


Melissa Turner 46:47 

Well, I would think and this correlates very well with our theme for our upcoming mobile conference in March. So our theme for that conference is Unleash, it’s called Unleash 2024. And that is probably going to be my theme for the next decade or two. Mostly, because, you know, so much of my life has been built around, being a mom, being a parent, giving my kids you know, my all and showing them what it’s like to be able to make change, but to be there for the kids. And so, so really, right now I’m giving, I don’t know, maybe 70% of of my energy and my time, to my career. But once my kids become more independent, once they can actually clean up their rooms and get their own snack. You know, this sounds so simple, but that’s when I can unleash. So I don’t know if that’s going to be when they’re 13 or 21. I don’t know. But that’s when I can actually unleash and focus. I think I have ADD ADHD, I don’t know. But it takes a lot for me to try to get to focus. And so my kids are outside my door right now. And I’m like, Oh, my God, like, Are they okay, whatever, whatever. But once they’re independent, then it’s time for me to really sit down and unleash whatever it is I want to do at that point. I’ve got ideas. You know, it’s probably not going to be anything that I’m doing now. It’s just completely different, but it’ll still be in dentistry. But the title, Shawn will be definitely Unleashed. But if that changes, I’ll let you know. Because who knows? There’s gonna be a million chapters between between now and then as well. And who knows what those titles will be? I don’t know. 


Shawn Zajas  48:33 

Okay, so Melissa, can you picture yourself at age 18? Yes. Okay. So you’re walking down the street and off in the distance, you see 18 year old Melissa K Turner. And, you know, you just have a brief moment to communicate one sentiment to her to leave with her like almost like to encourage her with for what is going to be ahead. What do you say to her? 


Melissa Turner 49:01 

I would say to her that it is okay to change. And this is this is one of the strongest themes in my life that I tell my kids that I teach my kids, and also in my marriage, and with any of my close friends, it is okay to change. I think so often, we don’t allow ourselves to do 180s. Right. Like we know, for instance, if we know we’re on a dark path, and we know we’re surrounding ourselves with negativity, if if we understand that we can change a full one eighty tomorrow, and just make that choice to change. I think that’s one of the biggest gifts that we can give other people but also to ourselves. And I think one of the examples is when I was I was a really shy kid growing up and when I I went to high school I went to my parents gave me the choice to go to a new high school or stick with the ones that that all my friends were going to. And I’m like, I’m gonna go to this new high school, and I’m going to kind of, you know, do a 180. And I’m not going to be shy anymore. And, and on day one I was, you know, intentionally making friends and intentionally trying to, you know, figure out what not shy Melissa is all about. And that was my first lesson, I think in in really allowing myself to, to change and now, I mean, I’m changing all the time. I mean, as soon as, as soon as I think I know myself, I’m like, Okay, let’s, let’s do this and see, see what this side of Melissa is about. So I think that’s, I think that’s what I would tell 18 year old Melissa is, is don’t be afraid to change, allow yourself to change whenever you want. 


Shawn Zajas  50:52 

Okay, so that is beautiful on so many levels. So to the listeners right now. It’s like, I almost feel like you also just took out, like some boxes, like if you felt boxed in with the way that you’re viewed as a clinician, or if you felt boxed in the way that you’re viewed as a leader, or just an owner in your own practice. It’s like, it doesn’t have to be that way. Like Melissa Kate Turner is giving you permission to step up, to change to embrace that identity that you know, you can embrace. That’s true to who you are. And it’s going to bring more fulfillment, Melissa, seriously, it has been such an honor. And it’s been so easy to honor you, as an innovator as someone that’s really making a difference in dentistry. I love all the things you’re a part of, I’m super excited to see what the next decade actually brings. And I just wanna let you know, like I am in your corner. I am, like rooting for you to continue just to be the best version of you that you can be. So you can just shine that light. And really just like give people the gift of who you are. So thank you for letting me interview you today. 


Melissa Turner 51:52 

Shawn, thank you. It’s been a pleasure. And I really hope that you know, this conversation that you and I have and that you’re having with every other guest can just continue, you know, continue into the future because these are the things that we don’t often talk about in dentistry. So, also thank you for giving this platform to all of us to tell our story. 


Shawn Zajas  52:16 

Thank you. Thanks for listening, and be sure to follow so you never miss an episode. To learn more about what’s going on in dentistry. Check out innovation in 

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