The Patchwork Quilt

When I first began coaching dentists in the mid-90’s I knew absolutely nothing about the business of dentistry.
What I DID know about was:
1. the personal development movement
I had read Covey’s “7 habits” in the early 80’s and was galvanised into sorting out my own life – and then helping others to organise theirs. I immersed myself in other books on self-awareness.
This had led me to further reading on
2. the SME movement (small to medium-sized enterprises)
The seminal “find” was Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited” and, with that enlightenment, began a journey into the works of many other writers and thought leaders on management,  leadership and entrepreneurship.
3. the coaching movement
Discovering Thomas Leonard and “Coach University” in 1993 was a turning point, an epiphany that, along with Dan Sullivan and The Strategic Coach (in the same year), were to change my direction in career and begin the journey that led to coaching and then to dentistry.
4. the mid-life movement
In 1998, during a period of low morale following the death of my father, I found The Hudson Institute and “Lifelaunch – a passionate guide to the rest of your life” by Frederic Hudson – a book that gave me permission to be dissatisfied, to seek change and a structured approach to life re-design (I have revisited Hudson’s work many times since).
There have been countless other books, courses and philosophies that have altered my course and created new perspectives and ever-distant horizons.
All in all – I created a patchwwork quilt of other thinkers ideas – adapted that to my own core values and – significantly – began coaching dentists full-time in January 1997 with that quilt as my material. Careful always to give attribution to the originator, I constructed the first “Dental Business School” workshops as an overview of the leading commentators on all aspects of personal and professional development – and then asked my audience to help me “spin” these concepts into dental business.
And so – over a period of years – a curriculum evolved.
A patchwork quilt of other’s ideas.
Then slowly, ever so slowly, in the furnace of toil, the wisdom of experience is fired.
50 practices as clients became 100, then 200, 400, 800 and 1600.
In his book “Bounce: How Champions are Made”, Matthew Syed makes reference to that magical “10,000 hours” of practice that signifies a champion, an expert or a guru. The “ten thousand hours” of experience of working “hands on” with real dental businesses creates case-studies in excellence and shining examples of success.
The patchwork quilt becomes less important – it is still there but acts as a backdrop to the original opinions, thoughts and actions of the true experiential expert.
And then, one day, you are startled to find that somebody else is quoting your original intellectual property in their musings or embracing your ideas in their plans.
You, yourself, have become a patch on someone else’s quilt.
And then you know that you have fulfilled the challenge we were all set by Stephen Covey back in 1980: “to live, to laugh, to love, to learn and – to leave a legacy”
Your legacy is the patch on another’s quilt, personal or professional.
(written with thanks to Neel Jaiswal and Sachin Sedani, who last week, on the 4th & 5th July 2012, made me proudly and humbly realise that I am merely a patch on their quilts)


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.