EP 95: Teamwork Secrets for Dentists [from an Olympic medalist]

What can a champion figure skater teach you about success in a dental practice? It turns out, a lot. Because winning an Olympic medal is much like building a winning practice.

What are the secrets? Find out in our exclusive interview with U.S. Olympic medalist, Nancy Kerrigan.

You’ll discover:

  • The life-changing magic of self-belief
  • Why you cannot be a champion without a team to support you
  • How c – – – – -, p- – – – – – -, and m- – – – – – are keys to your growth
  • Priceless lessons from adversity that you don’t want to learn yourself (Nancy did for you)
  • How to stop the doubters from wrecking your future
  • And much more …

Welcome to the Double Your Production podcast with the Team Training Institute, the one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it, who are in the trenches, who know exactly what you are going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs.

Dr. John Meis: Good morning, everybody. And welcome to this edition of the Double Your Production podcast. I'm Dr. John Meis here with Wendy Briggs and we have a celebrity in our midst today. We are here with the amazing Nancy Kerrigan. Hello, Nancy.

Nancy Kerrigan: Morning. So happy to join you.

Dr. John Meis: Yeah, it's great to be with you. As many of you know, Nancy Kerrigan, national skating champion, two time Olympic medal winner. And really there's so many things as I was learning more about you, Nancy, there's so many things there's so many way that you fit into the theme of champions and Nancy is going to be a guest speaker at our annual Champions of Dentistry Summit. And we always have some type of champion, but as I read more about your story, I just found it fascinating, all the things that you accomplished, all the things that your family accomplished. And, it's an amazing story.

Nancy Kerrigan: Thank you very much. It's been quite a journey for me.

Wendy Briggs: I'm sure. And I'm sure our guests are going to be excited to learn a little bit more about you. Nancy, I'm curious. Dr. John mentioned our theme is champions and we have a lot of people who strive to be the best at what they do in their respective fields. I'm curious how long you dreamed of being an Olympic champion. Was this something that you wanted since childhood? How long was that a goal for you and how long had you had that vision to accomplish those things?

Nancy Kerrigan: Well, once I got on the ice, when I was six years old, I started and I just loved it. I loved to go fast and I always knew I could do more and wanted to get better and better. The dream of going to the Olympics, probably in 1991, the year before the Olympics, I was third in the world. And that now seems like, wow, I actually could make the Olympic team. This makes sense. And to presume before that, first of all, it's really hard. We have an enormous country with so many great athletes, great skaters, and actually in the field that I was growing up with, they happened to be extraordinarily, very good, very deep. And it's a judged sport. So to presume that you might be one of two or three that can make the team, I mean, I was always logical and that just seems a little arrogant.

And maybe I was arrogant as a teenager, knowing like, hey, that guy can do that. I'm going to be able to do... I saw somebody do a triple triple, and I thought I could do that. And within a week I did. So I had that kind of belief in myself. But to know that you could actually become an Olympian. I mean, my mom used to say, "I never thought I'd know an Olympian, never mind my daughter be one." It just is sort of, we grew up thinking it's the best of the best. And how do you attain that? So I just trained to be the best that I could be and see where that took me. It was hard to always think ahead that far. We always made as a family, a realistic, yearly goal.

And if I made it... There was a video of my dad having this interview and he said, "And if we made that goal, great. We'd keep supporting her. We'd keep going. And she'd keep trying. And if not, maybe we could quit." And the excitement that was a possibility was so funny. I'm like, that didn't happen. Why are you so excited about this? But it was hysterical because it's such a commitment, not just for the athlete, but an entire family. I mean, it's so expensive. Everything revolves around sports and timing and vacations become where the competitions are. And so it's time-consuming and a huge commitment, but it really was a reality in '91, I'm like, hmm, okay.

And it's so funny because they weren't talking about me at the National Championship so much like I could be an Olympian. Like, oh, she's going to make the team. It was kind of funny because they didn't put that pressure on me at that point. I don't know why, because I was third in the world. So you'd think they would have a little more faith in me, but I was already being called old on national TV at 21. So there was always that question. Well, when you're old, how can you do this? Which is crazy. I mean, look at our athletes today. They're going into their forties and still winning. And so it's amazing. It's amazing what people are able to accomplish when maybe they're rooted on and not till they're just old. It's so weird.

Wendy Briggs: [inaudible 00:05:30] that.

Dr. John Meis: Nancy, one of the things about dental practices is they're very much a team, right? And so you were the performer, but you had a tremendous team around you starting with your parents [inaudible 00:05:45] to fund the skating and all the things that you and your family were doing. And so tell us a little bit about the teamwork that went into your great career.

Nancy Kerrigan: You are absolutely correct. Nobody gets anywhere by themselves, really. You have to rely on others and also there's no shame in asking for help either. I mean, sometimes you need help. You need to ask because everybody can't read your mind and know what you need to become better and know what you need to be at your best. And I think, yeah, it was coaches, my parents, my brothers. I had a friend whose dad used to pick me up at school and take me two towns over to a rink to practice, then wait, and then take me to another rink to practice. And even when his son was sick for two weeks, he still did it every day. There is a team that goes so far beyond what you even think of support. And I was so blessed and lucky to have that.

It's real amazing to me how... Which is why I try to pass that on with others as well. And with my kids and their friends and their parents helping out when they need it. Because it makes such a big difference for people. It takes some stress off them and it creates a good environment for someone to be at their best. And I just feel so lucky. It wasn't until later on, I had a sports psychologist that was until after '93 and no nutritionist or anything like that. We didn't have all that stuff that a lot of athletes start very young. It just, I was lucky I had great coaching and I happened to be a good, hard worker most of the time. I always figure if you work hard, you should play hard too. So, sometimes if the coaches weren't there, we had some fun in the rink, but it definitely is a lot of timing with good luck and definitely good support around you. It means so much to me that I was lucky enough to have that.

Wendy Briggs: That is amazing. I mean, as a parent now there's a lot of juggling that happens. So how amazing that you had a friend whose dad was able to pick you up and take you to practice and he didn't know you were going to be the champion that you turned out to be, right? So that's just a kindhearted person that was willing to help. I think that's amazing. So when we look at all your lists, Dr. John just mentioned a couple things and the amazing thing about interviewing somebody like you on our podcast is that so many people already know you, right? So we don't have to list all of the accomplishments, but that could have taken the entire 20 minutes is just reading off everything that you accomplished in your life. And I love this story that you set a goal every year.

What were some of the things that you worked on every day? So one of the things that we like to do with our members is say, okay, where do you want to be three or five years from now? And then we kind of break it down and talk about what do we do in the next 90 days? Did you do some of those types of things too? Or, you mentioned that when you to do a triple, you did it in a week. That's amazing. What happens if you blow through that goal? Did you set another one? What were your tactical steps to help you accomplish the goals that you were setting?

Nancy Kerrigan: Yeah. Well, I mean, a goal like that say, when I wanted to do a triple triple. I was 14 or 15. You get it in a week, but doing it in a week isn't really performing it at your best so that you can do it in a performance with judges watching, because the anxiety, the anticipation, all of that stuff can get in the way. You're a teenager questioning yourself. Can I do this? All the nerves. So you have to train something. So my coaches would, we would talk together and figure out what we needed to do. I had Mary and Evie [Scoppold 00:09:43] from the time I was about 15 on and they would have these things where I had to do at least 80% of the time, any jumps to put in a performance. And that was really hard because it was really funny if I do eight in a row and then miss nine, he'd make me start over.

So I'm like, wait a minute. I actually made 80%. Because we would try and do eight out of 10. If you do eight out of 10, you can put it in. And that was eight out of 10 daily. You have to be able to be consistent because otherwise how can you have that confidence in what you're doing? You need to have consistency and preparation is so key for that. So that we would do things like that. And some things that I know other coaches didn't do, we would perform because a lot of it's cardio because you're on the ice. You're always moving. Even when you're still you're in position. It's very difficult. Some sports it's cardio for 30 seconds and then you're done, 30 seconds then... It's different with this. You're just going for four minutes and that's really tough. And so we would do our routines back to back.

You finish and rewind because we would use tapes way back and then start again. So that gave me a little more time. Once it was CDs, it was instant. Oh it was hard. But it was really a great exercise because if you can do 12 triples in eight minutes, six and four is easy, right? Or five or whatever it was trying to do.

And it made the confidence going into any event a lot better than it would've been. Even if it's just getting through because there was a time I called the long program, the four minute death march, because it was just exhausting and you hurt after. And I was like, wait, I'm looking at this all wrong. I have to look at this in a positive way instead of a negative way because it's not helping me get better. It was just sort of pulling me back. And so I had to think of this as more of a challenge or something and just a different light. So yeah. So we definitely had those kind of daily things where you had to hit goals so much per day and it made a big difference in that preparation.

Dr. John Meis: Yeah. I love that daily goal and then going through whatever steps it takes to hit that and that goal is probably always a little bit beyond your reach so that you're always getting better and better. That's awesome. I think I know what you're going to answer about this, but in your skating career, what's your proudest accomplishment?

Nancy Kerrigan: Oh my skating career. Good point. Because I would've said kids of course, right?

Dr. John Meis: Yeah, of course, of course.

Nancy Kerrigan: But it definitely was coming back from the '93 World Championships and all the work I put in to be ready for '94, being able to compete as part of the Olympic team for a second time. I mean, what an honor. It was unfortunate I didn't get to compete at the National Championships, but I had to basically compete against expectations with judges watching to make that Olympic team. And it was really, they were really tough. I missed one thing in a program and there were judges like, well I don't know, is she ready? And I was coming back from a very big injury and they were still being tough. And I had one judge that's now actually a good friend of mine, but she was like, yeah, it was crazy. She still has three weeks to go and she missed one thing and you guys are... This, is huge pressure. It was really different.

And so after having trouble in the '93 Worlds, it was amazing that the preparation I had the whole year prior to '94 made such a big difference in me being able to come back as well as I did. I was way more prepared mentally. So I think that being able to go and compete and represent the United States was an unbelievable honor to be able to be a part of a team like that. So as you said, I'm an individual athlete. So I would go out in the ice and I'm alone. But to march behind that American flag, with the best of the best and the Winter Olympians it and to be one of them, it was an amazing feeling, an amazing feat for me. And just to be part of that was huge honor.

Dr. John Meis: And so you had all that stress going into '94 and then in the '94 Olympics from the excerpts that I read about you, you did your best routine at the crunch moment of the Olympics.

Nancy Kerrigan: Yeah. Well, all that preparation came into play and I did do one event prior. It was Nancy Kerrigan and Friends where a bunch of people came out to perform just so I could have a performance ahead of time because having a comeback from being attacked, it could be a huge applause. You just don't know what to expect. And so it was just maybe to get that out of the way so I would know a little bit more how excited the crowd would be for me. But I mean, I had letters coming from all over the world, buckets full daily. And so I knew there was such huge support and I think it's a lot of perspective. You have to have good perspective going into something and that could have been pressure, but instead use it as fuel. That's fuel. All these people believe in me. They all want me to do well.

And it was a little bit of pressure, but at the same time, you just want to do the best you can. And I think you always do your best when you're having fun and you know what? I was so just happy to be a part of that team again and be able to be there and be well enough to compete that I just thought, you know what, I've been doing this my whole life. This is an amazing moment. Enjoy it. And so that's what I did. And I think that's why the outcome was so good for me.

Wendy Briggs: I love that part of your story, Nancy. I'm sure looking back, you probably have times, especially in the moment where you wished you hadn't had that injury. Right? But what I love about your story is that you overcame it, right? I mean, it really is such an amazing thing. So what would you say? You mentioned a couple themes that are awesome, that we talk about a lot. Consistency, preparation, mindset. All of those things are really, really important. As you look back now being old, all of the negative things that people were saying, [crosstalk 00:17:14].

Nancy Kerrigan: I thought you were calling me old.

Wendy Briggs: No, no, no, no, no. Being old at that moment. And then having to recover from this highly traumatic incident, all the negative things in your brain as a young person, any person, the negative thoughts can sometimes take over right?

Nancy Kerrigan: Again.

Wendy Briggs: But you didn't allow that and you stepped up and you really delivered. And we just had the opportunity to watch Sean White perform at the Olympics. I mean we couldn't have timed this any better. We just finished an amazing Winter Olympic event. And so all this is kind of fresh for us. But what would you say really helped you overcome and work past that setback?

Nancy Kerrigan: Oh, well it was the preparation that I had been doing for the previous year. So I finally got an... I got fifth place at the World Championships in '93. I was first in the short program and I dropped to fifth. That was the lowest I ever was internationally. And that was really tough. And so for a long time, I was like, I just wasn't good enough. I don't understand, why did I blow it? But as I got older, so my coaches got me this sports psychologist. But thinking back, I had a doctor on our team for the US figure skating team. And I had an ingrown toenail that was so infected and killing me and he took it off, my entire toenail the night before the long program. So I mean, think of how much pain that is, put it in your shoe.

Now, put it in a super tight ice skate. First of all, it was hard to get my foot in and use your toe like a pole vault. I mean, it was excruciating. So it wasn't just that I wasn't good enough. I was in excruciating pain. But because I had that sports psychologist, she actually went over. Now I already had one Olympic medal. So I thought I was doing something right. We were training well. But she taught me how to compete. I had already been competing for 17 years. So it made such a big difference. I actually practiced how I would compete two or three days a week for the whole year. So that preparation was enormously helpful.

So that gave me all kinds of confidence that I probably didn't have before. I knew I was good, but I worked hard, but this was a difference. I really trained competing. And that made a huge difference for me. Also, as we talked about teamwork, I had such support and I've always been very, very logical. And so to let other people take over and decide my fate. If I had anything to say about it with hard work to get better, I wanted to make my own decisions and work for what I had as a goal and not let someone else get in the way. And so I had huge support doing that. And you don't want to let people down because they're there helping you. And there was a lot to do. There was a lot of work to do. But I didn't think of myself as old by the way, 23 years old, 24 years old.

Wendy Briggs: And I still wasn't calling you old because we're probably fairly close to the same age I think. I don't know. I haven't even looked at that. But I remember, I was in college when you competed in the '94, in that era. And I was actually in hygiene school and I can remember that very, very clearly, how much invested in you I was, and I didn't even know you. Right. So I'm sure you had millions of people that were the same way pulling for you and I'm sure that did help you. But the amazing thing is it had to have been immense pressure.

I think that's one thing that we see in the world today. We look at everything that over the past years and we're like, oh gosh, life just is so hard. But it's always going to be hard and there's always challenges. And so what we love to do is look at those who really have overcome and take what lessons we can from their story. And that's one of the reasons we're so excited to have you come and share with our members. Right. I think they'll get a lot out of it. And I think it'll be fun just to even be around you in that way.

Nancy Kerrigan: Well, thank you very much. Yes.

Dr. John Meis: Yeah. We're so excited to be with you again here soon at the Champions of Dentistry Summit. Do you mind giving a little sneak peek of what our participants are going to learn and experience when you speak?

Nancy Kerrigan: Well, I think because... Is it my right understanding that the theme is champions, right?

Wendy Briggs: Right.

Dr. John Meis: Got it.

Nancy Kerrigan: Yeah. So it's perfect with a speech that I've done a couple times, but it depends on what it's about. But it's a lot about what we've been talking about. Preparation, perseverance, getting through those hard times and the pressure, how to deal with pressure. I have probably a very different way that I dealt with some of the pressure than most athletes, at least from what I've heard. And definitely there's some talk about teamwork because it is so important to rely on each other, help each other. We can learn every day something new and never think you're at your best, I think is important to always think you can get better. You can learn more. It doesn't matter if you are the best. There's something new. We're always innovating things. We're always creating new stuff. And so there's always more to be learned. And I think so to stay a student of your craft, whatever it is to be able to better yourself.

Dr. John Meis: Love that message.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. We love that. And I'm so excited too, that our attendees are going to be able to have a photo with you. That's always a highlight of our Champions of Dentistry Summit. And so we're so delighted that you've agreed to come and share your message with us and spend some time with our attendees. I think it's going to be a phenomenal experience for them and I can't wait to hear your message myself as well.

Nancy Kerrigan: Well, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to it.

Dr. John Meis: Yeah. Well, thanks again, Nancy, for being on with us. We look forward to being with you again very soon at the Champions of Dentistry Summit. That's it for this episode of the Double Your Production podcast. Thanks for being with us. We'll see you next time.

Wendy Briggs: Thanks everybody.

Nancy Kerrigan: Thank you very much. We'll see you soon.

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