What comes after success

Dr. Josh Everts gives guidance to people who keep wanting more success but don’t know where to start.

800x400 oms360Dr. Josh Everts offers techniques on how to achieve fulfillment


Simply put, success is getting what you want. This often begins with a goal that started long ago, one that was inspired by a vision of something you desired. You then started on a journey, charting your path, planning the steps, and creating a course with your eyes focused on achievement. This invariably comes with hurdles and adaptations, each one gifting you with the experience, knowledge, and confidence to move forward. It feels good, and the more you do, the more you want to do. If not, if things unravel or fall short, then we adjust and modify the goal as we go. This is often mixed with setbacks and delays, but with persistence, it starts to build on itself. The momentum and inertia of eventual wins gives you what feels like a runner’s high. It is hard work and can be downright difficult, but the work gives you a sense of pride. You feel great and start to see yourself crossing the finish line. And then it happens. You wake up one day to realize that you have accomplished what you set out to do. You built a business, you hit your mark, and you are doing what you had always hoped you would do. Then you take stock of what you have achieved and decide if you have what you want or if you want more. Either way, the work is not done. Tomorrow is another day with more challenges and tasks and problems that wait for you.

Strangely enough, success seems to have diminishing returns. Even if you march a steady slope of success, the more you achieve, the more you need to succeed to feel the same satisfaction, often putting you at a combined effect of two heavy realizations: 1) after accomplishing more, you must do exponentially more and 2) significant dissatisfaction with your surroundings. This is the professional version of both the Hedonic Adaptation and the Diderot Effect.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison

With the Hedonic Adaptation, our expectations rise in tandem with our level of achievement. This has been referred to as “abundance denial” and describes the desensitization of circumstances that have previously brought us a sense of wellbeing. What was once a great accomplishment becomes something almost unnoticed or even expected. Similar to emotional dampening, it happens with commercial success as well, where the more you succeed, the harder you have to work to produce similar successes. There is no wonder this is also referred to as a treadmill and is a driving factor behind professional burnout.

Denis Diderot originally described the Diderot Effect as the overwhelming sense of inadequacy towards his current possessions after receiving a new elegant dressing gown. Compared to his new shining acquisition, everything he owned seemed tawdry and did not live up to the style of his new standard. Diderot then replaces these previously adequate possessions with more costly ones. He states, “I was the absolute master of my old dressing gown, but I have become a slave to my new one.” As you master your profession, you also become a slave to its success or failure. This new success leads to a desire to acquire more wins, often in areas unrelated to the initial success. You feel pressured to have it all. It can even create dissatisfaction with your life as a whole in comparison to the success you have achieved in your work.

Have I ruined success for you? Don’t get me wrong, I am an Enneagram 3 Achiever (Enneagram is a system of analysis that represents the spectrum of possible personality types.) and would not be where I am today without my desire to succeed. It drives me and pushes me to work tirelessly at my craft and approach my life with a bend toward continuous improvement. I would venture to guess that if you are reading this, you too share my desire to succeed. I am not here to offer you a solution to this obsession. I will say that gratefulness is the key to appreciating your success and keeping your mind from skipping over what you have accomplished. Gratitude allows you to reflect and take stock of where you are in relation to where you have been and gives you a real perspective on what is happening around you. This is how you recognize that you are successful.

Although the daily practice of gratitude helps tremendously, it is not the full answer to the never-ending hunger to succeed. What I am suggesting, however, is what happens when you move past success and focus on fulfillment.


Fulfillment is becoming who you have the potential to be. It is discovering what you truly love and setting out on a new path to become that truth. True fulfillment comes from progress, incremental improvements that build the foundation for greatness. I wish it were not true, but we are terrible predictors of what our future selves will find satisfying. Therefore, the pursuit of what we will be rather than what we will have offers a more likely environment for emotional highs.

“It is never too late to be the person you could have been.” — George Eliot

Let me back up and explain how we get to fulfillment in the first place. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs starts with the basic needs of physiology. In business, this starts with the things we need to survive. Our food and shelter show up as customers and cash flow. For this, we develop processes and systems to create the safety and security we need to move up. Then we focus on our teams — a culture of caring is how we feel we belong. This gives us a sense of respect for ourselves and those we have surrounded ourselves with. A real team. An actual business. A successful product.

Here is where it gets tricky. We are highly motivated to meet the lower level needs, and that motivation changes as we fill in deficiencies. Just because we have satisfied a need does not mean that we have optimized that need. It is not required to meet a need with maximal effect before we start looking to the next level. Once a need has been satisfied to a minimally acceptable level, we quickly turn our attention to the next level. And, as we progress up the triangle, our motivation actually diminishes for the lower levels. We even turn a blind eye to needs we have previously addressed. At a certain point, we “arrive” at a sufficient level at which our motivation almost disappears, and we then desire a certain degree of homeostasis. Amazingly enough, this happens before we get to the highest level of “self-actualization.”

I think many of us find ourselves here and don’t know how to proceed. I would argue that it often requires reflection and introspection. This gives us permission to return to the start and re-evaluate if our systems and processes need to be refined to build the foundation necessary to move up. Admitting you are discontented is the first step. Finding the source of the discontent is where the work begins. Identify inefficiencies and waste with an eye for making it easy — easy for your business and easy for your customer.

Most people are seeking a higher level of growth, but we become distracted in our pursuit. We learn the basics, satisfying each need with enough to be average, and then we look for the new great thing to propel us forward. It is almost as if the first few levels are “beneath” us, and continuing to focus our attention there might admit we are not any better than a professional just starting their journey. “Been there, done that.” I would argue that mastering the basics is actually the key to being ruthlessly effective. The basics might seem simple but that doesn’t mean they’re simplistic. Those who are achieving the best results probably don’t have some secret process or magical procedure. They merely understand the fundamentals better than others.

Unfashionable problems are undervalued. The most basic issues are often minimized because of their lack of appeal and mundane feel. The natural instinct is to follow the shining object and work on something flashing with high promise. But the other extreme is also true, and you can get bogged down in meaningless details. Don’t worry equally about everything. Doing good work is built on the basics of that work — small improvements of repeated activities. Stringing together small opportunities that lead to incremental advances will pay off like compounding interest. Each strength will build on the last and place distance between where you are now and where you were.

When it comes to fulfillment, there is no such thing as a quantum leap, only enthusiastic persistence. Passion and perseverance are a deadly combination. Focus on daily determination and resolve to put one foot in front of the other, walking away from the space you occupied previously and onward to a new future despite inevitable hardships. More specifically, you identify problems, make hypotheses, run experiments, collect data, and make changes to improve results. The results are real progress. This is not about more money, more work, or even more recognition. Great caution should be had towards a focus on prestige and money alone. These should only be byproducts of the type of person you are becoming along the way and the value you are creating.

“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you’ll make a living; if you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune.” — Jim Rohn


It takes exponentially more effort to make changes the higher the level of change. This means you have to be very selective about the few things you choose to do that are worth doing. If they are worth doing, then they are worth doing better than average. This is how you work towards mastery.

The word “mastery” can have many meanings. I think a better word is “agency” — a sense of control that comes from your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behaviors. This gives you the confidence to handle a wide variety of new tasks and environments. You build this faith in your abilities by intentionally committing to a thoughtful future and acting in alignment with a set plan. This is balanced by a deliberate practice of focused thought that allows for affirming or adapting your course and further strengthening the sense of mastery. An agent is master of his domain who has decided who they will and will not become, and has set a course based on the things they can control to pursue greatness in their field.

“You don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.” — Randall Munroe

The most important determinant of mastery is diligence — shear willfulness balanced by discipline to be patient with the process and focus on the mundane. This does not happen without being earnest, defined as “resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction.” Focus on what matters now, as well as what doesn’t. Intentionality.

Mastery is not only about getting better at your craft, but also about finding ways to eliminate the obstacles, distractions, and other annoyances that prevent you from working on your craft. Top performers find ways to spend as much time as possible on what matters and as little time as possible on what doesn’t. It is not someone else’s responsibility to create the conditions for success. You have to actively eliminate the things that don’t matter from your workload. If you haven’t figured out how to do that, you haven’t mastered your craft.

josh everts, dds


This pursuit is a progression from who you are now to who you aspire to be. You make progress by being challenged by those around you. It is the bitter awareness of where you are and where you would like to be. This gap creates a dissonance — a feeling of discomfort, tension, weight. This discomfort is different from the previously described emptiness of meaningless successive accomplishments. This discomfort is one that knows you can be better and is excited about its prospects.

Identification of gaps and deficiencies also requires knowledge of blind spots. This is best accomplished through the vulnerability of strategic partnerships. It admits that you don’t know everything, which opens you up to learning what you don’t know. More commonly known as curiosity, it can feel a lot like vulnerability. It takes the humility to know that you don’t know it all and the teachable spirit to go looking for it.

Do not ignore the power of collaboration. The degree that great work happens in clusters suggests that one’s partners and associates often make the difference between doing great work and not. Ambitious people encourage more ambition in other ambitious people. Iron sharpens iron. I think the overwhelming difference in professional trajectory lies in those you choose as your close company. Be aware of character and commitment when choosing partners. You will multiply your impact, either good or bad, based on your team’s composition.

Beyond success

The stoics labeled those that embarked on this journey as “tryers” (proficientes). They took a theory, put it into practice, mastered a skill, and then taught those around them. This first requires you to realize imperfections and generate a desire to improve and to clear your mind of irrational beliefs. This desire often comes as a “wake up” where you see things in a different light. And most importantly, you use time to your advantage and develop a habit of trying.

I hope that this article has opened your eyes to how to achieve fulfillment by making incremental progress, mastery through enthusiastic focus, and community with strategic partners. Apply gratitude, introspection, persistence, diligence and collaboration. Know that it will be work, but work that fulfills our deepest desires. Work that takes us beyond success. This is a call not to have more or do more, but to be more.

Wanting more out of your implant practice means preparing for some of the challenges that come along with it. Read “Planning for success: reducing risks for peri-implant disease” here: https://implantpracticeus.com/industry-news/planning-for-success-reducing-risks-for-peri-implant-disease/.

josh everts, dds, mdJosh Everts, DDS, MD, is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in private practice with multiple locations across Alabama and Georgia. He is also a founding doctor and board member for the specialty management support organization OMS360, where he brings his passion for systems and processes to help practices achieve growth by maximizing efficiencies, optimizing results, and alleviating stressors.

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Earn dental continuing education credits as an Implant Practice US subscriber. Log in for online dental CE credits now!

Other Dental Publications

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