In all my years of analyzing businesses, I've come to realize that success has some common denominators, which can be seen as the entrepreneur's mindset.

It comes down to excellence in four areas: excellence for the craft; excellence in value creation, so that they can get others to appreciate their skills; excellence in business sense, to make their vision profitable and sustainable; and excellence in life experience so they can integrate their work and life in powerful ways. People who have passion in these four areas tend to live incredibly interesting and fulfilling lives.

Every dentist has the capacity to live by this mindset, but not all do. In fact, in my experience I have found that there are three levels of success in dentistry, which are defined by three kinds of dentists:

The Struggling: have not mastered the fundamentals of ownership and as a result they have seen limited success, both financially and emotionally. Fortunately, dentistry is a profession with a well-established business model, and it attracts creative and analytical people, so this is a rather small group.

The Comfortable: make up the largest category by far, and in this case, comfort is not a good thing. These dentists have become well-established in their systems and daily routines and they have achieved a certain level of economic success. They're doing good and that feels good enough.

The Optimizers: have figured out that the practice of dentistry – when pursued at the highest levels – can be the gateway to an incredible life of economic success, professional fulfillment and personal freedom. These are the dentist-entrepreneurs.

My career for the most part has been dedicated to trying to get Comfortable dentists who are doing good to see how close they are to doing great. Everything they need is there – all the tools and conditions are in place – but a frustratingly large number of dentists will never know how close they were to greatness.

If you find yourself struggling or stuck in a comfort zone, get engaged now. It's never too late to optimize practice success and you have the keys to get you to the next level – a functioning practice and a dental degree. Armed with those two things, there is absolutely no reason you can't seize the rewards of an entrepreneurial mindset, become an Optimizer, and get the most from your career and your life.