I know that question sounds crazy; however, I did and actually much, much more. My story starts with the freedom of getting my driver’s license as a sixteen-year-old. I was already hooked on diet soft drinks, so whenever I stopped to buy gas for my car, I would treat myself to an extra-large Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper.
While soft drinks, in general, are not healthy for you, how I was consuming them turned out to be the problem. You see, I loved chewing ice, and I would chew every piece out of every cup purchased. Now that may not seem like a big deal; however, when you multiply my seemingly innocent little habit over the years, it would lead to disaster.
In my junior year of college, I took a job tending bar at Piney Woods Country Club in my hometown of Nacogdoches, TX. I worked lunch on Tuesday, and the mid-afternoon to evening shift on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had regarding the people I served and the lifelong friends I forged. Unfortunately, it also fed my addiction to diet soft drinks and chewing ice as I had free access to as much as I wanted with every shift.
By the time I graduated college in 1991, I was totally hooked. My daily habit consisted of two to three 32 oz or 44 oz sized drinks from 7-11 or in later years once I moved to Dallas, RaceTrac, or QuikTrip. Day in and day out, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, my habit continued until the age of forty, when my dentist noticed something disturbing about my teeth.
I started going to Paul Griffin, who retired just last year when I first moved to Dallas in 1993. And it was during a routine cleaning, which I’ve always done twice a year, that he noticed my problem. For some reason, my teeth were wearing away. Fast forward six months to my next cleaning, and the erosion was clearly worse. Dr. Griffin said he had never seen anything like it and was deeply concerned.
I had never eaten hard candy or any other hard food ever in my life. Further, because we had determined years before that I tended to grind my teeth at night, he had fitted me with a custom mouth guard I used virtually every night. Then it hit me. My ice chewing was the one constant activity in my life that we had never considered. In fact, he had no idea about my insidious little habit and quickly stated, after my confession, that it was the likely culprit.
Remember, the Grand Canyon was created from water. In fact, according to Mother Google, “This natural landmark formed over five to six million years as erosion from the Colorado River cut a deep channel through layers of rock. The Grand Canyon contains some of the oldest exposed rocks on Earth. The mile-high walls reveal a cross-section of Earth’s crust going back nearly two billion years.”
So, in comparison, it would seem feasible that me chewing two to three large cups of ice for about 25 years would ultimately damage my teeth. My ice chewing stopped immediately, and fortunately, the erosion wasn’t too bad at that point. I walked out of Dr. Griffin’s office that day thinking we had dodged a bullet and didn’t give my teeth another thought. Until my next cleaning.
Six months later, when the hygienist greeted me, she said it was time for x-rays. Once the process was complete and she had the opportunity to view my films, she quickly pointed out that the erosion we identified over the past year had continued. In disbelief, I asked how that could be possible since I had quit chewing ice cold turkey. In discussing it further with Dr. Griffin, he suggested that the damage done over the years had apparently set in motion a process that may continue even though I had stopped chewing ice.
To what end, I asked? He said at some point, unless the erosion stopped, I would have to consider implants or veneers. Both procedures are costly; however, he strongly suggested the veneers, the more expensive of the two. Implants are much more invasive concerning the structure of your mouth. Veneers or “crowns” are common enough, with approximately four out of ten people having at least one.
In my case, I would need a complete set for all my teeth, which is extremely expensive. When I asked how expensive, Dr. Griffin reframed from giving an answer and had his front office work up a formal quote. The total was $36,500. Gulp!
My heart pounded, and my mind raced as I processed the astronomical figure in my hand. This was further compounded as I faced the reality that the whole situation was self-inflicted. Those years of chewing ice with no apparent damage had just handed me a most distasteful verdict. I would need to save an extra $36,500 in the next two to three years before the time would run out, and I would be forced to get my veneers.
When I say forced, I mean that he would no longer have enough tooth surface to work with at some point, according to Dr. Griffin. I would then be forced to go with the implant option. That conversation took place in July of 2014. As I left Dr. Griffin’s office that day, I had no idea how I would save that much money so quickly. I had an excellent job in sales; however, I didn’t make that much money. Clearly, I needed a miracle.
Fortunately, I had a recruiter seek to connect with me via LinkedIn that same month. And that connection led to my miracle. The crazy thing is that I first told her no and that I wasn’t looking. Thank God she was persistent and insisted it would be worth a simple phone conversation. That phone call changed my life. In September of 2014, I went to work for Workrite Ergonomics. The base pay was more than double my previous job, allowing me to sock away a “chunk” of cash every paycheck to pay for my teeth.
Three years later, in June of 2017, I was able to pay cash for the needed procedure to get my veneers. Dr. Griffin told me I was his only patient to have a complete set. The prep work took almost seven hours. This included receiving temporaries that I wore for about one month. Then the actual process of having my veneers installed took another four hours. My mouth was sore for a week after both procedures; however, I felt incredibly grateful to have them done.
The Compound Effect
I first learned about Darren Hardy in 2011, and he has become one of my most influential mentors through his books, audio content, Darren Daily, and Darren Daily on Demand. He is a New York Times best-selling author, highly sought-after keynote speaker, and former Publisher of Success Magazine. His book, “The Compound Effect,” shares the simple yet profound concept of small daily steps leading to tremendous results. It was my first of Darren’s books to read, and it’s still impacting my life positively to this day.
Albert Einstein called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world, and it’s a classic example of the power of the compound effect. Oddly enough, this extraordinary power works for both good and bad. When wisely investing your money over time, the compound effect can work very much in your favor. In the case of my teeth, not so much.
Darren tells a story about the late great Tony Gwen, a heartbreaking example of the compound effect working for the negative.
According to Wikipedia, “Anthony Keith Gwynn Sr. (May 9, 1960 – June 16, 2014), nicknamed “Mr. Padre,” was an American professional baseball right fielder who played 20 seasons (1982–2001) in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the San Diego Padres. The left-handed hitting Gwynn won eight batting titles in his career, tied for the most in National League (NL) history. He is considered one of baseball’s best and most consistent hitters. Gwynn had a .338 career batting average, never hitting below .309 in any full season. He was a 15-time All-Star, recognized for his skills on offense and defense with seven Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards. Gwynn was the rare player in his era who stayed with a single team his entire career and played in the only two World Series appearances in San Diego’s franchise history. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility.”
Tony died in 2014 from salivary gland cancer. He started chewing tobacco early in his career and continued to do so beyond retirement. All those years, the destruction was being done; however, he had no idea. Once the diagnosis was made, he would pass away only a few short years later.
The challenge with the compound effect is that it can fake you out. This includes both the positive and the negative. If your first cigarette instantly gave you lung cancer, you would never light your second one. If your first double meat cheeseburger with onion rings gave you heart disease, you would likely avoid eating other high-fat fried foods.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. You can go for years or even decades like Tony with his tobacco or me with my ice with no perception of the damage being done. Then when the negative reality rears its ugly head, it may be too late.
There are different struggles regarding how something positive can trip you up. The instant gratification society we live in negatively influences our ability to delay gratification and our capacity for emotional discipline. The reality is that most people are not very emotionally disciplined. They want what they want when they want it and are typically unwilling to wait for any reasonable length of time. The credit card industry capitalizes on this simple fact.
Two other classic examples are losing weight and saving money. How many times have you heard of someone going on a diet only to give up a short time later due to not seeing any progress? Or when someone saving towards a more significant and more critical goal raids their savings account to satisfy their need for immediate gratification? The key is emotional disciple, and it’s sadly in short supply in today’s world.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
The late great Napoleon Hill, author of the all-time classic, “Think and Grow Rich,” used to teach that there’s a seed of equivalent benefit in every adversity. Between the wisdom Darren shares in his book, “The Compound Effect,” and my personal experience with my teeth, I now view life through a different lens with a more long-term perspective.
For example, I don’t consider a cup of coffee from Starbucks as a simple $2.75 expense. Since I love my two Venti-sized cups of morning coffee, a daily habit carved in stone, I see it as $5.50 per day, 365 days per year, over the next twenty years, totaling just over $40K. Now please don’t get me wrong. I love Starbucks; however, I prefer to buy it at the grocery store, ideally on sale, and brew my own, saving a chunk of money that can be invested in my future.
I encourage you to examine your life and look for any seemingly innocent behavior that may be working against you in the long run. Further, be patient when seeking to achieve anything of significance in your life. Small steps taken consistently over time can lead to tremendous results. And there are no shortcuts. Real and lasting success equals hard work every day.
I often share the story with my clients about the magic of compounding pennies. One penny doubled every day for thirty-one days equals just over $10 million. In thirty-eight days, it tips over $1 billion. And here’s the catch, the math never changes. It’s simple duplication every day with consistency that leads to tremendous results.
Finally, be very careful in rationalizing not pursuing a worthy goal because the price seems too high or the time to achieve it is too long. If it’s something you genuinely want that will add value to your life, figure out a way to pay the price. The time will pass regardless, and you can one day look back triumphant in your accomplishment or disgusted because you failed to try.
Best of luck in your journey.