Meet Miguel Stanley | Leaders in Action Society

Meet Miguel Stanley | Leaders in Action Society


Alright. I think that the greatest challenge
I had when I graduated, in 1998, was like,
“why do you wanna be a dentist?”. You know, it’s like dentistry
has this connotation with society of something that is evil, something that’s dark
and that inspires pain. And I think Hollywood
had a huge part to play in that, by always depicting
dentists as being the bad guy, and a solitary figure
that was always frustrated and stressed. I graduated in 1998 and I’ve been
dedicated in the best part of 22 years trying to change that narrative and trying to get passed that barrier
that dentistry was about fixing teeth and created a different story,
cause dentistry is about building smiles. And I know it’s cheesy, but a smile is the shortest
distance between two people. So, if I got to do my job well, then, you know, you could actually
heal something that wasn’t just physical, but was also emotional. The only way that I saw fit to do this was literally surround
myself by really smart people, getting a lot of education, ongoing
education, and awesome technology. I guess I’m very, very lucky and very privileged
to able to practice the way I do, in the current environment. Because not everybody
gets a chance to do it the way I do it and…
Me and my team. and I’m also very grateful for
the patients for trusting me to do this. The future is very, very exciting, and consumers and technology,
artificial intelligence are really, truly,
going to profoundly change this profession.
And I’m looking forward to it. I only understood it, in hindsight, how I got here. It’s not like I started with a roadmap because there wasn’t one.
I mean, I started working before
the Internet really came to fruition. There’s been a few key points
in my life that really shifted the paradigms that I was living in. I was fortunate enough
to witness a conference from one of the founding fathers
of cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Ronald Goldstein,
from Team Atlanta. Back in 1996, he came to Portugal,
to my university, and it just blew me away
to hear this guy, back then he must have been in his 60s,
he’s now in his 80s. And one of the father figures,
and I just… It went passed boundaries and it really
inspired me to even become a speaker. And then, consequently, other doctors on his team,
Dr. Salama and Dr. Garber… I became a groupie and I followed their concepts of always inclusive,
always sharing, and that
interdisciplinary approach. And then, I guess, with the first
TV show that I did back in 2006, that lead me to understanding
the social impact of a smile. How we got hundreds
of thousands of letters and I guess the combination
of those two things, from a social perspective
and from a clinical perspective, put me on my path. I remember I went to Salesianos do
do Estoril, here, just outskirts of Lisbon, and it was an all-boys catholic school. Back then, you know, my parents,
basically, weren’t very hands-on parents, my father was working in Africa. I remember going to school and, one day, there were psychologists there, and they did these
psychometric evaluation tests… One of them said, you know,
I would be good at… I think it was
by A, B, C, different areas. And that I should think
about becoming a lawyer, and I discussed that with my parents
and… Yeah, Law seemed interesting and, apparently,
I had an inclination for that. But I was also really good at biology. And it came to the specific day when
I had to go and register for the next year, but I would literally
have to define my future. Which, in retrospective,
is kind of crazy, because… You know, that one decision
could have changed everything. So I remember going there and
I didn’t know if it was area A or area D. And, I was in line
and I had the check to sign in and the woman said: “Ok, what’s it
gonna be?” and I was like, “I don’t know.” So, I flipped a coin.
And I said “A, I’ll become a lawyer, “B, I’ll become a doctor.” And then I went like that and… So…
I wanted to be a heart surgeon, and I didn’t make the grade cause I had
to get high levels in mathematics, so I got…
Everything else was pretty good, but mathematics I sucked at,
still do today. So great to have
everything now on the… Who ever would’ve thought that
you never would’ve needed it. But… Yeah, I guess I was
reluctant to becoming a dentist for the first 4 or 5 years of dental school. Because the dentistry I was studying is very far removed from
the dentistry that I’m practicing today. If you look at Portugal today, I mean, it’s one of the most welcoming
countries in terms of language, that I know of. I mean, you go to Spain,
you better speak spanish. You go to France,
you better speak french. Italy, as well. Portugal, I guess because
our movies are not dubbed, and we have the…
I mean, such great decision… Whoever did that decision on RTP, whatever our national TV,
should get an award for it, because people speak english here.
So… And in Cascais, growing up,
there’s a huge expat community, there was
a strong connection to the UK. So I went to an english school
for the first two years, St. Julian’s. And then, my father took us out of that and put me
and my siblings into Salesianos. You know, I remember…
They call it bullying now, but I just got my ass kicked
every day for not speaking the language. So, I learned pretty fast
how to speak portuguese. But portuguese people, in general…
Some of those friends I still keep today are very, very kind,
loving, welcoming people. Yes, I am. I would say that a lot of people
ask me how I’m always in a good mood. I guess, temperament is a muscle, like anything else. And I have tough days,
I have difficult times, I’ve had hardship
in my life like everybody else. And I am sad, like everybody else.
But I have a public job and my patients and my team… Without my team,
I can’t really do anything. It’s all about confidence. So, the more confident I am, and, you know, the more trust levels my
team and my patients can have in me. It’s just good business,
to be positive. It’s good business, to be,
you know, have good energy. And it’s something that you work at.
It literally is a muscle that you work at. And it’s one of the…
I guess, the secret is… And there’s so many songs
that sing about this, and so many poems
that sing about this, you know… Smile, even if your heart it crying. There’s a lot of songs like that. There’s a lot of wisdom in that,
because, no matter what you’ve got
going on in your private life, you’ve gotta leave that out,
come in and you’ve got a job to do. And, my job is all about trust, confidence, and, I guess,
when you’re happy and motivated, everybody around you feels the same. I had a lot of fun at university. It was a private university
in Costa da Caparica it was a relatively new,
private university. I started when I was 18, I got in in 1992. I used to go to work on my motorbike. I was a good student.
I guess, I have a photographic memory. So, If I see something… Never spoken about this on camera,
but I’m mildly dyslexic. If you know anything about dyslexia… The way that you read
is you “take a photograph” and you recognize
the image of the word, so it’s not actually just adding the words
together to make the word, if you take a photograph of the word it translates
into the word you’re looking for. Back in the 70s,
I was born in 73, that wasn’t a thing.
So I learned to read very graphically. And when you study medicine,
there’s a lot of images, so, I guess
I had that secret weapon. I just had really good grades,
I remember I… It was easy for me,
in a sense. And I was always asking questions. So, basically, my dad had told me, said if I ever
get a negative grade at school, he wouldn’t pay
for my university anymore, so, I was profoundly
petrified of failure and letting my dad down.
So, I wanted to get my money’s worth so I was always asking questions, to the extent that people
would get very annoyed when the class would finish
because I was always asking questions. And I always remember saying:
“You know, I wanna understand this.” So I was very, very adamant about
getting the best out of my education. And I have very good
memories from those six years. I’m curious. I think, if you wait, if you expect the world, or anybody, to give you the answers you need, if you’re just happy with that…
Fine. I want more, you know? The more I know about something and talking to people… It’s one of
the keys to getting ahead, you know? It’s “Why? Why?”
And it’s such an easy question. “But why?”, you know? If you think of it,
a kid at the age of two to the age of 4,
that’s the number one question: “Why?” And we seem to forget how to ask why. There’s one university in Australia and they have a fully digital program,
from beginning to end. So, the dentists that graduate
from that university truly are prepared for this digital revolution
that we’ve lived in. There’s a lot of universities, by my accounts,
over 800 universities in the world, and only a fraction of them
teach these young students anything remotely
relative to the digital dentistry. So, let me explain digital dentistry:
It’s all about access, it’s all about cloud,
it’s about sharing on the cloud, it’s about using scanners and 3D printers and special technology that allows you to practically
get your patients mouth and head onto a computer.
And then you can do anything with that: You can do treatment planning,
you can design a new smile, you can execute treatments
with 3D printers and milling machines. It’s awesome. And, one of the ultimate
reasons why this is important is that there’s no longer a dentist
by himself in a room with a patient. You have that interface now,
which is the cloud, and, with this technology, you have
access to information, to education, and, moreover,
you actually can mitigate failure by sharing your doubts online. People are a lot more comfortable
with asking online “How do I do this?” than asking their boss
“how do I do this?”, because they’re scared that
their boss might give them a… You know,
not give them a raise or something. Fear of failure is something that is
a huge deterrent, let’s say, to growth. But at the same time, can also be
it’s greatest weapon when well applied. And I think that this technology
could really help students get passed the boundary
that they’re not by themselves anymore. Cause I remember,
when I graduated, how lonely I felt. And I felt lonely, I felt scared.
And I say scared, and I’m… I’d sailed across the oceans on a boat
with my parents, you know, I mean… I’m.. It takes a lot to scared me
and I remember being profoundly scared of interacting with the human being
and messing with their teeth with such little experience.
And I think that it’s profoundly important that universities spend
a little bit more time with digital, explaining to them the concept of sharing and also teaching humanity, teaching them how
to interact with human beings. It shouldn’t just be about grades, it should be about
how you can speak to people. And I always tell my students at my
lectures… They say:
“What’s the secret to success? “What should I study at school
to become like you?” And I say: “Acting”.
They’re like, “What?” I said: “Those of you
that will communicate your ideas better
than others will succeed more.” Because, at the end of the day, anybody that sits on one
of these chairs is petrified, and our job is to communicate trust. And digital technology
allows them to see more and understand more. Turning your
patient into a partner, not into a client. And that’s something that I think is
fundamental and it’s slowly starting, but it’s still very expensive
and there’s a long way to go, and I hope to spend the next part
of my career focusing on that. I graduated one of the
top of my year, back in 1998. When I graduated
nobody would give me a job. That was the first major lesson it’s all about, you know, family helping
and friends helping and stuff. So I had this hard reality where I had
to go get a job in the South of Portugal. At the time, there was no highways,
so we had to take about four hours to get to where I wanted to work. I had to leave my family and friends
and I spent two years working in this international clinic in Algarve. Treating a lot of international patients.
And that was a second teaching that I had that was vital to my education. A south african and a german dentist,
they really helped me a lot. Every time I would come back to
Lisbon, there was this dentist in Lapa, which is a very well-known
area of Lisbon. And he had this clinic
that was dying down, he’d opened in the 70s
and he hadn’t redone it. And I remember always saying:
“Let me come and work for you, “I’ll do whatever it takes.
I’ll clean the floor, “I’ll wash your car, I’ll do whatever.” He, one day, called me,
about eight months shy of the millennia and he said: “Look,
do you wanna buy my practice?” And I had no money,
nothing, I said “yeah”. And my older brother was
very kind to help me with the bank loan. And he said two words to me:
“Don’t fail.” And I love my brother, he was my hero,
he is my hero still today. And, I guess, the fact that
there wasn’t social media back then, I had no notion of my limitations. And I think that’s one of… You know, the Internet is great,
cause it shows you possibility, but it also is a mirror,
and if you’re insecure, it can really show you our limitations.
And a lot of people won’t even begin scared they might fail. So, I think that was to happen in school,
what should happen is “it’s ok to fail” Rule number one: fail, fail, fail, fail.
Ten times before you succeed. And I didn’t know that.
So, I guess, a bit of hubris, a bit of… total lack of understanding
of what I was getting involved in. I just have a huge sense of ethics,
a good moral compass. My dad taught me that, you know,
just always do right by people. And I always followed the textbooks. And I always say this
to students of dentistry: Dentistry is science. And there’s a lot of evidence that says, if you do this, this will happen.
If you do this, that will happen. Don’t do this, because this will happen. There’s so much evidence.
It’s almost like a bible. It’s very difficult to do it properly, but if you do it properly,
you will have these results. I took the long road,
the pass less travelled, that took more time,
invested more hours, and just stuck with the science.
And, at the end of the day, it set me free. It was the key to success,
it was just, literally not bending the rules. That was a roller coaster
mixed with the perfect storm. Only till recently
do I actually speak about it. Where I live,
in the Southern Europe, failure in business
is seen as mental illness. It’s like, there’s this thing
that you can’t fail. You become toxic. I was doing TV shows
back in 2005, 2006 prime time television shows in Portugal. When I was in university,
I did TV commercials. Doing a TV show to promote
what I was doing in dentistry when the portuguese population thought
that dentistry was about pulling out a tooth
and, you know, putting in fillings. I wanted to show
that dentistry was about smiles. So, anyway, I wrote this TV show
and I became the executive producer of a show called:
“Doutor, Preciso de Ajuda!”, on TVI, that, all of a sudden, saturday night, prime time, is in the
homes of 5, 6, 7 million people, easy. And in those years, my clinic just went…
You know, exploded. It was… this huge unfair advantage
in the market place. And we had clients flying in
from all over the world, we were prepared, I had a great team
and we were making a lot of money. And I was young,
I was a kid, I was 35 years old. With absolutely no playbook. Never been done before,
there was no benchmarking. And I was working
at the small clinic in Lapa that had grown and we had the first
floor and across the street. And it was all a bit of a mess and
I wanted something, you know, majestic. So the market retracted,
there’s a lot of competing clinics, the subprime hits and I found out
that my accountant had been embezzling funds. Cause I didn’t know how
to run a business. I was a dentist
and I was a really nice guy and, basically, gave them
blank checks to pay for my tax. And in a nutshell
he got a five year jail sentence. And that’s very,
very unheard of in this country, for an accountant to get a five year jail
sentence. So we had that. And it took about a year to go to court, suspended sentence, of course. And with all of that going on,
it was just crazy, it was a year I was doing a lot
of international lectures, as well… And it took a toll, a big toll. And, at the time, everybody on my team,
the advisory board, said “let’s just fold”. So, the moral of the story is a complete master class that would take, you know,
a lot of hours to explain. From a human level, it was tough,
but what a great lesson. And it reconnected me
with so many things, sometimes I like to say it’s as if God
came down and slapped me on the face to redirect me in the right direction. So I much prefer the person I am today,
my focus is different, my values have changed, I can safely say I’m not focused
on money, I’m focused on happiness. Like, truly, as a business. The whole adventure of the last
eight, nine years has been incredible. To sum that off,
I could only focus on one thing in the past eight years, or nine years: and that’s reputation. You know, just do the right thing.
Be good to people. And you know that Facebook quote
“be nice to everybody on your way up”? Cause you’re gonna need
them on your way down. I don’t think it’s over yet.
By far. I lost my father, in the meantime, and I became a husband
and I became a father myself. And my wife always jokingly says:
“It’s only teeth, it’s only business, “it’s not gonna…
It’s not what you take to the grave.” And I just want that,
the story of my life has to be so much better than that. I remember this point in my life where… And I’m not somebody that asks for help. I mean, I’m the kind of guy,
if I fall off my bike and break my arm, I will go by myself to the hospital and I won’t bother anybody.
It’s just my education. I’m not a cry baby. And, no more than my older brother, has been a shining light
to me in my life, and still is. And he said to me, he says:
“Look, you’re at basecamp, “you’ve attempted Everest, “nobody is going
to blame you for not trying “and it’s already extraordinary
you’ve come this far. “So, just grab your things,
go down the mountain “and let’s, you know,
just live a normal life. “You can get a great job
at any clinic in the country, “anybody will hire you,
you’ve got a good selection of clients. “Dude, you know,
you’re a good guy. “Or… “… you can go back up again. “And it’s gonna be
the hardest thing you’ve ever done. “You’ve got time on your side.
What do you wanna do?” And I think everybody
in this life has to have a mentor. I had an overwhelming
set of adversities, I was robbed, and I kept quiet about it. You know, I was… We were
trying to clean the whole thing, and then, some dentist in the country that was
jealous of whatever, posted that on Facebook, and it became public and then,
all of a sudden, house of cards fell down, very much like Icarus, you know,
I had flown to close to the sun. Some people just want to buy popcorn
and watch him fall into the ocean. It was an extraordinary feeling and I just remember:
“Man, this is not me.” I was taught to fall off the horse
and get back on. That was just my thing. And, again,
like I said early on in the interview, there’s a playbook
for success in dentistry. It’s called scientific investigation, the evidence based treatment plan, and if you do it, you’ll be right. And if you’re a good person,
and you have the right moral values, God damn it, I mean… The foundation of our culture,
of our civilisation, can’t be wrong. If you do the right thing by people,
you are rewarded. That’s the way that I was taught.
I hadn’t done anything wrong. And at that moment, you realise
very quickly who your friends are. Would I go through it again?
Yes, I would, because it’s just so much more fun to have that scar, you know, that wound,
and say “look, I’m tougher because of it.” Anything that comes
into your brain can be a reality. Done it in my life, so, I’ve sat on my sofa,
and I had an idea, and then, sometimes hundreds
of people have got involved, and it becomes a reality. And I’m just absolutely
not scared of anything I envision. The “National Geographic” was
without a doubt a highlight of my career, in a sense that it combined
my passion for storytelling, bringing the younger generation
into the narrative and showing how technology can
drive change in third world countries. Maybe the trauma
that I’ve been through in my life, I’ve stopped thinking
of myself as a citizen, and I think of myself as a species. I’m hoping that I can gain
a bit more traction, I created this hashtag
which will be coming out soon it’s gonna be called
“zero waste dentistry”. I’m gonna get some
of the world’s leading dentists, because we have that microcosmos, to inspire companies to focus on lowering the quantity
of plastic in their packaging. Because we don’t need it,
we just literally throw it away. So as long
as it’s sterilized and it’s clean, we are going to prefer companies
that have this zero waste policy. And, for example,
the suction, little plastic thing, I was using one the other day
and they’re disposable. There’s two million dentists.
If they’re doing six patients a day, we did the math,
it’s 25 tons of non-biodegradable
plastic in the oceans, a year. I guess that one of
my next challenges is twofold. One, is inspiring my industry
to have a zero waste policy, to lower carbon emissions. And, on the other hand,
I have this vision for the future creating a network,
using artificial intelligence, to be responsible for diagnostics
and treatment planning, and not humans. So, let me just explain that very quickly… We, today, have technology
called a CBCT, which is like, a CT scan. They’re quite expensive,
but like, for example, I’ve had one in the clinic
for 11 years now. Digital technology.
And then you have an intraoral scanner. And facial scanning.
And if you fuse those three together, you can share that on the cloud and artificial intelligence can grab that
and do your entire treatment plan based on metadata driven science. So now, you’re not getting
commercial treatment plan, because you never know where the boundaries of ethics
go with certain professions, and certain professionals
and depending where you are. And I think that,
the human has the right to have an impartial, non-biased,
not financially driven, not selected because
of your insurance or your government. But a scientifically driven treatment plan. Then you can or cannot afford it,
I’m not gonna get involved in that. You have the right to know
what’s wrong with your mouth and what’s the idea path to get it right, as a human.
You have that right. And I think artificial intelligence is really
going to filter that and improve that. And at the end of the day, when you finished
your treatment with Dr. A, B or Z, you go back to the scanning centre,
repeat the scan and it can fuse that
and actually rate your dentist on the quality of your treatment.
So much like Uber. That you know more about your Uber
driver than you do about your dentist. I think it’s time to eliminate bad dentistry. So, my fight,
my big fight, I’m only 46,
I got a lot of fight left in me, is going to be to eliminate
bad dentistry from the face of the earth. Translation and Subtitling
Ana Luísa Aguiar / PSB Studios

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