The Life and Legacy of Napoleon Hill Might Just Inspire You, Too 

May 3, 2024 Bill Davis

By Bill Davis, DDS 

When Dr. L. D. Pankey was developing his Philosophy, he studied with many early American business authors and teachers. One such person was Napoleon Hill (1883 -1970). Hill was considered one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal success literature.  

Hill’s Early Life 

He was born in a one-room cabin near the town of Pound in the Appalachian area of Southwest Virginia. Unfortunately, his mother died when he was 9 years old. At the age of 13 he began his writing career as a “mountain reporter” for his father’s local newspaper. Later, he moved to Pittsburgh to work for a big city newspaper as a reporter. 

A Career-Making Assignment 

In 1908, the editor of the newspaper assigned Napoleon, who was the papers newest and youngest reporter, the job of interviewing the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At the time Mr. Carnegie, known for his steel business, was among the most powerful men in the world. Napoleon was warned that Mr. Carnegie did not do interviews. Undaunted, Hill went to Andrew Carnegie’s office and told the receptionist he was a reporter and asked to speak to Mr. Carnegie. When he was turned down for the interview and told again that Mr. Carnegie did not like to do interviews, Napoleon didn’t give up. He came back daily and sat in the reception area. 

Persistence Paid Off 

During the second week of going in and out of his office, Andrew Carnegie asked, “Who is that young man waiting in the reception room.” Carnegie was told it was a newspaper reporter waiting to see him. That evening, at the end of the day, Mr. Carnegie went out to the reception room to see if the young newspaper reporter, who had been waiting quietly for over a week to see him, was still there. 

After they introduced themselves, Napoleon told Carnegie he had been sent by his editor to get a story. Napoleon told Mr. Carnegie he hoped to interview him and other wealthy people to discover a simple formula for success. Carnegie was so impressed that he took Napoleon to dinner to continue their conversation. 

This was the beginning of a great friendship, and over the next year they met regularly to develop the formula, as Carnegie also wanted to know the formula. Carnegie presented Napoleon with a letter of introduction to Henry Ford. Ford, after his series of interviews, introduced Hill to Alexander Graham Bell, Elmer R. Gates, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and others. 

Hill’s Bestselling Book 

In 1937, Napoleon Hill published a bestselling book, THINK AND GROW RICH, which emphasized a positive attitude and having good communication skills. After reading the book, Dr. L. D. Pankey was very impressed by Hill’s statement: Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Conceiving and believing are just the first steps to achieving your goals. According to Hill, you must take serious action. 

Every innovation, every invention, and every work of art begins with an idea. Long before the Wright brothers ever flew, Leonardo Da Vinci had sketched and designed an aircraft. Da Vinci conceived of mechanized flight, but the Wright brothers believed it was possible, they acted on that belief, and thus achieved flight.  

Hill’s Lasting Impact on Dentistry 

In 1929, L. D. Pankey had the idea that teeth could and should be saved, although at first, he didn’t know how. His belief was strong enough to motivate him to do some research, study what was known at that time, and do the necessary experimentation to make his idea a reality. One of the people he was most inspired by was Napoleon Hill. His model of ambition and teachings about how others achieved innovations spurred L. D. on. Belief in himself and his idea helped L. D. persist despite some uncertainty, blind alleys, and many other frustrations. 

The ambition and growing ability to save teeth was arguably the biggest change ever to occur in dentistry. From this concept, innumerable innovations have been born and are accelerating today. 

Where Would You Like to Go? 

There is an old Chinese saying, “If you do not know where you are going, you are likely to end up somewhere.”  

Too many people end up “somewhere” because they have not clearly defined where they want to go. The first step in moving toward greater satisfaction is to set specific goals. Vague goals such as, “I’d like to be a better dentist,” “I’d like to be happier,” or “I’d like to make more money,” are common.  

Napolean Hill would say that more specificity will take you somewhere purposeful. Perhaps, “I would like to learn about implant placement,” “I want to have more fun with my children,” or “I want to earn 15% more this a year.” Then, be evermore specific and set definite time frames so you can measure your progress. For example:  

  • “I would like to begin training in implant placement this coming September and be placing implants successfully in June. Tomorrow, I will begin by investigating continuing education programs in the science of implants.” 
  • “I would like to have more fun with my children. At dinner tonight, I will ask my children about ideas they think would be fun activities, and we will start by doing one of the activities each week.”  
  • “I would like to increase my income by 15% this year. I will meet with my accountant and a dental practice coach this month to look at ways to increase my profitability. I will also do some more reading in practice management.” 

Believe in Your Goals and Your Ability to Achieve Them 

Once you have conceived your ideas, you must believe it is possible to achieve them. Without the power of belief, you will not take your ideas seriously; nor are you likely to weather the many setbacks and frustrations that will probably come along with you on your journey. 

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Bill Davis

William J. Davis DDS, MS is practicing dentist and a Professor at the University of Toledo in the College Of Medicine. He has been directing a hospital based General Practice Residency for past 40 years. Formal education at Marquette, Sloan Kettering Michigan, the Pankey Institute and Northwestern. In 1987 he co-authored a book with Dr. L.D. Pankey, “A Philosophy of the Practice of Dentistry”. Bill has been married to his wife, Pamela, for 50 years. They have three adult sons and four grandchildren. When not practicing dentistry he teaches flying.

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Remembering Dr. John A Anderson Sr: Part 3

September 28, 2018 Richard Green DDS MBA

Keep reading for the final part of Pankey co-founder Dr. John A. Anderson’s story: 

A quote by philosopher Soren Kierkegaard that can help us gain perspective from Dr. Anderson’s path –

Life can only be understood backwards;

but it must be lived forwards!

This fact is of such central, profound, and fundamentally urgent importance for each human being to realize!

Joining the Pankey Institute

In the late ‘60s, Dr. John Anderson was in the prime of his dental career and about to turn fifty years of age when the LD Pankey Foundation was signed into being. Roughly one year later, John had already turned down an invitation to be the Dean of NUDS. He was finishing his sixth year in his third office when the ORS group met in November 1970.

John Anderson and Loren Miller said “Yes” to Co-Directing The Pankey Institute. Looking back, it is easier to see the defining work and moments that shaped their lives, character, ethic, education, and intent from the inside out.

The mark of an outstanding educator is the ability to create experiences in a learning process that invites participants into an opportunity of discovery. 

After an Advisory Class, or “test run” as John and Loren liked to call it, the Institute officially opened the first week of October 1972 with a C-1 Class. As The Pankey Institute matured, Dr. Anderson took on the role of directing education process and Dr. Miller directed administration. Both sold their practices and became full-time at The Pankey Institute.

John and Loren jointly invited twelve individuals of various ages in November 1974 and an additional three in early 1975 to join the Cadre – the Pankey Institute’s original Visiting Faculty. Dr. Henry Tanner joined the full-time Faculty in 1974.

John, Loren, and Henry continued to develop the next generations in dentistry and an Experiential Educational Process. They dedicated their lives to refining it with and for others.

A Pankey Legacy

Dr. Anderson died of a sudden and surprising heart attack on 12/31/1978, having celebrated his fifty-ninth birthday on November 18, 1978. He was and still is a significant mentor to me.

Within our relationship, there was the opportunity for multi-event dosing of purposefulness, commitment, integral ethic, authenticity, passion, responsibility, demonstrated excellence in relationship building, human understanding, acceptance, discovery, inventiveness, and excellence in clinical dentistry.

A story: As John was becoming more and more full-time in Florida, after the beginning of The Pankey Institute in 1972, he sold his practice in Glenview, IL about forty miles from my practice in Hinsdale, IL.

He would call and ask if it was OK to refer a patient to me for continuing care. I would gladly accept. I would find out while interviewing the new patients that many were from Hinsdale and neighboring suburbs. Most had traveled past my office on their way to John’s for years!  

The gift of those patients was not the dental work I was able to do for them. Rather it was listening to their story of when and how they found John.

Some of their work was done in the late 40s and early 50s prior to John meeting Dr. Pankey. Other’s was done in the middle 50s to ’62 and I witnessed the influence of Drs. Pankey, Mann, and Schuyler on John’s dental work.

And then, in the work done from ’62 to ’74, I could see the influence of Dr. Henry Tanner. It was a confirmation of being and becoming a continual student – the learning and growing of an outstanding professional.

This gradual unfolding is a shining example of doing the best you can each day and being open to your own learning along the way. I cared for many of those individuals for the next twenty-plus years. About the only work I needed to do was an occasional “freeing-up” of the occlusion on posterior teeth due to natural wear on anterior teeth. This required smoothing of leading edge bevels and trailing edge sharpening. Re-beveling diminished the chance of chipping and fracture.

These experiences gave me a sense of hope as I reviewed my own work throughout the years. I noticed my growth and development reflected in it. What a gift!

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Richard Green DDS MBA

Rich Green, D.D.S., M.B.A. is the founder and Director Emeritus of The Pankey Institute Business Systems Development program. He retired from The Pankey Institute in 2004. He has created Evergreen Consulting Group, Inc. www.evergreenconsultinggroup.com, to continue his work encouraging and assisting dentists in making the personal choices that will shape their practices according to their personal vision of success to achieve their preferred future in dentistry. Rich Green received his dental degree from Northwestern University in 1966. He was a early colleague and student of Bob Barkley in Illinois. He had frequent contact with Bob Barkley because of his interest in the behavioral aspects of dentistry. Rich Green has been associated with The Pankey Institute since its inception, first as a student, then as a Visiting Faculty member beginning in 1974, and finally joining the Institute full time in 1994. While maintaining his practice in Hinsdale, IL, Rich Green became involved in the management aspects of dentistry and, in 1981, joined Selection Research Corporation (an affiliate of The Gallup Organization) as an associate. This relationship and his interest in management led to his graduation in 1992 with a Masters in Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

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Remembering Dr. John A Anderson Sr: Part 2

September 26, 2018 Richard Green DDS MBA

Here we continue a Pankey founder’s life story …

Meeting Dr. LD Pankey

The 1950s held many experiences that shaped Dr. Anderon’s personality, inventiveness, and professional growth. He formed the Saunders Milwaukee study club with Dr. David Hoffman. They began studying Practice Management and brought Dutch Wohler in from California to spend a life-changing week with the group.

This led to an invitation for John to attend a Practice Management Meeting at the University of Michigan in ’52. It became the founding meeting of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration (AADPA). Its speaker was none other than Dr. LD Pankey.

Study Clubs and Teaching

John continued to seek out Dr. Pankey’s philosophy courses, where he met Dr. Loren Miller. In 1957, Drs. Pankey, Mann, and Schuyler invited John Anderson and other dentists to be part of the Oral Rehabilitation Seminars (ORS).

The major purpose of the ORS was to create the Teaching Manuals. They used Dr. Anderson’s Case Slides in their presentations. This ORS group traveled and taught the PMS Technique and Course to study clubs from ’58 to ’72. These study club members became early adopters and LD Pankey Foundation supporters later on.

The experience of teaching ignited in John a passion for learning about how people learn best. He wondered, what is the best process?

Sit-Down Dentistry

During the ’55-‘65 time period, Dr. Anderson and Dr. David Hoffman were studying “Time and Motion” principles in dentistry with memo-motion photography.

In the 40s and 50s, John had not yet met Dr. Henry Tanner, who was part of the development of the High-Speed Air Turbine Handpiece at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Dutch Wohler introduced them in ‘62, while John and his family were spending vacation time in California – small world!

Henry and John found ways to teach together over the next 16 years. Henry joined The Pankey Institute’s Faculty from ’74 to ’80.

Communicator and Educator

By the time I entered my pre-dental education at North Park College in ’60, John was in his second office across the street from Swedish Covenant Hospital. This was five blocks from my dorm.  

I saw his innovative efforts with sit-down dentistry and four- and six-handed dentistry. During this period, John was continuing to develop as a communicator and educator. Twice a year he would spend an evening with dental students at NUDS talking about “The Profession You Are About to Enter”!

His time commitments to the ORS group, Chicago Mid-Winter Meeting, and Branch Chicago Dental Society meetings featured his cutting edge concepts. These included restorative dentistry, dental materials selection, practice management, and equipment selection for sit-down dentistry.

At the end of my second year at NUDS and starting the summer clinic in ‘64, John was moving into his third office in Glenview, IL. The new office was based on his research involvement, which came from the aforementioned Time and Motion Studies.

Curious what happens next in the history of a Pankey founder? Check out Part 3 in this series …

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Richard Green DDS MBA

Rich Green, D.D.S., M.B.A. is the founder and Director Emeritus of The Pankey Institute Business Systems Development program. He retired from The Pankey Institute in 2004. He has created Evergreen Consulting Group, Inc. www.evergreenconsultinggroup.com, to continue his work encouraging and assisting dentists in making the personal choices that will shape their practices according to their personal vision of success to achieve their preferred future in dentistry. Rich Green received his dental degree from Northwestern University in 1966. He was a early colleague and student of Bob Barkley in Illinois. He had frequent contact with Bob Barkley because of his interest in the behavioral aspects of dentistry. Rich Green has been associated with The Pankey Institute since its inception, first as a student, then as a Visiting Faculty member beginning in 1974, and finally joining the Institute full time in 1994. While maintaining his practice in Hinsdale, IL, Rich Green became involved in the management aspects of dentistry and, in 1981, joined Selection Research Corporation (an affiliate of The Gallup Organization) as an associate. This relationship and his interest in management led to his graduation in 1992 with a Masters in Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

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Remembering Dr. John A Anderson Sr: Part 1

September 24, 2018 Richard Green DDS MBA

I was asked to write an article about Dr. John A. Anderson, Sr., one of two men who said “yes” to stepping up in November 1970 to co-create The Pankey Institute. As I put together a timeline of his life, I noticed the import of his early life experiences, many of which commonly shape a person’s Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

These qualities are often found in boundary pushers, leaders, and dentists committed to continuing their education throughout their lives. They do so while folding their learning back into their practice of dentistry for the benefit of others.

I first met Dr. Anderson in December 1956 when he and his family were visiting cousins. They attended a Christmas choral concert at our church in Hinsdale, IL. I was a freshman in high school at the time.

As I was introduced, I can remember his handshake and warm greeting. When he heard I wanted to be a dentist and go to Northwestern University Dental School, his words were very encouraging.

Life Experiences That Shaped Dr. Anderson’s Life

Dr. Anderson was born November 18, 1919 in Wonju, Korea. His parents Dr. A. G. and Hattie Anderson were medical missionaries – Hattie had a teaching degree. John’s schooling occurred at Pyongyang Academy in Korea.

John was sent to the USA to continue his education with two years at Baldwin-Wallace College, OH. In the fall of 1938 he entered Northwestern University Dental School (NUDS). He then graduated three years later in 1941.

John became a Clinical Instructor at NUDS from the summer of ’41 to the summer of ’42. After marrying his wife Eleanor in ’42, he was commissioned in the Army Air Corps, Dental Division and sent to India. After returning from India, where he contracted malaria, John recovered and was released from active duty.

He opened his first practice on N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL in 1945. His uncle was a dentist in the area of Chicago called “Andersonville” due to the large population of Swedish immigrants.

While he and Eleanor lived in Andersonville they had three children: Denise ’47, Jay ’49, and Jill ’53.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 in this story of a Pankey founder …

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About Author

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Richard Green DDS MBA

Rich Green, D.D.S., M.B.A. is the founder and Director Emeritus of The Pankey Institute Business Systems Development program. He retired from The Pankey Institute in 2004. He has created Evergreen Consulting Group, Inc. www.evergreenconsultinggroup.com, to continue his work encouraging and assisting dentists in making the personal choices that will shape their practices according to their personal vision of success to achieve their preferred future in dentistry. Rich Green received his dental degree from Northwestern University in 1966. He was a early colleague and student of Bob Barkley in Illinois. He had frequent contact with Bob Barkley because of his interest in the behavioral aspects of dentistry. Rich Green has been associated with The Pankey Institute since its inception, first as a student, then as a Visiting Faculty member beginning in 1974, and finally joining the Institute full time in 1994. While maintaining his practice in Hinsdale, IL, Rich Green became involved in the management aspects of dentistry and, in 1981, joined Selection Research Corporation (an affiliate of The Gallup Organization) as an associate. This relationship and his interest in management led to his graduation in 1992 with a Masters in Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

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