Plant Them Low & Watch Them Grow


There is a saying that has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. Sometimes I joke about it. Sometimes it comes out in my teachings as a slightly more serious discussion on occlusion and how we manage our expectations with our patients, our laboratory partners and ourselves during crown deliveries.

“Plant it low & watch it grow. Plant it high & watch it die.”

It is a twist on an old gardening mantra that I first heard, I believe, from Dr. Gary DeWood. As I recall, we were having a group discussion on the learning curve and application of occlusion. As we were learning how to take proper occlusal records as well as find laboratory technicians to partner with, there were and are frustrations. We were striving for that perfection of delivery, which on either side were reminders of our shortcomings.  Crowns that were too high or too low made us question our abilities and those of our technicians. We shared as fledgling occlusionists how we wondered & theorized what our patients perception was of our abilities as we had to grind on their new crowns after so much effort and attempts at precision in our records. What were we doing wrong? Why couldn’t we find a lab that understood occlusion?? (Even though I was just learning it myself…)

Well-last week as I heard that old saying “Plant it low & watch it grow. Plant it high & watch it die.” I heard it differently. I was reading some discussion board posts-both from clinicians and technicians. People were venting & sharing frustrations. The discussions ranged from clinical to management to specialist interactions.

“Sick and tired of having to lower expectations. Sometimes I wish it didn’t irritate me so much.”

It was then that my perspective changed. I saw or rather heard the old saying no longer relating exclusively to occlusion but rather to how we set and perceive our expectations-of ourselves, as well as of others. Our feelings of accomplishment, as well as feelings of frustration, are directly linked to how we set our expectations of the outcome.

So-how does that translate or relate to the old saying? Well, when we set our expectations and goals as too far beyond our abilities or ability to achieve, all that we experience is failure or an inability to reach our desired outcome. This can beat down our confidence and our conviction. Our goals can die. It is seen and feels like failure. In defeat, we lower our expectations.

Does that mean we should not strive to improve & just lower our standards and outcomes? No-of course not. When I think of “plant them low and watch them grow” I think of setting realistic steps, milestones and waypoints in our journey & commitment to improvement. This allows us small successes yet continual improvement.

Plant your goals SMARTly:

Specific-know what you are trying to achieve

Measurable-know when you have reached that goal

Achievable-know that it is something that can be done

Realistic/Relevant-know that it is a goal that is appropriate for you

Timely-know that it can be accomplished within a set time frame


If you can change your perspective on planting your goals, you will have a better chance to see them flourish in the near future and grow in the seasons to come. Thank you Gary for the lesson-it just took 15 years to sink in!

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