My Unexpected Trip to India & How it Helped Me Re-evaluate What’s Really Important

I haven’t yet shared with any of you of what’s going on in my personal life. This will truly be my first post about my personal life.

I will not make this post about what you SHOULD be doing – I’m in no position to tell you how you should live your life, but after going through this last couple of months, I honestly want to share with you what I have learned.

I’ll go into how I’ve started to introduce routines into my everyday life and how it will impact my practice of clinical dentistry.

Although I started this blog last year, I took a long sabbatical right after. I want to take this opportunity to tell you the reason why.

In October of 2015, I found out my father’s cancer had come back.

He was initially diagnosed back in 2011, after which he had complete stomach removal (full gastrectomy), chemo and radiation.

Few months before in February of 2015, we had booked our first ever family cruise that was to depart from Miami in November of 2015.

Not knowing his future and with a complete disregard of his pain, my father insisted we continue our plans with the cruise because he wasn’t sure how long he’ll be around for.

Well, we made the cruise happen.

Our first ever Family Cruise!
Our first ever Family Cruise!

On the last day of the cruise, he was in tremendous pain. Just a few days after we got back, he was admitted for emergency operation on December 4th of 2015.

I cannot ever forget the day because we found out from the surgeon that the cancer was inoperable and he had only six months to live.

At this point, he was too weak for chemo. Along with my brothers, we put in hours of time on the internet looking for all sorts of natural therapies for reducing cancer.

Only a little over a month after the surgery, my father passed on January 21st – all our lives were changed forever.

We really thought we would get through it with everything we were giving him.

After few weeks, we decided to fulfill his last wish of coming back to India to settle and retire there. We brought his remains to India on April 1st of 2016 – to our home in the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat.

It was not only the most difficult flight, but as we entered our home – my grandmother stood there crying at the gate waiting for us. 

We all needed this trip – to gain some sort of closure I guess. But I’m not sure I ever will.

Life has changed forever for all of us.

As I write this post, I’m sitting inside our home where I grew up. The only thought that’s in my mind is how short life really is and how most of us live through it like zombies.

That’s me getting a haircut – with my dad and mom next to me

When something like this happens, it forces you to rethink EVERYTHING about your life.

Up until last year, I was completely involved in my career – from getting through dental school, to getting through residency and finally the associateships, and the dream of starting out on my own.

I never stopped even once to appreciate my accomplishments.

Because of my father’s passing, I’ve now put a pause on my career. Spending time with my family in India – with whom I grew up for the best twelve years of my life.

Ever since the day of his surgery on December 4th, I’ve continuously tried to think about everything else BUT dentistry.

I’m trying to teach myself that dentistry is only a PART of my life. Along with my brothers and my mom, we’ve all become more aware of our surroundings – our close family, friends, and most importantly, our health.

I’d like to start telling you what I’ve done so far to make the changes to start living a life that is not only professionally, but personally fulfilling.

My Health

Exercise: I’ve always exercised, but skipped around a lot to make room for other unimportant things (such as work, work and more work).

I’m starting small, but I want to make only realistic goals. I’ve stuck to a routine of at least three times a week for the last three months, but I will bump that up to four times a week with more cardio and increased core strength.

Diet: I’ve become more conscientious of what’s in the food I’m eating. All the research we did for natural remedies for my dad, revealed some disgusting facts about our American diet and how the FDA allows many cancer causing ingredients to be allowed in food when it’s banned in other parts of the world (Australia, Europe).

Juicing has been around for a while, but never did it on a regular basis. I’m now juicing three to four times a week, sometimes using it as a replacement of a meal (lunch or dinner).

Gut health: I’ve learned that our gut is the core of our life. A good digestive health goes a long way. I’ve introduced organic pro-biotics daily into my routine.

Morning routine: For the last three months, I’ve started a new regimen of drinking a glass of warm lemon water with fresh ground organic ginger. Then eating nothing for next 25-30 minutes. Followed by a tbsp full of organic turmeric powder with a little bit of black pepper to help absorb the turmeric.

Appreciation of Life

I don’t do enough of this. But I want to start by at least acknowledging the people and things I’m most grateful for.

My Wife: She’s the rock-star in my world, who I sometimes feel I take for granted. Here’s my beautiful wife who I met back in Dental school in first year at NYU

Dr. Nilay Shah and Dr. Radhika Kapur Shah - Dental Startup Academy


1) Going out on my own in my scratch startup dental office – It will be three years in June of this year. Time flies!

2) Undergraduate & Dental School Student loans paid off: My father was aware of my loans, and he would’ve been happy to know they’re now paid off. As of January of this year, my student loans were paid off in full – I never would’ve accomplished this if it wasn’t for my startup office!

Dental School Loan Paid Off

3) Opportunities to Travel: Ever since I got married, I’ve traveled every year with my wife. Even during the first year I did my startup, I took some time off to get away to Rio, Brazil for ten days for a friend’s wedding and spent News Years Eve there:


Last year we were able to go away to Spain for 2 weeks to travel to Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada and Ibiza!


Travel plans for rest of the year: For this year, before I left for India, my wife and I booked tickets to go to Greece for ten days with our friends from dental school. We’re super pumped for that. But that’s not until June 10th, so until then – I’ll be concentrating hard on the office and bringing you all some amazing actionable tips here on this blog.


What I still need to do

Continuously improve my health: Food (80% of it) & Exercise (the rest of it).

Spend more time with my family – My dental practice will always be there, but I need to figure out ways to spend time away from the office WITHOUT affecting income. Introduce a travel trip with all my family members.

My two elder brothers and I have always wanted to work together on something professionally that allows us to lead the lifestyle of our dreams. A lifestyle that revolves around family, travel, and creating an impact that can change people’s lives.

Invest more into clinical dentistry CE: This is something that I truly enjoy because it doesn’t feel like work. Mix traveling with it to keep it interesting.

Attend conferences: I’ve never attended any conferences since I started my office. I would like to do this more to get more CE, more travel and meet other amazing dentists!

I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this list eventually, but for now, this will suffice.

Closing remarks

One thing I’ve learned in the last few months is that you should plan with an end in mind! Whatever type of lifestyle you want to create for yourself, picture it first! Then work backwards to take all the necessary steps to get you closer to your goal.

Move the needle EVERYDAY to get you one step closer to whatever it is you want.

I always hear from personal development experts to write your goals down so they’re in front of you. I’ve never done something of that sort. But I’m doing it now, and you should too.

Writing your goals down – whether they are business, life, personal relationships –  helps to set a VISION of where you want to go.

Change your mindset:

This is an important one. We all imagine and dream of that amazing lifestyle we want one day and continue to HOPE that it will come one day.

Whatever it is you want to do, go ahead and write down things that are holding you back from moving forward.

Is it lack of access to money that’s stopping you from moving forward? – Then think, can you really not come up with the money if you tried? Think of all ways you can access money.

If you’re an associate working for another doctor and the only thing stopping you from moving onto your own practice is money – then think of ALL ways you can come up with money?

  • Bank not approving your loan? – Ask for a lower loan amount by putting up more money. If you don’t have the money to put up front, see if you can raise some funds from family and friends as a loan. Pick up extra Saturdays at a dental office – and SAVE all of it!
  • Don’t jump in with both feet: Don’t go full time on your own office until you’re busy enough! Keep your associate position at least 2 days a week for some cushion in the beginning. This may also help strengthen your bank loan application.
  • Don’t start out so LARGE – You don’t need a 3000 square foot of office space for your start-up. You can do a million dollars even in a four chair office – not to say that a million dollar office is your only goal. But just trying to put things in perspective for you. You can do a four chair office in as small office space as 1200-1500 square foot.

There are tons of ways. But my goal with listing out the above is to make you REALLY think about your hurdles. What is it that’s stopping you from moving forward, and how can you overcome it?

Is not having enough time the real issue? – Take a moment and write down how you spend each hour of the day and see if you can set aside even a single hour so you can spend time doing things that will help you move towards your goal.

Set Routines in your personal life as well as your business / career:

I’ve only started to do this since end of last year – more in my personal life than in my business.

Taking small steps consistently goes a long way. Consistency is the most important keyword here. Most of us start a routine because we’re so motivated in the beginning. But our habit of seeking instant gratification gets in our way of consistently sticking to our routine when we don’t see the results.

This is why having a long term goal written down is so important.

If your goal for the next six months is to increase your collections by 20% , then write it down somewhere in large print and share with the people around you in your office. Share your vision with your staff.

Then think of all ways you can actually make that happen:

  • Increase new number of patients
    • Set up Direct mail to go out consistently every other month for next six months in your neighborhood
    • Set up a routine for emails and texts to go out to patients who have completed treatment asking for Online Reviews on a consistent basis (weekly) – to increase online presence
    • Consistently add new content (through blog posts, case photos, etc.) to office website on a weekly, and monthly basis
  • Reinforce unscheduled treatment at recall visits for existing patients
  • Follow up with planned treatment that is not scheduled on a weekly basis
  • Set up consistent routines (weekly, monthly) to send out thank you letters to existing patients for referring family and friends (For internal marketing)

I’m sure you get my point by now. But routines are important in ALL types of businesses.

I’ll stop ranting here and let you go on with your day. But don’t forget to take deep breathes, travel and live life full of possibilities!

Continue to tune in as I’ll be releasing on Monday our next post on Operatory Design: How to design for efficient work flow, increased case acceptance, and add to the “wow” factor of the office!

Meanwhile, here’s a small clip of me riding in an auto rickshaw just few hours after landing at the airport in India!