December 1, 2019

Griggs: People wisdom from…veterinarians

Kiwi, I was told in a stern and sterile manner, needed all of her teeth removed. The doctor, assuming I had neglected this innocent animal, gave me a look very much like my dad listening to a neighbor describe the bat, the ball, and the broken window. Yes, the exotic red bengal cat had been neglected. The veterinarian was pissed — that’s one of many reasons why I admire them.

For almost 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with veterinarians in their clinics, animal hospitals and at national conferences in the U.S., Canada and Australia. These professionals endure veterinary school, internships, residencies and emerge with crushing debt largely because they love working with animals. My observations show that these doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) have valuable insights into working with another species called humans.

Start with kindness and love — The real world throws cold water on many dreams. Even so, it’s better to start with a dream or something you love. Like the veterinarian’s early love of animals, you and I can also be guided toward work and careers that we love. It may take longer to break through and many years to gain that sense of success, but a base of kindness and love is a great place to start.

Discipline like clockwork — Good veterinarians understand discipline. For us humans, this suggests structure and regimen. I believe it also underscores building and maintaining good habits. I can always tell when a dinner guest sneaks a bite of food to my new dog Amber — she begs for weeks. Broken habits cause trouble. We humans wonder why our lives and careers zig-zag between goals and wishes and heartbreaks. Part of the answer lies in our habits.

Tend to the business — Successful veterinarians learn to combine their love for the animal with the requirements of the business. One without the other will create hardship and disappointment. I suggest the 60/40 rule: expect that 60 percent of your professional life will relate to the planning, marketing, communicating and assessing needed to keep going. Forty percent (if you’re lucky) will relate to doing what you love. This is good and you are blessed. Those who expect these numbers to be inverted sometimes become bitter and depressed.

Restrain bad behavior — Whether from friends and family or co-workers, superiors and employees, learn from those who work with animals and put a stop to bad behavior. Bad behavior is anything that harms others or makes it difficult or impossible to achieve the needed results of the business.

Admit when the end is near — This is a tough one. The worst mistake I made with a pet was waiting too long to put my dog down. At the end of her life, Belle had good days and bad. I magnified the joy of her good days and rationalized waiting to end her life. She suffered tremendously. I finally learned what my vet friends and clients had tried to teach me — when it’s time, it’s time. It’s selfish to make others suffer when you can’t process bad news.

Plan ahead to sell — If you want to reap the rewards of your studies, efforts and sacrifices, get serious about cashing in. No need to get greedy or cutthroat; just plan early to take care of yourself and the business.

Kiwi, the red bengal, came to me from friends desperate to save her from feline bullies in the household. Their thrill in finding her a good home must have sparked a bit of amnesia concerning her advanced periodontal disease. I agreed to the extractions and she ate dry food just fine without a single tooth. I, however, still have suspicions of being placed on PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) hit list.

Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He speaks on balance, teams and the confidence of Napoleon. Reach him at 970-690-7327.

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