Reflecting on life, love, and the ‘greatest’ profession on earth

Photo courtesy Dr. Marty Becker

My children think I have ADHD. An old business partner said my management style resembles that of a squirrel crossing the road. My modus operandi has always been, “Ready. Fire! Aim.”

Somehow, out of these seemingly negative qualities, I have been happily married to my beloved Teresa for 45 years, have a close family and friends, and have been financially successful and emotionally wealthy in the greatest profession on earth.

Since I’m closing in on 70 years of age and 45 years of practice (my older brother, Bob, just died at age 72), I thought I might review some of the things that have most impacted my life with the hope some of them allow you to be happier, healthier, more impactful, or successful, or just smile.

The Becker top 25

  1. Have 15-30 minutes each day to focus on thinking. Reflect on career, health, and relationships.
  2. Spend time with people who inspire you. Good to read them, better to listen to them, best to be in their presence. Note: My example would be veterinary industry legend, John Payne, and Temple Grandin.
  3. Find ways to reduce expenses. Note: My mentor told me, when I was about 25 years old, I could do anything I wanted in life … just not everything. What he meant was, if I wanted a beautiful home, I could have it. If I wanted an expensive boat, I could have it. If I wanted to travel the world, I could do it. I just couldn’t do everything I wanted.
  4. After a rainstorm, take time to watch the rainbow.
  5. Send greeting cards and a lengthy message to all your close friends and business associates on their birthday. As we get older and in the days of mobile phones, adults get very few birthday cards.
  6. Move your body. Make exercise a priority.
  7. Surround yourself with positive people.
  8. If you have something your state (or region) is famous for, give that as a gift for folks across the country. Note: Every early November, we send 50-lb boxes of Idaho potatoes to special friends. These are not regular bakers—each perfectly oval tater weighs 2-2.5 lbs. With those on the Thanksgiving table, that’s a conversation starter.
  9. Live a life of constant improvement.
  10. Tell a perfectly timed joke that makes everyone laugh out loud.
  11. Go to your class reunions, both high school and veterinary school.
  12. Create a family mission statement. Note: Ours is “Live for today, plan for tomorrow, no regrets.”
  13. Be part of a larger community by volunteering.
  14. Reach out to people who are sick, injured, or have lost a loved one. Then, make a note to reach out again quarterly for a year. Note: I put them reminders in Outlook.
  15. Take power naps.
  16. Keep balance in your life.
  17. Think like a client.
  18. Never pass a kid’s lemonade stand without buying.
  19. Never forget to call your mom and send a card on Mother’s Day. If you just rely on the card’s text, shame on you.
  20. If you have had a great meal, ask for a manager. Thank them for the overall experience, how well the server treated you, and tell them to thank the kitchen.
  21. Share lots of stories (history) with your family, friends, and coworkers.
  22. If you have a nice hotel room, thank the housekeepers, and leave them a tip.
  23. Fight for human rights, diversity, and equal opportunity.
  24. Admit sometimes, you love your dog more than your spouse/partner.
  25. Never forget the first time you ever thought about becoming a veterinarian. Never forget when you found out you were getting into vet school. Never forget graduation with your family there. Never forget what a privilege and joy it is to be part of the greatest profession on earth. 

    Photo courtesy Dr. Marty Becker

I saw a T-shirt that said, “Just when I thought I was winning the rat race…along came faster rats.” Life can seem like it is in fast-forward, that we are being pulled in different directions, via electronic tethers, like we are controlled by a mad marionettes. You can be having a great day at practice, only to be taken to your knees by a cruel client or the unexpected loss of a pet.

I’m very open about my struggles with depression. As I get older, I find it takes more to rattle me, but I can still feel myself being emotionally wounded, by joy ebbing. In my desk drawer at practice, I have these:

  • Photo album. It has my 100 favorite family photos (from my wife of 45 years and I dating to the latest photo of our granddaughter).
  • Client letters. I have saved my favorite letters from clients with some dating back over four decades.
  • Lists. I have lists of thoughts about reducing stress, staying happy, overcoming adversity, being healthier.

Sometimes I linger on one of the three, other times I luxuriate for a few more precious minutes in all three. Invariably, they bring me back to center, remind me that my problems are “First World,” and I’m blessed beyond measure, and still love being part of the greatest profession on earth.

Marty Becker, DVM, writes regularly for Veterinary Practice News. Dr. Becker is a Sandpoint, Idaho, practitioner, and founder of the Fear Free initiative. For more information about the organization or to register for certification, visit Columnists’ opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Veterinary Practice News.