10 lessons for veterinarians from Steve Jobs


Embracing risk, anticipating change among Apple co-founders guiding principles.

Do you have the latest iPhone (or wish you did)? Are you hankering for a new and improved iPad? Have you looked at the soon-to-be-released iWatch? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're a walking testament to the genius of Steve Jobs. Apple's late co-founder envisioned these and other technologies before we even knew we needed them.

Now imagine that Jobs had worked with animals instead of computers. Where would our industry be if we had a visionary like him setting the direction? What service or product would our clients be seeking that they'd never imagined needing? Consider the developments we might have seen!

Now, I don't want to take anything away from the industry leaders who have improved upon, repurposed and brought to market products and services layer by layer and iteration by iteration. The problem is that most, if not all, veterinary offerings have been just that-iterative and incremental improvements.

I don't know if there will be another Steve Jobs, but I am pretty sure there has never been anyone like him. People who create fascinate me, and I'm always looking for what defines unique people.

I recently read a blog on entrepreneurship titled “21 Life Lessons from Steve Jobs” by Nick Scheidies, which was originally published in The New York Times. These are my favorite tips; I think we can apply them in our practices, our industry and our lives.

1. Skate to where the puck is going to be. In 2007 Jobs said, “There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' ” As the veterinary industry rapidly changes, it's important to look for the open spots on the ice and take charge of a new direction.

2. Learn from others. Jobs spent years as a young man at Hewlett-Packard. By the time he was 21, he had worked for HP and Atari, which gave him the opportunity to hone the vision and skills that would give rise to Apple.

3. Start early. Now is best. The future does not begin at some point a few months or years down the road. The future begins now.

4. Travel the world. Travel broadens a person's perspective, expands an individual's sense of needs vs. wants, and lets you see what's possible.

5. Expect greatness. People tend to rise to their own expectations. Don't include mediocrity in your business plan. Strive for excellence.

6. Don't value money. Success is not based on financial success but on fulfillment, happiness and the joy that comes from a job well done. The pursuit of wealth will not often lead to joy, but the pursuit of joy and happiness will result in a different sort of wealth.

7. Take risks. Focus on future opportunties rather than current successes. Don't just improve on what you know but step out of your comfort zone to pursue new services, new models and new business structures.

8. Have a higher purpose. Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” Strive to make the world a better place.

9. Remember you'll be dead soon. Jobs said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything-all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” Our time on this earth is short. Make it matter.

10. Put a dent in the universe. Jobs once said, “We're here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?” I have always believed we should leave the world better or at least no worse than we found it.

While you and I might not have the genius and vision of Steve Jobs, we can still seek to aim high and make a difference. What do you want your impact to be? Having a higher purpose doesn't just help you find success. It makes true success possible.

Dr. Mike Paul is the principal of MAGPIE Veterinary Consulting. He is retired from practice and lives in Anguilla, British West Indies.

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