Managing life's hamster wheel, one day at a time

When it comes to having it all as a veterinarian, there are a few things you need to give up too.

Becker with his granddaughter, Reagan. They're best buds, and she eventually hopes to become a veterinarian someday. (Photo courtesy of author).

Life, hamster wheels, and the pursuit of happiness

I'm off of life's hamster wheel about twelve weeks a year. This is something that started when my daughter, Mikkel, was a baby and I literally never saw her awake because I was still farming, practicing, building additional hospitals and lecturing around the country and the world. I'd read a book that year that talked about how you could gain great knowledge by asking folks that were at or near retirement the simple question: "What do you know now that you wished you'd have known when you were my age that would have caused you to live your life differently?" I kept hearing the same answer: "I wished I'd have spent more time with my family." So I huddled with my wife and decided that I'd just compress about 18 months' worth of work in the nine months I worked, but still be able to take an aggregate three months a year off. 

In another life:

I would have been...

A farmer.

Something people don't know about me...

In my junior year of high school I was co-captain of the football, basketball and track teams, class president, student body president and editor of the school paper. Sounds great until I tell you that there were only 20 kids in my graduating class. 

Finding inspiration in all aspects of life 

My beloved wife of 38 years is an easy first answer. If I could make the perfect person for me, it would be Teresa. Secondly, I'd have to say Ross Clark, DVM. I knew that a small animal practice was a business and that Dr. Clark taught business strategies that could make you financially successful, and he let you know that you didn't have to take a vow of poverty to practice vet med.

You don't need a degree in Clairvoyance to be successful and happy in your life and veterinary practice. (Photo courtesy of author). The last is definitely not least: Stephen Covey, the author of the business best-seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. After reading the book and meeting Covey, I completely changed the way I lived my life, both personally and professionally. 

When doing it all, there are things you'll have to give up 

I stopped making judgments about people. It didn't take me long to realize in business and in life that I had failed to take Clairvoyance 101 in college. Secondly, I stopped trying to dramatically change people. It's hard enough to change yourself. 


"As our kids get older, I think of them more like pets." Here's Becker, daughter Mikkel, granddaughter Reagan, and pets enjoying life off of the hamster wheel. (Photo courtesy of author). Pets: hard. Kids: harder. Sick pets: hardest 

Especially when kids are younger, there's duplicity, performances, hidden agendas and outright lying. When I think of pets I think of unconditional love, limitless affection and to-die-for loyalty. As our kids get older, I think of them more like pets. Sick pet visits are harder 10 to 1. By nature, pets hide their illnesses, and we're a healthcare team of one versus humans who have dentists, primary care physicians, ophthalmologists, OBGYN, etc. 



Dr. Marty Becker is a renowned speaker, TV personality and author of many books, including The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. Dr. Becker practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.