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

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.
Jun 29, 2016

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. 

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.