Is it really a passion for the veterinary profession?
This yin and yang is very much a part of our profession. The truth is that for most of us, our passion was never the veterinary
profession itself. Rather it was the delight of interacting with animals, the challenge of problem-solving, the fulfillment
of treating and preventing disease and, yes, in some cases, financial reward. Veterinary medicine provided a way of getting
really good at those things and allowed our profession to achieve those passions.
Have you ever been interviewed by a youngster whose parents said, "She wants to be a veterinarian more than anything"? No,
she doesn't—she wants to work with animals, is intrigued by your stethoscope and realizes that becoming a veterinarian will
make that possible. The parents have skipped past the fact that she loves animals or science. How many youngsters started
out thinking they were passionate about being involved in organized medicine or public health or wanted to own a large practice?
Rather, they worked at skill sets and parlayed their actual passion into becoming veterinarians.
Do what you do well
So why do we focus on following an imaginary emotional goal? One reason is that people have told us that wanting something
badly enough will make it come true. "You can be anything you want to be," they say. Really? It feels good to do something
we enjoy and hopefully life will reward us, but take a look at the talents and skills required to be a musician, an athlete,
a dancer or that old standby, the president of the United States. Really?
I will be frank—I hope you grow to love what you do and spend your life doing what you love. I hope that elusive thing called
passion works its way into your life's work. But in reality, unless I'm your parent or Dr. Phil, I don't care! I want you
to be good, well-prepared, knowledgeable and as much of an expert as possible, regardless of whether you're doing my taxes
or operating on my back. I don't pay you for being passionate or happy—I pay you for excellence and I expect you to pursue
that as your passion.
So contrary to what your high school guidance counselor advised, don't pursue your passion. Look at your interests, talents
and skills and pursue excellence—your passion. Do what you do well and get better at it. That will be recognized and rewarded internally where it really matters.
Had I followed my own advice years ago, I might have found myself sitting where Bob Costas sits, instead of wishing I could
see the TV better.
Dr. Michael Paul is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He lives
in Anguilla in the British West Indies. Got a question for Dr. Paul? Ask him on Twitter @mikepauldvm. Your question could
be answered in his next column.