Dr. Adam Little is a veterinarian and entrepreneur who works on creative solutions to addressing human and animal health issues. He has a BSc and DVM from the University of Guelph and is the first veterinarian to attend Singularity University, a prestigious Silicon Valley-based institution which explores fast moving technologies and their impact on the world. Dr Little serves as Associate Professor or Practice Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine Biomedical Sciences and spearheaded initiatives such as the Veterinary Innovation Summit and the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy. As co-founder of FuturePet, he is working on building a new model of veterinary care to ensure every pet has access to high quality and affordable care. He currently serves as Board Member with the Catalyst Council and sits on the Vet Futures Commission and is a past board member of Veterinarians without Borders, Canada.
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?
I think it’s important to recognize where and when you are most productive. For me, I like to spend the first couple of hours of my day working from a nearby coffee shop. The first thing I do when I get there is prioritise the top 1 or 2 things that I want to accomplish in that time. I know this is when I am productive and I can focus on the tasks at hand. For me, it’s about finding that “flow state” and creating the environment that allows be to get there most quickly and effortlessly.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
It can be tough to separate out vanity progress/success and true impact. I have worked on major projects which received significant press attention and accolades, but never had significant impact with customers When we were working with IBM Watson, we won awards, had a TV commercial aired etc, but the product itself fell woefully short of our expectations.
Its far better to have 100 people love your product than 10,000 that like it and you need to be militant about not getting distracted by “accomplishments” that are not true indicators of progress.
When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?
Self-awareness is key. Often, you will recognize that you are “off”,or are being “short” with colleagues before it becomes immediately visible to external parties. Instead of letting that boil to the point that it becomes unmanageable it’s OK to embrace that.
1. Go for a walk. Take a minute to get outside and clear your head and often times that new environment will be helpful.
2. Develop a relationship with your team whereby you can express your opinions and thoughts without feeling constrained or judged. My co-founder and I have a very open relationship and it starts with us having empathy for each other’s process.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
Between email, Linkedin, text, it has never been easier for anyone to reach out to you and you have to learn to be OK with not being able to respond to it all. The first step here is you need to first outline your priorities. What do you want to focus on? Why is that important to you? It provides you with framework on how to assess new opportunities. Does this help advance the things I care about? It then helps you communicate to external parties about why you are saying no. Also remember, saying no today, doesn’t mean saying no forever.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?
Either Abundance by Peter Diamandis or the Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Abundance because it’s a transformative look at how to think about the world’s biggest problems and our capacity as humanity to overcome them. Hard Thing About Hard Things because of the practical advice it provides when things are going wrong in an organization and is an honest look at how hard and difficult it can be to build a company.
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?
I have become addicted to podcasts. With Airpods, it’s easy to suddenly unlock hours of time in a day that I wasn’t as productive and begin to learn something new. I think voice and audio will be huge categories and I am excited to see how they evolve.
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
There are some incredibly pieces of software and apps that are both affordable and very impactful. Here are a few of my favourites. Focus@Will (music designed to help you focus), Things (the best to do list I have ever used), Notion (a fantastic alternative to Evernote), and Calm (a relaxation & meditation app that is a life saver to relax). These tools have such a profound impact on my ability to be productive, which in turn amplifies my impact on others.
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
Be open to new experiences and seize the opportunities that present themselves. In a veterinary school, being a veterinarian was what made you the same as everyone else, but outside of those walls, it’s the thing that makes you unique. Embrace that and find the groups and opportunities where that uniqueness can shine through.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
Don’t be a vet. That’s BS. Veterinarians have a very narrow view of our profession that is generated through their own experiences. The world’s biggest problems from food security to spread of disease to combating loneliness all have intersections with animal health. Despite the real challenges that exist, I see these as tremendous opportunities for solutions that will lead to new career paths. We need to expose people to these challenges, give them the confidence, support, and training to overcome them, and build a profession which is creating the future we want for ourselves, our clients, and our patients. Don’t let others build your glass ceiling.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?
I can’t take credit for this quote, but Larry Page (CEO of Google) once said that 99.99% of people go to work every day and don’t work on changing the world. Each day, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people and animals – literally saving lives and without you in it, the world would be a lot less caring and compassionate. So every time someone gets angry or complains, think about all the patients that you have impacted that while they can’t talk, would be saying “thank you” for what you do.
Have you been inspired by someone in your career? Or know someone in the veterinary profession who has made a positive impact on you?
There are no strict criteria for contributors or mentors, other than that they are positive, supportive members of our profession.
If someone you know springs to mind, or you have any feedback or ideas relating to our Vet Mentors project, please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org