John is a second generation vet. The eldest of a happy batch of six children growing up in the household of a busy, single-handed practitioner, he was aware early on of the expectation that he would follow on in the family business. Further imbibing the veterinary atmosphere of The Dick Vet from 1976, before spending all of his working life in mixed practice in Cumbria. The first 28 years of his career in the family ‘way of life’ practice involved stretches of sole charge and during the last decade, he was a partner in a large, more business-like practice.
He has had the backing of marriage to a local girl and is proud of his two sons, neither of whom are Vets. He is a lover of the outdoors; formerly as a keen runner now walker and cyclist in the great outdoors of The Lake District.
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?
I always get up in good time, an hour or so before going to work. Start with some chores, get well hydrated with a pint of water or tea, and fuel up with a bowl of porridge. I do a few stretches (not a full Jane Fonda workout) then spend some time to myself. Usually checking emails or catching up with the news. Beginning the day this way ensures I’m in charge of the day rather than the day in charge of me.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
Generally speaking, I’ve learnt that all experience (good and bad), can be banked and called upon later. It is better to take control of those difficult clients or cases that everyone dreads. Give them a call to see how things are going, catch them on your terms not theirs.
When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?
I get back to myself by having a blast in the gym, out on the hills or on the bike, to gain some perspective on life. I talk to my wife where I think it might help, but keep some things separate as not to influence my home life. I may replay the day or particular case, reflect on what I could’ve done differently.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
I have not been good at saying no to clients and staff throughout my working life, but this is actually something I have taken some pride in. I always to sought to see to client’s needs in a stress free manner. I also felt it was important to remain approachable as an employer, never one to shoot the messenger when receiving “the last thing I needed” call from staff.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?
A copy of the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling - Inspiration to be humble yet determined.
The book ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand about Louis Zamperini - How to never give up and prevail whatever the odds. To be tough and resilient.
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?
I am planning to cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats this summer, currently training indoor and outdoor to get fitter.
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
My Aeropress coffee maker.
I enjoy the relaxing ritual of grinding beans, making good coffee and having the time to drink it.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
I feel taking a job with as little on-call as possible is poor advice. I would encourage new graduates to embrace out-of-hours, get good at it and enjoy it. Being on-call can become the most fulfilling part of the job. You learn a lot about yourself when you are exposed and out of your comfort zone. There is truth in old fashioned sayings like ‘serving your time’ and ‘learning the trade’, the experiences will pay dividends later in your career.
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
Have fun and be enthusiastic in the honeymoon period of early working life. Never tell yourself that you can’t do something and be authentic. If the going gets a little tough, remember that hard earned experience can never be taken from you.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?
Savour the moments in the day that you’ll look back upon with happy memories later in life.
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