Success Principles for Life and Practice
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2013
Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
PAW Consulting, Irvine, CA, USA


While we were toiling late into the night as veterinary students and while we continue to toil late into the night as veterinarians, managers, administrators and para-professional staff, there is a whole world of people studying people. This is their passion. They look for trends amongst successful people that we can learn from, emulate, and thus become successful ourselves.

Jack Canfield, of The Chicken Soup for the Soul fame, finished his study of successful people. Applying Jack's findings in "The Success Principles" to the veterinary profession is the premise of these sessions. We will look at 8 principles that I feel are most pressingly applicable to us both personally and professionally!

1. Principle: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life

There is only one person responsible for the life you enjoy - you! To be successful, you must take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life. Have you ever blamed something or someone else for any part of your life?

A formula that simply describes the relationship between responses and outcomes:

or more simply: E + R = O

A guiding principle for success suggests that taking responsibility for our responses will directly affect the outcomes that we receive. The outcomes are our relationships, our work experiences, our health, etc. The events might include new legislation, the economy, the traffic, the weather, the current president. The tendency is for us to blame the event for the outcome while rarely blaming ourselves. The results that we create, the quality of life that we experience, is a result of how we respond to an event, not the event itself! By blaming the event you give up control and put all the power outside of yourself.

What is just is! Change the response if you don't like the outcome. You can't change the event!

Stop complaining to the wrong person! Why do you go home and complain about work when nobody at home can fix work? Why do you go to work and complain about home when nobody at work can fix home!

Pay attention to clues that might lead to events, which will impact your outcome. This is called controlling your outcomes by identifying so-called red flags or yellow alerts. Be alert and you won't be a victim.

Action Items

Give up blaming and complaining!

If you have a complaint, speak to somebody who can do something about it!

Replace complaining with making requests and taking action that will lead you to the results you want.

Be aware of the clues around you.

Ask yourself the following: "If I were to take just 10% more responsibility for my ___________ , I would...."

Fill in the blank with: happiness; health/fitness; quality of my relationships; effectiveness at work; life!

2. Principle: Decide What you Want

There are seven categories in your life on which you should focus. They are:



 Recreation and free time

 Physical fitness and health

 Relationships with family and friends

 Personal goals

 Community service/legacy

Think about what it is you want to create or experience in each of these categories over the next year. What three things do you want to accomplish in each area?

You now have 21 goals for the next year. For each goal, it needs to be measurable and timely. For example: I want to lose weight. Try: I want to weigh 138 pounds by June 30, 2007. You now have 21 detailed goals. Let's make them into positive statements in the present tense. These are called affirmations. Using the example above: I am celebrating my weight at 138! I am working four days per week eight hours per day and earning $1000 per day.

Action Item

On the top of seven pieces of paper or index cards or napkins, write the category headings noted above. Below each heading write down at least three things you want to accomplish over the next year. Remember to write them with How Much and a Date of Completion.

Make each goal into a positive statement of existence or affirmation.

Read your goals twice a day - when you wake up and before you go to sleep.

Visualize each goal as if you had already achieved it.

Do this daily and with emotion.

3. Principle: Believe in YOURSELF!

I can't tell you how many articles that have been written about veterinarians and their so-called 'self-esteem or self-confidence' issues. If you ever want to be successful in business or life, you have to believe that you can make it happen. You have to believe in yourself. This is a choice that you make, not that somebody else makes for you.

The words "I can't" disempower you and make you weaker. Decide that you are capable of doing anything you want and start working toward it. Now!

Action Item

Choose to believe that you can do anything that you set your mind to. Anything!

Act as if it is possible to do anything and you will do the things necessary to bring about the results. Give up phrases like: "I can't!"; "I wish I were able to"

4. Principle: Build a Powerful Support Team and Delegate to Them!

Who are your key supporters, staff, etc.? These are the people that allow you to focus on greatness while they handle the more mundane tasks. Try this:

1.  List all the activities that occupy your time - business, personal, civic, etc., even the smallest tasks.

2.  Choose from the list the three things you are best at, brilliant at, talented at, and that few people can do as well as you can. Choose from the list the three activities that generate the most income for your company. Shouldn't you focus on those activities that you are both brilliant at and that generate the most money?

3.  Create a plan to delegate everything else to other people. Get rid of the low-payoff, non-essential tasks.

There are people who love to do what you hate to do. Find them, trust them, delegate, and enjoy the success.

Action Item

Identify the key staff members that you can delegate to. Train them what to do and delegate.

Identify a team of advisors, accountants, attorneys, resources, bankers, coach, etc. Let them know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

With a handpicked and trained team of supporters, now the hard part: trust them!

5. Principle: Learn More To Earn More!

Information is power! The more you have, the greater your advantage over other people. Learning doesn't stop at the end of school. The amount of information currently available is mind-boggling. Reading for an hour a day. Watching television that is educational. Attending CE such as this week at WSAVA. These actions will put your knowledge ahead of your colleagues and will substantially increase your personal success.

Use your commute to learn. Use your workout time to learn. Take advantage of the internet.

If you read a book a week, you'd read 520 books in 10 years and over 1000 in 20 years. You would be in the top 1% of experts in your area of interest! (Jim Rohn)

Read biographies and learn about and from the success of others.

Be teachable. Be open to learning.

Do what you can to be ready for the next great opportunity or interest that you might have.

Action Item

Read for an hour a day. Read a book a week. Review what you have read. Apply at least one thing you learn from each book. Make a list of the top 10 things you could do to make yourself ready for an opportunity. Commit to lifelong learning.

6. Principle: Embrace Change

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a hundred times: change is inevitable! So, you can resist and fight change and be overrun by it, or you can embrace it, learn from it, cooperate with it, and benefit from it. Look for new ways to use change to improve your life and your business. How?

Experience change as an opportunity for growth and new experiences. Look at the upside and not the downside. Vaccination clinics become an opportunity to practice medicine. New flea control products become a way to get clients into your practice more often. Specialists are an opportunity for enhanced patient care.

Of course, we have learned to adapt to the cyclical changes that we see during our 'peak' times of the year and the 'slow' times of the year. This is part of veterinary life, just as the seasons are a part of our human lives.

Structural changes are those where the change is such that there is no going back to the way things were before. Program, Advantage, Frontline, etc. were all changes that have forever impacted our way of doing business. Changing vaccination protocols are a structural change in the making. How are you adapting to this example of change? Or are you resisting it?

Action Item

Think back to a change that you made and say, "Hey, I'm glad I finally made that change and look how it has improved me, my practice, my relationship, etc."

Ask yourself:

 What changes in my life/practice am I currently resisting?

 Why am I resisting change?

 What am I afraid of? With respect to the change? With respect to me?

 What will happen if things stay the way they are?

 What could happen if I change?

 What do I have to do next to start to change?

 When am I going to do so?

7. Principle: Commit to Constant and Never-Ending Improvement

Kaizen is the operating philosophy for most Japanese businesses and all old Japanese warriors. It means basically, "constant and never ending improvement." It is the mantra for successes and achievers.

With the speed of change in veterinary medicine and the world around us, it is imperative to take on this mantra just to survive. Status quo will not compete any longer. A dedicated approach to improvement is required. Start with small manageable steps if you want a longer-term chance for success. By mastering small, achievable steps, you will reinforce your belief that you can easily improve.

Action Item

Decide what you need to improve on (e.g., client service, estimates, hiring, etc.). Identify the steps that you'll need to achieve that improvement.

Always be asking yourself and your team:

 "How can I/we improve today?"

 "What can I/we do better than before?"

 "Where can I learn a new skill or new competency?"

 "How can I make this better?"

 "How can I do this more efficiently?"

 "How can I do this more profitably?"

These questions can apply to certain procedures and protocols or even your personal life. A little improvement everyday will move you closer to your goals.

8. Principle: Take Action

To quote Ray Kroc of McDonald's fame:

"There are three keys to success:

1.  Being at the right place at the right time

2.  Knowing you are there

3.  Taking action"

"The universe rewards action." In veterinary medicine, unfortunately, we haven't convinced our clients to pay us for what we know, they pay us for what we do! (Of course, what we do is based upon what we know!)

When you take action, you let everybody around you know of your serious intentions. You then learn things from the experience of your actions more than you would by waiting around. You can get feedback, so that you can do it even better.

Winners take action. Successful people are action oriented. How long have you waited to remodel? Hire that associate? Fire that receptionist? Learn how to better diagnose and treat ear infections? Why? Once you take these actions, you will start to do more and more things and learn more and more.

Remember, failure is an important part of learning. Trial and error are part of the road to success.

Action Item

Get started. Make mistakes. Listen to the feedback. Correct. Keep moving forward towards your goals. Make a list of those things that you have waited to do or held yourself back from doing. Update your OSHA compliance. Hire an office manager. Close early on Wednesday. Ask yourself what do I need to start on this list. Then, just do it!


You can model success by studying successful people. There are many other principles of success that you can learn and benefit from. By working a few principles at a time you will start to see improvement both in your practice and your personal life. Take action!


1.  Canfield Jack, Switzer, Janet. "The Success Principles."


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
PAW Consulting
Irvine, CA, USA

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