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As I sit here this morning getting ready to welcome the participants of the 2013 VLE powered by the AVMA-PLIT, I am reminded of my own experience as a participant. Though it was 2 years ago, I use the lessons learned on a daily basis. We often hear that the event is “life-changing.” Based on my experience, I would say what really happens is the VLE gives participants the tools necessary to change their own lives. It is a subtle but important difference, as I believe you have to change your own life.

Many take home lessons are taught during VLE and I am sure that some resonate more than others with each of the 200+ participants. One of the resonators with me was a restatement of one of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People-“ Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. I have read and studied Covey over the course of years, if not decades, and feel I understand the habits. Every so often, though, someone tells you something you have heard for years and for whatever reason, THIS time it really hits home… same message, but different delivery.

I love metaphors and during VLE “seek first to understand” was presented as having your garage door open. Nothing can get in if your garage door is closed. Our minds work the same way! For years, I have strived to start as many sentences as possible with, “Help me understand,” which is effectively me trying to keep my mental garage door open to the person with whom I am communicating. The garage door metaphor just anchored the concept and has been a great tool to help me stay on my game in the dozens of business conversations I have every day.

Now, each morning, when I back out of my garage and push the clicker to close the door, I smile to myself and remember that although I am closing the real garage door, I must leave my mental garage door open.

The Veterinary Leadership Experience was an amazing event for me and I am thrilled to continue to be a part of the annual event as a Veterinary Leadership Institute Board Member. I am looking forward to learning with others this week and we all learn how to keep our garage doors open.

Andrew Clark