The VLE is truly my most cherished, and most wonderful, week of the year. The top three things that I learned during my week at VLE
#1-It’s okay to say no! Prior to attending the VLE, I was known to say yes to helping everyone with everything. Helping everyone is what I do; it always has and it always will be within every fiber of my being. I never took a moment to stop and realize how thin I was stretching myself, and I never stopped to consider that it is okay to take some time for myself on a regular basis.
#2-No matter how determined we are to accomplish our goals, we all need to step off the treadmill and slow down. Before attending VLE, I was running full speed ahead in a dual graduate degree program, working on both my Master’s degree and DVM while staying involved in organizations and serving as an officer in various groups, and working part-time at the vet school. Had I not realized that I needed to step off the treadmill, I would very likely have burned out very quickly. We’ve all been told that the tortoise will win the race, so to speak. Life is not an endless sprint; it’s a marathon, and we should enjoy the ride. My attendance at the VLE put things into perspective for me at a very opportune time.
#3-There will always be bullies and naysayers present in your professional life. I was a participant at VLE when I was experiencing very little help and support from professionals that I looked up to and was working with. Throughout my participant week at VLE, I learned how to better deal with these situations. I’ve continued to work with these individuals, but I don’t allow their words and actions to get under my skin and get the better of me. Additionally, throughout my time spent with the amazing individuals that have attended VLE over the years, I have made best friends, and I can now count on a whole host of cheerleaders that are constantly checking on me and are always present in my life, willing to listen and provide me with encouragement and advice.
The most memorable quote from all of my time spent attending and helping with the VLE is “live with intention.” In fact, I either wear or look at the bracelet that Dr. Wiedemeyer so kindly provided to us, on a daily basis. I am very intentional with what I say and the actions that I use. As a student in professional school, I strive to maintain a professional attitude toward my colleagues, professors, and those I interact with daily. I try to always embody the phrase “live with intention.”
As a leader that has held numerous official leadership titles in various organizations throughout my time in veterinary school, I have continually and intentionally strived to have officer teams that feel like teams rather than dictatorships. I enjoy working with my officer teammates to accomplish a common goal. I intentionally ask for my team’s input and ideas and am often the last one to speak after I’ve asked for discussion on a topic. I want to listen, really listen, to what is said. I don’t want to just hear the words being spoken; I want to listen and put into action the ideas that are tossed about. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. “ ~Max DePree. This quote is one of my absolute favorites that I constantly strive to live by and embody. Being a leader does not simply mean that an individual has a title attached to their name; in fact, many leaders that I have worked with and look up to have not had an “official” title or role. When I think of the attributes and character traits of a leader, I think of a person that is self-less, by which I mean that the individual has a desire for the group or the organization to accomplish great things as a team rather than attribute successes to one single person. These leaders often say “we rather than “I”, even when tasks or goals accomplished seem trivial. A leader must be willing to assist the team and do whichever tasks are needed, even if that does not necessarily fit in the “job description” and is not a glamorous or glorious job. In my mind, a true leader leads from behind by encouraging and empowering their team rather than standing in front and being recognized as the leader in name only. A leader celebrates every success of the individuals and the team and recognizes the work of all involved. Most importantly, a leader says thank you and acknowledges work, time, and effort on a regular basis. Being a VLE participant reinforced that value of a simple thank you and acknowledgement.