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Rock climbing has taught me a lot about growing my veterinary career. I recently took up the sport and want to share with you what has happened since. It has been the best thing that has happened to my focus – and swung me right back into my stretch zone (sometimes literally), plus I also think is a heap of fun! There are some great parallels to clinical learning too.

Climbing up a wall seems like a silly activity when you think about it – after all, there is always an easier way to get a good view. But, the sport of rock climbing has a heap of benefits that have reminded me a lot about the growth we talk about as a group. I have gone from a complete beginner a few months ago who got exhausted after climbing one wall, to being able to tackle problems I wouldn’t have thought possible when I started! Sounding familiar?

Rock climbing also keeps you learning. There are techniques that you can only learn by watching others, and by asking questions. But there are also other things that you can only learn by giving them a go, failing, and giving them another go.

Despite how it may look, rock climbing always has safety as a number one priority – yes, it can be dangerous sometimes. But the best way to be safe is to try things with experienced mentors, indoors, with a rope connecting you to the top of the building so you can’t fall more than a few feet. Then as you progress you can try bringing that outdoors (what the green rope to the right of me is doing), and then you can start ‘leading’ which is when you might have a fall of 5-10 metres below you until your rope is caught by the next safety clip below. This requires more focus, which you can see on my face as I try not to fall off the wall!

Overall it’s a great example of how to grow the skills you need and pushing yourself, with a good mentor, and always with a safety net (or rope). 

If we bring it back to our clinical learning there are some lessons to pay attention to. 

1. Don’t be afraid to fail small and safe.

2. Push yourself when you do have that support (a more experienced vet, awesome equipment, healthy patients) so that you develop the skills for when it counts.

The only alternative is playing it safe – and that way you never even get off the ground.

So what activities do you do? And how do you think they help you to live a happier and healthy life – veterinary or otherwise?

If this article taught you something about learning from your mistakes, you may benefit from reading Dr Dave’s latest book, So You’re a Vet…Now What? the new veterinarian’s blueprint for success in the profession.

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