Book Review: Lessons from the Mouse

While we’ve learned a lot from lab mice over the years through various experiments, those aren’t the mice we will be discussing today. Let me take you back a few years and tell you how principles implemented in The Walt Disney Company and the classic cartoon character Mickey Mouse can help you excel in professional school. In his book, Lessons from the Mouse, Dennis Snow reveals the lessons he learned while working for Disney and offers how they can help guide you towards success. Snow spent 20 years working for Disney, starting at the theme park and working his way up to senior management and leadership roles. He is now a full-time speaker and consultant who helps organizations enhance their customer service and empower employees. In his book, Snow lays out 10 lessons that he learned while working for Disney which helped propel him to a more successful career. While most of the principles are customer service based, I will be highlighting my favorite 5 of his lessons, relating them to our journey through professional school. While the lessons may seem simple, implementing them in your life can have a profound effect on your professional outlook.

1. Never Let Backstage Come Onstage

We all have bad days, and sometimes we don’t want to be at school or work. However, regardless of our personal situation, it’s imperative that we step back and realize that as a medical professional there is always a job at hand that requires our full attention. We cannot always control outside circumstances, but we do have the choice to have a positive attitude. We always need to ‘be on’ when interacting with patients, faculty, and classmates on a professional level. Snow wrote this about the culture at Disney. “The expectation was for you to leave problems at the door at the beginning of your shift and pick them up again at the end.” Our patients deserve our attentiveness and focus on the problem at hand and our faculty and classmates deserve our best efforts inside the classroom and operatory. Always be mindful of your attitude, be cognizant of those around you, and be intentional and earnest in all of your professional interactions.

2. Have Fun With the Job No Matter How Miserable You Feel

Snow writes, “Making the mundane pleasurable is a real skill, and it’s all about attitude.” It is easy to get stuck in a rut while at school or work, but it is our job to see the fun in every situation. A few easy ways to make things less of a drag include creating competitions, engaging with patients, and faking it until you feel it.  Friendly competition can increase camaraderie and make any task more fun and engaging. Engaging with patients is a simple and easy way to not only get to know the patient, but also a great way to learn something new and pass the time. Finally, if these first two options aren’t working for you, just fake being happy. The latest psychology studies show that faking a smile and telling yourself you are having fun can have a profound psychological effect and actually cause you to be happier. While we definitely need to be professional, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Have fun with the job and you’ll get way more out of it.

3. Pay Attention to the Details – Everything Speaks  

Medicine is certainly a detailed oriented profession. From taking exams to diagnosing illnesses, we must pay attention to details so that we can create an accurate depiction of the bigger picture in our minds. Be meticulous and work hard to understand the complexities of your work and your patients. Those around you will notice, and you will be rewarded in the long run.

“The secret or principle here, is that you are responsible for your own career. No one is going to care more about your future than you.”

Dennis Snow, Author, Lessons from the Mouse

4. Never, Ever Say, “That’s Not My Job” – Don’t Even Think It!

I will be the first to admit this was one of my major flaws as I went through dental school. We had seemingly endless busy work, projects, and lab activities which at the time seemed rather tedious and meaningless. Like many of you, I like to be efficient, and I often thought many of the tasks at hand didn’t need to be done or could have been done by someone else in a more efficient manner. However, looking back I realized that most of the time we can’t change the tasks we are presented with, but we can change our attitudes towards them. Approach each rotation, patient encounter, problem, and activity as a new learning experience and with a positive attitude no matter how meaningless or tedious it may seem. Realizing that each job can serve a bigger purpose will help change your outlook and give you a more meaningful time in professional school.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Own Career

Snow writes, “The secret or principle here, is that you are responsible for your own career. No one is going to care more about your future than you….Those who succeed don’t see themselves as victims. They see themselves as powerful and in charge of their lives and careers.” How do we take charge of our careers?

First, gather a good support system; find a mentor and let them know your goals. Having people to push you and hold you accountable is a great step towards professional success. Next, be passionate and always continue to learn. Nowadays, we have unlimited resources to help us learn, so it is important to utilize them to broaden our understanding of topics that may confuse us. Lastly, ask for what you want; the worst you can be told is no. Ask for additional responsibilities, for research, for scholarships. Let your professors know what you want. They are there to educate and help propel you in your career, so utilize them and you might be surprised with how willing they are to help.

I hope you enjoyed learning about some of the simple principles to help steer your career path towards success. Remember that we can’t always control external circumstances, but we can control our attitude and our attitude will drive our future outlook. I will leave you with one final quote from Snow that really hit home for me. “There are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. People who make things happen will always be in demand.”

What principles have you implemented in your professional life that have helped you take charge of your career and direct you towards a path to success? Comment below or contact us directly.

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