Episode 74

The Secret Formula of Life, Part III: Using Your Power for Good

Emotional Intelligence: The Secret of Success See All Episodes »

By now, we know that we have the power control our day-to-day experience by strengthening and using our self-awareness and self-management skills. But what happens when something outside your control—namely, the people around you who are paying more attention to the “villain voices”—zaps your energy? Like any superhero, we need to use our powers for good, not evil!

Today, Amy VanDeWater of Glue Veterinary Coaching is back for the third installment in our series on emotional intelligence, a.k.a. our ability to be aware of and manage our emotions and the emotions of others. Amy believes EQ is a superpower that can have a massive impact on our lives, and the sooner we learn to wield that power, the sooner we can achieve our heroic quest to find happiness, success, and fulfillment.

In this episode, Amy offers encouragement for setting off on your own EQ journey, explains how to handle negative people we can’t avoid, and shares tips for helping others achieve EQ enlightenment.

Episode Guest


Amy VanDeWater

With 35+ years of experience in the field, Amy is the founder of Glue Veterinary Coaching, where she brings a real-world approach to helping veterinary teams and managers maximize their impact and fulfillment. Learn More »

Photo by Kade Beasley on Unsplash


Mia Cunningham: You alluded to it a little bit earlier, but just when you think about your overall wellness and keeping your blood pressure low—you know what I mean? If you figure those things out, it seems like you’d be healthier overall.

Amy VanDeWater: A hundred percent! I mean, people have to be able to go home with energy bones. They have to, because if they don’t, then they can’t fill themselves back up. And we don’t have time to get into it, but I think of things that bring us fulfillment as rainbows—because I see everything in cartoons in my head for some reason. And so, we’ve got tiny rainbows that you can barely see. Like, you just catch them out of the corner of your eye, like a little prism in the sky. And by the time you point it out to somebody, it’s gone. And then there’s the giant rainbows. Like, in veterinary medicine, that giant rainbow is saving lives. It’s changing quality of lives. But it’s those little rainbows that we have to proactively look for, because they fill you back up every day. But if we are so mired down in burnout and exhaustion and chronic stress, we lose our ability to see those little ones. And there’s dozens, every day, doing the work that we do in this field. I mean, I’m sure that other professions outside of caregiving fields get fulfillment, too, but I just don’t feel like, you know, a garbage person—and that’s actually a really great job to have overall, but I don’t think they have as much potential for fulfillment like we do in this field. And so to waste that because we let ourselves get sucked into burnout and compassion fatigue and chronic stress and all of it, to me, it’s such a tragedy. It’s not okay. 

MC: You can’t pour from an empty cup. 

AV: Yeah, that’s exactly it. There’s a quote from a wonderful book called Burnout: Wellness is a state of action. And that was a lightbulb moment for me, because wellness is not like you’re floating through a field of daisies covered with sparkling fairy dust, like we somehow just have it. It’s not that. It’s something we create. If we’re sitting back waiting for things to get better, just waiting for things to change, and to feel less stressed, that ain’t happening. So we’ve got to take an approach as a state of action. What are the tiny, tiny things that we can do, that we can’t fail at, to start feeling better?

MC: Once we have achieved high EQ, and we’ve taken control of the voices in our head, is that something that we have to continually work on, or does it become second nature at a certain point?

AV: This is what I think is beautiful about emotional intelligence. Every single time you try, every single time you say, “Oh my gosh, that’s Vicky the victim I’m talking to my head right now. What is Molly saying?” You’re making progress. And my Molly is a kick-in-the-butt kind of person. Her favorite line is, “Will look at yourself right now?” That’s what I hear in my head; that’s Molly talking. So you know, when we practice, every time we attempt to respond instead of react, every time we recognize that we aren’t managing something well, we start changing our neural pathways using that secret formula, and we get a little bit better at it. I picture like a wooded path that nobody’s walked on it in like 25 years, and so it’s all overgrown. And every time we practice, it’s like we’re taking a little stick off, and we’re making that path clearer for our brain to be able to access it faster and easier.

So in the beginning, I mean, yeah, you’ve got to put some intention into it, right? You’ve got to always be listening for the voices and recognize them when they’re talking and then use the secret formula. Eventually it becomes instant, like, you’re not like sitting down with an index card writing down “A is this, and B is this.” But in the beginning, we have to teach our brain that this is how we now manage difficult situations. Once we are doing it consistently, it gets easier and easier and easier and easier. We will all still fail every single day in a variety of ways. But it doesn’t matter because, as long as you keep at it, you’re going to keep getting better at it. And that’s why I think it’s so empowering as a set of skills. It’s not like you got to learn to jump a rope or something, and you can’t hop very good. This is something that is everyone can access, and all it takes is willingness and knowing what the process is to make those changes.

Krysten Bennett: For some of our listeners, this might sound great in theory, but putting it into practice is another story altogether. Between all the different voices you have to listen for and remembering the secret formula—not to mention everything else you have to think about on a daily basis—getting started might feel a little bit daunting. What encouragement can you offer them?

AV: One of the most important parts when I formed Glue was that all of this stuff that we’re talking about is accessible to any size practice, anywhere in the country or world, and that anyone can get access to this stuff. Because I think everyone in the veterinary field needs this. The best thing is it’s actionable. I mean, you can literally start using the minute you learn it, which is I think, a wonderful way to learn. You guys already know! You’re already referring to the characters, and so it’s very actionable stuff. 

KB: Given the fact that we’re talking about things like self-awareness and self-management, obviously this is something that takes place within yourself. But is there anything you can do to help others increase their own EQ?

AV: For sure. Social awareness is about understanding what’s happening for other people, so that then they can feel heard and understood. A really fun thing that I do with practices is, I have little miniature versions of all the voices, and so we post these all over in hidden spots around the practice—like, put Marge by caller ID, along with Trigger. And so it’s this constant reminder that helps reinforce that desire to keep listening. So that’s a way we can help each other. We help each other by talking about it, right? We help each other by saying, “Oh, man, I am feeling super Vicky the victim today, because I only got three hours of sleep. You may get a little wah-wah-wah from me today, but I’m gonna do my best.”

Or people in teams that have really good connections with each other, like genuine connections with each other and like to have fun, you might point out when someone, say, walks in the door to clock in and they are just dragging, and they’re like, “Hi guys.” And someone might just very pleasantly say, “Oh guys, Vicky’s here! Vicky is here now!” Right? You can only do that through situations, but in teams that have a lot of camaraderie, they absolutely point out the voices in each other. And like I said, sometimes we don’t know, right?

So I’ve created little monsters. I’ve been teaching my kids since they were little, and they know all the characters. Now my boys—they’re 14 and 12—will throw it right back at me. Like if I come in the door going crazy like, “We gotta go to soccer five minutes. I gotta change my clothes. And are you guys packed? Did you pack all your stuff? Where are your cleats? You’re supposed to have them in your bag already!” And I’ll hear this little voice out of nowhere that will say, “Marge is home.” And I realize in that moment, I’m like, “Oh my god, seriously. We’re going to be on time. We’re just not going to be early. Just chill out. This is not who you want to be.” So it’s super effective and super annoying that my kids now use the characters back on me. But truly, as a parent, I think it is such an amazing thing to be able to this to teach kids as they’re growing up. In the beginning, it was how to find your happy after you’re sad. That’s where I started with it. Like, “Okay, we’ve been really sad and we’re really upset. We’ve talked about it, and we we’ve gone through it. Now how can we find our happy?” And that’s self management. And just keep building on that all the time. It gives you a way to talk about it in a way that isn’t complicated and to acknowledge. 

KB: And you’re not pointing fingers. 

AV: Yes. Acknowledge in each other what’s happening. And that’s super helpful for me when they do that. Unless they do the thing where they say, “Hey, Mom, I’m gonna need you to come from a place of Molly. I really think that we should stop at the ice cream store after soccer practice, because it’s getting colder out and ice cream won’t taste as good when it’s cold out.”

KB: Little manipulators!

AV: They’re wired just like me! They’ve got it all figured out.

MC: I know that we all come across people that can just suck the life out of a room, but you still have to interact with those people to a certain degree. So when you find yourself in those positions, how do you make the distinction about, you know, do I need to completely stay away from this person? Do I challenge them? I’m assuming it’s more like a personal decision, like how far do I want to get involved in somebody else’s mess today?

AV: That’s such a great question. Because, you know, we oftentimes feel victims to the people around us, right? Where like, I have to work next to this person who is such an energy vampire to me, and I’m stuck. Like, I can’t not work with this person; it’s part of my job. Then we just let it slowly eat our souls and let them take that energy from us. And so there’s two parts that I would say are the answer to that question of, how do we handle it when we have to be around people like this?

The first part is focused on the thing that you have 100% control over, which is how you respond. That’s the most empowering part of the secret formula, because that’s you choosing what you’re willing to invest. There’s a second part to it, which is helping others have some self-awareness, because a lot of times they don’t know it. Sometimes they do. But a lot of times when people are behaving in a way that’s really exhausting for others to exist around, they don’t know they’re doing it. So there is a component—especially if you’re good at the next EQ skills, which are all about communicating with others and interacting and understanding what people need from us—that is that moment where you can say and be able to have a really productive conversation with someone about how it feels when they are behaving in this way. You know, we have to set that up for success, and do it in a way that people can really hear. But the one thing that is a no-fail situation is using your self-awareness and your self-management to handle yourself, because ultimately, we can’t control what anyone else is doing.

MC: Before we let you go, are there any resources that you would recommend people look into if they’re interested in exploring more about emotional intelligence?

AV: Yeah, for sure. So my absolute favorite book about emotional intelligence—and I have read all 70,000 of them—is called EQ 2.0 by Travis Bradbury. And it’s the sort of model or the approach that I have taken when I talk about the four main areas and how he has defined them in his book. I think it’s the most palatable and actionable book out there. Highly recommend that. And then of course, anybody that wants to do any training with Glue, I’m out here and I bring this passion in jazz hands wherever I go, because I’m so passionate about it. It’s all very authentic.

KB: I think you need to write the next book on EQ. 

AV: You know, I have thought about the book thing, but I just don’t how do you do jazz hands in a book. I know that I can bring the jazz hands on video for the membership and in person. I don’t know if I can do it with a book. You may have to open it and like it has those paper things that pop out in a jazz hands.

KB: It’s a pop up book! Great for children and adults.

AV: That would actually be pretty awesome.

KB: I mean, if you wrote a book, the way you talk, I think that the jazz hands would be implied. 

AV: That is the ultimate compliment! Maybe down the road, that is something that I’ll look into. So yeah, who knows? Look for a pop-up book from Glue. 

MC: Does Glue have its own podcast?

AV: Not yet, because I’m spending so much time on building things right now. I just finished this whole onboarding and training program for practices to use. So down the road there probably would be because you can tell how much I enjoy it. Like I love spreading the word. So probably down the road that will be something that I jump into. 

MC: Well, we’ll keep an eye out for sure.

KB: You’ve got a subscriber here.

AV: I got my first subscriber to my non-existent podcast!

KB: I’ll buy your book too!

MC: Amy, this has been absolutely delightful, and I have a feeling that people are gonna want to stay connected to you. So where can they go online to find information about you and your organization?

AV: So the website for Glue, it’s Glue Veterinary Coaching, and the website is www.growwithglue.com. And so you can actually contact me through there. There’s a tab at the top that talks about Unleashed, which is the membership, and my phone number is on there. Just hit me up. I’m all ears to answer any questions or see if there’s a way that we might be able to partner. 

KB: This was great. 

MC: Yeah, this has been amazing.

AV: Thank you both so much.

KB: Thank you. We appreciate it! 

AV: Anytime! 

If you enjoyed this series and are an OVMA member, be sure to check out the summer issue of the OVMA Observer, where we’ll be debuting a brand new EQ-focused column penned by Amy herself. Keep an eye on your mailbox in June. It might not be a pop-up book, but it’s the next best thing. Be sure to bring your own jazz hands!