Happy new year! It’s that time again when everyone suddenly forgets the correct year.
By the way, I don’t believe your “resolutions.” Look at your friends saying, “Hey, I’m SERIOUS about my New Year’s resolutions. THIS time it’s for real.”
Sure buddy. If they really wanted to do something, they would have started or done it already.
I won’t let you simply declare your resolve and call it a day. Anyone can have good intentions. Anyone can be interested. Prove that resolve by actually showing me results.
Let your results speak for themselves.
Before you start shouting at the wrong person (aka me), let me ask you this: How are those resolutions from 12 months ago going?
Thought so. Vague wishes are unsustainable for most people, myself included. Estimates put the “failure” rate of resolutions around 75-92%. But I don’t want you to be just another ordinary citizen.
No, I want your next year to be AMAZING. I want you to get everything you want, whether it’s to…
- Pass the bar and leave it behind you forever
- Get your dream job, start that career, make everyone proud, and trick them into thinking that everything in your life falls into place effortlessly
- Live a normal life like the rest of your friends
Let’s do it. How can we mark the new year (and every year after that) with extraordinary results? My two cents:
The Year of Extraordinary Results: 4 Ways to Pass the Bar This Year
1. Think about “next year + 1”
You’re doing this because… you want the freedom, the prestige, the approval, more attractive guys/girls, whatever. You don’t want to pass the bar for its own sake (or maybe you do, weirdo).
Rather than being pulled around by the pressure of an immediate goal (like needing to pass the bar), another way to look at it is to let your long-term vision push you from behind. This can give you some sense of calmness. For instance, ask yourself:
Where do you see yourself not the next year… but the year AFTER that?
What does your life look like then: Are you established and respected by your coworkers and clients? Are you making student loan payments on time? Are you planning a wedding with your spouse-to-be?
I’d rather set myself up for long-lasting results. If getting and keeping those abs is going to take a year instead of flip-flopping with diets, then I’ll take the whole year and then some to establish a process that works for me. I don’t want to stuff myself with food in the last few weeks of the year and then think I can catch up in January. Nor repeat that delusion every year.
Passing the bar exam is a worthy goal, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Or is passing the bar the ultimate goal and everything else a nice side effect? I don’t know! All I know is that there are things worse and better than bar prep.
In the greater scheme, it’s just a stepping stone to the rest of your free life.
If you know where you want to be next year + 1, that’s another motivation to figure out the things that should be done within the next year. You’ll get a broader idea of the things you want to do right and the things that could go wrong.
“I’m doing now” vs. “I will do.” By this time next year, you’ll be coming up with New Year’s reflections of what you will have already accomplished.
2. Your goal (pass the bar) is the WHAT… the process is the HOW
Your goal: “I will pass the bar.” Nice. Now what?
The bar can feel like a frustrating, overwhelming, stressful, daunting, unachievable, utterly impossible task. And let’s be honest: We don’t know if you’re going to pass the bar.
There’s no need to be fixated on passing the bar itself. You can only control your effort.
There’s a difference between “I will lose 10 pounds” and “I will record everything I eat using MyFitnessPal, meal plan food with calories below my TDEE, and do at least 5 minutes of exercise daily.” Not very sexy or fun to think about (took me way longer to come up with the second one)… but specific, attainable, and clear once you figure it out up front.
So focus on your goal’s constituent months, weeks, days. If thinking about “next year + 1” is the long term, this is about the moments that fill the space between.
More than just aiming to pass the bar, look to how you’re going to get there in the meantime: by doing the things that improve your bar skills.
Yes, during bar week, bring out all you’ve got with the intent to kill. After the bar, you have all the time to bite your nail over results. But right now, you have skills and intuitions to gain.
“Every day I will do something bar related. I’ll refer to my macro-schedule… I’ll pick the subject and study the outlines, do and review X MBE questions, or do and review Y essays…”
One foot in front of the other. If you consistently stay the course with the process of improving, one day you may realize you already surpassed your goal. It’s better to wish you were better than to wish things were easier.
I get it… the urgency of “please just let me pass this once!” That’s a totally natural feeling.
Your thoughts and actions are the only things you have control over. Sticking to the process gives you clear things to do. Keep at it, and you win the game. You see this elsewhere as well:
- Meal prepping every week to mitigate calorie intake instead of buying lunch every day
- Automatically setting aside a certain amount every month to save up for spring break
- Practicing fundamental plays until you win the championship
- Aiming to bill at least X hours a day to attempt to meet the quota (one day at a time…)
- Keeping up the theme of practicing what you’ll do on the bar
Now you’re on your way to being prepared.
3. Extraordinary results require extraordinary preparation
“One must attempt the ridiculous, if he expects to achieve the impossible.”
I’m not saying to go as far as locking yourself in a cabin for months like I heard some hardcore people have done. But if you’re spending your days dicking around and drinking wine, what do you expect? If the bar isn’t a priority right now, come back later.
When you say “I want to pass the bar,” that’s a heavy statement. It’s filled with many things—all the work that goes into preparing for those two or three days that really matter, the anxious waiting and anticipation for your fate, the opportunities you let go in the meantime, juggling work to make ends meet, family obligations, managing muggles’ expectations and platitudes about bar prep…
A vast majority of the work is done before you even step into the exam hall!
Doing what everyone else is doing will get you average results. Well, maybe average can be enough for the bar, but you could use that extra edge and luck, right? To paraphrase, the more prepared you are, the luckier you get.
But extraordinary preparation doesn’t always mean studying 12-hour days and losing sleep. It also means figuring out how you’re going to learn what you need to know. The point of all this isn’t to just do work; it’s to learn useful things.
So FOCUS on the important things that will help you on the bar, not simply to complete tasks someone else gave you. If these things happen to overlap, great.
Don’t get too creative now. That’s also another recipe for disaster, just like my 1L Property final. I did a statutory analysis instead of seeing the huge issue of takings. I was a tryhard instead of an overachiever, so I got a C+.
The world of bar prep is full of mysteries. There are many ways to get to the same destination, but people will misdirect your attention with a big brand. Trust, but verify. Or rather, just verify (that includes me). Only trust yourself.
Some of my examples of better preparation:
I’d crash and burn on essays ever since 1L year. No wonder I failed. It was time to figure this shit out.
Just doing problems wasn’t enough. I noticed that my beautiful rule statements weren’t enough the first time. They have no use unless I can find the right issues in the first place.
Every time I did an essay, I figured out which issues and rules I was missing, and added them to my condensed outlines (the predecessor to Magicsheets).
I focused on getting all the relevant issues, and also their presentation and ordering. I checked to see which issues and rules I missed. By doing this, I also memorized and understood the rules. I dissected several essays per subject. I redid them.
I was no longer just “studying”; I was also learning, preparing, and gaining an intuition.
It’s good to be aware of the issues, even better to be able to identify the issues from the facts. It’s good to be able to recite the rules, even better to understand how to use them (whether on the essays or the MBE). Optimize your time and effort into what matters.
I recorded myself on video reciting answers over and over to common questions in job interviews.
I was beat out by someone with the perfect technical background for the job, but I was still one of the two finalists. I was still able to use the ideas I rehearsed.
The approach of rehearsing answers to common questions did get me an offer elsewhere, which I declined in lieu of my current job.
Practice as if it were the real thing, and do the real thing as if it were practice. The stuff you practice shows its results when you need it most. Just as important, CHECK how you did. Otherwise, there’s no point to practice. “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”—Archilochus
The bar isn’t going to ask you how familiar you are with a rule; it’s going to ask you to answer a question that requires you to come up with the issues and apply the relevant rules. Which one will you do right now?
I bought and went through a two-hour masterclass on small talk to prepare for a holiday event I didn’t even have to go to so I could make my interactions better.
Is that weird? Does anyone really care? It helped me and made me feel good about myself when I applied what I learned.
Do whatever you gotta do to make it work for you. No one’s stopping you but yourself.
If you’re waiting for permission to be weird, I approve that for you. And then you’ll have people asking how you did it.
The bar exam happens over a couple days every 180 days or so. How will you take advantage of the 178 other days?
4. There’s a gap called “excuses” between where you are and where you want to be
Call them doubts, hesitations, excuses… All are things you can conquer if you let yourself.
Q: I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not the “type” to do well on exams.
A: Do you mean “can’t” or “won’t”?
I had a 2.833 GPA in law school. Some of my readers who passed the bar were way behind in points or went to an unaccredited school. You do have a say in the situation. If you can graduate law school, you have the potential.
Persistence and attitude > natural ability.
Q: I don’t know how to do X.
A: Figure it out. You can’t be good at everything from the start. Or find someone out there who had the same problem and solved it.
For example, grapple with this article as if you paid for it, or else I’m going to start charging so that you take it seriously. I probably spent like 20 hours on it. More or less. The exact number doesn’t matter. You can also check out this neat site Make This Your Last Time or my Passer’s Playbook 2.0.
The point is: Someone out there spent effort in the hope that you’ll pass. And there are plenty of other resources for you to take advantage of. Some you’ll have to pay for, some you won’t.
Q: I’m broke.
A: It’s funny that people don’t hesitate to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a degree or a wedding or a house, but all bets are off if you ask for a buck for a book.
We tend to be the most frugal when it comes to the thing that will stay with us the most—the act of teaching ourselves. But we love to throw money in the name of goods that everyone says you should get (like a house or obligatory holiday gifts).
A small investment in yourself can bring you disproportionate returns that last a lifetime, such as the various privileges of calling yourself an attorney (including the means to recoup your investment). Thinking we are totally capable on our own isn’t strength; it’s self-limitation, a lack of faith in our potential, a fear of failure.
When I invest in a resource, I try to extract at least one takeaway. At the worst, you confirm that you have nothing new to learn (which is a thought that doesn’t serve you). But elimination is one way to progress.
Q: I don’t have the time.
A: If it’s important enough to you, you’ll make the time. If not, you’ll make an excuse.
Simple way: Just start with a small step. Stop waiting for the right time or the motivation. You’re running out of both. You’ll have plenty of time to wait after the bar.
If I can continue to write about the bar for almost 4 years (I’d rather get through my queue of other things), you can make time to study for 2 months.
If you have other real-life shit going on (family emergency, house is flooded, etc.), the bar will still be there when the time is right. Or you can switch careers (no shame).
Q: I don’t have the energy.
A: This is important. Managing your time is really about managing your energy.
With bar prep, the bottleneck is a question of how much mental energy you have, how much mental labor you can exert. “Physical work” is actually quite simple on the bar (sit, read, write). But action starts from your mind. Your mind drives your body.
You can conserve your mental energy by managing distractions for example. Sleep is part of preparation, too.
To be honest, I just deal with being tired because I have to and I think my work is important. So is yours. And I don’t like how coffee makes me feel. Tell me if you have any recommendations for me.
Competence isn’t about just brute forcing your way there. There’s hard work and also smart work.
You could continue to feel overwhelmed and hopeless in the face of this daunting task, or you can choose a more focused approach and put the bar behind you once and for all:
- Think ahead to “next year + 1”: The context of your long-term vision puts your goal in perspective
- Decide on the PROCESS to clarify the steps to take in the moment
- Do whatever you need to be able to focus on what will get you the result
- The only things standing in the way of where you want to be are doubts and hesitations that you can conquer—if you let yourself.
This is also a note to self. I hope next year will be my best year ever, too. I invite you to join me.
Welcome to the year of extraordinary results.
Now I’d like to know two things:
And what’s one takeaway you got from this?
Don’t let 2018 be yet another passive year where you simply consume and let what you read wash over you like a warm shower. Leave a comment below and put it in writing. I read all comments.