Dude, I get it… This shit exhausting.
You don’t want to take this exam or SEE another question EVER again. You want nothing more than to pass this stupid bar so that you can move on with your life.
You can see the One Outcome on the horizon. So close yet so far.
But you can’t escape this endless cycle. You’re not allowed to. Not yet.
Wake up, then crash your face into the pillow. Hope and despair, rinse and repeat. It feels like you’ve been preparing for this bar exam your whole life.
It doesn’t even feel real anymore. But this exam is the realest thing in your life right now. So I hope you’re not spending all day thinking about unimportant fiction, catching up on all the distractions, panic, and the doom and gloom.
All the constant news in bar world, about how many questions other people are doing, whether others are feeling just as behind or panicked as you, whether they’ll abolish the bar exam, remote testing issues, how the grading works, diploma privilege, new coronavirus variants, exam software concerns…
Feels great to have some drama in your life. Something OTHER than Civ Pro to vent about!
Forget it. It’s not your job to be a hero right now. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
Other people can spend their time trying to be a hero. Fighting every battle EXCEPT the one to pass the biggest exam of their lives. Let them.
But not you. These distractions will take care of themselves with or without your attention. Things tend to converge to certainty with enough patience.
Ed Aruffo says this in his book, California Bar Exam Rules:
So I’m begging you to pass the bar first. After that, you can shamelessly spam your tutoring services, launch a crusade, or spend your time on the things that are helping you procrastinate right now (or not, you’ll be too busy putting out other fires by then).
The problem with law students is that they suddenly become experts in codes and contracts (they’re not), mavens of argument (they sound stupid), and constitutional scholars (they’re wrong). Just like I used to be from the high of being a lawyer in training, so eager to be “right.” When we go to law school, we get this sort of unjustified arrogance from reading cases and “learning the law.”
But do you want to be happy or right?
Do you want to be a hero or pass the bar?
It doesn’t matter that you had the right of way if you end up dying in an accident. It doesn’t matter if you win the battle if you lose the war.
Every time we want to be distracted by things tugging at our attention, we have to remember to live in reality. We have to overcome gravity.
We have to do the work that matters.
Is all work equal? (Outlining vs. using the outline)
There’s a difference between easy work and work that matters. Work that matters, the “hard work,” is internal work.
We love to be “busy.” We love to “learn.” We’ve been trained all our lives to do busy work to prepare us for future diligence.
I told a consult client, straight up, that we were going to get rid of lectures. Repeaters don’t need them especially with 6 weeks left. Her initial discomfort turned into optimism from how much we were going to push forward with the time left.
Anyone can be busy. Anyone can sit there for 12 hours a day. Anyone can organize resources, read motivational quotes, and stockpile knowledge to get their “ducks in a row” and be perfectly ready first.
This doesn’t take any conscientiousness, proactivity, or guts. They call this “passive learning.”
“People feel great about doing their tasks while forgetting the goals they were designed to achieve.”—Ray Dalio
The easy stuff only prepares you to do the work that matters. It’s not the main thing to focus on.
Now, I’m not saying not to study your outlines and memorize. Build that foundation.
At some point, you’ll need to move past the temptation of the safe work. Don’t get stuck getting your ducks in a row first. You can figure it out as you go.
Babies don’t read a manual or go to a seminar on how to walk. You don’t teach them to walk. They try it on their own. They don’t care about falling down because they want to walk.
Am I qualified to talk about this? Sure, it’s only been a few decades since I’ve been a baby.
The answers will come as you tinker around, fall, get up, bump into things, cry with an annoying voice, and shit the floor like a two-foot person learning to take baby steps.
Mistakes are not just for rookies. In fact, rookies stay that way because they’re not willing to make mistakes. The expert has made more mistakes than the rookie has even tried. You take a hit so you can hit back harder!
So what is work that matters? What moves the needle? What actually stretches the noodles in your head?
One way to tell: Ask yourself what you’re going to be doing on the exam.
Being prepared is the only way to be prepared. Rehearse for the disaster.
A question isn’t going to bring you milk and cookies and ask, “Could you state the rule.” This isn’t a fifth-grade vocab test. It’s not easy work anymore.
- It’s HARDER to test yourself with a question, take way longer than it should, and realize you don’t know how to answer it.
- It’s HARDER to rummage through your memory to actually write out that rule statement, uncertain whether it’s correct or even relevant to the question at hand.
- It’s HARDER to remember and identify issues.
- It’s HARDER to make and pay yourself the time for what you need to work on.
- It’s HARDER to see your errors yet continue to believe in your future.
That’s fine. We CAN do hard things.
No one ever said the bar exam was supposed to be easy. If you’re not feeling dumb, you’re not learning. Don’t let the exam be the learning experience.
DOING is the best form of thinking. You only need to get some of your ducks in a row. Just do it!
Every guy knows about the 3 seconds of courage needed to make the first move on the lady.
In that moment of truth, you have two tempting choices. It’s easier to back down from taking the risk, dealing with regret on the back end.
Push through the right temptation.
Yes, you may get burned. You may feel “rejection” from the bar. You hesitate to emotionally invest in something that might burn you, and so you unknowingly self-sabotage instead.
But DOING is LESS exhausting than THINKING about doing it.
We tend to think that we need to wait to prepare first. For the perfect moment. On the contrary, the more you attempt to recall and apply and do, the more you remember and understand. They call this “active learning.”
- Which LASIK surgeon would you rather trust to cut open and vaporize your cornea: someone who’s read all the books on it and “knows” all about it, or someone who’s read the latest journal articles on it and has successfully done it on real people for years?
- Who should be your tour guide: a Spanish teacher who has perfect grammar from books vs. someone who lived in Spain and was forced to apply the language with real Spanish speakers?
- Who should do the emergency landing if the pilot has a heart attack: a trainee who’s memorized the manual vs. the passenger who’s flown amateur planes?
“Stop standing there, and give it a try. Techniques that are only shown to you are completely useless. It’s only when you experience them yourself that you can learn how to use and execute them effectively.”
Decide to bet on yourself. Telling yourself “I’ll start over next time” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” is like trash-talking yourself.
Look at this comment:
“99% of information we read, we forget anyway. The best way to remember is to ‘DO.’”
The gap between thinking about it and DOING it is wide, but doing becomes natural once you cross the gap.
You can still do your favorite busy work, but that’s just the beginning. What made a difference for me was when I focused on the important things that matter on the bar exam instead of going the path of least resistance. Maybe it will work for you too.
(Important things like what? See the list on page 85 of the big guide in Passer’s Playbook. Page number may vary slightly depending on the revision you have.)
Your hesitation may be a fear of success, not just fear of failure. The consequences of your success can be scary. The thing is, you have no choice in the matter anymore.
Do not avert your eyes from difficulties. Someone’s going to do it. Why not you?
You said you wanted this. But mere desire is not enough. Anyone can SAY they want to pass the bar.
Just do it. Gauge results. Repeat. Before this message self-destructs in your head.