Bar Prep Wisdom from a Succulents Workshop

I went to a succulents gardening workshop the other day because I figured succulents wouldn’t wither into potpourri like the flowers I had arranged a few weeks ago. There’s a limit to how much talent one person can have, I guess.

There’s no limit to how much I think about bar prep because that’s what I started thinking about when I was listening to the instructor 🤦🏻‍♂️

I want to share 4 lessons and also photos of my bald-looking succulent bowl:

(First lesson: “You have to kill a lot of plants to be an expert.” 🤯)

1) “You have to kill a lot of plants to be an expert.”

The instructor came by our table and asked if everyone was confident about their arrangement.

I said NO.

This didn’t look that good to me.

But here’s the best thing she said: You have to kill a lot of plants to become an expert.

She arranges plants for a living, and she’s telling me it’s OK to kill them?!

But that’s so true! You can’t expect to know how to do something just because you did it once (or never). You learn over time through trial and error, like some kind of artificial intelligence.

There’s a lot of ground to cover for the bar exam. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing: bar exam preparation.

To become confident on the bar exam, you first become competent. Don’t let people delude you into trying to summon confidence out of thin air and relying on daily motivation (“I needed this today!”)

How do you become competent? You try, you make mistakes, and you learn from the past, just like wise papa monkey Rafiki said in The Lion King.

What does that look like in bar prep?

  • Not waiting until you’re perfectly ready for practice questions—you learn best in context through examples, not in abstract
  • Saying “screw you” to your ego and looking at why you didn’t get a question right
  • Saying “hold on a minute” to your ego and looking at why you got a question right (for the right reasons?)
  • Staring back at the blank screen and attempting the essay, and outlining or writing out words even if it’s gibberish
  • Not forgetting about PTs (an unfortunately common pitfall). Just do it
  • Looking at model/sample answers, making sure you do understand, and then figuring out how to do a bit better next time

You’re a beginner. It’s OK to have your outlines open and your head full of fuck. That’s the whole point of bar prep so you don’t feel that way on the real thing.

Mistakes are not just for rookies. In fact, rookies stay that way because they’re afraid to try. Masters have made more mistakes than rookies have even attempted.

You have permission to fail as much as you want before the exam. Rovio created the mega-hit game series Angry Birds after 51 failed games.

In the beginning, optimize for learning, not performance. Kill a lot of plants.

2) Don’t overload your foundations at first.

The first step to potting succulents is to have a base layer of soil. I got greedy in a scarcity mindset and put in a bit more than needed.

You never know, right?

Turns out the bowl was too shallow and the plants were overflowing because I had too much soil. I didn’t have the room to transfer the succulents ☹

If you’re hoarding tools and supplements for bar prep, begging people to send you their materials, and going to every “free” workshop, you probably won’t use them all. 

“You never know, right? It can’t hurt.”

It can hurt. You get overwhelmed with 50 different supplements,  schedules, books, tutor pitches, and prep courses. You end up wasting time and gaining little.

The bar exam doesn’t require 100% perfect accuracy. You just have to be good enough. And many options out there are “good enough.”

  • Magicsheets vs. Lean Sheets vs. Studicata vs. JD Advising vs. SmartBarPrep vs.…? People have passed using all. Try using the samples, and pick what you like (but get Magicsheets and Approsheets while you’re here since I think they’re the best value and least risky).
  • Barbri vs. Themis vs. Kaplan vs.…? Well, actually don’t get Kaplan. Pick Barbri or Themis and know how to use it properly.

It’s not about the tool but the wielder of the tool. The tool itself won’t help unless the wielder uses it effectively. Also, the tools are not going anywhere. You can evaluate your needs, and THEN choose as you go.

If you panic and get greedy, you won’t have room to grow later because you’ll be busy triaging. Do first, and adjust as you need.

3) Cut out the excess.

I picked a pot with a long stalk coming out of it because I thought it looked cool.

The instructor then told us to pull out the stalk even though it looks cute. She also said to discard leaves that fall off the plant.

Why? The stalk was going to take up resources that could be used by the leaves that are already grown.

Going off of the second point above, you might spread your attention too thin if you get into “tool collector FOMO” mode and have too many resources.

You already have enough on your plate. There’s more content than you can ever consume. It’s impossible to watch all of YouTube. You need the joy of missing out, not the fear of missing out.

It’s better to cut the excess noise, pick a few voices you trust from the crowd, and go deep using them. If something doesn’t work, that’s when you reevaluate and look for a replacement or addition.

At least that’s what I noticed in the behaviors of bar passers (and the people who “found me too late”).

4) Upkeep even after you’re done.

Arranging is just the beginning. Even succulents need care! And they’re picky AF:

You have to leave them out of direct sunlight, water the soil (but not pour it over the leaves because they’ll get soggy), let enough aeration happen with the soil, monitor how hydrated these guys are by lifting them up and telling by the weight (what am I, a butcher)…

The instructor said that succulents are actually harder to care for indoors than other plants (because succulents thrive outdoors).

I was like, wow, I came for therapeutic plants, not more dead plants in my hands ;(

But I love counterintuitive lessons like this! We’re learning stuff you’d find in a $150 course.

In bar prep, you might feel like you covered good ground and are doing well in one subject… but the thing about the bar exam is that there are many subjects. You might end up feeling lost when you come back to the subject, or barely remembering something you studied just two weeks ago (like I did during my prep).

You need upkeep.

That’s why I recommend cycling through each subject multiple times and allocating different amounts of time to the subjects. You want to hit a given subject multiple times over your prep period because you’ll retain the material better with greater repetition and familiarity. The sample schedules (and actual student schedules) included in Passer’s Playbook depict this approach.

An example of the opposite approach would be to spend 5 days on the first subject, 5 days on the second, and so on. (Something you DON’T want to do…)

Yes, you’ll cover all the subjects in two months, but you’ll have forgotten the first subject by the end. No bueno! (And then you’ll freak out and do a Hail Mary gambling on predictions. Also not recommended.)

Instead, hit each subject for a shorter period of time appropriate to your needs, and move on to the next. Bar prep is a marathon. Pace yourself, and don’t try to “get” it perfectly before moving on. Come back to it with a new perspective.

Your memory is going to be picky AF, so look after it consistently. That’s where a schedule (that you created) will come in handy.

Summary

  1. “You have to kill a lot of plants to be an expert.”
  2. Don’t overload your foundations at first.
  3. Cut out the excess.
  4. Upkeep even after you’re done.

I think the best thing my instructor said is to kill a lot of plants. Fortunately, practice problems aren’t alive, so dissect them as much as you want.

If you have this mindset, you’ll be on your way to building a solid bar instinct!

My succulents haven’t died (yet), but I have a feeling it’s going to be a while before I become an expert. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to watch them thrive. Enjoying the process is the best way to stay motivated and feel less discouraged.

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