How often do you see motivationals like this?
- You’re doing totally fine!!!
- You’re going to pass!!! BELIEVE IT!
- My all-time favorite: YOU GOT THIS!!!!! (“I needed to hear this today!”)
I wanted to pass the bar exam.
So instead of actually preparing for it, I made an image of a bar license card with my name on it using Microsoft Paint. You know, for visualization and manifestation like random people suggested online.
I’m not even kidding. Look and cringe:
I set it as my desktop background. Happy 10-year anniversary of ~believing in myself~ ✨
In fact, I was cocky and smug coming out of the exam. There was NO WAY I was going to fail, not after trusting the system!!! I wrote nonchalant things like this on social media so I could follow up a few months later with a sexy humblebrag:
Guess what, I didn’t pass! It also made me cry. Some good that woo-woo shit did for me.
I wanted to sue myself for my delusion, hoarding theoretical knowledge instead of using it, and thinking I could turn imagination into reality like some law of attraction.
Yes, it’s important to have a proper mindset — or mental models as I like to call them. But I tend to lean toward more practical mental frameworks rather than visualizations and yoga retreats to deal with doubts, overwhelm, and stress (like the ones I share in Mental Engines).
Because the real “Secret” is that everything is a practice. The more you do hard things, the more you adapt to them.
I believe the most motivational thing you can do is SEE and FEEL results. Not saying “I needed to hear this today,” dusting off your hands, and going back to believing your way through.
In fitness, they say, “It doesn’t get easier; you just get fitter.”
In cycling, they say, “It doesn’t get easier; you just get faster.”
The LSAT was tough. Law school was tougher. Bar prep is even tougher. The profession of law is yet tougher.
You can’t wait for motivation to come when things get tough. External motivation can only take you so far, like intellectual candy. You only have a tiny window to do something useful with it when it does strike.
So I’m going to shift gears here during this tiny window. Your gears actually.
You might feel exhausted, plateaued, and generally not inspired to go at it even though the bar exam is looming on the horizon. Whatever calmness you may have had before is now fair game for anxiety to attack.
It’s right before the finish line we lose steam, leading to a “failure of the last mile.”
I won’t let that happen.
Here are 5 reminders for you that will shift you into second gear. (Is that an accurate analogy? You get the point)
These are guaranteed to stay with you longer than intellectual candy because they require you to DO rather than only BELIEVE.
1. We CAN do hard things.
Sometimes we forget that we have the capability to do extraordinary things when we push ourselves.
There was a challenge several years ago to do a plank for 21 minutes. It seemed doable until I actually got on the floor for a few minutes. I could feel every second of the burn.
But I did it. A 21-minute plank.
Sure, I had to get on my knees at points, but I kept getting back up for even a few more seconds. It showed me that there’s plenty of space between what we think we can do and what we can actually do. One second at a time.
Every year, I see why older people are so grumpy. Things aren’t getting any easier. They’re tired and have accumulated too many memories.
But I’ve seen that people can do things beyond my imagination to achieve their goal of passing the bar exam. You are also an inspiration to me.
You’ve done extraordinary things in the past. We can find motivation everywhere, from others, from our own past. Constraints like lack of time also force us to be better with our time and energy.
So endure it. It’s hard. I know. But do it. Again. One second at a time. You did not come this far just to come this far.
Are you the kind of person who can do hard things?
2. It only takes a moment of strength for the lifetime privilege of calling yourself an attorney.
You’ve heard me say this for years.
You’ve invested untold amounts of time, money, and effort in an optimistic future. No one will ever know the true extent of the bet you’ve made on yourself.
Will it all pay off?
This uncertainty is all temporary. If you made a commitment to do your best on the next exam, don’t give in to temporary temptations.
Are you going to delay your future career as an attorney just so you could spend your time in a haze (because you “don’t have motivation”)?
Are you going to trade in comfort now for 9 more months of anxiety and studying down the line?
With your bar card, what possibilities will open up? Who will you be able to support, what will you be able to do, and what kind of life will you be able to live?
The calculus is clear. This is just a second of discomfort compared to what you could gain: being able to call yourself an attorney. It’s going to be worth it.
What you gain from discomfort is remembered long after discomfort has faded.
3. Your future self is talking shit about you.
Because you aren’t doing self-care.
Self-care is doing what will benefit your future self. Not being childish and only caring about your present self.
Self-care is actualizing your dreams of becoming an attorney. Not breaking promises to yourself and sending a signal to yourself that you aren’t worthy of self-esteem.
Self-care is investing in your future too. Not mortgaging the future for the present.
Self-care is not self-sabotage.
It’s not too late. Your past doesn’t need you anymore. Your future does.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
4. You aren’t trying to win the day. You’re trying to win the match.
Your match with the bar exam is scheduled.
It is time to train.
You can’t control what your opponent will do. But you can control what you do each day.
You try to solve a question and feel like shit because you didn’t get it right.
GOOD! When you get punched in the gut, that’s a signal to adapt. Learn something from it. Don’t run away or move on to the next match just to get beat up again.
You don’t get upset that you aren’t as strong as your sparring partner yet. You learn from getting in the mock ring and sparring with someone who has graciously offered to let you test your skills.
Pain benefits those who can learn.
It’s not always going to look pretty during training. But the point isn’t to look pretty during training. The point is to win the match.
5. The bar exam is like a puzzle, a game.
What’s more fun than interesting stories and games?
But even games need to be at the right difficulty. If it’s too easy, it gets boring. If it’s too impossible, it gets frustrating.
Just challenging enough that you earn your progress? You can’t stop playing.
The point of a game is to have fun. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you have to suffer.
Enjoy the process. Have fun with it. That’s what MTYLT is about.
If you need extra help with lowering the difficulty, you can use streamlined attack outlines and issue checklists to make bar prep more enjoyable, balanced, and playable.
As you enter the final stretch, use your valuable time for practice and memorization rather than getting carpal tunnel flipping through a tome.