Minimum Competence Does Not Mean Bare Minimum

How would you narrate your hopes, desires, and dreams to pass the bar exam?

I want to improve.

I want to start my career and live my life without this hanging over my head.

I feel that painful yearning inside. I’m not content with this! I’m upset. I’m frustrated! I’m tired of being frustrated!

I want to pass the bar exam. I want to be special.

I’ll find my way forward, whatever that means. I don’t know where to go, but I’ll start, wherever that leads me.

But anyone can say that they want to pass.

How do you do this efficiently and effectively?

Are you confusing busy work with actual learning?

How to get and STAY motivated in your journey?

What do you do when you see fluctuations and plateaus?

The motivation to pass the bar exam

The bar exam is the great humbler. You finally understand how much it hurts to put yourself out there and come up short.

This pain is proof that you care. You want to put this behind you for one reason or another.

There’s your motivation. Take “I’m not motivated” out of your vocabulary.

I’ve been trying to lose weight and get toned lately. I made it a commitment and a promise to myself. I fast every day. I go to the gym every other day, even if it’s after 2 AM. I track my reps. What gets measured gets managed.

“I had too much work today” isn’t the excuse I think it is. It means I let work bleed into my workout time, not the other way around.

Missing a workout once is fine. But if you miss twice in a row, you don’t see yourself as “someone who works out” anymore. I went to the gym at 4:30 AM so that I wouldn’t miss it twice.

You act according to your identity. Are you “someone who prepares for the bar exam consciously”?

“I can start tomorrow” is poison to your motivation. To stay consistent, think: “I can give up tomorrow but not today.”

I have work to do today. So do you.

But saying this type of trite “just do it” isn’t always helpful. For instance, you might be fucking exhausted—your mind and body running on fumes. At least it might seem like fumes until you MOVE:

Getting ready to go to the gym is the hardest part. Cracking open that page is the hardest part. Then you’re off to the races.

The most motivating things are PROGRESS and RESULTS. Feeling will come after doing. You work out to feel more motivated to work out.

I can see the progress in my workout log. I can see changes in pictures. My mom asked if I was working out. (Really? I’ll take it.)

I transformed. So can you.

Two types of failure (one is acceptable)

You can fail in two ways:

  • Not trying, then losing
  • Trying and losing

The only real failure is not trying. If you don’t try something, you can’t learn from it. You can only give yourself plausible deniability.

It’s hiding behind safe work—passive tasks like reading, watching, doing endless research on the “best” supplements, looking for information (but not insight), even doing practice questions.

Answering practice questions is like measuring yourself on a scale. The real change happens from how you use that information between measurements.

Ask yourself: Am I just looking for information because I don’t want to do what I know I need to do?

Be a producer, not a consumer. Don’t confuse busy work and data collection with actual learning. Explore, probe, question, and use the Socratic method on yourself.

In patent law, “abstract ideas” are not patent-eligible. But “practical applications” of an abstract idea are.

Get things wrong

If you want progress and results, put yourself out there even if it means you come up short. Test yourself, and get things wrong. Your best now is enough even if your future best will be better.

Our ego tells us that we’ll “get” something after just one pass through it.  “I know this already” is a dangerous thought. But what’s wrong with being wrong?

I got a cat recently.

Like a toddler, he explores and tries different things even if I yell at him for digging up my succulents again. He droops his tail while I’m mad but goes back to rolling on the floor and pawing at me while I clean up his mess.

When did we forget to play and be willing to get things wrong?

Friend, minimum competence does not mean bare minimum. Get on the stage and show the world what your maximum effort looks like.

You can surpass your limits only after you become aware of them.

But maximum effort doesn’t just mean hard work.

Running on the treadmill is a lot of work. It burns a few extra calories and is good for your heart, but what if all you want is to lose weight and look lean? Weight training is more efficient and “effortless.”

So is bar preparation about using your effort more effectively.

How to know you’re on the right track with your bar prep

How long did you endure the onslaught of comments from normals while waiting for results?

“I’m sure you’ll pass! You’ll be fine! You got this!!!!!”

How tf would they know? Must be nice for them to be able to dismiss it like that. People usually aren’t interested in sharing the difficult emotions that come with this process.

It would be nice to know that we, in fact, got this. But you’re inevitably going to feel uncertain, anxious, overwhelmed, confused, exhausted.

Good! Resistance is how you know you’re heading in the right direction.

If there’s anything I learned from my fitness journey, it’s that hunger is normal. Fluctuations are normal. Plateauing is normal.

My weight logs

We’re so used to being able to curb our hunger so readily that we get withdrawal symptoms.

Hunger is a drive to get to work and go find food. It also means I’m on my way to hitting my goal. Is my hunger control worse than my cat’s?

  • If you’re starting from low scores, that’s your sign of hunger to go after your weak points. Nowhere to go but up.
  • If your practice scores are moving up and down, that’s normal. Don’t expect a constant upward movement (even if you think you should).
  • If your scores stopped budging (or even started dipping) over time, your mind is saturated.

It means it’s working! Your mind just needs to process what it’s learned. It needs to adjust itself before it’s ready to break through the plateau and go to the next level.

Maybe try another subject or a different task. Or step away from what you’re stuck on and come back to it later.

Embrace the hunger and see the fluctuations and plateaus for what they are—normal parts of the process.

What can you do differently?

Preparing for the bar exam is not easy.

It can be simple but not easy.

It can be made easier, but it won’t become easy. If you come out of the exam thinking you killed it, it’s more likely that you didn’t. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Assuming you’re smarter than your opponent is what gets you into trouble and puts you at risk of wasting another 6 months of your life. Complacency is a sign you’re a turkey being fattened up to be devoured by the bar examiners.

So what you want is for your effort to become effective—for you to get stronger, rather than to pray for an easy exam.

Here are some ways to change your approach for the better (including 4 common ways you’re holding yourself back from effective bar prep).

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