How to Gain 20/20 Foresight Studying for the Bar Exam

I’m probably going to black out as I remember this tearful tale.

I had inadvertently moved into an apartment with no apparent way to plug into the Internet besides the unstable public WiFi servicing the entire complex. The apartment also happened to be right on the border of the only zip code in Southern California not serviced by Time Warner Cable. The worst 40 days of my pre-smartphone life before I finally got someone to connect me to the rest of civilization.

If I’d known that would happen (among other things), I probably wouldn’t have started my stint as a free man there. But who can tell the future?

No fortune teller would accept me as an intern because I am a terrible predictor of the future. In fact, you, me, everyone else—people in general are terrible at predicting the “best” outcome or solution. Self-delusion with respect to this is called “hindsight bias.” If you don’t believe me, write down your hypotheses so that later you can see what your track record is for predicting the future.

But imagine that you could know what you should do before it’s too late. They say hindsight is 20/20. Having 20/20 foresight would be like benefiting from a second chance on your first time.

Come again? Yes, even if you’re a first timer studying for the bar exam, you actually have a crystal ball!

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The 20/10 Cycle: How I Hacked My Motivation to Study 12 Hours a Day

I’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult for me to concentrate, to achieve flow. I’ll be the first to tell someone “I can’t focus because I have the brain and charisma of a goldfish.”

Yet at one point I was studying for the bar 12 hours a day and getting stuff done, from getting up to going back to sleep. Part of it was an honest admission that I need to work around the fact that I can’t concentrate for long.

I dub it the 20/10 cycle. I used the 20/10 cycle to crank the productivity dial to a level worthy of my middle name (Danger, unofficially) and churn out those condensed outlines, cooked essays, and even time for entertainment.

You can also tweak it to suit your needs. Maybe you can even make time to “work out” or “have brunch” or “watch the game” or “travel” or “sign up for Barbri” or whatever weird activities you people do.

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I Messed Up

Something happened on Friday that I thought was relevant to the topic of an upcoming post: dealing with your weak areas on the bar.

For weeks, I’d been corresponding with a patent examiner giving me the runaround regarding a patent application close to allowance. But he was a nice guy who was willing to work with me (when available) and share information.

We exchanged emails (i.e., on record) discussing the merits of the case when I should have used email only to set up a phone call. I sent documents that were not in compliance with the guidelines. I had not CC’d the client manager (who is ultimately responsible for the case) until today when I forwarded the entire exchange as a FYI.

In addition to getting chewed out by the exasperated client manager, I got called in get a stern talking to by two other partners. I thought I was going to be reborn into the next life.

Will I get over it? Sure, it’s a learning experience and an inspiration to do better.

But you can bet your sweet ass that I will from now run email and document drafts by the responsible supervisor (so that the case doesn’t get compromised if it ever goes to litigation or even be grounds for malpractice).

My neurons have locked in these jarring experiences to avoid this mistake at all costs.

Keep this in mind as you read the upcoming material and think about how messing up is not always such a bad thing (for example, if I happened to pass the bar the first time, I’m not sure if this project would exist).

Sometimes all you need to get unstuck is permission to fail, and you have it from me.