Stop Trying to Pass the Bar Exam

I’m guessing some of you weirdos out there actually, literally LOVE bar preparation. Probably the same kind of people I didn’t talk to in law school.

I encourage you to enjoy bar prep to the extent possible… But this probably isn’t your passion and calling. So why stay trapped in it any longer than you have to?

The goal is to pass the bar, not to think about passing the bar. [Share on Facebook]

One leads to your heart immediately entering a lowkey hum of disappointment and regret as soon as you wake up.

The other leads to a free life where you’re not chained to your circumstances. You can finally live where you want. You can finally do the work you want. You can finally start chipping away at those student loans and pay for appetizers.

How do I know this?

EVERY single time I scheme and grasp at something, hoping and praying for a specific outcome, it NEVER happens. Because I’m too focused on the outcome. I’m just fantasizing about and fetishizing the outcome.

  • Thinking so hard about how nice it will be once I get my bar admission, visualizing myself as an attorney… that I forget to focus on learning and not exhausting myself
  • Thinking so hard about how nice it would be to kiss my date, it’s going to be great, I’m going to impress her (maybe she’s “the one”!), but wait, there’s probably a better moment… that I forget to just goddamn relax and invoke three seconds of courage when the moment comes
  • Thinking so hard about how nice it would be to make that sale that I — just kidding, when people are on the fence, I show them alternatives if my resources are not the right fit. Most end up buying from me anyway. See my point here? (But at the end of this post, I am going to pitch something that I think will be helpful, if that’s cool with you)

We live in the light of a star burning in some back alley of the galaxy, yet we have the nerve to think the world owes us just because we feel strongly about our expectations.

Humans are terrible predictors of the future. There are things outside of our control, too. I predict that I will forget this fact and continue to try to control the world anyway.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan at all. Preparation is the name of the game. Preparing for the knowns, the unknowns, and even the unknown-unknowns.

If I want to be less mystified about the future, here’s what I tell myself: Think long term and short term.

For you, that might mean looking for long-term patience with this process (roughly envisioning the weeks until the bar) but also short-term urgency in everyday actions (putting in the daily work).

That’s great, but what are some specific things you could do, starting right now?

Ways to envision the long term

Jeff Bezos’ regret minimization framework

We all want a do-over, but we’ll never get one.

Fortunately, with the bar exam, you get the next best thing: You get a second chance, a third chance, even a 20th chance.

But you might as well make this your last time and move on with your life. The more you take the exam, the more you identify yourself as a repeater and keep yourself stuck in that status quo, racking up more regret on your tab.

Regret is a powerful motivator to influence your own behavior now and in the future (as long as you remember the feeling).

Jeff Bezos asked himself whether he would regret doing this Internet thing when he’s 80 years old. He decided to start Amazon because he knew he wouldn’t regret having tried it.

So put yourself in the shoes of your future self and ask yourself: “Will I regret not doing ___ in 6 months?” “Will I regret doing ___ in X years?” [Share on Facebook]

Look backward from the future, and you’ll have your answer. Refer to this post for regrets of past bar takers.

If not now, when?

Imagine someone wanted to pay you $50,000 for a big two-month project. Wow!

Are you going to get distracted or make sure you get it right? Because that someone is you. Every half year you delay entrance to the bar could mean losing out on income toward your student loans, home, wedding, etc.

Needless to say, another 6 months of your life spent simmering in anxiety and uncertainty is no joke. It puts not only yourself in limbo but also your friends and family who don’t fully understand why you aren’t able to move on from this “bar thing.”

That’s what’s at stake with the bar exam. It’s not just a career. It limits your life and relationships from reaching their full potential.

If you’re putting this off or accepting another bout of procrastination, then you’re squandering the only things in life you can’t get back: time and relationships. [Share on Facebook]

Let’s not live only for the future, though…

Ways the envision the short term

The clock is brutal. It will tick along relentlessly. That’s time that you can make the best out of.

We like to fantasize and plan about what we WILL do—than actually do something today.

things i do when i need to study

More than only being fixated on passing the bar, look to how you’re going to get there in the meantime: by doing the things that improve your bar skills and intuitions along the way.

There’s no way to “fake it ’til you make it” on the bar exam. You can’t trick this test. You’ll have to do it ’til you make it. You’ll also feel a little more confident that way. [Share on Facebook]

The uncomfortable admission for all of us is that we’d rather fantasize about the outcome and shy away from taking the small consistent actions.

It’s hard! I get it. I totally get it. When I was preparing for the bar the first time, it made me want to collapse because no one else seemed to understand or care about us.

As my parents said about my second time preparing, I looked much more relaxed and happier. (Yes, I was fortunate enough to work part-time and still bum off my parents. Shit’s expensive in Silicon Valley!)

Every day, we have tens of thousands of thoughts. If you’re anxious or scared or worried all the time, you’re wasting limited brainpower on empty thoughts. It also literally has a physical effect on you. If you’ve ever been heartbroken, you know it’s that much harder to be productive.

It’s also true that you can’t feel negative (fearful, overwhelmed, stressed) and positive (optimistic, clear, grateful) at the same time.

Therefore, what we need is to organize our emotions to favor the ones that benefit our goals and dreams.

Often times, more than the techniques and strategies, you benefit most from being in the right state of mind.

Use an operating system that lets you endure sustained pressure to your mind and handle the disarray in your emotions. This isn’t the end-all-be-all for passing the bar (you still need the other 50%), but you’ll be in a better position.

Not a lot of people acknowledge this. But I found it important enough to create a whole program for you (which even I refer back to sometimes).


If you want to gain clarity, optimism, and calmness when it comes to bar preparation and the bar exam, Mental Engines is a course that will guide you on how to manage your emotions and improve your mental game.

Among the things you’ll get are:

  • Practical lessons over 8 modules with text, audio, action steps, and checklists that you can pick and choose from like a buffet (less than an hour each because you don’t need another time suck)
  • Bonus “vault” material
  • A series of 10 short emails over 30 days to ground you (separate from the weekly one you’re reading right now). I love these!
  • 30-day refund policy (so you can try the whole thing before deciding whether it’s right for you)

Here are just a few of the mindset shifts inside that will judo-throw the way you think and feel about bar prep, instead of letting it scramble your emotions like eggs (full details here):

  • How to preempt burnout while enjoying your bar studies — you can make this automatic (Module 2 Lesson 2)
  • The #1 predictor of your energy and focus (Module 3 Lesson 2)
  • How to practically guarantee focus without relying on constant willpower (Module 3 Lesson 3)
  • The principle that allows you to figure anything out (Module 6 Lesson 4)
  • What you’re probably looking for instead of “confidence” (Module 4 Lesson 7)
  • A thought that can keep you stuck (and miserable) until you change it (Module 5 Lesson 2)
  • How to find instant calmness instead of frazzled and frantic reactions (Module 4 Lesson 4)
  • [Advanced] Want to get something done? Here’s how to make it happen (I hate this one because it works so well) (Module 7 Lesson 2)
  • [Advanced] I will also destroy any and all of your excuses (Module 7 Lesson 4)
Dealing with bar prep stress

If you’re anxious, stressed out, distracted, overwhelmed, or worried, that has a direct and inverse correlation on your energy.

Low energy = low motivation = low productivity = low-quality work = low score on the exam.

Of course everyone feels these things from time to time, but not everyone decides to proactively manage those feelings. Yes, you can decide how you feel!

What’s going through the minds of your top classmates who are always succeeding in everything they do (who btw you notice aren’t complaining about the bar exam)? What’s their thought process?

Do you think things would go better if you were relaxed, calm, and confident… maybe even having fun?

If that interests you, join Mental Engines today:

I’ll show you how to update the software in your brain so you can set yourself up for success on the bar exam (and beyond). Hope to see you inside!

PS. Are you a weirdo if you invest in your inner game? I think it’s weird to continue to run around in circles. You don’t have to “just go with the flow” or “just deal with it” or turn to some tantric visualization rituals to shut your eyes from reality.

The truth is that consistently putting forth the right effort, especially when it becomes challenging, often separates the average from the exceptional. Not just waiting for the right moment, not just showing up, not just going through the motions. Don’t let your mental and emotional blocks hold you back from your potential.

Imagine yourself exactly one year from today. Will you regret having tried Mental Engines?

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