Our first date ended with her car getting towed.
She was the type of person to schedule her showers by the minute because of her absurd rotation schedule in med school. Yet she had taken three hours out of her life to meet me again for a second date.
I wanted to hold her hand so bad. A perfect pretext to see how she felt about me… that I ruined because I lacked three seconds of courage.
My brain was screaming at me to grab her hand. “Do it! Do it RIGHT NOW. Maybe later? It’s almost over, you shit. Her hand’s just a couple inches away. Oh my GOD, why aren’t you doing it? Wow, you got a goodbye hug. Nice going asshole.”
Nerves firing so hard that I could feel tingles on my hand. But my ego wouldn’t let me. It couldn’t let me because maybe possibly perhaps it would have given me bad feelz.
Rejection… embarrassment… discomfort! That must NEVER happen, right?
Oh, if only you knew how horrible I am at singing… I don’t even sing to myself because I don’t want to embarrass any ghosts who might be around.
Sometimes your brain is too protective for your own good. It’s like your parents have moved in with you inside your head.
Your parents would rather choose safety than excellence for you, 99 times out of 100. Of course! They don’t want you to get hurt. Preservation of capital is the first rule of investing, and you’re the portfolio that carries their hopes and dreams.
Your ego wants the same thing. It’s a perfect check and balance against doing or admitting things that show your weakness. It wants to prove your worth by maintaining a mental News Feed with a cherry-picked curation for optimal self-humblebrag.
It’s your nemesis in your quest for excellence.
What’s so bad about discomfort? What you gain from discomfort is remembered long after discomfort has faded.
I’ll never know what could have happened if I had activated those three seconds of courage. It couldn’t have been as awkward as when I took her to the impound lot. After our third date, I resigned to stalking her Facebook profile and exchanging long texts every other day until I had to ghost her to save both of us the agony.
I was so mad and ashamed at myself after those fails. But lessons were well learned and well applied in the future. No pain, no gain… but only if you utilize that pain.
The Courage to Enjoy Your Mistakes Now in Your Bar Prep
Hate making mistakes? Getting your ass kicked by those essays? Avoiding those PTs (you are going to do some, right?)?
We all need temporary discomfort sometimes. It’s payment to make things happen. Like my three seconds of temporary discomfort, it just takes a moment of strength for the lifetime privilege of being called an attorney.
You’re going to get issues wrong or forget the relevant rule or recite the incorrect rule or pick the wrong answer choice or run out of time… When you’re grading your MBE practice set and find yourself marking every other answer wrong… oof!
Not very fun.
What if you could flip the script so that you’re saying “GOOD” instead of “oof”?
You’re preparing now to minimize your risk of failure during the bar. But trying to avoid ALL risk is absurd. Now’s the time to ENJOY your mistakes when they happen during preparation.
It’s not the most fun thing, but you don’t need to be in agony. You’re getting the failures out of the way now. Defeat is fodder for your inevitable victory. It’s not a failure. It’s an experiment.
Are you willing to lose in order to win?
The point of bar preparation is to prepare for the bar. This sounds circular, but the word “prepare” is heavy. Put another way, if you can’t get used to these practice questions now, how will you deal with them on the actual exam?
Give yourself permission to do the things that matter and be bad at them NOW. If you don’t want to, I’ll give you that permission.
That’s why you’re studying. If you’re already good, what are you doing? Don’t pretend to be ready before you’re ready.
There’s a stage where you get 50% (or less) MBE questions right and miss all sorts of issues on your essays. Not good enough but let’s keep going.
Then a stage where you’re hitting 60% and you can recite the law well. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Then you continue to improve to get 65% or even 70%. And your essay outlines look like model answers. That’s progress!
If you’re scoring 70% on the MBE from the outset, you’ll have to upkeep that level of performance lest you’ll feel like you’re regressing.
Even worse, if you’re going easy on yourself on purpose or inflating your numbers to make your results look good, that’s just self-pleasure and doesn’t serve anything but your ego. You can stroke your ego all you want after you’ve passed the bar, but you haven’t earned that right yet.
Could mistakes actually empower you?
What would it look like if you added up all your mistakes? How will you feel on the hot seat on bar day knowing that the sum total of your failures and defeats is greater than its parts?
Whenever I saw that I missed an issue or got something incorrect, I would be like “ah damn, I didn’t know about that” or “aha, that makes sense” or even “all right, I really need to remember this because I messed this up last time too” (which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to redo problems to make sure you actually get it).
And the gaps I filled in during this time would be caulking against the torrent of shit during the bar.
Let me be clear here. Mistakes and bad decisions (not just on the bar but anywhere) are inherently not good things. So let’s not glorify mistakes and pretend we want to, or should, make mistakes. Don’t go after them on purpose.
What I mean is, when they inevitably happen, let’s be humble and leverage our mistakes against our opponent to learn and improve. That’s the hard part… and part of doing it right. Experience is useless unless you learn from it. Otherwise, they will stay just that—bad decisions.
Good martial artists don’t just practice their form in the corner, getting to know the theory. Good form builds a good foundation, but they also learn how to make those attacks effective and defend against them by sparring against a live opponent, getting hit in the ring. It’s also fun to use what you learned!
Here’s a relevant scene from The Lion King: “The past can hurt… you can either run from it, or…”
Can you be honest with yourself? Your ego doesn’t want you to be wrong. Your brain is too protective for your own good.
It’s hard to be wrong. It’s comforting when you’re reading outlines and “studying.” It can feel productive and give you a sense of security, but “studying” isn’t necessarily “learning.” On the actual exam, you’re not tested on how to take notes on lectures or memorize rules, nor is knowing rules in theory useful past a certain point.
I failed the first time because I spent most of my time on such minutiae. Yes, you definitely need to know the rules, but that’s merely the cost of entry.
You don’t get better at taking the bar without preparing for what you actually do on the bar—identifying relevant issues and applying relevant rules. That’s pretty much all you do on the bar. Rinse and repeat.
Have the courage to do what matters and make mistakes now. It’s liberating to know that only you are responsible for the outcome, that you can take control and steer toward it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not fully prepared yet. Who says you can’t work backward? You get infinite lives to try. You keep all your progress and don’t have to start all over from the beginning if you die.
Savor your inexperience. Your ego won’t like that you keep fucking up, but would you rather fail now or when it actually counts?
Keep doing those practice problems. Keep finding out why you’re wrong. Keep invoking those three seconds of courage.
As Eminem says, keep writing.
PS. If you know someone who you think would benefit from this article, could you share it with that person today?