When I talk to students before they start studying for the bar exam, many view the process as a long, painful uphill climb with no rest stops along the way; it is easy to be overwhelmed by the BAR EXAM MOUNTAIN that lies ahead. Instead of a massive mountain climb, let’s think about the bar exam like a form of athletic training. (I’ll even throw in some gold medal quotes to inspire you along the way.)
Adopt a Training Plan
Athletes follow training plans. Once you pick a bar exam training plan, you may have to ignore what other people are doing; don’t overwhelm yourself with options you did not choose. I have known students enrolled in commercial bar preparation courses who supplemented with apps, tapes, books, and advice from friends. As a result, these students never felt like they were doing enough and this made them feel [even more] panicked. Add to your plan judiciously; for instance, if you have a long commute, adding an audio tape might make sense. Remember that the best plan is the one that you are committed to following.
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse
for anyone to work harder than you do.” Derek Jeter
Trust the Training
You have to trust the training process. There will be days when you feel defeated: you know nothing, are going about this all wrong, and have thrown three years down the drain. Trust that every mistake you make, every question you get wrong, and every painful hour you spend reviewing the Rule Against Perpetuities is one more step toward getting you ready for the bar exam.
Athletes expect sweat, discomfort, and pain. Any athlete can recount bad workouts, nasty scrimmages, dropped balls, twisted ankles, and near misses, but they learn not to measure the likelihood of game day success based on any single practice. Athletes may adjust their training along the way but they don’t throw their plan out the window. Instead of viewing a bad workout [or study session] as wasted time, learn to view it as a sign that your body [and mind] is getting stronger. Trust the training.
“Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt from those things
and learn from mistakes.” Michael Phelps
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Focus on Small Steps
Think of the study process as a series of hurdles rather than a single mountain climb and focus on going over one hurdle at a time. Do the daily work and don’t get discouraged by how far you have to go. Right now, you haven’t mastered every (or possibly any) subject, but each day that you follow your plan is like a run during marathon training. Your goal is to put miles on your feet. Each mile—each workout—each study block—makes you stronger.
Have you ever seen the gym machine that looks like a big rotating set of stairs? It is merciless; you can go slow and steady or fast and furious, but you have to keep lifting one foot after the other unless you want to fly off the contraption. This machine reminds me of studying for the bar because the only way to keep going is to take countless little (sometimes painfully boring or just painful) steps. Like the quote says, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”
“I am building a fire, and everyday I train, I add more fuel.
At just the right moment, I light the match.” Mia Hamm
Remember to Cross Train
Athletes cross train. During bar study, you need to do things that make your body and mind stronger and more nimble. Pay attention to sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Get some sunshine and have fun with friends. You know what relaxes and recharges you—keep doing it as cross training to help you build stamina and hit each study session hard and be effective.
“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.” Laird Hamilton
Have a Mantra
Finally, adopt a mantra. Many athletes repeat choice words to help direct the mind away from negative thoughts and toward a positive experience. The best mantras are short, positive, and address what you want to feel, not the outcome you are seeking. Some examples: “I can do anything for [an hour, 8 weeks, etc.],” “Define yourself,” and “Think strong, be strong, finish strong.” Remember, the mind plays an important role in achieving goals.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and
live the rest of your life as a champion.’” Muhammad Ali
Work hard and when that rule against perpetuities, proximate cause, or substantive due process question threatens to break you, remember:
“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Why Really Wanting to Pass the Bar Exam Isn’t Enough
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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