Life lessons. If you had to encapsulate what you’ve learned over the course of your life into a few short teaching tales for the next generation, what would you say?
Don’t fill up on the bread?
Keep your socks dry?
As my kids are getting to an age where they are starting to set goals and think about the future, I wrote this for them: How I Passed the Bar.
After flying through college easily with good grades, I was shocked to discover that law school was hard! And it was “hard” mostly because it was so different from anything else I’d done before. So here’s how I did it.
- Have confidence. Even during the darkest hours of my terrible first year of law school, when a small part of me feared I might be in (way) over my head, a larger part of me never stopped believing in my own abilities.
- Yet be humble. As a result of almost flunking out at the end of my first year, I was sent to an academic counselor who presented a bunch of options to me. The most time consuming and embarrassing one was enrolling in a remedial program taken alongside my regular second year classes. This was as embarrassing as it sounds, but I allowed myself to get really humble that second year and those back-to-basics skills bolstered me to get decent enough grades in my final year to actually graduate on time with my class. Way down at the bottom, but hey, a degree’s a degree, right?
- Take all the help you can get, whether you have to beg, borrow, or steal it. BEG: When you’re in school there are a million opportunities to get help. Open your eyes to them and you’ll see they are everywhere. Every professor has stories of long, boring hours sitting in an empty office during office hours all semester long, then students crowding the halls right after a test or right before and after grading time. Go to office hours ALL the time. Are you kidding me? You have the world’s foremost expert on underwater basket weaving teaching your class? Go talk to the guy! He WANTS to help you! BORROW: I put the most intensive, hardcore bar review class I could find on a credit card because I knew I didn’t want to mess around with flunking the bar exam and having to spent six months studying again for a retake the following year. My school also offered students in the remedial program an opportunity to take an additional bar review course for free. This took up (lots) of extra time and was (lots) of extra hard work. It was designed for people who had flunked the exam the first time around so it had great content but also was a great first-hand example of what was going to happen if I didn’t pass on my first shot. (Let’s just say none of these re-takers were happy campers.) STEAL: Even though I was barely hanging on in law school by a thread, on the outside I must have seemed to have it really together because people always wanted to study with me or asked me my opinion of things. Yes, I will join your study group! Little did you know when you invited me that YOU will be the one helping ME. Thank you!
- Visualize success. Every morning I had a routine that began even while I was still in school. While jogging or working out at the gym I would daydream about the week following the announcement of bar exam results. I never, not once, allowed fear to creep in. I refused to even go there. Instead, every single day for literally years I imagined myself going about my daily life and bumping into friends and acquaintances who would ask me about the bar. “Oh, yes, I just heard I passed!”
- Me? Yes, me! Your doctor or lawyer was once just another kid sitting at a desk next to his or her classmates setting goals then knocking them out one by one. You’re just as good as all the other kids sitting to the left and right of you in class. Why them and not you? Never be embarrassed that a goal seems beyond your capabilities. Nobody is looking to you to launch the space shuttle or perform open heart surgery today. Today’s goal is to do well on the test or learn a different way to do this type of math problem. “Being a rocket scientist” or “being named Secretary of State” is not one, massive goal; rather, it’s ten thousand smaller daily and weekly goals stacked together one on top of each other.
- “Good luck!” Successful people feel incredibly blessed all the time. They walk around with a sense of gratitude for everything that they have in their lives: friends, family, opportunities, amazing experiences. But the smartest successful people know “luck” is really that magical place where preparation meets opportunity. It all starts today, with an idea.