Your Portal To Freedom…If You Listen To Yourself

Admit it. You don’t trust yourself.

Once you start this practice, I guarantee you will smile.

Because humans have a negative tendency towards self-trust, we often need tools to see the bigger picture.

This morning I listened to Tara Brach’s podcast on Trust.  I’d like to apply her concept of the Portal of Freedom head on.  Unless we learn to trust ourselves deeply, we feel separate, sometimes anxious and are limited.

No one us want to live a limited life.  I want to get the most out of every moment on Earth.  Don’t you?  Sure, you do.

And yet, if I told you that all you had to do was “listen to yourself” deeply, you would turn me off and probably continue to look else where for an answer.  Frankly, I don’t mind if you turn me off.  Just do not turn YOURSELF OFF.

I finished off yesterday in a funk. Without going into why because it does not really matter (I really believe that), I knew my mind had changed state and that I was not in what I’d call my optimistic state of mind. I watched it happen.  I was aware that my mind had shifted and was like wow, I’m in a funk, what do I feel, what thoughts are going thru my mind?  I literally watched myself in it and thru it – which itself I am quite proud of.  Often, we are not aware that we are in a funk until after we pass thru it – but this time, I say my shoulders roll in, I felt a tightening

I was aware that my mind had shifted and was like wow, “I’m in a funk.” I asked myself, “what do I feel, what thoughts are going thru my mind?”  I literally watched myself in it and thru it – which itself I am quite proud of (and, no big deal, you probably do this too). Often, we are not aware that we are in a funk until after we pass thru it – but this time, I saw my shoulders roll in, I felt a tightening under my left breast muscle and my neck felt tighter.  I even was aware that my mind felt “tight,” what ever that means to you.  It is the closest word I can describe.  I felt limited, quiet and a bit withdrawn. I could see it actually.

So what did I do to change the state?

Well, first, my meditation practice* which is a practice of listening and watching all thoughts and feelings took note.  “Took note?” You wonder?

“Took note?” You wonder?

Yup.  When I started an almost everyday meditation practice I thought the goal was stillness but for me it has become more about simply listening and taking inventory, not mere stillness. By being still in my mind and not chasing any one thing, I can see and more accurately listen to tons of thoughts and even listen and feel for feelings.  I’m just sitting there saying to myself: “Hello thought coming from the left side,” “Hello feeling in my left shoulder,” etc. etc.

Then, to take up Tara Brach’s observation, I can begin to trust myself.  I know that word is a loaded word but really. Once I begin to listen to myself, and not get baited into one or another thought and feeling, I arrive in this place of a big smile.

“A big smile?”

Yes. I caught myself smiling as I just sit there on my internal river bank, watching all of these things flow. I am not one of the things, I am all of them.  I am limitless.

And with that, I build these (to borrow a word, I think, from Master Systema Martin Wheeler teacher) “little kernels of confidence).

If you keep an “I Wish Journal” or set your intentions every day, maybe you will envision what it looks like to trust yourself to listen to yourself.

Maybe you’ll envision what that looks like if you could hear everything inside your mind and body.

What would that look like for you?

And how would it feel in your mind? What about how it would feel in your body?

And what would it feel like to trust yourself?  Despite all of your quirks?

For me, it is mostly wonderful because I know I control so little.  And yet, if I can trust myself and also get better at listening to myself (aka to truly know my gut), how limitless will life be?  Wow. Quite.

Have a great day.


*If you’d like to chat about my meditation practice or want free help with yours, please just ask.

Check out my other writings on Thrive Journal:

Ps. This takes my other concepts from outside Does Your Mind Search Search for Joy?, to a purely internal search.

pss. Tara Brach reminds us that “Namaste” technically refers to: I see the good ness in you.  She suggests we start by seeing the goodness inside our self. For more on Tara Brach


What works for you when you are stuck in fear?

More time must be spent on the tools that help us now.  For me, it is belly breathing.

I hear many words like “stuck”, and “sudden onset of uncomfortable feelings”, “anxiety”, “fear” as words that describe being stuck.  Your words may not be my words but we may share the feelings.

I want to share something that I have found that has helped me tremendously, and it helps instantly.

Question: Do you have a breathing practice

Huh? you say?

Well, you wake up, brush your teeth and probably do some exercise, maybe have a yoga and maybe even have started meditation.  A practice is something that requires near daily dedication.  Say that out loud, daily dedication is a practice.

It takes practice – daily or near daily – to develop a practice.  But the pay off is huge.  If you learn how to belly breathe, you will tap into your vagus nerve – that runs from behind your neck down your throat and behind your heart and into your belly to bring about physical calming.  Google vagus nerve.

Let’s jump right in!

Here is step one of belly breathing.  Let me know if this helps you get started.

Do you notice how I use the hand and finger simply as guides?

Does it help you to see what I am trying to do?

Please let me know your thoughts below.  Thanks.


“The most profound mystery of all the universe…this love”

What does love have to do with deep inner healing?

Well, Let me tell you a quick story.

Recently I was about to negotiate an agreement and took a moment to see whether I could connect deeply with the person on the other side OR if they would let me connect.

Because they did not want to engage in small talk and quickly desired “to get down to business”, I was reminded to simply listen for what that meant about the agreement I could possibly forge.  So after our first session, I went for a run and had an epiphany I’d like to share that may apply universally.

If you don’t list to podcasts, you need to start and listen to this particular one.

This morning on my run, I listened to Krista Tippet’s 2015 interview of Martin Sheen (link).

Yup, the actor. Never expected what I heard but I wished I had heard it before.

He spoke directly to love and joy. It isn’t about religion but it is about spirituality.

For example, he saw himself at a very young age as an actor on the screen.

“I think all children know at a young age something deeply personal about themselves that is hard to communicate…”

But it was what happened from minute 31:00, that made me really think.

Sheen is asked to talk about “love” – and he says:

“Yeah, the love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved.  A knowingness about our being that unites us to all of humanity, to all of the universe.  That despite ourselves, we are loved.  And when you realize that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference.

He isn’t talking about being loved by someone else.

In fact, he acknowledges that the love that he has for his wife of decades is deep and real.    “I’m deeply loved. I am married to one of the great people I’ve known in my life…”

He is talking about a deep inner love- a knowingness love – that is internal – that is linked to the self that never ages. That inner self that we must cultivate.

I think a “knowingness” of love – of ourselves is learnable.

Here is the complete dialogue below:

I think it is important to note a few elements that Sheen adds to help us on our journey – compassion and being of or in service to others.  I agree.  In fact, when we look at Buddha’s teachings – empathy comes from being in service to others.



Finally, Sheen leads us to one of the purposes of our endeavor – “experiencing true, personal joy.”  We all go about getting there a different way but when I listened to Sheen’s own words, his humility, and the awareness that it gave him into his self – I felt awe.

In his own words,


Profound for sure.

If not for joy, then what is it all for.  If all we do in life is to teach ourselves to truly know that we are loved AND to find joy (at least more joy than pain), then haven’t we accomplished something truly meaningful for ourselves?

I urge you to listen and to share your comments with me.  I’d love to hear from you.

And please subscribe to my blog.




Does Your Mind Search Search for Joy?

If you go to sleep with a ‘racey’ mind sometimes, or even wake up all ‘racey’ about the things you “gotta do”, you are frustrated that your mind is winning.

You wake up exhausted again and by 2:30 or 3 pm, you are a bit downtrodden, right?

You have not made any progress on your long list of to-dos and you keep getting caught up in forgetting to do what the others in your life (co-workers, life partners, clients) need you to do first in their list of priorities.

Until, of course you change your mindset.

Try this:

Step One:

Rather than end your day with a list of things you gotta do, end your day asking your brain to “search for joy.”


Step two:

Literally do a bit of self-talk and say “ok, mind that is all powerful and working all the time, go out there into my world and search for joy.”  Just try it.  It cannot hurt.  Science tells us that the brain is task oriented.  And if you give it the task to “search for joy” while you sleep, after a few days of this, or even that very first night for some of you, it will find little tidbits of joy.


Step Three:

Upon waking, many successful folks express gratitude for all of the great things they have in their lives, the people, the feelings, their health.  Well, I also use this opportunity – those first waking moments to ask my brain “today, search for joy.”

The results for me include:

  • slowing down an interaction to really see what is happening and see the joy in the smallest interactions and events;
  • make a game of it when ever you are able: how many moments of joy you can notice.
  • being watchful of where joy originates – and being amazed that it can come from the fact that the hot water mixed with those first grinds of coffee, make an amazing steam.  I know it is a bit childlike but the greatest creativity comes from a child-like mind.

My goal is simple: If I can experience some joy today, and tomorrow, and the next day, then my life is linked by joy.  Joy is how I remember yesterday if I searched for some joy and found even a little.

It can be as simple as making your first cup of coffee.  Watch the hot water hit the coffee grounds and turn them into coffee.

So, tell me, can you join me in a daily “search for joy” practice?

Let me know how it works for you in the comments below or email me at



And, remember to search for joy.





Therapy, medicine and even meditation not working in the crunch of panic or anxiety? I will show you the one thing that I do that immediately helps and brings more joy into my life.

I look forward to reducing the effects of anxiety and panic on our happiness.

Self-Reflection: Do You Take Time Everyday To Get Perspective?

Busy people do not have time to “self-reflect,” I often hear. 

Getting perspective is only useful if it makes us (a) more effective; (b) helps us see ourselves and/or our goals more clearly; and (c) brings joy. These three things are components of what I would suggest equate to something being “useful.”  

Most of us whose day starts at sunrise, like mine, it is true, there is not much time for all of our responsibilities.

What is “self-reflection”?

For me, it is getting a perspective of myself from some distance.  When we are stressed, mired in something, struggling emotionally or even having a hard time seeing a way out in a work, relationship or even athletic situation (ie. martial arts), having someone who we trust, who is watching us, tell us what they see – ie mirroring – and suggest some openings, a trail, a path, a way thru, we can get to the otherwise.  Self- reflecting is doing this practice for ourselves.  It is not something we can always do immediately and in some situations, we cannot get the perspective.  But is it an objectivity we can develop.

Recently I listened to the Tim Ferris Podcast featuring Krista Tippett and I challenge you – don’t you have ten (10) minutes a day for meaningful self-reflection?


  • Practice is only meaningful if you repeat it often.  Krista carves out ten minutes while her water is boiling in the morning. You might chose to pick an app like Calm to start your own meditation practice.  Regardless of what “practice” you pick, I cannot stress enough that you actually schedule it and do it at least three times a week. Otherwise you will have simply not enough experience to determine whether or not it is helpful.
  • Merely spiritual practice may not be useful. Like Krista, I like physical activities combined with “mental” activities so that my whole self feels better.  But merely physical activities are not that helpful either because they do not provide much opportunity for self-reflection.
  • Fear and doubt.  All of the thoughts that come up during meditation – including all the ‘gotta dos’, worries, things you should have done before you started your “pratice” and things you must do when your practice ends should simply be noted.  Simply note them and most importantly begin to notice how you react do different types of thoughts that come into your mind.
  • Feel. So much of self-work involves taking note of external things you need to do to improve.  With self-reflection, I think it important merely to note how you feel at various times: before you start, while you are “self-reflecting,” and after.  We may not remember what someone said or even what all of the factual details of a movie, book, interaction are, but we more often than not remember how they made us feel.  Take note of how you feel and really explore the layers.
  • Body scanning. One of the easiest ways to start self-reflecting is to do a body scan meditation. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.  Focus on the top of your head.  Identify all of the “feelings” that are happing there.  Do down to your ears, and then your forehead, and so on, all the way down to your toes.  Just note the feelings, tingling or even if there is no feeling you sense at all.  Don’t judge, just note it like youre a note taker.  This exercise can help get you to see what is happening at every few inches of yourself.
  • Sitting next to yourself.  My systema guru/teacher suggested that he often pretends to “sit next to himself,” and tell himself what he sees.  If he has the presence of mind to do that, even in the most tough time he might be having, he can instantly (a) tell himself to chill out; (b) catch himself before he does or says something or even misses something right there in front of him; (c) bring him some humor.  When I do this, I often see myself all up in a bunch and it is funny catching myself before I lose my cool.  In the end, it helps pick a better path.

Are you a natural at self-reflection?

Do you practice?

 What are some ways that you get some perspective?

What did you learn when you go that perspective? Did you feel like you had a new tool that you could bring forward with you and apply in other situations?

Email me some of your tricks when it comes to your “self-reflection” practice.


BIG HAIRY GOALS – it’s all about the small stuff

In yoga today, I almost fell over when we moved into “triangle pose”, also known as trikonasana.

The point is, how we move into and out of things makes all of the difference to what happens once we arrive.  After I almost fell, it took me a few breaths – or maybe I even held my breath – to recover and I then had some negative thoughts about how I should have paid more attention to what I was doing while I was doing it.  There I said it: In order to achieve big goals, you MUST pay attention to what you are doing each step of the way.  If you focus on the big goal and not on the little steps going towards your goal, you will never arrive.

Well, you may arrive. It is not fair for me to say you won’t arrive. You will simply arrive and spend the first while readjusting, reacting too, reverberating from what ever happened on your journey.

Does all of this sound too metaphysical to you? Let me bring it down to the level of say a Bar Exam.

As you may know, the Bar Exam has an essay day. I am coaching several folks who are studying now for the February 2017 Bar Exam and several have asked me: “Shouldn’t I just start memorizing as many rules that I can now?”

My answer is no.

My answer is: You should focus on writing out correct answers to every single correct answer you can find to any bar essay question.  Get your mind used to writing out the correct answers, the very sample answers in the back of your bar exam booklet.  That exercise of writing out say one hundred (100 = 2 per day for 50 days of study) is not really enough, but it will get you there. Then, your brain will already be adept at the small steps of writing out correct answers.

Each word in a Bar Exam question is a trigger word.  What I mean is that each word allows you to tell the reader in your answer that you know your stuff and that they can move on. So by focusing on writing out correct answers, taken from the sample answer in the back of your exam prep course, you are focusing on the small steps needed to get thru the big goal.

Now go out there and write out your two correct answers for today.

Good luck.


I don’t know about you BUT when my SLEEP is INTERRUPTED I am in trouble.

And as the BAR EXAM gets closer, the more my SLEEP could be INTERRUPTED.
This morning, during my run I listened to the Aspen Ideas’ Institute podcast on Meditation. You should listen to if you get a chance:
  • Science proves that mediation helps sleep and reduces anxiety.
  • Meditation can be either focused meditation (on a word, on your breath); it can be body scan meditation or it can be TM.
  • It is easy to learn and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE.
  • THERE ARE NO SIDE EFFECTS. Unlike drugs or meds or booze.
I couldn’t believe they said SCIENCE now PROVES it!
I didn’t need science.  I am on my sixth straight day of consecutive meditation using the CALM APP ( which is FREE and have logged 88 total meditation sessions in 2016.


If you’d like me to teach you some simple meditation, please let me know, but otherwise, incorporate meditation TODAY, into your study strategy.
ps.  You know how I talk about visualization alot? Well, check out Ashton Eaton: the world’s most fittest athlete – a decathelete who visualizes every race and every single obstacle before each race.  Search the word “visualize” see how often it comes up.  IT REALLY WORKS.

GET READY TO LAUNCH to study the bar

Two weeks from now but many, many years ago-  twenty four to be exact – I was all ready to start studying for the Bar.  The New York Bar was my first. I studied from a hotel in Philadelphia.  Actually, I vaguely remember feeling a bit anxious and wonder.  How on earth was I going to study twenty two subjects – yup that is what the syllabus said – for the New York bar?!  Bar bri hadn’t even started yet and I was having a bit of trouble sleeping. My mind was racing with anxiety.  I could not afford to fail the exam because I was off to a Fellowship as soon as the bar ended.  Even though I did quite well on law school exams, I knew that “the Bar” was a different animal. Or at least that is how my mind started off.   

For many, this discussion is familiar and some find it embarrassing to admit. They too have anxiety about starting to study for the Bar.  Oh did I wish someone would take my hand and just guide me through the process. You know, like the runners who run with newbies running their first marathon.  Well, here I am for you.

I had signed up for Bar Bri in my very first semester of law school.  My cousin encouraged me to go find that “Bar Bri table” at orientation and pay the deposit even though I had no idea what Bar Bri was.  I did it because I trusted her.  But still what was I up for? I could forget about it for three years but now I was about to start the course.  


What I did next, and repeated throughout my next eight weeks of prep, made all the difference in the world. I repeated it again four years later when I studied and passed the California Bar.  I call it my three steps to success. Spoiler alert: I passed the New York Bar and Connecticut Bar without a problem.


But before I share these pearls from my experience, I have one more thing to share.

Trust the Bar Bri program.  I have found that Bar Bri does an incredible job of identifying the what.  There is no need to ask them why.  They have tested it. You signed up presumably on the referral of someone who used them to pass. And, if that is not the case, you are hearing it from me now.  They know their stuff.  If you follow their what, you will be over prepared which means it will not strain you. It is better to walk over the Bar than to hit your head on it. Right?  Once I accepted that I could trust that they had identified the WHAT for me, I stopped asking why.  I stopped asking about the problems that I or a classmate found in the practice answers that I thought was wrong. It isn’t wrong. I stopped asking questions about whether I should do more than the 50 MBE questions assigned each night. No need unless I wanted to for the heck of it. I stopped asking whether I should take another course on top of Bar Bri. The answer is, if you do what they assign, it is NOT necessary.  Do you hear me? I trusted what they gave me to study and so should you. It works.I passed three bars with it and I am just a normal person.

Step one:  It is all about me.  I knew by now that I felt best everyday when I did some exercise to sweat. If that is not the case for you then what does make you feel good everyday.  Schedule it in your study schedule.   Back then, I was a treadmill runner – I know that is a sad admission but it is true.  I can picture myself running on the treadmill in the mornings after my first cup of coffee before every single Bar Bri class just to get my blood flowing. I would run again at night – with flash cards once I got into the studying. I will write about what was on those flash cards later.  By coming up with an organized schedule of non-negotiables – things I had to do for me – I knew I could have some control over the craziness of the eight week study marathon that was to begin.

My non-negotiables included exercise, making and eating healthy dinners and scheduled break times.  I also scheduled my study time so that I knew it was there. I scheduled rewards of break time with friends or “TV zone out time” (now known as binge watching) right after so I could look forward to the reward once I hit my study goal. Remember, it is a long race. Build stamina and restore.

Step two: My mind set.  I remember meeting panicky, different energy classmates in law school. Heck, I am a high energy person myself.  That was fine as a class mate but now was different. I had to form and protect a winning mindset for myself during this study phase.  I was in this for me and my loved ones and would start by protecting my mindset with positive, good energy activities and people.  No one’s advice about how to keep your mind set positive is as meaningful as your own self. Listen to your inner self.  Be responsible for your own positive thoughts and calm.

Visualization. Another major aspect of the mind-set for me – which may not work for others – was visualization.  I worked every day on seeing myself successfully finishing the Bar.  I know it sounds silly but it really works. If you don’t believe me, watch an Olympian before an important race. Swimmers are a great example. Go Youtube it.  They will stand there before the race with their eyes closed and move their bodies as if they are swimming the race.  And it isn’t the first time they are doing this visualization thing. Winners of races visualize for weeks prior to a race.  They visualize the end and they visualize each important part of it.   It has worked for me for decades and it worked with exams and the Bar.

Step three:  I choose Joy. My father let me carry his trial briefcase as a little boy.  I used to pull a luggage cart with his trial binders with the other hand.  I became a lawyer because of how my dad helps people achieve their goals or overcome obstacles in life. The look on my dad’s face and the look of his client, after a successful trial, is the look of exhaustion yes but it is also the look of joy.  I went into law to have a joyful professional life. What about you? Channel why you are going to be a lawyer. Taking the bar was just another opportunity to explore the exhausting challenge of the profession and I was committed to doing the eight weeks in as joyful a way as possible. There are those that slug through any challenge and they finish well. And, that might be you. But there are those that study hard, eat well, play hard and kick the bar’s you know what and do it with a smile.  That was me. I know it sounds silly but it can be done easily without strain.  And it can be you too.

You’ve got two weeks before Bar-Bri starts – Get Ready to Launch!

GREGORY RUTCHIK Gregory passed the New York, Connecticut and California Bar’s – each the the first time. He also waived into DC on his MBE results. Gregory is a proud BAR BRI Alum. He is a 1992-1993 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tokyo, a 1992 graduate of Temple University School of Law and 2005 LLM graduate in Tax Law from Golden Gate University.  Gregory’s practice started in Silicon Valley at Cooley LLP and is now a mix of business development and lawyering for established family owned or closely held businesses. Gregory identifies and qualifies business partners for his clients and forms and designs their business structures, entities and agreements so his technology, real estate acquisition and even chocolate manufacturer clients can make, sell, distribute and protect their products. Gregory has also has litigated dozens of IP infringement cases in Federal Court.  When not lawyering, he is a martial artist, a yogi, a writer of children’s books and helps high achievers whose anxiety and panic interrupts their performance. Gregory runs his blog and is based in Los Angeles.


I remember when one of my law school classmates told me that they had signed up for a bar prep course different from mine.  I remember the self-doubt. Did I make the right decision?

I remember when that same person started studying and they told me that they had a study group, was going to take a separate essay writing class and a separate multi-state question class that I had not signed up for.  I had only signed up for a comprehensive bar prep class (*Disclosure: I took Bar Bri and passed three bars with it – first time around). I had some self-doubt.

BUT ONLY FOR ONE SINGLE MOMENT.  And then I remembered, this:

I picked Bar Bri because my cousin – whom I respect – took Bar Bri and passed New York easily.  I remembered why I had signed up and who I was going to believe – someone who had taken the Bar and had passed it OR some fellow classmate who had not yet taken a bar or studied for one.  Why did you pick the course you signed up for? I’m betting it was because someone you respect – who passed the bar taking that course – told you to sign up. I was so confident in my cousin that I signed up for Bar Bri the first week of law school to get the savings.  She said actually “sign up at that table, keep the receipt and forget about it for three years.”  That was precisely what I did. Worked for me well.

If anything, I was over prepared. But better than the other option. 
Most people don’t just do the work in front of them.  They add other “to dos”, and “other” courses to the courses they signed up for as if all the make work of the “other” stuff is going to help them pass.  But they know the truth. There are only two things – that is right TWO things that will make you – permit you to pass:

  1. Studying the material in front of you.  Remember that course you signed up. It will cover everything if it is one of the majors. But you have not started the course yet – and so long as you did sign up for one of the big names – Bar Bri, Piepers, Princeton etc. (Here is an post about the various top courses but you know which ones they are.  They are the courses that the people you know who passed too.  That is the best measure of a good course.
  2. The right mindset. Without a positive, confident, winners mindset, you can’t do as well. By adding work on your mindset while you study, you magnify your chances of passing significantly.



One thing I want you to start to tell yourself, after you have begun to visualize your success is this: It is a BAR exam – something you either trip over or hit your head on. It is designed to filter out those that (a) don’t study; (b) can’t figure out how to study; or (c) those that think they can study 22 subjects the week before the exam (ie, those that don’t study.).

Failing the Bar Exam Is Not an Option – So Here Is How To Pass

I don’t know about you but FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

This post is about three simple things you can do to tremendously increase your ability to pass the exam.

I remember folks who failed. They were embarrassed, frustrated and exhausted.  And they couldn’t move forward in life. They had to rinse and repeat while I went on to do what was next.  And, for many of them, they had studied just as “hard” as I did. Their minds and nervousness messed them up and they hadn’t spent any time on that part of the preparation.

You, however, won’t make that mistake. As you will see when you watch a pro athlete.  There is the ability to take the shot under pressure – the actual skill of shooting the ball which is a given. But it is their ability to keep their minds calm that will determine whether or not they will make the shot.

As soon as the proctor says “Begin”, your heart will race faster than your mind towards the finish line. How you train your mind will determine your outcome. And I don’t mean what you learn and how “hard” you study.

You remember the first year of law school, waiting for your grades. I sure do. When I was in law school in the late 80s, our grades were posted on a board in the lobby of my law school.  They were not posted by name but by the random ID that was issued during my first semester and that changed each semester.  I remember standing about ten feet away and saying to myself, “Are you prepared for a B or a C?”  I got many As, some Bs and even a C in law school. But I kept moving forward.

The Bar exam is different. You either pass and go onto a job, an interview or the next phase of being a lawyer OR you FAIL and wait until the next bar exam cycle and START OVER.  Do not collect $200, stay in jail.  In other words, failure is NOT AN OPTION.

I passed three bars. Each the first time.  I took New York and Connecticut first – in the summer of 1992.  I waived in to DC (which was a waste of money and not necessary based on my multi-state score).  I took and passed California in February 1998.

I took Bar-bri – and will assume that you have signed up for at least some course – and did the exact schedule they set out. BUT, I did two things (ok three things) differently that I am convinced made a huge difference.

Here they are:

  1. Non-negotiables of Studying.

    Here is the good news.  Even if you have to work while you study for some of your bar prep time, there are many non-negotiables.   Regardless of which course you take, and I assume that you are taking one of the courses, there is a schedule. This means that there are many things you don’t have to think about. Just do.

    1. Here are the non-negotiables.
      1. Sleep (and, do not short yourself on this),
      2. The course itself: mine ran from 9 am until 1 pm every week day.
      3. Food: three meals plus snack time
      4. Daily hygiene including bio-breaks.
      5. Study time after class.
      6. Exercise.
    2. Make yourself a calendar now.  Schedule everything in your calendar and adjust it once reality sets in.  BUT, you will do yourself a huge favor if you have create a schedule and even if you never look at it again. I remember printing mine up and put it on the wall. It was like a permission slip because it taught my mind what every single day would look like AND I built in rewards.
    3.  Here is a sample schedule.
      screenshot-2016-11-27-10-09-45 screenshot-2016-11-27-10-09-55
    4.   Note that I have added THREE potential study slots. I won’t have to stick with them or use them but they also become PLAY slots IF I finish my work early.
    5. Note that I added three potential exercise or relax slots during the day.  Planning to exercise is key.  If you do not have an exercise routine, then go for walks, listen to music while you walk but do something active.
    6. If there are two things you must learn to do, it is (1) learn to comfortably sit for two to three hour slots – which is the length of the bar sessions and (2) learn how to dissipate the anxiety and stress.
    7. As for Studying, it is a non-negotiable. Don’t ask them why, just do their schedule.  Their schedules of what you study and for how many hours each day is pretty much science. If you do more, that is up to you, if you do less, you are fucking with science. And don’t think you can start studying four weeks into an eight-week program.  If you miss a day or two that is one thing, but you cannot shovel a sidewalk clean during a blizzard with a spoon. Ok, that wasn’t the best metaphor but there is a lot of material and you will need to shovel (I mean study) every day for the most part to keep up with the storm.

      2. The mental game.


The number one trick I learned about studying was visualization. I learned how to visualize myself successfully completing the exam in front of me.  I learned it early in my studies and refined it but here is what I mean. In sum, you can increase your ability to pass this exam by literally envisioning yourself as precisely as possible finishing the exam successfully. And if you practice visualizing yourself there, starting now, even before you start studying, your mind will only know what success looks like.  It has worked for me for almost thirty years. Give it a try.  I cannot hurt you.  PS. I did not invent this.  Folks including Usain Bolt use this method to visualize their success.

a) Envision your exit.

As you sit here right now, can you envision where you will walk out of when your bar exam is done? I mean specifically, can you envision the building and the street and the neighborhood where you will walk out into when your bar is done?  I could not.

I was studying for the New York bar in Philadelphia, where I went to law school.  Because I was a non-resident New Yorker, I would take the New York Bar up in Albany.  Even though I had been to Albany, I had no fucking clue where the building was or what it looked like.

So, I looked up the address and sure enough there was an image of the building up in Albany.

b) Envision what you will look like when you’re done.

The most important part of an exam is the grade but the next most important thing about an exam is finishing it successfully.  I vividly remember sitting in the Connecticut bar and I remember the woman on my side of the table – there were two people to a side with a space in the middle.  Connecticut had six thirty minute essays and they had to be written in order. The proctor would give you two essays in the first hour and then pick up the blue books after the first hour.  So you had essentially 5 minutes to plan, 25 minutes to write or so. It was like sprinting.  Well, the woman to my right put her head down after the first hour.  She did not lift her head up until our first break and did not return.  That was it for her. She was out.

So, for me, and for you, you will see yourself successfully finishing.  You will envision your face, your neck, your shoulders, your whole body looking as you would look when you successfully complete an exam. Hard to envision right?

Go to a mirror.  Stand there and look at yourself.  Now close your eyes. Do you remember a time when you successfully kicked an exams ass? You knew it when you came out of the exam right?  You were beaming, you felt great, you felt it in your gut, your throat, your face, your mind. You just knew.  Now, open your eyes in front of the mirror.  Do you see how you look now?

Is that what you look like when you feel success? If it isn’t then I want you to fake it. I want you to change your face by relaxing your brow, and your cheeks and your mouth. Relax your shoulders so they are down and take a deep breath.  Smile.  Look at yourself.  Note every single detail of how you look. That should be how YOU look when you feel successful.

That image is the image you will refine and essentially visualize in your mind.  It is not a fixed image. You can add to it and improve it.  There is only one rule: everything you visualize, down to what outfit you wear must reflect SUCCESS.  Not a single thing can be negative or doubtful.  I pictured myself in a blue turtleneck and khaki pants and sneakers.  That was my go to success outfit.

Let me know if you need help coming up with this image of yourself.

b) See yourself from the end to the present.

Here is the weird part.  I used to visualize myself first at the end of the exam and then in the middle of the exam – seeing myself kicking its ass – and even visualize myself taking a bio break in the middle of the exam and catching myself (imagining myself) in the mirror and seeing myself “kicking its ass” and then visualise myself starting the exam as the imaginary proctor said “begin” and then finally see myself waking up that day and even the night before falling asleep.

I got so good that for two weeks prior to the exam, I could do my visualization in about 5 quick minutes with my eyes closed. I picked end, middle, beginning of exam points and the night before the exam. I pictured myself falling asleep seeing myself lying there “successful.”

If you take your mind thru this visualization effort once a day, every day while you study and all you see is yourself successfully completing the exam, then so long as you study, nothing mental will get in the way of you kicking its ass.

If you would be interested in learning more about how to visualize and calm the mind to kick this exam’s ass? Email me and I will help you.

3. The essay game.

In the study materials, you will receive sample essays, and in California, you will receive sample performance test answer materials.  If you received your study materials already, look for the sample answers.  I am sure you learned IRAC.  That is only half of the battle. For some, training your mind to answer the question their way – the way the Bar graders expect you to – is hugely important.

This seems like such an easy way to study the essays and is only focused on results.  It is not focused on learning the material.  You will learn how to be a lawyer when you work as a lawyer.  Your goal now is to pass the exam.

I took each sample answer and after briefly reading the question, I wrote out, verbatim, the sample answer. I put each subject into a three ringed binder.  Writing things out for me – as opposed to typing – helped my mind absorb the materials.  Once you start studying you will find that the sample answers often analyze things a bit differently than even your teachers teach it during your bar course.  Don’t question what is in the sample answer.  I am sure you are brilliant and think you’ve found an error in the law or answer.  Chances are you did not.  Just write out the sample answer – ok type it – and organize each sample according to subject – Con law, contracts, crim, etc.

Sure it would be great for you to read the question and blindly write out your answer without looking at the sample. But why do that when you can read the question and practice writing out the correct, passing answer?

Reviewing your re-written sample answers will make a difference to how your mind gets use to simply writing out passing scores.

If you are interested in taking a free course to teach you these techniques and help you while you study, let me know.  I only have room for 20 students.

Good luck out there.