E + R = O. How studying for the bar exam is like preparing for a football game

It’s mid-June and the honeymoon is over. The confidence is still there but  stress, anxiety, uncertainty, self-doubt are creeping in. You’ve only been studying a few weeks but are already feeling tired and worn out. Lots of professions have tough exams but none seem as daunting or induce as much stress as the bar exam. You are an incredibly successful and accomplished person, yet here you are questioning yourself and your ability to pass the bar exam: Why can’t I remember this material? How is everyone else so far ahead of me? I had a perfect plan so why can’t I stick to it?

You might not be overwhelmed but you are starting to feel the pressure. You are experiencing what I call “the battle of contradictions.”

  • You feel like you just got started AND like you’ve been doing this forever.
  • You know what you are supposed to do YET you don’t really know what to do.
  • You are motivated to work hard BUT are tired and find yourself putting things off until “tomorrow.”

The reason for this contradiction is that you are not quite at the half-way point of bar study so you aren’t feeling the intense pressure of the exam pushing up against you but you know you have a lot to do and only a few weeks to do it.

I’m not going to pretend that the stress, anxiety, and panic won’t happen. However, you have to acknowledge it, deal with it, and not let it control you. Taking a page from Coach Urban Meyer’s playbook, you have to: E + R = O. Event + Response = Outcome.

This mindset is why THE Ohio State University Buckeyes, led by their third-string quarterback, won the first ever College Football Playoff national championship. Most of the country called the wins over Alabama and Oregon “upsets.”  However, not a single Buckeye player was shocked or surprised. Coach Urban Meyer had built a team that embraced the concept of E + R = O.  This is based on the idea that you can’t prevent challenges but you can overcome them. That’s what the Buckeyes did when RB Ezekiel Elliot broke his left wrist and, for 8 weeks, could only carry the ball in his right hand.

When starting QB Braxton Miller injured his shoulder and was out for the season.

When early in the season the team lost to Virginia Tech.

When QB J.T. Barrett broke his ankle at the end of the regular season.

When third string QB Cardale Jones had a week to step up and lead the team in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Buckeyes knew what outcome they wanted- a national championship. In order to achieve it, they could not allow external events to be the deciding factor. Instead, how they responded to the events is what determined the outcome. E + R = O.

E + R = O is why the Buckeyes won the 2014 National Championship. The bar exam is not a football game, but the mindset and approach is the same. You can’t prevent challenges and obstacles but you can overcome them. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you deal with it. Don’t blame an external event for an outcome. Your response is what determines the outcome. Change what is in your control: what you think, what you do.

Check back tomorrow for more on how embrace the E + R = O mindset.

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