We all want to succeed. We’re wired to believe that we need to succeed. But what happens when we don’t? Recently I received my results from the Texas Bar Exam and learned that I’ll have to retake the exam in February. I’ve never failed at anything in my life (or at least in my mind I haven’t)… until now. Devastation, shock, and disappointment are only a few words to describe my reaction. All my life I’ve set a goal and I’ve reached that goal. However, an email I received from a friend put it into perspective – it’s not failure, it’s just success delayed. It’s only failure if you give up on your goal. My goal is simple; I want to be a practicing attorney.
I can sympathize with those in the same situation as I am in. The feeling that you’ve not only let yourself down, but let others down including your family and friends can be overwhelming. The loss of a sense of direction in life is highly disorienting. But it’s not the end of the world. Does it make the journey more difficult? Yes. Does it make the goal unreachable? No.
There have been plenty of notable people who have not passed the bar exam the first time around, but still went on to become highly successful people. Examples include, Abraham Lincoln, Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama, and John F. Kennedy, Jr. – but when people think of those people they think of their success – not their failures.
The trick to success is figuring out why you didn’t meet your goal. Thomas Edison made over 2,000 attempts before successfully creating the light bulb. Each time he kept what worked, discarded what didn’t and tried something different. In my case, I know I didn’t study near enough due to an untimely family tragedy in June. I also know now that I’d have benefitted greatly from taking more practice exams and essays rather than focusing primarily on the study materials alone.
Almost every piece of advice from the blogosphere that I’ve read regarding retaking the Bar has said to study for it as if you were taking it for the first time (again). If you focus solely on the areas where you did poorly, you end up being under-prepared for the other parts of the exam.
One of the biggest problems that Bar re-takers run into is finding the time to study. Most of us have found full-time jobs of some sort and have any number of other commitments to go with it. Statistically the pass rate for second time takers drops to roughly 50% – simply because so many re-takers just aren’t able to invest the time into the test that they need to.
If you’ve made up your mind to re-take the exam in February, then you need to realize to what you’re committing. It means carving out time every day to study as if you were taking the test for the first time. This challenge itself can be daunting, but it is something that has to be done. Take time to figure out where you went wrong, what you can improve upon, and what you need to tweak to make sure that you make the most of your time when studying.
Go into this with a positive mindset that you can and will pass this time. If you approach the exam half-heartedly thinking that it can’t be done, then you’re probably right. You’ve got to have the desire, determination, and a strong commitment to reach your goal.
To all of those, like me, who didn’t pass the Bar, I would encourage you to give it another shot. Failure once, does not mean failure permanently, it just means success is delayed. Those delays only become failures when we choose to give up on reaching our goals. Don’t give up, pick yourself up and give it another go, but be aware of exactly what you’re committing to when you do make that decision.
I wish a very hearty congratulation to all of those who did pass and also the best of luck to those retaking it in February.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.