Saturday, January 7, 2012

Improve or Enjoy. Pick One.

When I focus on accomplishing goals I am not good at stopping and enjoying life.  For better or for worse, I immerse myself in reaching the destination to the exclusion of enjoying the ride.  This mindset has worked for me as I have reached many goals over the past couple of years both personally and professionally.

Yet, on the heels of reaching a major career goal I was left with a weird feeling.  I jotted the following down a couple of days after reaching the goal:
Kind of floating through life right now. Is that a bad thing? Probably not a good thing. I am feeling more settled so what do I mean by “floating”? Not having control? Something like that.
After I reached my goal I was missing something.  I realized that almost as soon as I hit success I started looking for the next challenge.  I can’t help but think that this is just a cycle of hollowness.  What is the point if you are never content?

The obvious solution is to just focus on being content.  But this seems like an easy way out that avoids the underlying problem.  I think, for me, it is almost a mental head game where I convince myself that if I am content I will not have the proper motivation and thus will be unable to succeed.  In retrospect this seems illogical.

How does one actually break out of this cycle? I can’t help but think there is a certain irony to pinpointing this problem and then setting a goal to overcome it.  I don't think there is a clear answer besides just enjoying the journey and the process of overcoming challenges. Because the once-I-do-this-I’ll-be-happy-cycle doesn’t end with happiness.

Photo: Salim Al-Harthy

Monday, July 4, 2011

1L Timesheet

In May I finished my first year of law school at Loyola University Chicago.  I ended up doing really well and just transferred into UCLA.

Prior to law school I was really anxious about doing well (or more specifically, not doing well). I read a bunch of prep books (Getting To Maybe, Law School Confidential, Law School Without Fear) and browsed through all the collective wisdom on Top Law Schools.  Yet, two weeks into class I had no idea if I was doing enough. So I created a Google Doc and started to keep track of the hours I spent doing work outside of class.  When I started doing work I would punch in, when I stopped I would punch out.  It gave me a sense of accountability and allowed me to see exactly how much time I was devoting to each class.  Also, it helped me get into a routine and set weekly goals.

I figured that I would post my timesheet for anxious 0Ls to see how one 1L studied for his first year.  Feel free to ask me any questions about my first year.

My two tips for doing well: 1) Get into a good routine, and 2) Take every practice test you can.

Here are a few stats:

  • Total hours: 727 hrs, 25 min
    • 1st semester: 356 hrs
    • 2nd semester: 371 hrs, 25 min
  • Average week: 26 hrs, 29 min
  • Low week: 5 hrs (1st week, 2nd semester)
  • High week: 50 hrs, 20 min (week before finals, 2nd semester)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

1L: 1st Semester

I stopped posting on here when I started law school. While there were moments where I could have written posts, I wanted to devote my full attention to doing well. Also, in my free time I either wanted to be spending it with my wife or doing something where I did not have to think.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the previous months:


Quickly approaching the end of 3CR, my wedding and starting law school. A weird time. Almost like the calm before the storm. Trying to clutch to the present and enjoy my time, not really easy with how excited I am for everything.


Idea: Make a blog that includes things that you googled. So you have the question and then your eventual answer if you found it. (why do this? who cares??)


Following a great wedding and about a week before law school starts. Really excited to get started with law school. I am trying to make sure I am as prepared as I can be.

8/24/10 (first day of law school)

The school has been nothing but welcoming and open over orientation and the first day. This, I think, has helped calm down all the type-A's starting law school. Yet, under the surface level calm I have a bunch of anxiety over doing well. I get the sense that most others do too. When success is defined by one test at the end of the year you must take a certain mindset to retain your sanity. I am still trying to find that mindset.


Law school is tough. But not tough because it is hard to comprehend and not necessarily the workload (which can be challenging). It is tough because there are so many different routes to take and no one is exactly sure which way to go. Read the cases? Brief the cases? Hornbooks? When to outline?

This is hard and exhilarating all at the same time. I like competition and challenge.


Starting to figure everything out better. Now it is time to ratchet up the work.


In a good place. Up to date on my work. Outlines looking good. Into the homestretch and feeling good. Time to start ratcheting it up.


One semester of law school in the books. I enjoyed it, but have no idea how I did. After all the exams I couldn't help but remember the following section from One Lon finals: 
I felt insulted by them--there's no other way to put it. Finals were regarded with an institutional earnestness which had left my classmates and me believing for months that the tests would offer some consummate evaluation, not simply of how well we'd learned, but--almost mystically--of the depths of our capacity in the law. Exams were something to point to, a proving ground for all the hard and sincere labor. And instead they have been intellectual quick-draw contests, frantic exercises that seemed to place no premium on the sustained insight and imagination which I most admired in others, and when they occurred, felt proudest of in myself.
I knew going in that the finals would not necessarily measure my intellectual capacity for the law, but I was (and still am) very much aware of their ability to affect my capacity to find employment.


Enjoying the break.

Photo: eflon

Sunday, July 18, 2010


When you are through changing, you are through. 
-Bruce Barton

I started Choice of Action one year ago.  Over the last year I have tried using this blog to strike a balance of being informative for others while also being a personal tool for improvement.  Looking back, I can say that it has unquestionably succeeded in helping me with my own goals.  I can only hope that some of the advise was useful for others.

For me, the last year has been highlighted by anticipation for big life changes.  Over the next month I will be quitting my job, getting married and starting law school.  These are all things that I have been planning for quite a while so the change is not really shocking.  Yet it is very difficult to stay in the moment with all of this on my mind.

I used to think of myself as someone who was not exactly comfortable with a lot of change.  I now think it is more true that I am just more comfortable (and generally more successful) in familiar situations.  When placed in new settings I prefer to assess, survey and see how things work on their own before acting.  I anticipate I will do the same thing when I start law school, though the time to analyze will need to be short as I attempt to balance a big workload with family life.

I am not exactly sure how this blog will look in the future.  Anyone who has occasionally visited it will have noticed that I stopped posting regularly months ago.  The biggest success of the blog has been maintaining my workout log for over 6 months.  Updating the log has provided both motivation to work out and a sense of accomplishment in looking back.  I plan on continuing to post my workouts.  I am also considering posting a similar log in connection with my law school studying.

Moving forward with my life I remain steadfastly excited for the future.  Excited both for the beginning of a new career and for new beginnings with the woman of my dreams.  Amidst years of questioning and analyzing what career to pursue, a stabilizing force in my life has been my future wife, for whom I have never doubted my pursuit.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Examination of Routines

I am the type of guy who really likes routines.  I think it's tied to this weird obsession I have with finding the most efficient way to do everything.  I recently stumbled across this website where the routines of famous people are listed.

One of my favorites is Benjamin Franklin:
The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contained the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day.
5-8: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day's business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast. (The Question. What good shall I do this day?)
8-12: Work.
12-2: Read, or look over my accounts, and dine.
2-6: Work.
6-10: Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day. (The Question. What good have I done today?)
10-5: Sleep.
Making time every day to ask "What good shall I do this day?" and "What good have I done today?" is reason enough to work on building a routine.  The practice clearly worked for the underrated Franklin.

Another interesting one is Barack Obama:
Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in the morning, at 6:45. (Mr. Bush slipped away to exercise midday.)
He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs — a definite perk for a man trying to balance work and family life. He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day.
“Even as he is sober about these challenges, I have never seen him happier,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The chance to be under the same roof with his kids, essentially to live over the store, to be able to see them whenever he wants, to wake up with them, have breakfast and dinner with them — that has made him a very happy man.”
In comparison I jotted down how my usual morning breaks down:
  • 6:30: Wake up (sometimes set alarm at 6 and hit snooze until 6:30)
  • 6:50: Shower/dress
  • 7:10: Eat breakfast/check email, google reader, facebook, google news
  • 7:45: Leave for bus
  • 8:15-8:30: Arrive at work
My routine is far from ideal.  I enjoy having time in the morning to reflect a bit on the day ahead.  My current schedule usually does not allow much time for doing this.

I will be starting law school in less than three months so my routine will definitely be changing.  I am planning on taking this opportunity to instill a much more structured, Franklin-like routine.

An easy criticism of these routines are that they are boring and non-spontaneous.  I think this is fair.  But I also think that this type of structuring can allow for maximization of time to do great things.

From looking at the routines of famous and accomplished individuals a theme seemed to emerge; rigid structure allows for focus and bursts of creativity.

A few links related to the subject:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Assorted Musings

I often have flashes of seemingly great ideas or thoughts.  When this happens I keep these ideas on a Google document, sometimes expanding on them and writing a blog post and sometimes never touching them again.  Here is an assortment of the later.

One of my new favorite blogs is here.  Which is where I stole the Assorted Musings idea from.


The next 5 to 10 years are going to have elevated levels of unemployment. What are ways that you can capitalize on this?

-Few people your age have an entrepreneurial attitude. This generation has been told what to do....What does this mean??
In regards to entrepreneurial thought, I see no better time in history to forge your own way in business than now.  The reason: internet, globalization, etc, coinciding with an age of many young people taking the same paths their parents took.  It is a completely different world.


The blurring of political communication with the internet is creating issues for campaign finance can you get more involved in this???


The best thing about February is that it is only 28 days.


Be so good that they can't ignore you. (I believe this is a Steve Martin quote.)


Some really great stuff on economic thought and ideology.

" the course of producing and distributing goods and services, market outcomes generate incomes, wealth, status, and power. Any modification of market outcomes modifies the allocation of incomes, wealth, status, and power. So it is no wonder that the discussion has become thickly encrusted with ideology. And one convenient way to turn subtle argument into ideology is to create dichotomies where there are originally fine gradations of more and less. For example: are you for or against “the free market”?

"The market evangelists, who tend to claim more for unregulated markets than solid theory can justify, are ideologically motivated. They dislike and distrust governments so much that they overlook the exceptions and the implausible assumptions, and simply propose the blanket principle that the market knows best. What is improper in this manner of argument is the frequent casual hint that it is authorized by economic theory. Nothing so general is ever authorized by economic theory."

"Why, in the marketplace (sic!) of ideas, have the evangelists for the unrestricted market attracted so much attention and the “realists” so little? He argues, fairly convincingly, that the truth does not lie predominantly on that side of the issue. So is it that believers always make more effective advocates than skeptics do? Are we for some reason more receptive to simple answers than to complex ones? Is it that, in the nature of the case, there is more money backing one side than the other? Perhaps the long postwar prosperity provided good growing conditions for conservative political and economic ideology. If so, it will be interesting to see if the current recession and financial meltdown leave traces in the course of serious economics."


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Difference Between Surviving and Thriving

I was taught growing up to survive.  By this I mean I was shown the skills needed to get by and make it in the world.  Very valuable skills of which I am very thankful to have.  They've allowed me to support myself, put a roof over my head and ensure that I do not go hungry.

I cannot help but appreciate this mindset.  There is something utterly simplistic with being happy to survive.

And yet, I remain hungry for more.  I do not want to just get by or just survive.  I want to dominate, I want to be the best, I want to thrive.

The difference between these mindsets are relatively straightforward.  Surviving is doing what is necessary to live.  Thriving is not being satisfied just surviving, but reaching above this to make continual progress.

A thriving mindset is defined by continually challenging oneself.  To be a better person.  To be a better spouse, parent, child and friend, being more understanding, more supportive or just being there more.  Challenging yourself to have a better career, being more fulfilled, being more rewarded or just being happier.  Challenging yourself individually to constantly question who you are and whether this is in line with who you want to be.

The important corollary is that seeking to dominate in every aspect of your life will require trade-offs.  Do you stay late at work to finish the big project (career) or leave to catch your son's soccer game (family)? A thriving mindset requires priorities.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to continually improve aspects of your life, it is just important to be aware of what is most important to you.

I think everyone has the potential in them to be better.  Wanting to do so is the first step, doing the little things necessary to get there is what thriving is all about.

Photo: aussiegall