Monday, September 13, 2010

Student Journal - It's Still About the Zen

The following post is part of a series from one of our LSAT tutoring clients. You can read about their experiences by clicking on the "Zen Journal" label above.
I’ve mentioned several times in this blog that I learned many things in college. Many of the things I learned were not lectured in a classroom or written in a book. Much of it – about life and the ways of the world – was gleaned, rather, by sharing experiences with my roommates, friends, and soccer teammates.

One random thing I learned, from my soccer teammate and roommate--let’s call him--Craig, was the importance of rest.

You see, Craig was a great athlete. He was an exceptional soccer player, with good balance as a midfielder and near flawless touch on the ball. He most excelled though, and seemed more to enjoy, endurance sports – particularly running. During our last two years in college, Craig, along with another friend of ours--I’ll call him--Rob, ran two marathons. Our senior year they ran the Boston marathon, finishing under three hours.

Throughout training for soccer and running, Craig emphasized rest. He liked to work out one day until exhaustion and then take a few days off, not doing anything during that time, until his body told him it was ready to go again. This ended up irritating me immensely, because when he would come out to train again, I always figured he would be rusty and slower and that his seemingly lazy approach would finally catch up to him.

It did not.

Indeed, he would come out slower, trying to find his stride and I’d be feeling pretty good. Then, like the first unexpected roll of thunder before a big rain, Craig would take off. He would build and build and bury me in the storm of energy he had accumulated in his days of rest.

Although my body doesn’t quite store rest like Craig’s does, I did learn that, as an athlete, one must take time for mental and physical rest. I find that a well-placed day or short period of rest can do more for my performance than the best designed training regimen.

Now consider LSAT training.

Take all that sentimental bullshit about how my college roommate made me a better athlete just by exposing me to his unconventional approach to rest and throw it out the window. Basically, the LSAT takes that sweet little tidbit about finding growth in rest and crushes it. With the LSAT, when I take time to rest and build up a reserve of energy with which to attack it, it burns me. When I haven’t practiced the LSAT for more than a day and a half, I feel like my mind is trudging through the mud. I forget the new tricks I’ve picked up from the last practice test. I can’t remember how Mr. Bennett advised me to approach this particular inference question stem or how to make that type of train schedule diagram in our last tutoring session. I start to think about what I can’t remember or how slowly I’m working and my rhythm is totally thrown off.

I’m finding that the LSAT is all about a mindset. A way of approaching its set of problems that is different than most of the other things I do on a day-to-day basis.

The reality is that I need to make the LSAT a daily task. It must become as natural as eating breakfast and drinking coffee every morning or feeding my dogs every evening. It must become as simple as putting one foot in front of the other as I walk down the sidewalk.

Now that I’ve realized the importance of finding and respecting the LSAT rhythm, I must abandon the restful ways of Craig. I’m trying to be more like a Tour de France bike rider. During the tour, in which riders cover over 2,200 miles in three weeks, there are just a few precious rest days. On rest days, though, the riders don’t rest. They ride! They don’t want to lose their rhythm. They claim that after so many consecutive days of intense riding, it feels strange – even uncomfortable – to climb back on a bike. During the Tour – crunch time – they can’t afford to rest because they can’t afford to break their rhythm.

In my final month of training before the LSAT, I can’t afford to slow down either (sorry Craig). That reminds me, I have a logical reasoning section waiting for me in the other room.