The other day I was slacklining in the park (of course if you’re not from Berkeley or happen to be similarly surrounded by hordes of hippies, you probably have no idea what that means – think tight rope walking meets trampolining ), trying to teach my friend how to walk the line, when suddenly I was struck by the similarities between learning to slackline and learning the LSAT. Sure, at first glance they may seem like polar opposites – one is a “sport” practiced by unkempt hippies that gets you nowhere except a position of prominence among the flower children, the other a dreaded requirement for law school that could result in a true position of prominence – but upon closer inspection, there is much to learn from slacklining (even beyond any clichés about needing to get up and try again after falling off).
The first thing you notice when trying to slackline is how unnatural it feels – your leg shakes uncontrollably, your hands flail out, then you invariably fall – a similar experience to your first practice exam no doubt. Balancing on a rope an inch wide is not natural – nor is diagraming conditional statements, solving logic games, or reading for structure rather than content. In all cases though, with proper practice it can become second nature, as easy as, well, walking. And then you can accomplish truly challenging and amazing feats (backflips and mauve dinosaurs anyone?).
But you have to master the basics first. The quickest way to learn to slackline is actually not to practice walking it, but to practice balancing on just one foot – once you can balance on both individually, walking becomes simply transitioning from one foot to the other. Mastering these foundational skills leads to quick progress with the more difficult ones – just as a thorough understanding of fundamentals like diagramming and evaluating arguments will make acquiring advanced concepts quick and simple. Of course it’s normal to want to jump on the line and fall forward a quick step or two and call that progress (or pass up diagramming and argument evaluation drills to jump into actual LSAT questions), but in both cases, rushing forward only handicaps your later progress. Slow down – as they say, speed kills (your chance of a good LSAT score, that is).
And lastly, both require single-minded focus (something rather difficult in this era of multi-tasking – checking email, and updating Facebook, and Tweeting – oh my!). Balancing on a slackline is harder than it looks, and as soon as you let your mind wander and start noticing how uncannily similar that bum sprawled out on the park bench looks to Jeff Bridges, you’re done, milliseconds from meeting the ground beneath you. The LSAT is no different. Let your mind wander for a second and you’ll miss that subtle evocation, or that devious not/except. Don’t think of anything except solving the problem in front of you properly – and with time you’ll find the balance you need to walk through the LSAT.