I’ve been studying for the bar for nearly two straight months now.  It’s now less than two weeks away, I still have lots to learn, but motivation is low. Even things like time tracking are less effective these days.  What to do?

Get inspired by someone else, particularly someone who lived in a duty-based culture.  Just about any historical figure from East Asia would be a good choice, but right now Marcus Aurelius is my go-to.  The 16th Emperor of Rome, the most powerful man on earth, constantly worked on becoming a better person.  Though he could literally have or do anything he wanted at any time, he worked consciously to avoid excess and work hard.

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work – as a human being.  What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do?  Or is this what I was created for?  To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?

-But it’s nicer in here…

So you were born to feel “nice”?  Instead of doing things and experiencing them?  Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can?  And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being?  Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

– Meditations, Book 5, translated by Gregory Hays

There are tons of insights and little motivational quotes in Aurelius’ writings like this one.  I’ve found it definitely helps to read about how some truly great people thought and motivated themselves when you need a kick in the ass.

The only caveat: don’t pick a book that you can get sucked into and lose track of time.  That’s obviously the opposite of what you want.  Meditations, or Letters from a Stoic, are perfect because each entry is short enough that if you read the whole thing, you’ve only spent a few minutes, and the return should be well worth it.

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