The Importance of Being Competitive with Yourself

Hello again! I know I’ve been gone for a while – which is a little ironic seeing as my last few posts included gems like What I Learned from Blogging Every Day and Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity.

The Writing Competition

I’ve been away working on my law journal writing competition. What started as a three-week chance to earn a spot on a law journal at my school turned into one of the most stressful experiences in recent memory. Something kicked into high gear and I just wanted to compete. As someone who is usually low stress and hardly ever feels competitive, this was a strange shift. One I definitely wasn’t prepared for.

Now, I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of the competition, but what I can say is that it was hard. The topic, in my opinion, was very difficult. I spent two of the three weeks just trying to understand the material, not a single word written.

Finding the Competitive Spirit

Something happened while I was competing and every ounce of my body just wanted to win. So much so, that I (safely) went home to stay with my parents – abandoning my boyfriend who was also competing – just to completely focus. I kicked all other distractions out of my life, including this blog.

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but I got through it. In the end, I turned in what I thought was a really strong effort. But honestly, even if I don’t make it, I’ve found peace. I forgot that while I make an effort to better myself in my personal life, I’m often complacent in my academic life. Being the best in the class has never been important to me (that’s why I started a project trying to do it, I wanted to see if I could motivate myself to compete). I’m excited that I’ve found that drive to compete.

Maybe it’s a byproduct of this blog – because since starting this journey I’ve just wanted more for myself. Not handouts, but I wanted to earn every bit of satisfaction. Finding competition has been one of the most fulfilling experiences and I’m really glad these weeks of mental burnout and suffering are over. I’m even more glad I came out on top.

The Validation

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, this morning I received my grades for the motion I wrote. It was the only other thing I slaved over, and I slaved over it because it was a part of my project. The grade came back and I was way above the average. Pushing hard and competing against yourself does pay off.

Do you compete against yourself? Do you find this practice healthy? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts down below!

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What Competition Looks Like in Law School

Hello again! I’m finally back to give you my stream-of-consciousness thoughts now that Reading Week is over!

As many of you know, I’ve just finished my first year of law school! While I’m thrilled that this mess of a semester is over, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for myself and most of my classmates. We now enter into a three-week battle royale writing competition.

Designed specifically to make sure you’re exhausted after finals, the journal write-on competition is a competition where we compete for spots on our school’s journals to get our work published. Journals are a really big deal for law students because it’s an opportunity to show off and invest time diving deep into topics we’re interested in.

The biggest journal that every law school has is called Law Review. Law Review is a massive deal. Remember in high school when you had honors societies and clubs of the brightest minds around? Now instead take all those students and replace them with incredibly talented law students. That’s Law Review.

Law Review is a big deal because it opens doors. It can land you an interview with a dream law firm all because they know you’re disciplined enough to make Law Review – some job postings even require the candidate to be a part of Law Review. Not only that, but once your work is published, others will read it. If it’s really good, they’ll even cite it.

But that’s a common thread for all journals, not just Law Review. Journals are our opportunities to contribute to legal discourse and even shape history. So they’re a really big deal to students.

But who gets on Law Review? Law Reviews usually pick its candidates in two ways: grade-on and write-on. Grade-on is reserved for the top of the class, those people get offered a spot automatically. For those of us that don’t make grade-on, we can compete in the write-on. If we get an offer, we won’t know whether our spot was offered as a grade-on or a write-on.

The write-on is used for all journals, not just Law Review. While I can’t get into any details, it requires us to write a paper based on sources given to us (and nothing else – this is called a “closed-universe” paper) and also work on legal citations. Once we submit, we’ll see if we get offers from journals.

As you might have guessed, I’m currently working on the write-on competition. It’s overwhelming but I’ve been on pure adrenaline. Every once in a while it’s fun to be competitive. Anyway, for fear of saying too much, I’ll end it here. As always, thanks for listening!

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Monthly Match-Ups: Music Theory Results

I thought I’d make this post a little more interesting by combining mine and Alex’s thoughts after taking our music theory test and giving Abbey’s perspective on making the test with the results.

Our challenge this month was learning music theory.

The Test:

Alex’s Perspective:

While I watched a lot of YouTube videos on music theory, I guess I didn’t really soak up any information. My downfall was never reviewing or practicing. I thought it’d be good enough to just absorb the content by watching someone else. I totally bombed the test. I was drawing blanks on all the videos I had watched. I remember going through the scales video but couldn’t remember when it came to the test. I now know that fermata is not a type of cheese like parmesan. 

Jacqueline’s Perspective:

My studying didn’t go too well. I went through a few online lessons and took notes and I do feel like I learned a little bit – looking at the test being asked what the supertonic of an F scale and how many theoretical lines a grand staff has came directly from those lessons. That being said, since I really didn’t commit the way I wanted to, 20 minutes before I took the test I looked around for a 1 pager on music theory and tried to memorize the Circle of Fifths and structures of different chords. It certainly paid off.

I felt the test was fair – although the question about her favorite composer was definitely unfair to Alex – but I think with more studying I easily could have gotten 100%. I have a feeling my test was somewhere between 60-75% which definitely isn’t bad. After reading Alex’s thoughts though, I quickly realized we’re one in the same: I said a fermata was a type of cheese too

(stupid girl – did orchestra teach you nothing? You’ve played hundreds of fermatas!)

Abbey’s Perspective + ReSULTS:

Well, the results are in! I made what I thought was a fairly difficult music theory test and to my surprise the results were very split. I used a combination of my own music theory from years of piano, as well as the help of the internet to put together a comprehensive set of questions. I’ll fully admit that started to phone it in and literally just made the last question about myself so I could get back to murder documentaries on Netflix without Jacqueline bugging me for the finished test. Without further ado:

Jacqueline’s Score: 15/20 
Alex’s Score: 3/20

I fear that I may have inherently biased this test in favor of Jacqueline unknowingly, solely because she knows the type of questions that I would feel like asking. Additionally, I know Jacqueline has had some piano experience, whereas Alex has not (as far as my knowledge goes), and therefore, the questions regarding the actual piano keys were probably not super fair to him. I will say I am very disappointed that both of them failed to recognize what a fermata was, and furthermore took that question as the time to make a horrible cheese pun. Overall, this was a super fun project for me, and I felt that in my quest to make a fair exam, I learned far more about music theory than I had planned.

Alex’s Thoughts on Learning Music Theory

Monthly Match-Up: Week Two

Alex’s Perspective

The task of learning music theory has not been as easy as I had planned. I first started off by trying a few interactive tutorials for music theory, like Abelton. I found that these were not really what I was looking for in just learning pure music theory for the test at the end of this month. They felt like they were either trying to sell me on their product or teach me how to make the next pop song. 

I have found YouTube videos have been quite helpful. I have this one channel (which I’m keeping secret) that does a great job at teaching music theory. The videos explain all the basics of music theory and create a really good foundation. Some of the annoying parts are that the videos can drag on for a while reiterating the same concept. While I will admit, it is helpful when learning, it can be frustrating when you are trying to absorb as much as you can as quickly as you can. So I will keep chugging along with those videos and channels at a consistent pace.

The most recent hurdle I have run into is not exactly having a keyboard. I have FL Studio which has built in keyboards, and visualization for all the notes. Though it is not the same to be trying to play a musical keyboard on a mechanical computer keyboard. Remembering that the ‘Q’ and ‘R’ buttons don’t correspond to keys isn’t as intuitive as having a real keyboard in front of you. 

I think overall the progress is good. By the end of this month, I am confident that I will have a solid foundation of music theory which will hopefully be of use when I start making music again.

Monthly Match-Ups: Music Theory Week 1

One week into learning music theory and I figured it was due time for an update.

While it’s been a very busy week, I’m not completely in the dark when it comes to music theory. I have experience in piano, violin, and guitar, so I do have intuitive theoretical knowledge. Going into this challenge, I’d consider myself a beginner-intermediate. I don’t struggle with reading music, I’m familiar with most scales, using a Circle of Fifths, and tapping rhythms. But when it comes to non-major/minor scales I don’t know formulas, I struggle with musical analysis, and time signatures put me in an early grave when playing them.

Nevertheless with my basic knowledge, I’ve spent the week looking at free online music theory lessons. I take notes where there’s something I don’t know or need to memorize.

I think my focus will be on taking those notes and synthesizing them throughout the month. Hopefully, I can turn it into a one-pager. I have a really strong photographic memory and creating one-pagers has always been my exam strategy. I can’t retain information at the ready for extended periods of time, but I can process and retain in order to perform.

Originally, I had planned to study music theory whenever I was working on Civil Procedure (an idea Alex borrowed from me!). However, this seems to be pretty ineffective for me, so I’m abandoning that plan. I think the new plan is to use mornings to study music theory. That way I force myself to do it if I get too busy with schoolwork later in the evening.

As much as I’d like to go into more specifics, there’s not much else to say. I haven’t learned anything groundbreaking yet and also Alex reads these posts. I can’t be giving my good ideas away until the end – and then I’ll use them as scare tactics to make him feel unprepared (I’m currently reading The Prince, can you tell? The end should definitely justifies the means here!)

And to Alex I say: You’re on.

Alex’s Perspective: Week 1

In efforts to make the Monthly Match-Up more interesting, Alex will be a guest author every Wednesday documenting his progress.

I don’t actually know how to play any instruments. I never learned how to play the recorder in elementary school like everyone else. I played the cymbals in my high school drumline. Though cymbals only required you to listen to the rhythm and remember when to hit them together. A few years back I bought a ukulele in Hawaii and have only learned to play a few chords. 

I helped Jacqueline make Natty Daddy, but by helped, I mean I wrote lyrics while she made the beat and N8M8 helped mix and master. I have never really learned how to play any instruments or had any musical training. So when I decided to make my own album, inspired by Jacqueline herself, I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking. Creating chords, and melodies that worked well together, and could be crafted into a hip-hop beat was technically difficult. It was then that I realized how important music theory is.

I had no clue what major scales were, what a progression really was, or how chords could build tension. I am not saying I am any good at them now, I am just not as clueless as before. I am excited to actually learn music theory, and really show off what I know at the end of February.

So my current approach to studying music theory is threefold:

The first fold will be by learning music theory interactively online. I found a few websites, like Ableton, that offer free little courses in music theory where you can actually interact with the site. 

The second approach is YouTube. What can’t you find on YouTube? It’s how I learned to make my first album, and I am confident that it will carry me through learning music theory. I have found a few channels which specialize in teaching music theory, and hope those will be helpful. 

My last approach is not so much focused on learning music theory but incentive. I am currently working on my own personal coding project that takes a new approach to how playlists are shuffled. Since both are music related, I am going to combine every time I work on my project, I am going to spend some time studying music theory. 

I am hoping that this threefold approach will lead me to victory in this Monthly Match-up. I’ve got to start out strong with these monthly challenges, and give Jacqueline a good run for her money. I am also pumped that Abbey is writing these tests for us. This is a great first Monthly Match-Up! And now I am going  to start studying music theory!

Monthly Match-Ups: Meet Alex

Even though this blog is only a month old, my aspirations of self-improvement and finding-myself-through-projects have a much longer history. By my side through all the craziest have been one of closest friends, Alex.

Go ahead and tell me that Alex and I aren’t the coolest people you’ve ever seen

And as far as life transitions go, Alex is in the midst of one too. Having recently just moved back home out west, he’s recently left me across the country. Fresh out of college, he’s job hunting and exploring. The universe is letting him absorb whatever life has to show him right now.

And just like with Abbey, it made perfect sense that he take on a project with me. We’ve been tossing around ideas and finally have a good one. Since Alex doesn’t quite know how much time he might have to dedicate to something and neither of us have anything we’re particularly dying to try, we’ve decided to do mini month-long projects. – Oh, and while we we were at it, a competition too.

So how do our monthly match-ups work? Simple: we challenge each other to learn and explore different skills and after a month see who wins. We hope to pick ideas to give us a sample without fully committing to anything too large. Additionally, we’ll give updates on our progress and Alex will write guest pieces.

This month we will be learning music theory. We’ll have a month to absorb as much information as we can and at the end of the month we’ll each take a music theory test (written and curated by our resident trivia expert, Abbey – don’t worry, she’s qualified!). We’ll have no knowledge of what we’re walking into, just to see who can be the best.

We both have an interest in music theory, so it seems like a good place to start. Remember when I told the story of my albums? Alex was there by my side the entire time. Remember the part where I said one of my friends made his own album? That’d also be Alex. These albums were made by us scrapping little parts of theory together, but we both know we only scratched the surface.

Maybe I’ll get some inspiration for my cover album project. At the very least it’ll make it easier.

Anyway, as much as I love him I can’t wait to kick his ass. Let the competition begin.