ep. 13 - Mel Robbins: Author, Entrepreneur, TED Speaker, Journalist, & Contributor to SUCCESS


Mel Robbins is best known for delivering one of the most popular TEDxTalk’s in the world: “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over”. Mel is a powerful keynote speaker who jumps into the audience (literally); creating motivational experiences with unforgettable engagement, surprising research, vivid imagery, original videos, and music. Mel is a third generation entrepreneur who’s launched and sold two companies and currently owns and operates a multi-million-dollar publishing and speaking business. Her provocative and compelling views on leadership, courage and human potential have earned her international attention and invitations to train executive teams at some of the world’s leading brands.

When she’s not on stage, Mel is on TV or trending on social media for her captivating analysis about the biggest stories of our time. She’s an award-winning on-air analyst for CNN and drives millions of page views for CNN.com as one of their most prolific opinion writers. She’s been named “America’s Outstanding Talk Show Host” by The Gracie Awards and has hosted original shows for A&E, Fox and Cox Media. She’s appeared as an expert on a wide range of talk shows, from Oprah to Dr. Phil, Fox News to Good Morning America. Mel is a contributing editor for SUCCESS Magazine and is continually featured in publications like The New York Times and Inc. Magazine. A mid-western gal who prefers a hug to a handshake, she’s soaring in business because of what she does both on and off stage; helping people reach their maximum potential.

Mel is a Dartmouth College and Boston College Law School graduate on a mission to reveal how each one of us can thrive at work and in life. She and her husband of twenty years have three kids and live outside of Boston.

On February 28th, 2017, Mel's new book The 5 Second Rule will be available for purchase.


Gail Davis: Okay. Ready? Our in studio guest today is a woman that you won't soon forget. If you have ever wanted to gain more confidence, courage and control in your life and work, get ready. You're going to hear all about how to do it in five simple seconds.

It's called the Five Second Rule and it's a proven, cognitive technique that will transom how you live and work. It was created by Mel Robbins and her new book " The Five Second Rule", which will launch February 28th.

I am so glad you're here and that we're able to spend time together and tell listeners about all that you have going on, so welcome, Mel.

Mel Robbins: Thank you.

Kyle Davis: In case y'all were wondering, my mom accidentally said Mel Gibson.

Gail Davis: Yes, I hope you edited that in in the beginning. You better begin this with a blooper reel.

Kyle Davis:[00:02:30] Well, yeah. I think we'll start with a blooper reel.

Gail Davis: Yes.

Kyle Davis: We'll bring it back in.

Gail Davis: Absolutely. I don't know where that came from.

Mel Robbins: I do. You were multitasking.

Gail Davis: Oh, okay.

Mel Robbins: Yes, and research has shown that it's impossible to do it so you're grabbing your notes and looking for a pen and you got to think about every single individual task like a little bucket. If you're in a bunch of little buckets at once, it's easy for things to jump from one bucked to the other.

You must have been ... Oh, you had just told me a story about the movies and being at the movies, was Mel Gibson in the movie?

Gail Davis: No.

Mel Robbins: No.

Gail Davis: [00:03:00] Let's talk about that. I do want to talk about this. On Friday, Mel ... This Mel, Mel Robbins, posted an Instagram post and it really caught my attention. It said "Don't miss out on your life just because you're too busy scrolling through someone else's". Then, in your comment you said 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Five seconds.

Mel Robbins: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Gail Davis: [00:03:30] Put your phone down and go be present with someone you love or whom you're with. That caught my attention on Friday and then Saturday morning, my sister, my niece and I were at the movie and I looked. They're from out of town. My sister had her phone, my niece had her phone and I had my phone. I grabbed your Instagram post and I shared it and we tried to do it but it didn't last very long.

I was sharing that with you.

Mel Robbins: I'm not surprised.

Gail Davis: What's going on? I mean, what's going on? I can't stand it. Are we addicted?

Mel Robbins: You ask that as if you actually have a question.

Gail Davis: Yes.

Mel Robbins: [00:04:00] I could literally spend hours talking about this. One of the reasons I'm so passionate about waking up and shaking up your habits, particularly around technology is because I don't think many of us understand just how much of our time, our attention and the opportunities of our life are getting sucked into that phone.

Let me explain something. You're going to hear the word attention economy. If you haven't already, you going to hear it a lot. That basically means whenever you're giving somebody your attention, they're making money on you. Okay?

[00:04:30] Every single device you have, your computer, your handheld, your tablet. Those are all machines that earn money in the attention economy. When you're on Facebook and you're sitting there reading a post or you're scrolling through stuff or you click on the 13 reasons why kittens should eat soft food instead of wet food or whatever dumb stuff they've wrote in the headline to get you to click, you are making money for somebody else. Literally. You're making money for somebody else and you don't even realize it.

[00:05:00] As a business owner myself, and also as somebody who is very mindful of how little time we all have these days ... Life is so busy between work and your personal life and the things that you want to do for yourself spiritually, physically, with your family. Nobody has enough time.

[00:05:30] I think it's really important for people to understand that whenever your mindlessly picking up your phone and you're scrolling through stuff, you're actually making other people money. The other thing to keep in my mind is every website, every single social media platform, they are designed by people with PhD's. PhD's in human behavior, PhD's in game theory. A successful website, a successful ad, a successful social media platform is designed to keep you there. It's designed to make you want to click more.

[00:06:00] The reason why we check our emails actually is explained by a psychological principle that also explains gambling addiction. I think a lot of you have probably heard the fact that when you get a new email or when your phone vibrates or when you get a little ping, it stimulates the part of the brain that is the same part of the brain where the heroin addiction is stimulated. You get a little hit of dopamine and it's really kind of stupid because your phone is basically buzzing because there's a sale at Zappos and yet for your brain, it's like oh, somebody needs me at Zappos because they're having a sale, now I feel important and you look at it.

[00:06:30] There's this psychological principle called random rewards that explains why people keep betting in casinos or keep pulling the slot machine lever. It's because every once in a while you get a good one, so you pull the slot machine, you pull the slot machine. Oh, you're losing, oh you're losing. What do you keep saying to yourself? Oh, I'll try just one more. Oh, I'll just try one more. It's this idea of random rewards that keeps your brain going forward pulling because you've convinced yourself there might be something good in there.

[00:07:00] I have something to tell you. There is nothing good on your phone. There is nothing good on your phone that is random. There's nothing good on your phone that is designed by somebody else. I view the phone as a tool to do two things. To stay in touch with the people that work for me and in touch with my family and friends and to make money. If I'm not using it for those two reasons, it's using me.

[00:07:30] It's really important to understand that that is a slot machine in your pocket that is designed to hold your attention so that it can make money off of you and you are playing right into its hand.

Kyle Davis: Wow. I mean, let's talk about that for a moment. I totally agree with that. If you look at the way ... Like Facebook users, I think something in the US, like 70% of Facebook users now do it on their phone. They don't even go to the actual website on their computers much anymore as they do on their phone.

Mel Robbins: Okay, so I-

Kyle Davis: [00:08:00] It's just so much easier to scroll and you see then the sponsor ads, which to make money for Facebook because it's pay per view, not pay per click anymore and so many impressions.

Mel Robbins: Right.

Kyle Davis: You're right. There's a design behind it and it's everything else.

[crosstalk 00:08:08]

Mel Robbins: I don't think most people understand this. You do because you were in software sales before this but the bottom line is that most of us ... If you have a business website, for example. A lot of people, you know, you're going to pay money to Google in order to show up in organic search. You might pay money for keyword searches but what most people don't realize is almost 80-85% of your traffic is going to come from what we call social referral.

[00:08:30] That means people coming to your website don't actually ever type in www.cnn.com. What happens is somebody sees something that CNN has distributed on Facebook or that somebody else has shared on Facebook and they click on it and now it takes you to CNN.com

Kyle Davis: You're welcome, CNN. I do that all the time.

Mel Robbins: What's that?

Kyle Davis: I do that for CNN all the time.

Mel Robbins: Do you? Okay. There you go.

[crosstalk 00:08:51]

[00:09:00] Everybody's website's like that though. Most people are not going to directly click, like type in my name, MelRobbins.com, to go to my website. They might type it into Google or they might see something that was on Facebook or wherever they clicked on that takes me there, so yes, I know how the phone works and why it's addictive because I am the CEO of a content marketing company that leverages all of these principles to distribute ideas, to sell courses, to syndicate content. I understand the business of it very well and I also understand the psychology of why we get so addicted.

Kyle Davis: [00:09:30] It kind of comes back to ... At least when we talk about content, Gary V out in New York City says, "Hustle, hustle, hustle."

Mel Robbins: Hustle, hustle. He's trying to get in personal development, though.

Kyle Davis: Or content, content, content.

Mel Robbins: Have you noticed?

Kyle Davis: I have noticed.

Mel Robbins: Gary's making the turn. He's trying to talk a little bit about happiness.

Kyle Davis: He's making the pivot.

Mel Robbins: The pivot. Is that what it is?

Kyle Davis: Yeah, the pivot. You know, it's a startup phrase but yes, the pivot.

Mel Robbins: [00:10:00] Look, Gary's a totally different model. Gary makes his money off of being a media agency. Gary does all kinds of free content not because he's selling anybody any courses or he's really pushing books. It's because he knows that if he does this, some big consumer brand is going to pay him a big fat monthly retainer and they're going to give him an ad buy and he's going to take a percentage of that.

He's very different than a lot of the people that are out there because he's got a huge business infrastructure that then creates a service for people off of it.

[00:10:30] Anyway, I know this is not where you were thinking this conversation was going to go. People forget that I'm an entrepreneur, right?

Gail Davis: I wanted to ground people in what your background is because I know one of the taglines for you is you're one of the most booked females speakers but I know that doesn't happen overnight so I thought it would be interesting-

Mel Robbins: 21 months.

Gail Davis: 21 months is how long it took?

Mel Robbins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gail Davis: Actually wasn't very long at all.

Mel Robbins: No kidding. I did 121 speeches last year. Gail Davis: Okay, we got to learn more about that. We have to learn more about that. I know where I was going but now I've got to hear about that.

Mel Robbins: [00:11:00] I believe you were speechless.

Gail Davis: I am speechless.

Mel Robbins: Uh huh.

Gail Davis: Yeah, I do want to hear how you did that. I think the background of who you are and all that you did that gave you the credibility is interesting. I thought it'd be cool to ground the listeners in that.

You're an award winning journalist with CNN. You're a contributing editor to Success magazine. You mentioned that you're an entrepreneur but I know fourth generation. You've got some great stories about your husband's businesses. You went to Dartmouth, graduated from Dartmouth. Boston College Law School, so you're a former practicing attorney.

Mel Robbins: [00:11:30] Don't hold it against me. Now, I just pretend to be one on television.

Gail Davis: Then, a mother of three and you've been married for over 20 years.

Mel Robbins: Yeah.

Gail Davis: When I see that list, I'm like wow. I have a two part question.

Mel Robbins: Sure.

Gail Davis: How do you do it all and what was it that lead to your passion to disrupt self-doubt and help people build confidence to overcome fear?

Mel Robbins: [00:12:00] Okay. Well, to answer your first question, I don't do it all. Not at all. I do one thing at a time and that's a really important distinction. I'm not ever wearing the CEO hat and sitting on the CNN set and standing on a stage and being a mom at the same time.

[00:12:30] I love this phrase that you need to be where your feet are. One of the skills that I think is really important in life and in business that isn't talked about enough is self-monitoring. The ability to listen to yourself, to control yourself, your thoughts and your actions so that you can shift gears and create the outcome that you want.

[00:13:00] Now, success did not come easily and it did not come overnight for me. I was one of these very classic and very common stories of somebody that really didn't know what she wanted to do. I was lucky enough to get into Dartmouth. I tell my daughter, who's 17, that look, I was the first person in the history of my high school ... I grew up in western Michigan. Nobody even knew what Dartmouth was and the only reason why I was interested in that school was because we had gone on this little tour of colleges in our Jeep Wagoner with the wood paneling ... I wish they would bring that design back. Everybody would buy it.

Gail Davis: The woody wagon.

Mel Robbins: [00:13:30] Yes, so we drive out and we look at all these schools and I was completely flummoxed that a lot of these big schools were in cities, which I could not even imagine. We finally get to Dartmouth and it's just a beautiful day. Dogs running all over the place, kids with backpacks walking across the green, Frat row. I'm like "This is college! I'm going here!".

[00:14:00] Nobody from my school had ever applied there. Now, my daughter goes to a school outside of Boston, it's a public high school, probably 160 kids in that high school. I bet 25 of them threw an application to Dartmouth. 40 of them threw it to BC. It just is a totally different time. I had geographic diversity on my side, I had the unicorn effect because they had never even heard of this high school before in western Michigan. I get to Dartmouth. I change my major 50,000 times because I don't know what to do.

[00:14:30] I then go and I become a paralegal in DC. Why did I go to DC? Because my boyfriend was moving to DC to work for the Feds so of course I'm going to go to DC. The temp firm sent me to a law firm and even though I hated it, I sat in a conference room and bate stamped discovery materials for a hefty class action lawsuit and the best part of my week was if we were working past 7 o'clock at night because we could then order dinner, you know?

[00:15:00] At the end of six months of hell, everyone starts applying to law school and my boyfriend's now been accepted ... He was our Salutatorian at Dartmouth, so he was a very, very smart guy. I'm like I better do something. What am I going to do? I don't know. I'll go to law school. Why not? I mean, you can do anything with that degree, right?

[00:15:30] I apply to law school ... I know, I'm making myself look like a complete idiot but this is actually one of the reasons why I think that I have skyrocketed on the speaking circuit because even though I'm really a geek that's so interested in business and science, I believe in being who you are. I understand the power of storytelling. Every single speech I give is not a speech, it's a story and it's almost usually at my expense. That makes me the kind of speaker that people are like I'd have a beer with her.

Gail Davis: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: I dig her.

Gail Davis: Very disarming.

Mel Robbins: [00:16:00] Very, and because everything I talk about is based in my experience then explained through science and research and case studies, it's so relatable. Even if we're talking about innovation or cross-functional leadership or we're talking about fast failures or we're talking about any of the disruption. Oh.

[00:16:30]I end up going to law school and I absolutely hated it. Hated every second of it. I hated talking in class. My face would get bright red and I remember thinking I'm just not going to be a lawyer. I'm just not going to be a lawyer, but then a funny thing happens and that is that wherever you are in life, there is a current to what happens and you can get so easily swept up into it. You can find yourself caring about things that you never cared about just because your social group suddenly starts caring about it or you can find yourself thinking that doing something's a good idea, like maybe practicing law because everybody else seems to be doing it.

[00:17:00] While we tell everybody "Oh yeah, just do your own thing," it's really hard when you see everybody else doing something similar to carve your own path. Our daughter right now is dealing with this because she's not quite sure where she wants to go to school. She's gotten into a couple places, thank gosh, and she's thinking maybe about taking a ... You know, what do they call it?

Gail Davis: A gap year.

Mel Robbins: A gap year, but the courage that it takes to step into the unknown and step out of the current that you're in, that's not something that most of [00:17:30] us have. Did you take a gap year?

Kyle Davis: I took a four year gap year.

Mel Robbins: Did you?

Kyle Davis: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: Was it right after college?

Kyle Davis: No. Here's my funny background story, and I don't want to make it about me, but I went to go ... I was suppose to go play football at the Coast Guard Academy. My medical came back in May and they said yeah, you have too many concussions. You can't do it.

Mel Robbins: Really?

Kyle Davis: Yeah. That was a bummer because I put all my eggs in one basket so I had no plans. I went to go to New Orleans to go work for a friend of mine who was working out there after Katrina with a company.

Mel Robbins: Yep.

Kyle Davis: [00:18:00] I got a phone call in the middle of the summer from a football coach from a small school in Iowa called Cornell College. He said-

Mel Robbins: Called Cornell College?

Kyle Davis: Yeah, Cornell College.

Mel Robbins: Yeah ...

Kyle Davis: Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

Mel Robbins: Mt. Vernon?

Kyle Davis: It's near Cedar Rapids.

Mel Robbins: Is there like a G school near there? I had my-

Kyle Davis: Grinnell?

Mel Robbins: Yes. That's where my friend went from [crosstalk 00:18:17]. Word association. Ba da ba bing. You got to drink. Whatever.

Kyle Davis: I don't drink anymore, but yes.

Mel Robbins: Even better.

Kyle Davis: Thank you.

[00:18:30] Anyways, I went to school there. I got really, really sick and I played on the football team there. I got a call from the coach and ... Wow, that's all out of order, but I got a call from the coach, went to go play football there. I got really sick and had really bad tonsillitis and I lost all this weight. I was like I don't want to put it back on. I don't want to really do anything. I wasn't even like fully healed until March when I got the surgery in December.

I decided to go back to New Orleans and was in New Orleans like three and a half years and then went to Phoenix and then it was like okay, it's 2010. Maybe now's probably a good time to go back to school when all my friends are graduating. I [00:19:00] actually went to another

[crosstalk 00:19:01]

Mel Robbins: Was it hard?

Kyle Davis: No. I think it was the best thing ever because it made me focus. My original intent to go to school was to be a business major. I ran a business. Why do I need to get a business degree when that's what I've done so I got a degree in history because history is prologue, right?

Mel Robbins: Right.

Kyle Davis: I got a degree in history. I went to Columbia. They have a program there for non-traditional students who took four or more years off of school so all my classmates overwhelmingly were military veterans if they were guys.

Mel Robbins: That's super cool.

Kyle Davis: [00:19:30] Super high speed dudes so Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, MARSOC guys. My best friend's a professional poker player. His name's David Benefield and then-

Mel Robbins: Was he a math major?

Kyle Davis: Poly-sci or EALAC, so East Asian language and cultures. He's fluent in Mandarin.

Mel Robbins: Wow.

Kyle Davis: Yeah, he's made a lot of money in some places. Also, all the girls in my program were all former models who turned 26 and now they're too old or singers and dancers and stuff like that.

Mel Robbins: [00:20:00] Wow, tough life you got.

Kyle Davis: We were ugly. We were the ugly looking group of people who had really cool stories.

Mel Robbins: I'm in that group.

Kyle Davis: What I think about it is so interesting, at least for me and why I think the power of the gap year is really cool is that you can come into school with this experience, depending on how long it is and what you actually did, that changes the way you think about everything.

Mel Robbins: Right.

Kyle Davis: To go sit in a lit hum class and to discuss the Iliad with war veterans is the most intense thing you've ever .... Like [00:20:30] being blood drunk when they're talking about Achilles going through the river and just going crazy. Having a buddy to talk about that, it makes the book different. You could never have that experience if you're in a traditional college day.

Mel Robbins: Definitely not.

Kyle Davis: I think gap years are good, especially for a kid who has no clue what he wanted to do.

[crosstalk 00:20:50]

Mel Robbins: [00:21:00] Well, I do but so here's the thing that's interesting, and by the way, this could be a launching off story for an incredible keynote speech because when you ask an organization or you ask people to change, you're basically asking them to go against the current that they're use to swimming in and to learn a new stroke and to make different choices and that's really hard for people. I stumbled along and I ended up getting a job as a public defender in Manhattan and the reason why I got that job is because I was standing in the corporate recruiting hallway and I was waiting for my turn to go into the big law firm and have an interview and talk to them about billing cycles and everything else.

There was a dude sitting [00:21:30] in the room where I was standing in the hallway, kind of sitting there alone at the desk and we started talking. Next thing you know, I've wandered into the office and we're chitchatting up a storm and now I've just chitchatted my way straight through the interview next door with the corporate law firm. I missed that opportunity and then a week later, I get a call back to go down to New York City to go interview with Legal Aid because that's who the guy was. He was one of the bureau chiefs at Legal Aid and they were the public defender's of Manhattan at the time, [00:22:00] so I probably would still be in Manhattan as a criminal defense attorney and the reason why is it gave me the greatest training that I've ever had in my entire life in human beings and trust and storytelling. Not like lying, but how you connect with people when you have absolutely no connection whatsoever.

Imagine this. I'm 23 years old. [00:22:30] I grew up in a town of 3,000 people. I have never practiced law in my life or been in a courtroom. I am wearing the best suit I could find at TJ Maxx and I look like I've stepped off the cover of J.Crew straight from my sorority and here I am in Manhattan working night court where the people that were my clients were people who had been arrested within 48 hours because there's a rule in New York state that you've got to be processed within two days of being arrested [00:23:00] otherwise they got to release you.

This was when Giuliani was mayor so we ran court 24 hours because there were so many bodies moving through the system that if you didn't run court 24 hours, you would violate the 48 hour rule over and over and over again. You would be sitting in court at 2 o'clock in the morning and a bailiff would come in with literally a stack of folders and he would dump them on the desk and that would wake us all up and then we'd all grab folders and then you'd go behind the judge's chair. The judge has, typically, two [00:23:30] swinging doors on either side of the bench. One leads down a hallway where the administrative staff goes. The other leads to the cages. Yeah, that's what we call them. The cages.

You would go back there with your folder and this was the first time you were meeting your client. 2:30 in the morning, they've been in the system for 36 hours and typically my guys were not good guys. Felons. Remember the printers that had the holes down the side so you would get one piece of paper and if it was a big one, it would fall down. It would be [00:24:00] like [inaudible 00:23:59] and there'd be like a roll of toilet paper going down the thing. All of them had a rap sheet like that.

I learned two really amazing things there. Two amazing, amazing ... The power of a first impression, number one. Absolutely critical in life. Really easy to make an incredible first impression. Really hard to recover if you don't. For about two weeks, you'd walk back there "John Smith". Now, these are gang members [00:24:30] for crying out loud. I'm like half ... Whatever, they're looking at me like who is this chick. The meetings were horrible because they would barely look at you in the eye, they wouldn't talk to you, you lost control from the moment they sat down because you'd call and there'd be 40 people in a cage. "John Smith? WHere's John Smith? I'm your lawyer."

I decided I would change tactics. I grew up from a long line of farmers, so when it comes [00:25:00] talking trash, watch out because there's a lot of words that come flying out of you when you're working in a pig barn for crying out loud. I decided that I would try out this tactic. I mean, what the hell. It's 2 o'clock in the morning. It's not like they're going to fire me, so I did this. I literally one night walked back there. I kicked open that swinging door so it slammed and then I said "Where the F word is John [00:25:30] Smith?"

All of the sudden, I mean, everybody's like what the? Then I'd be "Get the F over here and sit your effing [inaudible 00:25:39]," and then he would be like trying to talk and I'd be no, no, no. You're not talking, I'm talking. What would happen is the rest of the guys would literally sit up and be like "Where's my lawyer? I want to fire him and get this lady." I'm like yes you do, because if you think I'm a bitch to you right now, wait til you see what I'm like out there. I [00:26:00] said here's how this is going to roll, buddy. Meanwhile, I have no idea what we're going to be doing because I haven't ... He's like okay, yes ma'am, yes ma'am.

You got to understand that this is somebody that has literally been in and out of the system, that's talked to like they're a dog, that is never shown any kind of respect and never has anybody fighting for them. The fact that they now have somebody like that, it's mind blowing. Mind blowing. It shifted everything [00:26:30] immediately.

I do the same thing with audiences. I make a very calculated decision about what I wear because it's very disarming. One of the things that I learned as a trial lawyer is, as a woman, you walk a really fine line around being too strong, so that you read like a bee, or too soft and nobody listens to you. The experts, and obviously, Dr. [00:27:00] Phil is from here and he's the king of jury consultants but they say that within eight minutes, the jury's basically made up their mind about the case and that's eight minutes of walking in for voir dire.

I learned from a very, very early stage in my career the importance of being hyper-intentional about how you carry yourself when you're being introduced to people. Are you friendly? Are you approachable? Are you likable? [00:27:30] Are you competent? In the beginning of my speaking career, when people first started to ask, I thought oh, you dress like CNN, right? You got to have on the skirt and the heels, the big ones, and you got to spend the money on the really fancy ones. Actually, that's the opposite if you want them to like you.

You're already on a stage. You're already elevated. There's already this huge cognitive distance and physical distance. For me, I believe so much in the things that I talk about [00:28:00] that I just want somebody to enjoy themselves as they're listening. That's why I wear what I would wear in my life. I wear glitter hi-tops. I wear a big skirt, and I stole that from Kelly Ripa, by the way. If you noticed, Kelly Ripa, who could be the most hated woman on television because she's beautiful and she's got a dream job and she got to sit next to Michael Strahan forever. Amazing. Why wouldn't you hate her, right? Well, except for the fact that she's really cute and lovely and welcoming and generous and she doesn't dress [00:28:30] like a sexpot. She doesn't dress like a news anchor. She dresses like she's going to a garden party and she always looks lovely. Lovely.

You don't say you hate her. You say I love that skirt. I wonder where she got it. That immediately shifts something just like walking in the thing. The second thing I found out was this. As my career progressed and the cases got more serious, I started to notice [00:29:00] a really interesting phenomena. That is that my guys would be in court and they'd be told by the prosecutor, "Look. The offer today is three to six. If you don't take it today, when you come back it's four and a half to nine. Years. The case is going to be adjourned. You're going to go back to Rikers and it's going to be four and a half to nine years when you come back."

We had no case. This is a case where there's like dude, you robbed a [00:29:30] bodega in a blaze orange jacket and there was a Korean lady across the street doing a play by play on the 911 tape that they have and you were arrested a block away. Yeah. This is not an OJ case. Sorry. It's just not happening. I couldn't figure it out and I couldn't figure it out and then I realized holy cow. Rikers Island, because again, I talk about this in my speeches. Every human being [00:30:00] is either driven by the fact that they have to be, like you're getting paid, which isn't an intrinsic motivator for most people. You're getting pushed so there's resentment because you don't want to do it or because it's personal. If you can figure out the personal drivers for people, you have an unbelievably magical tool. It's all about the things that are personal for people.

That's, by the way, another thing [00:30:30] about my speech. It's actually not about me. It's about you. It's about all of us. It's super personal. I realized oh my gosh, when you're at Rikers Island ... People don't realize this. Rikers Island, there's 40,000 inmates out there. It's only for people who are serving a misdemeanor, which is a year or less or people with a pending case. The second you plead guilty, you're going upstate. I had [00:31:00] clients that I was representing that would literally blow off a three to six year sentence knowing that they were going to be sentenced for a year and a half longer because the second they plead, they were going upstate and they wouldn't be able to see their kids anymore.

Yes. When you understand, when you take the time to understand, what is it that matters to somebody truly, you [00:31:30] have remarkable power to make an impact. With that knowledge, I could then go to my client and say look, I totally get that your son's fourth birthday is coming up and you want to see. Tell you what. What if I go to the prosecutor and I say hey, he's willing to plea today but his kid's birthday is coming up and he'd really like to see him and they can visit him at Rikers so can we have the moving order, whatever it may be, can we stay this for plea [00:32:00] and can you make the plea two months from now? What's it to us? Who cares, right? We're going to get this off both our dockets. It means something to this guy. He's doing the right thing. Let's go.

Nine times out of ten, if you understand what really matters to somebody, people are accommodating, even for a felon. I mean sometimes you get somebody ... No, the guy robbed somebody. No, no, no. In a case where there's a human victim ... Mostly, I just represented drug dealers, but it's remarkable because we all want the same things. [00:32:30] We really do. We want to know that when we show up at work, somebody notices. We want to feel like the stuff that we're doing at work matters. We want to feel like we belong to the community that we're working with. These are foundational principles that matter to every single one of us. It doesn't matter how old you are. I laugh about all the millennial stuff because yes, we have different working styles but at the end of the day, a human being is a human being.

Kyle Davis: Preach. I mean, [00:33:00] there's no difference. The only thing that I find if there is a difference between millennials and everybody else is just the tech curve.

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Kyle Davis: At the end of the day, I was talking a couple months ago to somebody who's a futurist who says you think you know tech now. Wait until the eight year olds become 18 because all the know right now is AI and crazy ways to manipulate stuff and they're probably all going to learn code in school anyways.

Mel Robbins: Our 11 year old has Echo. I got it as a gift from a speech and he stole the thing before I even knew what it was. [00:33:30] I was in his room the other day and giving him a kiss good night and he's like ... What's her name? Alexa ... Hey, Alexa, could you set the alarm from 7:20 and could you play such and such by so and so. It was a song on YouTube. I was like what are you doing? Who are you talking to? He's like [inaudible 00:33:44] okay, good night.


Kyle Davis: That's really the only difference. I think right now, and I forgot, I think it's like Moore's law, but the technology is just advancing at such a high pace ...

Mel Robbins: Oh, yeah.

Kyle Davis: It's really hard [00:34:00] for the older people to keep up sometimes, but I'll be an old person in 10 years and these kids are going to come along and I'll be like crap.

Mel Robbins: That's why you need kids because you have your own IT department. That's what Oakley is.

Kyle Davis: Tell my mom that.

Mel Robbins: 11.

Gail Davis: Let's talk a little bit about the book.

Mel Robbins: Okay.

Gail Davis: The Five Second Rule, how to transform your life, work and confidence with every day courage. It comes out February 28th. What all's going [00:34:30] on? How'd the book come about? Thumbnail. Tell us.

Mel Robbins: All right. The short version is this, and this is again, the opening story in my speech is that I never intended to be a speaker. I never intended to share the five second rule. I invented it in 2009 as a way to beat my habit of hitting the snooze button and at the time, my life looked very different than it does right now. My husband's restaurant business was failing and I was [00:35:00] unemployed. I had had a show that we were taping and then it got canceled and I was still under ... It's a long story. Doesn't matter. That's probably a child stranded somewhere so please don't ask me about life balance.

Kyle Davis: No worries.

Mel Robbins: Yeah, that's definitely mine. Sorry.

Kyle Davis: We'll have to pay royalties to Apple for that

[crosstalk 00:35:18]

Mel Robbins: Do you think? No you won't.

I invented this little trick to help me beat the snooze alarm where the alarm would go off ... Oh, I don't need to answer it. Just turn that thing off because it is probably one of my children. [00:35:30] They're snowed in in Boston so they're not going anywhere. 0876? No idea who that is.

Gail Davis: 0876.

Mel Robbins: 0876. 087 ... You know what's terrifying? Oh, did we answer it? Who is it?

Kyle Davis: We did answer it.

Mel Robbins: Hold on a second. We're going to take a phone call right in the middle of this.

Kyle Davis: Okay. We're going to take a phone call. This is great.

Mel Robbins: Hello? Oakley. Hey, buddy. How are you?

Gail Davis: How awesome is her son?

Mel Robbins: You're okay? [00:36:00] Are you all right? A car caught on fire in front of you? Is everyone safe? Okay, cool. Would you mind if I call you back in about, I don't know, 20, 30 minutes? Okay, well can you do me a favor? Can I put you on the podcast with me and say hello to everybody? We're taping right now. Go ahead, say hi.

Oakley: Okay.

Mel Robbins: Go ahead.

Oakley: Hi.

Mel Robbins: You want to promote your [00:36:30] YouTube channel or your Instagram feed. This is our 11 year old IT professional here. Would you like to?

Oakley: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: Okay, go ahead. Tell them.

Oakley: Hi.

Kyle Davis: Hey.

Mel Robbins: What's your YouTube channel? Tell everybody what it is.

Oakley: It's [Ochee46764 00:36:50].

Mel Robbins: What do you do on it? What do you do on it?

Oakley: I talk about life's problems.

Mel Robbins: You do? I guess I should listen to it.

Kyle Davis: How relevant.

Mel Robbins: [00:37:00] You're amazing dude.

Gail Davis: Didn't he get to tour Microsoft or something?

[crosstalk 00:37:04]

Mel Robbins: Oh yeah, you did. Didn't you?

Oakley: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: You got to see Microsoft. I'll tell you that story. That's a good story.

[crosstalk 00:37:07]

Gail Davis: Yeah, I want to hear about that.

Mel Robbins: All right. Can I call you back, dude?

Oakley: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: All right. Cool.

Oakley: Bye.

Mel Robbins: Bye.

Gail Davis: Bye. Work life balance.

Mel Robbins: There you go. Be where your feet are.

What was I just talking about?

Gail Davis: We were talking about the five second rule and how your life was really different.

Mel Robbins: Oh, oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I created this thing. I'd count backwards 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then I'd stand up. [00:37:30] When I invented it, I had no idea what I had stumbled on to. It's the stupidest thing in the world. I'll admit, it sounds so silly, so stupid. As a nerd, it's embarrassing to be out there talking about something this simplistic but the fact is, I literally in trying to beat my habit of the snooze alarm, I created a form of metacognition that leverages research and strategies dating back to Aristotle into one singular tool that is [00:38:00] now proven by science to help you change any behavior pattern and to rewire how you think.

What happened is I beat my habit of doing the snooze alarm. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, standup. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, standup. Then I started to notice holy cow, all day long, there are these moments just like my moment in bed when the alarm goes off and you know you should get up and then you start to think about it and within five seconds, you're like boom. I'm going to hit it. I don't feel like getting up. There are these moments all day long where I knew what I should be doing, [00:38:30] right? I knew I shouldn't be having a second bourbon. I knew I shouldn't be isolating myself from my friends. I knew I shouldn't be procrastinating on working on my resume. I knew shouldn't be blowing off the gym. I knew what was the right behavior and what really was the wrong behavior. Just the small stuff, right?

If I stopped to think for five seconds, I was toast. I started to use the five second rule every where. Every moment, all day long, where [00:39:00] I would have an instinct of knowing what was the right thing to do. Put down the chimichanga and pick up the apple. Stop looking at the phone and go out for that walk you said you were going to go on. Stop thinking about making that call and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, make it. I would feel anger rise up at Chris because we had so many financial problems. The liens were hitting the house and the restaurants were just oh, just awful thinking about it. I would feel anger rise up because we're very emotional, [00:39:30] human beings are. I would go 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 as a way to self-monitor and then I would speak in a different tone.

Cognitively, I knew that snapping at him was not going to solve our problems and even though it might feel good in the moment, it certainly wasn't what my commitment was, so I started to use it personally to self-monitor, to self-direct, to give myself the push to change in very small ways and over the course of two and a half years, everything changed. I launched and sold a company. [00:40:00] I started auditioning and got a syndicated radio show that ended up winning the Gracie Award. I joined CNN. It's just on and ... We clawed out of debt. Chris went on to fix the financial problems in the restaurant and opened up another four or five. It was through these small five second decisions where normally I would have been checked out and fear and self-doubt would have made the choice or procrastination and instead, I had this tool to wake up and actually [00:40:30] shake up my life by taking control of my decisions five seconds at a time.

What happened is somebody invited me to give a talk at TED. TED in 2011 is not the TED of today. It had not the same brand recognition at all. Most of the talks weren't even online. I wasn't even sure they were taping my talks so the thing that was fascinating is that that was the first time I had ever given a speech in my life. I had done trial work but you're talking to a judge and eight people. [00:41:00] I had never stood on a stage in front of an auditorium of people. I give that talk and I'm basically having a panic attack live on stage because I am the second to last speaker and it's been a day of PhD's. I'm thinking I am about to get on this stage and talk about how I want to become a syndicated talk radio host like Rush Limbaugh. I don't even like him. I've got the opposite politics. Why did I agree to do this?

Literally. I don't even remember giving that speech. [00:41:30] It's the weirdest thing for me to watch that because I see myself and I'm like I know I gave that speech but I actually don't remember being there because I was having such an out of body, psychotic meltdown in my brain.

Gail Davis: I love it when you jump off the stage.

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Gail Davis: Then when you get back on the stage and you're like "Woops, hope I don't moon you. You didn't pay for that."

Mel Robbins: You didn't pay for that. Yes, exactly.

What's amazing is a year later, that talk got put online. A year later. I went about my life. I launched another company. Stuff [00:42:00] just was happening. A friend called me and said holy cow, I saw that speech you gave in San Francisco. I'm like what are you talking about? She's like it's online. It's got a million views. Then, people started to write and they all wrote about the five second rule. Now, mind you, I hadn't even intended on talking about the five second rule. At the very end of the speech, just literally as an afterthought, I'm like oh, by the way, there's this thing. I don't even explain it and you know why I didn't explain it? [00:42:30] I didn't even know why it worked then. I just knew I had this really stupid thing that I do. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Boom. Works like magic so I keep doing it.

People started to ask me if I would speak, and this would have been maybe three and a half years ago, and I showed up a few women's leadership events and I'll never forget this. I was sitting at a train station and it was the biggest audience I'd ever spoken in front of. I [00:43:00] will say I was born to be on a stage telling stories and I started to discover that. I had a room of 2,000 people. It was one of the big Pennsylvania Women Conference. Hillary Clinton was the big speaker that year. There were like 8,000 women in the main breakfast area and then they all broke out. I was in a 2,000 person whatever, thing, room. I was at the airport flying home and a woman came up to me. She was [00:43:30] the founder of One Kings Lane. Her husband's the founder of Zynga. Right, so she got some coin. He created Angry Birds for crying out loud, and One's King Lane.

She comes up to me and says I was in your session, you're absolutely amazing. She was lovely and we had this great conversation and she said do you mind if I ask you a question, because she was on a panel in the morning. She said did you get your check for this yet? I looked at her and I'm like check? You got paid for this? She's like oh, I just thought because you were in that big [00:44:00] room that you probably ... I'm like it was this moment where I thought I am a moron. Why did I not even think to ask? I spent six months, because I'm competitive as AF, you know, and I wanted to know what is this thing. How do people get paid? How does it work? You can reverse engineer anything in today's world. It's the coolest thing.

I figured out that there's this world of speaking bureau's [00:44:30] and there's worlds of speaker representation and that there are certain topics that get booked all the time. I looked at the top people getting booked and I had somebody that works for me go and do all their titles and cross reference it and do a little data analysis about what topics they were booking where and dude, let's go.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people in 90 countries had reached out about the five second rule. I was talking about it and conducting a research project [00:45:00] on it because I felt an obligation to figure out why does something so stupid and so simple work? It's one thing if it's working in my life and for my kids and for my husband. Totally different story if you've got a stranger writing you. Literally, from India, Uganda, on and on and on. We know of 11 people that have stopped themselves from killing themselves using this thing. I have personally cured myself of anxiety. I took Zoloft for 20 years. About [00:45:30] four years ago, I started to use the five second rule to interrupt the patterns of anxiety and worrying and to stabilize my thoughts and retrain myself to not even default there. I haven't had a panic attack in four years. I don't even worry about anything. It's incredible.

I reached out to all the leading thinkers and researchers and researched all the latest stuff on habits and human behavior and psychology and persuasion and neuroplasticity and behavioral flexibility and [inaudible 00:45:55]. All those big ass words that everybody [00:46:00] gets all impressed about and I do, too.

What I found is a couple things. Number one, in the language of habits, the five second rule's what we call a starting ritual. It is a trigger behavior that interrupts a pattern and prompts you to insert a different pattern. Starting rituals, excuse me, are extraordinarily effective ways to break habits. Habits are patterns of behaviors that get encoded [00:46:30] in the basal ganglia. Another thing that I learn is that when you count backwards, it's an action. Even if you're counting to yourself, it's a form of action. It requires focus because you don't do it all the time. You also are interrupting a default pattern that's in your brain, whether it's blowing off the gym or snapping at your kids or thinking worried thoughts, so when you go 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, it does two things simultaneously very powerful.

It is a form [00:47:00] of action. It's a form of what psychologist call asserting control and it's also requiring focus. When you focus on anything, your prefrontal cortex awakens. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is stimulated and lit up when you're changing behavior, when you're focusing, when you're doing strategic thinking, when you're learning a new behavior pattern. What you've essentially done in five seconds flat is you've interrupted old patterns of behaviors [00:47:30] and you've awakened the part of the brain that actually helps you change. That's what it does.

That's why it works for everybody that ever uses it. It's only ever working on one thing, you and the habits that you have that are encoded that rob you of joy and opportunity and being present in the moment and rob you of your power and your confidence. It gives you a way to wake up in the moment to a decision and actually make one that shakes things up. It's also one [00:48:00] of the reasons why the topic is so great for speech because every single conference is trying to inspire people, they're trying to change behavior, they're trying to align people and the thing is that events are extraordinary and really, really important but at the end of the day, when the audience leaves and they all go back to their individual desks, they're going to be alone. It's going to be up to them.

I always say [00:48:30] I'm a how speaker. I'm not a why speaker, I'm not a what speaker, I'm a how speaker. I'm the person that comes in and tells you no matter what it is that you're suppose to be doing ... You're suppose to hit your quarter for the fourth year in a row and now you're fatigued and resigned and annoyed or you go to go from a siloed organization in a massive engineering consulting firm into cross-functional collaboration, which is a totally different way of operating, or maybe you want to do more smart risk [00:49:00] taking and have leaders do out of the box collaboration stuff for the design thinking stuff. That's a different form of behavior, so it's going to be up to each one of these leaders to understand. They know what, but how do you, when your patterns of behavior are ingrained in your basal ganglia, and when you're not paying attention those are what take over in less than five seconds, how do you equip people with a tool so that they can take everything that you've just invested millions of dollars to teach them and actually go back as an individual and make that change happen [00:49:30] in five seconds?

Anyway, like you asked me early on, how did you become the most booked female speaker in the world? How'd you do that? It was part luck. It was also very intentional. I'm an astute business woman and I also came into the speaking business late. I'm 48 years old. I've launched and sold two companies. I've been in various industries. I've been an executive coach so I understand both how do you ... It's not about [00:50:00] what I do on the stage. That's the price of admission. You got to be good. It's really about how do you make the audience feel and can you give them something to do so that your content is what they're talking about through the entire conference. Then, more importantly, the real job is actually taking care of the people that are running the event. That's what the job is. It's about making sure that the promise of the event itself and what is suppose to be delivered [00:50:30] to the audience on behalf of the client, that those objectives are delivered and that the people that are putting on the event, they're your clients. That's who you need to take care of.

I'm also extremely mindful of that.

Gail Davis: Well, I have to tell you there's a lot of people that come and go but every now and then, you meet someone and you're just like that is the real deal. You are the real deal.

Mel Robbins: I am. Thank you.

Gail Davis: I'm so personally excited for you. I'm excited for the buzz. I'm excited for my client [00:51:00] that I have booked you for long series and we have to meet them for dinner tonight and I know you have to call Oakley back. I know Kyle has so many questions but I think we may have to get you back on the show another time ...

Mel Robbins: Sure.

Gail Davis: ... and dig into more stuff. This has just been so much fun for me.

Mel Robbins: Oh, but so the book. Here's why I'm excited about the book. It took three years to write and the book has more than 150 social media posts in it. It's not me writing [00:51:30] the book. It is stories of people firsthand of them posting publicly from around the world. As I'm telling you how to use the rule with the latest science around beating procrastination, or I'm telling you how to use the rule with the latest science around being healthier or negotiating a raise, you're seeing an actual post from a human being with a photo, of them talking about how they used it.

There's nothing but proof, proof, proof. We did not ask for a single celebrity or best seller endorsement. The book itself is covered [00:52:00] in photographs of the people that are using this rule, so for me, I'm excited about the book launching because ... It's not about the books because the truth is when you look at the economics of a book, whatever. You don't make the money that you think you make on a book. That's not what it's about. Every book I sell, I know 20 people have heard of the idea. That for me is what this about.

Kyle Davis: Well, that's awesome.

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Kyle Davis: Cool. I think, [00:52:30] if I'm going to wrap this up as we should, and I do have tons of questions so I'll save them for later [crosstalk 00:52:35] but I think it would be a really interesting thing, or at least my key takeaway is that you said from this is one, the power of storytelling. I love storytelling. It's one of my more favorite things because my program, back to Columbia that we were talking about, the whole question is what's your story and really thinking about it.

I think knowing [00:53:00] what your story is and where you ... Every little nuance in your life and how you got to a certain thing is I think a very powerful thing because it helps you actually understand who you are instead of just floating through the world like a tumbleweed.

The next thing is you talked about the perfect or first impression or the power of first impression but the next thing you followed that with was really to be hyper-intentional with how you do things and I think for me, this is something that [00:53:30] I've been doing for the last few years and I wish more people would do, because it's so easy to, just again, to float through the world and just be kind of huh, whatever, but to actually put some thought into something and have some intentional stuff instead of just picking up the phone and calling me or sending me some random text message but having a purpose behind it so that way I'm not having just this random phone call that's hey, what's going on ... Two minutes of just fluff.

Mel Robbins: Right.

Kyle Davis: I need something with some intent. [00:54:00] I need some substance behind it and I think that gets back to what you were saying about delivering content but having content that has substance so being hyper-intentional with that.

I appreciate those little takeaways. It means a lot to me so thank you.

Mel Robbins: You're welcome.

Kyle Davis: That being said, if you would like to ... I don't know what just happened to me, but something did. If you would like to read the transcript for this podcast, you can go to GDApodcast.com, where we'll have the transcript. We'll also place a link down there so you can go [00:54:30] pre-order the book on Amazon or buy it if this is after February 28th.

Mel Robbins: You definitely want to buy it. Let me tell you why. First of all, you got to ask for what you want so I do want you to buy the book because ...

Kyle Davis: Buy the book.

Mel Robbins: ... it's incredible. It also comes with 31 digital mentoring sessions. When you buy the book, there's a URL in the back where all you do is give us your email and every single morning for 31 mornings, you get a video that is proprietary to the book, that dives into the concepts even more deeply and they're actually hilarious. Seriously. [00:55:00] There's a couple where the cat walks across the counter and I'm like "Get out of here!". You're getting the real Mel in these things and it's only for people that actually ... Well, you could pick up the book and just type the URL but whatever.

Kyle Davis: No one should be that guy.

Mel Robbins: I don't care. Maybe they can't afford the book. Who cares?

Kyle Davis: May be true. Sure. Okay, you sold me on that one.

Just in case, at the very least, go buy the book and we'll provide the Amazon link there. If you're interested in booking Mel for a [00:55:30] speaking engagement, you can contact GDA Speakers by calling 214-420-1999 or go to GDASpeakers.com.

Thanks for coming in, Mel.

Mel Robbins: Thanks for having me.

Gail Davis: So much fun.

Kyle Davis: Not Mel Gibson, by the way. I don't know what that's called when they bring it back but whatever. Thank you. Gail Davis: Thank you.

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ep. 13 - Mel Robbins: Author, Entrepreneur, TED Speaker, Journalist, & Contributor to SUCCESS by GDA Podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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