Winning in 5 seconds at #CommunityLIVE

What can happen in five seconds?

You can change your entire life.

That’s what 2,000 of us learned during Mel Robbins’ fascinating keynote speech this morning.

When I first heard that she was going to speak at CommunityLIVE, I figured Robbins would deliver some sort of motivational speech. Nope. No Chris Farley-like “van down by the river” moments here.

Before I tell you about a simple concept with profound implications based in neuroscience, I’ll share the story Robbins told us about how she came up with it.

Your alarm is ringing

An alarm clock is a great metaphor for the power that is inside you. It’s your soul. Your intuition. Your wisdom.

And as Robbins said, it’s going off. Right now.

Ten years ago, when her alarm clock would go off, she knew she should get out of bed, get a job, exercise, and be there for her husband.

“I knew all this,” said Robbins. “But I didn’t know how to do it when I didn’t feel like it.”

That’s because there will always be an excuse. For Robbins, the big excuse was the daunting situation she and her husband found themselves in. Her husband’s restaurant was going under and she was unemployed.

“I never thought at 40, we would be on the verge of losing it all,” she told us.

She was terrified. Robbins is analytical and cynical, so she didn’t know how to move forward.

Then she noticed something. Something seemingly little, possibly insignificant. But if she hadn’t discovered it, she knows she would have lost it all.

“That night,” Robbins said, “everything changed.”

Take charge of your life in 5 seconds

That fateful evening, Robbins was watching television. When she saw a rocket blasting off, something clicked. The next morning, when that annoying alarm clock went off, her plan was to launch herself out of bed like a rocket.

But of course, it was a Tuesday in February just outside of Boston, so it was cold and dark outside. The alarm went off and she started thinking. Procrastinating. Inventing excuses.

But she wanted to try out her plan. So she started counting backward like NASA launching a rocket.

5 .. 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.

Blast off!

She did it! She got out of bed! If you can’t identify with some stage of your life when just getting out of bed is a huge win, you’re lucky. Very lucky.

The next day, it was dark and cold, again, so Robbins was going to blow the alarm off.

5 .. 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.

Out of bed!

Now, whenever she finds herself in a situation she doesn’t like, she uses this 5-second rule. With everything going on in their lives, Robbins and her husband were having problems. So when she would make it to the kitchen, as she got ready for the day, she would be scared. She would be emotional. She was blaming a lot of the situation on her husband.

“It’s so much easier to point fingers,” Robbins told us. “You tell yourself, ‘I don’t deserve this. It’s their fault.’ So you point your finger at someone else.”

But, as she noted, when you point at someone else, three fingers are pointing at you.

“That’s because the power is in you,” she said.

So she tried out her new idea. Instead of getting mad at her husband, or blaming him, she counted backward from five. Suddenly, she was able to speak to him with knowledge and compassion, instead of emotion.

It worked!

Then she saw her sneakers.

“I should exercise,” she told herself. “But it’s cold out there.”

5 .. 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.

Out the door and pounding the pavement!

The 5-second rule was working so well, her husband started using it. And he loved it.

It was so simple. Why did it work?

Break through complexity by noticing the simple things

Sometimes, we’re in a hurry, we’re scared, or we’re stressed out, so we don’t notice that the most powerful solutions are sitting right in front of our faces. And many times, the most elegant solutions are the most simple.

And it turns out, the secret to beating excuses and self-doubt to push yourself forward lies in the first five seconds. So when you run into a scary, new, or uncertain situation, count backward from five, project a positive thought, and launch yourself.

The moment you have an instinct, you have five seconds before your brain shuts that idea down. You need to shut down that self-defeating negativity.

As she moved forward with the idea, something magical happened. Robbins gave a TED Talk. She thought she blew it, but it became the most-viewed TED Talk of all time with more than 14 million views. The emails poured in – more than 250,000 people contacted her about the 5-second rule.

The elegant, simple process was catching on! It now helps people quit smoking, maintain their sobriety, and live better lives. Most dramatically, it has helped prevent 63 people from committing suicide.

Why? Because all it takes is five seconds to change your life.

In the neuroscience world, they call it metacognition. Those five seconds, followed by a positive ‘anchor thought,’ interrupt patterns in your brain and draw your thoughts forward to the prefrontal cortex, which is the region where we plan complex behavior, express our personality, and make decisions. This is how you get out of your comfort zone and tap into your courage.

“It’s a cheat code I invented while drinking scotch,” Robbins amusingly told us.

Amusing, because she uses the 5-second rule to maintain her sobriety, which is something she’s proud of.

Everything else around you can be chaos, but you control what you think and what you do. You can’t control anything else.

What’s holding you back?

The world has changed. Will you change? What stands in your way to connecting with yourself?

Five seconds?

So, the next time you have the intuition, but you can feel the hesitation, count back from five.

“If you’re in front of people,” Robbins amusingly cautioned us, “don’t do it out loud or you’ll look like a psychopath.”

Maybe it’s time to retire the phrase ‘get out of your head.’ Maybe it’s time for us all to get into our pre-frontal cortexes. We need to break through the brick walls we build. We need to disengage autopilot and engage drive. We need to rewire our brains.

The only thing that stands in your way is what you think and feel. You do it to yourself. Every moment you hesitate on an idea or action, you have five seconds to win.

Many of us procrastinate when it comes to some tasks at work. Robbins noted that it actually has nothing to do with work; procrastination is a stress release. So, the next time you feel procrastination sneaking up on you, try it.

5 .. 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.

Get going!

“Do one thing,” Robbins said. “Based on research, 80 percent of us will keep going after that initial step.”

Anxiety is currently the number one health issue. It’s a reaction to uncertainty. But the tricky thing is, to be in control, you need to realize that nervousness is normal.

“If you’re not nervous at work twice a week, you’re not doing anything,” Robbins advised.

Sometimes, you need to be nervous to move forward. So, the next time you’re nervous, as your heart starts to race, just say, “I’m so excited to do this.”


Harvard Medical School has proven there’s no difference between nervousness and excitement. When you get nervous, your body starts flooding cortisol through your system because it’s thinking fight or flight. But you can trick yourself into thinking your excited, which your body enjoys, so it doesn’t flood you with chemicals that make you out of control.

You can use the 5-second rule everywhere in your life.

“I was on Zoloft for 20 years, and after my daughter was born, I couldn’t be alone for eight weeks,” Robbins shared. “But I used the 5-second rule. And it works. I was able to be alone, lost 150 pounds, and stopped drinking. I faced my own demons.”

She took control.

We can’t control the world, but we can control ourselves. And we can do it in five seconds.

Are you ready?

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …

Scoop Skupien

Scoop Skupien

Scoop Skupien is a former radio station mascot. A rabbit, if you really want to know. These days, he's a content marketing manager at Hyland, as well as the editor of this blog. The author of three books, he’s been writing about tech at Hyland for more than a decade. His industry certifications include CDIA, ecmp, and an MBA.

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