Mel Robbins: Follow the Five-Second Rule

Mel Robbins gives advice on how you can make it happen.
July 9, 2012

This spring I delivered a keynote address for the Girl Scouts of America’s 100th anniversary celebration. Beforehand, as I rehearsed my speech in the hallway, a tall brunette introduced herself.

“Mel Robbins? Oh. My. Gosh. I’m Linda. You probably don’t remember me, but I heard you speak a few years ago at my company’s sales convention and had to come hear you today. I was the one who invented a no-drip paintbrush.”

I didn’t remember Linda or her invention, but curiosity prompted me to ask what happened with it.

She smiled sheepishly. “I’m still thinking about the best way to launch it.”

Smiling back, I said, “Well, Linda, lucky for you, I’m about to tell you how.”

I’ve never launched a no-drip paintbrush, but I know you can’t think your way there. You must act—and Linda hadn’t.

Related: 6 Ways to Act on Your Ambition

Throughout my speech, I referred to Linda and how she had been spent years thinking about her idea without taking action. She was a great sport as I reminded the audience that we are our own worst enemies. We procrastinate. We analyze our ideas to death. We spend so much time noodling that we never get started. Deep down, we are chickens. And it’s stupid.

We are all like Linda. You have a thousand great ideas (or perhaps a single sensational one) and a million reasons not to get started.

Linda was lucky; she had me to shine a light on her life. You aren’t so lucky; you must shine that light on your life yourself.

For starters, adopt the Five-Second Rule—immediately. Anytime you have an idea that seems like a sure thing, act to advance it within five seconds. Why? Because your brain’s main job is to avoid trouble and risk, so in less than five seconds it will persuade you to abandon your idea.

Shine a light on your own thoughts. Pay attention to how many good ideas you have in a day. Notice how often you say “later” instead of “now.”

Typically these good ideas start with I should. As in: I should introduce myself to that stranger during a networking opportunity. I should jog. I should skip dessert. I should update my résumé. I should start my book. I should write a business plan.

In response to these ideas, you’ve got five seconds to speak, run, push your plate away or set an alarm on your phone or reminder in your calendar so you write for 15 minutes at 7 a.m. tomorrow. With one tiny action, you yank the idea out of your brain and put it in the world, where it becomes real.

The Five-Second Rule is a crucial trick for outsmarting your brain. And here’s what happened with Linda: She has scheduled a meeting with a prototype company, is researching QVC leads and is networking to reach someone at a major paint supplies company for advice.

Like Linda, you have great ideas. Pay attention to them. And when a good one crosses your mind, don’t delay. Take one small action in less than five seconds.

Related: Whatever the Project Is, Start Today

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