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2024-06-04 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine Mel Robbins' Motivation for the Masses

Mel Robbins' Motivation for the Masses

Best-selling author and the reigning voice in personal development with her self-titled podcast, Mel Robbins has become a global sensation. TED HILDNER tunes in.

Mel Robbins photographed by Jenny Moloney

About a decade ago, a funny thing happened. One Saturday morning, I was randomly scrolling through TED Talks on my computer. At a dinner the night before, a friend told me about a nasty gal we both knew who had given a TED Talk exaggerating her successes and bragging about what a great person she’d become. Don’t judge; you would have searched, too. There I was, coffee in hand, and as I was scrolling, I stumbled across a talk from 2011 that hooked me titled “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over.”

Mel Robbins was (and still is) a pretty blond who spoke with a Midwestern drawl that was friendly and grounded, with just enough confidence to tell me she was intelligent but not arrogant. Instead of preaching, her laid-back delivery made me feel like I knew her. She did it so well that after her 20-minute talk, this self-help cynic was online searching for more Mel Robbins, forgetting about the haircut I’d now be very late for. Little did I know what a wild day I was about to have.

Robbins threw it all out there—her adult failures and regrets—for the world to judge. The irony was that she was onstage in San Francisco speaking to a group of high-functioning tech types and do-gooders who had paid a lot of money to hear her TED Talk. Her talk was more like a qualification at an AA meeting: humble with just the right amount of self-deprecating. She wasn’t afraid to admit she had been in trouble and wasn’t pious when revealing how she climbed out of a dark hole.

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, and it was necessary that things in Robbins’ life had to change. “I found myself at a rock-bottom moment,” Robbins confesses. “And at some point in your life, you will find yourself there. When that happens, you realize a couple of things about life. One of them is that no one is coming to save you; and as much as the situation that you’re in is unfair, and you may not be responsible for where you are in your life at this moment, you will have something happen where you realize that it’s your responsibility to stop bitching and to do something.”

PRINCESS OF THE PODCAST: Robbins, photographed by Jenny Moloney

They also say that great people might not be the most intelligent but possess that “it factor” that gives them the power to go farther and rise above. About three years before this talk, Robbins discovered the “it” within herself, and things began 
to change. “A friend of a friend called me, and by this point, I had networked my way through a lot of jobs. She said a person she knew was putting together an event in San Francisco, and it’s a bunch of speakers, and they’re looking for somebody to come and talk about career change, and you have changed your job more than any human being that I know.” With that unusual qualification, Robbins says with a chuckle, she was invited on a journey that would unknowingly change the course of her life and that of countless others.

“You will have something happen where you realize that it’s your responsibility to stop bitching and to do something.”

-Mel Robbins

“Fifteen years ago, my husband and I were $800,000 in debt and liens had hit the house. I had lost my job. I did not create a vision board and say to myself, ‘You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go become the number one female voice globally in personal development.’” Robbins realized she had to stop making the same mistakes over and over. She had to stop feeling bad for herself and do something different and make the changes necessary to alter her life. Robbins admits the TED Talk was the first time she had ever spoken publicly about her life, her problems, and her quest for her magic “it.” She barely prepared for the talk, accepting the trip because of free plane tickets. “C’mon, they were offering two tickets to San Fran and two nights at the St. Regis. That sounded awesome. When you’re struggling to pay your bills, that’s a pretty friggin’ good deal.”

The “it” that brought her to San Francisco and beyond has become known as her “Five Second Rule.” “There is a five-second window that defines your whole life, and it’s always present. It is the moment of hesitation. It’s this moment where you have an idea, an impulse, or an instinct,” she explains. Robbins discovered that this gap between knowing what you need to do versus doing what you want to do is where most of us hesitate and then, instead of taking the right action, either 
repeat our habitual patterns or don’t do anything at all. During these five seconds, self-doubt, excuses, insecurities, and reasoning take over. “By the time five seconds have passed, you are now into the mode of what you always do, and your subconscious mind has taken over and, basically, you just got fucked by old behavior.

Mel Robbins (photographed by Jenny Moloney)

“I was just trying to get out of bed and not let the anxiety consume me and get the kids to school and find another job and not pummel myself with self-criticism and shame,” she confesses. So, one morning, instead of reaching for the snooze button, which had become a pattern, she started counting backward, as NASA does, and went, “Five, four, three, two, one,” and sprang out of bed. “I used it in my personal life for three years and didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t know why it worked. I was like, five, four, three, two, one. Get out of bed. Five, four, three, two, one. Go for a run. Five, four, three, two, one. Pick up the phone and network until you get a job. Five, four, three, two, one…”

This countdown method worked one day for me. Junior, a great barber who’s been cutting my hair for years, has never given me a bad haircut. But as I’ve gotten older, and a little follicle deprived, cutting my hair wasn’t always a positive experience. 
That Saturday morning, after being late for my haircut because I was glued to Robbins’ TED Talk, Junior was waving around his little mirror, and I didn’t love what I saw. Jokingly, he said he could shave it all off. With my newfound life tools, I simply 
said, “Five, four, three, two, one. Cut it off!” It wasn’t a life-changing move, but it was liberating. For a conservative guy, especially regarding my hair, it was a bold decision.

Throughout the day, as if on autopilot, I told anyone who would listen about Mel Robbins and her magic principle. But here’s the unbelievable part of this tale, some might even say a sign from above: 12 hours after stumbling across “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over,” I was repeating the story at a dinner when my host picked up the phone, whispered something to the person on the other end, and handed it over. As if the seas had parted, I was speaking with a woman who, on the other end, had that familiar Midwestern accent, with just enough confidence to tell me she was Mel Robbins. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, the voice on the other end was real. She was as excited about my discovery as I was. How reaffirming to know she was sincere and legitimate in her discovery and truly thrilled to be passing along the secrets of her success.

From that moment on, I became a Mel Robbins superfan. Not surprisingly, and no help from me, Robbins has gone on to establish herself as the number one female voice globally in personal development, who, in the beginning, she never sought to become. A New York Times best-selling author and a Forbes “50 over 50” honoree whose work has been translated into over 41 languages, Robbins has sold millions of copies of her breakout book The 5 Second Rule and followed it up with the equally successful The High 5 Habit. She launched the Mel Robbins Podcast in October 2022, winning both Webby and Signal Awards. She has been recognized as the number one education podcaster in the world. As if that’s not enough, Robbins founded 143 Studios, a female-led media company that produces provocative and award-winning content with unprecedented results: millions of books sold, billions of video views, seven number one audiobooks, and original courses and professional development education programs for clients like Starbucks, Ulta Beauty, JPMorgan Chase, LinkedIn, Spotify, Headspace, and Audible.

Somehow, with all her talent and fame, Robbins remains one of the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. According to a friend who has known her for years, “the person you see every day online is exactly the same in real life.” Robbins lives in Vermont with her husband of 26 years and their three kids. And even though she will always be a self-described “Midwesterner” at heart, she’s become a true self-help guru, a hero to millions of people whose lives have changed dramatically from that moment Robbins took one small step to help herself in front of a crowd in San Francisco.

Mel Robbins, photographed by Jenny Moloney

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