Mel Robbins: It Only Takes Five Seconds To Improve Your Career

Dan Schawbel, Forbes
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I spoke to Mel Robbins, author of the new book The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, about how to create a memorable TED talk, what changes we can make to be more engaged with our work, how to gain the courage to ask for a raise, how to overcome the fear of failure that gets in our way and her best advice.

Mel’s TEDx Talk on “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over” has over 10 million views across 37 countries, and her first book on the brain and productivity, “Stop Saying You’re Fine”, is a business bestseller. She has led multi-year coaching programs at Johnson & Johnson, AG Edwards, Bear Stearns and Partners Healthcare. Mel is currently one of CNN’s most popular on-air commentators and opinion writers and she’s appeared on Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Oprah, The Today Show and Fox News. She was named America’s Outstanding News Talkshow Host at the 2014 Gracie Awards.

Dan Schawbel: Your TED Talk has been a viral sensation, and I understand it was the first time you’d ever given a speech. What was it about that talk that resonated so much and catapulted you to the next level in your career – becoming a CNN Contributor and one of the most-booked speakers in the world. What are the secrets of giving a memorable, and shareable, TED talk?

Mel Robbins: The secret to giving a memorable TED talk is this:

Share one simple, powerful idea that matters to you. And make it personal. You have something unique, that no one else has – your life experience. That’s the power of you. So, get on that stage, share that idea and don’t try to sound smart, just focus on being you.
That’s why mine went viral – I shared a personal mental trick that creates powerful change I call the 5 Second Rule and it’ll help you advance your career in endless ways. Here’s the Rule.

The moment you feel yourself hesitate on something you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1 to activate your prefrontal cortex and interrupt the habit of overthinking, self-doubt and fear. Then, move forward on 1. If you don’t move in five seconds, your mental habits take over and kill your instinct to change, innovate or step outside your comfort zone.

The 5 Second Rule is a form of metacognition that switches the gears in your brain, so your mind works with you – instead of against you.

At work, use the Rule and 5-4-3-2-1 to push yourself speak up more in meetings. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 to stop yourself from over analyzing every email and just hit send. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 as a ‘starting ritual’ to trigger you to start working, instead procrastinating. If your job involves selling, 5-4-3-2-1 through the mental dread and pick up the phone. And, if you are in a customer facing role and you feel your nerves or anger rising 5-4-3-2-1 will stabilize your physiology and thoughts and give you the ability to self-monitor.

There’s a lot of buzz words in the business world these days – Design thinking, innovation, fast-failure, disruption, cross-functional leadership – and at the heart of every one of these concepts is the ability for people to make small moves forward, learn, iterate. The 5 Second Rule is how you make yourself do the exact same thing.

Schawbel:Three of every four workers globally are disengaged in their work. They blame their company or their boss but not themselves. What changes can they make in their life to bring new meaning into their work?

Robbins: There are three changes. 

  1. Look for it. Finding meaning in your work is your responsibility. Any job can be better when you actively work to find meaning in the work. Whether you’re a hospital janitor who spends more time talking to patients or you are in fundraising and you take time to learn how the money you raise helps people. Research also shows that if you make progress on your work everyday – that increases your satisfaction too.
  2. Stop complaining about the job. I’m serious. It’s never improved anyone’s job, ever. Gossiping and griping about your boss – wastes your precious time and it makes you look like a loser – I mean, why would you stick around if you hate it that much? If you feel yourself complain 5-4-3-2-1, and shift gears to seek out answers to why your work matters. If there are negative people at work 5-4-3-2-1 and distance yourself from them – find a new squad. And if you can’t stop complaining…
  3. Do something about it. Your life, your happiness and your success are your responsibility. You might “feel” stuck but you’re not. Stuck is a mental state. The solution is action – start looking for a new job. You’re a fool if you waste any of your precious life at a job or boss you hate. If you hate your work, then stop going out at night and get serious. Wake up an hour earlier every day, 5-4-3-2-1 and do something about it.

Schawbel: What do you recommend for people who don’t have the confidence to ask for a raise or promotion at work?

Robbins: Three things.

  1. Get real. You only get a raise if you demonstrate value. Here’s a few sobering questions to ask yourself: Are you replaceable? Do you make your boss’ life easier or harder? Do you solve problems, take initiative and work on things that the company cares about. If the answer to these questions is a “Hell Yay”, then walk in there and ask for one right now. If it’s a “meh?” Time to 5-4-3-2-1 and take the steps to align your workload, behavior and priorities to meet the criteria.
  2. Build your case. A few months before you are going to ask for a raise, start making note of everything you do. At the end of every week, write down what you have done that is strategic, shows initiative or made your boss’ life easier. As you see your accomplishments, and you see all of the progress that you are making, this gives you confidence. Researchers call it the competency-confidence loop.
  3. Expect a no. When you are planning to go and ask for a raise, take that list, focus on the top 5 or 6 examples and here’s the kicker – expect to be told no. There’s a phrase you’ll hear in corporate environments – “socialize an idea.” It’s a fancy way to say – you’ve got to warm someone up to your requests and give them time to mull it over. Eventually, when they marinate on it long enough – they’ll come around and think it was their idea, and you’ll get your raise.

And, when your company says “No” be ready to ask this critical question: “What specifically do I need to demonstrate or accomplish between now and three months from now, to earn it?” Now you have marching orders. Finally, if you 5-4-3-2-1 and do those things and still don’t get the raise the next time you ask, time to get a different job.

Schawbel:One emotion that prevents people from achieving their full potential is the fear of failure. How do we get around this common fear?

Robbins: The reason why most people fail is because they are afraid of failing. I hope that landed like a punch in the gut. You will never get what you want in life if you don’t learn how to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Every single failure in your life can be traced to silence or inaction. The opposite is true too. Every single success in your life can be traced to a moment of courage – you took action.

Fear is a mental obstacle that disappears the moment you take action. This is why the 5 Second Rule is so powerful. It not only breaks the habit of feeling afraid, it pushes you to be courageous and act. You cannot think your way out of fear. You must use The 5 Second Rule to force yourself to act, 5-4-3-2-1, and beat fear.

Schawbel: What are your top three pieces of career advice?

Robbins:

  1. Manage your visibility. It’s very important to manage your visibility. You only get credit for what people see. Be very strategic about how you behave in meetings and the emails you send. Get rid of the “I think” and “I’m sorry” and the long ramble-y emails. Behave like a strategic contributor. Make people’s life easier. Solve problems don’t create additional work for people. Speak up, don’t take be the one taking notes in a meeting be the one paying attention and contributing ideas, talk about what you learn when you fail and be the first to volunteer, to introduce yourself and to suggest solutions.
  2. Focus on what matters. You need to actively seek to align your workload and your priorities with your boss’ strategic objectives. What is fun for you to work on might not be the most important thing at work. Get clear about what you can do that’s the most helpful and important thing for the company. And I love this one – if you do have a problem – before you go to your manager think of two solutions. When you talk to your boss you’ll now be demonstrating that you are a strategic thinker and a problem solver, Well done!
  3. Be a fan. In the long run, your relationships mean everything. Ask yourself this – when I walk into a room are people genuinely happy I’m there. When my name pops up on the cell phone – are they psyched to talk or dreading a call from me. The fastest way to influence people is to be their fan, first: Cheer their successes, compliment their ideas, collaborate and do the small things that make people know they matter: listen, don’t interrupt, ask people’s opinion and feedback. You master the art of “being a fan” and you win. 

Oh…and there’s one more thing. I have a morning routine that I follow, that’s backed by science that has helped me run a multimillion dollar business and become the kind of person who gets more done in two hours than I used to in a week. You can learn more about it here.

 

This article was written by Dan Schawbel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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