There’s no reason to hesitate for CNN analyst Mel Robbins

By Kevin Gale

CNN legal analyst, author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins will serve as the keynote speaker at Women United and Nova Southeastern University’s upcoming Magnolia Luncheon.

Robbins received a 2015 Gracie Award as an outstanding news talk radio host and her TEDx Talk, “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over,” has over 5.3 million views. Her book on the brain and productivity, “Stop Saying You’re Fine,” is a business best-seller.

Robbins, who started her career as a criminal defense attorney, has led multiyear coaching programs at Johnson & Johnson, A.G. Edwards, Bear Stearns and Partners Healthcare.

SFBW spoke with Robbins to gain insight into her approach on self change and women in business. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What do businesses and organizations need to do to empower more women leaders?

Admit you have a problem in representation at the most senior level. I can roll out some research that proves that when you admit this problem, it actually, in a screwed up way, makes the bias bigger.

You have to do something by saying, “We are not going to tolerate it here.” You have to be public and say, “We are going to do something in the next four or five years.” It needs to be an X percentage number goal. You actually say it’s a problem and are going to fix it.

Now you are on the hook and have made a very public statement to management, customers and the women and men who work there. The research is very clear: If you have senior women in management, you are more successful.

In your videos and books, you talk and write about people being in a rut in their routines. What’s the key to breaking out?

They key is to utilize the secret weapon called the five-second rule. We have a devastating habit that is so subtle that it is running our lives and relationships. It’s the habit of hesitation.

You hesitate at the smallest, most mundane, moments. You hesitate to bring a matter to your superiors. You hesitate before you decide to go to a networking meeting. All it takes, because of the way your brain is wired, is a momentary hesitation.

It’s not fear that’s stopping you. It’s that every time you face a change and face uncertainty, every time you are doing something that exposes you to risk or judgment, you hesitate. That’s an action and you have just robbed yourself of opportunity and joy. It’s an epidemic for women.

The first of your five steps to change says, “Face it, you are not fine.” What’s the difference between just thinking the grass may be greener and really knowing you need to pursue something else?

If you have feelings that continue to haunt you, that means you should act on them. That means getting intentional about exploring what you are curious about.

Sitting around thinking, wishing and hoping is not a good strategy. If you are continually haunted by or interrupted by thoughts that things could be better, then chances are, they could be.

Your mind spends 40 percent of your time wandering around. Your soul does not do that. The five-second rule doesn’t mean quit your job in the next five seconds. It means that something is nudging you. The work isn’t to change your job. The work is to explore and pursue things that you find interesting.

You have 20 years in law and started as a criminal defense attorney. What happened for you to change careers?

I was a public defender in Manhattan – a job I loved. I got into business school and moved to Boston. I couldn’t practice in the courtroom and worked for a large law firm. I was sitting at a desk writing, writing, writing. In New York, I had court and talking to my clients. I decided I didn’t want to continue to commuting in and elevatoring up.

I made myself uncomfortable and got really lucky. There was a new technology company in Boston and I was the fourth person hired. You are not going to get what you want unless you force yourself to be uncomfortable.

Why do you think your TEDx video become such a phenomenon with over 5 million page views?

Things that are universal always catch on. What’s universal to all of us and equally personal for all of us is that we are our own biggest obstacle. There is a system in each of our heads that works against us – the unknown, the change or something that makes you uncomfortable. It triggers your mind to turn on and it will stop you from moving forward.

I’ve heard from 200,000 people across all the social media channels in 37 countries that write about the five-second rule. When you have an impulse that is tied to a goal, you must physically move in five seconds or your brain will kill it. It works for every human being and in every situation.

If you are lying in bed and the alarm goes off and you don’t get up, you are going to hit the snooze alarm. If you are in a meeting and hesitate, you are not going to say anything. It’s these small hesitations in the most mundane situations that change everything.

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