Like many of you, I first discovered Mel Robbins through her TED Talk, How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over. Though it has over 14 million views, it’s just one of her major successes. She is also the author of The Five Second Rule, one of the most-read books of 2017 and an all-time best-seller on Audible, where she also now hosts Kick Ass with Mel Robbins.
I met Mel at an event last year while making The Miracle Morning Movie – and was immediately impressed. So, I quickly asked her if she would appear in the film. Thankfully, she said yes!
Because Mel has written so much – and given so much valuable advice – we decided to change things up for today’s podcast. In this episode, Mel tells her story – how she became the Mel Robbins – in a candid conversation about her life, family, parents, values, and what made her who she is.
- Why Mel doesn’t exactly see being one of the most booked speakers in the world as a good thing – and why she’s scaling down her appearances this year.
- How refusing an initial offer from Audible helped her create a highly successful, impactful, and original show on her own terms from scratch.
- The reasons Mel shows – not tells – and places huge importance on social proof to expand her work’s resonance.
- Why Mel believes that women need to have their own money – even in supportive, loving relationships.
- How being a young public defender helped build the foundations of the very specific skills that help Mel succeed as a coach.
If you hate walking into work, there’s your sign. You don’t need to talk to anybody. If you’re not excited to walk in, get out!” – Mel Robbins
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- Kick Ass with Mel Robbins (get the free workbook here)
- TED Talk – How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage
- The Miracle Morning Movie
- TED Talk – Who are you really? The puzzle of personality.
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TRANSCRIPTClick here to Read the Transcript
Hal: Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners aka goal achievers, hey, this is your host, Hal Elrod. Today you’re going to listen in on a conversation between my friend, Mel Robbins, and I and if you don’t know Mel, you should. She’s everywhere, man. Her YouTube or not YouTube, well yes, it’s on YouTube but her TED Talk, How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over has over I think over 14 million views now. Her book, The 5 Second Rule, is one of the best-selling books in the history of Audible, the audiobook, and it was one of the most read books of 2017, 2018. What year again? I don’t know. One of those years but this last year it was one of the most read books on all of Amazon. She is just phenomenal, and I was blessed to meet her backstage. We were both giving speeches at the same event last year and I had heard of her and kind of watched her and stalked her online from afar if you will and I guess she had heard of me and so we connected. At that time, we were making the Miracle Morning documentary and we were really in need for some really powerful women. We had too many men in the film if you will and not enough women I should say. And I met her, I saw her speech. I was blown away and I went backstage and we had, you know, “I met you, Mel, like five minutes ago but do you want to be in my movie?” And so, she said yes, and she has some great sound bites in the film.
But today here’s what you’re going to hear on the episode today. It’s not content. So, normally when I do the Achieve Your Goals Podcast I more often than not I really try to bring new content and I really tried to extract what are some powerful lessons, strategies, what can you implement right away to improve your life to achieve your goals and Mel has so much content on the Internet. I mean there’s no shortage of content. Whether you want to read a book, go to YouTube, watch her videos, listen to her audiobook, listen to her – she has a brand-new show on Audible but she has so much content I thought, “You know what, I want to both for you and for me I want to dig deep and I want to hear her story like I really want to know she’s just a dynamo who’s just changing the world and changing millions of lives.” I want to know her story and I personally her and I have become friends in the last year, but I’ve never sat down with her and said, “What was it like growing up for you? What was your childhood like? And who was Mel Robbins that led you being the Mel Robbins along the journey?” And so, that’s what I bring to you today is really just a candid conversation with Mel about her life and her background. She’ll talk about her family and her parents and what value they instill in her that helped her become the Mel Robbins that she is today. So, hope you enjoy eavesdropping on this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it and here we go, the one and only Mel Robbins.
Hal: All right. Mel Robbins, here we go. Let’s do it. How you doing?
Mel: I’m awesome.
Hal: Yeah. You have a two-day break. Is that right? Your two days between all your crazy changing the world stuff?
Mel: Yeah. I have two days before, well, no. What am I saying? No, not two days. I have to be on a plane tomorrow morning to St. Louis, give a speech, do a book signing then I fly to Vegas. We have an event with 400 people from an online course and then I have another speech on Friday and then I fly overnight to somebody’s 50th birthday party and then I fly to Houston for a speech and then I’m home Monday night.
Hal: How many speeches are you giving right now? I know you are literally, for anyone that doesn’t know, you’re one of the most booked speakers in the world. So, how many speakers…
Mel: Yes. That is not something I’m proud of by the way because it’s great for your marriage in the beginning and then you realize maybe you should be home if you would like to stay married.
Hal: I’ve gone through that. Yeah.
Mel: So, this year I am capping it at 80 but last year was 121.
Hal: Oh my gosh.
Mel: I got a couple of bureaus say, “You are the most booked woman in the world.”
Hal: So, 121 last year down to 80 and then next…
Mel: Yeah. And next year I’ll be down to 60. Yeah. Because I’m making an intentional pivot in my business, in my work, in my life and obviously you and I talk a lot about that. So, being awake and present enough to hear the signals and to listen to your own wisdom and to know when it’s time to make a move and to be able to kind of see around those corners and so, yeah, I’m scaling back on the speaking to focus on other things.
Hal: So, talk about some of the other things right now. First of all, I can tell you that I just listened to episode one of Kick Ass with Mel Robbins this morning. Awesome. I love it. In fact, by the way, you impacted my world from that, so you should appreciate this or I think you’ll appreciate this. So, I took the coaching that you gave to Kimberly.
Mel: Which is what I remember.
Hal: Yeah. Neither do I. That was this morning but Kim Possibility by the way, right? No, so the coaching. So, my wife called me on the way to the gym and she was having some anxieties. She’s worked out with – I had got her trainer and she was working out the first time without the trainer and she goes, “Sweetheart, I need some support.” She goes, “I know this sounds stupid. I know in my head this is stupid but I’m going to the gym. I’ve got anxiety because my trainer’s not there. What if I don’t know how to use the machines? What if I mess something up?” And it was amazing. I literally I said, “Sweetheart, I was listening to Kick Ass with Mel Robbins this morning,” and I gave her the coaching that you gave to Kim telling her that’s what I was doing and I kind of told her in a form of a story I said, “What Mel told Kim was that this child, this decision she made as a child that was a strategy to keep her protected from her fears and the unknown was a decision that was implanted in her subconscious and it’s the strategy she kept using,” and I said, “You when you were a kid,” and anyway so we went to it and it was amazing and I actually I hear that she’s home so I have to ask her how it worked but she was like all fired up. It’s like, “I’m going to do that. I’m going to do that.” So, you’re changing lives, Mel.
Mel: Thank you.
Hal: So awesome.
Mel: I don’t say this very often, but I am really proud. I’m really proud of that show which for those of you that don’t know what it is, Audible has a group called Audible Originals. And think about it like Netflix or Hulu. They’re buying up, Audible is, all kinds of original content programs and doing partnerships with people like Hal and me. And so, the first one they did was with Joe Biden when his memoirs came out about losing his son, Beau, and the second one was with Kevin Hart and the third original production was with us. And so, yeah, it’s really interesting but the thing that I’m most proud about is that our team has never done anything like that and one of the things that certainly The Miracle Morning that you are teaching to people around the world gives you the clarity and the courage and the kind of structure to go and hear your inner wisdom and then to go off and do big things in your life and in your work.
And one of the things that’s really cool for me is that when The 5 Second Rule book became this phenomenon very much like the Miracle Morning did, Audible came to us and asked us if we would collaborate with them and get them an exclusive on the next book and I said no. And I knew because I could hear my own instincts that that was the right thing to say and then they said, “Well, what could we do?” And I said, “Let’s do a talk show,” and my instincts also know that as an entrepreneur I got to control what I’m doing. And yet it’s kind of takes a lot of guts to sit in a meeting in New York City with 30 people and say, “But my team has to do it,” knowing full well you’ve never done anything like this before. And we pulled it off. We did a global casting call, had never done anything like that before, flew eight people to Boston. We had never done, I mean obviously it’s not that hard, but it actually is. People have anxiety about flying. You need to get them to the airport and what is your company going to take care of people and how do you still maintain boundaries between them and your team? And just all these things that we just figured out and then we spent literally hours and hours and hours and hours listening to it and editing it and making sure that the final product was not only entertaining, but it was impactful, and it was empowering. And so, I am so happy to hear that you not only took the time to listen but that you got something out of it because that was the intent so thank you.
Hal: Yeah. It’s fantastic. So, for those that, yeah, so what Mel did is she gets live coaching sessions. So, you hear her coaching somebody and what I love that you did is that you unpacked the coaching at the end. That was really cool, right? So, it was like, okay, what you just heard me do was blank and how that applies to you or how could it apply to you is blank, blank, blank.
Mel: Yes. And there’s a workbook that goes with it.
Hal: Oh really?
Mel: You get to MelRobbins.com/Audio there’s a free workbook that comes with it because you get so much by listening to somebody else’s stories but you and I are so committed like one of the reasons why I love Hal so much and I know it’s why you watch what he’s doing and you listen and go to his programs is because yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s a very successful entrepreneur but the guy is so committed to making a difference with you and it is what comes through. And so, we decided to end, you know, it’s one thing to listen into a coaching session which in and of itself is very entertaining. We then added in the recaps at the end for precisely that reason because you now emotionally exhausted because you heard somebody story for crying and swearing and up-and-down and, oh my gosh, it’s like television in your ear for crying out loud. And then we said, “Well, wait. We could take this a step further. What if we created a workbook that scaffolds all the takeaways so that you can go and do these exercises on paper in your own life with the tools and the kind of strategies that I used to think about catching bad patterns in my own life and pivoting and creating new patterns.”
So anyway, that’s something else that we did with this because and I’m really proud to tell you we are the first Audible Original to debut on Amazon’s bestseller list. We have broken every single pre-sale record that they’ve ever done and we’re crushing it. And so, as an entrepreneur, we basically did what I always am telling people to do which is just try, just trust yourself, hear yourself first then trust that it’s right and then just try to know that it has turned okay and somebody that I respect as much as you, Hal, listened and you got something out of it. That means a lot to me. Thank you.
Hal: Yeah. Absolutely. You’re welcome and thank you. So, now here’s what I want to do today. I mean, there’s obviously a lot of things we could talk about, The 5 Second Rule. If anybody hasn’t read this, by the way, there’s a – talk about it, but I just want to make sure everyone knows this is your book that is changing so many lives and one of the – I know on Audible so you guys on Audible your book it’s one of the – where does it…
Mel: On Amazon. So, on Audible it’s still in the top 20 list after a year and it is the number one title ever sold on ACX in terms of volume which is a self-publishing platform and it is one of the top-selling self-development books in the history of Audible and it’s one of the top five most read books on Amazon last year and it’s now in 31 languages and literally just over a year.
Hal: Incredible. So, there you go. That’s all you need to know. There’s a reason that it’s done that well, folks.
Mel: Well, it is simple. It’s super simple. That’s all. I’m going to teach you how to change your life in five seconds. That’s what I’m going to do. It sounds cheesy, it’s stupid, but it’s actually a brain trick but you can Google it. There are free videos all over the Internet that we produce about it so just watch that.
Hal: Yeah. Wait, that’s where this thing took off is you did a TED Talk and I just checked. It’s got like 14 million views so go watch that if you haven’t seen it. But no actually and, Mel, when I write a book I model other books. I just take pieces, I go, “Ooh, I like how this author did this. I like the way this author structured their chapters. Like with this author, I like their intro.” And so, I just wrote and I’m writing my new book. It’s called The Miracle Equation and…
Hal: Yeah. And I’ve got your book sitting next to me on the couch with a bunch of others and one of the things I wrote in my notes to model is model the way Mel took a concept that she can teach in 30 seconds and then unpacked it and supported it and gave references and testimonials and real-life experiences in a way that made it so brilliant is the simplicity of the concept but taught in a way that by the end of the book you’re like, “Okay, I really, really, really get it now,” like I…
Mel: Yeah. And I have to try it. Well, this is what I actually want you to feel. Feel the social proof so I don’t think there’s a book out there that takes the number of social media post about the concept I’m talking about and shows you. See I don’t like to tell people. I like to show people and maybe it’s because I’m dyslexic and I’m an experiential learner and so reading something and then having to think about it’s harder for me to process that way. When I can see it, I get it and so one of the things about the success of that book is that because there are so many screenshots of social media, we reached out to all of their people, everybody in it, got all their permissions any human being on the planet that reads that book will find an on-ramp. They will see one person or one person’s story or one person’s post or a photo that will remind them of something inside of them or the post itself will be written with words that are different than what you and I would write, Hal. And so, you expand the access in the residence of your book by using social proof.
Hal: Absolutely. You give confidence, right? People go, “Okay. If it worked for him and him and him and her and her and her and her and him and him and him and her and her and her, right, okay. Well, I would be doing something wrong if it didn’t work for me.”
Mel: At least try it. Yes.
Hal: Yeah. Exactly. And I’m such a big believer in that that borrowing confidence from other people that have gone before us and that’s actually your book, another thing that you did so well. So, here’s what I want to spend most of our time today. I want to get to know Mel Robbins. You and I are friends, we’re buddies, we’re acquaintances, we love each other.
Mel: I’m in the movie.
Hal: You’re in the movie which is awesome, and I think you’ll be in the trailer too. I just saw the preview. You’re in the first cut of the trailer.
Hal: Yeah. Making the movie by the way just so you know in case you’re listening and don’t know what we’re talking about, the Miracle Morning movie, the documentary that comes out, it was really amazing. Mel and I were both speaking at an event together. We knew who each other were. We haven’t met. Backstage we meet. I hear her 5 Second Rule speech and I go and it’s all about by the way the 5 Second Rule started with how she beat the snooze button. I was like, “Wait a minute. We are missing strong females from this movie and this may be the strongest female I’ve ever heard share a powerful message,” and it was just I’m like, “Mel, I know we just met five minutes ago. Do you want to be in my movie?” And you said yes and that was awesome. You actually have the only curse word in the movie which is so Mel Robbins. It’s bleeped out of course but it was perfect. It was perfect. Yeah. And that’s your whole day. Anyway, so, Mel, tell me about – I want to know like I just want to get to know you from you as a kid growing up like I think it’s so powerful to get to know like you are so changing the world, millions of people follow you, love you, they swear by your content, they attribute transformations in their lives to you but you were born as a baby with no success and just like all of us.
Mel: Yes, although I think I was born as a baby that worries like if a baby could worry that was me.
Hal: Awesome. Okay. My wife does, yeah. That’s awesome.
Mel: I had a remarkably awesome childhood. I had two parents who are still married so Bob and Marcia Schneeberger and they are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary which is no small feat because my mom got pregnant with me as a sophomore in college when she was 19 and my dad was a senior and they were at Lindsborg College in Bethany, Kansas and my mom dropped out of school to have me and to take care of me and my dad then went on to medical school. My mom worked nights at the IRS, so my father could be in medical school and when he was done with classes, she would pass her me or when my brother came along my brother, Derek, and they tag teamed and so I grew up with a model of two people that came from very, very blue-collared families. My mom comes from a long agriculture family, Angus cattle farmers up in upstate New York. My dad’s immigrants from Austria and they owned a local bakery. After getting out of the Navy, my grandfather opened a little bakery in New Jersey. And so, humble, hard-working beginnings. They meet in college and they have this marriage that was a true partnership. And so I…
Hal: What do you mean by that, true partnership? Because especially at that young of an age having any kind of marriage that resembles a model for a good marriage at that age is pretty tough to do.
Mel: Oh, and it’s also like incredibly impactful to see somebody go the distance of 50 years particularly starting out when things were not great and public housing and two jobs and working nights and just burning the candle at both ends but I think they grew up in families where they saw their parents working until 8:00 or 9:00 at night in the family business and they did chores after. So, work and family were just woven into the fabric of who they are, and it got literally absorbed in my cells that a man and a woman or two women, two men now, at any partnership loving partnership means mutual respect and mutual work. So, what was interesting about growing up in my family is that my mom modeled literally what you would call feminism without like marching and being like wild like a big activist. She was an activist in her own household because she had mutual respect for her husband and because money was not the power in our family.
My dad ultimately went off to have a very successful career in a very small town as an orthopedic surgeon but when he walked in the door, my mother was in charge. And when it was time to go out and deal with the gardens, they were both out there, and when we were done with dinner we were all busting the table. And so, there was just this really interesting thing that never got spoken where I think a lot of us grew up and we have a father figure that goes off and does something in the world and then we’ve loved our mothers as the caretakers. I literally saw both of them as equals and she also is just like a rockstar like she spoke and drank beer out of a pitcher and she played softball and when perming was in, she would perm my dad’s hair like that picture with Bradley Cooper and that movie where he’s got the teeny perm rolls in his hair. I can’t remember what. Playbook. Something Playbook.
Hal: Silver Linings Playbook.
Mel: I went, “That’s my dad! That’s my dad!”
Mel: So, they just, I don’t know, they were super involved in our small town. My dad served on the City Council for a long time. They were just literally hard-working family driven people and I grew up like that. We didn’t eat dinner unless mom and dad were home. We were not particularly religious. We grew up in a Methodist Church, but we were sort of like the Easter Christmas Christians that said grace every day, but I think it’s also that blue collar. It’s the effect of coming from farmers and bakers where you have a business that’s open seven days a week and it’s open at 6:00 in the morning and they’re until 9:00 at night. I mean…
Hal: The value though that you extracted from growing up in that environment? I mean, work ethic sounds like one. What would you say the values that attributed to your success now and throughout your career?
Mel: Well, worth ethic is a big one. Another one is cheering for people. So, my mom was a massive like advocate of my father and she was the one that was so annoying when you were a kid because she yelled the loudest not by screaming at you but just cheering and she’s also big. She celebrates like crazy. So, she forced my dad to take dancing lessons and there’s always a party at our house and she was always someone that was funny as heck at any party and just, “Where’s mom? Oh, there she is. I can hear her talking to somebody.” I’m exactly like that. I mean I literally learned that from her like the power of enthusiasm. And the other thing that I learned from her is, man, you do not cross her. You do not challenge her. There’s a famous story in our household and I think this is what literally fuels me as an entrepreneur. The first one is this. My grandmother ran the farm with my grandfather and she would always to the books and my mom’s mom, my grandmother, Aileen, I remember her as a child. She was always in like kind of a housecoat before she would get dressed and she’d be sitting at the kitchen table in upstate New York and she had one of those calculators now. The tap, tap, tap and then it rolls.
Hal: Yeah. My parents used them too.
Mel: Yeah. Tallying all the money and I’ll never forget, never, ever, ever forget that she said to me one summer after we were visiting because we would do chores and then she’d pay us before we would leave. She pulled me aside. She said, “Mel, make sure you make your own money.” I said, “What do you mean?’ She’s like, “Make your own money. Every woman needs her own money.” And it stuck with me and my mom always said that to me too. It is so important for you to make your own money. You do not want your entire life to become about supporting your husband and what your husband is doing. You need to have your own identity because it will make your marriage last. It will have the power of dynamic in your relationship be more even and you will find fulfillment in things outside of your family which is super important. I mean, she was saying this kind of stuff to me back in the 70s and 80s all while loving and cheering for my father louder than anybody else on the planet.
So, fast forward to when I was, gosh, how old was I? I think I was in eighth grade. My mom decided after doing so much volunteer work in our community that she wanted to open a store. She wanted to open a kitchen gourmet store. She wanted to sell coffee. I mean what outlandish ideas. They had these huge bins of coffee and flavored coffee and I’ll never forget this. She went into the bank with her best friend Susie and they were going in to get a $10,000 loan and the bank manager who my mother had known for years because we had been banking I think it was Lumberman Savings Bank, we’ve been banking there for years, told her that they would be happy to give them the $10,000 loan as long as my father and Susie’s husband co-signed. And my mom just quietly stood up and said, “I would like to close all my accounts right now,” and the person kind of looked startled and she said, “Well, I am the co-owner and cosigner of all accounts. I own them, and I have the power to close them.” And the guy looked at her and said, “We do not need your husband’s signature,” and they gave them the loan.
Mel: But so, I just grew up with a woman.
Hal: Strong woman.
Mel: A very strong, a very just life of the party, confident, awesome woman and she still is and so I sort of absorbed it and we definitely had our periods. When I went off to college in law school and I think in the first years of my marriage living in New York City we definitely had some major clashes and distance. I think mostly because we’re both very powerful women that we don’t live near each other. And so, there’s a lot of hurt beneath the surface for both of us that we’re not near each other. You know what I mean? We then take it out on each other which is stupid but anyway I just love her.
Hal: Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, you know, a couple of things that you said when I asked which values you extracted from your growing up, the two that you mentioned the first one was work ethic and the second one was enthusiasm and I just wanted to call those out for our listeners, our viewers in that back when I was in sales and I had broken a bunch of sales record for the Cutco Company people always ask me like, “What were your secret to success?” and I said, “Look, I didn’t know how to sell. I was 19 years old. I had access to two things that we all have access to,” and I said, “Number one is work ethic and number two is enthusiasm.”
Mel: No way.
Hal: Yeah. I said, “Those are the equalizers. Anyone who wants to be successful in anything, in anything in life, in business as an entrepreneur, in politics you name it, the work ethic to put forth the effort that’s necessary to move forward and fail forward and try whatever, right, while maintaining that enthusiasm that attracts people to you.” So, yeah, so I love that those were the two values that you…
Mel: Yeah. I think the other thing too that I really absorbed from my dad, there are two things that really stick out and one of them is just the guy was so committed to service. I mean he was an orthopedic surgeon but he once a week was up in Shelby, Michigan doing surgeries in a very rural and poor like community hospital. Our 13-year-old son sleeps underneath the quilt that a patient of my father’s made for him because of the difference that he made in terms of not only giving her the new hip but just how he was with her. And so, he’s the kind of guy, he doesn’t practice yoga but he’s like a yogi. When he’s taking care of people particularly when he was still practicing as a physician as an orthopedic surgeon during surgeries, he just had this calmness about him and it’s interesting because, of course, I’ve married somebody just like him. And then the second thing that was interesting to me and it was the first kind of insight into the complexity of personality.
So, when I went to Dartmouth College and I came home my first summer, I remember one of the classes that I was taking had like an assignment for the fall class and that was to shadow somebody for a day in a profession that you are interested in and I shadowed my dad. And by this point, my father was Chief of Staff at this tiny little community hospital and he was like the surgical guy and had a particular operating room and so I watched him do a couple of surgeries. And as we were walking down the hall, it was literally like a rock star was walking through the halls. People were like, “Hey, Bob.” “Hey, Dr. Schneeberger.” “Hey, doc. What’s up?” “Hey what’s up?” And he’s like, “Hey, you all. What’s up?” And I nearly was looking at him I’m thinking, “Do you have like a secret life we don’t know about? What is going on like this is not the Bob Schneeberger that I grew up with. What is going on?”
And so, we’re driving home after the day and I’m now exhausted because I have I’m so confused not only having watched him do these all magnificence crazy surgeries made it cement in my mind. I definitely do not want to be a doctor by the way and because I can’t stand the sight of blood and then it also just made me confused because I thought, “Well, who is the guy that I just spent the day with?” and I said, “How are you so outgoing at work? You’re so different,” and he said, “Well, I have a job to do there and when I come home, I just want to relax, and your mom is the most entertaining and amazing person in the world and so I get to just sit back and enjoy what she brings to the table.” And so, it was this real kind of eye opener like, “Oh wait a minute,” like somebody who is introverted and knows that amazing TED Talk by I think is Prof. Brian Schwartz is it? Brian Little maybe. He’s a Cambridge professor that talks about the complexity of personality and how all of us can act out of character when it matters to us. And that your personality exists on a spectrum. And so, it was really eye-opening because I realize wow like you can be certain ways in certain parts of your life and be a totally different way in other parts and that’s totally cool.
Hal: Yeah. That’s like, I don’t know about you, but as a speaker obviously I’ll go speak in front of thousands of people but at home, I just want to be by myself. I just like alone time. I don’t like to go to parties and socialize this and that but…
Mel: I’m like that too.
Hal: So, let’s fast-forward. So, I know you were a lawyer. Tell me from what age to what age were you a lawyer and what type of law were you practicing before you got into this career that you…
Mel: I didn’t even know what age I was. I graduated ‘94 and I was a lawyer until ‘98-ish and I was a public defender in Manhattan.
Hal: Okay. Public defender from Manhattan.
Mel: Yeah. I represented people who were accused of crimes in the city of New York who could not afford a lawyer and I was paid by the city to represent them.
Hal: So, that was only a few years. And then what did you after that? What did you do in ‘98?
Mel: We moved to Boston because my husband, Christopher, had gotten into business school at Babson College and he was going to go get an entrepreneurial MBA and we moved to Boston and I worked for a large law firm for just a little bit of time. Hated it, hated it, hated it, hated it. And luckily it was 1999 and there was a massive tech boom here in Boston and a big talent shortage. And so, you could sneeze and get a job and so I did. And so, I left the law because I was so depleted, I hate – if you hate walking into work, there’s your sign. You don’t need to talk to anybody. Look for a new job. If you’re not excited to walk in, if you feel depleted, get out. And so, I got a job in tech and worked for two different tech companies and that was really cool. It lasted about three-and-a-half years and it was cool because I learned a lot of new skills doing that. I learned all about content because they were both dot-coms. I learned about managing people, project management. The first one I was one of the I think I was number four in the door and they ultimately ended up selling to Monster and then the second one I did not – that was also a big lesson in business. I think they gave me like 10,000 shares and I was like, “Whoa! I’m going to be a millionaire. Oh my god!” And then you come to find out there’s 4 million outstanding and you’re like, “Okay. I’m going to renovate a bathroom.”
Mel: Got it. So, ask lots of questions, people, when you’re looking at any kind of compensation package that involves equity or options. So, then I went to another one and by this point, we had two kids and I started to have a life crisis thinking, “What am I doing with my life? I don’t have an MBA. I don’t really like tech. I don’t really want to be doing this. I don’t know what to be doing.” So, I hired a coach and that coach coached me for about six months but in the second coaching session she said, “I know what you should do for your life,” and I said, “What is that?” She said, “You should coach people,” and I said, “Tell me more.” And so, she coached me for six months in the business of coaching and watching the business around coaching because my husband and I had done a ton of courses with Landmark Education, the folks who did the Landmark Forum. So, I had been a spectator and a consumer of personal development in my own life for a long time, but I never really thought about being a person that has a career in it. So, she coached me in it and I launched a coaching business in literally like, yeah, so this was 2001.
Hal: Okay. Wow. So early. That was before coaching was popular.
Mel: No kidding. And so, I had a great sales line which people would say, “What you do for a living?” and I said, “Oh, I’ve got a really cool job. I work with very successful people that are bored or unsatisfied with what they’re doing.” And everybody goes, “Oh my god, that’s me.” How do you help them? And so, then I launched a coaching business and it was like instant home run.
Hal: Is it one-on-one over the phone private coaching?
Mel: One-on-one private coaching, in-person typically here in Boston.
Hal: Oh, in-person? Okay.
Mel: Yup. And then one thing leads to the other. I had one client who was a financial – it was a, whatever, financial advisor for A. G. Edwards and in the six months that I coached him he happened to be the head of one of their offices. Their production numbers went up in terms of their daily production runs, the recruiting numbers went up. The number of clients that were on board went up. The compliance complaints were down and so they measured all this up. St Louis called me and said, “What are you doing?” They called him and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Well, I hired this woman, Mel Robbins,” and so next thing you know I’m on retainer with all of A. G. Edwards. And so, the whole thing just exploded. The joke is I don’t really understand the stock market, but I do understand people. And so, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living or how old you are or how educated you are. We all get stuck in the same ways and you get unstuck the exact same ways.
And so, I would probably still be coaching people, but somebody wrote an article about my business as part of a bigger article in Inc Magazine and I thought this was going to be awesome now because phones are going to ring, and then I get bigger clients, and I can raise my rates. Crickets. Crickets for six months. And then the phone rings. I was sitting at a restaurant here in Boston with my husband and at this point, he was about to quit. He had just gotten fired and he was going to start a pizza restaurant and the phone rings and it’s somebody from CNBC. It happens to be the woman that was in charge of primetime programming. I didn’t watch CNBC so I had no idea who the hell she was, but she said, “I want to come down to New York and I wanted to…” actually it was Paramus, New Jersey, like, “Come down to Paramus where CNBC is and we want to talk to you.” And so, I flew down, had a meeting with CNBC and Donny Deutsch was there, Jim Cramer stopped by, and at the end of the meeting they offered me a development deal to be paid to be produced into a, whatever, host for them.
So, that was kind of this interesting moments I thought, “Okay. Well, this is weird,” and I called a client in the financial services in New York and asked if you knew about anybody in the television business because I didn’t know anything about the television business. And he said, “Yeah, I know a ton of people. Let me introduce you to Mark Stewart’s former producer.” So, I then meet her. She talks to me and says, “Oh, forget CNBC. Let’s go talk to everybody.” So, we had meetings all over New York and I ended up landing a call-in advice show for Sirius which by the way paid me nothing for and a development deal with ABC to be developed into a talk show host. And so, I spent a year doing a…
Hal: And this is what year? Where are we at now?
Mel: Oh my gosh. 2006 or 2007.
Hal: So, why did you choose the Sirius deal over the MSNBC deal?
Mel: You mean over CNBC?
Hal: Or CNBC.
Mel: Well, you can’t do two TV deals at once unless you’re a superstar, so I picked ABC.
Hal: Okay. Got it.
Mel: And the people at ABC thought it would be good training for me to do a call-in advice show. And so, I did that for my house. These are like the early days of podcasting. Nobody listens to it. Thank God because it was horrible because advice is really boring. So, this was why the reason why Kick Ass on Audible is so kick ass is because 10 years ago I was giving advice on a radio show and it blew. It was unlistenable.
Hal: So, you learned what not to do from that and then pivoted for this. Okay.
Mel: Yes. And then here’s the other story from that time period. At the end of that ABC deal, the executives they didn’t renew the deal. They didn’t offer me a show and the one executive I’ll never forget that you should interview. He’s fantastic. His name is Hank Norman. He’s one of the producers that started the deal. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to television and talent. He looked at me and he said, “You’re never going to be successful because you won’t move to Boston or you won’t move to New York and you’re not in the game. And you got to be doing this every day and you got to star for years and you got to be at the right parties and you got to be in front of the right people and you got to show up and show up and show up and show up.” I looked at him and I said, “Hank, I’m going to tell you something. If I ever host a talk show, it will be in Boston and I’m going to produce it and own it just like Oprah did when she moved her show to Chicago.” And he looked at me and said, “It’ll never happen.”
So, guess what, when 10 years later or nine years later Kick Ass with Mel Robbins debuts and it’s the number one new release on Audible and the first text I got was from Hank and he said, “I can’t believe it, but you were right.” Because we produced at Boston and our team developed the whole thing, produced the whole thing, created the whole thing. And so, that was an incredible full circle moment for me. That was a little bit in my mom in me standing up like, “I’m not moving to New York and you watch me.”
Hal: Nice. I love it. And it goes along with I love the philosophy or the saying it takes 10 years to be an overnight success. Nine years later if you continue to work to push and drive and impact people that…
Mel: That’s me. Except for me, it’s 20 years because I really think that my skill set got honed to being a young public defender in that courtroom because the skill set like I’ve got a mishmash of skills that only come from experience. You cannot teach somebody how to do what I know how to do. You have to learn it under high-pressure situations. So, as a public defender what you learn, number one, is you’re assigned to somebody. Your client doesn’t pick you and they’ve already been in jail for two days usually or a day when you meet them for the first time. So, you have to establish connection and trust immediately. That’s a skill that you learn only by doing it over and over and over again. You have to learn how to be in a courtroom where you have a judge and you have court officers and you have bailiffs and you’ve got juries and you’ve got prosecutors. People that you see, not the jury, police officers that you see all the time. They’re your colleagues and then you’ve got a jury and everybody’s judging you and you got to know how to behave professionally and have likabilities so that the people that are adversarial to you actually like working with you. So, that when you have to pull a favor, they will give it to you. You also have to know how to behave so these people are watching you from a jury because they’re going to be reading body signals, but they like you too because it’s part of the persuasion impact and then there’s the whole process of actually thinking about a case which is storytelling. How do you get a group of 12 people to listen to a bunch of things and lead them to the right conclusion? You cannot learn that unless you do it.
When I think about coaching people, coaching people one-on-one is all about reading body languages, reading a pause. I mean it’s a lot like questioning a witness and so that skill is built. Being on a radio, you learn how to talk while somebody is in your ear talking to you. You learn how to knit together people that are on hold and how to bring them into a conversation and get rid of them. You learn how to talk in segments to seven minutes and closing down you learn how to tease so that people stick around through the break which is how we measure whether or not you’re successful. At CNN, it’s how do you take massively complex topics and turn them into soundbites? How do you create yourself on camera so that you’re entertaining and engaging? How do you pivot on a dime and literally riff when news is breaking? How do you literally close down what you’re about to say in 15 seconds flat as you’re talking into a commercial break?
Hal: Yeah. Real world skill that you can’t read a book on.
Mel: You can’t and so now it’s all come down to the kind of company that we’re building and the stuff that we’re doing.
Hal: Yeah. So, let’s go there. What is next for Mel Robbins? What are you doing right now? What are you working on? What are you excited about? Obviously, the new Audible show Kicks Ass with Mel Robbins.
Hal: The 5 Second Rule is still selling lots of copies, changing lots of lives. You’ve got yourself speaking quite a bit. Anything else? I’m sure there are lots.
Mel: Yeah. We’re wrapping up a big online force. I’m going to take the summer off because what I realized is, “Oh wait a minute, all these people that are cranking out books the way that I like to, they’re not on the road 200 days a year.” Kind of harder to write and to have a video channel when you have a lean team and you’re – so I’m doing something deliberate. I’m really taking off the next three months not only to work on some projects and to really for my mental health and to spend some time with my family, quality time. But also, to really make a pivot and to start thinking about myself more as a content creator and as the CEO of a media company and less of myself as a motivational speaker. And so, the big pivot for me is and we just had a meeting about this is that I am building a media company and I look at Twitter as my ABC or it’s probably more like my CNN since everybody gets news there and my Facebook as ABC and my Instagram is NBC and YouTube as Hulu. And we have staffed up and are building a team so that we are syndicating content every single day across those channels.
And so, when you think about the old talk show models, it would be that an ABC would pay you X amount of dollars as talent. They would own the show. You make your salary and then you earn things on royalties if the show actually syndicates in other markets. I’m inverting it and utilizing social media to create our own talk show and then syndicate across channels. And so, whether we monetize it through advertising or whether we just build a massive audience and its value, value, value and then when we drop a book, we make our money or when we launch smaller brands so we’re looking at our key topics which everything that we do is about mindset and so the biggest one is about anxiety. We’ve got a really cool project about that. The other one is about relationships and we have another sub-brand launching around that. We have a publishing imprint that we’ve launched.
And so, to me, it’s making a pivot so that my brand isn’t about Mel Robbins first and foremost. Yes, I’m the lead face and the lead personality but I want to use what we’re doing to launch other branded platforms and projects that aren’t necessarily my name that help people in the core areas where we get questions like anxiety, anxiety in kids, relationships, marriage, women, and entrepreneurship and so you’re going to see a lot of that coming up.
Hal: Beautiful. Beautiful. Well, I’m excited. I love watching…
Mel: What about you? What’s coming up with you?
Hal: This movie starring Mel Robbins, The Miracle Morning…
Mel: It’s about you. Come on.
Hal: The Miracle Morning movie. Actually, I mean, it’s incredible. So, we got selected to debut at Illuminate Film Festival.
Hal: Thank you. On June 2 and the founder of the festival called me and she said, “Hal, I wanted to personally call you.” She goes, “I don’t call the filmmakers. I’m calling you to tell you that when we selected your film it was a small community of a few people that watched the film. Well, they raved about it to our entire team so we’ve all watched it and we now moved you from Friday morning at 10 AM to Saturday night in the main theater because we believe your film,” to paraphrase it, she said it’s like they’re so high on it and she goes, “Netflix will be there. Amazon Prime will be there.” She goes, “I think this movie is going to go worldwide.”
Mel: Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime.
Hal: So, you think I should consider Amazon Prime?
Mel: Netflix doesn’t sell anything.
Hal: All right. I like it. I’ll call you before I sign in deals.
Mel: Okay. I’m telling you think smart about how all the algorithms of that movie being on Amazon Prime impact people’s ability to find the other things that you’re doing.
Hal: Well, that’s a great point because Amazon – that’s the flagship channel for us with the books.
Hal: You’re smart, Mel. So, what’s the best place for people to stalk you online? MelRobbins.com?
Mel: So, what’s super cool is like Hal, we reached about 20 million people on social media and we send out a newsletter every Thursday, the five things I’m thinking about that can help you. It helps me. Everything from playlists that we’re rocking to super cool new TED Talks and research. But just go to MelRobbins.com. All is in social whatever channel you like. That’s the best way to reach us.
Hal: Yeah. And if you’re thinking about building your own website or improving your website which I am now am because I went to MelRobbins.com this morning and I’m like…
Mel: You need to see the guy I work with.
Hal: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’ll follow up on that.
Mel: I’m dead serious. They specialize in sites like ours that are personality influencer driven but it’s a hub that sends people to social.
Hal: You text me their info. Text me the – yeah. Please text me their info. I appreciate it. I love you.
Mel: I love you too.
Hal: Thanks for coming on and great having a conversation.
Mel: My pleasure. I can’t wait to see the movie.
Hal: It’s going to be awesome. I’m excited too. Well, everybody that got to listen, I’m so grateful they got to know you a little better and I will talk to you soon.
Mel: Awesome. Bye, my friend.
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