Great Advice from Great Minds Featuring Mel Robbins


Advice from the keynote speaker at the 2016 Life Sciences Trainers and Educators’ annual conference

With Jill Donahue

The Life Sciences Trainers and Educators’ (LTEN) annual conference is the largest of its kind in the world, covering all aspects of learning and development, leadership, instructional design and facilitation. So it’s significant that this gathering invited Mel Robbins to be its keynote speaker last June. Mel is one of CNN’s most popular on-air commentators and opinion writers; her articles drive tens of millions of page views for Mel has an extensive television resumé as an expert on human behavior and motivation for Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Oprah, The Today Show and Fox News. She was named America’s Outstanding News Talk Show Host at the 2014 Gracie Awards.

As a popular motivational speaker, she is trusted by global brands to design and deliver business expanding, life-changing, interactive keynotes that inspire change, challenge thinking and accelerate personal and professional growth. Her TEDx Talk on “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over” has over 10 million views across 37 countries, and her book on the brain and productivity, “Stop Saying You’re Fine,” is a business bestseller that has been translated into four languages. She started her career as a criminal defense attorney and went on to launch and sell a retail and internet technology company.


We were thrilled to chat with her at the LTEN conference. And you can be a fly on the wall and watch our conversation. Why did we want to talk with her? She’s studied how to move from idea to action. And that’s exactly what we need in pharma.

Our industry is on a movement to patient centricity. But have we moved from idea to action yet? After the 2016 eyeforpharma Barcelona conference, Paul Simms, the program chair, and I decided to figure it out. We conducted a survey with over 2,300 pharma leaders across the world. Ninety-three percent of them said they think patient centricity is key to our future. But only 21% rated their confidence that they can achieve their patient-centric goals as > 8/10. Thirty-nine percent of them believe that we are training people to know how to do it. So we have this gap between what we know we need to do and what we’re doing. Mel’s solution is to teach two things: what you need to know, and how you have to act, the behavior change. Everybody misses the fact that your feelings precede and determine what you do. So you have to win the battle with your feelings, by basically ignoring them. The only thing that matters is what you do. Your brain beats you and limits your ability to heal by trapping you upstairs. So how do we get beyond this?

Mel shares her self-proclaimed “stupidly simple” idea; “The Five-Second Rule.”

She believes that by learning a little trick to push yourself forward, you unlock the secret to achieving what you want in life and in work. Think of the last time you had an impulse to do something you KNOW you should do – but didn’t. For example, get up earlier to exercise or read. Did you hesitate? If you did, your brain took over and killed the impulse within five seconds. You know you need to pick up the phone to bring a patient to the next meeting. But you delay. It’s not what you’ve done before. You know you should start the meeting with a story about the patient and the difference your product has made in his/her life, but you hesitate and instead do the same old market share presentation. Of course, it applies to your personal life as well. You know you should get up off the couch. But you binge-watch one more episode.

Mel explains that there are two kinds of changing. How we think, and how we behave. It’s changing how we behave that takes courage. She says people are worried about making the wrong decisions, and their feelings drive how they behave.

The trick is to prevent your brain from sabotaging your intention. The moment you have an impulse, count backward from five. This will awaken your pre-frontal cortex and take control away from the basal ganglia (the automatic default settings in our brain responsible for habits, resistance) so you can focus on doing the new and different thing that you know you should do. Mel teaches us that it takes five seconds to change your life, because in five seconds you can let your doubts, fears and hesitations take hold, or you can push yourself past them. She helps us learn how to give ourselves that little push. And if we all give ourselves a push in the direction of patient centricity, together we can take huge leaps. Let’s act on our patient-focused intentions!

I also asked for her advice for women on leadership. She said there are two things every woman needs to understand to increase her success:

1. Never take notes in a meeting.
Because if you’re taking notes you’re focused on transcribing. You’re sending a signal, hey look at me I’m the secretary. You’re not focused on what someone who is a leader does, which is contribute. If you’ve got to get down a detail, write a detail. If you need the entire meeting hit voice memo on your phone and record it.

2. Use the words “strategy” and “strategic.”

She actually hates this piece of advice but there’s research out there that says that women that use the word “strategic” see a significant increase, upwards of 30% increase, in their annual reviews of being a strategic thinker by simply using the darn word.

And as a bonus tip she explains why you should get a male mentor. Listen to her intriguing explanations for this in the video. •


Jill Donahue, HBa, MAdEd is on a mission to lift our industry, building purpose-driven, influential people. Through her keynote talks, workshops and award-winning mobile-learning programs, she is helping teams build trust, open doors and make a bigger impact. As the co-founder of the nonprofit group The Aurora Project, she is helping to illuminate our path to patient centricity.