Wearing sparkly high tops and a lavalier microphone as she traversed the meeting room, Mel Robbins had the full attention of the audience during her keynote address Thursday at the New Dentist Conference.
But then laughter and conversation erupted in the room when she demanded that all attendees get up and sit next to someone they didn’t know.
“Why would I do something so irritating?” she joked with the crowd.
The exercise helped prove the point of her talk, The Five Second Rule, about breaking habits and taking control of one’s own thoughts, and, as Ms. Robbins explains it, being able to change one’s life for the better.
The New Dentist Conference, a customized experience created for dentists fewer than 10 years out of school, is being held in conjunction with the ADA annual meeting. Attendees convened in the Georgia World Congress Center to meet up with former classmates, new colleagues and learn from each other.
After pointing out that many at the conference signed up in order to network with peers, most sheepishly raised their hands when asked if they were already sitting by someone they knew.
“I’m pushing you to do something you don’t want to do,” she said.
Ms. Robbins laid out the scientific and her own anecdotal evidence for the power of her five-second rule — counting down from five as a way to gear oneself up for upcoming mental obstacles, be it anxiety or procrastination.
Often funny and self-deprecating, Ms. Robbins acknowledged that the simplistic approach may sound “like the stupidest thing you’ve ever in your entire life.”
She shared her family’s story of coming into debt after a failed business venture. She became depressed, and her family and professional lives were crumbling.
Her five-second rule, which she said was inspired after seeing a rocket launch on a TV commercial, helped pull her out of the funk.
“I was changing my decisions five seconds at a time,” she said.
Soon after, she delivered a TEDx Talk in which she mentioned the approach, and it caught on. A video of the talk, How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over, soon garnered millions of views, and she began hearing from others about how well the rule worked for them.
She broke down the science behind the approach: by counting down, you’re awakening the prefrontal cortex in the brain, helping you feel immediate control over your thoughts and actions rather than on autopilot, which engages a different part of the brain.
“You’re shifting which part of the brain you’re actually using” when you use the five-second rule, she said, adding that the shift in thought can change your actions — and help a person reach his or her goals.
Attendees laughed and engaged with Ms. Robbins during her hour-long keynote address, which was preceded by opening remarks from New Dentist Committee Chair Dr. Emily Ishkanian.
Dr. Kyle Ratliff, a dentist from Indiana, a first-time New Dentist Conference attendee, said he found Ms. Robbins’ talk “awesome.”
He said he looks forward to networking with other new dentists this week — and learning from them.
“The messages, the presentations, they’re all beneficial,” he said. “I’m excited.”
Dr. Mauricio DosSantos of California, said this is the fifth year he’s attended the New Dentist Conference, which he credits in part for his recent successes in practice ownership.
“I come to these to see what everyone else is doing, so I can help my own chapter and the way I practice,” he said, adding that some of the takeaways from previous conferences have helped him purchase his first two dental offices.
“It has been very inspirational. I’ve learned what mistakes to avoid, what other dentists are doing,” he said. “I always get something out of it.”
To see the lineup for the New Dentist Conference, visit ADA.org/NDC.