“You are one decision away from an entirely different life.”
“Stop watering dead plants.”
“When you choose different thoughts, things start to change.”
As she tells it, life coach and motivational speaker Mel Robbins loves a good quote. Check out her Instagram -- it’s full of many more like the above. But on her new daytime talk show, produced by Sony Pictures Television, Robbins is more than just a handful of pithy quotes.
Still, it’s Robbins’ lively Instagram feed that brought her to the attention of SPT executive VP alternative and syndicated programming Holly Jacobs.
“I was thinking about the kind of show I was hoping to do but I was not finding the person who had the connectivity to women that I thought was missing in the marketplace,” Jacobs said. “One of our interns and other people in the office were following [Mel] [on Instagram]. We all started to follow this woman. I started to get very hooked on her Instagram and the kind of advice she gave, so I called her up. I knew within five minutes of meeting her that she was right for this moment in time.”
The decision to do a daytime talk show didn’t come as quickly to Robbins.
“When I first talked to Holly, my answer was ‘no,’” she said. “The reason why was because over the last five years I have built a wildly successful business that I own in the digital space. I self-publish everything and I own all my own content. I was deathly afraid of getting into a partnership with somebody who would try to change what I was doing, who I did not feel would represent my mission.”
To understand why Robbins might feel that possessive about her work -- so possessive that she wasn’t even interested in considering starring in her own daytime talk show -- it’s necessary to take a trip back to 2008. That marked a time when Robbins and her family, like so many other families, were on the brink of losing everything.
As Robbins explains in the show’s first episode, which airs on Monday, when the Great Recession hit she was “unemployed and on the brink of losing everything." My husband had a restaurant business and it was failing. Our credit cards were maxed, there was no more home-equity line, we had liquidated the college funds. We were $800,000 in debt. It was absolutely terrifying.”
Prior to that, Robbins and her husband, Christopher, had been quite successful. Robbins was a lawyer and her husband had been a tech executive before opening his chain of pizza restaurants. Robbins had been a legal analyst on CNN and hosted both TV and radio shows. But 2008 caught the couple right at the wrong time.
Trying to face the family’s situation, Robbins became almost crippled with anxiety. But one night, while watching TV, she watched a rocket launch. When the clock counted down -- 5,4,3,2,1 -- to blast off, she had an epiphany.
“I thought, ‘oh my gosh, that’s the answer to changing my life,’” she says in the show.
The very next morning, she tried it. She set her alarm, per usual, but instead of hitting snooze and sleeping through it, also per usual, she used what she had already started to call “the five-second rule.” When the alarm went off, she counted 5-4-3-2-1 and got out of bed.
“In five seconds, I had won a battle with my anxiety,” she said. “The five-second rule helped me stop thinking about what I needed to do and it gave me the courage to get it done.”
From there, she started using the five-second rule for everything. She started teaching it to other people, and she presented it in a now widely seen TedX talk, “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over,” which has more than 20 million views.
In 2017, she self-published a book based on that concept, “The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work and Confidence with Everyday Courage.” It became the sixth most-read book on Amazon that year and was the top non-fiction book on Audible. In fact, Audible was so impressed with the book’s performance that it signed Robbins to a multi-million deal to develop content for the platform.
With her life back on track, and her business under her control, it’s understandable that Robbins wasn’t interested in turning any of it over to Sony or anyone else.
“I know what I value and I value control,” Robbins said. “I value control over who I am and what I am being asked to do and what I want to say. I was very leery about getting into any situation where I would not be in control.”
But Jacobs was not so easily turned down. She kept reaching out to Robbins.
“Holly assured me that the reason they were reaching out was that in looking at my Instagram account and at my content partnership with Audible, which is unprecedented, they were sure that they could turn what I was talking about into a daytime talk show. She said, ‘we believe the daytime audience deserves this,’” said Robbins.
Jacobs also told Robbins that the viewers would be mostly female, and that instead of a million people possibly watching her content online over the course of a year, a million people or more would be tuning in every day. The opportunity to have that sort of impact appealed to Robbins.
“I am driven by impact,” said Robbins, who is a co-executive producer on the show and was a part of most of the pitch meetings with TV stations. “I am driven by the fact that when we put this on the air, we will have filled a hole in daytime. Once people see the tone of this show and the types of topics it covers, it will become so obvious that this has been missing.”
Robbins was further encouraged when she met Mindy Borman. Jacobs set the two up, thinking they were a perfect match. And Jacobs was not wrong.
Borman is a veteran daytime producer, having worked on ABC’s Good Morning America and The View and having launched SPT’s The Dr. Oz Show in 2009 and executive producing it for the show’s first six years on the air.
“I had left Oz and was taking some time off to be with my little kids. I felt like I was ready to get back in it, and I met with Holly,” said Borman. “Holly told me, ‘I’ve met this woman and she’s really fantastic. Why don’t you take a breakfast with her?’”
Both Borman and Robbins agreed to the meeting.
“I walked into the London Hotel for breakfast, sit down, get my cappuccino and this whirlwind comes in,” Borman recalls. “Within 15 minutes, I’m telling her the deepest stuff. Four hours later, we’re still talking, breakfast is turning into lunch and I knew I was going to do it.”
“It took us about 30 minutes of being together for both of us to be in tears,” said Robbins.
In order for Borman to understand what Robbins was all about, Borman went on the road with her, going out to talk to the people waiting in line.
“I worked the line like a good booker. I just started to listen. It’s not the mechanics of a show, it’s how you reach and make a connection with a guest that makes a star,” said Borman. “There was something authentically happening between Mel and the people that came to hear her speak. We just needed to capture that in the show.”
This past summer, SPT mounted The Mel Robbins Show at the CBS Broadcast Center on the West Side of Manhattan. When the show launches on Monday, it will have 20 episodes in the can.
“My strategy is to find ourselves early, roar in with a sharply defined body of work and be ready to make noise,” said Borman.
In each episode, Robbins talks with a group of women who are seated on comfortable velvet-covered couches in an intimate studio setting. Robbins spends time in the audience, which intentionally feels smaller than the typical talk show with a live studio audience, a la Ellen or Oprah. It’s more like a classroom or group-therapy session than a talk show with a host and guests.
“The front half is more about me coaching and teaching,” said Robbins. “In the second half, we turn the cameras around and I’m in the audience.”
The Mel Robbins Show is cleared on stations from CBS, Cox, Hubbard Broadcasting, Meredith Corp., Nexstar, Scripps, Tribune and Weigel in 90% of the country. The show is sold on an all-barter basis, meaning stations are not paying cash license fees, but both parties will earn revenue based on national and local advertising sold within the show. In today’s challenged daytime environment, it’s likely that ratings for Mel Robbins will be relatively small, at least at the beginning.
But maybe that’s not the point. “You need three things to come together to make a show: a unique, distinctive star; something to say that’s so unique to them; and to launch at a moment in time that is right for that message,” said Borman. “The time is right for Mel Robbins.”