The Power of the 5-Second Rule

Hard to believe it’s already been a year since I stood before a room full of screaming 5th graders. My summer gig as a teacher had me schlepping books from one Bay Area town to the next, all in an effort to get kids to fall in love with classic literature.

Looking back, it was a challenging time but a deeply rewarding one. Funny how one invariably precedes the other.

One of the biggest reservations I had about the job was having to conduct something called “Desk Talks.” When a student failed to get settled after two warnings, we were instructed to speak one-on-one to put the brakes on the disruptive behavior.

To say I was not looking forward to “Desk Talks” would be a gross understatement. Though I’m not afraid to stand my ground on issues I think are important, I’m generally not a fan of confrontation.

My hunch is that most people aren’t.

But on top of speaking with students, we also had to relay any outbursts the kids had to their folks. It was another responsibility I wanted to avoid like the plague.

But as the weeks went on, a funny thing started to happen. The more I taught the more my confidence grew. I gradually fell into a groove, learned to take command of the class, and even met conflicts head-on.

How did I make the transformation in just a few short weeks?

I implemented something called, “The 5-second rule.” It was a concept we learned during our 5-week training.

The idea is simple.

When there’s something you know you should do but your mind starts to persuade you to steer clear, you go to the fear anyway. Waiting allows the fear to breathe, to grow, and eventually take a life of its own.

Once this happens it becomes less likely you’ll address the problem.

This doesn’t mean we should be cavalier when approaching more nuanced obstacles, but that we don’t allow fear to run the show. It can come for the ride but it doesn’t get to drive.

Suffocate its power by shortening its lifespan. You’ll find it often dissipates once you’re mobilized.

Just remember not to wait and to GO TO THE FEAR.

Visit Nick at

Nick is a teacher, writer, and filmmaker. His mission is to empower through stories and lessons learned. Visit Nick at .
Nick is a teacher, writer, and filmmaker. His mission is to empower through stories and lessons learned. Visit Nick at .

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