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Tom is celebrating a new piece of business with his colleagues at Stetson’s Steakhouse inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago. He is crushing his quota for the year and the win today will put the territory he manages ahead on the leaderboard. Four months ago, he threw himself into his job at a financial tech company after his wife moved out. It’s been a welcome distraction as he tries to pick up the pieces of his personal life. He turns toward the bartender to order another round, and that’s when he sees her.

She’s standing just across the bar, laughing with her friends. There’s something about her. He can’t quite put his finger on it. He thinks about walking over and talking to her, but he hesitates. He starts to wonder if it’s too soon to put himself out there. He begins to feel uncertain: Would a woman that hot go for a guy with two kids?

Tom has a decision to make and he’ll make it in the next five seconds.

In the amount of time it takes to start walking across a bar, Tom could start to rebuild his life. In the amount of time it takes to raise your hand in a meeting, you can change how you are perceived at work. In the amount of time it takes to open your mouth and compliment someone, you could brighten someone’s day. And if you don’t, the moment will pass, like it did for Blake and now she wants to “kick myself.”

Whatever reason you use to hold yourself back—you are wrong. It’s not safer to stay quiet. It’s not better to keep the peace. It’s not futile to try. It’s not risky. You are wrong. All your excuses and reasons are wrong. There is no “right time” to improve your life. The moment you move you’ll discover your strength. That’s the way to bring the REAL you to the table—by pushing the real you out of your head and into the world. And the best time to do it, is right now when your heart tells you to move.

We waste so much of our lives waiting for the right time to have the conversation, ask for the raise, bring it up, or start things. It reminds me of that famous Wayne Gretzky quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Here’s the thing—you never regret the shots you do take but you always regret holding back. Anthony realized this the hard way:

Life is already hard, yet we make it so much harder when we listen to our fears, we convince ourselves to wait, and we hold our greatest selves back. We all do it. And not just in bars. We hold ourselves back at work, at home, and in our relationships.

The question is, why do we do this? The answer is brutal. You can call it a fear of rejection, or a fear of failure, or a fear of looking bad. The reality is, we hide because we are afraid even to try.

I had a conversation a few months ago with my daughter Kendall that illustrates just how deadly this waiting game can be to your dreams. To give you some background, Kendall is fifteen and a very talented singer. From the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to bed, she’s singing.

Recently, one of her mentors recommended her for an audition with the directors of a musical in New York City. He had placed kids on tour with Les Misérables, Mary Poppins, and Matilda. He thought Kendall had a very good chance of landing a role.

The second the topic came up, she said she “wanted to audition” but never wrote her mentor back about it. I asked her why she was waiting. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to hear how her thoughts and feelings had trapped her. Funny enough, she wasn’t afraid of the audition itself. At least not when she thought about it. It was everything that might happen after the audition.

She said that she didn’t want to try out because, “What if I didn’t make it, Mom? What if I am not as good as I think I am? If I don’t audition, at least I can tell myself that I’m amazing—I’m just too lazy to have what I want.”

Now we were getting somewhere. The fear of sucking, of not being good enough, of feeling like a loser—none of us wants to face that reality. So we avoid it like the plague. I actually do it with exercise. I can pretend I’m in decent shape as long as I avoid it. The moment I hit the gym I have to face reality. And the reality is that within two minutes of running on a treadmill, I have to go the bathroom and I’m out of breath. I’m not in great shape at all. I have a lot of work to do. That’s why we dodge challenges—to protect our egos, even if it means eliminating the possibility of getting what we want.

I listened to Kendall talk about her fear that she wasn’t good enough, and then asked her one simple question:

“What If You’re Wrong?”

It’s a powerful question, and we don’t ask it nearly enough. What if you’re wrong? What if you audition and you really are as good as everyone says? What if your idea actually is the next million-dollar business? What if you not only meet your quota again this year, but you also actually surpass it? What if being single isn’t as scary as you think and your true soulmate is just days away from bumping into you? Are you really going to let your worries stop you from doing the work, having the love life, and being your greatest self? You damn well better not.

And even if you do suck—there’s another thing you can say to yourself:

So What!?

So what if you suck? At least you tried. As far as I’m concerned landing the role is irrelevant. Just like the woman Tom saw at the bar is irrelevant. The only thing relevant is you. The power is inside of you. The only way you access that power is pushing yourself to try. The greatest you shows up at the audition, walks up to the gal or guy at the bar, and raises their hand and their voice at work.

You’ll never stop yourself from starting to worry about something. But you can stop yourself from letting those worries drag you into a parade of worries that take control of your mind. You can assert yourself and push yourself to think about something empowering. You step back into the present moment and go for what you want. And you can do it in five seconds flat.

We are all guilty of thinking about getting involved but not doing it. We’re all waiting “for the right time.” It’s total stupidity. In a recent survey, 85% of professional services employees admitted they were withholding critical feedback from their bosses. Why? You already know the answer—they’re waiting for the “right time.” The same is true for your kids, your spouse, your friends, and your colleagues.

All human beings are wired this way. One of the most insightful and enlightening aspects of Adam Grant’s incredible book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World is when he describes how some our greatest heroes are just like us in this simple regard: they hesitated, doubted themselves, and almost missed the opportunities of their lifetimes because they didn’t feel ready. I find it reassuring to know that the people we admire most needed to be pushed through their fears, excuses, and feelings, just like you and me.

You know Michelangelo, the artist who painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome? There’s a backstory you might not know. According to Grant, when the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel in 1506, Michelangelo felt so overwhelmed with self-doubt that he not only wanted to wait, but he also actually fled to Florence and hid. The Pope had to stalk Michelangelo and pester him for two years to get him to agree to paint it.

Want to hear another one? How about one related to Apple? In 1977, when an investor offered Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak funding to launch Apple, Wozniak felt so afraid and uncertain he wanted to “wait a while” before he quit his job. He didn’t feel ready. He was pushed by “Jobs, multiple friends, and his own parents” to make the leap.

Remember the stories in the last chapter about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr admitting he would have declined the nomination to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association “had he thought it through”? Or Rosa Parks’ admission that she never thought “she would be the one to do this”? In the moment, neither one of them stopped to think. They didn’t wait to feel ready. That’s what we all need to do. We are all capable of greatness. I believe that. It is our feelings and fears that convince us now is not the right time and keep us from achieving greatness.

Grant then writes this line in his book, which made my heart feel heavy: “We can only imagine how many Wozniaks, Michelangelos, and Kings never pursued, publicized, or promoted their original ideas because they were not dragged or catapulted into the spotlight.” The question to ask yourself is this one: What Are You Waiting For?

Are you waiting for someone to ask you, drag you, pick you, or catapult you into the spotlight, or are you willing to find the courage to push yourself? Are you waiting to feel ready? Waiting for the right time. Waiting to gain confidence. Waiting to feel like it. Waiting to feel worthy. Waiting until you have more experience.

Sometimes there is no next time, no second chance, or no time out. Stop waiting. It’s now or never. When you wait, you aren’t procrastinating. You are doing something more dangerous. You are deliberately convincing yourself “now is not the time.” You are actively working against your dreams.

Paula could have convinced herself that she would “never qualify” for a great job opportunity. She would have been very wrong.

I just applied for a job I never thought I would qualify for because I figured, “why not just try it?” I didn’t focus on my shortcomings but emphasized my qualities and got the job. Previously I would have forgotten about it after 5 seconds and not even tried by the way ;–) –Paula

By “emphasizing her qualities” instead of focusing on her shortcomings, Paula was able to push past her fears and land the job.

You may think you’re protecting yourself from judgment, rejection, or upsetting someone, but when you make excuses and talk yourself into waiting, you are limiting your ability to make your dreams come true. I’m amazed by how much time I’ve wasted in my life waiting for the right time, waiting until I’m sure, waiting until I think my work is perfect, or waiting until I feel like it.

You may be afraid of finding out that you suck, like my daughter was. Let me tell you what really sucks: being older and regretting that you never went for it. Being 30 and realizing you let fear of what your friends thought keep you from ever really putting yourself out there when you were younger. Friends, by the way, who you never talk to anymore. Being 56 and realizing you should have divorced your spouse ten years ago. Being 45 and wishing you had had the courage to take on a project at work that you now realize would have changed the trajectory of your career. Or sitting in college classes earning a degree to please your parents when knowing in your heart that you want to be doing something else with your life.

There is no right time. There is only right now. You get one life. This is it. And it’s not going to begin again. It’s up to you to push yourself to make the most of it and the time to do it is right now.

You Validate Your Ideas By Pursuing Them

It’s heartbreaking to hear from so many of you with a creative idea or product concept that are waiting for someone else to validate it. It’s so sad because waiting for validation will be the death of your dreams. If you have an idea for a show or a book, and you are waiting for an executive at a TV network or a publishing house to pick you, you will lose. It’s like Tom in the bar hoping his soulmate will just walk up to him and pick him. Or me waiting until I felt motivated to wake up and get out of bed. Waiting until you are ready will not make it happen. The world doesn’t work that way.

The world rewards those who are courageous enough to stop waiting and start. If you dream of being on television, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the TV executive you hope discovers you is actually on YouTube right now looking for someone who didn’t wait. The person who has the courage to start, create, and put themselves and their ideas out there is the one who will win.

The only difference between that idea for a novel you want to write and British author E.L. James who wrote the blockbuster Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy (that was devoured by nearly every woman on the planet Earth and sold a million copies in four days) is the fact that she didn’t wait for permission, the right time, or to feel ready. She didn’t wait until she had a book deal. In fact, she started writing erotica on a Twilight-themed blog! She found the courage to start in small ways, and put herself out there over and over until she built the confidence to write a book. And Fifty Shades of Gray was that book. It was self-published by a working mom who wrote in her free time. Yup.

By the way, that’s also how Grammy award-winning musician Ed Sheeran got discovered. He was 15 years old playing songs in a park in England with no permit and no guarantee that anyone would notice. That’s how you do it. You push yourself to get out of your comfort zone and you begin. There is no other way. You stop waiting for “the right time” and you start. That’s how award-winning Broad City landed its hit show on Comedy Central. They acted with courage and started filming 3-minute clips on an iPhone and posting them on YouTube.

And every single YouTube star, from Tyler Oakley, to make-up tutorial phenom Michelle Phan, to “My Drunk Kitchen” host Hannah Hart, to Minecraft narrator “Stampy Cat,” will tell you that if they had told themselves to wait until they felt ready or until they had a sponsor, they would still be living a boring life instead creating a life of their dreams and laughing all the way to the bank.

Waiting, thinking, and “almost doing it” don’t count. As Kyra explains, to change anything you actually have to do it. #AlmostDoesntCount

The difference between people who make their dreams come true and those of us who don’t is just one thing: the courage to start and the discipline to keep going. The Rule is a game-changer because it 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 forces you to get out of your head and start and it’ll 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 help you keep going.

And that brings us back to Tom at the bar in the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Will he start walking toward the girl across the room or decide to wait? Well…that depends. It depends on who is making the decision for Tom. Will it be Tom’s heart that makes the decision or his head? Will it be Tom’s dreams that win or will it be his fears? Rosa Parks offers some amazing advice for moments like this one—Tom needs to do what “must be done.” Tom knows in his heart what must be done. He needs to start living again.

Waiting won’t help. Waiting will only make it worse. When you sit with fear and uncertainty your mind makes it expand; it’s called “the spotlight effect” and it’s one of the many tricks your brain plays in an attempt to keep you “safe.”

The fear Tom feels is real. The uncertainty is scary. The self-doubt can be crippling. No one wants to be rejected or feel like a fool. No one wants to find out that they “suck.”

That’s why the moment right before you walk into a networking meeting, a party, an interview, a cafeteria, or start walking toward someone you find attractive, it can feel daunting. We think about what could go wrong or how awkward it will feel if no one welcomes us, instead of all the possibilities.

But safety isn’t what Tom wants. Tom wants to rebuild his life and find love again and that’s going to take courage. As scary as it is taking that first step to the other side of the bar, Tom is about to discover that all the magic, wonder, and joy in life happens the moment he does.

You can feel uncertain and be ready. You can be afraid and do it anyway. You can fear rejection and still go for it.

Five Seconds of Courage Changes Everything

Tom starts counting to himself, “5- 4- 3-…” and by the time he gets to 2, he starts walking across the room. He has no idea what he’ll say to her. His heart is racing, but for the first time in a long time he doesn’t feel numb, he feels alive. The closer he gets to her, the more his heart races. She turns around just as he reaches her. What happens next is…irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter what happens because she either becomes his soulmate or she doesn’t. The ending of the story is irrelevant—the only thing that matters is the beginning of the story, that Tom made a choice to begin living again. That’s how you listen to your heart. Whether you are starting to date again, starting a company, or starting a YouTube channel, you must find the courage to start.

Notice how we desperately want an assurance that Tom “got the girl.” It makes for a great movie plot, but “getting the girl” isn’t the point. Life isn’t a Nicholas Sparks novel. Life is gritty and hard and then suddenly it is brilliant and amazing. Besides, the girl could be engaged. She could be gay. She could be a real bitch. Even if she’s amazing and they end up having crazy hot sex or go on to get married, “the girl” is not the source of power in the story. Tom is.

The treasure in your life is buried within you. It’s not inside of someone else. Tom is the source of power in his life and you are the source of power in yours. You unlock that power when you listen to your instincts and 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 push yourself to honor them. When you discover your “inner true self” it will be the “most important gift of all.”

Jean-Baptiste also saw this. He wrote to me that he realized “that nobody was going to come and get me to live the life that I want to live and that taking action is the only way to create my own space into the world.”

Just as Jean-Baptiste said, I also “believe that everybody could bring something new and original to the world we live in.” The potential for massive greatness exists inside every single one of us.

The way that you activate the power of you is by finding the courage you need every single day to push yourself forward. When you listen to your instincts (“get up and face the day, Mel,” “suck it up and start walking, Tom,” “take care of your nephews, Catherine,” “don’t give up your seat, Rosa”)—it’s clear what you must do.

There is no debate when you follow what’s inside your heart. The only thing that will quiet the chatter in your head is a decision to move. As I said in the very beginning of the book, you really are just one decision away from a completely different life.

We are all so afraid of uncertainty that we want a guarantee before we even try. We want evidence that if we take a risk we will “get the girl” too. Even if Tom gets the girl, it’s not proof that you will. “Getting the girl” or “the guy,” for that matter, is a numbers game. To play any game, you have to start. To win, you’ll need to keep going. If you want to make your dreams come true, get ready for the long game.

Life is not a one-and-done sort of deal. You’ve got to work for what you want. Do you know the game Angry Birds? Rovio, the brand that created the game, launched 51 unsuccessful games before they developed Angry Birds. How about The Avengers star Mark Ruffalo? Do you know how many auditions he did before he landed his first role? Almost 600! Even Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. My favorite vacuum cleaner is a Dyson. And there’s no wonder why it doesn’t suck at sucking up the dirt. James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes! What? And this last one will blow your mind. Picasso created nearly 100 masterpieces in his lifetime. But what most people don’t know is that he created a total of more than 50,000 works of art.

Did you see the last number? 50,000. That’s two pieces of art a day. Success is a numbers game. And you’re not going to win it if you keep telling yourself to wait. The more often that you choose courage, the more likely you’ll succeed.

When you 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 push yourself forward you’ll discover the magic in your life and you open yourself up to the world, to opportunity, and to possibility. You might not get the girl, the part, or the response you wanted but that’s not the point. In the end, you’ll get something way cooler—you’ll discover the power inside of you.

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