Waiting to watch a YouTube clip, I impatiently place my finger on the mouse, ready for that moment when I can click “Skip Ad” and start my video.
I recently wondered what advertisers hope to gain in the five seconds we are forced to wait before the “Skip Ad” option is available. Can we really be persuaded to do or buy something in that amount of time?
Apparently, we can. Skeptical? Even the Torah discusses the power of a few moments. When Rabbi Akiva was 40 years old, he transformed his entire life based on a sudden flash of insight. Sitting by a brook, he saw drops of water slowly falling upon a rock and realized, to his utter amazement, that the water had actually formed a hole in it.
Rabbi Akiva thought to himself: “If soft water can bore a hole in hard rock, surely the strength of Torah can pierce my heart.” Those few seconds of meditation were a turning point in Rabbi Akiva’s life. Previously an ignoramus who didn’t even know the Alef Beit, he began to study and went on to become one of the greatest sages of all time.
Brief moments hold more power than we realize, and we should regard them as seriously as advertisers do. In this spirit, I present to you my five favorite five-seconds-or-less mantras, which I believe carry the potential to persuade and change us:
- If I were were you, I would be you: Rabbi Zalmen Mindell coined this phrase and explains it as follows: If I were your age – with your personality, experiences, life, and income – I would be doing exactly what you are doing right now.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of judging others, but when we realize that people are people and everyone is doing what can be expected considering his or her individual life circumstances, our critical voices grow quiet. Repeating this phrase helps us give others the benefit of the doubt and can stop potential lashon hara in its tracks.
- sw3/n: This formula, which I learned from my father-in-law, stands for: “Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!” It’s great to keep in mind when facing any number of difficult situations (or people). The ability to move on and tenaciously hold on to one’s focus is shared by every successful person I have had the honor of interviewing. They all believe rejection is part of the road to success, and when one door closes, a better one will open.
Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!
- This is hard, but I can do it: One evening, as I was watching my daughter struggle with her homework, she paused and said in a singsong voice, “This is hard, but I can do it.” Sure enough, with a little help she was able to get through it.
Rabbi Shay Schachter once interviewed a woman diagnosed with Angioedema, which caused her entire body to swell up randomly. Without an injection of an epipen within four seconds of inflammation, she could die.
She said to Rabbi Schachter: “Is my life hard? Yes. Do I have challenges? Certainly. But hard is not bad. It’s just hard.”
If this woman can say these words, surely when we can manage the simple frustrations of life – when the kids are crying, dinner isn’t ready, or everything feels a bit out of control. “This is hard, but I can do it.”
- I’m strong enough to hold these feelings: Bursts of strong emotion often present themselves like waves – with a spike in intensity which then dissipates. Our minds are capable of so much more than we realize. We are strong enough to hold a range of emotions, and allow them to pass.
I often think of this phrase when igniting a match to light Shabbos candles. Just like a match has an initial spark which then burns out, so do our emotions. For example, anger can be ignited in an instant, and then be gone just as quickly. Just like the match can handle the flame, so can we.
- This is why I’m here: Do you feel like your child will never stop crying? Waiting for your spouse to get ready, and it’s taking longer than expected? Is your child asking for your attention when all you want to do is escape into your phone?
Well… This is why I’m here.
Our patience is tested countless times and frustration has the opportunity to build. But with a slight shift in perspective, moments of annoyance can become spiritual opportunities. We were all created to become kind and selfless people, so these difficult times are actually why we were put on earth. They are vehicles of growth in disguise.