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Welcome to episode 124 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with UJ Ramdas from Intelligent Change about why you should start gratitude journaling, the benefits of meditation, and how to cultivate awe.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Phil Pallen about refining your brand, strengthening your social media presence, and considering your audience’s needs. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
If you’re interested in the self-improvement space, you’ve probably read about the power of having a morning routine. That’s exactly why UJ helped start Intelligent Change and the Five Minute Journal.
The Five Minute Journal is designed to help you make positive changes in just five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. UJ believes that the Five Minute Journal is a simple way to focus on the good, become more mindful, and live with intention. Learn how you can apply the principles in your own life today.
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Bjork Ostrom: Hey. This is the intro to the intro. Before we jump into today’s podcast interview with UJ Ramdas, I wanted to let you know that it’s an exciting time here at Food Blogger Pro because it’s open enrollment. What does that mean? What is Food Blogger Pro? Well, you know the podcast, but we’re also a membership site. We have a community of well over 2,500 food bloggers and general bloggers, it’s not just food bloggers, from around the world that want to take some of the things that we talk about on this podcast into other areas on Pinch of Yum, on Food Blogger Pro blog and go a little bit deeper with it. That’s the membership side of Food Blogger Pro.
The membership side is a community forum. We have lots of tools and resources and we have over 300 tutorial videos. We also do a monthly live Q & A, where we break down specific areas of building a blog and building a brand online and what we’ve found is that people really get a lot of value out of their Food Blogger Pro membership. If you want to check it out, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com and that will have all of the information you need to sign up. It’s really important to know that there’s no contracts or you don’t have to stay signed up for three years at a time. You can come and go as you want. There’s no pressure and we also have a 60-day refund policy.
If you get in, you get a feel for it and you say, “Hey. This isn’t for me,” I don’t think that’ll be true, but just so you know, we have that refund policy available. You can check that out foodbloggerpro.com. Take a look around. I think what you’ll find is that the value that you’ll get out of it if you apply what you’re learning will be immediately paid back as you grow your blog and as you grow your business. Just wanted to do that quick plug. It’s only for one week that we’re doing open enrollment, so if you want to check it out, now is the time.
All right. Let’s jump in to the official podcast. In this episode, we talk to you UJ Ramdas about the most important daily routines for entrepreneurs. Small changes that can have a big impact and specific examples of why meditation is a beneficial practice.
Hey there, everybody. Bjork Ostrom here and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast and today we are interviewing UJ Ramdas. UJ is the co-creator of The Five Minute Journal and the co-founder of a company called Intelligent Change. For those of you that aren’t familiar with The Five Minute Journal is kind of a journal for people that don’t like to journal. That would include myself. We’re going to talk about specifics of what it is and how it works, but the basic idea is that it’s a time for you to set aside just a couple minutes every day at the start of the day and in the end of the day to do some intentional journaling.
Psychologically, the impact that that can have can be very beneficial when you take time to point out the things that you’re grateful for or do kind of declarative statements of who you are, “I am.” For instance, this morning I wrote down in my Five Minute Journal I said, “I am somebody who cares about other people.” In writing that it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You say, “I care about other people and I go forward throughout the day thinking about how I am somebody that cares about other people and try to put that into practice.” I also write down things I’m grateful for and, at the end of the day, write down incredible things that happened that day. T
hat’s just an example of one of the products that Intelligent Change makes, The Five Minute Journal. They also have some other products, which UJ’s going to about, but the basic idea behind intelligent change is how can we as people, and in this specific instance, bloggers and entrepreneurs, how can we put practices in our life that help to make us better versions of ourselves. UJ is going to be talking about some of those practices in the podcast interview today.
One of the things that I’ve found to be really true about entrepreneurs or creators or artists or bloggers, if we want to get specific, is that there has to be a certain mindset that you adapt and you have to have some mental filters that you view the world through and mental frameworks that help you understand the world and a lot of the things that UJ is going to be talking about are things that we can apply to the work that we do each and every day in order to give us the endurance to sustain us as we continue in our work. It’s a really important interview that I’m really excited to share with you. Let’s go ahead and jump in. UJ, welcome to the podcast.
UJ Ramdas: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’m excited to talk to you because you have a background, an expertise in a lot of things that I’m really interested in, but I don’t have an expertise in. Those things range from positive psychology to productivity, but it all kind of goes back to or is under the umbrella of this company called Intelligent Change that you’re the co-founder of. Can you talk a little bit about Intelligent Change? How do those two words go together and fit within the business that you’ve built?
UJ Ramdas: Well, I think it’s at the core of a lot of what we do. I think it’s easy to want change. We’re all humans. We all want to be better in some way. It’s how we’re able to get to where we want to go, but really thinking about, “Okay. What is it I want to do? What are the things that we know for sure are ways to get there and building elegant solutions and elegant tools to be able to get there.” That’s really the foundation of everything we do. It’s the foundation of the first product we had with The Five Minute Journals, the foundation of the Productivity Planner. Pretty much everything we do is, “Hey, how do we make this beautiful and simple so we can do it?” Right?
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
UJ Ramdas: It didn’t start by us wanting to do it for other people. We were like, “How do we do this for ourselves like we want it?” Once we brought it out and then we realized, “Okay, whoa. Okay. A lot of people want this, so let’s just make a bunch and make a business out of something that we really care about.”
Bjork Ostrom: Can you take me back to when you realized that it was something, you had said, “This was something that we wanted.” Where were you in your life? Where was that time when you said, “Hey. I know that this is something that I want. I want change in my life and I want to implement that.” What was the catalyst for you? A certain life event, was it something that you’d always practiced? I’d love to know.
UJ Ramdas: Well, it’s a big kind of reason why I do a lot of the things I do. I think we all have in some way a driving force. Something that brings us here and keeps us engaged and fascinated. This kind of stuff has always fascinated me. In bringing things to life that makes people’s lives better, it’s such a hugely important thing. It’s something that me and my co-founder Alex and his wife, Mimi strongly believe in. It’s something that I’m really happy to bring out and as we grow we can see the joy and the love and the engagement that people have with our team. When we do events people come up to us and it’s a really gratifying feeling-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Absolutely.
UJ Ramdas: … to be able to do this.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The first product you have, you had mentioned The Five Minute Journal. It’s kind of a fun story where you were journaling, you were doing gratitude journaling and then said, “How can we make this accessible?” You had talked about elegant solutions. “How can we create an elegant solution, make it accessible for people,” and you came up with The Five Minute Journal. Another kind of fun side story with that is it was picked up by Tim Ferriss, who’s a really popular person in the startup world and the productivity world. Essentially, it fit perfectly with the target market that you are going for. Can you talk about what gratitude journaling is and take me back to when The Five Minute Journal was just an idea and how that came about?
UJ Ramdas: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, gratitude journaling is the simple act of putting pen to paper about things that are good in your life. Things that are working, things that are pleasant things that are moving you forward. It’s actually quite interesting. There is research to show that even the simple writing of three things that you are grateful for, for a period of six weeks, can improve your … The amount of time you exercise. It can improve your mood and optimism and improve something called prosocial behavior, which is when people think that you’re doing things for them to help them. It improve helpfulness, essentially. This is something that we’ve known from science for some time now. I think the study was in the early 2000s. Yet, I used to do this kind of journaling practice that took a little longer. It took about maybe 10, maybe 20 minutes. I told all my friends about it. I’ve been doing it for years and not a single person took me up on the offer. Not a single one.
Then Alex and I decided to make this thing that makes it a lot easier for people to get started. We have an introduction and a beautifully linen-bound, it was well designed and it made the process as simple for people as possible.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Idea being you spend five minutes journaling every day split up into a morning session and an evening session. Can you talk about kind of the general structure of how that works? Then, maybe just as importantly not the structure, but why specifically that’s important. You talked a little bit about the research, but what does that look like tangibly for people that listen to this podcast, people that are creatives, they’re working, they’re needing to stay engaged and motivated in their work every day? Why could something like The Five Minute Journal be beneficial?
UJ Ramdas: The Five Minute Journal is like a toothbrush for your mind. Right?
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
UJ Ramdas: It’s something you do as soon as you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed. Just like a tooth brush it wicks away the negativity that accumulates during your day as it happens and it provides a structure that people on their own time need. It’s really important for them to be able to say, “Okay. This is the start of my day,” and in those few precious minutes what they’re able to do is set a compass for the day, set the direction of the day in what’s truly important for them to do for themselves. There’s a great question in The Five Minute Journal. That ones actually my favorite, which is, “What would make today great?”
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
UJ Ramdas: What can we do to make the day great? That presupposes the day’s going to be great. It presupposes that you are going to make the day great and, ultimately, it presupposes that you are responsible for your own happiness, which is a profound idea that moves into action when you answer the question and follow through on it. It’s a powerful practice. It’s five questions. You have three questions in the morning, just like a toothbrush. Well, you don’t have questions with a toothbrush, but you do it in the morning and you do it at night. You have two questions at night and it’s really simple to do.
We’ve moved several hundred thousand of these journals and the one thing that we get told, consistently, is in the first few days people start doing this … and this is a very simple process, we share the format online, so this is not something we want to keep private or we want to keep proprietary. What we want to do is we want to share the idea that is a really cool thing that we want to do, that you can do too, and we just make it really easy for you to do.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. It reminds me a lot of … There’s a Zig Ziglar quote and he talks about motivation, which obviously isn’t exactly the same, but I feel like it ties in and I think about this often, but he says, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last,” and then he says, “Well, neither do showers and that’s why we recommend it daily.”
UJ Ramdas: Yeah. That’s a good one.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that same thing could be said for gratitude or the habits that you can have. Obviously, Five Minute Journal is gratitude-focused. Productivity Planner, which is another product that you have is more, obviously, productivity-focused, but the idea being that it’s something that needs to happen on a daily basis and you had mentioned some of those benefits of it. The benefits of gratitude and how that can impact your life and your work. There’s actually a great article that you had linked to on Intelligent Change website, that we’ll link to as well, but it talks about a lot of the benefits of gratitude and how that impacts all of the different areas of our life, including work, but also relationships, our general health, and these are all things, I would assume that can come out of the habit of spending 5 or 10 minutes reflecting with an attitude of gratitude.
UJ Ramdas: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bjork Ostrom: For me, I’ve found that to be true. It’s been a really beneficial thing. Maybe in the same way as brushing your teeth, like if I forget to brush my teeth in the morning, I think about it throughout the entire day and the same thing can be said for my morning routine, which includes going through The Five Minute Journal. If I don’t do that, I can feel that throughout the day. It’s definitely a weightiness to that. It feels like … I want to go brush my teeth.
UJ Ramdas: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know exactly what you mean. It’s like the icky feeling. Everybody listening, I’m sure they’ve had the experience of going through some day and forgetting to brush their teeth. It happens. Right? It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. Sometimes you’re rushing, sometimes you need to get from point A to point B and there’s that weird icky feeling in your mouth. Then there is also that fear that you have bad breath.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right. Right.
UJ Ramdas: So you don’t get too close to people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: It’s interesting you brought that up because it’s very similar with morning routines, or let’s say, The Five Minute Journal. Once you get into the habit, once you actually … learn that within just a few days you’ll … it produces a nice lift in mood, within a few weeks it’ll add to your life in such a way that not doing it is going to seem awkward or weird or different. Not different from not brushing your teeth.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’m really fascinated by routines. Specifically, I think the morning is a really important time, but also just routines in general. The things that people do on a consistent basis and how that impacts the work that they do, who they are, their relationships. I would assume with your work with Intelligent Change, as well as the other products that have come out of that, that you get exposed to a lot of people that have interesting routines or that are really intentional in how they’re living their life. I’d love to hear you talk about maybe some of those stories that you’ve heard of how people are doing that, but more importantly, how you personally have taken those things that you’ve learned from other people and your studies and research around positive psychology and applied that to your own life. What does your morning routine look like?
UJ Ramdas: It’s quite straightforward. I wake up and the aim is to do The Five Minute Journal as soon as you wake up.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
UJ Ramdas: I keep it within arms reach. The idea is to have the first thought be gratitude. Again, that’s an idea. It takes time to build, but once it’s built it’s a really, really cool thing to have the first thought of your day be gratitude. Do that. I walk out of the bathroom. I take a cold shower.
Bjork Ostrom: Why a cold shower?
UJ Ramdas: About three years ago I was in a pretty major motorcycle accident. I nearly killed myself, essentially.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, wow.
UJ Ramdas: Just I made a mistake. I miscalculated a specific road. I was in Bali, Indonesia. Long story, but good news is I’m back and I’m fully functional, which is amazing after about six months of rehab and surgeries and things like that. Something I came across was the power of cold showers and the impact it has, not just on your hormonal health in your lymph system, but also your mood and your testosterone. It’s also really good for the body. You feel a noticeable change, emotionally, after. You feel great. I realize the only reason I wasn’t taking a cold shower is because I was too comfortable.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
UJ Ramdas: It’s the only reason.
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds terrible.
UJ Ramdas: It’s the only reason because I’d come off of so much pain and so much discomfort. It wasn’t so bad.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: I realized it was a lot more efficient-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, because you get in and get out.
UJ Ramdas: … five, six minutes tops. Regular showers take forever.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: Now I barely take a hot shower. If I take a hot shower, I need to nap after because I’m just … It just … me out.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, wow. Interesting. I’m going to try it this week. I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.
UJ Ramdas: Yeah and give it five days. Give it five days. You’ll need music in the beginning to get you going.
Bjork Ostrom: “Eye of the Tiger,” kind of pump up music.
UJ Ramdas: There we go. There we go. Please yourself. I don’t know. That’ll get you there. Once you’re into the routine and you’ll actually feel great. You’ll feel fantastic.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool.
UJ Ramdas: That’s what keeps me having cold showers. I know I’m going to walk out of there. It doesn’t matter how I feel when I turn the faucet on. I know when I leave I’m going to feel fantastic. That’s why I keep doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
UJ Ramdas: Then I meditate for a bit. Then I’ll finish up. I’ll plan my day in terms of what the meetings are, day flow. I’ll head out usually around 7 o’clock in the morning. I work from 7 to 9 to just take care of the stuff I need to take care of before other people start …
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
UJ Ramdas: It’s a great couple of hours. I’m able to do stuff in those two hours that I’m usually not able to do-
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about meditation? What does that look like and how would you advise people that have never gone through the practice of meditating to do that? What are some of the benefits?
UJ Ramdas: Yeah. I’ve been meditating for a while. I’ve been meditating for 10 plus years. This is an important part of my life. The way I think about it, I don’t actually recommend meditation for everybody. I don’t believe it is for everybody. It think it is for some people. I think everybody has a meditation. What I mean by that is, I have a good friend who can’t sit still. He just can’t, but you see him, he surfs every day from 4 AM to 6 AM.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, cool.
UJ Ramdas: Two hours. He lives by the beach specifically for this. You see him coming off of a couple hours of a surf session and you know he’s been to the same place that I go to when I meditate. He’s able to find meditation in that outlet.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: That is his meditation. I believe everybody’s got their meditation. It might not be meditation.
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
UJ Ramdas: But you have a way to get yourself to that place where there is an experience of awe. There’s an experience of wonder and a present moment joy.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: Which is the closest I can come to describe it. It’s powerful stuff. Tim Ferriss talks about it. It’s on his podcast. A pretty consistent theme in all the high performers that he talks to is meditation. It could be … I do have a pretty simple practice. It’s really following your breath. I’m sure you’ve heard this. This is not the first time. I’m sharing this with you. It doesn’t sound like it’s a complicated thing, but it’s in the practice. That’s where stuff comes up and you realize how neurotic or brains really are.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you really. I’ve been using, for the past, this is maybe a year and a half, the guided mediation app, so I use Headspace.
UJ Ramdas: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bjork Ostrom: Because I was interested in it, in a similar way heard a lot of people talking about it, so I was really curious, what does this look like, but also knew that I would need some type of structure for that to happen. Much like The Five Minute Journal was structured journaling for me, Headspace is structured mediation and mindfulness.
UJ Ramdas: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: For me, I think what it’s allowed me to do is to … I think, like you said, you realize how incredibly active our brains are. For me, I’ve realized that and to try and slow down and just be present to those things has had a really big impact. Even today, I was thinking about that as I was at the eye doctor. I’m sitting there as my eyes are being dilated and the nurse or person that was helping was typing some things in and trying to be mindful throughout the day. Being really present to the sounds in the room and just being at peace in that place and not … Trying to have a little bit of awareness of my thoughts. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that if I hadn’t been as intentional in doing the meditation. It’s interesting to hear you talk about that.
One of the things that I feel like I’m not as familiar with that I would love to hear you talk about a little bit more is the idea of awe and how that plays into mediation and why that’s an important concept to have.
UJ Ramdas: Well, I think the aim of meditation is to first focus continually on one object or be continually aware of an object. That could be your breath. It could be a point in your body. It could be your thoughts, whatever. Once a certain focus is established, there is movement from that to a state of no mind, where there’s just pure present moment awareness that is clean, that is unfiltered, unobstructed. We’ve all had these experiences, again. We’ve all had the experience when we looked at a sunset and it took our breath away. We saw a newborn baby, maybe your own, and it took our breath away.
These experiences are innately human. The one thing that people tend to forget or not realize is that those circumstances don’t need to happen for that experience to be manifest. Right? That experience of awe is a property. It’s a state of the human mind. It’s a state of the human being. I believe the cultivation of awe is an incredibly important thing that doesn’t get talked about often.
Bjork Ostrom: I really like that a lot and I connect on deep level. What I heard you saying was, in experiencing these moments, whether it be a sunset, whether it be holding your child, that you are experiencing awe, you are experiencing wonder and knowing that it doesn’t have to be bound to that specific time and place, that it can be created and accessed outside of that specific moment. Is that a version of what you’re saying?
UJ Ramdas: Yeah. That’s exactly it. It’s something that can be practiced. It’s something that can be cultivated, not unlike how you learned to tie your shoelaces a long time ago. The cultivation of awe is a real thing. The cultivation of present moment awareness is a real thing. That’s what meditation is. It is the experience of allowing your awareness to interface freely with the present moment.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). One of the things that I’d be interested to hear you talk about is taking these concepts of gratitude journaling, meditation, being really intentional with your morning and allowing that to be what steers your day. What does that look like for people that we’re speaking to, people that are building businesses that are creatives, that are in the world of … A lot of the people are building businesses online and how can they leverage something like this in order to help them with these pursuits that they have after 9 o’clock as they tip into the “normal work day.” How does the first part of their day help the rest of their day?
UJ Ramdas: Well, it sets the rudder. It sets the direction for your day. For me, after 9 o’clock … Between 7 and 9, I get important work done. After 9 it’s, now it’s open. Now I’m open to whatever the day might bring because there’s a layer of protection. There’s a layer of energy that I have, that I’m just moving through. An example that I give sometimes, and it’s a different kind of metaphor, but I feel a bit vulnerable, I feel a bit naked when I go through the day without my morning routine or let’s say I’m not able to get my morning 7 to 9 session in because now I feel vulnerable to whatever the day’s going to throw at me. I’m less present. I’m less able to react calmly and appropriately. I’m less able to feel fully myself.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I can relate to that and when you said your 7 to 9 routine. Would that be the morning routine that you do in terms of getting ready for the day, meditation or is that like the post-
UJ Ramdas: No. I guess Cal Newport will call it a deep work session.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Can you explain Cal Newport, who he is and what his background is for those that aren’t familiar.
UJ Ramdas: Yeah. Cal Newport is a really cool author. He’s I think a professor of computer science. He’s an academic, but he’s written some great stuff and he’s got a great blog online, I think called Study Habits. His most recent book is my favorite one, which is called Deep Work. It talks about the importance of blocking out a few hours of time every day, ideally, to do your most important work. The idea that a lot of what our current times is preventing us from doing, phones, and notifications and apps and things of that nature, is to focus for a few hours on important stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: I really believe it’s one of the most … If people are able to figure out how to focus, myself included, which I struggle with, I think it can be one of the most competitive advantages that you have as a creator. Not even competitive advantage, but one of the strongest multipliers of the work that you’re doing. I think that as the world becomes more chaotic and as we get more pulled into and engaged in other areas that are trying to vie for our attention, the ability to focus and it sounds funny, like you said, for two hours or three hours, it doesn’t sound like that should be too hard, but to think of a time when I really sat down for three hours and focused on one thing for that entire time, I don’t know if I could say when that would be. I can’t look back and say, “There’s a time where I was just doing thing this for three hours,” which is really revealing and I think it’s challenging for me to hear myself say that.
UJ Ramdas: For what it’s worth, something I will tell you to I guess make yourself feel better because this helped me-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’ll take it.
UJ Ramdas: … is it took a while. It takes a while. It takes probably months, maybe years for you to get a consistent routine down where you’re able to pump out or sit down and do the most important work even once a day. I have friends who are older than I am and they’ve been in business, let’s say, 20 plus years and they’ll tell me in confidence, “UJ, I’ve been in business for this long. I heard about this, this one thing, this idea about 15 years ago. I have still not been able to do this.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That idea being something like, “I wanted to write a book,” or "I wanted to start this or-
UJ Ramdas: Sit down every day-
Bjork Ostrom: Like time blocking.
UJ Ramdas: … for three hours and do your most important work. In the beginning, start with one hour and move to two. Start small, start slow, but start.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Yep. I work with a business coach and we met on … met yesterday and that was my, we call them promises, “What is your promise?” That was my promise was, “I’m gonna start time blocking.” This is a perfect conversation to lead up to after that or to come after that because that was the thing that I had committed to was taking time each day, blocking that out, and making sure that I have time to work on the most important things. Because what I’ve realized and I’m sure other people that are listening can relate to this is that there will always be something on your to-do list that will need to get done, but it’s probably not the most important thing. What I’ve found to be true for myself is I can be really drawn to those things that need to get done that maybe aren’t the most important things, but are urgent and so then I do them and it feels good when I check them off as opposed to the high priority.
One of the things I wanted to talk about was Intelligent Change. We want to be intelligent about how we are changing ourselves. I’ve been thinking a lot about creators and people that want to be entrepreneurial and maybe build something. How much of the excelling in that is discovering who we are versus changing into a different version of ourselves? I know that you also talk a lot about personality tests and really starting to be self-aware and understanding who we are. I would be interested to hear you talk about that. How much of being successful as entrepreneurs is having a really clear understanding of who you are versus becoming a version of yourself that is more successful as an entrepreneur.
UJ Ramdas: Well, a couple things. There’s a lot in that question. In the beginning, let’s just define what an entrepreneur is because some people get a little caught up in the definition. Entrepreneur is essentially someone who takes, who creates, who produces value is a better way of saying it, and produces value is being able to bring things together that are of a lower value and be able to sell them at a higher value. That’s really it. If you’re making money in some way and you want to build a system, then you are a entrepreneur. Right? You want to build a system that is self-generating in some capacity, you’re an entrepreneur.
There’s some traits that are innately important if you’re an entrepreneur. The one is, obviously, the ability and the appetite for risk. One of them is the ability to see and spot opportunity. Another one is the ability to work with people. If you don’t have that it’s going to be harder because business is essentially people. From a getting to know yourself versus building yourself into something or someone, that seems like a dichotomy, but it really isn’t. I think the fundamental of change is having a very strong awareness of whoever you are. I think a very common thing that people that do is set goals and metrics and we’ve all known people, including ourselves, who’ve set goals and not being be able really achieve them.
Why does that happen? A core reason, and there’s lots of it, obviously, depending on the context, but a core reason is if people had a really great sense of where they currently were and what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their current patterns are, that by itself, that awareness by itself causes change. Because the human mind is wired for denial. We’re not wired for happiness. We’re wired for fear because fear is what keeps us alive and what keeps us alive keeps the species moving.
If we want to be happy, that’s why The Five Minute Journal exists. It exists so we can train ourselves every day to look on the bright side because looking on the not so bright side comes natural in our DNA. Very similarly, the drive to deny our weaknesses or not even be able to acknowledge our weaknesses is naturally embedded in our DNA. Self-discovery is just being able to pull back those layers. Sometimes yourself, sometimes with other people’s help that allows you to see, “Okay, what’s really going on? Who am I fundamentally? What are aspects of myself can I not change even if I wanted to? What are the natural things I’m just drawn to and I love doing?” Especially in the early stages, and even in mid or later stages of businesses, people are attached to wanting to be a certain way or have a certain strength and later realize, maybe that’s not really my strength then and because I held on to it I stopped my growth and the company’s growth and the people around me.
I think self-discovery and finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are, are a fantastic way to improve and become better and used in tandem with mentors or virtual mentors, which is essentially finding people that are like you, and this is important, that share similar personality characteristics and a sense of how you want the world to be. If you combine introspection and personality tests and that idea of mentorship, be it virtual or otherwise, it can be a really profound combination.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s really fascinating. On a practical level, what does that look like to go through self-discovery? How can people do that? Do you have any … Would it be personality tests or books that people, that you’d recommend that people reflect on or read?
UJ Ramdas: Personality tests are a great way to start, especially, if you do them with your team. That’s a good one. I’ll mention the tests in a bit. You can do that. If you wanted to do it with friends that’s an option, partners that’s an option. Anywhere where you’re getting multiple perspectives.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that, why that’s important?
UJ Ramdas: Yeah, because we don’t see ourselves. We can’t see ourselves. I couldn’t see some of my biggest strengths because that was just such a part of me, that I couldn’t imagine people would have an issue with it. Our greatest strengths are usually the most obvious to other people and the least obvious to ourselves. That’s why they’re strengths because it’s the natural part of who you are and others find it really different because it’s not a natural strength of theirs.
Bjork Ostrom: On ground level, would that look like calling up, too, if you don’t work in a team setting maybe it’s you have a job, a 9 to 5 job, but then you’re kind of also interested in leaning into this, but don’t necessarily see that playing out at the job. Would you maybe just call two people and say, “Hey, would you be up for doing this personality test,” and then just kind of talking through it and saying, “I see this to be true,” or “I don’t see this to be true. Here are some things that I would also say. ”
UJ Ramdas: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
UJ Ramdas: Exactly. If you’re dating that’s a great time to do it. If you’re married that’s a great time to do it with somebody. You just get to know somebody. By the way you’re doing, let me show you some examples of personality tests. You can do the Myers-Briggs, which is pretty old and it’s been around for a while. You can do the StrengthsFinder. You can do the DISC, D-I-S-C. Again, these are far from perfect.
That’s something that I have to say. These are far from perfect. There’s also a really good one called the Kolbe test. K-o-l-b-e. It measures how you take action. The point isn’t to get a perfect result. You won’t be able to. These are questionnaires that are at best accurate between 60 and 80%. The best results come from sharing them with somebody and may be taking two or so tests together, so you can start to see, or maybe even three, you can start to see from different test what are they all saying about yourself? That’s very likely a part of yourself you can’t change very much.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
UJ Ramdas: Having that conversation with a friend can be a really great thing because then you learn about each other and learn about yourselves.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It was actually one of my favorite Christmas events. Lindsay and I for a gift we got everybody in my family code for StrengthsFinder and then after we opened gifts we all took the StrengthsFinder inventory and then we just sat around and talked about it. I think what’s so fun about it is, it’s fun for people to go through those tests, but also fun to learn about themselves and then talk about themselves. It’s just a fun time to say, “Here are my strengths,” and it’s generally positive and people can be like, “Yes, exactly.”
UJ Ramdas: Exactly. In a family setting, you definitely want to talk about strengths.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right. Right. Yeah. Focus in on the strengths for those. We do that for our team as well. That’s really interesting. After we hire somebody onto our team, we have them go through the StrengthsFinder and it’s interesting for me to see or for Lindsay, my wife, to see the people on our team, who are these people, how do they function, what are the things that drive them, what are their strengths? Like you said, it’s maybe 60% accurate, 70% accurate. You don’t know for sure, but it allows us to get to know people a little bit more than we would’ve and to fast track that a little bit. We’ll link to those other resources that you shared in the blog notes as well. There are podcast notes, so people can check those out and take those. Those would be, in general, pay a $20 to $50 fee in order to take those or how do those work as a product, those surveys?
UJ Ramdas: Well, the Myers-Briggs is free. I believe the StrengthsFinder or Kolbe is paid. The DISC is paid and I also believe there are some sights online you can find it for free, if you’re willing to do the digging.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. Would you say when you are going through this process, so this is kind of going back to what we were talking about before and digging into it a little bit more, the goal of this is to discover who you are, to be self-aware, to learn what your strengths are? Maybe on the flip side of that the things that, not necessarily are your weaknesses, but aren’t the things that you are as strong with.
UJ Ramdas: Yeah, so from a professional standpoint, your focus is this fundamentally, what are the one to two strengths that I can focus my energy on that’s going to produce the most return and what are the things I must absolutely not do because I’m just a liability? I could hire somebody off the street and they’d be able to do it better than I would. That’s why you’re discovering it. The people who are the best in the world at something, typically, are the best in the world because they spent time and to focus getting really good at a few things that worked out for them.
There are examples of this throughout history of exceptional humans in one or two fields, usually one field, that don’t have extraordinary lives outside of the area where they have these strengths. That’s the norm. We’re all messed up in some way. It’s totally fine. The key is not to reverse that. The key is to realize how we’re messed up and make it work for us.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s something that I’ve thought about as I’ve reflected on people that have had success in some way, shape or form. Whether that be people that are successful with relationships or with business or with sports or writing, whatever it would be. I think one of the realities is these are people that are good at something at their core for whatever reason. That’s a strength, but then they also have applied grit and tenacity and stick to itness to that strength and have applied it over a long period of time.
It’s interesting to apply all of those things that you’re talking about, to think about it as understanding your strengths, leaning into those, getting outside expert, not outside expert, but outside opinions on that. Having other people weigh into that. Then, also, using some of this intentionality with a morning routine and meditation and gratitude to essentially fuel that strength and to allow you to lean in to that. As many examples of there are of people that have been successful, I would assume there is just as many of those people that had that same core strength and ability that weren’t able to access that due to whatever reason, like mud on their shoes or dirty teeth or whatever the analogy would be, getting built up over time and not allowing them to run as openly and as freely as they would if they didn’t have that dragging them down.
UJ Ramdas: Yeah, I think it’s very common. We all have bodies and we take care of it. We shower. We shave. We take care of our teeth. This is a natural part of our day-to-day because everybody sees the body and very few people have the same thing for the mind. You don’t see the mind, but you see the results that the mind produces. You see the person and how they act and think and behave and the energy they have is a result of their thinking and their thoughts. It’s really remarkable that just because we don’t see it and it doesn’t enough shame … at least in the short-term it usually gets neglected. It’s something that we actually really care about is building emotional and mental strength. Really kind of improving emotional mental health in a strong way. That’s why we … You’ll see the stuff that we produce, typically, is to help people improve their lives fundamentally from a mental and a emotional perspective.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. I can say first hand that it’s been true for me. I use The Five Minute Journal every day and almost every night and it’s been extremely beneficial, so I thank you for that.
UJ Ramdas: Awesome. My pleasure.
Bjork Ostrom: Speaking of the things that you guys produce, would you be up for doing kind of a quick overview of the different products that you have linked to those in the podcast notes? Then you also have something that’s kind of hot off the press if you’d talk about that as well, I think people in our audience would be excited about that.
UJ Ramdas: Sure. We’ve spoken about The Five Minute Journal. It’s a toothbrush for your mind. It’s something you do morning and night, takes you five minutes, and you’ll be better off for it. It’s as simple as that. It’s the most popular product. It’s our oldest product. It’s been shared and talked about. Tim Ferriss has been a really huge supporter of ours. We’ve had a lot of influencers talk about us. We’ve had Tim Ferriss. We’ve had Dave Asprey from Bulletproof, Ben Greenfield, a bunch of influencers in the fitness, in the personal self-help, as well as the nutritional world. That’s one.
The second one is call the Productivity Planner. The basic idea of the Productivity Planner is to help you get the most important thing of your day done. Remember we talked about that chunk of time between 7 and 9 in the morning, where I like to focus on the one thing that I really want to move forward that day. That helps you accomplish that basically. It helps you accomplish the most important thing every day. It helps you get into that deep work mindset that helps you produce the thing that is going to be of the most value for you during the day. It helps you organize your day in a way that helps you track how much work you’re doing. We use this idea called Pomodoros, which is a 25-unit of work, 25-minute increment of work. Then you take a five-minute break after.
That’s been really great for us. We launched a Kickstarter that I think we raised about 10 times, 11 times whatever we asked for. It’s been really great for us because I get … This is the produce I share about frequently in my social circle and my friend circle because all of us are business owners and hear that people have loved it and they’ve bought a whole bunch for their team because they want their team to work at the same capacity as they are or the highest capacity that the team’s capable of. That’s typically why people use our stuff. If they want to work at high capacity then definitely the Productivity Planner is a good place to start.
The other one, it’s actually limited edition, so I don’t know if it’s going to be around by the time this podcast comes out, but I’ll talk about it. It’s a small notebook called, My Commitment and it’s basically, we all use pocket notebooks for two things. For notes and for reminders and to write down things that we’re going to do. We just made a simple … We just kind of re-engineered the pocket notebook just a bit and we made a format that made it easier for you to write down the things that you say you would do. That’s it. Again, it’s all based on science. It’s super simple. It’s the same size as the pocket notebook. We just re-engineered it a bit. There’s tons of space for you to write notes and every page on the left side has three small things that you can take and you can really choose to do if you want to because the format is set up to help you accomplish those things.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
UJ Ramdas: Finally, as of November, we’ve launched something called a Five Minute Journal For Kids, which is a beautiful colorful version of The Five Minute Journal. It’s a bit simpler. It doesn’t have as many lines. It has similar questions. It’s designed for parents to be able to do it with their children, which is pretty amazing.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.
UJ Ramdas: It’s something that allows them to look back on the day, think of things that really happened well, look forward to the next day, to the day that is yet to come to think of all the things that they can do. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a similar format, but it’s colorful. It’s lively and it’s designed to help parents.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great. We’ll be sure to link to those in the show notes, so people can check all those out and I can say, personally, that I have used and really love The Five Minute Journal and will be digging into some of those other ones as well. UJ, thanks so much for coming on the podcast for sharing your insights and for building such impactful company. It’s an incredible thing, so thanks for coming on.
UJ Ramdas: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks.
That’s a wrap for today’s interview with UJ. UJ, thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate it. Hey, just one reminder that it’s open enrollment for Food Blogger Pro, so if you are interested in joining Food Blogger Pro and learning how to build your blog and learning how to apply social media to scale and learning how we do this podcast, we do all of those things and teach about those things on Food Blogger Pro. You can just go to foodbloggerpro.com and check out the sign up process there. It’s really easy.
We don’t talk often about Food Blogger Pro, the membership site here, but when we do open enrollment periods we want to make sure to point out the fact that you can sign up and that time is now. If you’re interested, head on over to foodbloggerpro.com. There’s no commitment. You’re not signing up for a three-year contract or anything like that. You can sign up for a monthly or yearly plan and all of that information is over there on foodbloggerpro.com. Thanks so much for tuning into the podcast. Make it a great week.
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