UJ Ramdas is the author and creator of The 5 Minute Journal where positivity meets science. The 5 Minute Journal combines inspiring quotes, daily exercises for gratitude, affirmations, weekly challenges, and thoughtful questions that will help you get focused and be more productive.
UJ isn’t your typical author. From the very beginning, he created The 5 Minute Journal with a very different mindset. He set out to create not just a good book, but a great product that would change people’s lives—this year, next year, and for many years to come. From the writing to the editing, design, printing, warehousing, distribution, marketing and more, UJ has bucked tradition and gone his own way. The 5 Minute Journal isn’t a self-published book—it’s a uniquely produced product that happens to look like a book.
Instead of giving away most of the profits to a publisher, The 5 Minute Journal is printed and produced from a specialty printing house / manufacturer in bulk quantities that allow UJ’s company to earn high margins.
Instead of using only one distributor like Amazon, the company has its own warehouse and fulfillment center for distribution, again avoiding unnecessary fees to 3rd parties.
Instead of some boring or expensive marketing campaign, The 5 Minute Journal has generated an incredible amount of free exposure in the media, on blogs, on popular podcasts, and even a video review by Tim Ferriss.
UJ has always been very passionate about human behavior and specifically how to change it.
He has been working in the field of behavior modification for most of his life. He’s done quite a bit of work on himself, and he’s worked with a clinic to directly help hundreds of other people change their behavior as well. Friends have recognized his talent as a writer from an early age.
UJ looks at a book as a product. Most writers see a book as a book. When you look at a book as a product you can look to market and package it in very different ways than people who just look at a book as a book.
He took a walk with a friend and The 5 Minute Journal was born after that conversation. The 5 Minute Journal condenses 20 years of psychological research into an easy to do Journal with structured entry prompts.
He Almost Died…
UJ decided to head out to Bali for a few months in early 2014. He rented a motorcycle for transportation. The safety laws in southern Indonesia are not the same as the safety laws in the United States and Canada.
UJ was riding his motorcycle one day when he unexpectedly encountered a four way intersection. He had less than a second to react to the car that smashed into him.
UJ’s injuries were extensive. He had:
- Four broken ribs.
- A partially collapsed lung.
- A pelvis broken in three places.
- And blood flowing everywhere.
He was conscious throughout the entire experience. He remembers everything. He had a very long and difficult recovery.
It took him almost 5 months to be able to walk on his own again.
“Just as in everything else, life throws stuff at you. Are you going to let that go to waste, or are you going to use it as fuel to help you become a better person?” – UJ Ramdas
Learn from Pain to Make You Stronger
Painful experiences can make you a better person. It’s the hard times that define you, not the times where everything is going well.
The thing about life is that everyone has dark, painful experiences. Everyone has personal and professional setbacks. What sets successful people apart from unsuccessful people is how we use our experiences to level up both professionally and personally.
When you have a difficult personal experience, ask yourself, “How can this help me to…”
- Become a more compassionate person?
- Become a more resilient person?
- Become a stronger person?
- Become a more peaceful person?
Asking that question on a daily basis, no matter what your issue is will improve your life in ways you can’t imagine.
Take on a Big Challenge
UJ is stronger and healthier today than he was before his accident because he made the decision that he was going to focus all of his energy into becoming the healthiest version of himself.
You can make the same decision. You can decide to overcome whatever giant challenge you choose to face with all of your resources, and a single-minded determination.
Once you make that decision you’ll be surprised how easy it is to overcome whatever challenge you choose to conquer. Once you make your all-in commitment the universe will reach up to meet you, and help you overcome whatever your challenge is.
Creating Great Content
It’s important to align with the content you’re putting out into the world.
UJ lives the principles in The 5 Minute Journal.
“The greatest joy comes in doing work that is meaningful to you. Find out what your values are, what your beliefs are, what you think will make a difference in the world.” – UJ Ramdas
Create content around the topics and areas that you think will make the greatest difference in the world.
Obviously you’re going to need to find out what people need and want. You need to cater your gifts to your audience. There’s always a marketing goal when you’re selling stuff.
If you combine your passion with what other people need and package your product appropriately, you will be successful in the Internet age.
That’s the secret to living sustainably and abundantly as an online marketer.
Find the passions within you and the need of an audience that allow you to have the greatest level of impact. The more people you help, and the larger your audience is, the more likely you’ll be able to make an income that supports you online.
Different people live for different things. And that’s perfectly fine.
What you want to do is live a life that is completely in line with your values. That’s the secret to living a fulfilling life.
Set Better Goals
Often people will set goals they think they should be setting.
- You need to set goals that you want to achieve.
- You need to set goals in line with your values.
- You need to map out a plan with daily actions that will help you achieve those long-term goals.
It’s important, as much as possible to identify the entire gamut of your audience’s needs. You want to do this so you can help your entire audience no matter where they are in the process.
Start Where You Are
The only constant in life is change. What you want to do is make sure that you’re making positive changes and not negative changes.
How you do that is by paying attention to different feedback loops. This allows you to identify when you’re going in a negative direction and stop it before you go too far. It also helps to identify when you have positive change so that you can enhance and magnify the positive changes in your life.
Writing is a very introspective process. All successful writers are good at introspection. Introspection allows you to identify what you think and how you feel about something in your life, and then communicate it in a way that your audience can understand and learn from.
The best writers are the writers who ask the most questions about themselves.
It’s so important to learn about your own:
So that you can communicate those in a way that will help your audience improve their own life in some way.
The reason that readers are impacted by words in a book so viscerally is that someone else has taken the time to think about something so deeply that the reader doesn’t have time to think about.
If you can communicate your thoughts and feelings in such a way that your audience understands them on the page, that’s the way to create an audience and a following that is loyal to you.
“Ideas are how you see the world. Reading a book with new ideas and new concepts, or listening to an interview with new ideas and new concepts, broadens your view of the world and new things become possible.” – Tom Corson-Knowles
Where you are in your life now doesn’t predict your future level of success. How you interact with new ideas and your own feedback loops is the most accurate predictor of future success.
The Neil Strauss Writing Method
Neil Strauss writes for Rolling Stone and has published several best-selling books.
When he writes his first draft, it’s a brain dump draft where he writes down everything that he might want to say about a particular topic. From there, he edits his own work and then uses editors and beta readers to further refine the finished product.
Writing is a craft that you have to commit to getting better at every day.
UJ has always been fascinated by what makes people buy products.
The first thing you have to figure out as an author is if you’re passionate about marketing. If you’re not passionate about marketing what you have to do is partner with someone who can do the marketing for you.
“The most important thing is honesty and facing the truth. That will get you more results than anything else.” – UJ Ramdas.
If you don’t face the truth about how you feel about marketing, you may spend years trying to do something you don’t want to do. This can slowly erode the foundation of your spirit.
It’s best to face up to the truth at the beginning of your publishing journey.
Marketing and creating content are the same thing. You’re looking to get as many iterations of the product before launch is you can, so that when you launch the product, it will be the best possible product.
The best companies and the best products have the tightest feedback loops.
The 5 minute Journal is a really good tight feedback loop for your life because it allows you to make adjustments on a daily basis.
The best thing you can do for your book is to convince a small group of loyal fans that your book is amazing. If you convince 1,000 to 2,000 people that your book is amazing, you will achieve your goals of finding a publisher or becoming a bestselling author.
Remember, a publisher is just a person.
Focus on getting as tight a series of chapters as possible. If you make the best product you can, and people think it’s amazing it will find its audience.
Harnessing the power of a feedback loop removes the fear from the production process. You will know immediately if your book sucks. You won’t have to wonder if people will like it.
The Power of Feedback Loops
A feedback loop works this way:
- You find a new way of doing things.
- You test to see whether the new way works.
- You observe to see what works and what doesn’t.
- You do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
That looks really simple. But it’s incredibly hard.
It’s incredibly hard because of the bars you set for yourself.
If you set the bar for your product that unless it wows somebody it doesn’t launch (which is what UJ and his team did with The 5 Minute Journal) what will come out with at the end of that process is a product that people will market for you.
People never keep something amazing within. They always have to share it with everyone they can. That’s what you’re hoping to achieve with your product.
That’s why you set the bar so high for success.
You can use the power of feedback loops to figure out when you produce your best content. Track what you’re doing and track the results to see what works best for you.
UJ produces his best content out of the house listening to ambient down tempo music and activated by caffeine. That’s what works best for him.
Become a student of yourself to learn how to get your greatest level of productivity.
“There comes a point where you don’t need another book. You just need to learn from your own personal experience.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Don’t Break the Chain
UJ uses a habit tracking technique that allows him to produce at a massive level. He learned this technique from Jerry Seinfeld.
Jerry Seinfeld was once asked, “How do you write so many good jokes?”
He responded, “I made a commitment to write one joke a day. Every day I wrote a joke I put an X on my calendar.” – Jerry Seinfeld
All the progress you make in life is going to come from horizontal time (a concept coined by Keith Cunningham).
- Vertical time is how much time you have to work in any given day.
- Horizontal time is how much time you spend working on a single project day after day after day.
By creating a writing habit, you’re bringing to bare the power of your subconscious mind. If you work on your book every single day, your subconscious mind will work on it while you’re doing other things during the day. In this way you’ll become more efficient and effective during your writing time.
Your body and mind are complex machines, so take good care of them! If you ever get to a situation where you don’t feel like writing, that just means your body and mind need more training.
If you want your livelihood to depend on writing, train yourself to write every single day.
Don’t Bet Your Future on Fairytale Odds
“The most progress is made when you move through the most psychological resistance. That’s just a fact.” – UJ Ramdas
JK Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert are examples of fairytale success stories. You don’t want to bet your future on fairytale odds.
Do work every day that will move you closer to achieving your bigger goals.
You have to be vulnerable in order to achieve your best highest level of success. You have to be willing to accept constructive negative feedback even if you’re giving your beta readers your 8th draft of your book.
At the beginning you’re more likely to get negative feedback than positive feedback. You just have to keep going.
At the beginning of your author journey, do what you have to do to protect that part of you that believes in yourself. When you start this journey, know that you’re going to spend a lot of time and energy leveling up your personal skills to be successful.
Resolve to take the time necessary to be successful. Renew your resolve on a daily basis.
People give you feedback because they want you to become a better person. They don’t give you feedback because they hate you, or you’re ineffective, or for any other negative reason you might tell yourself.
Use Stories for Success
“Constantly surround your subconscious mind with stories and motivation from people who’ve done it.” – UJ Ramdas
The subconscious mind learns through story. Human beings learn to embody the stories they surround themselves with. Surround yourself with the stories of people who have achieved the success you want to achieve. The more you load up your subconscious with examples and stories of people who became successful, the more you will emulate them.
For those of you who are more mathematically inclined success with money is a geometric function, not a linear one.
- A linear function gives you results like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- A geometric function gives you results like 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32.
If you were to graph those 2 lines you’d see that the second line ends up being like a J curve.
When you begin your journey you want to find people who are just high enough on the J curve that you can believe their success is within reach for you.
UJ’s Publishing Process
UJ and his business partner decided to go with Ali Baba to find a printer for The 5 Minute Journal themselves. They wanted to retain complete control of the product and distribution.
They contacted various suppliers through Ali Baba until they found one that would produce the style of journal they wanted.
UJ has several friends who use Createspace to produce and sell their physical book. When you use create space you don’t have to worry about shipping the book or fulfilling orders but you do end up making significantly less per book than UJ.
There are advantages and disadvantages to going the direct creation and distribution route UJ and his business partner have chosen. For UJ, the benefits outweigh the costs.
He hired a fulfillment house and has 2 warehouses in the United States. One in Los Angeles and one in Philadelphia.
The books are printed in China and take about 2 months to go from China to the United States. Each printing order is between 10,000 and 15,000 copies of The 5 Minute Journal.
UJ really enjoys business systems and he enjoyed putting together this distribution pipeline. Now that he’s created the system he’ll use it for any other products he has, and any other author clients he chooses to bring on.
“If money wasn’t an issue what would make you excited to wake up in the morning? There is a way you can do what you love and make incredible amounts of money.” – UJ Ramdas
People and Resources Mentioned in this Interview
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Total Recall
Neil Strauss and the Neil Strauss method of writing.
Jerry Seinfeld and don’t break the chain
Keith Cunningham and horizontal time
JK Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert as examples of writing success stories that were outliers.
Ali Baba – the company that UJ used to print and distribute The 5 Minute Journal.
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.