UJ Ramdas: Success and Gratitude – #80
By: Dave Asprey
‘Tis the season to be grateful! And while that sentiment can often feel a bit disingenuous, it turns out that practicing gratitude can actually make you happier, more effective, and smarter! On this episode of Bulletproof Radio, hypnotist and behavioral biohacker UJ Ramdas talks about the many ways in which gratitude can make you a more successful person. You will learn about the benefits of being resilient, how to put pen to paper, and a short list of things you can do each day to express your gratitude. Oh! And UJ offers a special surprise to Bulletproof listeners! Please enjoy.
UJ Ramdas is passionate about bringing together practical psychology and business to create a better world. With a background in Behavioral science, Marketing and Hypnosis, he’s consulted with (several hundred) clients, bringing them from confusion to clarity. Currently based out of Toronto, Canada, he’s a big fan of the wilderness, eastern meditative practices and a good cup of tea.
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- 0:00 – Cool Fact of the Day!
- 0:53 – Welcome UJ Ramdas
- 3:00 – UJ on the 48 Laws of Power
- 6:00 – From cognitive science to marketing
- 8:00 – Business ethics and morality
- 11:00 – HeartMath
- 14:00 – NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming)
- 16:20 – Tracking body language
- 19:00 – Matrix vision
- 21:00 – Micro expressions
- 23:00 – Gratitude as a game changer
- 27:00 – If you could do just one thing each day?
- 29:00 – What does gratitude actually get you?
- 31:00 – The benefits of being resilient
- 33:30 – Expressing gratitude
- 36:00 – Pen to paper
- 42:00 – Discount code at FiveMinuteJournal.com – use BULLETPROOF
- 43:00 – Top 3 recommendations for kicking ass and being more Bulletproof!
FiveMinuteJournal.com – use code: BULLETPROOF
Questions for the podcast?
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DAVE: Today’s cool fact of the day is: the human brain is the biggest brain relative to body size. A sperm whale has a brain that weighs 17 pounds on average, but the whale itself weighs up to 13 tons. The average size of a human brain or a dolphin brain is only 3 pounds, but if you want to predict intelligence, it’s not really the size of the brain that matters as much as the ratio of the brain size to the species size. This works for species not individual people. The average dolphin weighs around 350 pounds. And the average human weighs between 133 to 170 pounds.
Hey everyone, it’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio. Today for you, I’ve got UJ Ramdas who’s an entrepreneur and behavioral change specialist with a background in cognitive science. To make things a little more interesting though, he’s also a certified hypnotist. The reason that I’ve invited UJ on today for you, is that he’s actually focusing on gratitude which is something that I’ve spoken about in quite a few podcasts and something that I once said was one of the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur or just a successful human being. It’s kind of hard to find experts in gratitude to come on to the show because it’s not like you go to LinkedIn and type “gratitude”, but I was fortunate to get hooked up with UJ through our mutual friend Ameer Rosic. So, I’m actually really excited to have you on, UJ, thanks for joining me on the show today.
UJ: Dave, I’m a massive fan of Bulletproofexec, and thank you for having me!
DAVE: Ah, you got it! You also call yourself a biohacker and there’s more and more of us increasingly who just say “yeah, that’s it, I hack the environment to hack myself. I hack my brain and all of that.” Why do you call yourself a biohacker?
UJ: Well I think it’s just an innate drive and desire to become a better person, and I’ve always had that drive ever since I was a kid. I just didn’t know how to explain it and I always thought I was weird or different for trying unique experiments and looking to get more out of my body and my mind and it was only recently that I realized there’s a whole community of people that are doing this and all of them are doing this in their own way in their own specific niches. Some of them are athletes, some of them are entrepreneurs and they’re all trying to get more out of their performance and that’s something I’m really passionate about so–I guess that’s why I call myself ‘biohacker’.
DAVE: Just to correct that notion, it is weird to be a biohacker. It’s okay though. Did you really wanna be average? C’mon.
UJ: Not really.
DAVE: You’ve also had a chance to talk with someone who I’d really like to have on the show pretty soon here, and that’s Robert Green who’s written “mastery” and “48 laws of power”. And I’ve referenced several times that the 48 laws of people really helped me understand some of the weird machinations of boardrooms and corporate power politics early in my career. It actually was like night and day. Like, you ever see the John Carpenter movie “Them” or “They live”? I think it’s called “They live” where you put on these glasses and you realize half the people around you are aliens. You take off the glasses and they’re not. So I used to think that everyone in the boardroom was an alien. And then I read the book and I’m like “oh wait! They’re people just running by an entirely different set of rules” so it was kind of cool. Why did you choose to bring Robert Green in on this to interview him?
UJ: Well, actually this is a great question because when I was 16, I went to the book fair with my father used to…every year, me and my dad used to go to the book fair consistently. And I remember him looking at a book over and over again and he never used to buy books. He used to go for me because I just love books and I devour books. And he looked at it over and over again and he told me if I had had this book when I was your age, I would be a different man right now. And that stuck with me. That stuck with me and he bought the book and he said this is not the right time for you, maybe in a couple years it’s a little bit of a heavy read. Well that was a challenge. I always like a challenge so I got the book the next day. And it completely changed the way I look at things. Very similar to how you saw the boardroom as not aliens but people who were interesting and running by a completely different set of rules.
I looked at the world that way and I started to realize a lot of things that I was not paying attention to. It allowed me to see reality as what it is, and I think Robert calls that phenomenon “intense realism”. Being and having the ability to match reality for what it is and being able to absorb it without judgment. Without criticism. Without any sort of understanding beyond what is actually happening. And that allowed me to make a lot of changes in who I thought were friends, to how I spend my time, to how realistic I could be in the world about my appraisal and other people’s appraisal. So, it was a fascinating read and I noticed Robert’s continuously produced great works. So I think one of his best books is 33 Strategies of War. It’s a little more heavy and it’s definitely more strategic, but for all students of strategy I think it’s a required read.
DAVE: Very cool. So we have that in common and I was pretty impressed because I’ve been meaning to say thanks to him for that book because it really helped my career and my late 20s. So it’s kind of cool that you had the same thing.
UJ: Yeah. I’ll be happy to make an introduction to you if you want.
DAVE: Oh cool. We’ll hit that up after the show.
DAVE: In the meantime though, you’re interesting. Like, you study cognitive science which honestly, I didn’t know was a profession or an academic discipline until I was just finishing my information system studies like “I could have studied that! Why didn’t anyone tell me this was so cool?” But you didn’t finish that, right? You–
DAVE: You went to marketing. Like, why the cut over from cognitive science to marketing?
UJ: Okay. So you bring up two very interesting points. I actually studied cognitive science very interestingly because that was the second year it was available. It was a very new program and it was interdisciplinary program between philosophy, psychology, biology, computer science, linguistics, all the stuff I was pretty much into anyway. And I thought “how cool would it be to get into all of these different fields in different departments and find out how to become a better human being. How to help other people really become the best they could be.” So it sounded really great and amazing and I started the program and by the end of year one I realized they weren’t teaching me how to become a better human being. I was learning academia that was maybe recycled several or a few decades if not several years. And I’m an impatient guy. I like results and I like results fast.
And I realized learning marketing, I learned a lot more about changing human behavior than I ever did in cognitive science. And I just realized since I can take a lot of the speed reading and the photo reading experience that I have, and double my course load as well as study other interesting things like hypnosis and do experiments on my body and decide. I realized it was a pretty cool deal. So I learned business, which I always wanted to be into because I knew I wanted to be in control of my time and money. And knowing I could do that as well as learning how to influence behavior and learn practical psychology was exciting for me. And I’ve always been a fan of results over bland theory.
DAVE: When you studied marketing, was there an ethics course you had to take?
UJ: I think most–as just a token of necessity, most professors would say “oh by the way, I have to mention this, you have to do these things by certain guidelines and rules and you should not use this for bad.” But that was like five minutes and it’s been proven over and over in science that morality is never transformed by instruction. It’s usually transformed by personal experience or values. And there were of courses we had, there was psychology like marketing strategy that just way overwrote some morality then most people would have.
DAVE: I had the same experience at Warden. In fact, they were criticized for not having a business ethics course. And I remember in a marketing course, one of the few ones they had, it’s like a super finance school. We did this great mathematical analysis of how it was cheaper to spend a dollar to tell someone that your product was good than it was to just make your product good. And I just remember being so turned off by that line of thinking that I’m like “but it’s not okay to do that.” Like, at a fundamental human level, you’re selling something, if you’re making crap and saying it’s gold, you’ve done something wrong here.
UJ: Yeah, and actually, what I like to tell entrepreneurs and business people in general is it’s actually really bad for your happiness if you make a crap product and you market it really well because a) in the long term, your product isn’t gonna survive because the best way to kill a bad product is by good marketing.
DAVE: So you went beyond marketing though. Now you’re into hypnosis where, I’m not gonna say they did have an ethics thing because it’s not okay to make people cluck like chickens and walking around for long periods of time. Or is it? I’ve never been clear on that.
UJ: Yeah, so, yes there is an ethics board to that. I’m actually a member of the association of registered clinical hypnotherapists. And yes they do have an ethics guideline. And I think hypnosis is an interesting field because we’ve explored a lot of things in the world psychology from gratitude journaling and positive psychology. But very little has been done on altered states of consciousness. Right now, we only have an EEG machine, FMRI, EEGs, ECGs that are typically known to measure any form of mental states. Now we have the Heartmath Institute. It’s doing tons of really great stuff with currents, and I would love to get into that. As it progresses–
DAVE: Sure I think most of the listeners have heard a good amount of Heartmath stuff. I’m an advisor to the Heartmath Institute.
DAVE: But let’s touch on that, especially when it relates to hypnosis and I’d really love to let people learn a little bit about what you’ve seen as to how hypnosis may reduce anxiety responses, especially ones you can measure with a device like the Inner Balance Sensor from Heartmath or even the HRV Sense App that I’ve got out on the iPhone store.
UJ: Absolutely. So hypnosis basically goes…and there’s the conscious mind and there’s the unconscious mind. So we’ll call it System 1 for the unconscious and System 2 for conscious mind. And it’s defined as the absence of a critical factor or the suspension of a critical factor of the mind. The part of your mind that keeps on commenting, that keeps on judging, analyzing. It just goes out to lunch for a bit. And if you’re thinking “I wonder what that voice is” that’s the voice. And so it’s just a consistent process where you’re training your mind to allow yourself to get into a state that allows–it’s also called the relation response or your parasympathetic response where you can allow your brainwaves to go into an Alpha state and staying yourself in that Alpha state. So now shown by many many studies that that state specifically opens you up to suggestions. Opens you up to learning.
So TV, for example, is a great example of hypnosis gone wrong. And when people open themselves to that state, and they’re in Alpha, and they have all these ads coming at them, speaking of ethics, right? It’s now shown that when people watch TV, they burn less calories than even when they’re sleeping. About 10 calories less. And those suggestions go straight into their minds. Just the same way when they’re in hypnosis. The suggestions typically that they received goes straight deeply into their unconscious and it reduces anxiety. The state itself is quite relaxing but it also reduces anxiety. It eliminates cravings in smoking subjects.
It’s been proven if you got a…for smoking…you’ll find several studies that allows cigarette smokers typically to experience a change of identity. An identity change, I think, is a key when it comes to reducing and eliminating cravings. At least low level addictions. So I found that fascinating. And I found just certain hacks that you could do with language and being in hypnosis. Very fascinating. Which is why I got more into that and I used it for myself. I used it for clients. And it was fascinating to learn more about human beings, about how we function, about what works, what doesn’t.
DAVE: So define NLP for people listening. We’ve got a lot of people driving their cars, some people are into language hacking. Some people aren’t. So what is NLP and how do you use it in your practice?
UJ: So NLP has expanded into neurolinguistic programming. And neurolinguistic programming originally was founded, if you wanna call it that, by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. So one math dude and one linguistics professor. And they basically modeled some of the greatest therapists in the world. There are other sales people, people who were extremely good at what they did. So think of them like early biohackers in the 60s and 70s.
UJ: And they looked at various habits and behaviors and added to them that some of these exceptional people had. And they broke it down into strategies, tips, and tools and techniques. They called the entire process ‘modeling’. And they reduce it down to language. Obviously you could reduce it down to body language and verbage but they reduced it down to certain processes that could be run. For example, on people who had phobias and they developed something called 6 or 7 minute phobia cure where people went to psychologists and psychiatrists for years and years and now in 7 minutes would do something called double association where you see yourself see yourself so you dissociate yourself twice. You eliminate your phobic response. And they’ve developed several cool hacks like that they’ll allow them to use language to influence other people’s reality.
DAVE: So are you using language to influence my reality now? Did you just NLP me?
UJ: We’re always NLPing each other, Dave. You know that, right? We’re using the limit of our language to influence each other’s reality.
DAVE: That’s really what podcasts are about when you think about it. My intent is very much to do that. Influence people’s reality by interviewing people like you on the show. You also use something called tracking, right? When you’re looking at people’s behavior outside of just their words so you can use NLP more effectively. Is that kind of a good explanation of how tracking works for you?
UJ: Could you give me specific examples?
DAVE: Like observing human behaviors you can measure unconscious behavior. So things like body language, the way you move your eyes, subtle shift in posture, things like that?
UJ: Absolutely. I actually pay more attention to body language than words. I just think words are great. I think words can be very powerful and effective. I think majority of our cognition is unconscious.
UJ: And people–it’s been found, actually in research–that when people are asked to lie, they control their facial expressions more than they control the rest of their bodies because they feel a lot of their..is based on their face. Experienced body language people who study body language is a great book called “What everybody’s saying” and it’s by a guy who’s been in the FBI for several decades. And he talks about how the legs are the most honest part of the body.
UJ: Yes. Because from a limbic response level, the legs respond to fight or flight. And they’re responsible for movement. And they’re the most honest part of a person’s body. If someone’s looking to make an exit, if someone feels they’re under a threat, if their limbic system starts to fire up, their legs are the first part of their body to move.
DAVE: SO if you’re a marketing guy, which means that you wanna lie to everyone, what should you do with your legs?
UJ: I would have my legs crossed.
DAVE: No, in all seriousness, I mean, what’s your read on me? I mean, most people are listening to this and not watching it on YouTube but it’s on my YouTube channel. I mean, am I sending off any vibes since you’ve been on the show, do you watch all the time, or do you sort of tune in when you’re trying to pay attention?
UJ: Well, I don’t see all of your body right now.
DAVE: That’s true, you’re just seeing my chest up.
UJ: Yeah I see you from your chest up, but I think I made our observation when you started the call. You looked like you were just getting stuff together and you were a little rushed.
DAVE: Oh yeah. It’s because we started interviewing you about 15 minutes late because I had just pulled up to the house and then my Skype crashed. So thank you Skype for that update! Not! Anyways–
UJ: No, you look and feel great. So far.
DAVE: Well thanks, man!
DAVE: So do you actually, as a trained hypnotist, do you watch all the time? Like, can you turn it off or do you just feel like people are just chilling and then you turn on the hypnotist vision and then that guy wants to run for the door, that guys hitting on that girl, like do you have Matrix vision that you can turn on and off?
UJ: Dave, it happens on and off, but I enjoy this! This is–
DAVE: Oh it’s fun, yeah.
UJ: I never wanna turn it off. Obviously as the day goes by, towards the end of the day I’m less sharp than at the beginning of the day which is why I tell anyone if you really wanna see me and you wanna get the best, see me early in the day.
DAVE: So this is part of your practice for building your own personal awareness of the world around you?
DAVE: So it’s not something you turn off. Okay, that makes sense. And of the other hypnotists I know, I think that’s what most of them would answer. Like you could get more if you really focus, but most of the time you just notice the same way you might notice it’s light outside or the sun is behind a cloud or something. You just pick up more about people because you’re trained to pick it up.
UJ: Absolutely. And I think people who are really good at any field like doctors or surgeons, they have very specific verbiage and for that specific field.
UJ: So they know the anatomy really well. They know parts of the body that I wouldn’t even know how to spell or pronounce. And they have a very very keen sense of awareness and understanding of that set of words.
DAVE: Some of the movement guys are like that. Like, Kelly Starrett who’s been on the show, runs San Francisco Crossfit. He just watches someone walk in the door and he’s like “Oh they’ve got a week lateral something or another and you know, their right gluteus maximus is undersized” and he can tell that in three steps and I’m always just blown away. I’d love to develop that kind of physical awareness, but you’ve got that on the social, emotional front as well. Or maybe not as well, but instead.
UJ: What’s great is that Paul Ekman, who’s done decades of research on emotions around the face–
UJ: –has, I believe there are several 56 muscles in the face. And he’s developed a training called the facial acting coding system that allows you to distinguish something called micro expressions. And micro expressions is something you can’t fake. It’s something that’s deeply unconscious that is limbic. That occurs on the face for just a fraction of a second and allows you to read people fundamentally so much better than you would. And the training itself is you could get it online, you could download it. You could get it on a CD. And within a few weeks, you get to see this in people and in friends and family and lovers and business settings that you didn’t see before. It’s like a light in your brain turned on and you started to notice all of these subconscious emotions that were always there. You’d never paid attention to them. And everybody can do this with a few weeks practice. So if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend you do it.
DAVE: Alright, we’ll put links to that in the shownotes.
DAVE: There’s another discipline that shares this kind of enhanced awareness and that’s tracking. Like, tracking animals outdoors. If you talk with guys like Cody London and his school, they know where the animals are. Like, in 100 yard circle, they just know and they know because they’ve learned to look at microsigns that you and I would completely not see. And what it is is it’s enhancing the scope of your awareness so you’ve done a lot training to enhance your scope of awareness of the emotional and kind of physical interaction. And after all that work, you came up with gratitude and the five minute journal? Which is kind of not what I think most people would expect would be where you would apply this. Why did you end up with gratitude after becoming this sort of neurological hacker for lack of a better word where you’re looking at all these funny behavioral patterns that are invisible to people like me? Gratitude. What’s the deal with gratitude.
UJ: Well, I think if you look at the research, Dave, gratitude is just such a game changer on so many levels because gratitude is really the fundamental emotion which has a cognitive aspect is what…has an affect, part of it. For example, gratitude, if you look at research, is divided into acknowledging a benefit from outside of you. And cognitive aspects you have to pay attention to it. And your prefrontal cortex has to be active for that. As well as, you have to feel it! You have to really experience the joy of having received something. And those two connect and allow you to reshape your thinking in a very real way. And it all happened frankly by complete accident.
So a good friend of mine, Alex Ikonn and I, we were taking a walk and one day we were talking about business and habits and hacking and behavior and morning rituals, and he had a morning ritual. And I was telling him about my night ritual and every night for five years or so, I’ve done this thing where I open my notebook and I review the day. And early on I used a game of configuration technique where I used it to allow myself to write my goals and figure out the actions of taking towards it. I used a game of thought. The actions that moved me forward. But then I just started to use it as a way to review all the good things that happened in the day because I had hear so many good things through the research behind it. And so because I was a biohacker and was pretty intense about it, it took me 15 to 20 minutes. This is not the extensive version. Writing in the journal is not the extensive version of what I did. It was way too much for most people.
So talking about my process and he said “this sounds great. How about we create a book that allows people to do it” because I used to write the questions out by hand every day. And I started valuing that but it took me a couple of minutes to actually get it and once I got it, this sounds great. And Alex Ikon is just amazing at design and product creation. And I’m the science guy. And it was really cool to work on this project and just look at all the research behind it. There’s actually a bunch of research behind it. This is what the book looks like if you’re watching this on video. And the format is the same for every day.
So we looked all the research. We looked at what’s the simplest thing somebody could do to become happier every day. That is proven by science and it doesn’t take a lot of time to do? And the first question as soon as you open the book is “what am I grateful for?” And this is typically to be done as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you look at the primacy effect, the effect that you’re doing something as soon as you wake up in the morning. It can have a disproportional effect on the entire day. You’ve heard stubbing their toe out of bed, this is the exact opposite of having a bad hair day. And there are three things–no more than three things–you wanna write more than three things, you can fill in on the edges and that’s to keep the constraint of the time.
A second is what would make today great or to give a better question, what can I do to make today great? Which is, as I’m sure you know Dave, in effect of priming the brain to look at the actions you can take later on in the day that will make the day better. So there’s research to show that people, just by thinking they’re gonna watch their favorite movie, increases endorphins level by 27%. Just the anticipation can be an incredible source of wellbeing and happiness. And the next question you’ll ask is what kind of a person do I want to be today? What’s my affirmation? And that’s it. Typically it should take you 3 minutes. At night, right before you go to bed, this is not the 20 minute version that I used to do is what were 3 good things that happened today. Or you could call it 3 wins.
DAVE: It’s kind of funny, when I tucked my 6 year old daughter in at night, I ask her that. What are the 3 things you’re grateful for today? Same thing, it effects what they think about when they go to sleep. Do you wanna think about the good things or the bad things
UJ: Absolutely, and when you talk about the research, great research shows that people sleep better once they write something that they’re grateful for, they experience better quality of sleep, they experience a greater sense of closeness with their family and friends and increases social motivation. The ability to do acts without needing to be told to do them. And the final thing is what’s one thing I would do better? How could I have made the day better? And that’s just to get a sense of how do I keep improving? Because that’s, I think, one of the primary drives that I have in life and I would like everybody else to have them.
DAVE: If everyone would do just one thing every day to improve themselves, the world would be pretty different.
DAVE: That comment reminds me of what commander Mark Divine from SealFit talked about. And that’s kind of baked into the Navy Seal ethos and just a way of being where every day you do something like that, and the high performance clients I work with and people who are attracted to the Bulletproof site, typically just think like that and they consider it odd and bazaar that there are people who wouldn’t think like that.
UJ: Absolutely. It’s the other end of the race, Dave.
DAVE: Yeah, it must be. You put on your blinders or take them off, depending on what it is.
DAVE: Okay so gratitude helps you sleep better. But what does gratitude actually get you?
UJ: So, here’s my theory on it based on all the research. And this is not double blind tests at all. But this is, I think, pretty accurate reverse engineering of what the studies tell us. I’m thinking it expands our self concept. So we have unconscious limits of what we can accept in the upper limit, what we can accept in the lower limit. I’ll give you an example. So, it’s difficult to describe it in terms of happiness, so lets move to something a little bit more quantifiable like weight or money.
Lets look at what someone weighs. Everyone has an upper limit of what they’re uncomfortable weighing. So for somebody could be 20 pounds overweight where there gut starts to show and they don’t fit in a certain size of clothes anymore. For somebody, it could be if they’ve cheated on a Bulletproof diet a couple of times a week they’re like “ah, I can’t do this anymore” and that’s a very different limit. For some people, the lower limit would be having to buy new shorts and new pants. Or seeing some ribs where they weren’t seeing them before. And what gratitude does, it allows you to see the positive and not just see the positive. Acknowledge that affect.
The affect component, the feeling is really important because it encodes the fact that you’re expanding what you’re seeing that is good in the world. You’re expanding your self concept of how much you can accept. How much positivity, how much growth, how much improvement. How much money. How much discipline you can actually accept. And it’s very difficult to be grateful just for yourself, right? So it’s usually something that’s externally directed. Most people are grateful for their friends, their family, for things outside of them. Even if it’s their health, they’re grateful for the circumstances that allow their health to be optimal or Bulletproof. And that allows them to know that, and always stay resilient, to obstacles. To mistakes. It’s being around people who experience gratitude journaling as an intervention are more resilient. They have actually higher prefrontal cortex activation in times of difficulties which is huge because the main difference of people who are resilient versus people who aren’t, and they’ve done from our research on this, is resilient people activate their prefrontal cortex. They actually start to think problem solving as opposed to people who don’t where their limbic system goes off. Their limbic system is fight or flight, they start panicking and they get into that negative spiral.
DAVE: So gratitude leads to resilience, which leads to higher performance.
DAVE: And that’s the reason that I’m such a big fan of gratitude. What else does it give you?
UJ: So it actually, one of the oldest studies, and the first studies gratitude was done by Robert Emmons and the very first study was just people writing something they were grateful for once a week five things they were grateful for. For a period of I believe 10 weeks. And there were a bunch of interesting effects. So three conditions: 1) people write things that they’re grateful for, 2) people write things that they were hassled by, and 3) which is the controlled condition which is just events. So people write five of the events in the last week.
And they were tested for multiple things including happiness, how much they’d exercised, how they’d felt about people around them etcetera. And 10 weeks later, people, they found that people in the gratitude condition exercised 1.5 hours a week more than people who were in the controlled condition. Which is substantially higher considering it’s only once a week. It’s not daily. And it’s only one exercise. The second was that pro social motivation actually increased, which is they started to do more things for their friends, their family. Their colleagues. People that they’re in business with. Because they start to attribute all of these good things to them. They felt a sense of reciprocity. They wanted to do things for them because they recognized how much and how lucky they were to have these people in their lives. It’s been shown over and over again that appreciation, especially expressing appreciation to people, on multiple levels, can be extremely effective.
John Gottman, who you might have heard of, who is the foremost researcher on marriages and what holds and keeps marriages together, and what keeps marriages apart. He can tell within, I think, right now, within 3 minutes of meeting a couple, he can tell if they’re going to stay together or not with a 90% accuracy which is kind of scary when you have someone who can look at something like body language and choose. He talks about a 5 to 1 ratio of positive affect to negative affect for a thriving relationship. And gratitude improves that substantially. Actually it’s one of his seven principles for making marriages work is the thanks giving exercise where people share with each other what are the things that they are grateful for each other. And one of the side benefits of the 5 minute journal I’m finding is people are telling me “my relationship with my wife is so much better because we do the journal together and we share with each other what we’re grateful for and it’s completely transformed our relationship.”
DAVE: That makes so much sense because one of the things that I’ve learned and things that I do with my clients when I take them through the 40 Years of Zen program is that gratitude is the first step of forgiveness. So if you can find something to be grateful for even if your day was absolute crap, and you still dig out that gem, it lets you let go of whatever you’re holding. The guy who cut you off in traffic or your boss yelled at you or whatever it was. Without that spark that comes from gratitude, you’re not gonna be able to do forgiveness. And forgiveness is not telling the guy you forgive him, you just stop paying attention to it and it just has no more power over you. Otherwise when you go to sleep at night, what’s gonna happen? You’re gonna think about that instead of thinking about what you’re grateful for and all the other things. So I think your journals are a neat hack because it is a very small amount of time in order to get this info down. Why is it on paper? Like, you’re killing trees, chopping them up, it’s nicely bound. Why didn’t you make this some kind of cheesy iPhone app?
UJ: It’s funny you ask because we actually have an app in progress right now.
DAVE: Is it cheesy? I’m kidding.
UJ: I don’t think it’s gonna be cheesy. But the original reason why we made it on paper, was because there’s something that fundamentally happens when you put pen to paper.
DAVE: It’s true.
UJ: And you start writing. So there’s an entire science devoted to the experience of coding, writing and understanding personality traits through looking at handwriting. It’s call graphology. It’s recognized in courts as ways to find out whether a person is lying or not. But also, what it does is when your brain looks at your handwriting, your brain begins to notice that hey, this is something you’ve committed yourself. There’s a great book called Influence by Charles…And there he talks about important principle of influence called commitment inconsistency. And people who write something down are magnitudes of times more likely to follow through on that action as opposed to just having said it to somebody.
DAVE: It’s funny. Napoleon Hill was the first guy to say “write it down. Put it on a mirror.” I did that when I was 16 and I said I’ll be a millionaire by the time I’m 23 and I did it when I was 26, so I don’t know if it worked or not. It was a single data point, but it was pretty cool. And I didn’t write “and stay a millionaire” so of course the company went bankrupt a couple years later, but it was a fun ride right? That’s the hard part. Get rich and stay rich. So if you’re doing affirmations, that last one matters.
UJ: Yeah, for people listening, make sure you keep that ‘stay’ in there.
DAVE: Live and learn, right?
DAVE: I’ve experienced something different though. People under around 25 who grew up with technology interact with the world in a different way. And I’m rare in this coming month I turn 41, but I’ve had my own computer since I was 8. Before DOS was around. I had a Pre-DOS machine. Leave it to my dad was in tech…what that means is I interact with the world using a keyboard very effectively. And I’ve done some very heavy duty personal growth work in the course of biohacking myself. And one of them was “you have to write with a pencil and write all the horrible things you think about yourself.” like a really tough exercise and I was like “no, I’m using my laptop” and I kind of fought with the teachers about that, of this course, and finally I won. And I typed it out, and it was like, so good that they anonymized it and read it as part of the training because it was so negative and dark. But I think that when I talk with people much younger than me, 10+ years, they are losing that pen to paper because they were told to write, and then after that they just typed. Like, their interaction with reality is different than the way you would. What are you about 30ish? 35ish?
UJ: I’m actually 25.
DAVE: Are you serious?
DAVE: Dude you look a little older than that! You gotta work on your anti aging regimen. So you still stick with a pen and pencil? Do your peers all do that too like in terms of, do you notice this effect?
UJ: So I’m different in the sense. I’m an avid journaler, so I have 3 to 4 journals going on for multiple things. A couple of them are online.
UJ: And a couple of them are offline.
DAVE: And you think the pen is more powerful than the keyboard for that?
UJ: I think the pen can be useful when you’re looking to reduce a bunch of data. For example, I use the pen when I’m looking to make incisive decision. I’m looking to cut out a bunch of nonsense that I don’t want my brain to throw at me. So what I’m looking to reduce? Problem solving I usually do with pen and paper because I find I write down only the most important thing. When I’m looking to brain dump, I usually do it on the keyboard because my hands can move a lot faster–my brain can basically speak to my keyboard.
DAVE: Got it. So you’re looking to have to do the filtering process it goes through.
DAVE: Not to get too into this. I hope everyone listening thinks this is listening too. I don’t know if you pay attention to how you interact with your data, but as someone who hacked the way to interact with data, this actually matters. Do you use a special pen, or do you use whatever pen’s in front of you?
UJ: Usually I use the same pen for the journal.
DAVE: Got it. That doesn’t surprise me either. I once had a gift. Someone gave me an $800 celluloid pen, and that would be my special pen and then I realized it was one of those fountain pens and I used it three times and I thought this was way too much work and I stopped using it. So that was my plan for that to be my special pen, but that fell through. Nice.
UJ: It’s just the routine. The ritual right? So you just follow the same thing with the same time with the same pen, and it just builds a certain anchor in your head. Just builds a certain sense and a certain feeling as soon as you start opening the journal and start to hack into the state.
DAVE: Yeah. So the ritual of journaling at night builds it’s own power and ritual. Even if you’re a hardcore skeptic rationalist, and there’s a lot of people who really like Bulletproof who are in the rationalist community. Ritual still has neurological impact whether or not you want to be cognitive and rational based on everything. The fact that you get additional performance from ritual for no apparent reason might scare you if you believe you’re feeling rational. But it does work. So if you’re rational you should do things that work. So you should try that one. There’s something to this ritual thing.
DAVE: Now I asked if you’d be up for giving a discount code for people who want to try out your journal. I’m not making money. This isn’t an affiliate thing or anything like that. This is just a discount code for people who wanna check this out. So thanks for listening, and UJ, thanks for coming on. What’s the code for people who wanna check out your new journal?
UJ: So they can go to www.fiveminutejournal.com and after they’ve filled out their information, the final page before they check out, write down the code is “bulletproof”, really simple. I’m a huge fan of Dave, and the show, and I’ve been following it for a while now, and I really appreciate all of your listening and I hope you enjoy. You’re welcome to contact me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you so much for having me on Dave.
DAVE: You got it. But you’re not done yet because there’s one question that I ask everyone on this show. And the question is, what are your top 3 recommendations for people who wanna perform better, who wanna kick more ass. I’m not talking about journaling or NLP or anything. Just your entire life’s journey. What are the things that matter most that people should know about?
UJ: So first thing is as soon as you wake up, make gratitude a practice. Just make it a practice. Make it something you do every day. Even if you don’t do the journal. Make it an emotion. Make it a way of being. As soon as you wake up. If you don’t have time for an extensive morning routine, that’s okay. Just allow yourself to wake up with that sense of gratitude. It can really make a massive difference. I know you interviewed Mark Divine which is one of my favorite favorite interviews. He mentioned the same thing. It’s so incredibly critical that we do that. SO that’s the first one. The second one, actually, thanks to you, eat Bulletproof and become a student of your body. It’s really changed a lot for me when I’ve started to notice what foods I’m sensitive too. How my clarity changes. How I feel a lot more sluggish when I eat certain foods, and I log everything. So if you eat Bulletproof and become a student of things that you really gravitate towards. For example, I really enjoy a drink called Fresca. Right? Which is…seeds and lemon and it’s drunk by the runners of New Mexico.
DAVE: Isn’t it? I grew up in New Mexico, by the way. So Fresca’s really like a cheap brand of soda, right?
UJ: Okay. I’m probably getting the name wrong here. But it was mentioned in the book Born to Run.
UJ: And he mentions how, basically, these runners use…seeds, lemon and honey, I know they used honey, and they usually marinated overnight and they use it on their long runs because it allows them so much fuel for their body. And I love how much clarity it gives me.
DAVE: Oh it’s chia fresca. Fresca’s like an off brand soft drink in New Mexico. Chia Fresca, I got it. That’s hilarious.
UJ: I know. And the third one is maintain a meditation practice. My meditation practice has been crucial to my performance because it just helped me stay so on top of things. I just know when I get into, when I get on my seat and I get into this state and amplify. It–I haven’t quantified this as yet, but it has been so crucial for me at times in my life when I really needed it. And it’s really made all the difference for me.
DAVE: Thanks for sharing those, UJ. I appreciate it. Where are you based?
UJ: I’m based out of Toronto, Canada right now.
DAVE: Awesome, it’s nice to see some fellow Canadians although I’m not really Canadian, I’m just one of those Californians who moved up here. But I at least like being in Canada.
UJ: It’s a good country.
DAVE: Thanks again for being on the show, and we’ll put links to all of the books and researchers you mentioned, even Bandlor although his books are entirely indecipherable. We’ll put links to the five minute journal and to your work as well. Talk to you soon.
UJ: Talk to you soon, Dave.