Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 94 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! In this episode, Bjork talks about how to keep going when you're not sure you can continue.
Last week, Bjork interviewed Meggan Hill from Culinary Hill about how finding a specific niche really freed up her blogging creativity and enabled her to grow her blog. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Whether you’ve been blogging for a few months or a few years, you’ve no doubt had the thought at some point or another: How do I keep going?
Blogging can be tough. You might be fitting it in after your regular full-time job hours. You might be running your blog as a business with not enough hours in the day. You might be juggling it on the side while trying to raise a family. Whatever your situation, you’ve likely found out that blogging isn’t easy, and on some days it’s tough to imagine how you’ll keep it up.
Today, Bjork talks about some techniques that he and Lindsay have used in their businesses to help them get up in the morning and do The Work.
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Hey, friends. Bjork here. So this is gonna be a really simple podcast episode. It might be a little bit shorter than the ones that we’ve done in the past, but my goal here is to deliver the content that I want to deliver without extending it or having it be too short … just the right amount. So this is actually a solo podcast episode. So every once in a while, I record a podcast episode like this that isn’t an interview, it’s just me talking to you about some ideas and things I’ve been thinking about. It’d maybe be similar to, if we were sitting down and having a cup of coffee- which I have by my side, I’ll have you know, even though it’s afternoon-ish. I gotta have that cup of coffee. But the idea is we’re sitting down and having this conversation, and I wish that you could be sitting across from me and we could be talking about it, but that’s not how podcasts work, unfortunately. So, I’m just gonna be sharing some of my thoughts. Maybe if we meet in person someday, you can share your thoughts on my thoughts, or share some additional ideas that you have. That would be splendid. I hope that can happen.
So what are we gonna be talking about today? Well, I’m gonna be sharing some things that I’ve been thinking about around the idea of how to keep going. How to continue, how to take step after step after step after step, even when it’s hard and when you don’t want to move forward. And I really, really believe it’s one of the most important skills that you need to develop if you want to play this game. And what is this game? Well, this game is the game of building your own thing, whether that be a blog, or a business, or a nonprofit. Whatever it is, this skill and ability to work hard every day and to keep doing that for an extended period of time is really important. And truth be told, most of us do okay with the working hard part, but it’s usually in short bursts. We’re gonna talk about that. It’s not for an extended period of time. But it really takes a long period of time. Years, not months, or sometimes decades, not years. And as many of you know, things happen. As years go by, you become interested in other things, you burn out, your family changes, your job changes, your living situation changes. All of these factors play into the reality of us building a thing, and we have to factor those in as we think about how do we keep going along this journey.
So, what does that look like? How do you keep going with one thing for an extended period of time? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. I’m actually gonna share five different ways that we’ve been able to keep going over an extended period of time with the work that we’ve done, and as we’ve worked to build these different businesses and communities that we have, and these are the things that have worked well for us. So let’s go ahead and jump in.
Number one: see the paths. Now, here’s the thing: too many people see a path and immediately begin to walk that path. And I’m gonna explain a little bit more of what I mean by “path,” but the trick here is to see the path, to observe it, to study it, but know that even though this path might lead you to where you want to go, it might not be the best path for you to take. And as I’m talking about these things, I want to challenge you to think about paths that you have observed other people take, and think about how quickly we think about ourselves going on that path. And usually what happens is, we really really like the idea of one of the destinations that that path leads to, but what we don’t realize is the important thing isn’t the destination that the path leads to. It’s the terrain of the path, the things that we have to navigate each and every day that we really need to consider. And it’s really hard to consider this because it requires deep and slow and critical thinking. And that’s not what our mind is made to do. It’s not made to go slow, or to think deeply, or to think really critically. We want to, as quickly as possible, come to a conclusion and to move forward on things.
So here’s an example: for Pinch of Yum, the blog that my wife Lindsay started back in 2010, it’s Lindsay’s full time job. And it’s a recipe and lifestyle-ish blog that creates an income through advertising and sponsored partnerships with brands. So it’s the path that she’s taken to building a business in a niche that she’s interested in, doing work that she enjoys while being her own boss. And some people see this path that Lindsay has walked and noticed that one of the places the path leads is to working with food, right? Making recipes, cooking, et cetera. So they start to walk to the path of building a food blog because they like the idea of creating and publishing recipes and being your own boss and doing work that you enjoy. But once they start walking the path, they realize there’s a lot of terrain on that path that they’re not interested in, right? There’s writing, there’s social media, there’s photography, if you work with sponsorships there’s the relationship between the P.R. agency or the brand …
And the danger here is, for people that start to walk this path, they keep walking this path because they’re so enthralled with the perceived destination, right? Where does the path lead? But what they don’t realize is that the path will always look pretty similar. Even if you get to that destination, the actual path isn’t gonna change. There will always be writing, there will always be social media, there will always be photography if you keep walking that path. It doesn’t get easier later on, because you’re still covering terrain that you’re not built for or that you’re not excited about. And the hard thing is, in your mind, you’re thinking, “When I get to this destination that I see this other person has gotten to, then I will be happy,” or, “Then I will enjoy this path.” But that’s not always what happens.
So that seems like bummer news, right? But there’s good news. And the good news is that there are thousands of paths that you can take. And I’ve talked about this concept before on the podcast, but I think it’s really important to reiterate here. And it’s important because there’s a path out there that will be just a little bit easier for you because it’s terrain that’s a better fit for you. It’s stuff that you’re more interested in or more passionate about. And all of that factors into your ability to keep going, to move forward. But the hard thing is finding that path. And this is something that I think is worth talking about a little bit, so I’m gonna go on a little bit of a tangent here. But that’s why one of the tricks to keep going is to see all of the paths, not just the one path that’s in front of you.
So the theme for this podcast episode is how do you keep going. This first section that we’re talking about is seeing all of the paths, and this is important because you want to see all of the options, not just the path that’s right in front of you or that’s easiest to see. Because seeing all of the paths, all of the different options that are out there, allows you to see all of the different ways that you could get to that destination. And when you see all of the options, you can find the one that fits you best. And it might not be the one that is easiest to see, or that is clearest. It’s important to know that some of the clearest paths to see are from people that speak about what it’s like to walk down those paths.
And here’s an example that I think is, if you’re familiar with Pinch of Yum, or familiar with what we do, that’s a really obvious, easy to communicate example. So on Pinch of Yum, many, many years ago we started doing income reports. And I would come on the blog every month, and I would say, “Here’s what we earned from the blog, and here’s how we earned it. Here’s the traffic that we received.” And we published these publicly so people can see exactly what it looks like. It’s a really, really clear path for how we built Pinch of Yum as a sustainable, successful business. And we are people that talk about our path, whether it’s on the podcast, whether it’s through the income reports, whether it’s Lindsay publishing lifestyle-type content. We’re really open about our path to building this business. But we are vocal path-walkers. And so what happens is, the more vocal you are, the more people hear about it, and the more people start to walk down that path. And that’s a totally okay thing, and that’s a reality of what we’re doing. But what happens is that path becomes more traveled. There are more people walking down that path. And my guess is, there are people that start walking down this path because we have been vocal about this path that aren’t the best fit for this path, right?
So Lindsay has unique skills and abilities that have allowed her to really travel this path well. She loves photography, she’s become passionate about communication through writing, she loves recipes, her personality is one of which that’s relatively consistent with publishing content. But if your goal is to build a blog or to build a business so you can be your own boss, you don’t have to walk down this same path. It’s okay if you do, and it’s best if you’re a really good fit for it, but what’s important to know is that it’s not the only path. Not all paths have vocal participants. And here’s what I mean by that: there are paths that just a handful of people walk, and they do it really quietly. Maybe because of their personality, or maybe because they don’t want other people to know about their beautiful and secluded path. And one of those quiet and secluded paths might be the perfect path for you. So the hard thing is, how do you find those? Well, it kind of goes back to what we were talking about before. It’s about slowing down, it’s about thinking critically, it’s about observing, it’s about talking to new people, listening to new podcasts. You can still listen to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, but there’s other ones out there. And those would be good to open up your horizons.
Maybe if you’ve realized that you’re really, really focused within the small niche of food blogging, and you’ve realized that maybe that’s not the best fit for you, not the best exact path for you, it’s opening that up a little bit and saying, “What are the other podcasts I could listen to, to get some other perspective?” Some of my favorite podcasts that I listen to that are kind of in the niche of building a business, there’s one, it’s actually a sponsored podcast, which is kind of interesting, from Gimlet Media, called Open for Business. And they also have, Gimlet has another great podcast called Startup, and it talks about the process of people going through building a business in the startup niche. There’s some other really great online business podcasts. One that’s been around for a really long time’s called Smart Passive Income. Lindsay and I were interviewed on that, and there’s a guy named Pat Flynn that does those interviews. So those would all be good podcasts to check out.
It’s reading books that you otherwise wouldn’t read. It’s about staying curious and asking questions. And I found this to be important for myself recently. And as I’ve thought about, “What are the other paths that I don’t know about?” Because one of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I see these vocal path-walkers, people that talk about their process and teach about their process, I want to learn from them, be intentional to see what they’re doing, but maybe getting on that path isn’t the best option for me. So one of the things that I’ve been doing is, I’ve been really intentional to study other businesses. And there’s two sites that I love checking in on occasionally. One is called F.E. International, and it stands for Flipping Enterprises International, and the other one is called Quiet Light Brokerage. And Mark, from Quiet Light Brokerage, actually was on the podcast and we did an interview with him about what it’s like to build and sell businesses. But these are two sites that I’ve really enjoyed studying, or I’ve really enjoyed using as a resource for studying in order to see the other paths that exist where the people that are walking those paths might not be quite as vocal.
So I’m actually just gonna, as an example, pull up a couple recent listings that they’ve had, that these sites have had. They’re internet business brokers, and so I’ll go to Quiet Light Brokerage here and I’m gonna look at listings. And when I look at listings, just the first one that I’m gonna pull up here, it might be different when you look at it, but it’s called, “A branded e-commerce business with 259% year-to-date growth and low workload.” Okay, so this is interesting. Obviously, not at all in the blog niche, but here’s the description of this business: it says, “Another record month just closed for this branded line of home health-oriented products, beginning its third year of business.” So it hasn’t been in business that long. “It is operated by one owner-operator and a small, remote, and fully transferable staff of contractors. Revenues year-to-date are up over 260% versus the first quarter of last year, due to brand recognition and several new SKUs,” so new products, “that were added midway through 2016. And at its current pace, revenues for 2017 could easily top 4 million dollars.” Wow, incredible. And this business is for sale for 2.7 million dollars.
So what is my takeaway from that? Well, this is an area that I never would have thought about, I never would have considered. It’s not within my niche, but it’s somebody who has quickly built a really successful business. And studying these other businesses, for me, has helped me to realize there’s all of these different paths that exist that maybe people aren’t talking about. Or if they are, it’s not within my niche. And it’s helped me to look outside of my little bubble and to see there’s all different sorts of ways that I could be building businesses, or that I could be doing things that I enjoy. It’s not just about building businesses, it’s saying, “What do I actually enjoy? What is the path that is the best fit for me?” And then, “How do I find ways to get to that destination?” And for these sites, FEI and Quiet Light Brokerage, QLB, this helps me to get outside of my little bubble a little bit. And in doing so, I can also start to think about, “What is it that I actually enjoy about this process?”
For me, it’s not necessarily writing. I don’t get a huge boost of energy when I sit down and write. That’s just not something that’s true for me. So I’m like, “Okay, I probably don’t want to go into the publishing side of things.” It’s not social media. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m not very active. I don’t have an Instagram account. I’ll check my 10 people that I follow on Snapchat to see what they’re doing. But I know that it’s something that I’m not super interested in. It’s not a path that I know I want to go down. Does that mean if I’m working on something, that I’m not gonna include social media on it? No, but it’s probably not going to be me that’s doing the social media for it. Just not something that I’m super passionate about and enjoy. Really important? Yes. Is it for me, am I gonna walk that path? Not necessarily. So that’s number one. Something to think about and consider. Maybe one of the most important things is to see all of the paths and understand the terrain, both what you enjoy and what is required for walking that path. And then, once you have a good understanding of those two things, think about which ones lead to the destination that I want to go. That’s a really important thing to consider as you’re building your thing, but also before you set out to build it.
Number two: a decade of intentional effort. And I think this is really true: one of the biggest reasons that people give up is because … a lack of progress. We’ve all felt that, I’m sure. But the expectations that they set out for themselves are drastically unrealistic. And we see this all the time, when we get emails from people or people reach out to us. And one of my favorite quotes that related to this is from Tony Robbins. He says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in two or three decades.” And it’s really true when you’re building an online business or when you’re building a blog. It takes a lot of time. And it also takes a lot of intentional effort, which looks like really small, intentional steps every single day. And most people can get the idea of that intentional effort down. They can understand that, and they can move on that, but it’s usually for a short period of time.
And when I say “short period of time,” I mean a month, maybe three months, maybe six months. But to continually move towards big goals each and every day by applying small and consistent steps, by applying intentional effort each and every single day, that’s really difficult. Because, especially in the early stages, you’re working really hard, and it feels like there’s nothing that you’re getting back. You’re improving your content, you’re taking photos, you’re getting up early, maybe you’re staying up late, you’re learning. And after six months, you’ve barely grown at all.
So what gives? Why does that happen? You’ve put in the intentional effort, but you haven’t given it enough time. And this is why the path that we talked about before is really important. Because if you hate what it is that you’re doing each and every day, then you’re on the wrong path. So you need to reanalyze that and say, “What is the terrain that is the best fit for me?” and analyze that, and to know that the work itself won’t get more enjoyable when you become more successful. The only thing that will change is the stakes get a little bit higher, right? So then you’ll be doing work that you maybe don’t enjoy, and the stakes are higher, which maybe potentially makes it less enjoyable. So first, adjust your path, like we talked about before, so you can enjoy the intentional effort that you have to do each and every day, because you’re gonna be doing it for a really long time.
And this is a little bit of a side note, but I want to make a point to talk about the difference between what we call the resistance, and not enjoying the path. So for those that are familiar with this concept of the resistance, it’s from a book called “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield and it’s a really great read, and I would really recommend that you check it out if you haven’t yet. In this book, he talks about this concept called the resistance. And for him, it’s almost this real life spiritual thing. But I like to think of it as the thing inside of us that keeps us from doing the work that we enjoy and want to do. So if you are a writer, you know you want to be a writer, you’re passionate about writing, and yet somehow every day when you get up, you do all of the other things before you actually sit down and do the writing. So you get ready for the day, you clean up, you have breakfast, you organize, you sort the mail, you do all of these things that true, are important to do, but they keep you from doing the thing that you really want to do. That’s the resistance. That’s a little bit different from actually just not enjoying the path.
And not enjoying the path looks like once you actually get into the thing, once you actually start doing the work, you still feel like it’s not a good fit, or you don’t look forward to doing it, or even when you complete it, you don’t feel great about what it is that you’ve done. And I wanted to point that out because some of you might feel the resistance when you are doing the work that you are excited about, and think that’s you not enjoying the path, when in actuality it’s this thing that we come up against as creatives, keeping us from doing the important work. That’s different than just flat-out not enjoying the work that you’re doing. So it’s maybe kind of a gray line, but I think it’s important to point out and talk about a little bit.
So that’s number two. It’s maintaining this idea of, it’s gonna take a really long time. It’s gonna be a decade of intentional effort before you get to the point where you feel that success, or before you get to the point where you’ve achieved at a level that you are excited about or feel good about. And that’s not always true, right? You can make things happen in a couple years, depending on what it is and what your goals are. But if you have the mindset of a decade, and have the mindset of that decade being intentional, consistent effort, that’s gonna alleviate the stress and anxiety you feel of wanting something to happen in six months. “Why haven’t I made progress in six months? Why haven’t I improved? Why haven’t I gotten to the point where I want to get?” Because six months is a really short period of time. So we underestimate what we can do in a decade or two decades or three decades. We overestimate what we can do in a year. So it’s that mindset of a decade of intentional effort, and that will help you to keep going, because you won’t be as discouraged by not having as much short term progress as you would like.
Number three: keep going by stopping. Let’s talk about this a little bit. Sometimes it’s important to stop. You’re tired, you’re burnt out, you need a break. Lindsay and I experienced this recently when we lost our son Afton at the beginning of this year. And if you haven’t followed along with that journey or are unfamiliar, I’d encourage you to go to Lindsay’s site, Pinch of Yum, and she’s talked a lot about that and shared our story pretty openly, and would be honored if you’d check that out if that’s something that you’re interested in. And for us, this wasn’t a time to keep going. It was a time to stop. And sometimes, that’s okay. And it’s important, during these times, to not give yourself a hard time about it. Remember, it’s decades not years for this. And there are times when things come up and you keep going in the decade by stopping in the short term. And we’ve experienced that, and we would encourage other people to experience that. And obviously, what it looks like is gonna be different for everybody, in terms of what that event is that justifies you stopping and taking some time away, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to stop in order to keep going in the long run.
Number four: deadlines. Deadlines and dates. And I don’t need to spend too much time on this, and you’re probably happy to hear that because it’s not exactly a sexy thing to talk about, but it’s really true. Deadlines, setting deadlines, putting things on the calendar will help you to keep moving forward. And deadlines have been one of the most important variables, or one of the most important things, that have played into the success that we’ve had with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. Setting a date and then sticking to that, whether it was way back when Food Blogger Pro just launched. We said, “We’re launching February 1st, 2013.” Or it’s a workshop for Pinch of Yum, where we email people out and say, “Here’s when the workshop is gonna be.” Or working with a brand and saying, “Here’s when the post will go live.” Any of those examples all tie back to this idea of deadlines and setting a date, and that really has a big impact on encouraging you to keep going and keep producing and keep creating. Not a fun one all the time, but a really important one.
And then number five: how do you keep going? Well, you find the good. And here’s something that I’m coming to realize about people in general, is that we’re wired to see what’s wrong with things. It’s kind of survival, right? So we’re out in the woods, we’re not looking for the things that are really awesome, we’re looking for the things that might attack us. Or we’re camping and you don’t necessarily hear the soft waves against the shoreline, you are listening for bears that might come rumbling through your campsite. At least, that’s the case if you live in Minnesota and go to the Boundary Waters canoe area, which all of you should do. Beautiful, beautiful area. But it’s this survival mindset, we’re looking for the things that are wrong, not necessarily to see the good. And we need to overcome that in a lot of areas of our life, and this is one of them.
One of the most important things you can do to keep going is to find the things that you’re thankful for, to see the good. Me, right now, what am I grateful for? What am I thankful for? It’s the music that I’m listening to, which for those of you that are curious it’s this song, “8 (circle),” by Bon Iver. I’m thankful and grateful for our dog, Sage, who’s sleeping next to me. I’m thankful that the snow has finally melted. It’s April, and there was snow on the ground in Minnesota, and that spring is around the corner. And all of these things might seem completely disconnected from the work that you’re doing, but what I’ve found is one of the best ways to continue to do the work, to keep going, is to find the things that are good with the work.
And so often, we can think of the things that aren’t good, we can feel the pressure to complete one of those deadlines that we set, and we can feel stressed about that. We can feel the anxiety of other people having success and us not moving along as quickly as we want to. We can feel the tension of having a lot to do and not enough time to do it, or maybe it’s a family member or a friend that doesn’t quite get what we do and isn’t quite fully behind us. We can see the negative. But if you can switch and start to see the good, to see the positive, and to align that as much as possible with the work that you’re doing, what you’ll find is that as you’re doing the work, as you keep things going, as you continue to invest in things over a long period of time, it’ll be easier because you’ll align that good, and you’ll think about that good alongside the work that you’re doing. And seeing the good makes the path more enjoyable to walk, which makes it easier to keep going, which ties it back to that first one that we talked about before.
So, those are some things that I’ve been thinking about lately that I wanted to share with you here in today’s podcast episode. Just to review real quick, what are those five things that you can apply to keep going with what you’re working on?
Number one is to see the paths, the multiple paths that exist in order to get you where you’re going. Within that, understanding the terrain, what fits best for you, and to know that just because some paths are easy to see, doesn’t mean that’s the path that you should take, or that’s the best fit for you.
Number two is to think about a decade of intentional effort, as opposed to a short burst of intentional effort. Think about long term, and that reality that we can do so much more than we think we can in two or three decades, and a lot of times, we overestimate what we can do in a year.
Number three: keep going by stopping. There might be a time in your life, and maybe it’s right now, where you need to press pause. You need to step back, you need to recharge, you need to take time with family or friends, and then come back to what you’re doing a little bit later on when you’re recharged and ready to go. That’s an okay thing, and it’s better than burning out. It’s better than just pushing through when you feel that tension to stop. It’s better to just go ahead, stop, press pause. Remember, you’re thinking about decades, not short term. Not years or months, even.
Number four: setting those deadlines. Not always super exciting, but really important.
And number five: find the good. What is the thing that you really enjoy about the work that you’re doing? And it might not even be connected to the work itself. For me, it’s creating an outline for this podcast episode, but it’s thinking about some of the other things that come along with that, that I really enjoy. The coffee I’m drinking, Sage, our dog sleeping next to us, snow melting outside. All of those things help make it easier to do the work as I think about the positive, the good that is connected to it and that’s around me as I am doing that work.
So I hope there’s something that you took away from this podcast episode today. These are fun for me to do, these solo episodes. And it’s fun for me to think about them reaching you wherever you are. And I really appreciate you tuning into this podcast. We get a consistent two to three thousand people every week tuning in, which is really fun to know that each and every episode will have hours and hours of air time with thousands and thousands of people. And that’s really inspiring, and we don’t take that lightly. So thank you to whoever you are for tuning in, for listening to this podcast. It means a lot. Hopefully connect with you in person someday. Until then, we’ll keep connecting here on the podcast. I am signing off here, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Make it a great week. Thanks, guys.
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