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This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 356 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jillian Johnsrud about achieving financial independence and sharing content confidently.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Joanie Simon about ways to improve your food photography. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Achieving Financial Independence
We’re so excited we had a chance to talk to Jillian in today’s episode!
She is the author of the book, “Fire the Haters: Finding Courage to Create Online in a Critical World,” and she is on a mission to help others build a life that perfectly lines up with their values, passion, and purpose.
And in this episode, she’s doing just that! She shares some of her best tips for achieving financial independence, overcoming imposter syndrome, dealing with negative comments, and cultivating a healthy relationship with your work.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Jillian achieved financial independence
- What her income sources currently look like
- How she did mini retirements throughout her career
- What she covers in her book
- How to not take negative comments about your business personally
- How to overcome imposter syndrome
- Jillian Johnsrud
- Fire the Haters: Finding Courage to Create Online in a Critical World
- Mr. Money Mustache
- The Simple Path to Wealth
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- 6 Simple Steps to Taking a Mini Retirement PDF
- Follow Jillian on Instagram and Twitter
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Early access to their $25/Month Forever pricing
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is actually sponsored by our sister site, Clariti. I’ve talked about Clariti before on the podcast as a tool that we use so it’s just come up naturally, but also as an official sponsor, as an official advertiser on the podcast. The reason that we’re advertising on the podcast is because it is a perfect fit for the people who listen to this podcast. People who are thinking about how they can optimize and improve their existing content.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s why we built Clariti, it really came out of this need for us as we were working on Pinch of Yum, to have a tool that would facilitate our projects and the work that we needed to do on posts in a way that we were doing, but with a giant spreadsheet. So we created this tool called Clariti. It’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I, so it’s Clariti with an I. The simple premise of Clariti is it’s a software app that will allow you to look at your content at a high level, and you can filter and organize and understand your content. Then you can build projects around the things that you need to do.
Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like and how does that practically work? I can give you some specific examples of what Pinch of Yum is doing right now. One of the projects that we have is adding internal links to posts. The reason why that’s important, is because you want to make sure that the content that you have on your website, on your blog, links to other places on your site. Now of course, you want it to be relevant content, content that makes sense to link to. But if you don’t have any internal links on a post, that potentially could be an area for you to optimize, it could be something for you to look at and to add internal links. For Pinch of Yum what we did using Clariti, is we filtered and we said, “Show us all of the content that doesn’t have any internal links,” or in your case, you could say maybe just one internal link and you might want to add two, three internal links to that post. You could filter using Clariti and then you could take all of that and add it to a project called add internal links.
Bjork Ostrom: Another project that we’re doing is simply adding alt text to images that don’t have alt text. We have 772 different posts on Pinch of Yum that have an image that is missing alt text in some way. So we filtered using Clariti and we said, “Show me all of the posts that have at least one image with alt text missing.” Then we took all of those posts and using Clariti, it takes 30 seconds, we said, “Create a project where we are going to look at these pieces of content and find those images and add alt text to those.” There’s lots of different things that Clariti can do.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re still early stages with it and because of that, we’re offering what we’re calling 25 forever campaign. We’re allowing the first 500 users who sign up for Clariti to get their plan, to get a subscription to Clariti for $25 a month forever. We’re not going to raise that even down the line when Clariti becomes more full-featured, and it’s already pretty powerful with the things that you can do. But even when it becomes more full-featured and we increase the pricing, maybe we change it based on how many page views you have or how many posts your site has, whatever it might be, anybody who signs up in this early stage will continue to get that $25 a month forever plan. If you’re interested in doing that and getting that deal, you can go to clariti.com/food. It’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food and that will bring you to a page where you can sign up and we’ll follow up with you once you’ve signed up expressing your interest, and we’ll talk through how you can do it, how you can sign up and really what comes with a Clariti subscription.
Bjork Ostrom: So thanks to Clariti and the Clariti team for sponsoring the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We have a tight-knit family here with the Tiny Bit companies, but it is an official sponsorship and we want to thank the Clariti team for sponsoring the Food Blogger Pro podcast and for building an incredible tool that we’ve been able to use across the Tiny Bit brands. So if you want to join, there’s still time for you to sign up. It’s not like we’re going to run out of those 500 user accounts right away, but they also won’t be there forever. So you can check that out by going to clariti.com/food, and thanks to Clariti for sponsoring the podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello. This is the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today, we are having a conversation with Jillian Johnsrud. She is a speaker, an author, a blogger, and she talks a lot about financial independence. We’re going to talk about what that is, what that means, how she was able to achieve that in her life. Really, for me, I love these conversations because a lot of times it opens the door to an area that you’ve never thought about, a room that you can go into that you didn’t know was there. We’re going to talk about financial independence, what that is, how people can get there, how she was able to get there in her early 30s. And we’re also going to talk a little bit about her book called Fire the Haters and this idea of finding courage to create online in a critical world. It’s a great conversation, and I know there’s going to be a lot of takeaways for you as you listen through it.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, one quick promo that I wanted to shout out here is the Food Blogger Pro Facebook group. If you go to food bloggerpro.com/facebook, that will redirect you to a page where you can weigh in on the Food Blogger Pro podcast. It’s actually the Food Blogger Pro podcast group, not just Food Blogger Pro, it’s a subgroup, so it’s not a page. It’s a little community of podcast listeners and you can weigh in on questions, you can follow up. Sometimes we’ll have guests come on after. Essentially it’s a little community for anybody who listens to the podcast. Again, if you go to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook, that will redirect you to the Food Blogger Pro podcast Facebook group. Would love for you to join in on the conversation there, be a part of everything that we’re talking about. We have almost 500 members, so it’s fun to see that continuing to grow.
Bjork Ostrom: All right, enough about that. Let’s jump into this interview. Jillian, welcome to the podcast.
Jillian Johnsrud: Thanks so much for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, this will be a fun conversation because it’s something that I’m personally really interested in. A lot of times that happens for the podcast, but an area that I’ve read about, we’ve done a couple conversations on the Food Blogger Pro podcast around finances, as well. But it’s going to be a hybrid conversation. We’re going to be talking about finances, financial independence. And we’re going to be talking about what it looks like to be a creator in the world and how to create confidently when you maybe come up against things like people who are critical or imposter syndrome, things like that. Let’s lead with finance because I think that’s a great thing to talk about, something I’ve been reading a lot about lately as well and specifically this idea of financial independence. One of the things you talk about is at 32, you became financially independent. What does that mean? And was there a marker that you had set in your mind of what that was and what that represented?
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, the term financial independence basically means that you’ve built up enough assets to where you don’t have to earn income to pay your bills for the rest of your life. People do that a lot of different ways. It can just be your 401k, it can be real estate. There’s a number of different methods, but that’s what happened at 32. And oddly enough, I didn’t think it would happen in my 30s. When we started this journey I was like, “Maybe it’s 60 if I’m really ambitious,” and it snuck up on us as it tends to do, because compound interest is so powerful. It boggles the mind that one day you feel like you’re halfway there and then two or three years later, you’re like, “Oh, geez! It’s right around the corner. I don’t feel ready.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What was it that you did to get you there? Because I think people hear that and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I want to do that. I want to be at a place where I don’t have to worry about working or live month to month.” My guess is there’s two components. One is how much you’ve saved, the other is how much you spend and if you can maximize both of those things; spend less, earn more, then you’ll be able to get there quickly.
Bjork Ostrom: I think of Mr. Money Mustache as the ultimate example of people who have done that. I just read a book by an author named J.L. Collins. Do you know J.L. Collins? My guess is similar to the food world, the finance world is similarly tight once you get into it where you know these names and these people. But he wrote a book called The Simple Path to Wealth and it’s about just strategies around investing, but also spending wisely. What was that for you and then how did you know like, “Hey, we are there, we’ve made it,” what did that look like?
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, we started our journey not in a fantastic spot. We had $55,000 worth of debt and coming out of college we opted for low-earning career fields, which isn’t a fantastic combination.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, same with my wife and I. I worked at a nonprofit and she was a teacher, so.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yep. I knew that it would take a lot of frugality, that was going to have to be a component for us because we just weren’t going to earn enough money to look rich and be rich. It was one or the other, we had to pick, but we didn’t have high enough income to pull off both of those. So we started by just saving half of our income and at times it was really difficult. At times we had to make some unconventional choices when our peers were all doing this one thing, we were doing the other.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example?
Jillian Johnsrud: We lived in DC, which is a pretty high cost of living area and we were in our mid-20s and we had one and then two kids and we had a roommate. I told all of my friends like, “Hey guys, this is a fantastic idea. You can save so much money.” They’re like, “Nah, we’re good. We’ll pass.” My husband had a lot of student loans. All of our friends had a lot of student loans. And he decided to join the military because they would eventually pay off those student loans. There again, told my friends like, “Oh my gosh, you guys should consider this. This is a great option.” And they’re like, “Nah, we’re good.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting, I think Dave Ramsey has this phrase, a finance person who I think a lot of people would be aware of, but where he says live like no one else so you can live like no one else. I think that’s a great example. You were doing things that nobody else was doing and that were really unconventional and now my guess is you can do things that not a lot of other people can do and are unconventional.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, and those choices, especially in our early 20s, they really compounded. For example, living with that roommate over the three or four years, it helped us save $25,000, which we invested for four years and then that money became the down payment on our very first rental property. That rental property, that income helped us buy our second rental property. Just having those two rentals now is 30% of our passive income. One choice snowballed into something that now creates about $1,500 a month in income and because housing prices are insane right now, has significantly grown our net worth.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the appreciation of it, that’s one of the reasons why real estate potentially can be a good investment is because if the market’s trending in the right direction then you can buy something and five years later it’s worth 30% more, in addition to the income that it creates just because it’s worth more and the market has gone up. Now, obviously that can go the other way. You and I have both experienced the market crash 2008, 2009, when Lindsay and I bought our first condo. I think we bought it for $78,000 and the person before us bought it for $140,000. You can see both ways, it can work both ways. But to your point, what a great thing that you were able to compound not only your decisions, but also compounding interest on investments that you made.
Bjork Ostrom: Just to nerd out on the investment side a little bit, you’ve talked about real estate and investing in real estate and there’s cash flow from that. There’s appreciation from that so that impacts your net worth. You can’t really live off of that unless you refinance or take that money out, but it’s a great investment. What else did you do from a financial perspective with your investments? Was it index funds, was it other real estate? Obviously, investing in a business where you’re speaking and publishing books, which we’ll talk about it in a little bit. But at a high level, what did the portfolio look like that allowed you to say, “Hey, we’re financially independent and now work has become more optional as opposed to required.”
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, we have a three-legged stool. We have our rental income, we have investments and we just saved in our traditional retirement accounts and a brokerage account, which it’s just like a checking account for different kinds of assets like stocks and index funds and stuff. But we kept that really simple. Then my husband retired from the military so we have his pension, which gives us healthcare. Just a really wonderful bonus in making this whole thing work. Each of them actually create almost the exact same amount of income, they’re about $1500 each.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. To the piece of you have these investments, that would be wealth accumulation, and then you also have spending and being strategic about how you’re spending and keeping your spending below a certain level. Those two things, if done right, you can get to a point where you can say, “Hey, I know going forward we can take this money out, whether it be cash flow from the real estate, maybe money from the brokerage account, and we can support ourselves at this amount, whether it’s $4,000, $5,000 a month, whatever it is. That’s what we need to live on a day by basis.” How did you know what that was? When did you get to that point? Had you done a really good job of budgeting and saying like, “Great, here’s where we’re going to get.”
Bjork Ostrom: Then the other question is, I think a lot of people say like, “How do you know you’re not going to run out?” If you shift away from work and maybe you don’t have your resume as polished as it could be, there’s maybe some fear involved with saying, “You know what, we’re going to make this shift. We’re going to change things.” Or was that not how you viewed it? You just said, “Hey, we’re financially independent,” meaning we don’t need to work. We can and we will, but we can leave a traditional job in service of some more creative endeavors.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, we ran our numbers. We had had one biological kiddo and then we were placed with three kiddos, half-siblings, for adoption and then I found out I was pregnant.
Bjork Ostrom: All right, okay.
Jillian Johnsrud: So in the span of two years we went from one to five.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow!
Jillian Johnsrud: It was a big life change. After the three kiddos came, I had left my job. He was still working full time and we found out we were pregnant. I was like, “Yeah, I can’t do this.”
Bjork Ostrom: It was a life change, yeah.
Jillian Johnsrud: I was barely keeping my head above water. Like, “You cannot add an infant to this situation.”
Bjork Ostrom: What were you doing for work at the time?
Jillian Johnsrud: The job I had done before that was commission sales. I’d done a lot of different jobs. I mean, my husband was in the military, so we moved around a little bit. I had had a variety of professions, but yeah, I mean, I looked at our numbers, I looked at what our passive income would be. We had just added that second rental property so our passive income had increased and I looked at our expenses. Our first house that we bought is our primary residence, we had paid cash for because we had been renting for 10 years. We’d been saving for 10 years and we completely gutted it and renovated it, so our expenses were pretty low. I just said, “Let’s just take a year off. Let’s just try.” We had done a number of mini-retirements throughout our marriage up to that point, partly because I didn’t think we would be able to retire early, like, it didn’t seem feasible.
Bjork Ostrom: Let’s do this now because we’re not going to be able to do it later.
Jillian Johnsrud: For sure. But I just did it as an experiment. I work, I do one on one coaching and a lot of people are in this spot where they’re thinking about taking a mini-retirement, they’re thinking about early retirement, they’re ready for this career transition. They want to do something more entrepreneurial for the second chapter and everyone’s scared. Scared is the normal baseline emotion. But what generally happens nine times out of 10, especially if you just do a couple things right, is once you open up this space in your life, so many opportunities present themselves that you never would’ve seen in your 9:00 to 5:00 job. I even have to warn coaching clients like, “You will get a lot of job offers as soon as you leave. As soon as people know that you’re available and you’re free, there’s something in the American psyche that finds that very unnerving that someone’s just not working.” So they constantly think, “Oh, I know who’s available. Oh, I know who might be a great fit.”
Jillian Johnsrud: My husband, when he finally left, he got four or five job offers, better jobs than he had ever had before just in the first year because there’s that loop that people want to close like, “They should just be working.”
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right, right. It’s interesting, you mentioned mini-retirements, one of the first influential business books I read, as well as I’m sure a lot of other people, is Tim Paris’s Four Hour Work Week. He talks a lot about this idea of mini-retirements. What was that like for you? Did both you and your husband step back for a year and how did you think through that decision?
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah. We’ve been married 20 years this summer.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool, congratulations.
Jillian Johnsrud: But we talked about our first year of marriage. I was reading through the Old Testament, as you do as a 19-year-old, just light reading. I got to the point about sabbaticals and how you would take a year off every seven years. I thought, “Well, that’s a fantastic idea.” I loved the sound of that. I told my husband and he was like, “Oh, sweetie. I don’t think people do that anymore.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, news flash.
Jillian Johnsrud: I’m not sure if they even did it then. It was one of those cool ideas that was never implemented. I was like, “Well, we should do it.” He was thoroughly unconvinced at my crazy scheme at the time, but we just kept that in the back of our mind. And after we started to make some progress with our finances, we just took those opportunities. Sometimes it was requesting a month off from work to go do something. Sometimes it was just taking the natural career breaks between jobs, between when you move, just giving yourself an extra two, or three, or six months to explore something outside of the 9:00 to 5:00 and we just sprinkled them in all the way throughout.
Bjork Ostrom: What happened when you did that? Did you come out of, let’s say a six-month period or one-year period being in a different head space and did it inform how you made future decisions about work?
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, it’s so helpful. It’s so helpful to take a break from your work identity because for a lot of us it can be so intermeshed in who we are. Then what happens when people go to retire, is it’s really scary because work, to use a little garden analogy because I’m in Montana, I love gardening. If you think about a garden box, there’s only so much space in there and sometimes your work plant becomes the biggest plant and it crowds out all the other plants. If you pluck that out, you’ve just got dirt. That’s so dysregulating for people that they get this one more year syndrome where they just keep pushing it back. So having that time to disconnect and build up our identities and our purpose and our meaning outside of our job was super helpful. I actually just came back, I was gone. We did a three month road trip with all of our kiddos. We have a camper-
Bjork Ostrom: What are the ages?
Jillian Johnsrud: I’ve got, let’s see, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14.
Bjork Ostrom: All right, road trip.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yep. We escaped Montana winter, we went to Arizona, Southern California did this big loop. But I did almost no work on the trip and it was really helpful for me to just reset and to come back refreshed, but also to reimagine what the role of work is going to look like in my life. Because sometimes you just get in that cycle of more and more and more and busy and busy and you don’t stop and say, “How could this look different?”
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right. Oh, that’s interesting. Along the way, as you started to reflect on work, your career, you settled into where you are now. I heard you reference one on one coaching with people, obviously your book, which would love for you to talk about. But how did you get to where you are now, knowing that it was probably a pretty methodical, well-thought-out process. It’s not something you just stumbled into. You’ve reflected on work, you’ve reflected on career, or maybe not. Maybe it is something you stumbled into.
Jillian Johnsrud: Totally stumbled into. During that one year off, we had this huge laundry list of things we wanted to do. Some of it was honestly, just catching up on life. We had a lot of life deferred because we had a really busy couple years. It was bathroom remodels, decluttering and visiting family. But one of the things on the list was something to do with writing, that was the big idea. Something to do with writing.
Bjork Ostrom: When was this, when you took the step back?
Jillian Johnsrud: Let’s see, that was seven years ago.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Seven years ago you have this list and then it’s like, “I want to do something with writing.”
Jillian Johnsrud: Something with writing. I always loved writing, but I had grown up really poor and in a very practical blue-collar mentality. Honestly, I viewed creative work or entrepreneurial work as indulgent and for other people. For other people-
Bjork Ostrom: Meaning not for you.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, for other people who maybe have more affluent families or for other people who can afford to not get paid on Friday. And it was helpful during this time to reevaluate a lot of those underpinning beliefs that I had never really questioned and to reimagine well, what do I want life to look like going forward in this next chapter?
Bjork Ostrom: How did you do that, because that’s a hard thing to reevaluate underlying beliefs and even to recognize that you have them.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah. The process for me that’s most helpful is to see an idea or hear an example out there of someone doing something that of resonates. It seems exciting to me for some reason. It’s actually a chapter in the book, the why not? Why not you? That was the process I went through. I would think about these things and then go, “Oh, but I,” and then I would just pay attention. What is that narrative? What am I telling myself are all the reasons that I can’t do that or I won’t be successful at that? Are those ideas my truth, or are those things I’ve just absorbed from society and culture and family? Do I actually believe those? What have those underlying beliefs that I had never realized?
Jillian Johnsrud: Maybe, I don’t know, I guess I realized it, but I never thought to question it, was I always assumed I would be a low earner. I’d grown up, my family were low earners, I didn’t finish a college degree. I went into helping professions and I thought, “Well, if you are going to be a helper, if you’re going to help people, if you’re a good person, you’ll never make a lot of money.”
Bjork Ostrom: There being a correlation between, from an income perspective, the more that you earn, the less that you’re helping other people and the more that you’re helping people, the less you’ll probably earn.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, yeah. It took this period of time when I went, “Okay, now wait a minute. Why do I think that and why is that true? Am I not hardworking? Am I not smart? Am I not capable of things? Can I not provide value to other people?” All those things, I actually believe are true. If you have those things, I think maybe you can earn a decent income. It took taking that old idea of people who help other people are always going to be broke, because I had heard that. Me and my husband both have ministry degrees and that’s the narrative. Welcome to always being broke. If you want to work in nonprofits, have fun fundraising for the rest of your life. Yeah, just looking at those ideas and those people that are doing something interesting and really digging down and uncovering where I internalized these ideas and do I want to accept them as fact?
Bjork Ostrom: I feel like that’s good, hard work and I think the takeaway that I have personally when I think about that, is to look at two pieces. When I come up against a story or somebody else’s experience to look at that and say like, “What resonates about that with me?” And then to say, “Why?” And then, “Is there anything that is keeping me from folding some of that into my story? And if so, why?” Questioning some of that stuff, which I think is good, hard work and you have to be really intentional to do that and to realize that. Great reflections for people to have that were listening to the podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: You had mentioned your book a couple times. Can you talk about what that is and when you realized it was a book that you needed to write? Because I know in this time where you stepped away seven years ago, you’re like, “Hey, I want to do something with writing,” and my guess is the book is an example of that. But also maybe building a following online through writing, was that a piece of it as well? And how did you get to where you are now in terms of what you are doing for work?
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, I started with blogging. Blogging and emailing and social media and eventually a podcast. It’s funny because the book, I think it was surprising for people that this was the book I wrote because I spend so much time talking about personal finance and financial independence and lifestyle design. So for me to write more of a business creative book felt a little outside of what I do most of the time. But I picked this book because I was so passionate about the topic. Outside of personal finance, one of my greatest joys and awakenings is being a creative entrepreneur. Like I said, it was something I never thought I could be for a lot of internalized reasons. But to find some kind of work that you can put your skill and your talent and your personality and all of your strengths in is so satisfying.
Jillian Johnsrud: Like I mentioned, I do a lot of one on one coaching with people who are thinking about transitions. And even with early retirement, you can’t transition into nothing. You can’t pull that big work plant out and then just say, “I won’t fill it with anything. I’m just going to stare at dirt the rest of my life.”
Bjork Ostrom: This is going to be a dirt garden. Inevitably, it’ll be filled with weeds, yeah.
Jillian Johnsrud: Exactly. Dirt gardens get filled with weeds real quick. So because I was so excited, I love other entrepreneurs, I love creatives, I love seeing them at conferences. I love talking about it. It’s just something that’s so joyful for me. I love helping other entrepreneurs build their online business. I want to write a number of books, but this felt like the best first book to write.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure and it’s almost meta in that my guess is what people see you as is somebody who’s talking about, like you said, personal finance, financial independence, lifestyle design. On the other side of that and it’s interesting, even as I’ve looked at some of the financial independence books in the past, a really common theme is people hating on personal finance people or financial independence people. I think a huge reason is it’s a construct that people have, which is like, “I can’t do this and it’s frustrating for me that somebody else has done it,” which varying degrees of that being true. But also, it’s I would imagine equivalent to the people who are in the food and recipe space like, “I don’t want to hear your life story. Just give me the recipe.” It’s like, “Okay, we hear that all the time.”
Bjork Ostrom: My guess is in the financial independence space a lot of times you hear like, “Oh, it must be nice for you because you had these things,” and it’s true. But also to your point, you made some really extreme sacrifices as everybody has, that most people aren’t willing to make. Ninety-nine percent of people aren’t going to have roommates when they’re married and have kids, but you do that and then you’re able to have these freedoms that come with it. Is there some truth in that part of your journey as a creator, was having to navigate through the pushback that you got from people around how you were creating and that was the reason you created this book? Or does that come from a different place?
Jillian Johnsrud: I mean, I think everybody, if you share online, if you share your ideas and your thoughts and the things you’re passionate about and your perspectives, there’s going to be people who disagree and don’t like it for a lot of different reasons. Some valid, some not valid. It’s not any different in the personal finance space for sure. But you’re right, there’s something specifically about financial independence that is irritating because it’s-
Bjork Ostrom: And it’s not for financial independence people, but if somebody else comes across it, then it maybe is.
Jillian Johnsrud: It’s a frustrating concept. I think because we think, “Well there’s the insanely rich people who struck gold. But normal people having these amazing lifestyles, it feels too close to home.” Like, “We’re similar, me and you. Why are you there and I’m here?”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s easier to separate Jeff Bezos, but if it’s your neighbor three houses down, yeah.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah. To that point, I always want to encourage people. I think the other reason it’s frustrating is that in all honesty, it’s a long process. This isn’t like a diet where change your eating and in the next 12 to 18 months, you’re going to see massive results.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s six to 10 years.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, I would say eight to 15. It’s a long journey. For us, it took 13. Very few people can do it in less than 10. You have to have that perfect combination of I earn $200,000 and I spend $40,000. The math has to be really fantastic. But for most of us it’s 10, 15, 20 years, which means if you start at 20 you’re 40. Start at 30, you’re 50. You’re still way ahead of the average American, but it’s not an overnight get rich quick speed.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right, right. Which that in and of itself is hard, that long-term commitment for people. Tell me about the book. What are the elements that are a part of it? If somebody picks it up and they read through it, how could they expect to be changed potentially? Any new ideas that they might have? What’s the core of the book? Obviously, called Fire the Haters, so you know, the basic premise of it. We can link to it in the show notes so people can check it out. But the subheading is, Finding Courage to Create Online in a Critical World, which I think a lot of people can resonate with.
Bjork Ostrom: Man, it’s hard that first time, especially you press publish. I remember pressing record for the first time on a podcast, being super nervous and still you put something out into the world and you wonder is this good enough to be in the world, regardless of how long you’ve been doing it. My guess is a lot of people will hear that conceptually and say, “Yeah, this is something I want to get better at,” but what are some of the elements in the book and what can people expect if they read through it?
Jillian Johnsrud: I broke the book into three sections, in order of people’s initial concerns. The first one is dealing with online criticism. I outline some characters of the bad actors that we meet online. My favorite being the CEO of the internet who’s really convinced that they’re your boss and you should do everything exactly to their taste and their standards, or else they try to fire you on Twitter, which I always find amusing. I have a chapter, you make the thing, you make the rules. How to create boundaries and rules for yourself as a creative. How much time each day are you going to spend in your email? What kinds of comments do you respond to online? How do you respond? What do you do when people ask you for your time for free? I had a really funny email the other day, someone emailed me and was like, “I would really love advice on this. I know that you charge for coaching, so it’s okay if you say no. I know that this is something you get paid for, but would you just not?”
Bjork Ostrom: In this case not, yeah.
Jillian Johnsrud: He was nice about it, it was very sweet. But it also was ironic that he recognized it and then did it anyway.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. That’s great.
Jillian Johnsrud: So how do you have those boundaries and those rules? Whenever I see a creative or an entrepreneur really frustrated and burned out and bitter about a situation, what’s happening nine times out of 10, they haven’t been clear about what their boundaries need to be. They haven’t created boundaries to take care of their own physical, mental, spiritual health, or they haven’t clearly communicated those to other people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense.
Jillian Johnsrud: So one of the chapters is clear is kind. To clearly communicate your boundaries and your rules is a kindness to other people, to help set those expectations. But oftentimes one of those two things haven’t happened. They haven’t either made the rule or they haven’t been clear about them.
Bjork Ostrom: Clearly communicated it, yep. Makes sense.
Jillian Johnsrud: Another idea from that first section that I think is so important, that we especially as creatives really struggle with when we first come online, is separating ourselves from our work and having boundaries with our work because oftentimes our work is so much of our perspective. It’s our taste, it’s our opinions, it’s our thoughts, it’s our personality, that it starts to feel like us. Just a little extension of us that’s living out there online and-
Bjork Ostrom: And especially when you think of it as a personal brand, in which case it’s really mixed in, yeah.
Jillian Johnsrud: I always encourage people, we have this saying that our work is our baby, which is really unhelpful because if your baby’s being attacked, you should defend it. You should protect it because it’s a baby. But instead, I like to think about, if you’ve thought about your work as your baby, it can be your baby while you’re working on it behind the scenes. But once you send it into the world alone, it is a full-grown human. It is an adult child that you have launched into the world. Then if your adult, 25-year-old kid is at work and people are gossiping about them or someone’s being hard on them, you don’t show up and be like, “Hey, who’s being mean to my son? Who’s saying this stuff? I need to defend.” That’s being an awkward helicopter parent. You just have to trust that your kid can do their work in the world.
Jillian Johnsrud: And the same with our work, you have to allow your work to work, let it go, let it do its job. It can handle the criticism, it can handle the praise, whether it’s successful or a failure, it can stand on its own two feet. You just get to like… I just get to hang out in my garden or go for a hike or go to the lake and just live my little life right here while my work is out doing its job.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s I would imagine, a hard thing to do for a lot of people, which is to separate yourself from the thing that you are creating and almost viewing that as a separate line. There’s probably a spectrum and I’d be interested for you if it’s an example being a rental property. It’s probably pretty easy if somebody complains about a broken pipe to not take that personally, because it’s such a clean line. It’s a house, it’s a different thing, it’s located somewhere else. People aren’t critiquing you, they’re critiquing the house. But I think if it’s a recipe you’ve created or writing you’ve done and people critique that, that feels closer to your soul and therefore is more hurtful. How did you work through separating those and are there any mental frameworks or tools that you’ve used to make that line cleaner, because I think that personally, I feel like it’d be really hard to do.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, I have really envisioned my work as a full-grown adult that’s out there. I would be bummed if my kid lost their job. But I don’t confuse that that I lost my job. I would be really happy if my kid won an Oscar, but I’m not going to run up on stage and try to snatch that from them, thinking it’s mine. I’ve realized that that’s separate from me and that’s helpful. Because I started with the characters, that’s part of it. Those bad actors, you have to understand this is just how some people are, this is how they move through the world, that’s their thing. But I also talk about one of the ideas is give yourself the gift of being misunderstood. This idea that other people’s thoughts and assumptions and ideas aren’t any of your business. That’s not my job to micromanage how someone else feels. That’s in their little fenced-off garden, that’s their responsibility and I shouldn’t meddle.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.
Jillian Johnsrud: To not suffer under the weight of being misunderstood. To where if someone misunderstands me, that’s okay because the reality is no one can fully understand. Even if you watched a second-by-second replay of my entire life up until this point, that’s not the whole picture. There’s still a lot that isn’t there, so of course people will misunderstand. Of course, they’re going to get the wrong idea. Of course, people have different tastes and opinions and preferences and none of that is any of my business.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think in the world of creating and publishing content online, the idea of a numbers game, and there’s some percentage, I don’t know if it’s 1%, 2%, where you’re going to come up against people who push back or disagree or think it’s not right or whatever it is, whatever category of hater you would put different types of responses in. I think as you scale up and there’s more people, just as a percentage, that percentage still applies. If a million people see it and that percentage is 1%, you might have 10,000 comments of people saying like, “Hey, I disagree with this and here’s why.” If it’s a hundred people see it, you might have one person say something.
Bjork Ostrom: But for me, it’s helpful to think about this idea of percentages and regardless of what you’re creating in the world, there’s going to be a percentage of people who come across it and either misunderstand it or disagree with it, have a different take on it. There’s something that’s helpful for me about just realizing that happens regardless. Whatever you’re talking about, creating, putting into the world. Jeff Bezos, use him as example again, donates millions of dollars to environmental causes and there’s people who have takes on why that wasn’t right. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, but it’s such a good thing.” Yeah, it’s helpful to have those frameworks and love the idea of this idea being an adult child. But like, “Hey, it’s on its own.” It’s not that it’s completely apart from you. You still have some type of connection to it, but it isn’t you personally. I think it’s a great takeaway.
Jillian Johnsrud: Also, when people aren’t being haters, but it’s just not their taste, it’s not their preference, it’s not what they like, it’s not what they agree with, I’m always incredibly thankful when they come to that realization and choose to leave. Because when those people stay, they take so much time and emotional and creative energy to deal with. You have to start to enforce all the rules because they didn’t realize, hey, this isn’t a great fit for you. I have a very active email list, but people unsubscribe every single day. I’m just so thankful that they realize that because the time and the cost for me to go in and block people from my email list or to respond to crazy emails is such a waste.
Jillian Johnsrud: So when people leave, I’m just thankful that one, I’m just really thankful they gave it a try. Thanks so much for just giving it a try and thanks for realizing this isn’t for you because that’s okay. Because I couldn’t make something that was for everyone. That’s impossible. Having, I think that more helpful perspective because it can be hard, especially at first when you see email unsubscribes or negative comments.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Yeah, for sure. A couple questions that we have from, we have a Food Lover Pro podcast Facebook group and we let people know when a guest is coming on and they can ask questions they’re interested in having that guest answer. So we have some coming in from the Facebook group. If anybody would like to join, you can just search Food Blogger Pro podcast on Facebook and you’ll be able to find it there. How about this, do you have an evaluation process for if and when you respond to criticism from readers? This is from Christina.
Jillian Johnsrud: I think everyone, like I said, you make the thing, you make the rules. So you have to decide what framework works for you. I know some people will give a snarky response to every single snarky, because for them they get a positive energy from that. They enjoy it, they find that snarkiness creative, it’s stimulating. For me, I find it very draining. My rule in personal life, online life, across the board, my rule is if you ask an honest question, I’ll give you an honest answer. But oftentimes people will say things like, “I don’t like that,” or, “I don’t agree,” or, “that doesn’t make any sense.” That’s not really an honest question, that’s a statement so I’m not going to add more information to someone who’s not asking an honest question.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great.
Jillian Johnsrud: For me, it’s a time, energy, creativity suck. I actually just had a funny situation on Twitter. For the first time I had a tweet go viral that over half of the retweets were negative.
Bjork Ostrom: Disagreement on something?
Jillian Johnsrud: People hate retweeting a tweet. I’ve never had so many hate retweets on something compared to positive retweets. It’s okay, you don’t have to understand. It doesn’t have to be for you. You don’t have to agree with it. It was a tweet about a very personal financial choice we made. It’s a tweet, there’s a very limited number of characters. I could have written an entire book of why this decision made sense for us personally. I’ll just let it be. If someone has an honest question, I’m happy to answer, but if they’re just like, “That’s stupid,” okay, you are welcome to think and feel that. That’s your garden place.
Bjork Ostrom: I know people will be curious, what was the decision?
Jillian Johnsrud: Oh, man. Our first house, we bought cash. The home we currently live in, we paid cash for and we did a cash-out re-fi and invested the money. People have really big thoughts and feelings around debt and around mortgages and it’s a very personal choice that honestly, for a lot of people does not make sense. I would not recommend it across the board, but in our very unique situation, it was a good choice. But man, people have big feelings on both sides.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s another example of you have this world where people have strong opinions on finances, you share one of your opinions and if people don’t agree with it, they’re going to talk about it. One more question here from Christina. She says, “When thinking about imposter syndrome, how do you think or talk about your past experience credentials in a way that lends authority to your new projects?”
Jillian Johnsrud: I think those are two separate issues to be dealt with. Imposter syndrome, it’s an internal job. You have to reconcile that on your own. One of the tools, like I mentioned, is that the why not me? Really start to uncover why it is that you feel like an imposter, why you feel like an outsider? I shared in the book one of mine and this sounds strange, but it’s actually common. Was I grew up in a really small town in Montana and for a long time I struggled with that “Well, who am I? I’m from a small town. I’m from someplace where nobody knows.” It has nothing to do with anything, it’s no difference in my education or in my experience. But it was a little nagging thought that every time I pushed myself outside my comfort zone.
Jillian Johnsrud: I talk about three ways that really trigger our imposter syndrome. You’re doing something outside your comfort zone, you’re stretching yourself creatively. You’re doing work that really matters to you and you care about, or you’re shipping the work into the world and all three of those are really good things. They’re super essential things for you to be doing, but it triggers that imposter syndrome. I process it like when you’re at the gym and you start to sweat and you don’t think, “Oh God, this is awful. What’s happening? Something is wrong with my body, I should stop and leave and never come back here. I’ve obviously done something horribly wrong.” You just go, “Oh, okay. This is part of the process. Okay, yeah. A little perspiration, but I’m okay. I’m just feeling a slight discomfort.” I view imposter syndrome the same. If I walk into a room with lots of very important people, slight discomfort, okay. But slightly outside of my comfort zone, this matters, if I get up on a big stage, slightly outside of my comfort zone. It matters, I’m shipping this work, but just processing that emotion and not letting my mind spiral into all these old narratives of why I don’t belong.
Jillian Johnsrud: The other side, I think that it is helpful to share your experience in a way that creates empathy. That you understand what the other person is going through. You understand where they’re at and their struggle. I once heard it said that people will naturally believe that you have the solution if you can explain the problem better than them. Then authority is that other side. I encourage people just be honest, be open, be yourself. I’ve also found the amount of authority you need to help someone, really I think it’s most ideal if you’re just a little bit ahead of them. I have one chapter called the myth of the expert-y expert. You don’t have to be the most expert-y expert to help someone. In reality, oftentimes I found the people that are most helpful in my life are people who are just a couple years ahead of me, not mentors or coaches or people who were 20 years ahead of me.
Bjork Ostrom: We use the term ‘expert enough.’ You’re expert enough to help the person. I think of it in connection with if I was going to learn guitar and it’s like I could take lessons from John Mayer or I could take lessons from somebody who’s been learning for five years. And my guess is they would be able to explain it a little bit better because they understand me better, it’s not as esoteric. It’s not almost philosophical. It’s just here’s concretely what you need to do and how you can learn. Yeah, I think that’s great.
Bjork Ostrom: My guess is after hearing this, a lot of people would be curious in learning more. The book, obviously, but also the work that you’re doing, you’d mentioned one on one coaching a little bit. As we close out, Jillian, would love for you to share just where people can follow along with you, the work that you are doing in the world. Obviously, you’re able to craft what that work is, but still doing work in the world. What that work is and where people can follow along and also where they can find the book.
Jillian Johnsrud: Yeah, the book is Fire the Haters: Finding the Courage to Create Online in a Critical World. I’m everywhere at jillianjohnsrud.com. I do have a free PDF for mini-retirement, so if you’re like, “Ooh, that sounds like something I want to do,” that might be super helpful. That’s just /mini. But I have lots of free resources for creatives and for entrepreneurs and financial stuff. You can find all of that on my website. Yeah, if you want to join my email list and if you hate it you can leave and there’s no hard feelings.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, per previous conversations that we’ve had. That’s great. Jillian, thanks so much for coming on. Really fun to connect with you and a lot for me to learn and a lot for me to take away and I know it’ll be true for our listeners as well. So thanks for coming on.
Jillian Johnsrud: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Leslie Jeon: Hey, hey. Leslie here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We really hope that you enjoyed this episode of the podcast. Before we sign off, I wanted to quickly mention something really cool that all Food Blogger Pro members have access to and that’s our tools and resources page. If you’re logged into Food Blogger Pro, you can access this by going to the menu bar at the top and clicking on tools and you’ll be taken to a page that has all of our different tools and downloadable resources that can help you stay organized and moving forward on your blogging goals.
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