445: Zero-Based Dream Building for Content Creators with Bjork Ostrom

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

A photograph of an open laptop with the title of Bjork Ostrom's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Zero-Based Dream Building for Content Creators.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and CultivateWP.

Welcome to episode 445 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, we have a solo episode with Bjork!

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Sally Zimney. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Zero-Based Dream Building for Content Creators

In this solo episode, Bjork is chatting all about the concept of zero-based dream building. He discusses why you might want to try this strategy when thinking about growing your business and following your dreams, as well as how to go about zero-based dream building.

Bjork goes through a step-by-step process of zero-based dream building, which should help you as you’re thinking about setting goals for your business and for personal growth!

It’s a short but sweet, thought-provoking episode — the perfect listen as we head into 2024.

A photograph of a woman sitting at a laptop with a quote from Bjork Ostrom's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, "It's easiest to replicate a thing we see as opposed to creating something that's a really good fit for us."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to approach ‘zero-based dream building.’
  • The importance of staying in your own lane when building your dream (i.e. business).
  • Why you should focus on yourself (how you like to communicate and what you’d like to be an expert in).
  • Why you should focus on the needs of your audience during this process.
  • How to pursue getting a tiny bit better every day at a medium and a topic.
  • How to be intentional about how you educate yourself.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and CultivateWP.

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Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode!

Sign up for Clariti today to easily organize your blog content for maximum growth and receive access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing, 50% off your first month, optimization ideas for your site content, and more!

Interested in working with us too? Learn more about our sponsorship opportunities and how to get started here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership.

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could figure out how you can optimize the existing posts on your blog without needing to comb through each and every post one by one? With Clariti, you can discover optimization opportunities with just a few clicks. Thanks to Clariti’s robust filtering options, you can figure out which posts have broken links, missing alt text, broken images, no internal links, and other insights so you can confidently take action to make your blog posts even better.

We know that food blogging is a competitive industry, so anything you can do to level up your content can really give you an edge. By fixing content issues and filling content gaps, you’re making your good content even better, and that’s why we created Clariti. It’s a way for bloggers and website owners to feel confident in the quality of their content. Listeners to the Food Blogger Pro podcast get 50% off of their first month of Clariti after signing up. To sign up, simply go to Clariti.com/food. That’s Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. Thanks again to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey there, this is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This week on the podcast, we have a special treat. It’s a Bjork solo episode. I always love these episodes where Bjork can dive into some strategies and tips and tricks for owning and developing a business as a content creator, and this is a really good one. Bjork is talking through his strategy of zero-based dream building and why you might want to try zero-based dream building when you’re thinking about growing as a content creator and reaching your dreams as a business owner. He chats through how to approach zero-based dream building, and the different components of it, like focusing on yourself and how you like to communicate, focusing on the needs of your audience, and then how to pursue getting better at both a medium and a topic.

Lastly, he talks about how to be intentional about educating yourself and why you need to consider what phase of life you’re in as you think about educating yourself and improving your business in order to reach your dreams. It’s a really great thought-provoking episode, and I’m just going to let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Hey folks, Bjork here. This is what we call a solo episode. It’s me just sitting in a room here on this chilly Minnesota day. It’s currently 16 degrees, so if you are somewhere warmer, feel grateful. Unless you like cold weather, and then you can feel jealous. Kind of right in the middle. Went for a walk this morning with our dog, Sage, and it was wonderful. The sun was shining. It was really cold, but it was wonderful.

But here I am sitting in a warm room recording a podcast episode by myself, but occasionally we do these solo episodes to share a concept or an idea, and so that’s what I’m going to do today. Usually they’re a little bit shorter, but my hope in sharing this is it gives you something to think about that will be a helpful kind of mindset framework as you think about how you are going to do what you do.

And for most of us, what we are doing is we are creating. We are building a business or building a following in order to have influence for some reason. For some of us it’s for creating revenue. For some of us, it’s a creative outlet. For some of us, it’s to let people know about something that we feel like should be known within the world. Maybe you’re passionate about eating vegan and you want people to know about that. That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing.

But almost everybody who listens to this, apart from my parents, are trying to build a following or to get a message out for some purpose, and I wanted to talk about a framework or a mindset that you can have as you think about how you’re going to do it. The phrase that I came up with for this is zero-based dream building. Let me explain a little bit about that.

A lot of us who are doing this, whether we’ve been doing it for 10 years or 10 days, we have a dream of the thing that we want to build. We’re pursuing a thing, and we need to build that dream. What does that dream actually look like? We need to construct it in our minds. And sometimes what happens is we see what somebody else is doing and we say, “I want to go do that thing.”

But a lot of times we are replicating a thing that isn’t the best fit for us because it’s kind of adjacent to what we want to be doing or it’s close to what we want to be doing, but it’s not actually the best version of what we should be doing, because it’s easiest to replicate a thing we see as opposed to create something that’s a really good fit for us. Similar to making a shirt that’s a perfect fit or a custom suit that’s going to fit you better than just a suit off the rack.

And so what I’m going to be talking about today is that custom dream. So that’s the dream building part. What about the zero-based? Well, there’s been a lot of talk lately about all things political, and one of the things they talk about sometimes is budgeting, and one of the phrases you occasionally hear is zero-based budgeting. And I’ve really loved this conceptually and I’ve thought about using it in other places of my life. And the basic idea is, instead of looking at what you have and subtracting from it, like in our case, if we were to look at our budget, we’d look at it and we’d say, “Okay, we spend this amount on restaurants every month. We need to get that in half.”

That’s one way you could do it. Subtractive. Zero-based budgeting is where you start with a blank canvas. You don’t start with anything, and you say, “How much do we feel like we should be spending at restaurants every month?” Okay, and then you add that in. And you say, “How much is our mortgage or rent?” You add that in.

And so you start with zero and then you build on top of that, and that’s what I want to talk about today as it relates to dream building. So it’s zero-based dream building. How do we go about doing that? The first thing is you start with zero. So imagine yourself, you have a blank slate, you’re not looking at anything. We’re starting at zero and we’re going to build your dream.

Where’s the first place that you should start? There’s really two areas that we should think about in the world of creating a content business. The first is to focus on yourself. Here’s what I mean by that. Oftentimes we see other people doing a thing, we see their successes and we think, okay, I’m going to try and do that. But instead of focusing on somebody else and what they’re doing, focus on yourself. For example, where do you find yourself naturally drawn? If you’re communicating with somebody, do you find that you want to call them? Do you find that you actually like texting more? Do you really prefer to meet up with somebody in person? And if you think of a dream scenario for you, like a work scenario, how would you be communicating with that person or communicating with other people? Would it be a job where you never have to get on the phone and you’re only emailing and using Slack to communicate? Or would it be a job where you never have to be at the computer and you can always be interacting with somebody?

Reflect on where you find yourself naturally drawn. This is kind of the medium of communication that we are most comfortable with, and that should be an indicator to you around where you should be creating content online or how you should be creating content. Or maybe it’s not even creating content. Maybe it’s the type of business that you’re building. It can be outside of the world of content creation. Now, most people who listen to this are creating content, but not everybody. So reflect on how you communicate and where you’re most naturally drawn towards. And we’re going to talk about more of that a little bit later.

The second piece of focusing on yourself is reflecting on what you want to be best in class in. What do you want to be an expert in? And this doesn’t mean that you are an expert, and this doesn’t mean that in six months you’re going to be an expert, but what would you feel good about pursuing, for the rest of your life, maybe, expertise in? You just want to continually learn about it and get better about it. You want to become best in class by reading, by consuming content, by meeting with other people and learning from them. And again, we’re going to talk more about that a little bit later, but those are the two pieces of focusing on yourself.

As you’re doing your zero-based dream building, you start with your blank canvas and you say, number one, where do I find myself naturally drawn in terms of how I’m communicating and what feels most natural with communication? And then number two, what is my area of expertise? What are the things that people come to me and ask questions about? What do I want to be best in class in? So that’s the focus on yourself piece. Do some reflection on that and see if you can surface some of those answers.

The second part is focus on others. So you’ve focused on yourself and you have some kind of self-awareness. And now we’re going to focus on others, because in this world, we’re not creating content in a vacuum, we’re not creating content for ourselves, we’re creating content for others. So do some reflection on who you will be serving. What are their specific feelings? What are the things that you hope that somebody would be feeling in order for you to come to them and say, “Here’s some solutions. Here’s some answers.” For us in this space, we are hoping that people have this desire to create something online, but they’re kind of trying to figure out how to do it. They want to know best practices. They want to know the skills they need. They want to know tips. They want to know tricks. They’re hungry for information, but they also want some direction.

They want kind of a Sherpa to come alongside them and say, “We’re going to walk you along the way to help you get to this point where you can be creating content.” And from that process, that you can either be creating income, you can be having impact, you can be building a following, whatever the purpose is that they want to create it. For you in this stage as you focus on others, now that you know what you are after, how you create content and what you want to be creating content about, it’s focusing on others and saying, “What are the needs that people have for the audience that I will be serving?”

And the hope is that as you reflect on those two things, focusing on yourself and focusing on others, that you’ll come to a place where you realize there’s a group of people who have this problem or feeling or issue or desire, and you, through the medium that you are most excited about, are going to be talking about that expertise and helping them along the way.

An example in my life is I am working with a coach on nutrition and health and fitness, and his name is Brett and he’s incredible. He has this deep expertise. He knows all of this information about nutrition and health. I’ve learned so much from him, and I can tell that it’s his expertise. And we’re doing that all through writing. We use an app, we communicate back and forth, and he’s also a really good communicator in text, in a written format. And he’s serving me, and my needs are I need to learn about nutrition. I need to learn about accountability for fitness and exercise, and that works really well. And I would say, I don’t know if Brett would ever listen to this, but he’s in this area of perfect fit, because he has the expertise. I can tell he’s somebody who constantly pursues that expertise. He’s using a medium that he’s good at, writing, and he’s found somebody, me, who has a need for the thing that he has an expertise in in the medium that he’s interested in communicating.

Before we continue, let’s take a moment to hear from our sponsors. This episode is sponsored by CultivateWP, specifically a new offering they have called Cultivate Go. And as business owners, I’m talking to you, one of the things we need to get good at is thinking about how we invest in our business. And as someone who publishes content online, one of your most important business assets is your website. But there’s a problem that a lot of us run into when we think about investing into our website, and it’s that it seems like there’s really two options. You have the DIY, figure it out on your own, get really frustrated, spend a bunch of time or pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a fully customized design and theme developed. But what if you find yourself in between those two options? You’re a successful and established blogger or even a new blogger who wants to invest in the best options, but you don’t have a budget of tens of thousands of dollars.

That’s where Cultivate Go comes in. Cultivate Go is an offering from a company called CultivateWP, co-founded by Bill Erickson, an incredible developer that we’ve worked with in the past before we had our own internal team and Dwayne Smith, an incredible designer. And for years they’ve had their calendar filled doing these fully customized sites. But they realized that there’s hundreds of bloggers who want that same level of technology but didn’t have that budget. And that’s where Cultivate Go comes in.

It’s a semi-custom theme design and white glove site setup. That means that your Cultivate Go site can compete on an even technological playing field with the biggest food blogs in the world. You choose one of the core themes, you customize it with your logo, your brand colors, your typography, and then the CultivateWP team sets it up on a staging environment and they can launch your site within one week and the cost is $5,000. It’s that perfect sweet spot for anybody who finds themselves in that in-between stage where you want the best of the best, but you don’t want to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get it. If you’re interested in checking that out, go to FoodBloggerPro.com/go or just search Cultivate Go in Google.

And to wrap all of those things together, you’re focusing on yourself, you’re focusing on others, and then you implement this idea that we talk often about on this podcast, 1% infinity. You’re getting a tiny bit better every day forever, and you’re getting better, not just on your expertise. You’re not just pursuing education and learning and showing up consuming content, but you’re also getting better at the medium that you’re delivering that content through.

So there’s two parts to this. It’s the medium and the topic, and that’s where you’re getting a tiny bit better every day forever. You’re figuring out how do I become a better communicator? For instance, the medium could be video and the topic could be eating clean. And so what does it look like for you to get really good at understanding? How do you become an expert communicator via video while at the same time figuring out all of the different issues that people have or questions that people have, or ways that you can help people who are looking to eat clean?

It’s the medium and the topic. That’s what you’re pursuing as you are a tiny bit better every day: getting better at the medium, getting better at the topic. Or maybe the medium is writing and the topic is parenting. Obviously not in the food space, but what does it look like for you to get really good at writing? How do you communicate clearly? How do you say less, but communicate just as much? And what does it look like to really understand parenting? Maybe you consume all of the different content you can and podcasts you can in the parenting realm. One last example of this is you want to pursue the medium of podcasting, and the topic is mindful eating. So you want to learn how do you become an expert podcaster, and how do you become an expert in mindful eating? So you understand the medium and you understand the topic and you figure out ways to get better at that every day, forever.

How do you do that? Well, this is the last time that there’s a decision for you to make, and the decision is your primary form of education. So as you want to get better at the medium, which could be writing, podcasting, video, those examples that we gave before and the topic, eating clean, parenting, mindful eating, you have to figure out how you are ingesting information. How’s that information coming in? And it could be coming in through books. It could be coming in through podcasts, audiobooks. Maybe you’re somebody who really likes meeting up with people and interacting with people, so you have local meetups and you attend live events. Maybe you actually use meetup.com to do that, or maybe it’s Masterminds and you are getting together on a weekly or monthly basis with people who are pursuing a similar thing. Maybe it’s just blog articles that you’re doing.

For me, I’ve had this realization, there was a season in my life where I read all the time, I’d read like 50 books a year, and for me that was a lot. And I loved it. And I would start every day with reading. I’d sit down and I’d read for half an hour, hour. I’d have coffee. Zen. It was bliss. We have a three-year-old and a five-year-old now. And now a lot of times when I get up, I’m playing pretend cats and walking around on all fours meowing. And it’s like, okay, this is not the season of life where I’m going to be starting my day by reading for an hour. And so that’s shifted.

What I’ve found, though, is I need to shift my content consumption into areas where I’m multitasking. And so for me, at the end of the day, I probably have an hour where I’m doing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, Lindsay’s upstairs putting the girls down, and I’m maybe taking out the trash, whatever it is. All those odds and ends that we all have to do.

And when I’m doing that, what I’ve found is the best way for me to get better at my craft is to fit it into, my content consumption, into those windows. So driving is another time I can listen to podcasts. And I’ve just started… Actually, this is an app that I’ve been using that I really like. It’s called Readwise. And this wasn’t true five years ago, but it is true now, and I’ve tested it out, that Readwise is kind of the compiler, and then they have something called a Reader, which is like a highlighting app, and a read later app, and those kind of go hand in hand. And so what I do is I have the app, and I’ve actually been also listening to articles. So if somebody sends me an article in the middle of the day or I find one that I want to read, I actually just listen to it.

And what I was saying before about five years ago, it wouldn’t have been very enjoyable five years ago to have written text read to you, but it’s actually pretty good now. And these apps are getting good at having life like voices reading the content. And I found that it’s not terrible. It doesn’t sound like a person, but it’s not terrible. And for me, it feels really good in my limited workday where I have limited hours and I have to focus on actually getting stuff done to not spend a half an hour, an hour reading an article, but just to save it for later. And then when I do have that time where I can consume the content, I can just press play and listen to it using the Reader app via Readwise, and it’s been really helpful to do that.

So for me, I had a season of books. That was the primary form, books and podcasts. The season now is books, articles, which I listen to, occasional meetups, but most often it’s from content that I’m consuming while also doing the other things that I need to get done in my life. But that’s been a super helpful way for me to think about how do I level up the medium of what I want to be doing? So for me, it’s like in the general category of business, that’s what I’m really interested in. Less about being a content creator. So I’m not listening to as much content around building a podcast following, but I’m listening to a lot of content around how do you build a successful business? And the best way for me to do that is in those margins.

So for you, as you are building your dream, what does it look like for you to have your dream scenario? You think six months out, you think a year out. The thing that you are pursuing. The best way that I think to do that is to start with zero. And if you are interested in creating something that’s content-based, you need to focus on yourself and say, “Where do I find myself naturally drawn as a content creator? And where do I find myself naturally drawn? Or where is my deepest desire for a topic area expertise? What is the topic I want to be good at? What is the medium that I want to be good at?”

And then who are the people that you want to be creating that for? What are their needs? What are the things that they want? What are their desires? Pair those things together. That’s going to be your focus area. From there, you can start to think about how do I want to get better at this? You bring in the content in order to allow you to get better, and that’s through the content consumption avenues that we talked about, books, podcasts, audiobooks, meetups, Masterminds, articles. It’s probably more that I’m not thinking of.

And from there, you can enter into this journey of getting a tiny bit better every day, continually showing up, publishing content in that form, in the medium that you feel like you’re most interested in, and tomorrow you’ll be a little bit better than today if you continue to have those pieces of information coming in teaching you how to do that better.

So as we think about our pursuits, as we think about the things we want to build in the world, I would encourage you not to look at what somebody else has done, but instead to look at, reflect on your own desires, your own hopes, to start with zero and to build from there.

So this is a wrap for this solo podcast interview. It’s a great joy to be able to do these. Really thankful for an audience who will listen to this, and also occasional emails. If you ever want to drop me a line, it’s [email protected] or [email protected]. All of those come to me. Love hearing from people. Not super active on social media. That’s not the medium that I’m using. So what I have at my disposal is this podcast and email, and I would love to hear from you if you ever want to connect. So thanks for tuning in. We’ll be back here next week.

Emily Walker: Hello, Emily here from the Food Blogger Pro team. I wanted to pop in today and thank you for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We are so grateful for you for listening. Before we sign off, I wanted to talk a little bit about the Food Blogger Pro Forum, in case you didn’t know how it works.

If you are a Food Blogger Pro member, you get access to our amazing forum. It’s one of my favorite places on Food Blogger Pro. I spend a lot of time there myself. And on the forum, we have tons of different topics for you to explore. We have a building traffic section, a photography section. We have an essential tools section. We chat about generating income and essential plugins, all sorts of areas for you to ask questions and chat with your fellow Food Blogger Pro members. It’s a great place to connect with fellow members, troubleshoot any issues you’re having, and brainstorm together. Our industry experts are always popping into the forum to help members with their questions. Casey Marquee and Andrew Wilder are always popping in, and so is Danielle Liss, our legal expert. It’s a really great place to get access to these experts and have them help you with your concerns.

The Forum is also just a fantastic place to find a community in this food blogging space as you’re working to grow your site and your business. If you’re ready to join Food Blogger Pro and get access to our wonderful forum, head to FoodBloggerPro.com/join to learn more about our membership. We really hope you enjoy this episode, and can’t wait to see you next week for another great episode. Have an amazing week.

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