Friday, May 8, 2020

Twitch Streaming is About the Journey

What's the most important trait for a Twitch streamer to have? It's been the same for anyone who has tried to create anything throughout history. Not their ability to grow famous, or learn new skills, or upgrade their tools- the most important trait to cultivate when creating something is the ability to not quit.

This seems like a no-brainer, like the simplest thing in the world to accomplish... right up to the point when you actually start your project. Once you begin painting, working out, writing a book, singing, eating healthy, going on acting auditions, or streaming on Twitch, a thousand factors will immediately start pulling at you to stop doing that thing. From the word go you're fighting an uphill battle, and if you can stick with that project you'll be among a select few survivors who were able to cross the no man's land known as 'the creative process.'

As I've mentioned in previous entries like Learn to Love the Grind of Twitch Streaming and Would You Still Stream If No One Ever Watched?, sticking with Twitch streaming means learning not to be influenced by any outside factors at all. Worrying too much about viewership, follower count, how many people are chatting, or anything else that isn't directly related to your own inner contentment are all ways to make you more likely to give up your passion. Even more damaging are streamers' fixations with building their channel into something suitably large before they can truly start doing what would make them happy on the platform. For example, the most common end-goal among Twitch hopefuls is to quit their jobs and make all their money off streaming. In this entry, I'm going to further expand on why you should focus on what makes you happy right now, rather than defer that happiness until after you've 'made it.'


In Animal Crossing, the journey is the reward.
There's no end-goal. 
There's a short story written by German author Heinrich Böll, which is used widely around business circles. It's commonly told in a modified version which begins with an American Harvard MBA visiting a Mexican fishing village and speaking with one of the fisherman there. I'll paraphrase it here for you:

The American complimented the local man on the quality of his fish and asked, "How long did it take you to catch them?"

"Only a little while," the fisherman replied.

The American had to ask, "Then why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

"I have enough to support my family and share with friends," the local replied.

"Then what do you do with the rest of your time?" The American asked, confused.

The fisherman looked up with a serene grin. "I sleep late, fish a little, spend time with my family, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos."

The American laughed. "I'm a Harvard MBA and I can help you," he said. "You should spend more time fishing, then use the earnings to buy a bigger boat. Soon you could buy several boats and have a fleet. You could sell directly to the consumers and control every aspect of the business. You'd move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, then New York City and have a massively successful empire."

The fisherman seemed puzzled. "But sir, how long will this all take?"

The American replied proudly, "15 to 20 years. 25 tops."

"But what then?" the local asked.

The American grinned even more broadly. "That's the best part. When the time is right, you'd announce an IPO, sell your company stock to the public and make millions!"

"Then what?" the local asked.

"Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, spend time with your family, and stroll into the village in the evenings where you could sip wine with your amigos."

This version was paraphrased from Tim Ferriss' excellent book The 4-Hour Work Week, which I recommend to anyone trying to find more time for the things they love to do. The correlation to streaming on Twitch is easy to see: if the objective is to eventually be happy in what you're doing, it's much more effective to simply find out how to be happy with what you're doing right now. On the one hand, you can spend every waking hour focusing only on the pursuit of success, damaging personal relationships and other life goal prospects in the process, only to finally be contented in your channel after years and years of work. On the other hand, you can spread out that happiness across your entire streaming career, not putting off the reward until the end, because happiness lies in the act of streaming itself.


John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Unfortunately, most of us spend so much time with our heads in the clouds, focused on what we're building, where we'd like to go or what we'd like to eventually do, that we don't stop to truly notice the things around us right now. Most Twitch streamers are primarily working towards 'making it,' that mythical moment when they finally gain a sponsorship, become Partnered, and can make a living wage off their streaming career. Everything leading up to this future date in their minds is simply one big blur of grinding as hard as they can toward their goal- sure, they can have fun along the way, but it's ultimately all a means to an end.

Don't let your streams become an unpleasant uphill battle
every night. Enjoy them now!
Off the bat, harboring such a far-flung goal typically causes most people to quit within their first few weeks, once they realize their average rate of growth and how long it would likely take them to reach that point. Second, anyone who sticks around longer than this will constantly be looking for shortcuts, signing up for the first sponsorship offer they find, selling as many things as possible on their personal stores, joining networking teams, and playing the games they think will net them higher response rates, not because they believe in or enjoy these activities, but because they think they'll be allow them to reach their goals quicker. Once these people spend month after month hawking products they don't care about or playing games they find boring, they will quit as well.

What's the moral here? The path toward becoming self-sufficient off Twitch is not a worthwhile goal to shoot for. First, you may not realize how long this actually takes. I know Partners with tens of thousands of followers whose streams are very popular, who don't even dream of living off their channels. Second, if you've worked at a salary job your whole life, you likely aren't ready for the rising and falling monthly income and complete lack of safety net that comes with working for yourself. This means that even when you do reach the point where it's feasible to live off your channel, you likely won't find it a pleasant experience. Either way, it's such a far-off goal that you'd be better off not even thinking about it. If this is all a discouraging thought to you, then think about why you got into streaming in the first place- was it for money, or because you love to do it?


Who knows what will happen in your life in the next few years? There may even be major changes which cause you to move away from streaming, or cut back your streams enough that living off them is no longer an option. Ask yourself this question: If your end goal was suddenly removed, if living off you channel was no longer an option, what would make you happiest to do on stream? Whatever it is, that's what you should do.

The nice thing about this mindset is that you aren't completely ignoring the prospect of success either. After all, Twitch streaming is largely just a game of attrition. The people whose channels grow are the ones who keep doing it. And if you're 100% happy in your own personal streaming process every day, you're much less likely to stop doing it. You'll notice that building rock-solid consistency nets you a good portion of the growth you might have gained anyway, while dramatically cutting down on the heartache and stress. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me!

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