Friday, August 21, 2020

Stream with Strategic Ignorance

We often feel a lot of pressure when making our Twitch channels. Not only in setting them up, but throughout the process of trying to build our brands. "There are so many other people out there doing the same thing- what if I'm not growing as fast, why can't I produce as much content as them, and for that matter, who am I to think I should be asking people to watch me in the first place?" These are very common questions among new streamers, but in truth we're all susceptible to these moments of self-consciousness. And as many of us have learned the hard way, this line of thinking can lead your channel down a path of destruction.

There's no way to get rid of this nagging feeling entirely, as it's a natural part of the human experience. But it is possible to give these self-doubts much less hold over your streaming life. I call this method 'streaming with strategic ignorance.' When you stream with strategic ignorance, you carefully control the amount of outside influences that reach you, and in doing so create an environment free of as many harmful comparisons as possible. When I started streaming this way, suddenly I was no longer a small fish swimming around in a big scary pond, I was just a fish that swam because swimming was what I liked to do- I couldn't care less about what the pond looked like. 


The largest component in creating a healthier environment for streaming is to avoid comparisons. This can be broken down into two separate steps: First, eliminate as many outside influences as possible. Then, learn not to measure yourself against the influences that do reach you. 

Control the digital flow of information.
The elimination of outside influences is a big subject for me, and I've covered similar concepts in many entries before. Cutting down on intake is a discipline that can help you in several fields. For example, in the entry How to Easily Free Up Time for Twitch, I spoke about slashing entire social media platforms from your personal life, in order to clear your mental energies for more productive activities. You've probably heard this from a million sources already, but viewing social media is a killer for self-esteem and creative drive. We may think we're absorbing inspiration and getting ideas from other streamers by seeing what they're up to, but that's just what we tell ourselves when we can't curb this bad habit. The only thing that scrolling through Instagram or Twitter typically does in practice is make you want to scroll through more Instagram and Twitter. You'll see the best side of every other streamer, making you feel like you don't measure up. You'll get into unnecessary discussions and arguments over useless prompts which waste the time and mental energy you could have put toward creating your content. You'll labor over how to phrase your own posts in order to attract an audience that has an incredibly low carryover rate. Unless you go viral, almost no one will follow your Twitch and stick with it because they liked your Instrgram post. Overall, your energies are better spent on your actual goal: Twitch streaming.

Second, in the entry Learn to Love the Grind of Twitch Streaming, I actually suggested that you not watch a lot of other streams either. Like with social media, binging on other people's content is a killer of personal growth. Plus, for every other Twitch stream you watch, you'll gain a plethora of new insecurities about how you don't measure up. Of course having said that, it's important to meet other streamers, network and gain inspiration. Don't avoid contact with other streamers altogether, but realize that doing so will always be a tradeoff. You're building friendships and getting inspired, but you're also accumulating mental baggage, whether you realize it or not. Don't let that baggage get so heavy that you're no longer able to use the inspiration you've gained. Meeting another streamer, getting to know them and joining for some of their shows is one thing- sitting around and watching more hours of streams than you actually create is another. Learn where to draw the line. 


In the entry Stream Before You're Ready, I told the story of how John Lennon and Paul McCartney were already performing before they even knew all the basic guitar chords. They didn't let a lack of knowledge get in the way of doing the thing they loved, they just learned along the way. And I think it's safe to say they did a pretty good job at their chosen craft. As I spoke about in that entry, the acquisition of knowledge can actually harm the creative process and the creative drive. Before starting our channels, we often think that gathering as much information as possible is going to somehow make us better streamers, but all it ever does is make us better at recognizing how unskilled we really are. Skills aren't built by learning, they're built by doing. When they first joined together, Lennon and McCartney didn't know or care whether they were skilled or not- they just made music because it's what they wanted to do. And they formed into one of the greatest rock bands of all time. This is the power of strategic ignorance. 

Celebrate others, but don't measure yourself against them.
Many Twitch streamers try to glean insights about how much work their fellow streamers are putting into their channels, in order to get some kind of baseline for how much work they should put in themselves. This is always a waste of time. Instead of limiting yourself by basing your own growth on someone else's journey, try having no reference points whatsoever. In my own streaming career, I couldn't care less about what any other Twitch streamer does, how fast they grow, how much work they put in, or anything in between. I gladly support the wonderful streamers I've met, I get to know their communities, and I draw inspiration from their content, but I never for a second use their channels as benchmarks to measure my own progress. We're all on our own paths. Everyone grows at a different rate, everyone has different interests, and everyone has a million things that separate them from their peers. As the saying goes, the only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. 


When I started on Twitch, I did what just about everyone does. I looked at the most successful channels, tried to break down what made them popular, and attempted to project where I'd be months and years down the line based on the growth I was getting at the time. It was majorly stressful and it ultimately didn't even work. I didn't know it at the time, but I was trapped by very limiting comparisons. Since I started streaming with strategic ignorance however, I've been able to double, triple, and quadruple my output in several different fields. My content has gone in strange directions that viewers have never seen before. And most importantly, I'm ecstatic about streaming all the time. So give it a shot on your own channel- stop taking in so much outside influence and just focus on putting streams out into the world. After all, ignorance is bliss. 

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