Friday, April 23, 2021

Sacrificing For Your Stream

Most of us are familiar with the concept 'no pain, no gain.' We're constantly taught that if we want something in life, we need to make sacrifices to get there. And this is just as true in Twitch streaming as it is everywhere else. Most of us who engage with The Twitch Playbook have ambitions for our channels. We want to be able to make the kind of content we want, every day, without worrying about a thing. But there are always obstacles getting in the way of doing our shows the way we want, and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Most of us realize pretty quickly that something will need to be sacrificed in order to reach our goals, but the big question is: what? 

Often, it's assumed that sacrificing means you have to dislike what you're doing for a while, until you 'get to a comfortable place' and can then finally enjoy yourself. If you've been following this resource so far however, you'll know that I don't subscribe to such a mindset. I think the key to properly sacrificing for what you want is to make sure you always enjoy the thing that furthers your ambitions, while removing all the clutter that might prevent you from working on that dream. If you can find that balance, you'll have the best of both worlds.


I died so many times in this game.

When I was a kid, I was always terrible at turn-based RPGs. When I got into combat, and my characters could only do one action that turn, I'd always choose the option to attack. I never saw the value of casting buffs or debuffs, I simply wanted to make the bad guys' health bars go down. For anyone who isn't familiar with the terms, a 'buff' is a spell you cast on an ally character in order to raise their stats. A 'debuff,' as you might imagine, is a spell you cast onto an enemy in order to lower their stats. Both of these moves require a bit of patience. When casting them, you won't do any damage this turn, but you'll be able to do more damage on the next turn. But my younger self never invested in these kinds of moves, because they didn't get tangible results right away. Of course, this strategy worked in the beginning, but as soon as battles began to require actual tactics, I would always get all my party members killed. And at the time, I simply couldn't figure out why. It never occurred to me back then that I was constantly losing because of my unwillingness to cast these support spells. 

Many of us treat our lives in this exact same way- we go for instant gratification over long term happiness. And just like in my RPGs, while this may seem fine in the beginning, we eventually realize that such an approach gets us nowhere. James Clear, the author of the excellent book Atomic Habits, says, “Growth is trading discomfort in the moment for satisfaction in the future. Decline is trading satisfaction in the moment for discomfort in the future.” We need to facilitate this satisfaction by effectively casting buffs on ourselves every once in a while, and casting debuffs on all the wasteful activities that get in our way. 


In this context, buffs would be any things that aren't related to your stream, but help you to be a complete person. That might include spending time with family, engaging in your favorite (non-streaming) hobby, or learning new (non-streaming) things. While you may not see how these relate to your Twitch channel in the moment, they boost your overall happiness and ultimately, that helps you to be a better streamer. And then of course, you're going to want to debuff your enemies every once in a while. Those enemies are all the activities that drain your time and energy from what you actually care about. These two steps, buffs and debuffs, are extremely important. But in order to make sure this RPG party we call Your Twitch Career is actually effective, you need one other move in your arsenal. You have to make sure you're focusing all your attention on attacking the proper target. Namely, you have to make sure whatever you do on your Twitch channel is always leading you in the direction you want it to go. 

Keep your eyes on the target.

Many assume that, if they want to really prove that they're 'serious' about their Twitch careers, another kind of sacrifice is necessary. They assume that they need to put off their full enjoyment of streaming now, in order to gain a full reward from it later. So they go for growth hacks and other schemes that they think will bring results, in the hopes that they can have a solid base of followers for the day they might want to start doing what they really want to do on stream. This is very dangerous, not just because you might lose your taste for streaming before you ever reach that goal, but because you will be building your channel in a way that's not even compatible with your future plans. When I began my channel, I used to speak essentially at all times. Even though I knew on some level that I wanted my channel to be about enjoying the storylines of video games and I didn't like speaking or reading during cutscenes, I would often talk or scan the chat window during these moments anyway, because I couldn't resist. I was compromising on my channel's values in order to make it grow faster. And this got the results I was looking for at the time- it did gain followers more quickly- but as they say, you reap what you sow. Once I worked up the courage to start playing games the way I actually liked playing them, I had to rebuild much of my community from the ground up. By subduing my vision, I had been climbing the wrong ladder.

Looking back, it's easy to see that I had been putting off my true enjoyment of streaming until reaching some arbitrary height, not realizing that the 'height' I was reaching wasn't applicable progress towards what I wanted to build in the first place. What's the moral here? The process of streaming should be fun from the beginning. If there's ever a long enough time that you don't find your own channel fun, that means it's time to change. You should be sacrificing things around your stream in order to make more room for what you love, but you shouldn't be sacrificing from your stream and putting off enjoyment from the thing you're supposed to enjoy most. 


By casting buffs and debuffs in an RPG, you're sacrificing fighting ability in the moment for the promise of better fighting ability in the future. It's important to do the same with your streams. But these support spells can only help your streaming career if you keep the right targets in view. Streaming should be fun throughout your channel's journey, not just at some vague point in the future. Steve Jobs once said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” So take a look at your own stream and see if there are any sacrifices you might need to make in order to improve the whole. And most importantly, make sure you're not sacrificing your enjoyment in the process. 

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