Friday, April 16, 2021

Your Content Should Make You Happy

What does it mean to stay true to your values as a streamer? Have there been any trials in your personal journey, which have tested your resolve in this sense? In past entries, I've talked about the dangers of chasing followers and streaming things you don't enjoy to get there. I've also talked about pursuing side projects, merch setups, sponsorship deals, and other things outside of your streams that may take a toll on your streaming stamina. But what about when you do like what you're creating, and it simply happens to get bigger? Often just because a brand increases in size, others begin to expect more of you, and the sheer weight of your project's own popularity begins increasing the pressure to change. This is when it gets really hard to continue doing what you love in the way you love to do it. You may experience this in various ways on your own channel, but here I'll use a very personal example of building The Twitch Playbook brand to communicate it. In essence, as you grow it's important to ensure that your content makes you happy above all else. 


Ask anyone what the next steps for someone who makes a popular self-help podcast should be, and they will likely assume you're interested in pursuing a particular trajectory. They'll probably tell you that if you make something like this, it's smart to leverage it to turn yourself into some kind of 'motivational influencer.' One would expect that your Twitch streams, which used to be (in my case) about playing story-based games, would now become a bastion for new podcast listeners who want to further their educations, tell stories of their own channels and get one-on-one advice. Cross-promotion with other similar influencers is typically considered a great idea as well, sharing stories on other podcasts and featuring guest hosts on this one. Once all that has been going for a while, you could offer personal channel consultations, and finally, once you're really big, go into speaking engagements so you can help others to build their brands on a larger scale. This is what most other people making self-help content are either doing, or are working towards, and it's a great way of building a media empire. 

When something gets larger, it becomes harder
and harder to steer.

But what if the things I'm interested in doing haven't changed? On my Twitch channel, I've always liked to play video games and pursue my creative passions. I've never had any interest in becoming a 'self-help guru' by making this podcast, and that hasn't changed just because the show has reached a wider and wider audience. Lots of people who know the podcast assume that joining my streams should be the beginning of a new chapter in their learning experience- a natural extension of The Twitch Playbook's content. Now that they've heard the tips, they feel they can get even more knowledge directly from the source. This is a totally understandable mindset, because it's how most creators run their brands. But that doesn't mean I have to do the same. I write about my experiences, and it's helped a lot of people. But that doesn't mean the streams- which have always been my main interest- have to get consumed by this side project, no matter how big the side project gets. For the past several months, The Twitch Playbook has reached more people weekly than my Twitch channel ever has. Someone new comes into my chat almost every day to tell me how much they love the podcast, and strangers follow my channel every few hours even when it's not live (a clear sign that they sought the channel out after hearing about me from outside the streams). Many people I know think I'm crazy for not pivoting my brand to focus more on self-help content and less on streaming. Or at least, if I'm going to stream, why not make the streams into something where I offer live advice, give consultations on other channels, and leverage that into massive growth opportunities for myself? It's really Social Media Management 101, and I'm essentially leaving value on the table by not doing it. Unless you reconsider what I define as value. 


This all comes back to the story I shared in the entry Twitch Streaming is About the Journey, about the village fisherman and the Harvard MBA. You can hear the full story in that entry, but the gist is that the Harvard man wonders why the fisherman doesn't work harder for the next few decades, in order to build an empire out of his fishing. The ultimate goal would be that the fisherman can eventually retire, and settle down in a small village to relax and do all the things he's already been doing. This story exemplifies the American Dream, and the way we might skew our ability to see what we really want in a blind rush toward some perception of status, wealth or power. The fisherman liked fishing, and he was able do it every day sustainably. He had already attained the reward, but because there was no fame or money associated with it, the Harvard man couldn't see the point. Similarly, I'm already able to do what I love each day- I stream the games I like, meet people in chat who are interested in talking about games and movies, and I pursue my creative passions. I like writing about the process of building my channel in a passive way, but that doesn't mean I enjoy actively telling people one-on-one how to run their own brands. Often, Twitch Playbook listeners who make the pilgrimage to my streams become confused. While I always love meeting people who were helped by this resource, and I appreciate their compliments, I don't ask them to open up about their own brands, or whether they have any questions about what they've learned. It's because The Twitch Playbook is separate from my streams. The podcast is about making the streams, but the streams aren't about the podcast. 

Like the fisherman, make sure to keep in mind
what you actually want from your journey.

I'm aware this is not a 'well-rounded approach' to building a personal brand. It essentially creates a dead end in the experience. Once someone has listened to every podcast episode, there's no opportunity to get tips one-on-one from me on a stream- they simply have to wait until the next episode is released. This stunts the potential growth of both my channel and the podcast. And I'm fine with that. Because I'm staying true to the things I actually like about making the content. First, the podcast clearly does what I hoped it would do: it helps people learn from my personal mistakes and experiences. And second, I just like writing and producing it. Those are the only aspects of the podcast I like doing. Therefore, those are the only aspects I actually do. Pauline Kael, one of the greatest film critics of all time, once said, "The main thing is fighting off the successes that trap you." This is hard for many to understand, though if you recall my origin story, you'll know I've lived through that process already. Previously in my career, I helped run a streaming brand with multiple millions of fans, so I've been in the position where I simply need to get bigger and bigger results, without really about thinking whether I like doing what gets me there. On my personal channel, I have no interest in pursuing this kind of growth for growth's sake. I do exactly what I like, and I don't worry whether that fits within anyone else's perception of success. The side project has happened to become bigger than my main project in a public sense, but that doesn't mean I have to change anything about what makes me enjoy creating it. 


In several previous entries, I've talked about finding your own happiness in Twitch streaming and not pursuing attention if it means compromising what you like. This growth of The Twitch Playbook brand, and the pressure to let it consume my primary streaming passion, has been the latest (and largest) challenge in that department within my own personal journey. I've had to really look within myself and exhibit a lot of restraint to keep everything in perspective. In fact, if you've been reading between the lines in all those entries within the past year, most of those 'stay true to yourself' style episodes have been veiled ways of writing about this Playbook challenge without mentioning it overtly. But I think it's an interesting example to use within this resource specifically, because many of you have been watching it grow from the beginning. And it shows how even something that's helpful and fun to make can threaten to compromise your creative vision as it gets larger. So as your own channel grows, make sure you're paying attention to what you really care about. Pivoting your brand, shuffling things around, and introducing new facets are all perfectly valid options, and of course I always recommend experimentation. But when going in any direction for the long haul, make sure that your content always makes you happy. 

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