Friday, October 8, 2021

When Streaming, Show Before You Tell


When creating content on Twitch, motivation is a very valuable currency. Everything we do requires it, and the more we have, the faster we’re able to accomplish our various tasks. Naturally, I place a lot of importance on gathering and protecting this precious resource. Several entries throughout The Twitch Playbook have dealt with concepts like where to find motivation, how to trick yourself into staying motivated, and how to turn that motivation into a habit. This time, I want to dive even deeper into the reasons we lose motivation, and how we can stop it from escaping. Everything comes back to this: when streaming, it’s always better to show before you tell. 


Years ago, I decided I wanted to somehow increase the amount of books I read. There’s just so much out there, and I knew that if I was going to experience more stories, I’d have to make a change. But the problem was, I was already able to read relatively fast. Any difference in the speed at which my eyes traveled down the page wasn’t going to move the needle in a significant way. But then I realized something interesting about my reading habits outside the actual raw speed of my reading comprehension: whenever I told someone about a new book I was reading, the average rate with which I read it got significantly slower. This wasn’t because I read the words more sluggishly, but because I actually picked up the book less frequently. Essentially, every time I told someone I was reading a book, I would lose the motivation to read. 

For witchers, reading can be the difference 
between life and death.

So rather than looking into speedreading techniques, I made one simple change: I would only tell someone about a book I was reading after I had gotten at least 15% through it. This would ensure that I was already a good deal into the story, had become accustomed to the author’s writing style, and had spent some time with the book by myself, before anyone else knew I was reading it. And under no circumstances would I tell someone about a book I planned on reading but hadn’t started yet (aka being 0% through the book) - that always spelled death for my literary motivation. And by making this one simple change, I found that my average reading speed increased dramatically. In the years since, I’ve doubled and then tripled the amount of books I read per month. 


Since discovering this secret of motivation, I’ve adopted the same mindset in many different disciplines of my life. Twitch streaming is certainly no exception. In the entry Stream With a Running Start, I discussed how telling someone about your plans can backfire when you find unexpected hurdles in executing an unproven strategy. In the entry Build Your Twitch Channel Like You’re a Secret Agent, I talked about how revealing your goals to others will activate the same chemicals in your brain that you’d get when actually achieving those goals. But why is this the case? What makes us less likely to finish books or follow through with our Twitch ambitions when we tell others about them too early? 

The best way I’ve found to explain this phenomenon is that it’s all based on perception. Human beings are social creatures. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all measure a lot about ourselves based on how other people perceive us. And when we achieve our goals, it allows us to be perceived in a certain way. For example, after we’ve stuck with our content creation habits and have completed 100 streams, it’s pretty safe to say that we’d be perceived as ‘Twitch streamers.’ When we’re starting out and haven’t done our first stream yet, there’s a gap between where we want to be (someone who streams regularly) and where we are (someone who hasn’t streamed yet). Therefore, we will work hard to close this gap by continuing to move towards our goal. 

It's easy to gossip about your plans, but it's
more rewarding to make them come true.

But there’s another way to be perceived as a Twitch streamer, without requiring all that pesky work. All we have to do is tell someone about our big plans for streaming. The more realistically we can describe and map those plans out, the more likely others are to believe that we’re destined for greatness. In the eyes of these people we’ve told, whether they be family, friends, or our social media followers, we already get to identify as a streamer, even without being one. And at that point, there’s not much motivational fuel left in the tank for actual streaming. 

Keep in mind, I used the prospect of beginning to stream as an example here, but this same logic applies to everything. Do you know anyone who constantly announces big changes for their Twitch channel’s lineup or schedule on Twitter, only to come back and announce new ones a few weeks later? Does this maybe describe you? With a little bit of extra discipline, there’s an easy way out of this endless cycle of broken promises. 

Once you realize that we as human beings tend to focus less on what we actually are, and more on what people perceive us to be, you can come to terms with what needs to be done. When beginning a big project, whether you want to start streaming, change to a new schedule, alter the games you play, or make different kinds of shows, simply start doing it without announcing it to anybody. That way, there’s no way for anyone else to perceive what you’re doing as a new part of your identity, and by extension, no way for you to cash in on that social proof. You’ll be forced to work towards your goals, because there’s no other outlet for your validation. If someone asks on stream whether whatever you’re doing is going to be a new regularly scheduled thing, you can simply say that you’re trying it out. Rather than immediately telling them, “Yeah, this thing I’m trying for the first time is now going to happen every Wednesday!” you can just give the impression that it’s a one-off idea you attempted on a whim. Then, after you’ve done it several times, having worked out the kinks, and (most importantly) having decided whether or not you enjoy doing it, you can announce it as a new part of the schedule. At this point, you will have already been reliably executing on it for a while. In other words, you’ll be 15% through the book. 


When reading, streaming, or working on any other project, this strategy has helped me immensely. It’s even possible to use the desire to tell others in the future as a fun motivating factor in itself. Because I look forward to telling someone about a book I’m reading, I’ll put more time into reading it in the beginning, so I can get past 15%. And because I want to create a new scheduled show or interesting recurring concept on my streams, I’ll continue doing it in an unannounced way. This carrot on a stick has consistently been a great way to give me a running start towards any goal. In streaming, as well as in everything else I do, I find that it’s always better to show before you tell. 

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