Friday, December 3, 2021

How to Learn New Streaming Skills

When you’re streaming on Twitch, it’s difficult to measure progress. Day by day, it never seems like things are improving, or at best only growing at a minuscule rate. This often leads to streamers opting for drastic self-improvement measures, which can easily backfire. If they’re not ready to handle the workload, the streamer will end up right back where they started. So what’s the best way to learn new streaming skills in a safe way? For me, it all stems from a story I used to hear when I was a child. 

Remember the fairy tale about Goldilocks and the Three Bears? She sneaks into the house of a family of bears, which had just cooked three different bowls of porridge before leaving. One is too hot, one is too cold, but the third is just right. This is how I approach learning new skills. It’s difficult to learn when we’re doing something too easy, because there’s nothing to keep us interested. We quickly become complacent about what we’re doing, and settle into a routine. Our minds require challenge in order to thrive. However, too much difficulty can cause the same detrimental effect. When something is so far past our ability levels that we can’t even begin to approach it, there’s nothing to do but throw up our hands. Instead, the best way to learn is to take on challenges slightly above our current skill levels- not too easy, but also not too difficult. Like Goldilocks with her porridge, we want to make sure our conditions are ‘juuuust right.’ In order to truly learn new streaming skills efficiently, get yourself into this ‘Goldilocks Zone.’ 


In The Witcher 3, it's easy to stumble into an 
area way higher than your character level.

One common strategy for new or intermediate Twitch channels is to look upwards for inspiration. The mindset being, if the largest channels on the platform are conducting their shows a certain way, that must be the right way. There are several problems with this way of thinking. First, those channels didn't spring out of the ground with all their various mechanics intact. The hours and hours of daily content with intricately scheduled shows and segments, the empire of social media profiles, and inspired collections of merch are all the products of years spent on Twitch, or whichever platform that streamer used to build their brand. Simply imitating the product of those years of experience without having gone through the whole process yourself won’t get the results you seek. And second, even if this did work, it’s usually far too much to take on at once. Since the highly experienced streamer has been doing it for years, taking small steps along the way, their current content offering is likely within their own Goldilocks Zone, only a little bit more challenging than what they’d previously been doing. But for a beginner or intermediate streamer, it’s more akin to a Level 10 character in an RPG entering a zone full of Level 99 enemies. It’s not going to be very productive. 

So instead of reaching for unattainable goals, one might think it’s better to stay within a very safe range. Here, the streamer may avoid all challenges and aspire to have a show that never changes and simply runs without issues. This, while preferable to the former strategy, can also stunt a streamer’s potential for growth. To continue the RPG analogy, it’s pretty difficult for a Level 10 character to improve if they only fight Level 1 enemies. Those enemies drop such a small amount of XP that you could spend a huge amount of time fighting them and still see no change in experience level. Instead, the best way to level an RPG character is to fight enemies a few levels above your own. These enemies are just at the edge of your skill threshold, giving you the most experience points you can get without being so much of a threat that they’ll take you out without even giving you a chance. This is the Goldilocks Zone. 


In previous entries I’ve spoken about the benefits of being wrong. I wholeheartedly believe that making mistakes is one of the most important parts of being creative. When you’re working on a Twitch channel, or doing anything else in life, it doesn’t matter how many things you get right on the first try. How you react to mistakes, and the solutions you reach to put a project back on track, are what truly define you. In the entry Attempt Your Worst Idea for a Twitch Stream, I talked about how you can quickly arrive at bold new stream concepts by doing the things you wish would work on stream, rather than the things you know will work. Even if you’ve never seen anyone do this particular thing on Twitch before, you can likely make it into a great show if you put your mind to it. The new stream concept usually won’t be perfect on the first try, but experience and iteration will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. When you place yourself outside your comfort zone, that’s where learning begins. And by staying in a mode where you need to keep changing things, your mind will always be active. 

Without always trying new things and researching
the unknown, the XCOM team would be dead in the water.

Another way to acquire skills quickly is to ensure you’re never simply learning without also doing. Stockpiling too much knowledge about a subject can ironically lead to worse performance. Many who opt for this route are so focused on what they should and shouldn’t do, that it often causes them to do nothing at all. In the entry Stream Before You’re Ready, I spoke about how The Beatles created a massive catalog of genre-defining hits, without ever learning to write or even read musical notation. In that entry, I helped you to emulate their learning strategy, which I call ‘stacking’ knowledge. In other words, never allowing yourself to learn too much without first putting any small amount of new knowledge you learn into action. 

By using these active learning strategies, and keeping the tasks in front of you within the Goldilocks Zone, you’ll be able to improve your skills at a much faster rate. Now the only question is, with these new skills, what amazing things will you create? 

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