Thursday, October 20, 2022

How Long Does It Take to Master Streaming?

As Twitch streamers, many of us aspire to reach a point where our streams no longer need to be changed or worried over- where there are no more problems occurring, and there are no more additions to make. Maybe we’re making enough money from going live to pay our bills and quit our jobs, or we’ve leveraged our streams to start a larger personal brand. The dream looks different for everyone, but the general idea is the same. It would be a point where we’ve found the ultimate final product for our content- a point where we’ve finally mastered streaming. 

In my opinion however, this is an unattainable goal. Yes, we can reach the objectives we set out for ourselves, but doing those things won’t really make us masters. There will always be something more to do, something else to fix or change, and new ways to interpret our content. Streaming is a lifelong craft. Like with any long-term pursuit, whether it’s in health, education, romance, craftsmanship, or anything else, you may start with a goal in mind, but by the time you’ve reached it, you’re at risk of losing what you built if you don’t keep going.


In George Leonard’s book Mastery, he quotes a martial arts student studying aikido. “How long will it take me to master Aikido?” a prospective student asks.“How long do you expect to live?” is, as Leonard puts it, the only respectable response. This book, which I’d recommend to anyone trying to pursue excellence in what they do, goes on to explore how true greatness requires one to remove their focus from arbitrary goals and instead simply keep exploring their craft. As he says, those with aspirations to reach a certain point typically burn themselves out before reaching them, whereas those who take pleasure in the everyday act of pursuing the craft itself surpass all expectations. 

Masters learn to make the act itself into
a habit.

I’ve noticed a similar concept while learning Japanese. Most of the time, those who try to learn the language do so with a specific objective in mind. They want to be able to watch their favorite anime shows without the subtitles turned on, or they want to be like one of those YouTubers who surprises natives by speaking perfectly. But in my experience, I’ve found that such objectives don’t take people very far. They’re such far-off goals that they aren’t even practical to consider when starting out. Typically, once these students pass the beginner stage and reach the point where they’re skilled enough to recognize how long the journey will really be, they lose interest. Personally, I’ve been lucky to avoid the demotivation of long-term goals in my language learning, though it wasn’t from careful calculation- I just sort of stumbled onto a style that worked for me. I set out merely wanting to have conversations, and as soon as I could string three words together I began talking to Japanese speakers. Whether in person or online, I forced myself out of my comfort zone and constantly made a fool of myself. Every time I could say something a little bit better, it became another motivating factor to keep going. These small victories really defined my experience in learning so far. George Leonard quotes a zen saying in the book I mentioned above: “When you’ve reached the top of the mountain, keep on climbing.” In my experience, little victories are the key. If you love what you do, then every time you engage in that activity you’ll be accomplishing your goal in some small way.


Twitch streaming is much the same for me. I started out on my personal channel being more traditionally ambitious, planning out and projecting everything with certain growth goals in mind. But after a while, I realized that if I want to do this for the long term and be happy doing it, I had to remove myself from the rat race. In the Twitch Playbook entry One Must Imagine the Streamer Happy, I compared the act of streaming to the Greek character Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a cliff. He’s doomed to never finish his task, only keep pushing. But in that entry, I spoke about how the endless pursuit is something we need to come to terms with if we’re going to truly love streaming. Even if you’ve reached a plateau where nothing on your shows is changing anymore, there’s nothing wrong with simply continuing without improvement. You never know where your journey might take you. There’s no end point, short of giving up, so why not learn to find enjoyment in the act itself? 

Those who love the climb can also 
benefit from removing focus from 
end goals.

If you’re someone who does genuinely find joy in the climb, there’s nothing wrong with that either. I’m certainly not saying you have to conduct your streams in a particular way to be happy. Be careful not to mistake the moments when I say “I didn’t like streaming this way” for me saying “nobody should like streaming this way.” And this philosophy of learning to love the craft without focusing on goals doesn’t exclude those who love reaching for higher and higher targets. For two years before starting my current Twitch channel, I worked for a major streaming brand for a living and found genuine joy in helping to build it into an even larger network. Even during that time however, doing multiple shows each day with hundreds or thousands of live viewers per episode, I knew I’d never be finished. I had targets to hit, but I realized that none of them would ever be the finish line. I had to learn to love the pursuit itself, constantly creating and passing checkpoints, not thinking about any particular end goal. And though I later didn’t end up liking this style of creation for my own personal Twitch channel, I had a blast doing it as my 9-5 job. Essentially, all of this to say I’ve been on both sides of the fence and can sympathize with either perspective, whether you like to take it easy or push as hard as you can. 

No matter what kind of streamer you are, or what kind of content you make, your channel will always be evolving. Even if you can’t see how, there are things shifting under the surface. Allow yourself to embrace the changes and small victories, without worrying too much about where you’re going in the end. Only where you’re going right now. None of us should aspire to master our various fields in streaming, only to keep pursuing mastery. In this case, the destination lies in the journey itself. In other words: How long does it take to master streaming? How long have you got? 

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