I was watching this interview of Mark Rober on the Colin and Samir YouTube channel and he mentioned The Mario Effect. It's the concept that if you're faced with a learning challenge, if you lose points for each failure, you'll be less likely to learn and will quit sooner.
So it got me thinking. What challenges do we give ourselves where we accidentally create a negative score for each failure?
I'm a content creator. I create YouTube videos, this newsletter and various other things. When thinking of publishing content, sometimes I consider what impact that content will have. Will it get the views, likes, retweets?
This hypothesis of setting the success criteria puts a baseline on our score. Anything higher than this is a bonus.
And then you look at your video's performance in the dashboard...
You see a video with less views than normal, underperforming subscriber growth and revenue.
Because of the benchmark we mentally place on it, anything less is seen as deducting points from our overall score.
So, what happens next?
The moment you quit
I know a few people who have had some success publishing content and it gaining traction. But their follow up work fails to reach the same levels of success. Then they stop. The negative score has taken the fun and excitement out and any new motivation is met with a feeling of wasting time.
I've experienced moments of this in the earlier years of my YouTube channel. Sometimes I would lose subscribers for every video I published. Not exactly the intended goal.
What you can do instead
The phrase "you either succeed, or you learn" comes to mind here. If something fails, then it's a learning point. You should be able to identify the actions you can do differently next time to iterate on your winning formula.
So when considering a project, think of it in terms of what you can learn, rather than what success it can get. Your goal is to hit some measure of success (views, likes, watch time, subscribers, revenue), but your strategy is to implement specific things that might yield those results. You create an environment to learn.
Only when you have a winning formula can you focus less on changing strategy and more on consistency.
Be consistent with your actions
Do not look at it in terms of consistent success, but rather consistent action. You cannot control the external measure of success. But you can control the actions you take. So rather than wanting your next YouTube video to have 10K views, instead focus on making 1 new video every month.
But you may have to adapt your strategy. Doing the same thing will not yield different results. As my dad would always say "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got". Nothing changes.
What about timing?
Okay, there is a real possibility that we keep making changes but what was really needed was consistency doing the same thing and waiting for that overnight success to happen.
The question that is always hard to answer is, at what point do you pivot your approach vs working for long enough for the results to show.
I would answer this with a simple question. Are you still learning? If you're not learning and the results aren't changing, then maybe you're close to the point that you need to pivot.
What learnings you can gain
There are two types of learnings you can make from your effort. First, the strategic learning. What inputs yield which outputs. For example, is it better to make a 3 minute, or a 15 minute video? Is it better to just do voiceover, or a mixture of live camera and b-roll? What different types of video hooks can be tried?
The second is skills to learn. If you are improving your skills even though you're not getting successful results, then you may consider it a worthwhile exercise. You may be improving your editing skills, presentation skills, script writing skills, thumbnail designs, etc.
But when you are no longer learning new skills, and you're not testing new strategic ideas, then it's time to pivot. Just make sure you give it enough time to predict when the results of your effort pay off. It might be days, it might be weeks.
Today's Ah-Ha moment
Pay attention to how you measure your success. If your results fall short of your measurement, this could have a demotivating effect causing you to quit. Instead measure your actions and value the skills you learn. Treat things as an experiment to ensure you either succeed or learn.
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