“Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” – Howard Marks
Successful decision making in content creation requires thoughtful attention to many separate aspects, which is unfortunately a perspective that’s often forgotten in the creator side of our community.
This is pretty evident alone in the content patterns of many of those who look to / are currently making anime content creation into a source of income, and ultimately a career.
“50-50 content” – where a particular piece will do well from a performance standpoint only for the content creator to follow up with lackluster effort – is fairly indicative of this.
It’s usually suggestive of a creator not capitalizing on and evaluating why a piece of content succeeded. They’re not looking to improve on work that their audience was highly receptive too, but rather, continue to generate purely on their own whim.
Anime content creators who simply make decisions on the creations that they produced arbitrarily, need to reevaluate their approach. Otherwise, their content is just a crap-shoot in terms of productivity.
Decision making is as much art as science
The goal, if we have one, is not to make perfect decisions on what video, blog or podcast to make next, but rather to make better than average decisions and get better over time. Doing this requires better insight or making fewer errors. One of the ways to gain insight and make fewer mistakes is the use of “second-order thinking.”
In most of life, you can get a step ahead of others by going to the gym or the library, or even a better school. In content creation, especially conceptually, a lot of what you’d think gets you ahead is only window dressing.
Would be thinkers and deciders can attend the best schools, take the best courses and, if they are lucky, attach themselves to the best mentors. Yet only a few of them will achieve the skills and insight necessary to pursue being an above average content creator instead of just one of the masses producing cheap content in this ever growing career choice.
But how do we become better then the pack in a world where everyone else is also well-informed? How do we improve in a world that is increasingly becoming computerized?
You must find an edge. You must think differently.
In his exceptional book, “The Most Important Thing”, Howard Marks hits on the concept of second-order thinking, which he calls second-level thinking.
First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it (a bad sign for anything involving an attempt at superiority). All the first-level thinker needs is an opinion about the future, as in “The outlook for the company is favorable, meaning the stock will go up.” Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted.
Second-order thinkers take into account a lot of what we put into our decision tree. Things like; What is the range of possible outcomes? What’s the probability this will be successful? What’s the follow-on? How could it fail?
Content creators that apply this thinking don’t just clickbait and write it off with the approach of “this will get a lot of views.” They don’t just take a controversial stance on a hot topic in the community believing it will get big.
They go beyond that. They know how to make successful content for their audience consistently and not just every now and then by chance or shallow observations. They know how to avoid stagnation and regression with a true understanding of their work.
However. the real difference for me is that first-order thinking content creators are the people that look for things that are simple, easy, and defendable. Second-order thinking content creators push harder and don’t accept the first conclusion.
“It’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid.”
— Charlie Munger
First-level thinkers think the same way other first-level thinkers do about the same things, and they generally reach the same conclusions. By definition, this can’t be the route to superior results.
This is where things get interesting. Extraordinary performance comes from being different. It must be that way. Of course, below average performance comes from being different too — on the downside.
The Necessity of Smart Divergence
“The problem is that extraordinary performance comes only from correct nonconsensual forecasts, but nonconsensual forecasts are hard to make, hard to make correctly and hard to act on,” writes Marks.
You can’t do the same things that other people are doing and expect to outperform. When you do what everyone else does you’re going to get the same results everyone else gets.
It’s not enough to be different either— you also need to be correct in an output sense. The goal is not blind divergence but rather a way of thinking that sets you apart from others. A way of thinking that gives you an advantage.
This is where loss aversion comes in. Most people are simply unwilling to be wrong because that means they might look like a fool. Yet this is a grave mistake.
The ability to risk looking like an idiot is necessary for being different. You never look like a fool if you look like everyone else.
“Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.”
— John Meynard Keynes
Conventional thinking and behavior are safe. But they almost guarantee mediocrity. You can spit out a piece of content on SAO knowing that it has a high chance of grabbing views, you can take the same comfort in discussing the most popular seasonal works. as well.
But that doesn’t translate into longer lasting value, and in general, is only valuable from a limited amount of statistics. Those pieces may perform well from those statistics, but they’re a dime of dozen and really don’t separate you from the pack.
In the end, you’re just content creator #999 to say that “SAO sucks.”
Even if you try to be cute about it and flip the script to stand out with “SAO is great” you’re still just an echo in the SAO cave. Audiences are smart and realize when you’re just reaching for views, and that hit to your image can be vastly more devastating than the uptick in engagement in the long run.
To get an edge, you need to know when your performance is likely to be improved by being unconventional.
Second-order thinking takes a lot of work. It’s not enough just to “take a different angle” all the time.
You have to take into account you content’s prior performance and forecast the value of being different against that – both tangibly and intangibly. You have to time it correctly and ultimately produce a product that meets at that intersection.
Don’t just “be different” because you don’t want to blend into the waves of anime content that’s uploaded everyday – be different because it’s actually purposeful, to not only your desires and your audience’s, but to your content’s health as well.