When Quantity Beats Quality

In our minds, quality usually beats quantity. It's much more delightful to own one quality product than to own a lot mediocre ones. It's apparently just the opposite with skills and success.

When Quantity Beats Quality

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I intentionally started this post with a story from a book by David Bayles and Ted Orland titled Art & Fear. It's amazing how we're used to valuing perfection and take it for granted. As if it happens overnight.

My last post was about coding and blogging and how I think the "starting mindset" is the most useful thing I learned during my experiments on the web. Well, what the story from Art & Fear teaches is that only adopting the starting mindset is not enough. We have to adopt it over and over again. Eventually, we should reach quality.

The story is also about failure and how we can learn through it. My newsletter is not as successful as I would like it to be. But I learned how to start it and curate the content I value. As you may have noticed, this does not look like another issue of The Weekly Cue. In fact, I'm retiring it for now to make room for pursuing new ideas.

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