The age old debate: quantity or quality?

I loved this story from James Clear’s post on [Why Trying to Be Perfect Won’t Help You Achieve Your Goals (And What Will)]. It might spark an argument depending on which school of thought you belong to. Nonetheless, let’s dive into the story: 

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film, photography students, into two groups.

He explained that everyone on the left side of the classroom would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but it had to be a nearly perfect image to get an A.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that the quantity group produced all the best photos. During the semester, these students were busy taking pictures, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various darkroom methods, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

I love this story because I used to be in the “quality” group but choose to move to the “quantity” group because I wasn’t getting anything done. And as a growth-oriented person, seeing tangible results was important to me.

Of course, the transition from being “quality” centric to “quantity” centric wasn’t a smooth one. It took a while. I made peace because I can’t hope to show up every day and deliver a masterpiece. And I was too scared to give myself some time to think of an idea and publish something that will be a hit. It’s the surest path to procrastination and disappointment. 

And years later, I can admit that focusing on “quality” has been one of the best decisions I’d made as a professional. It has made me a better thinker and communicator. Most importantly, it has given me reasons to show up and selflessly share a piece of thought every day. 

If you’re a creative — a writer, painter, or artist — try out a chunk of time over the next few weeks to focus on “quantity” and see how it goes. The switch might change your life for the good. 

%d bloggers like this: