The Quality of Quantity
“Quality over Quantity.”
Everyone says it, many believe it, and some practice it. The idea is that doing less of what you do — sacrificing quantity — produces the result of you doing it much better — the quality.
While the idea sounds good, and can be proven correct if you pick and choose the right circumstances, it’s not an accurate catch-all for our activity, especially now, what with the internet and our democratized ability to put ourselves out there.
The first problem with the quality over quantity cliche is that is presupposes that we have to choose between the two: You can either do something a lot or you can do it well, so choose!
I’ve known great athletes who play their sport every day, sometimes multiple times in the same day. Musicians who make lots of great music. Smart people who write a lot (ahem) and it’s always good stuff. And we can agree that if I were to pick up a new sport, let’s say tennis, and play but once per week, I’d (still) be trash a year from now.
Secondly, both quality and quantity are relative terms. How much is a lot? What constitutes good? Who’s the judge?
Third, I find that people sometimes (not always) use the phrase as an excuse to do less rather than a strategy for producing their best work.
Read on and I’ll explain the quality of quantity, and why you don’t need to choose between these two success necessities — actually, you need to conquer BOTH.
When You’re Good, Squeeze The Juice Out
When I worked at Foot Locker in 2005, my coworker Rob just could not stop talking about this rapper that he loved. I knew of the rapper and had heard his stuff before, but I wasn’t a big fan. I told Rob this. Rob assured me that this guy had stepped his skills up though. This rapper started appearing on every track he could get his hands on, releasing mixtape after mixtape and setting his career on fire (in a good way).
It wasn’t long before everyone was screaming his name: Lil’ Wayne.
Drake released his Scorpion album in the summer of 2018. It turned out to be, I feel, a great single album hiding inside double-album. It’s the same thing that happened to Jay-Z when he released The Blueprint 2 in 2002: Hottest rapper in the game, coming off of a great previous album, and fans clamoring for anything with his name on it. While I and maybe some other fans are underwhelmed by the offering, Drake’s popularity and business revenue will be doing just fine on the heels of Scorpion: He’s that popular and that good. Even if you hate the album, you won’t hesitate to stream the next song Drake drops.
Drake knows that he’s hot enough right now that, as he said before he debut album years ago, that his buzz is so big that “[he] could sell a blank disc.” Consumption of streaming music is at an all-time high. Why not get all he can get out of his popularity and audience?
Eminem said it perfectly on his song ‘Til I Collapse:
Music is like magic there’s a certain feeling you get
When you’re real and you spit and people are feeling your shit
This is your moment and every single minute you spittin’
Trying to hold onto it ’cause you may never get it again
So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can
And when your run is over just admit when it’s at its end
It’s the same thing for you, even if you’re not as popular as Wayne, Em or Drake. When you’re good, maybe even great at what you do, the last thing you want to see is that run of skill/popularity/opportunity come to an end while you haven’t yet emptied your magazine.
Whatever rot is that you do, there are more and more people jumping into it every single day, which means more competition for eyeballs and ears — and in turn dollars, likes, fans, views, and the rest. Utilize quantity to get maximum mileage out of your quality.
When You’re Bad, You Need Activity
When I sucked at basketball for my first 2-3 years playing the game, the last thing I was concerned with was rest time, overuse injury, burnout, or any of the other bullshit players ask me about these days. I just wanted to go to the courts as much as possible and practice. How else was I going to become good?
Between 1996 and 2000, I spent more time at my local playground courts than anyone in the neighborhood. That time period ended with me being recruited to Penn State Altoona after my freshman season at Abington.
I once heard Kanye West explain, plainly, how he went from “wack” to legendary in both beat-making at rapping by doing both as much as he possibly could until he got better.
People tend to think that, because we have so much knowledge and so many gurus out there today, that there must be a hack or trick to getting better that shortcuts past the simple strategy of putting in the time. Well, you can take it from me or find out on your own, but there’s no 4-Hour Workweek shortcut tactic that will make you professional-level good at most things without the investment of time and energy.
Putting the time in means —
- Trial and error
- Messing up over and over again
— in other words, you need to utilize quantity to make up for what you lack in quality. As much new information as we have today, and as much as things have changed from back in the day, some things ain’t ever changing.
Better To Burn Out Than Rust Out
Hey — maybe I’m wrong. I doubt it, but maybe I am.
Maybe what I’m telling you is the absolute worst advice you’ll have ever received and/or followed, and you should have done less, conserved your time and energy, and just gone all quality with your work. Maybe listening to Dre Baldwin turns out to be a serious disaster.
Well, if it does, and you blow out your engine, so to speak, pushing for quantity to go with that quality, at least —
- You got everything you could have gotten out of yourself, and can assess it for what it is, rather than what it could have or might have been
- You will surely have made a name for yourself in the crowded pool of humanity that is ___________ (your area of expertise)
- You’ll have regrets of commission (what you did do) instead of regrets of omission (what you didn’t do — which is the worst feeling anyone has to live with)
Personally, I’d be OK with those outcomes. But you have to decide for yourself.
Never allow your mind to be confined to predetermined choices you heard in some damned cliche. When you see an opportunity for which you like all the options, expand your thoughts to ask yourself how you can get it all, instead of having your options limited. The worst thing that can happen is you fail and end up with only one or neither.
And, if so, what did you lose?
Start maximizing your quantity now with my Content Machine Course.