Quantity Over Quality

It is a struggle to ship work that matters. It is very easy to get in your own way, to procrastinate, to delay. It is natural to wait for the perfect phrasing, or the extra feature, or the right person to come along.

The problem is that later becomes never. The recording will never sound like it did in your head. The perfect wording for you might not be the perfect wording for me. Tomorrow you might have changed your mind.

Quantity, or perhaps frequency, is potentially a more reliable route to quality.

Here is the parable excerpt from “Art & Fear” (which is also featured in a modified form in “Atomic Habits”):

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 pound 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.

What’s the difference? x is not f(x). Theory is not practice. The story is not the reality.

Shipping quantity forces repeated collisions with reality. Shipping frequently accelerates the velocity of learning cycles. More OODA loops are completed.

The habit of shipping regularly, of not breaking the chain, of keeping the streak going - this builds momentum. Lower the barrier to keep it fun. It doesn’t need to be so serious, it just needs to mean something.

It just needs to mean something to you. Remember: x is not f(x). Get addicted to the metric most in your locus of control. 10,000 steps a day is highly within your control, losing 10 lbs is less so. Publishing a meaningful post a day is highly within your control, getting 10,000 likes is less so. Let the dopamine come from the commit/send/post/publish button, not from refreshing the page while praying for shares and likes.