What I learned from 9 years of studying quantity vs. quality

Why good things happen when you make a lot of work that you’re proud of

Herbert Lui

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One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to pay close attention to choices; in particular, false choices. Barbara Sher describes this as the Either/Or fallacy. Jim Collins describes this as the Tyranny of the OR, and instead challenges readers to find the Genius of the AND.

In this case, today’s post explores the relationship between quantity and quality:

The relationship between quantity and quality

It’s been a little over 9 years since I wrote my essay, “Why Quantity Should Be Your Priority,” in which I observed that one way to get to high quality is through high quantity.

In the years since I wrote it, I found that I was just one point in a continuum of people who’d discovered the relationship of how quality emerges from quantity, a relationship that UC’s distinguished professor of psychology Dean Keith Simonton articulates really well in his work with historiometry.

In Simonton’s book The Genius Checklist, his main recommendation is to satisfice in your creative work; to make sure “each work [meets] minimal standards, without optimizing all criteria for success.” This is the most consistent strategy to create a body of work that lasts. Here are just three prominent prolific artists (amongst dozens of other examples):

From what I’ve seen, the idea is gaining more and more momentum. Lindsay Jean Thomson wrote about it in 2018. Austin Kleon wrote about it a couple of years ago, and Derek Sivers spoke about it. Just a couple of weeks ago, Marques Brownlee and Dickie Bush tweeted variations of it.

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Herbert Lui

Covering the psychology of creative work for content creators, professionals, hobbyists, and independents. Author of Creative Doing: https://www.holloway.com/cd