Quality versus quantity, when mastering a craft

Suppose you want to want to master a particular craft: your coding skills, your social skills, your basketball shot, your writing skills, whatever.

Which approach wins: quality or quantity?

And the answer is… wait for it… here: this is a ridiculous question.

Why? Let us start with two facts:

  1. You start as a beginner. That means you aren’t a master at your craft.
  2. Mastery implies quality. You need to get there somehow.

Now, let’s examine this 2×2 matrix of possibilities between quality and quantity.

QualityVsQuantity

We’ll start with the two left-most boxes in red, where there is no quality in the outcome.

If you have much produced much quantity, and have started as a beginner, it is very likely that there won’t be any quality.

If you happened to have produced large numbers in quantity, it is still possible that there is no quality. It could be because you have not practiced enough, or because you haven’t really been learning as you have practiced.

Either way, both of the red boxes are uninteresting. They do not include mastery as an outcome, since mastery implies that you have produced something of quality.

So let’s move to the more interesting green boxes, where quality is produced.

We will start at the bottom right. It is surely possible that if you produce a lot, some of it will include quality. What separates this box from the one to it’s left? Deliberate practice. By challenging yourself, and learning with each product produced, you learn to create quality.

Is possible that you produce a few things of quality? Yes. Either you got lucky (which is unlikely), or you have spent countless hours iterating and fine-tuning your craft on the few things you produced.

Here is the twist: iteration implies quantity.

What is iteration? It is repeatedly going over a product until it is honed to perfection. And what is each iteration? Another product. Only it is an intermediate product. Anyone who has iterated a product to perfection has produced quantity, but in intermediate products. An similar to the previous case, this iteration was an exercise in deliberate practice.

The conclusion.

When discussing mastery, the quality versus quantity debate is ridiculous.

Mastery is gained by learning to produce quality.

Quality is achieved through some form of quantity with deliberate practice.

Quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive. Mastery requires both.

Q.E.D. 🙂

P.S. This is post number #9 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project, Soulmix, your daily mix of food for the soul. Request an invite now for free access to the private beta!

3 thoughts on “Quality versus quantity, when mastering a craft

  1. this is a great post :), I’ve been wondering about this for quite sometime and you have presented a satisfactory analysis.

    I guess the same concept applied in iterative software dev approach, isn’t it?

  2. Why entrepreneurs should blog | Alex Shye

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