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The LIE of Quantity Vs. Quality

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

― William Faulkner

Does perfectionism stop you from moving forwards?

I found an amazing story from the book Art & Fear that’s gonna change your thinking on this forever.

Finally, it cured my obsession with feeling I had to be ‘perfect’ the first time.

Here it is (paraphrased).

A ceramics teacher divided his class into two groups:

  • The left side of the class would be graded on the quantity of pots produced
  • The right side of the class would be graded on the quality of pots produced

When the time for grading came around…

The teacher revealed it was an experiment in perfectionism.

He told the class to look closer.

All the highest-quality pots had been produced by the ‘quantity’ group even though they’d made 30-40 awful ones in the process.

But the ‘quality’ group had made pots that were even worse.

Here’s how the writers David Bayles and Ted Orland conclude:

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.”

Turns out…

If you want to produce ‘perfect’ work then you have to be producing flawed work.

Otherwise, how do you know where to improve?

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