Quality Comes Through Quantity
Inspired by Wolf Schneider
If there is any advice on how to become a master of any skill, it would be “quality comes through quantity”. Unfortunately, there is the common misconception that quality and quantity are an “either-or-proposition”. It is very usual to hear the question: “What are you going after? Quality or quantity?” or the phrase “quality over quantity”.
This concept is highly misleading because the more you practice something, the better you get at it. Many examples can verify that quality can only be achieved through repetitive work. For example, as a photographer, about 1% of what you shoot is usable — 99% of your shots are useless. That means “better” pictures is directly linked to “more” pictures taken.
So, how could this misconception develop in society? Wolf Schneider, a known German journalist, offers two main reasons for this idealistic mistake:
1. The cult of the genius in the 18. century
2. And the rebellious lifestyle of 1968
In the 18. century, the term “genius” was romanticized to today’s definition that someone is as supernaturally gifted as if touched by the divine. “Heroes” like e.g. Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare were rediscovered in the 18. century and to be brutally honest their work attitude was completely misunderstood. Walter Isaacson, the biographer of common geniuses like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Leonardo da Vinci, emphasizes that “Leonardo’s genius was a human one”. According to Isaacson, Leonardo’s genius is based on “curiosity and intense observation”. Being self-taught and having limited access to knowledge in rural Tuscany he had to develop each skill over a long period of time. We should be inspired to use our own curiosity and dedication to a subject.
“It was wrought by his own will and ambition…It was based on skills we can aspire to improve in ourselves, such as curiosity and intense observation. He had an imagination so excitable that it flirted with the edges of fantasy, which is also something we can try to preserve in ourselves and indulge in our children”, he says. Unlike Einstein or Isaac Newton, da Vinci was self-taught and learned drawing through intense study of landscapes, cadavers, fossils, and weaponry.
Next to the 18. century, around 1968, a new anarchistic lifestyle was created: Hippies, Beatniks, and Bohemians fled the meritocracy by being naked and stoned in public. They preferred to live a comfortable life and discipline was odious. This spirit lives on until today. Students at school and university demand fun and entertainment from their teachers. Although there is absolutely no issue with learning with fun, especially if you can entertain an audience like Feynman in complex matters like physics. However, the whole education system cannot demand that every teacher is that gifted. In addition, French grammar or Algebra will be still a challenge for any teacher to teach with fun.
Fortunately, many examples show us how great things can be achieved by working hard. Although Beethoven hated to practice the piano and Paganini the violin when they were young, they achieved ultimate mastery of their arts. Entertainment is achieved by mastering a skill. The good thing is that it’s not necessary to spend a high amount of practice until you achieve the entertaining stage of the skill. Josh Kaufmann has described this concept in his book “The first 20 Hours”. You will be amazed at how sharp the learning curve is during the first 20 hours of learning. Here are some ideas what you could learn in this amount:
1. Playing a whole song on the guitar
2. Learning to cook most of your favorite dishes
3. Learning the basics of a new language
Therefore, I would like to shout out to everyone…
1. that is practicing self-improvement…
2. that has a reason to try and fail…
3. that knows that quality comes through quantity…
In the end, I want to share Marcus Aurelius’ ideas that your purpose is what gets you out of bed each morning:
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
–But it’s nicer here…
So you were born to feel ‘nice?’ Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
–But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts. Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?“ ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Keep up the great work!!!