Quantity Vs. Quality

Chasing perfection seems well-intentioned, but it can also bring unnecessary pressure and restrict freedom.

On the first day of class, the photography students were divided into two groups.

On the left side was the quantity group. The professor told them their grades would be based on the total number of photos they took over the course of the semester.

On the right side was the quality group. They were told their grades would be based on the excellence of a single image they produced.

At the end of the term, University of Florida Professor Jerry Uelsmann was surprised to find that the best photos were actually taken by the quantity group, not the ones tasked with coming up with the perfect picture.

Best-selling author James Clear recently shared the details of Uelsmann’s experiment on The Learning Leader show — and it’s relevant to us as coaches, executives and teachers.

We often hear cliches of taking our time, producing our best work, and painstakingly focusing on the process to yield the best output.

After all, there’s usually value in being extremely meticulous at our craft.

But rarely do we emphasize the importance or benefits of:

-increasing our sample size
-getting more reps in
-finding out what doesn’t work
-failing repeatedly at something we care about

The point is that chasing perfection seems well-intentioned, and we often reason that if we don’t attain it, we’ll still at least come close.

But what we overlook is that our pursuit frequently restricts our freedom and brings added pressure to our quest, thus hindering our performance.

“The person who takes one shot on goal, maybe it goes in, maybe it doesn’t,” Clear said. “But if you take 1,000 shots, you’re going to score at some point.”

Whether we’re currently applying to jobs, considering prospects for our teams, or debating strategies for our next presentation, we may want to consider the lessons of Uelsmann’s class and remember that less isn’t always more.

As Clear put it, “You want as many shots on goal as possible.”

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