Are you getting a nagging sense that you should choose quality over quantity in your life more often?
Maybe you are weighed down by a plethora of consumer goods that keep breaking.
Maybe your large social circle doesn’t provide the fulfillment you were hoping for.
Maybe you have a million ideas, but feel that you should focus on just one.
Then this article is for you. We discuss reasons why quality over quantity has so much to offer, we’ll go into specific examples, and look at how to live by this maxim.
What Does Quality Over Quantity Mean?
The phrase “quality over quantity” refers to the idea that it’s better to focus on a few quality things rather than amassing many inferior things (aka the minimalist mindset).
The underlying assumption is that not all things are made the same. A few essential things carry much more value than the vast majority of other things in your life.
If this is true, then it makes sense to consciously focus on those few high-value items. Your return on investment will be much greater.
This dynamic is also referred to as Price’s law.
Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.Andrew Carnegie
Does It Only Apply to Things?
“Quality over quantity” is not limited to the material sphere. It applies to anything in your life:
- Activities, i.e, your job or what you do in your free time
- Ideas, i.e., the concepts you expose yourself to through reading
- Goals, i.e., becoming fit or starting a business
- Experiences, i.e., adventures or traveling
- Relationships, i.e., friends or lovers
- Emotions, i.e., what good or bad feelings you allow into your system
Don’t make the mistake of fetishizing the things you own. Quality over quantity is not about worshiping your collection of rare guitars.
Experiences, ideas, skills, people — that’s where it’s at. And it is here where quality over quantity will yield the greatest results.
Examples for Quality Over Quantity
There are numerous contexts in which quality over quantity will give you greater results.
Do you keep buying cheap clothes that you never wear, collecting them until your closet is about to burst? The business model of H&M and other chain stores is based on that behavior.
Instead, you could get a capsule wardrobe: a few, high-quality items, harmonized in style and color. They will be sturdy, well fitting and make you look great, while the H&M stuff never quite fits, looks cheap and wears out quickly.
Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.Vivienne Westwood
There is a strong preference in self-help circles to keep reading more and more books, as if it were a contest.
But it’s not about the number. It’s about finding the most useful ideas out there and making them your own.
This means critically thinking through them and adopting them to your circumstances. You could never do this if you read a new book every other day.
Dating and Friendships
While I don’t believe in sexual monogamy, you can only build deep, meaningful relationships with a select number of people. The same is true for friends. Here too, the quality increases as we go deeper, not as we go broader.
Why do so many people opt for quantity, then?
It’s the “new relationship buzz.” In the early stages, there is much to discover while all the annoying qualities are yet unknown. And once all mysteries have been unpacked, we move on.
But by treating relationships this way, you never grow past a certain point. You never experience that later stage in a relationship, where they start to mirror your personality shortcomings back at you.
Most people have a quantity centric approach to fitness. They run, bicycle or swim for hours on end, thinking that more is somehow better.
Those are usually the same people who never reach their body recomposition goals.
Most people would see much greater results conducting two intense, 20-minute workouts per week, focusing on a few quality compound movements like pull-ups or squats.
Dieting is a prime example of quality vs. quantity. How do most people try to lose weight? By counting calories (quantity). How do a few people actually succeed at losing weight and keeping it off? By focusing on the quality of their food.
You cannot starve yourself, at least not for long. Eventually, your body will overcome your willpower.
But you can recondition yourself to enjoy the most nutrient-dense foods, like high-quality proteins, vegetables, and fruits (aka a paleo diet).
These will make you stop eating when you are full and keep you satiated longer.
Some of the biggest success stories in business were based on a quality over quantity approach to product creation. Think Apple and the iMac, Zippo and the Zippo lighter, or Cartier and its Tank watch. They all utilized quality as their key differentiator.
At the same time, some of the biggest failures were due to over diversification. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) branching out into the car rental business, frozen food and publishing is one such instance.
The number one mistake in marketing is trying to do too many things at once. You cannot productively run paid ads, manage several social media accounts, start blogging, start vlogging, etc.
If you split up your resources over too many channels, you don’t reach critical mass anywhere.
But if you go all in on one well-chosen channel and consistently produce high-value content, you will get high-quality leads. It’s inevitable.
To make amount X, you could have 100 low-ticket customers, or you could have just one or two high-ticket customers.
The difference is that the low-ticket customers will have a million questions and complaints. They will be a pain to deal with.
In contrast, your few high-ticket customers will be much more pleasant to deal with, as they are inherently of higher quality.
Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.John Ruskin
In business, you are supposed to always network. The rationale — the bigger your network, the more likely you are to have a “guy,” if you need one.
There are two problems with this line of thinking.
First, quality control. Yes, you now have someone to call up. But since you didn’t filter for competency, you’ll likely get a half-baked solution that will have to be fixed by someone else.
Second, availability. The more people you have in your network, the less attention each person receives. When you require help, why would a random contact suddenly come through?
But with a small, loyal “band of brothers” (or sisters), the opposite is true. The level of quality will be high, and so will be the level of availability.
Not all skills are made equal. Programming is a much more valuable skill than making pancakes, selling is more useful than playing the mouth organ.
What these high-value skills have in common is that they either:
- Improve your financial standing
- Improve your social status
- Improve your health
- Improve your sexual attractiveness
- Improve your ability to influence people
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.Bruce Lee
Our whole life is a series of experiences. But there is a huge difference in terms of quality. Slogging through your 9-to-5 job and living for the weekend is a far inferior experience than pursuing your passion and traveling the world.
A few outstanding ideas overshadow the sea of mediocre ideas. The Socratic method beats a Donald Trump speech, the automobile was a greater idea than roller skates, and internet memes have nothing on the Sistine Chapel.
There are 12 major benefits you experience when you choose quality over quantity.
1. It Reduces Clutter
Quality over quantity leads to a minimalist lifestyle. You will buy fewer, but better things. And you will want to declutter your home and only keep what you really use. Such a distraction-free environment will bring tremendous peace of mind.
2. It Lasts Longer
When you go for something of a higher quality — material or immaterial — this item is likely to last longer. That designer suit will cost you twice as much as a regular suit, but it might last you 10 years instead of two years. Likewise, one high-value friendship from your college days might outlast all those work friends.
3. It Gives You Joy
High-quality items make us feel good. They delight us with their level of craftsmanship, their aesthetic. This is not only true for the things we buy, but also for ideas, beautiful physical bodies, or a well-written book.
4. It Saves You Money
Buying expensive, high-quality items will save you money in the long run. A reliable car for $20.000 that lasts you 10 years will outperform a bucket of bolts for $1000, that will break down after 3 months.
5. It Saves You Mental Bandwidth
Every decision-making process will cost you time and energy. But if your default is to choose quality over quantity, you will already have reduced the complexity. This leaves you with more mental bandwidth to focus on the important projects in your life.
6. It Makes You Healthier
If you eat high-quality foods, focus on high-quality exercise, and surround yourself with high-quality people, you will be healthier and live longer.
7. It Supports Sustainability
High-quality goods last longer and therefore support sustainability. This is true for clothes, furniture, electronics, transportation, and many more.
8. It Reduces Stress
Since the things, people and activities in your life were carefully chosen, they will create less stress — your computer won’t break during your presentation; fewer arguments with your friends; less sick time.
9. It’s More Intentional
To choose quality over quantity means to be more intentional. You now have a guiding principle to choose your course in life. No longer will you just randomly pick whatever option is most convenient at the moment.
10. It Makes You Care More
If you fill your life with high-quality items, relationships, and ideas, you will naturally start to care more. All these things will mean something to you, and you will feel more engaged.
11. It Enhances Your Relationships
When you focus on high-quality relationships, you have more time and energy available to invest in those relationships. They will flourish.
12. It Helps You Develop
We constantly compare ourselves to our peers. Therefore, being surrounded by quality people will rub off on you. You will want to live up to the high standards around you.
What Happens When We Go For Quantity?
Most people choose quantity and seem to be doing okay on the surface. But don’t let appearances trick you. A quantity-centric life comes with a high price tag.
First, for the distraction and the entertainment you get, you pay in excellence. It’s simply not possible to get outstanding at something if your life has lots of moving parts.
The second major cost of a quantity lifestyle is your relationships. You might always be surrounded by people, but you’ll get little satisfaction from the noise. If you want quality, you will have to move to the fringes of the herd.
A third area affected negatively will be your health. If you don’t focus on quality food and exercise, you will have less energy and age faster. Worst case, it can cost you your life.
Why It’s So Difficult To Stay the Course
If quality over quantity is such a no-brainer, then why is it so difficult to live by it?
The reason is that we crave variety.
And quantity = variety.
If we have 50 friends instead of five, we get ten times the gossip.
If we indulge in the universe of processed foods, we experience many more textures and tastes than if we stick to a few high-quality foods.
Trying to run five different business ventures at the same time creates more excitement than focusing on just one.
How To Leverage Variety
At its core, variety vs. quality is a short-term versus long-term dilemma.
Let’s stick with the example of food. Going to a Chinese buffet will be fun in the moment, but will make you fat in the long run.
Vice versa, eating salmon with broccoli for each meal won’t be fun in the short term, but will help you become lean in the long run.
The trick is to allow just enough variety into your life to sustain your quest for quality.
So we want to shoot for the salmon with broccoli, but when we are about to fall off the wagon, it’s time for a pizza.
This way, you can return to a focus on quality soon, instead of ditching your diet project altogether.
Over time, you will be able to go longer and longer, as you reeducate your taste buds. Eventually, you will prefer quality (almost) all the time, be it your food, your relationships or your ideas.
The 6-Step Approach to More Quality
How do you incorporate more quality into your life? These 6 steps will help with that.
1. Increase Your Own Value
Before you can attract outside value into your life, you must increase your own value.
That is why the rich keep getting richer. They have already accumulated significant value and keep attracting more value because of it.
This applies to every area of life:
- You want the best customers? Create the best product.
- You want the most attractive partners? Improve your own attractiveness.
- You want the most interesting friends? Become more interesting yourself.
Create value first to receive it.
And understand that if quality keeps eluding you, it is you, not the world, that is responsible.
2. Learn To Spot Quality
It can sometimes be tricky to single out quality, as many good options will be competing for your attention. But with the following key criteria, you will filter out the truly great.
- Durability. Quality lasts longer, be it a consumer good or a relationship. Ask yourself: “How long do I expect X to be around?”
- Price. Quality will cost you, be it money, time, or energy. Ask yourself: “Is the price high enough to indicate quality?”
- Unease. Quality is intimidating, be it a very attractive date or a challenging job offer. Ask yourself: “Am I feeling out of my depth?”
- Deferral. The later something pays, the higher in quality it usually is, be it studying or working out. Ask yourself: “When will I reap the rewards?”
3. Pay the Price
We saw that quality will cost you more. But we are all reluctant to pay the price. We keep hoping for a bargain.
If you are serious about quality, you need to overcome this.
Stop wasting time by searching for shortcuts. Make a conscious choice about what you want. Then pay the price and be content with your choice.
4. Learn to Accept Trade-offs
You cannot have the perfect body, the perfect mind, the perfect business, the perfect relationship, all at the same time. Something has to give.
Therefore, you must choose wisely. Saying “Yes” to one quality thing in your life means saying “No” to many other things.
Trade-offs cannot be avoided.
5. Appreciate What You Have
Some people have a tendency to never be satisfied, even if they already have quality things in their life.
A remedy can be to start a gratitude practice. Each day, sit down for 10 minutes and journal about something that you are thankful for.
By reminding yourself of the quality already in your life, the urge to add on will subside.
6. Measure And Iterate
You should regularly assess the quality in your life. What gets measured, gets improved.
But how do you measure the level of quality in your life?
One thing you can do is to compare yourself to high-quality people:
- What is the quality of their social circle?
- How much money do they make?
- How healthy are they?
Another thing you can do is to look at your subjective level of contentment. Observe yourself during any given day:
- How often do you feel irritated?
- How often do you reach for quick fixes, like alcohol or porn?
- If your life was over tomorrow, would you consider it remarkable?
Do such assessments regularly, e.g., every three months. Then start the next iteration and improve the areas you found lacking. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Should You Always Choose Quality Over Quantity?
During the early stages of a learning process, it can indeed make sense to go with quantity. The idea is to throw plenty of mud against the wall to see what sticks.
It allows you to filter through a lot of options quickly, to see what best fits your style.
But as soon as this early exploration of the territory is over, it is imperative to go deep on one thing.
A good example for this is business. When you start a new venture, you should get a feel for the land first. Talk to all kinds of customers, consider a variety of products, and try out different marketing methods.
But as soon as you’ve got that initial overview, you need to pick the one model that promises the greatest ROI and stick with it. Now it’s back to quality over quantity.
After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.Frédéric Chopin
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding quality over quantity.