Is there something in your life that you’re trying to perfect? In The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman tells a story about a pottery class that was split into 2 groups. The story illustrates the value of volume:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
It’s a question of what makes better work: quantity or quality?
Who produced the best pot in the class? The quantity people or the quality people? The quality people spent hours on a single pot, throwing it and re-throwing it. But by the end, none of them had made a perfect pot. The quantity people on the other hand, made so many pots so quickly that over time they figured out how to do it right. By the end of the semester, they could throw the perfect pot.
I realised that becoming a master of karate was not about learning 4 000 moves but about doing just a handful of moves 4 000 times. — Chet Holmes
When you begin to acquire a new skill, it’s tempting to focus on practising perfectly. This is a recipe for frustration. Your performance, of course won’t be anywhere close to perfection. Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on practising as much as you can as quickly as you can. Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent practice, and in early-stage practice, quantity and speed trump absolute quality. The faster and more often you practise, the more rapidly you acquire the skill.
Until you have mentally committed to doing something over and over, you will not improve. You can’t. As you continuously do something you develop and notice new subtleties that work and continue to refine your process. So don’t be worried to fail. Don’t aim to get it right the first time. Just do it. Fail miserably multiple times. Ultimately, you will succeed.