Quantity begets quality

Yesterday, I tapped out a blog post using the WordPress app on my Windows Phone, quoting wisdom from Jerry Seinfeld. It was a bit self-referential, and my twitter friend Adam called me out with some good-natured ribbing – he claimed that I was cheating, that I wrote a tiny blog post merely to keep my streak alive of blogging every day. He was absolutely right … but I didn’t break the chain.

Why start a writing streak? Why start any streak? More importantly, why keep with it? Why deal with the considerable annoyance of doing something on those days when it’s enormously inconvenient – or when you just don’t feel like doing it? Surely Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” concept doesn’t work … I mean, what’s to be gained simply by doing something every day?

If getting good at something is important to you, then you need to do it a LOT. Especially when you’re a beginner, you need to fight through doing something poorly in order to get good. And you have to do it over and over.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love this story about Quantity vs. Quality from the book Life is a Verb:

A college ceramics teacher decided to do an experiment with his two fall pottery classes. He told one class they would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced that quarter and their grade depended on the number of pots they threw — so the more the better! The second class was told their grade would be determined by the quality of their work and they only needed to produce one “perfect” pot.

The better quality pieces came from the class that was graded on quantity. As they were making all those pots, they were getting better and better at pot-making. Instruction, knowledge, effort – they’re all useful for getting better at something, but NOTHING replaces doing it over and over … quantity leads to quality.

Writing is important to me, and I want to get good at it. There are all kinds of ways I can learn more about it, but nothing can teach me as much as doing it over and over. By deciding that I’m going to blog every day, it forces me to ask myself how important writing really is. I was very busy yesterday – we had a birthday party for Gus (9!), and afterward, I took him to a YMCA campout. Those things are obviously more important to me than some stupid blogging streak, but I could have planned ahead. The streak nagged at me, and I’m happy it did. I’m also happy to live in a world with mobile apps that let you do just about anything.

I have so many things happening in my life – I know that when I do break the chain, I’ll likely blow off writing again for days, maybe weeks. Before long it becomes one of those things that I’ll get back to it “someday,” but someday never seems to come.

For me, a streak is just a fun way to remind me that I need to do something over and over.

What are you learning that’s important to you and what are you doing to get better at it? What are you doing to make sure you do it a lot? If you’re going to get to it “someday,” how can you make that someday come now? If doing something every day isn’t your thing, consider using one of these Zig Ziglar workbooks that Seth Godin republished.

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  1. Pingback: Five Blogs – 6 February 2012 « 5blogs

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