David Strittmatter

Focus on quality instead of quantity

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. – John Ruskin


  • Quantity won’t make you sustainably happy
  • Focusing on quality leads to better results
  • When you want to get started with something new, you shouldn’t care too much about the quality

Practical advice:

  • Adopt a critical mindset
  • Reduce things/people that aren’t contributing positively to your life
  • Appreciate even the smallest gains in life

Dear friend,

This week, I once again thought a lot about what makes me happy. I concluded it’s not only the little things that make life so great but also quality and not quantity: I would rather live 40 great years than 200 shitty years. I would rather have a great party once a month than have a shitty party once a week. I would rather have one great friend than 100 superficial fake friends.

In this article, I want to share with you how I define the terms quality and quantity, why I focus on quality instead of quantity, discuss exceptions to this rule, and how we can introduce more quality into our lives.

What is quality, what is quantity?

To put it simply, quality is a measure of excellence or of a state of being. It is a feature or a characteristic that someone or something has. Quality can be good or bad. It is more subjective. It is not easily measured.

Quantity, on the other hand, is the extent, size, or sum of something. It can be expressed as a numerical value and can easily be measured.

For example, if you focus on quantity in your relationships, you will have numerous friends independent of the quality of these relationships, whereas if you focus on quality, you will only have “high quality” (“best”) friends regardless of whether you have only one or plenty friend(s).

Why should we focus on quality over quantity?

Quality over quantity is a common phrase you hear these days. Essentially, this expression states that quantity will never make you happy: friends, clothes, gadgets, food, drugs, pleasure – nothing in large quantities won’t truly make you feel fulfilled. It doesn’t matter how much of something you have; what matters is the quality of what you have. Only quality can give you true, sustainable happiness.

In the long-term, a focus on quality leads to better results. You might know the 10000 hours rule that states you need at least 10000 hours to master a skill. However, just practicing something won’t make you a grandmaster in chess. Even something that’s so little complex as tennis or chess requires that you not only practice a lot but focus on your weak spots, adjust best practices to your playing style, and consistently reflect what’s working (i. e. concentrate on the quality of your training).

Most things in life are substantially more complex than chess or tennis. Just putting in the hours won’t bring you the desired results: You won’t become a good husband/wife just because you had dozens of shitty relationships. You won’t be happy if you’ve 1000 superficial friendships. You won’t become a famous Instagrammer just because you upload three crappy, “worthless” pictures per day.

On the contrary, if you focus on one high-quality relationship or on only a few friendships, you’ll obtain more physical and emotional benefits than focusing on mediocre relationships (shown by a massive amount of studies).

Why’s Apple so successful? Steve Jobs has planted a key notion into the company’s DNA after his return in 1997: Apple shouldn’t just sell computers, they should sell the promise of a better world. He was never more focussed on the profits than on the positive impact Apple’s products have on the lives of the customers. Hence, it’s no surprise that Apple makes most of its profits with only a handful of products. Those few products, though, are perfect in every detail. Apple is the best example of why quality is so much more important than quantity for achieving better results.

When should we concentrate on quantity?

I hope I could convince you that if you want to improve something, you should focus on quality, not quantity. Yet, there are times and situations in which you should rather concentrate on quantity than on quality.

Particularly, when you want to get started with something new, you shouldn’t care too much about quality. In the beginning, we suck at everything. Even the easiest task will be very difficult. For instance, in lifting it takes so much time until you master the right technique for very simple exercises to really hit your muscle. Yet, after lifting for several months you will have automatically mastered 90% of the technical aspects. Then, if you want to improve your lifting technique, you have to focus on quality again.

When I started with YouTube and writing blog posts, I concentrated on putting out content on a consistent basis. No matter how bad my video creating and writing skills were (or still are haha), I always put out my content. Today, I focus so much more on quality. I would never publish a video or blog post just to have posted something.

Therefore, focus on quantity if you just get started with something new and once your learning curve flattens, focus on quality to achieve great results.

How can we have more quality in life

If you want to introduce more quality into your life, you should first ask yourself where you want to start. A focus on quality is less convenient than a focus on quantity as you need to adopt a critical mindset. This takes time and effort. Thus, start with one area of life you want to improve qualitatively.

Next, a great routine is to critically assess whatever you want to improve right after you are finished doing it, for example after a workout, meeting, romantic date, presentation, exam, self-cooked dinner, video, concert, etc. you ask yourself “what are the three things I can improve?”, “if there is one thing that would substantially improve my ‘performance’, what’d be?” or “how can I improve 1% until the next time?”

While a critical assessment and 100% honesty with yourself are essential to enhance the quality of your life, it is also very important to remove things that aren’t contributing positively to your life. I don’t want to say that you should break up friendships with people and only become friends with people who help you to achieve a better life or shouldn’t eat sweets or burgers anymore. Rather, I want to say that you should reduce the quantity of the things that harm you in your life. Critically assess if you really need to be friends with this guy who is a real asshole but could help you to get promoted, if you really need to go out with your drinking buddies every Saturday night although you could have a nice BBQ evening or hiking weekend with them too, or if you really want that high-paying job and work 60 hours a week, although you get sick, are unhappy with your life, and would rather work in a creative less-paying job at a marketing agency.

Finally, I want to address a very sad fact about us humans. Humans cannot be happy all the time. Once we achieve something, consume something, spent time with someone/ something great, we get used to it very fast. For instance, if you purchase your first car this might be a 10/10 and you are the happiest man alive. However, after a few months, you won’t feel this happiness anymore. So, you need an even better car to achieve that 10/10 again but even if you purchase a Ferrari (or whatever luxurious car), the same effect will arise again. And this phenomenon can be observed in every area of life. Our unlimited desire for even greater things can never be satisfied. You can buy pleasure but not happiness. That’s the reason why so many lottery winners are a year after winning the jackpot less happy than before they won.

Thus, never take the things that happen to you for granted. Appreciate even the smallest gains in life. It’s the little things in life that make it great. Moreover, you shouldn’t maximize for extremes (getting freaking rich or famous for instance) but have a lot of variety in your life and allow yourself to be sad and unhappy from time to time. We need those downs to feel great again.

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