Quantity over Quality
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place of exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Will Durant.
The famous quote above is usually attributed to Aristotle. One of the most famous Greek philosophers to exist. But two authors: Caelen Huntress and Frank Herron, discovered that the origin of this quote is from Will Durant, who was actually trying to explain Aristotle’s contribution to philosophy, simply.
Aristotle’s original quote was:
“As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”
I find this more so beautiful than its simplified counterpart. But the shorter, more popular version of this Aristotle quote rose as a guideline for many people seeking excellence and success in their lives. Like you and I.
The pursuit of perfection is stringent. Tiring. Perpetual. You are searching for something that you don’t know the shape, form, or consistency of. That is why I instead choose excellence; it is measurable, quantifiable, and realistic. You compete with no-one but yourself, and you can be less harsh on your performances or expectations or self-judgement.
Further, successful people are able to isolate the word “do” from the popular version of Aristotle’s quote. The heart of excellence is action—not just promises or things we hope to accomplish.
And that is why quantity matters with excellence. Perfection focuses on quality more than anything. “Does your result beat everyone else?”. With perfection and quality over quantity, what matters most is whether you are the best at what you do. Whether you attain the highest standard that is possible of your time. And also that: it doesn’t consider time. Seeking perfection is a neverending cycle of striving for the best possible outcome. Because what if someone does better? That is possible, and that almost always can happen.
Quantity over quality however is, for the most part, better than most people suggest. For example, rather than just projecting confidence—suggesting that you are the best at what you do, people who achieve excellence are competent. Rather than procrastinating and pretending to be on top of things, people who achieve excellence are proactive. Perfection is a result; excellence is a habit. And when excellence is a habit for you, it manifests itself in everything that you do.
Building Excellence Through Habits That Stick
Act. There is no value in making it look like we have our problems under control, we are falsely making ourselves believe we don’t need to focus on action when we, in fact, do. To be excellent, you must act on your goals. You have to do consistently good work (not perfect, good) to naturally improve quality, motivation, and therefore results.
For example, if you want to get into shape from this year, joining a gym and having one faultless workout won’t get you to your goal. But many good sessions, executed consistently over a long period of time, will help you uncover motivation, drive, desire (to fix any quality issues), and your result. You have to commit to a good schedule, and carve out the time for consistently good workouts and time for learning to improve.
Your output is only as great as your input. If you don’t put in much work or effort, you won’t get much in return. Sticking to excellent habits is a problem that everyone battles with. I know I do. But think of it as a return on your investment, especially in the long term: if you put in minimal effort—whether with your work or passions—excellent rewards will be out of reach. But if you focus on consistent and excellent action, which is always within reach, you will be rewarded with great results: amazing health, thriving relationships, wealth, monetary rewards, or opportunity.
It gets easier. There’s a common saying in cycling which is “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster”, but I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. This saying only applies if you keep pushing hard, but as I trained more and spent more months working on my fitness, things became easier; there was less burn in my legs when doing hard workouts, climbing hills were less winding, and I could ride for hours and feel as though I’d done much less.
It takes effort over a long period of time to develop a habit, especially a healthy one—one that will not give immediate benefits or results. But the more you work on it, the easier it will be. Eventually, positive actions will become second nature to you, and you’ll do them without thinking. Your motivation will increase, and you’ll achieve better results without realising—or possibly caring.
Yes, a schedule works. I’ve struggled with keeping to a schedule many times. But it does work, and I’ve found that broadening your schedule, in the beginning, makes it easier to get into it. For example, I started with a schedule of “write three times a week”. From this, it’s now turned into “write on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday morning”. This gives me a routine, purpose, and accountability. It gives me something to be excited for each morning. And I can feel greatly satisfied by the end of each week remembering what my time was spent doing.
Do less, better. Ah, the Joxen mantra. This reflects the idea of identifying keystone habits; focusing on things that transform your health, wealth, and relationships the most, and then doing these habits every day. It’s a game of simplifying what you need to focus on, so you can get the best out of a few, very important things, rather than trying to focus on too much.
Let’s say you wanted to develop a habit of putting money into a savings account. Doing this regularly when you earn money will lead you into a more money-conscious life, meaning as you actively try to value what you spend and save, you’ll think twice about making constant small purchases, especially when they don’t contribute to anything but a tiny moment of instant gratification. Focus on a few things that you know you can be excellent in.
The lesson here is that excellence is a habit found in every corner of your life. You achieve it by focusing on quantity before quality. If you want to do something well, do it a lot first, and then focus on doing it better.
What’s on My Mind
In the past, I would have said “wow, the first week of the year is already over”, but this time is different.
In 2020, I learnt to focus more on slowing time down. I know that sounds impossible, it is impossible, but somehow, I did it anyway. Not literally, of course, but I paid more attention to the moment. This week felt slower than most weeks in the entire past year. And it was because I recognised each day and lived in them more. The mornings—early, mid, and late—were acknowledged, evenings took a lot longer to arrive, and I felt more positively absorbed by the week.
Instead of wishing for a specific date for when you know something fun or good will happen, why don’t we strive to achieve that feeling through something each day brings, like ticking off an awesome goal. Or having a hilarious conversation with a friend? Those things matter. And they help us to remember the beauty of each day.
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
Article of the week -
This week’s article is on self-awareness. A quality that is close to home for me. The publication owner who published it left me some very kind words about it, and I felt rather warm inside.
An interesting thing I found -
Signal. With everything going on in terms of the new privacy terms with Facebook/WhatsApp, I recently downloaded Signal and plan to stay with them for the future. Zuckerberg’s Facebook wants to track everything it can from you, to personalise its ads even more (even though their suggestions for me suck). Signal currently doesn’t care about that. It’s fully encrypted, even to the metadata in the pictures you send, and it’s run on donations (including that of the co-founder of WhatsApp) and open-source philosophy. Sounds great to me.
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