Malcolm Gladwell And GaryVee Debate Quantity vs Quality. And The Winner Is...
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Depending on who you listen to, the key to success as a writer / thought leader is either quantity or quality.
This article explores the nuances of each side in order to find the answer.
Let’s jump in…
Malcolm Gladwell (10M+ copies of 6 books sold) Is All About Quality
In this clip, two quotes stand out…
I don't think the problem with writing in America right now is a failure of output. I think it's a failure of quality.
Is the New Yorker a better organization if writers slow down and write fewer articles in a year, but those articles are very memorable? I think if you did a systematic analysis of the financial health of the New Yorker, you would learn that the New Yorker is a hit-driven enterprise that probably 8 articles a year account for 90% of people's interest in the product. And so that to the extent you could encourage people to write fewer hits, you're better off.
Along with Gladwell, many other great writers spend years refining the quality of every book:
Donna Tartt has sold 10M+ copies of 3 books
Laura Hillenbrand has sold 13M+ copies of 2 books
Yuval Noah Harari has sold 45M+ copies of 4 books
On the other end of the spectrum, people swear by quantity…
The Most Well-Known Quantity Evangelist Is GaryVee
In this clip, Gary makes a few key points:
They remember the hits. they forget the other shit.
You don't have the potential to suck [if you’ve already mastered the skills].
If I was like, “You have to put out 100 songs in a row, your weakest one out of that 100, in my opinion, isn’t going to be weak enough to fuck you up. And, the upside of 100 fucking at-bats…”
GaryVee is not alone. Many great writers have an awe-inspiring output while still having a high quality:
Isaac Asimov (400+ books)
Danielle Steel (190+ books)
Stephen King (65+ books)
What makes the debate confusing is that there are successful people on both sides of the equation. Not only that, they each have valid arguments…
Each Side Convincingly Argues Why Their Side Is The Best
The quantity-first people say its benefits are…
You create more publicly
You get more feedback
You get more chances to find a hit
You get lots of repetition, which helps you do things faster
You get over your fear of publishing
You avoid perfectionism
Deadlines are a forcing function for consistency
The quality-first people say its benefits are…
You create work you’re proud of
You create more true fans
You don’t flood the Internet with noise
You create a stronger body of work that readers go back to
You perfect the depth of your skills more
So how do we reconcile these two worlds?
Well, when you actually dig a little deeper into the beliefs of GaryVee and Gladwell, something surprising happens…
Gladwell And GaryVee Are More Alike Than You Might Think
For example, in this video, GaryVee concedes that quantity is not enough. You also need the right strategy and the right skills…
Being discovered from content output requires volume, which is why I talk about posting so much, and it requires strategy, being good at it. You gotta do both.
Gladwell, who grew up in the newspaper business on constant deadlines, also acknowledges the value of quantity…
If you are required to write something every day, then you've put yourself in a position where you're forced to think about and look for things to write about every day. That's institutionalizing the habit of curiosity, right? I think all successfully curious people do that in one form or another, put themselves in situations where they have to come up with some new idea or are forced to look for interesting new things.
Not only that, earlier when he was writing books, he also wrote articles for The New Yorker.
So, how do we reconcile all of these nuances?
I think it comes to this…
The Quantity vs Quality Debate Isn’t Real
It’s not about OR. It’s about AND.
It’s not about VS. It’s about WITH.
It’s not about debate. It’s about synergy.
Now, the real question is…
How do you combine quantity and quality to get the best of both worlds?
Is it all about sequence and doing the right thing at the right time?
Is it all about proportions (i.e., 60% quantity, 40% quality)?
Or something else?
These questions are what the rest of this article is about…
9 Hacks To Produce Quantity And Quality Content (paid subscribers)
Each of the hacks below are from a combination of personal experience and studying world-class thought leaders. Each hack includes a resource or a thought leader video.
QUICK SUMMARY 1. Follow the Quality-Quality-Quantity sequence 2. If perfectionism is paralyzing you, then ship something 3. Create quantity in the dark, so you crate quality in the light 4. Don’t focus on the "wrong" quality 5. Learn and store knowledge you can reuse over and over 6. Test your ideas like a comedian 7. Have tons of ideas no matter what 8. Everyone agrees that it’s a hits business 9. Do quantity sprints to test your limits and quality marathons to get compounding gains (personal case study)
Let’s jump in…