Zach's PEN #34: The Quality/Quantity Paradox

2021 Week 11: I watched Syracuse basketball for only the second time this season, postponed creating daily videos until the Markee launch, and got featured on someone's podcast.

Dear PENpals,

I’m sort of stunned to be saying this, because it’s a full 180° shift from the way I’ve thought my entire life, but it turns out, focusing on quality in creative output leads to lower quantity and lower quality. Focusing on quantity leads to higher levels of both. I’ve been so dumb for so long, you guys. 🤦‍♂️

Here’s an excerpt from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

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 pound 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 theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

That settles it, and it completely validates (on the “quality is important” scale) the now 89 middling, throwaway daily posts I’ve published since December 22nd. I wouldn’t actually even need that quality validation though. I have at least 5 additional incontrovertible validations of this practice. It’s nice to be able to scientifically remove any doubts about quality though.

The Markee launch is imminent, and I’ve decided to hold off on my plan to add an additional daily habit of publishing a short video until that’s up and running. It’s extremely exciting and a little scary and with all the positive movement in my life (89 days straight exercising too), there need not be any rush to add more.

You probably know by now that I’m a software fan. I wrote about that this week:

Well I am very happy (and proud) to announce that I have made my way onto a podcast of one of the software developers I’m a fan of! Mohit Mamoria, the creator of the best email utility ever made, interviewed me about myself (huh?), Productivity™, and “building in public”. I talked about my daily posts, how I stopped over committing to stuff, a bunch of other personal stuff, so if you want to check it out, the podcast is here along with a summarized transcript of sorts.

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This Week's Other Posts

I wrote about why I think outliners are so important. If you've come this far in your life without the use of one, I really recommend checking them out.

I wrote about what might be the optimally saddest scene in any children's movie ever.

I wrote about how saying yes to one thing is saying no to everything else.

I wrote about a project I'm thinking of doing that seems cool/fine/fun to me but people look at me weird when I tell them.

I wrote about what cars should do when they approach an intersection at the same time as a pedestrian.

I wrote about one of my favorite little quirky technological in-between eras.

Syracuse Basketball Update

So I’m a little ashamed to say that this is maybe the second Syracuse game I’ve watched this year. Some of you who know me well might be shocked by this, but between the pandemic, two babies, and all the other stuff… I just didn’t watch basketball. Until last night. And it seems like Buddy Boeheim can shoot.

Fun fact for the non-Syracuse people on here. Jim Boeheim was Syracuse’s head basketball coach for a few years. Then I was born in 1982. He’s still Syracuse’s head basketball coach. And he doesn’t even look that different!

I used to attend Jim Boeheim basketball camp as a young teenager. Buddy Boeheim wasn’t yet born. He scored 30 points last night.

Anyway, I imagine most of my fellow Syracuse diaspora are watching these games alone from our COVIDpods, so I’m going to create a Clubhouse room tomorrow for anyone who wants to meet up and watch the game together. I did the same last night but just watched it with my friend Mike who is really just learning the ways of Syracuse basketball. I’ll post the link in Facebook, since that’s where all us Syracuse people are still connected. One pretty massive caveat though… TV services and streaming services are all out of sync. Even a couple of seconds out of sync makes it impossible to enjoy a game together. But hey, at least we can talk for a minute and not emote too much for the first 35 minutes of the game.


Allison’s getting ready to finally call it on Wendell’s hair. I’ll probably just cut it myself with my fancy-ass COVID clippers, but maybe we’ll go for a father-son cut. Anyway, it’ll be kind of sad to see it go. Here are a couple photos and a little video from today of the last we may see of this doo (Louisa also tells a little story in the video):

Also, my oldest friend Matt and his wife Valeria just had a baby boy! Super exciting stuff.

Babies are awesome. I’m gonna miss these babies.

Much love and G’Orange,