Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity in 4 Areas of Life

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Why is quality better than quantity? How does an emphasis on quantity distract businesses from their core purpose?

Quality over quantity is a phrase referring to the preferred focus on the condition of something as opposed to how much you have of something. Even if you’re instantly satisfied by the immense quantity of something, you’ll earn long-term gratification by focusing on quality.

Let’s take a look at why quality is better than quantity in four areas of life.

Why Quality Matters

To demonstrate why quality is better than quantity in most situations, we’ll look at general and niche areas where individuals and businesses should invest in quality. These areas include the food industry, your happiness, business models, and the YouTube community.

1. Food

The food industry’s focus on quantity over quality has stripped most of the nutritional value from whole foods on the market today. The result of efforts to simplify how food is grown, make food more durable, and reduce the number of food species is food inflation in the American diet. Food inflation is when more food must be eaten to gain the same level of nutrients that less food provided in the past. 

According to In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and USDA studies, since the mid-20th century, vitamin C has decreased by 20%, iron by 15%, riboflavin by 38%, and calcium by 16% in produce. What this means is you would need to eat three apples today to get the same amount of iron as one apple in 1940. 

One way the industry promotes quantity over quality is through genetics. Many manufacturers breed certain types of food sources for high yields, such as seeds and certain types of livestock. Wheat is bred to increase its yield output, which has nearly tripled over the last century. Holstein cows have been bred since 1950 to produce more milk. But when you breed for a certain outcome, other elements go by the wayside. In the case of food, it’s nutrients. Today’s wheat contains 28% less iron than before and milk from Holstein cows has less butter fat and fewer nutrients than milk from other cow species. 

Another way quantity has pushed quality out of the way is the industry’s focus on foods high in calories and low in price. After a surge in food prices in the mid-1970s caused homemakers to revolt, the U.S. government created new agriculture policies to ensure the availability of cheap food. The subsidies for corn and soybean farmers are an example of these policies. Farmers were encouraged to grow large amounts of food in small amounts of time. 

This dietary focus on quantity over quality has created a strange phenomenon in society—overfed but undernourished citizens. Old deficiency diseases are cropping back up, but now they’re being seen in obese people, especially children. Deficiency breaks down DNA, which can lead to cancer. 

The best way to choose quality over quantity is to stay out of its home environments: grocery stores, quickie marts, and fast food chains. Independent growers and food manufacturers don’t have the resources or ability to process foods to the degree of big industry. When you shop at farmer’s markets, join community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) groups, or grow your own garden, you will always get real food. 

  • You won’t see any HFCS, chemical additives, food-like products, frozen food, or microwave-only food. 
  • You will see fresh, local food harvested at the prime of flavor and nutritional value. 

2. Happiness

A second area where quality is better than quantity is our general happiness. We all have different scales by which we measure happiness, yet none of us know what the other person’s scale is. Therefore, we might unknowingly describe the same amount of happiness in different terms.

Here’s an example to illustrate this: You and your friend go to a doughnut shop and eat the same plain doughnut. You both have the same experience of the doughnut (five units of fun, say), but afterward, you exclaim it was “awesome!” while your friend says it was “okay.” 

In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert writes that the explanation for this would be that your friend has had better doughnuts in the past that created, say, seven units of happiness, meaning comparatively, this “five units of happiness” doughnut merits only an “okay.” You, on the other hand, have only ever eaten worse doughnuts that created less happiness (say, two units of happiness). You describe this one as “awesome!” because compared to your previous experiences, it seems amazing on your “happiness scale,” even if it only really creates mid-level happiness.

Another effective way you can boost your happiness by striving for the right things is by shifting from conspicuous consumption (quantity) to inconspicuous consumption (quality), says Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis

Conspicuous consumption is when we buy visible, materialistic things to demonstrate our wealth, prestige, or status to others. Examples would include things like a sports car or a piece of fancy jewelry. These aren’t things we buy for their intrinsic value; they’re things we buy for what they’re supposed to project about us to others

Conspicuous consumption naturally leads to an endless competitive cycle—in response to your purchase, someone else buys something even more expensive, leaving you dissatisfied because it devalues your own purchase. The only way you can regain that happiness, of course, is by purchasing your next big-ticket item.

Closely related to the idea of conspicuous consumption is how we tend to value relative happiness more than absolute happiness. We are willing to accept less overall happiness, as long as we know we have more than others. One study showed that most subjects preferred a job in which they earned $90,000 and their coworkers earned $70,000 to one in which they earned $100,000 but their coworkers earned $150,000. That is, they were willing to accept less money as long as they knew they would be making more than their peers. The added social prestige was worth at least $10,000 to these subjects. 

Inconspicuous consumption, by contrast, refers to the kind of spending we do for our benefit, on things that make us intrinsically happy. These are things that we value for their own sake, not for what they convey about us relative to other people. Positive psychology research suggests that money spent on experiences like vacations is far less likely to fall into the conspicuous consumption trap than money spent on material objects like cars or expensive watches.

3. Business

Companies that focus on growth and revenue first (quantity) over the quality of their products and services are bound to fail. This is because it requires a more robust infrastructure that further complicates and slows down work processes.

According to Company of One by Paul Jarvis, growth brings inevitable complications for a business. When traditional companies grow and scale, they have to spend more money and hire more employees. This requires a more robust infrastructure, so these companies must invest in new systems that further complicate and slow down work processes.

For example, video game company Zynga spent $100 million on building their own data centers after achieving success with their free game downloads. This became a financial burden for the company as they struggled to keep up with innovations in the video game industry, eventually forcing them to lay off a large number of employees and close the data centers. 

If you’re the owner of a company that’s constantly growing, you’ll likely spend more time managing the increasingly complex infrastructure than on the core work—creating or designing a product or service. That core work is the reason you wanted to start the business—a reason that’s unrelated to money. So managing growth takes you away from your original purpose—thus, it can reduce quality for the sake of quantity. 

Example: Losing Sight of the Core Work

Here’s an example of how managing a large company might prevent you from focusing on the core work. Say you run a business that offers book therapy: curated selections of books based on the users’ current mental health needs. Initially, you personally read each user’s profile and create their book selection. This is the core work, and it serves your original purpose for starting the business: to improve people’s lives using the psychological and emotional benefits of reading

However, as the business grows, you have to hire employees to take on some of this work, and now you spend more time managing them along with the greater vision and day-to-day operations of the company. You spend less time selecting books and communicating with customers. As interest in your service keeps increasing, you develop an algorithm that automatically creates book selections based on customer needs, eliminating personalized, human involvement. Eventually, you spend all your time on tasks that are unrelated to the core work of book curation and the original purpose of helping people. Instead, you’re primarily focused on keeping the company going and increasing profits every year.

4. YouTube

The above three examples illustrate why quality is better than quantity in general areas of life. But the principle even applies in smaller, niche areas that not everyone is a part of. This demonstrates how important quality is in all walks of life. Let’s look at how quality reigns supreme on the video platform YouTube.

YouTube Corporation

YouTube’s growth demonstrates why quality is better than quantity, says John Doerr in Measure What Matters. Identifying the right metrics helps ensure your stretch goals matter.

By 2011, YouTube knew how to make money, but the team didn’t know how to increase viewership. This prompted YouTube executives to ask, “Which is more important? Money or viewership? Should we measure success by dollars or viewers?”

In contemplating these questions, the team realized that what really mattered was how much time people spent watching videos on YouTube. Consequently, they abandoned the old ways of defining success: number of clicks, number of views, and revenue amount. Instead, they focused on one thing, and one thing only: increasing the number of hours people spent watching YouTube videos.

Today, YouTube is more focused on social responsibility, and their new metric is not watch time, but user satisfaction. To this end, they measure the “likes” and “dislikes” of videos to recommend quality content to each user. To protect viewers’ emotional well-being, YouTube has policies that enforce warnings of sensitive content for children under 18, and don’t allow violent or dangerous content on the platform.


It’s not just the corporates at YouTube that care about quality over quantity. It’s the creatives on YouTube as well.

In YouTube Secrets, Benji Travis and Sean Cannell advise that to consistently post valuable content on your channel, you need to start with a clear vision of what unique value you intend your channel to provide. 

To identify what unique value you should focus on, they suggest thinking about the things that you are both passionate about and especially good at. Maybe you have a unique message that you want to convey, or you intend to cover a subject that nobody else is posting videos about. Or maybe you’ll make videos on a subject that already has a lot of videos and viewers, but you’ve got a unique presentation style that enables you to motivate or entertain your audience in ways that other channels don’t.

Once you have a clear vision of what unique value your channel provides, start planning your videos by determining what specific value each video will provide. To keep the value of your videos as high as possible, the authors recommend brainstorming many video ideas and selecting only the best ideas for video topics.

Wrapping Up

Quality is better than quantity for several reasons. With this mindset, you’ll have a minimalist lifestyle that centers on happiness, health, and success. Otherwise, you’ll find little value in the things you care about the most.

What are other reasons why quality is better than quantity? Let us know in the comments below!

Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity in 4 Areas of Life

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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