A Reflection on 2012 and Earlier: Quality vs Quantity

by Christopher Paul on January 2, 2013

During my high school or early college years, friends and I got into a frequent quantity vs quality debate. As young adults at the mercy of our biological desires, this discussion always centered around sex. Some believed frequency wasn’t as important as the quality which could mean anything from how connected you were to the person, how “good” it was, to how it catered to something other than a basic need to hook up with someone. Others thought how often you had sex was better – possibly because even bad sex can sometimes have good qualities to it… Or so they say (right?). Anyway, the specifics weren’t really discussed (at least not that I can recall) but the topic was something that came up when we got together.

This wasn’t a detailed logical debate or anything remotely close. Even hinting at the subject of sex was enough to make the discussion fun for our age. Regardless of what our thoughts were, we’d shout out our position (no pun intended) and scream something like, “Awwww, yeah!” or “Yeah, baby!” as others around us would counter with their thoughts and say the same youthful jeers. It really just came down to who was in a relationship at the time and who wasn’t and had no actual reflection on whether any of us were sexually active. Chalk it up to youthful expression.

But the quantity vs quantity debate is everywhere and obviously not limited to our sexual encounters. Periods of excess and drought shape everything from housing, cars, luxury goods, and even food. America, in particular, is always looking for more; more money and more for that money. In New York City, it’s rare to find a woman carry a purse that doesn’t have a ‘C’, ‘MK’, ‘YSL’, ‘G’, or some other recognizable logo; I’m sure many women in the city have a bag from each of those designers. Men are no different with their interests including the very same brands women care about. Outside of the city, we still worry about keeping up with the Joneses. It’s everywhere. Where “The Real Housewives of ‘X'” and “Keeping up with The Kar-whatever-their-name-is” rule “reality” TV, it’s easy to get sucked up in feeling the need for more and more.

And I’m no different. I’ve wanted the latest gadget, game, computer part, or whatever. And for the geeks reading, the specs of your computer gear are the nerd equivalent of street cred; your benchmark scores are what you crave and if you have to spend $500 on the latest video card or solid state drive, you do it. The need for bigger, faster, more, isn’t exclusive to anyone regardless of economic status, religion, or ethnic background – humanity has always operated this way.

But after years of this, I’ve slowly moved from the quantity side of the fence to the quality side. I stopped building my own high end PCs and bought a Mac. I worried less about the latest console or games. I cared less about my stereo. I don’t upgrade my phone to the latest model every year like I used to. I’ve focused my consumption on things I feel are quality goods. In fact, during the last three years or so, I’ve become interested in items made sustainably, by hand, in the United States. I count my briefcase, backpack, jeans, and son’s nursery furniture among some examples. There are other things I own that, one can argue, cost more. But they have lasted me a long time and I don’t see them failing me in the foreseeable future; the value of these items is much greater.

This even extends to the amount and type of content I consume. I don’t watch the same amount of TV; I probably went from watching two hours six days a week to maybe four hours total – and I sometimes think even that is too much. I read far fewer blogs and news sites. I used to subscribe to over 300 feeds but cut that down to about 75 that curate good content I want to share here. I limit the number of people I follow on Twitter, too.

I don’t know when, exactly, I started “switching sides” on the debate. Perhaps my ignorance fading as I grew older led to it. Perhaps certain professional and life experiences changed the way I approach my legacy on this world and what I stand for. Or, perhaps, I just grew tired of it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still enamored by flashy gadgets that I wish I had. I’m tempted to get a new weather or calendar app that does the same thing my phone does natively (but just looks better). And I have my “brands” and writers I support almost without question.

But in the end, I’ve learned that quality does trump quantity in virtually all matters. I’m almost surprised it took 20 odd years for me to figure it out. Going back to when I was 15, I realized I never had a lot of friends (and still don’t). But those I keep are the best quality friends I could imagine – they’re the ones I go out of my way to see when I can and want to include in experiences I enjoy. They’re also the ones who drive hundreds of miles across three states to bring me my spare car keys after locking my set in the trunk (you know who you are). And they’re the ones who’ll be your bat and glove when life throws you curveballs.

As I look back at 2012 and the years before it, I’m glad I developed this life lesson and perspective. As I navigate 2013, I’m going to be extra mindful of the quality I seek in everything I do and be thankful for the quality I already have. And if I only have a few outstanding memories this year or buy a few specific things, then so be it. But they’ll be something I hope to have with me for as long as I continue to be here.

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