“If a thing is old, it is a sign that it was fit to live. Old families, old customs, old styles survive because they are fit to survive. The guarantee of continuity is quality. Submerge the good in a flood of the new, and the good will come back to join the good which the new brings with it” (Edward V. Rickenbacker).
WHERE DOES “QUALITY” RANK IN YOUR SCALE OF VALUES? If you were an artist, for example, what would you want to be the leading characteristic of your work: critical acclaim? public recognition? commercial profitability? quality of craftsmanship? These are not mutually exclusive, of course; your work might be characterized by more than one of these. But if you had to choose, which would it be?
It’s safe to say that “quality” is not held in high esteem by as many people as it used to be. And that’s sad. Our lives would be the richer if we regained a sense of quality’s importance. Consider the superiority of quality to some things that seem to rank more highly.
Quality is better than newness. New things are exciting, without question, and newness is a value. But as a society, we’ve become all but obsessed with it, and quality has suffered. Too hastily do we cast aside resources of proven quality in order to pick up on the latest thing.
Quality is better than quickness. In too many areas, our main priority is speed and ease of use. For example, we won’t bother learning skills that take a long time to learn. And if the worth of something is not immediately obvious to us, we’re in too big a hurry to give it a deeper look. But quality is worth waiting for. It deserves our patience.
Quality is better than popularity. In the age of mass merchandising, we’re often content with what is offered to us by the big box stores. Yet many quality “things” — whether products, ideas, or people — never catch on with the public, and we should not neglect these.
To repeat, values are not always mutually exclusive. Something might be of great quality and be new, quick, and popular too. But we need to be careful. As old-fashioned as it sounds, we need to give quality some respect. It’s worth the sacrifice of many lesser values.
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of many masters of craftsmanship. Quality also marks the search for an ideal after necessity has been satisfied and mere usefulness achieved” (Will A. Foster).