One year of writing this blog and my most popular post was...
2 September 2014
…not my best one.
The best rarely equals the most popular. The best book that was ever written wasn’t the most popular one. The best idea that ever existed didn’t catch the most attention.
Popularity is merely the measure of validation that your work is receiving from others. A businessman wants popularity for his ideas and therefore must validate his work through others. He takes the negative or indifferent opinion of others to heart and changes his work to make it more popular. He lets the market decide. He's in it for the buck.
Quality, on the other hand, is the measure of self-validation. An artist cannot let the market decide, he cannot look to others for validation. An artist blows critics off, coolly assesses his work, and gets back to building something better. An artist must self-validate. And quality lies within self-validation. Van Gogh’s work was by all standards stellar, but in his lifetime it was never popular. If you’re focused on quality, you’re going to have to avoid the distraction of popularity.
Sometimes popularity matters, but it’s never the measure of the quality of the stuff. In life we probably need both: validation through others to make a living and self-validation to be true to ourselves. And sometimes, when we’re lucky, the two might coincide.