The Fun Scale

by | Mar 17, 2020

Source: Sketchplanations

How about a break from the spread of COVID-19?

I was recently forwarded a blog post by a friend that discussed the three categories of fun — supposedly these categories of fun are widely known by adventure-type people. I instantly connected to the wisdom of this way of looking at fun.

Type I Fun (“So Much Fun”)

The first type of fun is the stuff that is fun while we are doing it. It’s fun pretty much from start to finish. You don’t want it to end. Here are examples (from my perspective):

  • An epic snow day of skiing (or maybe apres ski for those who don’t love skiing)
  • A day at the beach
  • Watching a great movie or TV show
  • Reading a book that is an absolute page-turner
  • Enjoying a great bottle of wine with friends around a fire

Engaging in an activity in this category is a no-brainer. It’s just fun.

Type II Fun (“Glad I Did It”)

Type II fun actually involves a lot of suffering. While doing the activity you might think to yourself “why am I doing this?” But later you are glad you did it. This category of fun includes:

  • Running a marathon (or other similar endurance activity)
  • A very long ride on your bicycle
  • The last two hours of a canoe trip
  • Reading some heavy non-fiction books or some great works of literature
  • Most workouts

If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.

-SEAL, from the great book Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

A perfect example of Type II Fun was the Seattle to Portland bike ride my brother and I did. Along with a few hundred other riders we started before dawn in Seattle and ended after dark in Portland 204 miles later. While parts of the ride were pure joy and it was beautiful, much of it was super tough and a slog. Right after we finished my brother asked: “how much would you have to be paid to do that again in the future?” We decided it would have to be thousands of dollars. By the next morning, however, we decided it was awesome and we’d do it again. That’s Type II Fun.

Why do we do Type II Fun? It can be challenging but you feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s over. Type II experiences can be quite memorable. The days of engaging in Type I fun can blend together. It’s Type II experiences that stand out. I find this to be true with books. Most page-turner books are just brain candy and a few years later I can’t even remember whether I even read the book or what it is about. Type II Fun books are often more memorable to me.

Type III Fun (“Not Fun At All”)

Type III Fun is not fun at all. The entire experience just sucks and it’s not even fun in retrospect. Just a suffer-fest. Examples:

  • Extreme mountain climbing
  • Some relationships
  • Type II experiences gone bad, like a turn in the weather or an injury
  • Pandemics

Having a Type III Fun experience can cause you to never do that type of activity ever again. A friend of mine who broke his leg skiing no longer skis. The only redeeming quality of a Type III experience is that it can make a great story.

What We Can Learn

Why wouldn’t we just do Type I experiences?

Type I Fun experiences are great but they are like eating dessert. These activities are within our comfort zone and feel good but they blend together — they aren’t as memorable. We don’t grow from staying in our comfort zone. Getting out of our comfort zone creates growth and memorable experiences. Workouts that are Type II build muscle. Reading a Type II book leads to learning and growth.

But, we can miscalculate. Or circumstances can change. And Type I or II fun can change into Type III Fun which isn’t fun at all.


  1. Why is Type III even called “fun”?

    • Ikr!


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