The 3 Kinds of Fun and Why Fun #3 is the Most Fulfilling

ice climbingI was looking at photos from my friend Mark’s ice climbing trip. The pictures were gorgeous but the hikes looked pretty harrowing. I said to Mark, “Um, was it fun?” Mark’s response was, “Fun #3.”

What is Fun #3, you say? Here are Mark’s definitions of fun:

Fun #1: Fun now, fun later. Examples: Trips to Hawaii, afternoons at the lake, ice skating on a beautiful pond.
Fun #2: Fun now, not fun later. Examples: do I really need to give you examples? Think college nights out when you just had too much of anything.
Fun #3: Not fun now, fun later. Examples: The giant data center move that the net admins just completed over the weekend. The huge integration project that involved six partners. The sparring class where I got the s**t kicked out of me. Completing a fancy mobile app for a client and submitting it to the Apple store. Finally launching a troubled website redesign.

There’s no question that Fun #1 is fun. But when I reflect on my life and my accomplishments, it’s the Fun #3 projects and experiences that shaped me and that have given me the most satisfaction. Because in the end, it’s not the easy projects that we are most proud of, it’s the projects that we had to wrestle to completion, where we didn’t have all of the answers from the get go, and where we had surprises along the way.

So the next time you’re in the middle of a tough project, remind yourself that it’s Fun #3. The satisfaction will come later, but it will come.