First of all, these blog posts are just going to be dump pages for my brain. I'm not going to worry about editing them or making sure they will be useful to people who read them. I'm going to try not to care about using professional language or anything like that. Okay, here we go.

A little while ago (about a year ago) I changed my philosophy on fun. As one of my two life goals is to experience the best parts of the world (the other goal is to make the world a better place for other people), "fun" is a major part of that. But I've realized that, like money, the best way to get a lot of fun is not to just find an efficient activity and perform it over and over. 

When making money, whatever job you can get when you're twelve will probably not be as helpful to you as building the skills to get a better job (one good way to build those skills is to have a poor job first, I guess). Anyway, even better than that is to invest with compound interest. A poor job (babysitting) may make $5/hour. A good job (accounting or something, I don't know) could make $50/hour. But it takes a ton of effort to get a job that makes $500/hour. It's far easier to have an accounting job and then invest a large portion of your money in S&P 500, which could by the end of your life bring x32 profits (getting 12% per year, minus inflation, for ten years, would roughly double, though I guess I'm not taking into account the compound interest on that. Doubling every decade for five decades means x32). So an accountant who invests all of their money could make like $1500/hour. None of those numbers are real (I think 12% is close, though), but it doesn't matter. Back to investing in fun.

Well, I realized that it's probably more important, not to have the activity I'm doing be fun right now, but have looking back on it be fun. I realized that the things I usually did for fun: play video games, play songs I liked on the piano, weren't super fun to look back on. So I switched my strategy. Now this is how I do things:

I made a list of things that, when I get to the end of the day and look back on them, I'm happy that I did them. There were some more effort-based things on there, like "programming a game that I end up finishing". But there were still a bunch of "fun'' things on the list, like reading, watching a good movie, or doing something fun with a family member. I titled this list "List of Introspectively Satisfying Things". Even for the "fun" things on it, there was a new level to them. When reading a book or watching a movie, it was much more satisfying if it was impactful or culturally significant. When spending time with a family member, it was much more satisfying if we were actually interacting with each other, as opposed to, like, both playing the same videogame but rarely meeting in-game and almost never talking. I was also able to add some things to the list that I did enjoy, but hadn't been my go-to "fun" things before, like watching a crash-course series on YouTube.

But the investing isn't just supposed to pay off at the end of the day. This is something that will hopefully pay off throughout the rest of my life. Like, I've started noticing that the more culturally significant movies I watch, the more fun additional movies are to watch. I mean, any time a movie references Pulp Fiction or 2001: A Space Odyssey, I now get a little jolt of pleasure since I've seen it, whereas before going back and watching old, famous movies, I would have just gotten a little confused feeling and a sense I was missing something when movies reference those oldies. That's a small example. The larger portion of the investment has so far been being able to talk to other people who have watched the movie, thinking back on watching the movie, showing the movie to someone who hasn't seen it yet, being reminded of the movie through everyday experiences, and a lot of just feeling happier about life because I feel like there are good things in it, things that I've experienced (maybe this last one includes a bit of unhealthy snobbishness like "haha, I have refined tastes and like films that are better than the films other people like").

I've become more intentional about finding quality media. Here are the three tiers as I see it:

Awful: scrolling through Netflix and watching a movie that looks good (has a cool title + cover image + preview video).

Okay: scrolling through Netflix and watching a movie that looks good, and that also is listed as having won an Academy Award or is rated well on IMDB or something.

Great: going to https://www.imdb.com/chart/top and looking down the ordered list of films until you find one you haven't seen yet that is also on Netflix (and that is in a genre that you like, preferably). A similar approach would work by sorting this Wikipedia page by the most academy wins: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Academy_Award-winning_films

I've talked to several people about how I find movies that I want to watch (I say something like "I use rotten tomatoes to find movies that are rated very well by critics and by audiences"), and more than one of these people have said like "the rating by audiences is probably more important, right?" I think they are very slightly right (I would rather watch a movie with a 95% audience score and a 10% critics score than vice-versa. Actually, I'm second-guessing myself now. Third-guessing myself? Maybe I would rather watch one hated by audiences and loved by critics.) but I think that the critics score highly impacts how I will feel about the movie a year from now if nothing else.

Of course, watching movies in this way will usually also make my immediate experience better (a couple of exceptions would be very old movies like Metropolis or old-and-interpretive movies like Persona, both of which I felt good about watching afterward but were kind of a struggle to get through).

I think maybe even looking back on movies that I'd seen before beginning to use this strategy is better through this lens. That's just a hypothesis, though. Like, maybe the fact that I now put more time into remembering watching the Princess Bride than National Treasure improves my happiness?

At first I was worried about using up all the good movies right away. But I realized a few things. First, although it would be feasible to run out of the highest tier of greatest movies, it takes much longer to watch TV shows or read books, which I can fall back on if the movie quality starts dropping. And second, it's good to watch these movies now so that I have longer to attach positive memories to them. The movies I really like, I can have fun watching them again just a few years from now, even without showing them to someone new. I think that's the real investment. I'm not all that old, so I was watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy from a pretty young age, and I feel like those movies are a part of me. I first watched the Star Wars movies later, so it's taken a few watch-throughs to start to feel like I really like them. I watched the Indiana Jones movies just recently, and although I liked them, I expect it will take a few more times until I really like them. I imagine it kind of like planting seeds that I hope will someday grow into big trees if I keep watering them.

I think this definition of long-term fun planting is easy enough to do all the time, aside from like paid work and sleep (even when eating, exercising, or driving you can listen to a worthwhile book). When I first made my list of Introspectively Satisfying Things, I decided to just never do anything that wasn't on the list. If I got tired of doing the hardish ones like programming, I would just switch to reading or watching crash course YouTube videos. I've slipped a little on this. I probably spend most of my wasted time reading unimportant Wikipedia pages and things like that. But why should I settle for playing in the dirt when I can be planting seeds?

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:29 AM

I agree that audience score seems to be a better signal than critics score, but neither works consistently.

Don't be so influenced by what Netflix deems suitable to show you.