Lesson 5: How To Make Learning More Fun Than Minecraft

Lesson 5: How To Make Learning More Fun Than Minecraft

Welcome to the fifth and last lesson of Self-Learning Quest!

Continuing on your journey through the Island of Trolls you finally enter the Hellfire Mistfields. Legend has it Demonstrates, The Wizard guards the Key Of Learning somewhere in the fields.

Thankfully, he’s not that hard to find. You just follow the general sense of evil coming strongly from one direction until you stumble across him. The man looks like he does bicep curls his breakfast, every day.

As he sees you he says in the most cliche evil voice you can remember hearing, “You’ll never have the Key Of Learning!” You try not to vomit from cliche and ready your sword.

To defeat your foe, you must read through the lessons and complete the action items.

Todays Challenge: Integrate One Or Two Insights To Make Your Learning More Fun

"The right way to win is to make it fun." - Sonic, Sonic the Hedgehog

On Christmas Day, a newly qualified junior doctor named Ali Abdaal found himself alone, managing an entire hospital ward. His consultant’s parting words over the phone, "Merry Christmas, Ali. Try not to kill anyone," left him with a daunting responsibility. He was in this predicament because he had forgotten to request the holidays off three weeks earlier. Now, he was overwhelmed with the pressure of handling everything on his own.

Quite the Christmas present if I do say so myself...

The day began disastrously and only got worse from there.

As soon as Ali arrived at the hospital, he was bombarded with a deluge of patient histories, diagnostic reports, and perplexing scan requests that might as well have been ancient manuscripts. Within minutes, he was thrown into the first crisis: a middle-aged man suffering from a severe cardiac arrest. Shortly after, a nurse urgently needed his assistance with a patient requiring a manual evacuation.

By 10:30am, the ward was in utter chaos. Nurse Janice was dashing along Corridor A, her arms full of IV drips and medication charts. In Corridor B, an elderly patient was vehemently demanding his missing dentures. Meanwhile, Corridor C had been taken over by a drunk patient from the emergency department, aimlessly wandering and shouting “Olive! Olive!” (Ali never discovered who Olive was.) Every moment brought a new request: “Dr. Ali, can you check Mrs. Johnson’s fever?” “Dr. Ali, can you assist with Mr. Singh’s elevated potassium?”

Panic began to set in.

He'd been an effective student who always managed tough situations by simply working harder. This method had previously helped him get into medical school, secure academic publications, and even start a business.

That usual strategy was failing him.

Since beginning his medical career, Ali felt like he was drowning. He couldn’t keep up with patient care or paperwork, and his mood was deteriorating. The joy he once found in his training had been replaced by the constant fear of making fatal mistakes. His health and personal life were suffering, and working harder only seemed to make things worse.

That Christmas day, Ali knew he had to make a change. He dived into his past research on productivity which largely boiled down to, work harder and be smarter. But this time he tried to look for alternatives.

Slowly, Ali came to a revelation: everything he had believed about productivity was flawed.

He realized that hustling harder wasn’t the answer to becoming a good doctor or finding happiness. Instead, Ali discovered an alternative approach centered on well-being and sustainable productivity. An approach that emphasized fun over discipline, play over work, feeling good over sleepless nights.

He called this new method "feel-good productivity" and wrote about it in aptly named book Feel Good Productivity (2024), which is where the original story from above came from[1].

From The Medical Room To Self-Learning Quest

You might be confused how the crisis of a medical doctor can inform our self-learning quests.

There is a key insight Ali Abdaal made through his Christmas Day massacre. An insight that the game industry has known for decades and utilizing to get people like us as invested as we are.

We perform better when we feel good while doing things.

The reason I have played thousands of hours of Minecraft, Terraria, Civ 6 and more isn't because I want to gorge my eyes out while playing them--it's because they make me feel good!

Of course, games don't make us feel good all the time. Some games purposefully make us feel bad through failure--like in Dark Souls--but eventually we get the good feelings that come from victory and growth.

There's one main question we can ask to apply this into our self-learning quests. By asking this question yourself, I'm confident you can make your self-learning quests more addicting than any game:

"How Can I Make This Fun?"

The trick is making a learning endeavor so enjoyable you would want to do it without extrinsic reward.

I won't lie to you, it's not possible to make a productive learning endeavor as fun as video games. But there are a few principles we can use to make something more fun. Let's go through these principles and how I applied them to the self-learning endeavor of learning to take notes, possibly the most boring thing I could think of learning. If I can make this fun, you can make anything fun.

Firstly, find a way to tie it to something you care about.

Humans don't learn through knowledge transfer but through our emotional connection to things.

So, a great way to learn more effectively is to tie new information to something you care about. I'm interested in psychology, content-creation, gamification, and meta-learning. For any learning endeavor, I try to tie it back to one of these interests. I did this for notetaking and came up with this: Notetaking helps you think more effectively, remember more, and create novel insights. This connects to meta-learning. Plus, I can share my notes with others to help them learn more effectively--like I'm doing in this video!

Tying notetaking to things I care about made me more motivated to learn it.

Secondly, define a breakthrough moment.

A breakthrough moment is a major leveling-up moment in pursuing your learning endeavor.

For example, attaining a new strength, skill, or achievement. To make your learning more fun, define an interesting breakthrough moment and visualize yourself achieving it before every learning bout. For notetaking my breakthrough moment was this: create a course for gamers on how to have fun and effectively self-learn. Yup I'm really breaking the fourth wall aren't I? I have been interested in the connection between these two things for years but never had the notetaking system to allow me to flesh out my ideas.

By learning to take better notes, I could finally write the course I dreamed of!

Thirdly, create a challenge.

Framing learning obstacles as challenges makes us more energized to tackle them.

In games, challenges like boss fights test our skills and increase them. Adopting the same mindset in real life can make us more resilient when the learning gets tough. To better my notetaking, I adopted a challenge mindset. I saw the obstacles along the path--what notetaking tool to use, how to connect my notes, how to create out of them, etc.--as boss fights to improve my skills.

Framing my notetaking as a challenge motivated me to keep going in the face of difficulty.

Fourthly, listen to music while doing it.

Listening to music is inherently enjoyable.

By associating a difficult learning activity with music, you hack your brain into finding it fun. I like to listen to Terraria, Witcher 3, or Civilization 6 music. Preferably music without lyrics because lyrical music can make it harder to focus.

While taking notes, I listen to music to make it more fun.

Fifthly, do it with others.

Humans are social creatures; we like doing things with others.

Getting positive feedback from friends, especially early on, is a fantastic way to stay motivated. To learn note-taking, I found my best friend, John Maverick, online and learned to take more effective notes alongside him. This partnership worked so well that we eventually crystalized our learnings into Obsidian University and The Art Of Linked Reading.

Fun As A Way Of Life

We play games because they are fun in themselves.

When's the last time you had to "force yourself" to play a game. The very sentence sounds wrong.

Through applying these insights you can make your self-learning quest and even real life as a whole into the most fun game imaginable. Like Ali Abdaal, you can make real life activities--even ones that are serious--more playful endeavors.

Imagine, real life being more fun then Minecraft. And without the creepers to blow you up too!

🎯Take Action Today

  • Take one or two of the things above which resonated most with you and journal or converse about how you could integrate it into your self-learning endeavor.

After an epic battle, you manage to trip Demonstrates onto his back. Sticking your sword out, you swear you will vanquish him unless he promises to never pick up magic again.

”Yes, Yes! Just don’t kill me!” He hands you his trident and hat looking a little less buff than before and runs off into the Mistfields.

Smiling you look toward the chest holding the Key Of Learning. It glows with an aura of light and seems to call you to open it. So this is what it was all for, you think. Opening the chest you find…

No key.

There’ s just a note that reads: For the adventurer that finds this, I’m sure you have gone through a lot to get here. I applaud you. You might be disappointed, but there is no Key Of Learning. The key is you. The key is loving learning for the sake of learning in itself. You had the key the whole quest.

The key IS the quest.

Signed — anonymous wise person.

Smiling, you close the chest and think one thought: what am I going to learn next?


  1. Abdaal, A. (2024). Feel Good Productivity: How To Do More Of What Matters To You. Macmillan Audio. https://amzn.to/3UbeEa6 ↩︎