(You don’t have to read this lengthy blog post.)
All my examples below required a long period of persistent effort. My son is unwilling to put in even 30% of my effort, so he wouldn’t find any enjoyment.
After the initial few hours of curiosity, learning any subject was always challenging, boring, or repetitive. The mental workload always wears us down, so we always needed conscious effort to stick to it I.e. stay focused and apply ourselves. The joy comes as a light at end of the tunnel. No exception.
In contrast, watching TV, playing electronic games, eating, sight-seeing, shopping … don’t require any effort. When we get bored with it, we are free to break away — there’s no measurable progress to worry so give-up has absolutely no consequence. We choose to stick to it (say, a game) only because we enjoy it. Therefore no effort required.
If a teenager takes on professional gaming as a paid job, he will invariably find it monotonous, repetitive, uninteresting, dull, tiring, before he can earn any money. Those gamers who do earn money are able to earn money precisely because they put up with the boring stuff — persistent effort.
— Now the study subjects I enjoyed, ranked by amount of effort:
I enjoyed blogging on technical subjects. My QnA interviews directly benefit from my blogging but this is not the biggest reason for the enjoyment. In fact, most of my technical blog content is not required for interviews. I can see my blog improving in quality (and quantity) as I revise and expand each article progressively. Blogging let’s me achieve deeper understanding on many tough topics like sockets, reflection, c++template, move-semantics, quant, complex SQL, … I call it "真本事". I then notice the superficial knowledge in fellow programmers, who studied only 20% of what I read.
I enjoyed memorizing English words, in my teenage years. I developed my own method. I was able to memorize 30 – 100 words a day for a few months (I refresh each word 20 to 40 times spaced out over 6 months). The fast progress was "breathtaking". Self-confidence grew. I actually learned some words my English-educated Singapore classmates didn’t know!
I enjoyed Chinese composition in my secondary Year 2-3, when I found my literary "voice", my style of writing. For about 2 years before that break-through, I was always in the bottom 10% in my class in terms of composition and every assignment was a pain like giving birth to a short, boring baby. The pain, self-despise, self-pity was one of the deepest in my childhood. I felt inadequate almost like crippled. The breakthrough was a liberation. I achieved it by writing daily essays for a few months. My output slowly improved from very dry, simple "流水账" to have some meaning, some color, some personality, some nice expressions. It became creative expression.
(Paradoxically, as a student I was very strong in math/physics, but I never had the same enjoyment as I had learning English and Chinese composition. I think my joy was in overcoming highly visible personal limitations — sense of breakthrough and liberation.)
I enjoyed piano playing after years of repetitive, boring, tough practice. In my life I never again put up with this much practice — 5000 repeated practices x 2 minutes/repetition in some cases.