Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris was recommended to my by amazon.com. I love these sorts of recommendations because they force me to look at books that I might otherwise ignore. As soon as I started this book, I knew I’d stumbled upon a gem!
Alex and Brett are two relatively average teenagers attempting to raise the level of expectations for young people everywhere. They wrote this book after the overwhelming success from their website: The Rebelution. The book addresses the overwhelming problem that we’ve lowered the expectations placed upon young people and what we can do to begin to change that. Young people are more than capable of rising to meet higher expectations. The book is full of stories of young people from all over the country who have become Rebelutionaries by doing hard things – things not expected of them.
Raising lowered expectations of teens has been a problem for years, but has been particularly evidenced in this raising generation. Mark O writes an excellent article that addresses many of the issues addressed in Do Hard Things. He not only touches on the ever expanding adolescence but also discusses issues that the church needs to address when in ministry with youth and young adults.
Over the course of several generations, teenagers have become like captive elephants. Elephants are stronger than hundreds of men, able to move tons without effort. And yet, they are confined by a string and a stick. “How is that possible? The answer is that it has little to do with the piece of rope around the elephant’s ankle and everything to do with the invisible shackles around the elephant’s mind.” (28)
Brett and Alex are teenaged revolutionists. They began what they call a “Rebelution” or a rebelling against rebellion, a Rebelling Revolution. They have written a fantastically empowering book called “Do Hard Things.” They believe that teens can do much more than stay shackled to low expectations. “Could it be that we and most young people we know are like that elephant – strong, smart, holding incredible potential, but somehow held back by nothing more than a piece of twine? Left almost powerless by a lie? We think so. And we’ve come to believe that a big part of what holds us back as a generation is a harmless-sounding but very powerful idea we call the Myth of Adolescence.” (28-9) “For the powerful elephant, a shackle looks like a piece of twine. For young people today – a powerful , educated, and unusually blessed generation – our shackles hide in simple, deadly ideas like ‘adolescence’ and ‘teenager'” (34)
In order to begin to raise expectations, teenagers need to do hard things. Simply doing the minimum required is churning out a generation of apathy. “Life is full of scary things. You start your first day of high school. You deliver your first speech. You get married. Certain events mark important passages in our lives. Before the event you were one person. Afterward you are another. But Tyler has spent his life avoiding such firsts. The result? He’s basically the same person he’s always been.” (64) By avoiding difficult things and simply doing the very least expected, teenagers will never grow or change as people – and neither will the rest of us! This tether that holds teens down is often fear. “Fear is the fence that keeps us stuck in our comfort zones. To be fair, we usually feel fear for a reason: often something is outside that should make us afraid. The problem is when we just sit there.” (74).
Breaking the string holding us back is scary and hard, but this is the first step in living the life God has created for you – thank goodness we serve a God that doesn’t have low expectations! “Once we take that first scary step with God’s help – and keep going forward – we’ll actually experience the bigger, more fulfilling life God has in mind for us.” (84)
I read this book with our student leadership teams in mind. We have some absolutely incredible leaders in our conference that are making a difference everyday at the local church level, in their cluster groups, and in the world. Of course, we’re always stronger when we are together – which is why we work on committees and teams to accomplish goals. “We need to change the way we think about large projects and big ideas. Instead of focusing on our individual limitations, what if we stepped back, looked around, and asked, ‘Who could be motivated to tackle this with me?’ The answer to that question, as you’ll see in this chapter, makes possible a whole new range of options for rebulutionaries. The answer is collaboration – one of the three pillars of the Rebelution.” (109-110) – the idea of collaboration is not new to the students in the Central Texas Conference! Our leadership teams, whether at the district, cluster, or conference level, all utilize collaboration to make sure that everyone is using their best skills and passions to accomplish as task. Our mid-winter committee has divided into sub committees in order to have students and adults serve out of their gifts including worship, activity planning, logistics, follow-up, and curriculum.