A Review of Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris

Originally published at PinoyYouth.org on June 17, 2009.

About two weeks ago, I received a package from OMF Literature containing the most recent (new) book in my possession-Do Hard Things by twin teenagers Alex and Brett Harris.

My first reaction was: “okay, here’s another pep talk for teens.” But as I went past the Introduction by Chuck Norris, (yes THAT Chuck Norris!) the words of these twin teens (I like the sound of that) won me over.

They dissected the idea of youth and adolescence, traced the emergence and history of these terms and criticized its impact on this generation of teenagers. I liked the way they looked at the stories of great leaders and how they accomplished notable things even when they were still in their teens.

Too bad, the standards have dropped so low these days that not much is expected from teens except that they do the dishes and make their beds. More than that, the teens who, with minimal effort, rise up against these mediocre expectations are considered “Androids” and extraordinary because of the overall low expectations from teens.

The Harris twins revolted against such low expectations and proved to the rest of the world that they can make significant difference in their lives and in the lives of people in the community where they move.

The twins coined the term Rebelution to call this movement they wish to propagate among teenagers. If you haven’t done so, I invite you to check out the Rebelution Blog for more of what the twins and other like-minded teenagers have to say.

Do Hard Things was an easy read.

It is full of stories about teenagers rising above low expectations and excelling in their chosen pursuits. There’s a shy girl from Mobile County who did a superb job of directing a campaign, a young girl from Massachusetts who started out an online survey concerning modesty and even a teen from the Philippines who stepped out of her destructive habits to live for God.

What I loved best in the Harris Twins’ Do Hard Things Manifesto is the way they chronicled the rise of the “Myth of Adolescence,” which grew into the cultural mindset that the youthful years are a time for goofing off and being free from responsibilities.

While adolescence may be necessary for young ones to make the transition from childhood to adulthood, the extension of adolescence to later years (even into late twenties and thirties) has had a negative impact on teenagers, youth and adults alike.

They cited a study published in Time Magazine on the emergence of Kidults, who are already in their adult years but who have never gotten over their adolescent period.Interestingly, G. Stanley Hall, a pioneering educator and psychologist popularized the term “adolescence,” and described it as a process in between childhood and adulthood that lasts about 18 months.

During this period, adolescents display three major characteristics: (1) conflict with parents, (2) mood disruption; and (3) risky behavior.

Surprisingly, these three characteristics are no longer specific to adolescents. We see people in their twenties, thirties and beyond who still display these characteristics more common than is healthy for them.

After reading Do Hard Things, I started reading Mark Oestreicher’s Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are & Where We Need to Go, a good look at the past, the present and the future of Youth Ministry. While the context is mainly in the United States, the observations he offers can yield good fruits in the Philippine context.

But I digress. That’s another book review for another time.Alex and Brett Harris encourages teenagers to Do Hard Things, not for the sake of hardship, itself.

But they ask teens to rise way above low expectations by giving everything they’ve got to the pursuit of excellence, especially in relation to holiness and doing hard things for God. They identified five kinds of Hard Things that teenagers can do.

  1. Things that are outside your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what is expected or required.
  3. Things that are too big to accomplish alone.
  4. Things that don’t earn an immediate payoff.
  5. Things that challenge the cultural norm.

While the Harris Twins may have led a sheltered life owing to great parents and above average economic situation, Do Hard Things is a great book for teenagers who are tired of living below expectations. The challenges that Alex and Brett raise will make the reader (teenager and adults, alike) think about the level of expectation and hardship that he or she is surmounting. After all, after doing something difficult, the rewards are great!

The stories presented in the book can grab the attention and will make one exclaim in delight with the hard things that can be accomplished by “mere” teenagers.

I want to thank OMF Literature for giving me a free copy of Do Hard Things. If you want to buy good books with great messages, go to OMF Literature Book Shop at Boni Ave or visit http://OMFlit.com.

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