Sunday, June 14, 2009
Do Hard Things, for me, is a hard read.
You see, I don’t like doing hard things. Yea, who does? But I think my aversion to doing hard things is above the average. I’ve spent my life running away from hard-to-do things. Sometimes some people do not believe me when I say I’m lazy because they see me involved in so many things. And when I’m really passionate about something, I work hard and work excellently. But I’m very selective about the things I do, focusing on things I love, I enjoy, I naturally excel in, I care about, or at least things that would bring me instant gratification. And even with those things, I always manage the degree of difficulty.
So when I read the blurbs inside the book – a lot of things about a lot of hard things – I literally put it down and eyed it as if it was the mother source of the H1N1 virus. I just didn’t want to hear/read any of it. I didn’t want to be challenged, to be goaded to do hard things, things that will make me sweat, get my hands dirty. I don’t want to do anything that would make me look stupid, incompetent. No, thanks. I like my life just the way it is. Cushy, fun, easy.
So the first hard thing I had to do was to pick up the book again and force myself to read it. The next hard thing I now have to do is to write about it. That is hard because writing about it forces me to reflect on what I have just read.
One of the things that make this a hard read is that it is really targeted towards teenagers. So, I’m reading this 25 years too late. And whatever message it has for me is a reminder of the things I should have done and shouldn’t have done many years ago. It made me a bit sad that at my age, the hard things are even so much harder to do.
So, if you are in your teens or just about to hit those years, go read this to avoid the regrets. First off, you’re going to learn that this teenage concept is a fairly new one. Ages ago, people were really just divided into two groups – children and adults. Back then, people started taking on adult roles and responsibilities when they were about 15. Child labor laws, though generally positive in intent, somehow extended the childhood stage, and so a new demographic was born. Now, the teen years are supposed to be some kind of vacation just before one gets into real life – adulthood. And vacation may seem like a euphemism for the lost, crazy, angst-filled, dysfunctional years.
How many times have you heard people warn parents about this phase? The phase when the teenagers’ search for identity is usually accompanied by wild, inexcusable but expected behavior and social experimentation. Adults sigh and say, well, what do you expect -- they're teenagers. And they’re supposed to be allowed to waste these 7 or so years drinking, doping, and coupling, basically indulging in spring break type bacchanalia. After all, they have the rest of their lives to get serious. But in the meantime, real life and real responsibilities can wait. One can just hope they pass those wasted years unscathed.
It is this problem of low expectations that Alex and Brett Harris address. They want us to rethink what we think about the teen years. They want today’s young people to rebel against low expectations and reclaim the teen years as the launching pad of their lives. They want teenagers to fight against mediocrity and to do far more than is expected of them. To do the hard things – the ones that take them away from their comfort zones, the ones that won’t give them instant gratification but far reaching and much better rewards.
It’s a message that people need to hear – whether they’re in that target reader age of 13 to 19, or whether they’re parents, teachers, and other youth-influencers. It’s a hard message for the teenagers. It’s a hard message even for the adults because they have to start raising their expectations of the youth. And for some (like me), they too have to learn to do the hard things. It’s a hard message but one worth listening to.
Alex and Brett Harris write well in a contemporary, easy manner as you would expect. I’m glad they didn’t use hip teenage jargon that could have made them sound like they’re trying too hard to sound like the teenagers that they are. A lot of well written, high-impact statements here. My highlighter pen vomited lines and lines on the book, underlining catchy phrases and calls to action that even this old fogey can learn from. I can already see the industry this book will spawn – devotionals, journals, calendars. Rubber bracelets?
The authors are very liberal with examples to inspire and practical tips to apply. Though this is obviously a book written by Christians for Christian readers, the message can be relevant to those of other faiths.
Its audience has its limits though. Even though, they give examples of the experiences of Philippine based youth, the context is most relevant to American or first world youth, those with options. It’s hard to imagine how this message might apply to youth struggling with extreme poverty, youth who have hard things thrust upon them, those who don’t even have the luxury of a real childhood. They do hard things because they have no other choice. As such, you wonder about their chances of redemption. Or maybe I expect too much. Maybe that topic is altogether for another book.
Limited audience notwithstanding, this book is a must read. I wish more young people would read this and be inspired, be alerted to a call to do great things, to excel, to achieve more than what is expected of them, to make a real, lasting difference in the world. But first they have to do hard things. And first, they have to read this hard-to-read but worthwhile book.