DO HARD THINGS by Alex & Brett Harris

Do Hard Things

(disclaimer of relation: I was so encouraged by the message of this book, as described on their website, that I volunteered to run the Do Hard Things Portland conference tour. And, their father, Gregg Harris, is the founder of the group of churches that I and my family are members of).

This book is the print version of a vision that has been in place for many years in the Harris household. When Alex and Brett were 16, their father sat them down with a heaping stack of non-fiction books and told them to start reading. Most teenagers might see that as a summer of drudgery, but these twins took the book list as an opportunity to learn more about the world in which they (as the future generation) would live. Learning about all the issues in the world today (poverty, economics of scale, pollution, adult-essence, monetary systems, political processes), they began to wonder how other people in their generation (my generation) could cope with it all if we continued to do the stereotypical teenage thing; sleep in and ignore the world issues in favor of celebrity gossip. Then they started a little blog called “the rebelution”, combining the terms rebellion and revolution to get a new meaning; “rebelling against rebellion”. Then it became a website with 5,000 hits a day, then a movement that spawned conferences in multiple countries, then a modesty survey that crashed their internet server with 500,000 views in the first two hours, and now a book.

DO: The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility, but rather, a training ground for future leaders. For centuries, there was no middle ground between “child” and “adult”; once you started looking like an adult, you were expected to act like one. We need to act like the adults we want to become, because, newsflash fellow young adults: we’re adults. And if we want things to be different from the present we must make changes in the present. Young, yes: need to work on competence, yes; freed from responsibility because of the aforesaid, no. “To make changes in your life requires you to make changes in your life.”—Alex Harris.

HARD: Hard doesn’t mean “hard for other people” (i.e., unless you are recovering from alcoholism, staying sober isn’t an achievement. It’s a good thing, but not your hard thing), or “stupid” (jumping off a cliff) . Don’t, however, think that just because its hard (keeping your room clean every night) or big (starting a business) or both (fighting modern slavery) that you can’t. At the same time, there is a place for small hard things (like keeping your room clean, which is hard because you have to keep doing it every day for the rest of your life) and unseen hard things (not harboring anger, or giving in to lust). If God is calling you to do something, whatever it is, pray and do it.

THINGS: They give lots of examples about teenagers (throughout history and today) who used their teen years to the max and reaped the benefit. And of “typical teens” who need to be renewed in their vision for their own lives. What I loved about all the examples was how simple the concepts were, and yet, I could see a piece of myself in each teen they profiled (and they are all real people). Some were cause for rejoicing, others, for disappointment. But each chapter helped me get closer to finding my “hard thing” that God would have me do with my life.

Overall, this was a very easy read that has challenged my thinking on many levels. I honestly didn’t think this book applied to me when I picked it up. I’m a good young adult (not a teen), who is trying to be more Christ-like (not there yet, but trying), living in a Christian environment… so how does “Do Hard Things” apply to me? The answer lies in the question, “what is hard for you?” There will ALWAYS be something that God wants me to do that is hard. “If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got.” – Brett Harris. God wants the best for us, which will always involve change in my life.


5 thoughts on “DO HARD THINGS by Alex & Brett Harris

  1. I’ve heard about this emphasis from various interviews in the past. I agree mostly with their points. We’ll get to my cautions in a minute. When I look at others around me both young adult and teens, I see a major need for this message to be beat into people’s skulls. Sadly, I can’t do that….

    But some thoughts for you (and I haven’t read enough of their work to know if this is ludicrous or not).

    Are Brett and Alex to “good” and to naturally gifted in self-discipline for them to be good role models? I’m naturally lazy and consequently see people who are super disciplined as role models who are “out of reach”, but I do have some level of self-discipline and am improving it through slow but deliberate efforts. For me, cleaning the house daily isn’t interesting or what I want to do. But, I do clean it (usually before it looks to badly). Is that a bad thing? I mean, we aren’t to do hard things just because they are hard right?

    Is there any value in making the bed every day? Or should the room just be generally cleaned up (instead of spotless)?

    How are “hard things” defined? Personally, getting out of bed and walking the dog at 6am is hard, but it gets done. For others, that might be murder. So who defines hard things? How do Alex and Brett define hard things?

    What do they offer to help people get started? Telling me to “Do Hard Things” is akin to their brother’s “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” It expressed a disastisfaction and frustration over a problem, but offered no solutions. It wasn’t until “Boy Meets Girl,” that Josh made progress in offering actionable items.

    How does this book stand up?

  2. You’d love this book, then. They present five catagories of hard things (among which are “small hard things”, things people don’t see that you ahve to do again and again and again, such as cleaning your room.) Their basic idea is that teenagers are capable fo much more than is expected (and keeping your room clean is not a normal “expectation”, rather, a work-in-progress is the norm). I personally felt convicted of not paying enough attention to the everyday “small hard things” in my life, and am now trying to keep my room clean every day (a hard thing for someone whose room usually gets that treatment about once a month). Of all the types of hard things, “small” ones get the most emphasis, partially because its easy to lose sight of the trail when you see the end far away (but one curve and you’re off track).

    I agree, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was good but sadly lacking in application. “Boy Meets Girl” is the more helpful of the two books. But then, courtship is one application of “Do Hard Things” that probably needed the two-book treatment, to convince people that its a good idea. You have to get really specific when telling people that dating is a bad idea. (Anyone reading this comment who wants to understand those specifics from this female’s perspective, ask away). Alex and Brett have alot of examples of how to apply their principles in real life, both in the book and on thier website (where most of the book is posted in various and sundry blog entires, the most recent of which is a five-part series on this very topic, “small hard things”).

  3. Heh…. I don’t think one can/should exclude dating in favor of courtship. Probably, a blend is best. Yeah, I considered courtship, but opted for dating for several reason. Mostly, I think it removes to much from the young adult. Most problems would be solved if we taught young adults to consider dating as preparatory to marriage. As long as we only date people that we consider candidates for marriage (and maintain parental involvement), most problems will take care of themselves.

    Then, putting some form of clear decisive controls on physical contact will handle most everything else.

    That isn’t to over simplify things, because its never quite that simple. 🙂 I tend to see most courtship as an over-correction to the obvious failures in the world’s approach to relationships. But that’s me, and I don’t fit the mold for most people.

    To the other topic, as long as they recognize that “clean” has different definitions for different people. For me, it is defined as “Would I mind having visitors in here?” For my mother, it is “Can I eat off the surface?” Well, not quite, but seems that way some days.

    I find that I tend to look down on people that I view as performing worse than I in a specific area and am embarrassed by people who perform better. That points out a critical problem in human nature: we define standards and levels of achievement by our own performance. If I perform well, so can you…. What it doesn’t reflect is the strengths that the other person brings to the table; strengths that might counterbalance our weaknesses.

    Yeah, we should all try for more discipline as long as we recognize that this could mean different things for different people. Part of it has to do with what you value the most. Two people could have messy rooms. The one is lazy and the other busy. One can’t judge by the room, one must know the person. Did they make that clear then?

  4. I’m excited to read this book. Thanks for the preview! There is such a real need for young adults to understand and pursue Christian maturity.

  5. hard things book inspired me so much!! i’ve still continue reading the book, everytime i read this i feel that how very important my teenage year i hope that all the teens must read this book it’s truly be change your life and your teenage year..

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