Standards for Teenagers are set far too low
I just finished reading Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. For the most part, I would have to say that I enjoyed the book. While it was at this point a number of years ago that it was first recommended to me as something I should read, I was too busy with school and other assignments to actually big it up and read it. Nothing in the book rocked my world personally. I guess this is to really say that I was not surprised by anything I was reading. However, it did serve as an eye opener and left with a number of moments where points in my life applied directly to what the authors were saying. In my next post I think I will discuss the one problem that I have with books/concepts of this nature. Regardless, I would recommend this book:
The first thing you might notice when looking at this book is that it is supposed to be geared towards teenagers, and it is. They claim “it is a book written for teenagers by teenagers.” However, I think that the principles and concepts apply to people in all walks of life be they young adults, grown adults, or elderly people. The standards that the Harris brothers promote should apply to everyone. The entire concept of the book is rebelling against the standards that are placed in front of us.
I would have to say that there was at least one part of the book that I wish I had read when I was in middle school or so. For me, school and athleticism came to me very easily. I was praised for having good grades and for being a generally good and well-behaved person. The problem with this praise was that I was receiving it for the things that had come to me so naturally. I was above the standards that people had set for students and my peers. Therefore, I was never really challenged and never saw the need to challenge myself as I was already getting A’s and doing well in most areas of my life. Nothing I did took an incredible amount of effort. The problem with this is that I never really learned a lot of self-motivation. I never actually rose to new levels and to some extent I was not really learning. Had I realized that my education was more my responsibility than the responsibility of my teachers my outlook and actions may have been much different. I bought into the lie that good grades meant that I was doing well. What it really meant was that I was doing well in relationship to a set of standards that should have been the floor of expectations rather than the ceiling.
By setting expectations so low we are not challenging teenagers to reach the levels that they could and should be reaching. Instead, we promote the idea of doing just enough to get by and then filling in the gaps with irresponsibility and luxury. It becomes easy to look at the teenagers who rebel against these standards as heroes or as “specially gifted individuals.” The issue with this thinking is that few if any of the “specially gifted individuals” actually think that they are anything special. They simply believe that they had a vision and pursued it. These are people like Zach Hunter, and the former Clara Barton and George Washington who did not let their youth or the low expectations given to them limit what they could do. While we cannot push people into doing things that they do not what to do, we can make some effort to encourage people to do some things above and beyond the bare minimum. This is a huge issue in society. We often as what the bare minimum is that we can do to get by, and then aim for that. While I do not like to admit it, I fall in to this far too often. Instead of aiming for the highest point possible, I often (due to busyness or “imagined busyness”) aim to do just enough to get by. What an unfortunate way to go through life.
I like that the book did not ever once say that people (teenagers in particular) are lazy. Instead, the blame is placed on the low expectations that are presented to people. If the expectations were set higher, we might find ourselves and others to be less lazy. (This is not even getting into the whole “entitlement” generation that seems to be buzzing around). So what are the hard things and the expectations that we should have set for people? Well, this would be a difficult question to answer because for each person this might be different. However, if you take the title of the book and apply it then it seems to work fairly well. Do hard things. It’s that simple. If we are not doing anything in our lives that is hard, then we are probably living below the standards that we could be reaching. This sounds simple, but doing hard things is, well, hard. I do not think it generally counts if our “hard thing” is waking up in the morning and going to work or school. Those things are “hard” to some extent, but they are not actually things that challenge and stretch us. I think I can see why my friend started saying “do something different” as a life motto after reading this book. Doing hard things also means doing something different from what we are used to or something different from what other people around us are doing or telling us to do. We were meant for so much more than what most of us are currently doing. For more information on this stuff, check out the book.