Do Hard Things purports to be the story of regular teens doing extraordinary things. The primary tenets of the book – that teens are allowed to slough and lounge their way through life when they should be working hard and doing stuff – is one that I can agree with wholeheartedly. But I feel as if the authors, Alex and Bret Harris, are being used to slightly mislead us into believing they have had lives which were in any way ‘normal.’
The Harris twins sure seem like amazing kids. After all, before they were of the legal drinking age (not that they would) they had served as interns at the Alabama Supreme Court, led a political campaign and authored a wildly popular blog. Sure seem to be impressive kids.
But (and you knew this was coming), they did have a bit of a leg up on their competition. They have been more or less groomed for success. Their parents, Greg and Sono Harris, are well-known in the Christian homeschooling field. Greg was a prominent figure in this movement in the 1980’s, which was a foundational network that they could certainly have built upon.
Their older brother Josh was already a bestselling Christian author with his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and several follow-up books. They already had a possible relationship with a publisher. Not surprising, his books were also published by Waterbrook Multnomah.
Compound that with the fact that Josh is also the pastor of a megachurch in Maryland and writes a blog already read by thousands daily, and the accomplishments of the Harris twins are not quite as impressive.
It is a hardy misconception that two teen boys from, say, Harlem could do the same things the Harris boys have done. They don’t go out of way to point out the advantageous position their parents and older brother had put them in.
This is not to take away from the message of hard work and discipline that the Harris boys share in their book. It is just in the interest of full disclosure.
The harsh reality, which young men like Alex and Bret would not necessarily be aware of, is that your pre-disposition has a lot to do with your ability to do hard things. It is not simply that teens want a challenge but rather that certain teens are pre-disposed to face a challenge. Seen from a teen’s perspective, what the Harris boys detail might seem to be universal, but in reality, it simply isn’t.
Now, having made it sound as if I did not care for this book, let me say that I actually do think it is a timely and worthwhile book. Alex and Bret do strike a chord because a tremendous number of teens who should be pre-disposed to do hard things are instead allowed to rest on their butts playing video games and purchasing inane fashions at the mall. Upwardly mobile, middle-class American teens are the greatest force of any kind available to any cause. The sad fact is that they waste their time on a useless cause – themselves – and their parents encourage this.
My hat is off to Alex and Bret’s parents who basically shoved them out the door and said “GET TO WORK!” Yes, they had some things given to them – their parents’ and brother’s networks, etc – but they still had to work. And they did work – hard.
If you want my opinion, it is not teens who should read this book but the parents. Soccer moms and workaholic dads should read this book and realize that their true investment should not be in ridiculous aspirations to having a child make it ‘some day’ or to develop academic overachievers. Their aspiration should be for their sons and daughters to find something that challenges them and drives them.
So, teens – don’t waste your time reading this book. Those of you who would read it are probably already doing hard things. But parents, especially those of young children who are now being prepared to be who they will be as teens and adults, you should read this book.