Interview by Lauren Douglass
Twin brothers Alex and Brett have something to celebrate – the five year anniversary of their book “Do Hard Things,” and its empowerment of teenagers everywhere. Here, the brothers discuss the tragedy of complacent teens and remind us that every young person has the power to make a difference.
So tell me about “Do Hard Things.” Why should someone pick it up?
This book is a wake-up call to a generation plagued by apathy. It’s a challenge for young people to rebel against low expectations and take that first step towards a life that counts. We recommend “Do Hard Things” to every young person and everyone who works with young people. Our generation is being underestimated—badly, and with devastating consequences. This book is the antidote.
Concerning the “5th Anniversary Edition: Do Hard Things,” what are you most excited about?
One new feature we’re especially excited about is a list of a hundred things young people have been inspired to do after reading “Do Hard Things,” from making care packages for members of the military, to starting a non-profit organization, to training for and running a marathon. The list is a gold mine for practical application and provides a tangible glimpse of what young people are truly able to accomplish.
Why do you think our culture doesn’t expect much of young people?
Prior to the early 1900s, we thought of people in just two categories of age: children and adults. The word “teenager” didn’t even appear in print until Reader’s Digest published it in 1941. This new concept has had terrible consequences. Teenagers are no longer children but are not expected to act like adults. They have the desires and capabilities of an adult, without any of the responsibilities or opportunities that ought to come with it. Entire industries have emerged to entertain and occupy this new age group — and those industries have huge financial incentives to perpetuate the myth of adolescence.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for teenagers who want to make a difference?
Start where you are. Don’t leave the problems in your school and your community to the grownups with the official titles and the big budgets. Your concern and small steps of initiative can draw attention and resources to problems that have long been ignored. Bring injustice to light. Help those in need. Reach out to the marginalized and hurting. Start that business or non-profit organization. Be the change you want to see in your part of the world.
Your book encouraged teens to raise $11,000 to bring the Gospel and clean water to the people of Sudan. Tell us about that success.
That campaign actually went on to raise $37,000 and installed four large wells in the Darfur region of western Sudan. It all started when a 16-year-old named Joshua Guthrie read “Do Hard Things” and got a vision for rallying his generation around the urgent need for clean water in Africa and around the world. The money was raised almost entirely by teenagers and the wells that were built are now providing clean water to tens-of-thousands of people, preventing countless deaths from water-related diseases, and freeing up thousands of women and children from the long daily walks to the old, contaminated drinking holes.
You don’t just want young people to be individual exceptions; your aim is to create a counterculture. What will it take to accomplish this?
We’ve found many young people are already longing for a better way to live the teen years. They need to know an alternative exists and they are not alone in pursuing it. That is what we have tried to provide through “Do Hard Things” and our website, www.TheRebelution.com.
What is the biggest message you’d like to send to teens?
Don’t wait. Your life has already started. The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the launching pad of life. They are the training ground for future leaders who dare to be responsible now.