Monday, March 15, 2010

Start Here for an Interview & Giveaway!

UPDATE: Thursday at 9:55 pm

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2010-03-19 02:52:08 UTC

Congrats to Julia whose comment was chosen by to win a copy of this book. Please email me your address no later than this Saturday at 10:00 pm CDT and I'll send it your way!

* * * * *

I've still been hoarding holding on to a couple of interviews from last year's Book Expo. When I pulled this one up, it made me smile again!

I discovered Alex and Brett Harris' book Do Hard Things a couple of years ago through its blog tour. (My review is here.) It was a phenomenal book, so when I had the opportunity to interview Alex and Brett, I was thrilled! Our conversation was their last appointment before dinner but they were gracious and patient. (They did have a bag of chips, which will make an appearance toward the end of the interview when I probe deep into their lives!) It's a fairly long interview, but it's too good to skip even a portion, so grab a cup of your favorite brew and be prepared to be encouraged by these incredibly mature young men. And those who persevere will be rewarded with a chance to win Alex & Brett's brand-new book, Start Here. (And I know I should correct my usage of the word y'all, but we were right here in Texas!)

[Note: In the interview, DHT refers to their first book, Do Hard Things.]

I have to tell y’all as a parent that I loved your book. It was so encouraging. What have you been up to since you published DHT? Do you have another book coming?

ALEX: We’ve done a lot of traveling, speaking, interviews. It’s been a very crazy, exciting year since the book came out. We’re 20 now [2010 update: they're now 21], and continue to do conferences and speak and are also beginning to work on a companion book for DHT. Basically we’re taking the input we’re receiving back from the young people who have read it, the questions they have, the obstacles they’ve run into, the stories they have to share and being able to respond to that, clarify, and take them to the next level.

So that’s what we’ll be working on. But the biggest thing right now is we’re now in college; we’re freshmen [2010: now sophomores] at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. And that’s been an exciting thing. We felt like we both used up our life experiences writing DHT, so we wanted to go to school in order to gain that depth and breadth. It’s been wonderful so far. Our brains are happy and we’re learning a lot.

So is college a “hard thing”? Has it been a difficult transition?

BRETT: College is a challenge in a good way; we feel like we’ve been challenged academically, spiritually, relationally. It’s been a transition in the sense that we went from travelling and speaking and writing to classes and the same schedule every week. Before, our schedule was as wildly divergent as a schedule can possibly be. But it hasn’t been a hard transition; it’s just been different. It’s been good; being at school and being students on the receiving end of teaching is a much more appropriate setting for us as young people than the role of speaking and teaching everyone else.

Have your egos had a transition? Has it been hard to go from being famous to just being students?

ALEX: Fortunately not, because we never thought of ourselves as different or special. We knew that we were becoming famous--whatever that means--and that people knew who we were. But we were surrounded with men and women, and especially our parents, who didn’t let us become proud and let it get to our heads because we knew it was a gift from God and He could take it away just as fast. Randy Alcorn is a good friend and mentor of ours, and he’s told us we’re like the ball boys at Wimbledon. We’re in the presence of greatness, but it’s not about us.

One of the things I loved was the whole deal of kids doing hard things. How do you suggest parents and teens counter the lure of the screen, with computers and whatnot? Some of that is great, and it’s where our world is today. But that does take away your motivation – everything’s easy now. For example, when I was growing up we played with soldiers & blocks and would set them up, knock them down, and set them up again. Now it just takes the push of a button to annihilate a civilization and another push to start over. You don’t even have to shuffle the cards to play solitaire! Everything is so effortless! You’ve had some kids that have said “This [DHT] is just what we’re waiting for,” but what do you do with the kids that aren’t there yet?

ALEX: First, to the whole issue of technology and computers: A lot of what Brett and I have been able to do has been because of technology. We started a blog. We began to write. We used our computers to reach and connect with other young people around the world, and that’s how the Rebelution came about. So that’s something we see as very exciting and very important. Because of the way technology has advanced, young people have the opportunity to impact the world in a way that they’ve never had before in the history of the world. That’s exciting.

At the same time, there’s an important distinction to be made. It actually goes back to The Chronicles of Narnia, where Father Christmas gives the weapons to Peter and Susan and Lucy. And he tells them, “These are tools, not toys.” That has been the philosophy our parents have taken to technology. When they got us our laptops, they made it very clear, “These are tools, not toys.” So we never had a bunch of games on our computers. They were for us to be able to write and to research and to do the things we’ve been doing, such as our blog. That mindset was very important. It was a much more purposeful mindset. "There’s a reason why I have this and there’s a direction that I’m going. This is not simply to entertain me; it’s a tool that I use to accomplish something meaningful." And with that distinction, we’ve been able to see a benefit to the technology and how that technology actually equips us to be more effective for God rather than less effective.

So you are two 20-year-old boys, and you don’t play video games or computer games?!

ALEX: We don’t. (Laughs) But maybe you shouldn’t put that out there because then our credibility levels go way down. We’ll play games from time to time. "Do hard things" doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. We do a lot of those things, but that’s not the main event. We don’t view "do hard things" as a break from having fun or simply a means of financing our fun. We see the more Biblical appropriate way of understanding it as those fun things are the way we take a break and we relax and recuperate from doing the hard things that God has called us to do. And that’s actually a more exciting and fulfilling way to live.

But to the question about young people who aren’t there yet: The reason why we’ve been excited about the impact the book has had so far is that we’re hearing from those young people who are not necessarily interested in this challenge, or you wouldn’t think they would be, or they don’t think they are. And it’s through the sharing of stories. For a lot of young people, it’s like if you have a toddler, if everyone around them was crawling around on their hands and knees, it’s very unlikely that they would learn to walk. But it’s because they see everyone else walking on their feet that they say “Wow, they can go faster and reach higher and their hands don’t get dirty. I’m going to try that.” So the stories that we share are just trying to give example after example of “Look, this is how life really is supposed to work; this is how God wants to use you. This is how God can use, not prodigies, not extraordinary young people who you could never hope to be like, but ordinary young people just like you. And that’s the kind of stories we share. And when young people hear those stories, we haven’t had to argue with them and say “You’re capable of so much more.” “No, I’m not.” “Yes, you are.” The light bulb goes on and they say, “Wow, that does make sense; that resonates with me.” And we see that as just testimony to the fact that God is doing something in the hearts of young people today. That’s not something we can plant; it’s something He has to do. So even if they’ve been so accustomed to go the easy way, deep down inside they know that there has to be more because they were made for more. And they just need to be able to see it.

What do you see as the biggest danger for teens today?

BRETT: Before I answer the question, I would say that there are different dangers for different teens or categories of teens. I think that young people today face the greatest opportunities and the greatest distractions that any generation has ever faced. We see great opportunities to be used by God and to reach out and to really be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. To see problems, to be aware of problems and to actually do something about those problems. To be aware of poverty all around the world. To be aware of needs in our communities and all over the world. Our young people have access to information through the 24/7 news media, the internet; they’ve just never had the opportunities like that or the platform that they have with the internet or with blogging, never had the kind of accessibilities to technology. If you want to go into film-making you can have a good camera and an editing suite on your computer. Everything’s just come so far. There are just great opportunities for young people.

And that’s coupled with low expectations, where no one expects young people to accomplish anything important, so a young person who takes initiative stands out in amazing ways. There’s a great opportunity, a great vacuum right now, for young people to step up and be used in amazing ways. At the same time, all that technology and low expectations serve as a distraction and a hindrance to young people stepping out and being used by God. You have so many things that call for our attention; so many messages about the teen years and what’s important, whether it be popularity or sex or drugs or any number of things. Young people face many, many distractions, negative cultural and negative peer pressure – even pressure from well-meaning parents and teachers and adults. It’s somewhat of a paradox of opportunity and distraction.

ALEX: I would say that, for young people today, there really are two categories that they can fall into, with dangers for both. A lot of young people just face discouragement, a sense of not feeling like they can accomplish anything significant, of looking around and seeing other young people who maybe are more gifted or have a better family or live in a better neighborhood, a better high school, more popular, things come easily, etc. So a lot of young people just sit back and say “God can’t use me. I don’t have the skill set or the gifting.” The danger for young people like that is to forget that we have a God who works through our weakness and a God who is more glorified working through a young person who thinks they don’t have anything to offer than He is through a young person who thinks they have everything to offer. So the great danger is discouragement, forgetting how great God is and what he can accomplish through anyone who is willing to say “God, work through me. I know that it’s Your strength. Your strength is my hope to make a difference.”

But I think there are also a lot of young people today who struggle with just complacency, and this is probably a bigger issue than discouragement. A lot of young people today get satisfied being a good kid. And being a good kid is defined, basically, as NOT doing all the bad stuff. You’re a good kid if you just sit on the couch and don’t do anything because you’re not sleeping around and partying and all the other things that we worry about kids doing today. So there’s the sense that “I’m doing well; I’m doing great.” And well-meaning parents and teachers and adults tell them “you’re amazing” and “I wish my kids hung out with you more” and “You’re the hope for the future” just because they’re avoiding the bad stuff. But there’s no embracing of the calling that God has on their lives. They’re avoiding all the Don’ts but they’re not embracing the Do’s. Charles Spurgeon spoke a sermon on Psalm 1 – talked about blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the way of the wicked or sit in the seat of the scoffers. But then it talks about the man whose delight in the law of the Lord, who meditates on His law day and night. Spurgeon says some of us can claim a negative purity because we don’t stand in the way of sinners. But is our delight in the law of the Lord? Is it the man of our right hand? Because if it’s not, the blessing of Psalm 1 doesn’t belong to you. So I would say, at least for the majority of young people that we come across, the greatest danger is being satisfied just avoiding the bad stuff and being a good kid because you’re not doing all these negative things, but missing out entirely on the high calling God has, not just for young people but for all believers, to serve Him and be used by Him to impact the world and to spread the gospel.

That’s really good. Another thing that’s been frustrating, from a parent perspective, is school. In your book, you felt like a lot of times kids were not expected to do stuff. But a lot of times, if you’re smart, if you’re taking the AP classes (or whatever they called them where you were), the result is that they just give you more work. Well, that’s pretty discouraging! It’s hard to get motivated about wanting to change the world when you have 6 hours of homework every night!

ALEX: One of the important things to remember is that "doing hard things" doesn’t just mean doing the big things, changing the world. “Okay, I’ve decided to do hard things, so I’m going to go solve world hunger.” That’s not what we’re talking about. "Doing hard things" means doing what’s hard for you. God doesn’t give us conflicting obligations. So for young people who are doing school – Brett & I are students full-time now – our studies are part of what God has given us to do, and those are the hard things that we need to be focused on. What’s really important and the message of the Rebelution is to view these years as the launching pad of life. Not the end of life, not the peak of life, the launching pad of life. This is where we build momentum; this is where we prepare ourselves. This is where we’re in the season of preparation. Young people can say “Well, I want to do hard things, but I have school and chores and family and church. . . I’m booked.” Do those things with all your heart. Work on them as unto the Lord, not for men, like the Bible says. This is an opportunity to do hard things right there: be faithful where you are. As we’re faithful in little, God will put us over much. And as we’re faithful in working hard on our studies, we’re actually preparing ourselves and growing stronger in our minds, growing stronger in just being able to take the next step, whatever it is, whether from high school to college and from college to further studies or from high school, for Brett & I, into the ministry we’re doing now. You don’t simply get to that point of being faithful in what is big until you’ve been faithful in what is small.

Can y’all come live at my house for a couple of months?!

ALEX: Martin Luther King said, “If a man is a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets the way Michelangelo painted. He should sweep streets the way Beethoven composed music. He should sweep streets in such a way that all of heaven and earth would stop and say, ‘There lives a great street-sweeper who sweeps streets well.’” And that’s the call God gives us in His Word when He says whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. And for any young person who wants to be used by God, it’s a temptation for us to say “What’s the new thing, what’s the next thing, what’s the big thing” and forget that the relationships we’re in with our family, within our church, the responsibilities we have within school and our household and our church and that community – those are all great opportunities to serve Him even when it’s hard, to do what’s right even when it’s inconvenient, to take a stand to go against the flow, to stretch yourself beyond your limits, to go beyond what’s expected or required. You don’t go into the gym to lift weights and say “why am I lifting weights? This is just busywork – when am I going to actually do this in real life?” Well no, you’re not going to lift a dumbbell in real life, you’re not lifting weights because you think someone’s going to knock you over and throw a barbell across your chest and you need to lift it off. You lift weights so you can knock over a linebacker. You lift weights so you can carry your groceries, or save a child from a burning building. You lift weights for all sorts of reasons. So school and chores and all these things should be seen as important, vital foundation stones that without them, you’re not going to be able to do the bigger things. It all starts there. And that’s what it means to serve God: whatever He gives you to do, do it with everything you have.

What do you wish you had known when you were 13 or 14 – what have you learned that you think, “If we had just known this, it would have made life easier?”

BRETT: I don’t know if I would change anything because we just see God’s hand in all of it; we know He was orchestrating it. It would have been great to know that everything was going to take off like it did and so we could have planned ahead for all the growth. In some ways, we feel like we’re just along for the ride – we’re riding the rocket and that’s a very exhilarating place to be.

ALEX: I think if I could change or tell my 13-year-old me one thing – there were a lot of cases where we got distracted with different things, distraction from our studies. We were actually able to finish our studies early, we feel like we’ve been well-prepared for college and what we’re doing now. At the same time, I feel like there was so much time there to prepare than we took advantage of a lot of times. And I’m actually able to do that now with my younger brother who is 14 and is dealing with the same things and to encourage him in his school and the things he has right in front of him and be faithful there while he’s looking for that new thing, that big thing and God is opening doors in those areas, we want to encourage him to really focus and prepare, because he’ll never regret that. You’ll never regret doing hard things, because it prepares you for effectiveness in the next season God calls you to.

BRETT: Jim Elliott said, “Wherever you are, be there 100%.

[I had to dig deeper into their regular lives and tease them just a bit!]

Y’all are just too perfect! You’re brothers, and I know you’re twins and twins have a special closeness. But you’re bound to get on each other’s nerves, or drive each other crazy, so tell me something that y’all butt heads against.

ALEX: Brett eats my chips.

BRETT: Yeah, I eat his chips. We don’t normally disagree on the big things, at least not for very long.

ALEX: We only disagree about trivial stupid things.

But do y’all have brother spats?

BRETT: Yeah, but again, pretty short-lived, because we have to get along to do what we’re doing.

Did you disobey? Come on – you’re just sounding so good, you have to tell me something! Do you get annoyed with your little brother?

BRETT: Yeah - see, little brothers can be annoying but we love them.

ALEX: You should have seen our dorm room before we just had room inspections! We cleaned it up in time for room inspection, but it was pretty bad before that. We’d be the first to tell you that we have struggles like anyone else. We both constantly need to be reminded of what’s really important, keep our priorities straight, focus on the right things. We both have areas in our lives that are still sinful, whether it shows up in anger or pride, all of these are things we struggle with. God is faithful, even using each other and other friends and especially with His Word and our relationship with Him that those are all areas that are in progress and growing and hopefully we’re improving. But we come to life with all the same weaknesses that everyone else does. But I think on the other hand, we also have to be honest with the fact that God has given us some special blessings in our family and the way we were raised, and even just growing up with the ideas that we’re talking about and sharing – if we were exactly the same as everyone else, we wouldn’t have anything special to offer or at least any credibility to say “If you live this different way, you’re going to get different results.” So in some ways we are different but we can’t take credit for that.

[I finally hit on one subject that made them squirm and stammer just a bit!]

One last thing, with the success and the maturity and the book that y’all have written, have you had difficulty with girls – or their mothers! – coming after you and trying to set you up.

ALEX: Oh, yeah.

BRETT: There’s definitely been some of that. We have certain “friends” on Facebook who stalk us.

ALEX: We have stalkers, and mothers . . .

BRETT (interrupts): Sometimes stalkers and mothers are the same.

ALEX: . . .who ask us to marry their daughters. Yes. And we don’t (brief pause) take it (brief pause) too seriously.

So I thanked them and sent them off to dinner without giving them my girl's picture!

(Actually, Alex just got married in January - isn't his wife darling?!)

The companion book they were writing when we met is now available. Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are is a highly practical book for those teenagers who want to do hard things but aren't quite sure how to start. Peppered with stories from rebelutionaries who are making a difference, Start Here covers a range of topics - identifying a project and taking that first step, keeping God the focus, avoiding prideful attitudes, persevering during difficult times, and more. In addition to the real-life examples given throughout the book, the appendix lists 100 "hard things" to help jump-start a teen's rebelution. Some of them involve larger-scale projects (such as collecting items for a crisis pregancy center, volunteering on a regular basis with an organization such as a soup kitchen or tutoring program, or becoming a team leader for an event such as Relay for Life). Others ideas are smaller, yet still significant tasks - which are sometimes the hardest of all (such as letting a sibling win an argument, calling one's dad on his birthday after the parents' divorce, practicing a musical instrument daily, or reading the Bible daily). Discussion questions at the end of the book, divided by chapter, make this an excellent book for a youth group study or book club.

Alex and Brett Harris are the coauthors of the best-selling book Do Hard Things, which they wrote at age eighteen. Today the twins speak regularly to audiences of thousands on The Rebelution Tour, maintain a hugely popular online presence through their blog,, and have been featured on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and in the New York Times. Raised in Portland, Oregon, the brothers currently attend Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

The publisher has provided an additional copy for one of you. To enter, just leave a comment on this post no later than 8:00 pm CDT Thursday (3/18) and I'll draw for the winner. US Residents only, please.

You can find out where Start Here is available for purchase by going to the Random House Publishers website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


View blog reactions


Julia M. Reffner said...

I loved reading the interview. Brett and Alex are very insightful, especially at their young ages. Please enter me.


CeeCee said...

This guys are a great inspiration. Enter me please!

Lisa writes... said...

"Do Hard Things" is a great book!

Anonymous said...

what an inspiration these young men are...would enjoy reading their book

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Let'sMakeADifference said...

You did a great interview! I'm convinced that I should read the book! Thanks for the chance to win one!!

quilly said...

Don't enter mein the drawing. I have the book and a copy to give away myself. Alex and Brett are definitely an inspiration to young and old a like. As a youth leader, as I was reading this I couldn't help thinking that all of my counterparts need it, too!

Gayle @ thewestiecrew said...

Hi sweet Linda!
On a personal note, I've missed you, friend! I really got away from the blog world last year, and while that was necessary, I am so sad that I've lost touch with my friends. ;(

About this post, as I was reading the interview, I thought that this book would be PERFECT for my 13.5 year old son right now... then I realized it was a giveaway!

Anonymous said...

Linda, I've 'followed' the Harris family for over 20 years. The parents are awesome people with a strong vision and mission for the world. These young guys are fabulous. BTW, I am NOT one of their stalkers; however, I buy their books. Great interview!

Carrie @ Cottage Cozy said...

What wonderful young men...great interview too! Thanks, Linda!

Kim said...

This is an awesome interview Linda! I wonder how I get this kind of dedication inspired in my own two boys!?

Anonymous said...

Quilly sent me over to read your interview. Good job!
Patrick Henry College is in Purcellville, VA; it is also the site of the Home School Legal Defense Association.