reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

12/08/2005

Hard Things™ Come In Small Packages

Here on The Rebelution, our “trademark” slogan is the phrase Do Hard Things.

We really like it.

It’s the exact opposite of what our media-saturated culture — from public schools to church youth groups — tells its young people. It flies right in the face of the prevailing notion that the teen years are a vacation from responsibility.

And yet, it also holds the possibility of great misunderstanding. Short statements often require long disclaimers, but while we’ve devoted entire series to the ‘myth of adolescence’ and the ‘rise of the kidult’; the Rebelution's slogan, ‘Do Hard Things’ has only one post to its name — primarily due to our hectic schedule since coming to Alabama.

Because of this, we were thrilled to receive the following guest post, written by fellow-rebelutionary Alex King of SmartHomeschool. He has done an absolutely excellent job, communicating many of the thoughts that we have been thinking, but which we have just not had time to write out. As it is, I think he put it better and more concisely than we would have ourselves. Please pay close attention to this very important article on Do Hard Things:
I think we’ve all spent a good deal of time pondering the Rebelution’s challenge to “Do Hard Things.” It’s a motto that any young person would be wise to adopt as his own. But as I’ve considered this concept, I’ve always had one significant question: what are these hard things?

The tasks that first come to mind for me have always been big things. Things like changing the world, making feature films, and rowing across large stretches of European ocean - great accomplishments that are inspiring and exciting. They’re examples that have been used by the Rebelution, and they’re great ones. A lot of times, however, I have caught myself thinking that Hard Things are limited to big things like these.

Take the illustration that the Rebelution originally used: the Vikings. These men would get in their boats and row for huge distances to far away places, have a battle, and then row back with their ships full of plunder. This initially looks like a very noble occupation, and it was. What we tend to forget, however, is that this huge accomplishment of rowing across the ocean was actually made up of thousands and thousands of small strokes with an oar.

The Vikings could have easily lost their enthusiasm with these little strokes, discounted their importance, and procrastinated. Needless to say, this would have slowed them down significantly. Instead, they were diligent to make each stroke, realizing that these small tasks were synonymous with their big goals.

Another example we can look at is that of makers of the film “League of Grateful Sons.” The movie was created by a single family, the Botkins, who did the filming, special effects, CGI, score, and other elements of the production. This is amazing in itself, but I particularly want to look at the example of their 16 year old son who wrote the music for the film.

From the Rebelution’s coverage of SAICFF:
Benjamin (16) played a major role in the composition of the score. Anna and Elizabeth have kindly remarked that their "little brother" has greater talent in the area of composition. Indeed, Benjamin was not only competent, but he was diligent. Every night at 2:00 A.M. he would get himself out of bed (Mr. Botkin says they never had to wake him up) and take a five-hour shift at the computer, arranging the score for the film and improving the sound quality of each note and instrument. At 7:00 A.M. he would be relieved by Anna or Elizabeth, who would take the day shifts in a long and hard cycle. Such sacrifice characterizes the Botkin's approach to this film.
Hopefully this young man was somewhat of a morning person, but I don’t know anyone who could hear an alarm clock going off at that time of the night and feel like getting up 100% of the time. I imagine there were many times when, half asleep, he weighed the pain of getting up against the benefit of those extra hours composing.

Faced with that decision, most people would quickly decide to slam the alarm clock, go back to sleep, and remember to change it to 8:30 in the morning. Instead of giving in to what he must have felt like doing, however, he was able to look past the present: cheerfully investing in the future accomplishment of a finished film.

For a final example, let’s examine Hillsdale’s 18-year-old Mayor. Against all odds, precedent, and even sickness, he managed to become one of our country’s youngest civic leaders. Once again, however, we tend to forget how he accomplished this incredible hard thing: through many small hard things.

We forget the slice of time spent at a job, raising the $700 needed for campaign money. The knocking on an individual door, rallying the 670 votes he needed to win. The execution of each step, bringing the campaign to its final victory. Each was difficult and seemingly small, but without them, his bid for mayor would have remained where the bids of most other teens remain: as nothing more than a novel idea.

Unfortunately, the pull of an oar doesn’t tend to inspire us in the same way rowing across the ocean does. Getting up at 2:00am doesn’t have the same excitement as making a film. And being polite to our family just doesn’t have the same feeling as being a world leader. But this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Instead of having an attitude like this, we should find the same inspiration and excitement in the small things, keeping our eyes on our destination.

This is important because doing hard things that are large consist of doing many hard things that are small. Without doing these small things, we can’t achieve those huge goals. Look at this line from the parable of the talents in Luke 19:17, "And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities."

This isn’t simply a kingdom principle that Christ is talking about; it’s also a logistical principle. Yes, for our own good, God will hold back the cities until we can handle the little. But we should also realize that if we didn’t do the little, then we’d never accomplish the cities anyway.
Doing hard things means being diligent in the small. Getting across an ocean means many strokes of rowing. Scoring a film means many mornings of getting up early. Changing the world means changing our everyday actions. These are the hard things that we need to be doing if we really want to make a difference - the small, seemingly unexciting tasks that we so often procrastinate on, or ignore altogether.
So when you run into something small and unexciting, and you feel like procrastinating or ignoring it, don’t! Get up that extra hour earlier to work on that project. Reply to that email that could wait, but shouldn’t. Write that blog post that you’re simply not in the mood for, but need to do. Change the way you behave around your family for the better. Do those little things that don’t seem important, exciting, or enjoyable at first – but that can get you to your goals.

We all want to accomplish Hard Things, but we often forget to get excited about small ones. If we can do the small things, then we’ll be on our way to the large ones, and ready when we get to them.
Be sure to express your apprecation to Alex King for writing a guest post for The Rebelution. Appreciation can be expressed by 1) leaving a comment, or 2) visiting his excellent blog.