rebelling against low expectations

The Movement Rolls On


Where’s the movement headed? We’ve heard this question from several of you — on Facebook, on Twitter, and here on the blog. It’s a good question — and it’s going to take more than one blog post to answer. It’s more than just a question about Alex and Brett. It’s a personal question. It reflects how life is changing. It reflects growing up.

What does it look like to be a rebelutionary at twenty-five? Or thirty? How do we transition these ideas to college? To pursuing marriage? To starting a family? To heading down a long career path? To all that comes next?< We love these questions because they all communicate the fact that doing hard things still matters; rebelling against low expectations still matters; we never graduate from loving God and following God no matter the cost. No one is asking if doing hard things is still necessary. They know it is. They just want to know what it looks like — at college, in the workplace, in a serious relationship, etc.

The question is not if, but how

But before we get to the how question it’s helpful to look at a few whys — and we received a pretty good one in our inbox this morning. The email was from a middle school teacher who has 100 of her students reading through Do Hard Things. And these kids aren’t just reading the book — they are living it.

One class is looking to do a project for World Vision. Another is supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. All of them are seeking to apply and stretch themselves at home and at school. Their teacher wrote us, “One young man has blown me away, coming from failing my class to an A within 3 weeks!”

One class has even started a blog to share their stories about doing hard things. Maybe you can recognize yourself at twelve or fourteen. Here’s their latest entry:

    Hi, I’m R. Today I did two hard things. Recently my dog has been tearing up my mom’s plants. I decided to clean up the dirt and sweep off the porch. I also cleaned up my room. I did these two things without my mom telling me. These are just the first few steps of fighting “Low Expectations.”


    Hi my name is Josh. I have also been doing hard things this week. Usually, my parents have to tell me to study and do my homework. However this week, I have been studying and doing my homework without having to be asked. I have found that I have more free time now. We encourage you to do hard things this week.

It turns out, the question about where the movement is headed is not just about what we do today — it’s about what the Class of 2018 will be doing in five years, in ten years, following in our footsteps. This is part of what it means to grow up — recognizing that we don’t just live for ourselves, we blaze a trial for others to follow.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of your questions. But for today, with that paper deadline looming, with your Bible beckoning on the shelf, with temptation whispering in your ear — remember this… The Class of 2018 is watching how we finish… Let’s finish strong.

Join the discussion by answering the following questions:

  • Have you been struggling with how to apply these ideas past the teen years? What areas have caused you the most confusion?
  • Do you have younger siblings or kids at church that look up to you? How often do you think about the example you’re setting for them?
  • Did you look up to any older teenagers or young adults as an early teen? How did they finish? How did watching them affect you?
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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • Encouraging post! Thank you! I am glad that ya’ll plan to post more and I look forward to reading them.
    I can’t really answer the first question because I am not out of my teens yet, but the last two I can answer.
    Yes, I do have younger siblings (4 younger sisters) and friends who do look up to me. I didn’t think a whole lot about it until my 4 older brothers all moved out of the house and I became the oldest child at home. Then I began and still do think about it a lot. I see it as a huge irresponsibility and blessing. I want to set a good example for them to follow because I know that they are watching me.
    Yes, I have always had friends who were several years older than me (some of my friends are moms with several children) and I have looked up to them. They are a great influence on my life and have encouraged me so much in my walk with the Lord.

  • A very thought-provoking post. It’s encouraging to know that just because we get older, rebelling against low expectations can still be continued by others after us; and even by US. I’m not quite out of my teen years yet either, but I have those who look up to me. A younger sister and younger friends look at my actions just as I looked up to older Rebelutionaries before me.

    Continuing the call of doing hard things is one of the most important things we can do in our teen years. But it starts with our actions; the “small hard things” mentioned in the first book. Doing hard things isn’t a craze, it’s God’s intended way of life. I’m looking forward to what big AND small things God has in store for both me and others.

    Awesome post!

  • » Do you have younger siblings or kids at church that look up to you? How often do you think about the example you’re setting for them?

    Something I’ve thought about lately is that so often I’m more concerned about appearance/image than testimony. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. Testimony is so much deeper than a shallow appearance–it’s who I really am. I can act all nice and sweet in public and then yell at my brothers at home. I don’t want to be this way. I want to get to the point where how I act when non-family is watching is exactly how I act around my family. I want to be genuinely kind and loving and Godly ALL the time, not just trying to appear that way when I’m concerned about what people will think. As one song says, “The man that I am when no one is watching is the man I really am.” God has been convicting me about that lately. I want true Christ-likeness to be my TESTIMONY not just my appearance. Please pray with me about this!

  • This is very true, Deborah. “Character is who you are when no one’s watching, and what you are willing to stand for when people ARE”. Our character is what people look for, and that’s what matters when it comes to being an example for the next generation of Rebelutionaries.

    I see one example of this in the fact that many teens don’t talk about Christ or the things of God very much when they’re with their friends. Not that we should jam Christ into every corner of our conversations (this can many times turn people off), but I’m seeing in my own life that not being afraid to mention Christ in our everyday conversation can help to show others our “true” character. I’m praying for myself and other Rebelutionaries that we won’t be ashamed to encourage our friends in their Christian walk.

  • Okay, I am only 12, but I do have some younger kids at church that look up to me. Kids that I hope to set a good example to. Kids that need a better example of Christ. I have been trying to do more hard things and I am hopefully succeeding.
    I agree with Deborah when she said that she is so concerned with outward appearance. I think that every girl does. I know that I am lately. I am feeling that I need to look good no matter where I am. I try hard and hope I get compliments.
    So what I am trying to say is that a lot of people (young and old) will have people look up to them. So we need to start setting an impression that you and mainly God will be proud of.
    I look forward to more of the post!


  • Trying to apply rebelutionary principles today isn’t too much of a struggle, they’re very foundational and fundamental. The application of them differs as you grow older(especially if you’re thinking college,marriage, and child rearing). They could be built on to help us go forward. I think the areas of confusion would be entering the ‘real world’, work, marriage etc. Yes I do have younger siblings,two younger brothers that look up to me. As a youth leader at my church I also have those and

  • a few guys that I disciple. Being a recording artist also gets you afollowing,so I have those people too.I think about the example I’m setting everyday and how I could be a better example,it can be frustrating if you’re not doing it right. I looked up to a few people(Joshua,Alex and Brett Harris inclusive,and Trip Lee) who I looked up to and who discipled and mentored me. They doing great now. Watching them and being around them challenged me to be a man acoording to what scripture says

  • They have really encouraged me in a big way.
    One thing I realise is that being a rebelutionary is not only when you’re ‘Doing hard things’ it encompasses all of life an affects the person you become in the future. This is what is expected of us from God. Being examples to EVERYONE around us old or young but lets leave legacy that will continue for a long time. Legacy 2018,lets go.

    P.S I dont know if you can see my first post,it was being moderated before posting,tell me if you cant see it.

  • I read your book when I was 48 years old. It is never too late to know and serve the Lord, and you guys and I are proof of that. Since reading your book, I am doing hard things often. I keep my living area clean, neat, and clutter free. I study hard to learn skills for the ever-changing job market that I shall be re-entering soon. I take time to spend time with family, especially my mother. Family is precious, and life is short. I know that I’m not your typical reader, but your book has resounded profoundly in my life, and I just wanted you all to know that. Keep doing hard things.

  • I personally read the book when I was 16, I am now 21 and I still think about how I can continue to do hard things. For me I think I struggle with finding the resources. I have such great ideas!….I just cant find the resources to do them
    I have two younger brothers who look up to me. They are constantly asking me for advice on everything from girls and dating to homework and school. It’s a gift and a curse sort of thing. I have made so many bad choices in my life and I feel like I always end up apologizing to them especially because I don’t want them to follow in my footsteps. Amazingly, they have actually listened so far and for that I thank God.
    When I was younger I looked up to my two older cousins. I especially liked them because they knew how to play guitar and sing. They were also led spiritually in a way that I never was. I mean my parents and family are christian, and not that they never led me in that area, but I had never seen anyone with that kind of emotion behind what they believe. They finished great! I wouldn’t say that I look up to them so much anymore because I’m older, but I definitely respect them. They both married Godly women and both of their relationships were healthy. It was good for me to see.

  • Do you have younger siblings or kids at church that look up to you? How often do you think about the example you are setting for them?

    I don’t have younger siblings, but there are kids at church who look up to me. Deborah had some really good points. I need to set a good example for them, but also act the same way around my parents at home. It’s so important that I am influencing younger children in my church to do the right things instead of the wrongs things that so many “Christians” do.

    Thank you so much for the post. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you all.

  • Question 1 – I’m still a teen but some of the things that confuse me about living a Rebel life after teen years is how to get around the world’s expectations for what teens SHOULD be doing. Like how some people in my church think you’re some immature scared-of-hard-work delinquent if you’re not planning to go to college. How my gradma things all girls should have a job and pursue a career.

    Question 2 – I have 5 younger siblings and a lot of small children in my church. The main problem with me is that I struggle so much with working out how I should be living my life that I don’t really think about how they see me very much.

    Question 3 – My biggest role models have been my elder sisters. My eldest sister did online college classes and graduated, she’s skilled at a number of things and very talented. My other elder sisters have similar qualities and I really want to be like them.

    You know, one thing that would be cool to read on is what to do when you very well might be doing hard things but you feel like they’re not hard enough, or that they’re not the RIGHT hard thing, and stuff like that. I mean, what if you ARE doing hard things but you don’t feel like you are? Are they still hard things?

    Also, why are small-hard-things so HUGELY HARD?!?!?!?! Things like schoolwork and exercise are about a bigilion times harder than you’d think from their title. One thing I’ve found out that, though they may seem small to other people, their level of difficulty depends heavily on the amount you struggle with them.

  • I have brother two and a half years younger who looks up to me, and I often think about the example that I have set for him over the years and how it will affect the shaping of his character. When I do, I wish that I had been a better example, for I notice things about him that remind me of my behavior, and the way I act. Some of them good, but some bad as well. However I am reminded that it is never too late to be a better example and to build my character.

    There was an older boy in our homeschool group that we all looked up to, and wanted to be like. He was so much fun to be around, and would joke and play with us younger kids, but he was also mature and responsible. He was like a big brother in many ways, and even though he was the youngest out of a large family, he loved little children. He is grownup now and I hardly see him anymore, but still whenever I think of him it is with respect and esteem. I would love to have a reputation and character like that.
    God bless you!

  • Last year, I was really preoccupied with my Junior year and all the homework piled on my desk. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by keeping myself in my room for so many hours at a time I was actually forgetting about my brother down the hall. It’s weird how I was so clueless, how I didn’t even notice that we weren’t hanging out together like we used to. At least, not until the summertime when suddenly he was a person I didn’t know anymore. It was scary, and I wish I hadn’t let the diversion of school come between the two of us.

  • Ola !
    Eu comecei a fazer coisas difíceis na minha adolescência e continuei na faculdade e no meu trabalho, e hoje estou mantendo as praticas contra as baixas expectativas em um seminário para a formação de jovens pastores, agradeço a Deus pela a oportunidade de ter conhecido o livro ” DO HARD THINGS” ( em português Radicalize) na adolescência e levar o que aprendi para a vida adulta.
    Tenho tido muita experiências ajudando adolescentes na minha igreja e serem radicais e fazerem coisas difíceis, eles tem me visto como um exemplo, como uma mulher que consegui passar pelas crises da adolescência e conseguiu superar as expectativas, penso sempre em varias maneiras de continuar a ser exemplo para esses adolescentes.
    Infelizmente ainda tenho visto muitos adolescentes presos a ideia do mundo sobre os adolescentes, aqui no Brasil vivemos uma realidade onde a expectativa em relação aos adolescentes e quase nula e crianças que a cada dia tem pulado a infância para serem adolescentes, vivendo experiencias aos 10 anos que deveriam viver aos 15 anos e ainda pessoas pessoas que tem prolongado a sua adolescência mais do que deveriam.

  • Im still a teen 🙂 a 17 year old girl and Ive so much siblings because we are a foster family 🙂 My brothers and sisters are all younger than me. My 2 younger brothers and me we are still living together (they are 10 and 15 years old). I really know that my siblings are looking up to me and I also know the great responsibility of that. Im doing a big part of the household since Im 6 years old. In our family, everyone has special exercises to do every day. for example me: I cook everyday for my family – I love it 🙂 Or I wash evry week. These things are only examples of my exercises. It’s because my parents, both have a full-time job. In my sparetime I spread food for homless people once a week.
    In my church Im doing children’s service. I really love kids <3 🙂 And in my youthgroup Im leading worship with my friend…
    and now my answer to question one: How can I do hard things without doing too much?
    Many people said to me: Hey do less! It’s too much for you. And Im realizing slowly that It’s really too much. I didnt believe it, because I always thought: God will give me enough strength and power. But Im feeling that his strength he gave to me becomes less. And Im increasingly exhausted. How can I avoid it?
    Please give answer 🙂 thank you 🙂
    Im sorry for my bad english …

  • “Let us run with endurance the race set before us” so that with our dying breaths we may say “that [we] have fought the good fight, that [we] have finished the race, that [we] have kept the faith”.

  • I’m in highschool and I know exactly what you mean about younger kids looking up to you and really watching to see how you react to things. When I was about 7-8 I would always look up to the older teen girls at our church, local homeschool groups, etc. Now that I’m one of those “older teen girls”, I have several younger siblings and lots of little ones at church doing what I did when I was their age… watching. Watching to see if they are who they say they are. One of my most prayed prayers is that I will be a Godly example to them.

    Thanks so much for the encouragement guys!!!

  • Is there another bog that us older teens can post on to keep each other accountable to doing hard things. That is probably the biggest challenge for me, I really don’t have any friends who can encourage me to keep doing hard things. Lately I’ve been coming on here every day to be encouraged, it helps a ton, and I want to thank you guys for that. I think it would be nice though if there was a blog, (I wouldn’t mind starting it!) that I could go to and see other hard things my peers have done and where I could encourage others.

  • Having only read ‘Do Hard Things’ this summer, I feel that I’ve wasted my teenage years (being practically an adult) by not reading your book earlier. However, it’s never too late to start, and so I’ve been trying to live the rebelutionary life the past few months. What a comfort to know that even when we fail, God is still there ready to forgive, and He can use our mess-ups for His glory. I guess I’m learning how to apply the rebelutionary life to adulthood, and believe me: the earlier you start, the easier it is to change. Not that I’m considered as a ‘bad kid’; on the contrary, I’ve always been considered a good girl. That’s how pathetic our society is though. I thought Alex and Brett couldn’t have been more right when saying that adults will consider teens great as long as we aren’t getting in trouble. As long as you don’t get into drugs, stay pure, and behave decently, you’re amazing. Wow, really? Is that all that’s expected? How boring!
    Well, as I said, starting the rebelutionary life as an adult has its moments. I mean, every step taken is amazing, but when some of these “big steps” consist of doing more than my share of housework and getting up earlier to help the rest of my family go somewhere, that feels like very, very small steps, especially when you keep realizing you’re an adult. So again, I strongly encourage you all, begin doing the hard things (and, I mean, REALLY dig deep into them!), but it will make your life a whole lot easier!
    As the second child out of five, I have a few pairs of eyes watching my every move, especially the two youngest. Besides this, I am actively involved with the youth in my church with Sunday school. It’s amazing the impact you have on younger people without even trying! They watch EVERYTHING you do, then decide what they’re going to copy… and, most of the times, it’s the bad choices you make. Though being the ‘role model’ is challenging and, honestly, sometimes very annoying, I’ve also been realizing how much of a blessing it is. Imagine, we have the opportunity to impact this new generation for better or worse, good or evil. I don’t want to be remembered as the one who led multitudes away from godliness and holiness, do you? Sometimes, when I feel like quitting, it is that and the fact that God will always give us the strength to do His will that urge me to get out of my ‘pity party’, face the facts, and move on with God’s help. Being what’s right and consistently striving to be a godly role model may be tiring, but it is definitely worth all the struggles and trials you will ever go through.
    As a little kid, there was one teen girl in particular that I always looked up to. I loved her a lot, and she was so involved with a bunch of us little kids. Then, when I was in my preteen/early teens, she changed completely. I’m sad to say that she isn’t living for the Lord at all. That was a crushing blow to me, but it has always helped me to realize the impact I can make on others. It also reminds me of something else that, though maybe not necessarily related to this topic, is still very important, and that is that, just because you’re living for God today, don’t get puffed up and lose site of God. Terrible circumstances can also be used to show others what they do not want to be though, and that is the impact it had on me. I hope that when people remember me, it will not be because of all the ways I failed. However, I don’t want to be remembered just for the good things I did and the role model I was either: I want to be remembered as one that helped others see Christ and always pointed them to Him, in word, action, and deed.

  • My Dad once told me,” life is too short to live it in regret”. I want to turn around in a few years time and know that I did the best I could, and hard things dont get easier when you get older, they dont change, we just have to stay strong.

  • My main thought after reading this is, “ouch”.

    After starting my teen years hot for changing the world, I’m coming to the end cold. I’ll be graduating high school this year and then being a counselor at our girls camp and then

    I’ll turn 19. As I type that number, the keyboard shows just how far that is from 13. My next to youngest sister will turn 13 next spring. She is so much like me. But, *so* much that we fight. I am reminded that part of the reason we fight is because I can’t stand that she doesn’t do anything.

    How hypocritical can you get? I’m mad at her because she is doing what I’m doing now, not what I did when I was her age. Thank you for the reminder that we’re still being watched.

  • uhm it is sometimes very hard to do hard things but also typical so i want every to pray for me and to make a change in my community i have an idea i just dont know how to begin it …im reading at the moment start here

By Brett Harris
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →