(Before I begin I would like to point out that while coming up with this blog I was listening to The Rocket Summer… I think it fits and I highly suggest his music, so if you have some you should listen to it while taking the time to read this entry. Thanks!!!)
So the other day I was reading a book called “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris, and it got me thinking. I was reading the book because I was leading youth group at my church that week, so I really had to think about it. I figured if I had to lead a discussion about it I should probably know what I’m talking about, right? (By the way, I highly recommend this book to everyone- these two guys are pretty much my heroes at the moment, and I think just about everyone could learn a thing or two from them.)
Anyway, something they said really peaked my interest. We didn’t go into too big of a discussion about it at youth group, but I was still thinking about it a while later. Think about the term “overachiever” for a moment. What does it really mean? Well in my little Oxford Dictionary it means “one who does better than expected, esp. in academic work.” Ooookay, pretty self-explanatory. So what is expected? Who decides that? Well that’s kinda where Alex and Brett came in.
In their book they talk a lot about the “myth of adolescence.” What they’re saying is that “teenagers” really don’t exist… kindof. It’s this strange stage between childhood and adulthood where, basically, people are expected to take a break. Really, teens have little or no expectations at all. Children are expected to learn to transport themselves from one place to another successfully (walk) and communicate with the rest of the world (talk); teenagers lots of the time don’t have to pay for their own car or gas, and much of the time cannot produce a grammatically correct sentence. Adults, obviously, have much more responsibility: they are expected to exclusively take care of themselves and their families; the same cannot be said for teenagers.
So if teens [I assume most of my readers (if I actually have any??? I don’t actually know) are teenagers, and therefore can relate fairly well to what I’m saying] don’t have much responsibility at all (I know what you’re thinking, but reeeeeeally take some time to analyze your life. What do you do, on a daily basis? Anything world-changing? Probably not.), what are the expectations? They can’t be very high. And if the expectations are not very high, what really is overachievement? Is what we consider overachieving really what should be average? Or even underachieving? It’s a bit of a sobering thought.
When I think back to my elementary, junior high, and high school years, it makes me a bit sad. I have several awards from various years, but to be honest I don’t even really remember what they were from. Could they really have been that important if I don’t remember it even a few years later? I do remember some people getting awards in elementary school for good attendance (I don’t know if I actually got one or not… maybe). That is really disheartening to me. These kids aren’t getting rewarded for doing something extraordinary- they’re getting a prize just for showing up. They didn’t even have to do anything, just physically be there. That, I think, is the stage for mediocrity. The warm-up. Is it really okay to just roll out of bed each morning and make it to class approximately on time? Is it really acceptable to just slide by, even when we know we haven’t done our best? I can think of many classes throughout my school career where I didn’t have to try at all, but got and A anyway. Should I not have tried just because I didn’t have to? Somehow I don’t think that’s right.
I tend to think that the bar is set too low. Way too low. Sure, everybody’s got different strengths and weaknesses. What was easy for me probably made someone else just across the room struggle. That’s ok. That person struggling to get a C probably should have been rewarded instead of my getting an A just because they tried. That kid out in gym class that got 11 minutes on the mile should have gotten that gold star instead of the kid who got 7, because he or she worked all semester to get under 12 minutes while the other kid didn’t improve at all. Just because you have the best end result doesn’t mean you did the best work.
So the bar is low. What can we do about it? Think back to the title of Alex and Brett Harris’ book- “Do Hard Things.” Ta-daa! There’s the answer. Seriously. Do stuff that’s hard for you. I know everybody likes to do stuff that they’re good at, stuff that’s easy, who doesn’t? It means that you look good in front of your friends, or that cute guy who for some strange reason is watching your soccer practice. So what? Practice the hard stuff- pretty soon it won’t be nearly as hard as it was before, and likely in time it’ll become pretty easy.
Be an overachiever, and not necessarily by society’s standards. Work at everything you do. Don’t just do what you have to to get by, go above and beyond. Good things always come from effort. It might not be instant gratification like doing the easy stuff is, but in the long run, it’ll be worth it.