Beginning with a history that reminds readers that the useless age of waiting for adulthood we call the teen years is in fact a recent construction, this book aims to get young adults to kick-start their lives by challenging themselves. They then provide an outline of 5 categories of hard things, and I found this particularly useful because, while it stimulates readers to push themselves in multiple categories, it also points out that there aren’t a set of tasks to check off on your way to growing up. These are just categories, not particulars. You are supposed to find your own hard things to light your life.
This is the book I wrote with my life, stretched across from the age of 12 to 26. I had to struggle to find my own way to a life more important than ‘black jeans or blue today?’ Unfortunately, in my quest for a meaningful and relevant life, I wasn’t as good at seeking out positive challenges as I would have been if I’d read a book like this. .
As a secular reader, I was able to filter out the Christian content without a problem. Several of the Bible quotes were beautiful and appropriate. The very last section of examples was beginning to be grating, but that is in part due to my own baggage with years of church pressure. I’d say that the clear, concise, and motivating content of this book is worth a little bit of filtering.
The authors did an admirable job of bundling inspiration and a clear discussion of the kinds of hard things which exist into a compact, pithy, and motivating book. There isn’t too much. Just enough to kick you in the pants and give you a rough map of the kind of territory you might cover; much more and it would start to limit readers to ‘this kind of journey’. More detail would have started to give the impression that there were a few preset paths rather than providing a match to the fuse.
I was surprised to see the section on drudgery. Not that they call it that. But one of the 5 kinds of hard things to do is the small, daily tasks that make things work. The thankless kind like laundry or being on time or being persistent even when the motivation fades. That was the hardest lesson for me to learn and I also was left with a doubtful feeling, a lack of respect for myself, until I learned it. It was the lesson that really let me feel like an adult at 26, even though I’d been married for 8 years and a mother for 6 years by that point. Doing what must be done was the keystone for self-respect for me.
If you are interested in books that help young adults think about their life as a blank canvas waiting to be made into art, I also recommend College without High School. It is another admirable, pithy outline of the adventure that awaits you in life. One of its best strengths is the section which explains how to take an interest and turn it into a rigorous interdisciplinary unit that will count as credit.