One evening I got a call from a friend and was asked to come up with a quote to inspire a group of teenagers. Usually I hate being asked to do this because teenagers are sick of adults telling them how to live their lives and I didn’t want to patronise them with some bullshit quote that I related to but they might never. Our son had been born a few weeks before and was suffering from colic. One evening driving down country roads to try and get him to sleep I tried to come up with that quote. I thought back over the ten years I had just spent in schools all over the world listening to teenagers. I found myself getting angry thinking of how wise those young people are but how much we under-rate them. How, despite the best efforts of great teachers, we force them through a soul destroying experience of education that hasn’t changed in a hundred years and focuses on their heads at the expense of their hearts. I thought about the number of times I had wished every adult in the world could hear what I got to hear from thousands of teenagers. Their wisdom, their courage, their beautiful tenacity in the face of great difficulties. Their stories would regularly bring me to tears. I wished for adults to see what I had seen so that they could change the way they see young people. Maybe then we could learn from them what they have to teach. I looked at my son finally falling asleep in his car seat and told myself that the way we support our children to become adults had to improve, it had to get better at speaking to the magic meteorite dust inside each one of us rather than treating people like they were robots. It was then the quote came to me and with that it was as if I discovered an underground river inside me and over the course of the next nine weeks the rest of the book burst it’s banks and flooded out. This was the quote that started it all:

“The most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life is with yourself, every other is secondary.”

As the author of the Teenager’s Book of Life, Tony Griffin has poured his decade of experience working with teenagers into this creation. He has proved himself in multiple fields as someone who acts on the courage of his convictions and has been a repeated trailblazer across diverse domains. From being the first teenager from his community to play for Clare and go on to win a Hurling All-Star, to giving it all up at his peak to ride a bicycle 7,000km across the largest landmass on earth in his father’s memory. Along the way he spearheaded a charity drive to raise funds for cancer charities and hospices that went on to generate over €1.1 million. His first book co-authored with TJ Flynn, Screaming at the Sky told the story of this journey and was nominated for Irish Sports Book of the Year and the William Hill sportsbook awards .

Not one to rest on his laurels, Tony pioneered another first when he was part of a duo that brought the ground-breaking work of Jim Stynes and his Reach Foundation from Australia to Ireland. Soar was born in large part due to Tony’s passion for change and love for young people. He built a team of funders, board members and facilitators and fashioned an organisation that has become recognised as a paradigm shifter in how young people’s mental and emotional development is conducted in the Irish education system.

After a decade of encouraging and inspiring teenagers to passionately pursue the fulfilment of their potential, Tony decided in 2019 to take his own advice and follow his own dream of becoming a writer. The Teenager’s Book of Life is the result. His intention is that it positively impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands and hopefully millions of young people and their families. 

Hazel Breen says that illustrating The Teenager’s Book of Life was the hardest thing she has ever done. This is not because it was a large feat, but because the book is so important and needed right now more than ever! She poured her heart and soul into each piece to make sure it resonates with each set of eyes that sees it. She wanted to portray the emotions that are in the book in each illustration and it was paramount that each illustration popped out from the page, especially considering its teenage audience. We are fed so much content on a daily basis these days and it is no different for teenagers. So we wanted to get the attention of teenagers with raw but powerful illustrations, graphics and images that speak to them the way they speak to each other, that speak to how they feel misunderstood through their teen years, and to let them know that their teen years aren’t just a weird phase from childhood to adulthood, but that they are years where they can truly start to develop into the person they want to be

Hazel met Tony during one of his workshops with Soar some years back and found his work fascinating. She contacted him in relation to building his writing website in 2019 and the pair have been working together since. But more importantly they became great friends in the process, with the same outlook on life and passion for helping others. It was a dream of Hazel’s to work with someone like Tony who walks his talk and is a true innovator for our younger generation.

Hazel has over 10 years experience in marketing specialising in digital marketing, consultancy, design, user experience and content creation. She founded the website back in 2015 with the goal to inspire people and create content that made them feel better upon leaving the site. Her dream was to reach 1 million people but by the end of 2020 her dream was superseded as the website reached over 3 million people! The addicted to everything website was in memory of Hazel’s brother who passed away in 2015. Hazel wished that her own brother would have had the knowledge and tools as a teenager to foresee how going down the wrong path would impact his life, others and those who loved him dearly. This is what drives Hazel and why she is so passionate about helping others as she has a lot of compassion for all walks of life. She wants to help others heal and communicate their emotions so they can prevent negative impacts on their own lives. She recently founded Addicted to Marketing IRL to help others grow their businesses and passion projects as this is the type of stuff she loves to work on.

Hazel’s favourite illustrations from the book are the ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ as they evoke the raw emotion and turmoil we go through as a teenager just going through school alone. They show that for every bad thing someone might say about you, that there are a million amazing things people think about you and the importance in focusing on those words. Next to these, Hazel loved creating the quotes written by Tony, her favourite one being, you are loved… its simple but powerful and something we often need reminding of. Images below…