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Habits for a Successful Life

Focus on what REALLY matters to prepare your teen to live a happy and successful life.

Hint: It has less to do with academics and curriculum than you think...

Your teen is considering suicide. Which of the following are most important to focus on:

  1. Academics, curriculum, and grades?

  2. Mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical well-being?

It's obvious, right? Number two.

Their holistic well-being is way more important than grades.

Sorry to start with such a drastic example. 

But it's true to life.

My husband, Greg, received a phone call from a mom.


Her son was considering suicide. (This type of conversation is far too common in his line of work -- more on that later.)


She wanted to do what was best for him. (She thought that meant taking him out of school.)


Then she asked, "But what about his grades?"


This mom needs a wake-up call.

But so do the rest of us. Which is why I started off so 'drastically'.

Our teens are in trouble.

Remember the far-too-common conversations I mentioned above?

Greg has mentored teens and parents for 20 years. But these type of conversations...


...about teen anxiety. Depression. Failure-to-launch. Suicide ideation...


...are happening more and more frequently the last several years.

And it's not with the 'bad' kids or the 'bad' parents.

These are great kids from great families. Most of them are homeschoolers.

These kids are smart, talented, hard-working...

But something is 'off'.

And it's resulting in 'train wrecks' at the end of the line -- addictions, depression, anxiety, failure-to-launch, and suicide.

What We're Doing Is Not Working

Have you heard that story about a ship that was off course by less than one degree?

It ended up in the wrong port.

Our problem? We're off way more than one degree.

It starts with our school system.


It was designed during the Industrial Age. To train factory workers.

Some parents are waking up to that.


They're trying something different. Homeschooling. Charter schools. Private schools. Unschooling. Hybrid schooling.


The challenge?


We (aka parents) were all raised on the factory conveyor belt.

So when we 'homeschool' we end up doing 'school at home'.

Or we reject school altogether (unschool) and end up not knowing what to do -- or if we should do anything.

We're trying to figure things out. We're doing the best we can.

But let us be bold and clear.

What we're doing (collectively) is NOT working.

It doesn't matter which approach we're taking. 


We're still in the fishbowl. We're swimming on the opposite side saying, "See. Now we're thinking outside the bowl."

Round Fish Bowl

We need to get out of the bowl and into the ocean of reality.

We need to abandon the model and start over.

We need to focus on the things that actually matter. We need to do the things that really work.

We need to help our teens become the HERO of their own life story.

After 20 years of working with youth and parents? Well, Greg is pretty dialed in on what those are.

And they can be summarized by one word.


Habits are simultaneously the problem and the solution.

They are causing our problems. They will also solve them.


Our 'thinking habits' keep us focused on academics and curriculum.

We need the 'habit' of focusing on the whole person.

Our 'habits of labeling' transform normal emotions (like discomfort, sadness, anxiousness) into 'conditions' that limit us from fully experiencing life.

Our poor habits (distraction, addictions, procrastination, cowardice) keep us a few degrees off course. They end in 'train wrecks'.

Stop focusing on the curriculum our children need to graduate and go to college.


Start focusing on how to help them become the heroes of their own life stories.


Amazing things will start to happen.

When a teen learns to control their 'inner life', which includes...

  • Mindset

  • Heartset

  • Skillset

... they gain confidence, assurance, and inner peace.

They also gain grit and the ability to do hard things.

And these are the habits that create a successful life.

Learning how to master the 'inner life' matters more than any fact, figure, or grade.

The 'Curriculum' That Really Counts

To get out of the fishbowl and into the ocean we need to focus on what really counts.

We need to develop the whole person and give up our obsession with academic learning.

Don't get me wrong. Academics are great. But there is no correlation between academic success and life success.

So why do we still put so much emphasis on it?

We need a 'curriculum' that teaches and trains our children in the things that REALLY count.

We don't rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.

- Archilochus

Greg and I have developed a list of the MOST IMPORTANT skills (aka habits) children (and adults) need to be trained in to achieve a happy and successful life. 

This list is based on 20 years of research:


Know who they are, what they love to do, and what their dreams are.


Understand what skills they need to gain to discover and achieve #1.


Become ware of the 

knowledge and information needed to accomplish 1 & 2


Practice on a regular basis the skills needed to achieve #2


Develop the ability to generate and maintain positive emotions.


Learn to adapt and recover from setbacks (including negative emotions).


Build and nurture relationships in their family and community.


Embrace failure and recognize it as a tool for success.


Be vulnerable and open to correction and feedback.


Learn how to 'think outside the box' to create new ways of doing things.


Analyze and manage potential risks and rewards to make decisions.


Prioritize daily tasks and duties to accomplish short and long-term goals.


Manage and complete projects (their own and others).


Learn to deal with challenges and face fears.


Find and use mentors and advisers to help you fulfill your mission.


Learn to be a leader and guide others to become their best selves.


Effectively communicate (with diplomacy) to inspire and influence others.


Embrace discomfort and do hard things.


Delay gratification and avoid procrastination.


Maintain and generate physical and mental energy needed to live life at it's fullest.


Eliminate negative addictions and replace them with positive ones.


Replace willpower with habit and make success automatic instead of a struggle.

From our own personal experience, and from working with thousands of parents and teens on five continents...

...each of these skills can be learned.

And when they become a HABIT... that's where the magic is!

That's when creating a successful life not only becomes possible... it becomes easy to do! Automatic.

(Read The Power of Habit to learn more of why I'm talking about it being 'automatic'.)

When this list become a part of who you are and how you do life, that's how success and happiness are achieved.


It's also how anxiety, depression, failure-to-launch, and suicide are avoided.

But if any thing in this list is off... watch out.

It may not seem like a big deal now.


But down the road, even being ONE degree off course leads to disaster.

Do you see how different this 'curriculum' is compared to other schooling approaches?

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important. We need them to succeed in life.

But if we have those and we DON'T have the list above... well, we're in trouble. And so are our teens.

That's why THIS STUFF should be the primary focus of any parent's educational plan.

If our kids have these -- well, they'll teach themselves EVERYTHING else they need to know to achieve their life mission.


Whether that's reading or calculus, they'll take care of it ONCE they've mastered the habits of living well.

Find a Mentor And a Community

So where do we go from here?

If we really need to throw out the fishbowl and jump into the ocean of reality, how do we do it?

It starts by finding mentors and community.

We can't go it alone. We can't do it ourselves.

Besides that, our teens won't always (ever?) listen to us.

They need outside mentors. And you need help. Someone on your team.

Successful people build the community they need.

Denning Family SMA.jpg

My husband and I have seven children.

Teaching them this list is not optional. It's not a 'would be nice'.


It's absolutely imperative.

It's the reason we have designed our lifestyle around educating our family.

Every trip we plan, every class we teach is strategically designed to teach this list to our kids.

But we knew that wasn't enough.

We need a community to share it with. Not a community we would find (we've been looking), but one we would have to create.

Which is why exists.

To create a community of like-minded students (parents & youth) who want to become the heroes of their own life story and develop the habits for a successful life.

Our classes are LIVE online. It's a real, LIVE community.

The youth meet once per week with Greg as their mentor. Four of our teens are in the class.

Parents meet 1-2 times a month with both Greg and me.

Our dream is to create an ongoing relationship with an intimate group of intentional families who want to share the journey of educating our families together -- and to eventually meet up in cool places around the world!

If you are ready to join us, choose an option below:

Habits for a Successful Family



6-week Masterclass



Parents & All Children

ALL Classes for Youth & Parents PLUS One Free Coaching Session per month!


Per semester.

Meets twice per week

Reach Upward!

Greg Rachel Neuschwanstein.png


Rachel (& Greg) Denning

P.S. If you're still on the fence about joining us, check out what other parents and youth have said:

[My daughter] sure does enjoy mentoring with you, Greg! Thank you for being such an instrumental part of my kids’ learning, growth, and leadership!"

Jen, Parent


Greg Denning, my mentor, inspired me in so many ways, he inspired me to be brave, challenge myself, break through my limits, even though it would be hard,and to make my life a good, prosperous, and healthy life full of happiness."

- Anonymous Student

I just have to give the best thanks I can to you for your motivation and inspiration in our lives... thanks for getting me exited to wake up in the morning to get to my life and ideas. For helping me to see the people in my life in a new light of love. For reminding me that my role as a mom IS my greatest dream."

Sarah, Parent

Hey Mr. Denning! I just wanted to let you know that you are an AMAZING teacher and I love how uplifting and positive you are. You have truly changed my life and I love it! Thank you!"

Brandon, Student

I love that the first step for us or our youth is to actually know where we are trying go, what we are trying to achieve, what heights we are striving to reach... many of us take that for granted and don’t give it much thought. This is exactly what I was hoping to get from this course; a structured plan or a big picture that shows the actual steps."

Jeff, Parent

I just want to let you know how much Lucy has learned in [this class] this year. The books and discussions have challenged her to break out of her comfort zone and have courage to grow. I'm seeing her blossom and become in beautiful ways!"

Heather, Parent

I just want you to know that I'm getting so much out of it. This is such valuable material for parents. The things that you are sharing are inspiring, spot on, and making a difference in my parenting and in my family. I'm grateful that you follow your own dreams and mission so that you can bless and inspire others. 

Thank you so much!

Sharleen, Parent

P.P.S. If you're STILL not sure, but would like to continue the conversation, please enter your name and email below!

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