Use #TakeOurTeensBack

The ONE Thing Teens Need
to Thrive in 2018

I just returned from the The ONE Thing Goal Setting Retreat in Austin, Texas. The event, billed as "A Kick Ass Guide to your Most Productive Year," is the brainchild of Jay Papasan, co author of the book, The ONE Thing and his wife, Wendy.

If you’re not familiar with the book, you’ve not spoken to me in the last two years and you should order it now. And, if you’ve not heard me rant about the Tech-Opoly destroying teenagers, it’s been even longer. 

 Goliath = Distractions

Since I was introduced to the book in 2016, I’ve become a groupie, to say the least. I’ve read the book, listened to the audiobook (unabridged and the summary,) heard all 95 episodes of The One Thing Podcast, and recently, I joined the Living the One Thing online community — a new online program led by Geoff Woods to help people live the concepts in the book. 

What does a productivity book have to do with raising teenagers?

Everything. We’re at an inflection point in history. The impact of pervasive distractions on the adolescent brain are serious and can be permanent. 

Although it’s tempting to assume our fledgling adults are mature enough to balance media use, manage time and understand priorities, they’re missing an important tool — a pre-frontal cortex. You know, the part of the brain responsible for making choices between good and bad, understanding consequences and organizing anything?  

Our kids need our help now more than ever. 

The concepts in The One Thing offer a simple framework teens can understand, but only if we, the parents, are willing to teach them.


Geoff Woods

 The ONE Thing VP & host of the popular Podcast 

Reading the book is easy, but living its' principals is hard. Think of the impact we could have if kids learned how to live a life of priority and align actions with goals?

Life’s Not Fair — Use Leverage

When you turn the big Five-Oh, you look back at your life and notice patterns.

As I progressed through adulthood, my life — job, house, partner, friends, family of origin, etc. — became overwhelming. Then came marriage and kids, bringing priceless rewards, and a host of new responsibilities.

In my 40s it became clear: we’re David and Life is Goliath.

Slowly, I developed systems to fight overwhelm. Although I made progress, I felt outpaced by rapid changes in technology, society and life. 

Modern Warfare

In the past decade, the Techopoly — Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. — grew exponentially more powerful, transformed everything and created a new normal. Now, we check phones in the grocery line, SnapChat our parents dancing GIFs and binge on Netflix. (Maybe the dancing GIF thing is just me?)

Essentially, we’ve armed Goliath with semi-automatic weapons and invited him to dinner. It’s time for a new operating instructions.

To live an intentional life, we must leverage technology to eliminate distractions, manage time and set goals. 

The New Normal

My teenagers are marinating in distractions. 

Society has normalized constant interruptions, mandated connected devices in high school, and given advertisers control of how we direct our attention. Life is overwhelming — even for those of us with a fully formed prefrontal cortex.


 Jay Papasan 

Co-Author, The ONE Thing at Lifehack Summit 2017

With the bombardment of electronic devices over the last 10 years, we need to give our DNA a chance to catch up.

The One Thing

Although originally written to help people excel professionally, the book’s brilliance is far more wide reaching. And, as technology continues to change everything — the logic outlined in the book is more useful than ever. 

The One Thing, lays out “the surprisingly simple truth behind achieving extraordinary results.”

The foundation of the book is the focusing question as a North Star for life. 

The question is simple — what is the one thing you can do (next,) such that by doing so, everything else you do, will become either easier or unnecessary. 

Since most people have the attention span of a gnat, I won’t try to summarize the whole book here. However, one tool everyone can use, even teenagers, is the Goal Setting to the Now (GSTTN,) excercise.

The ONE Thing logic suggests: 

GSTTN and other habits, train your brain to think differently. Done consistently, over time, this discipline will help you connect one goal to the next until your leveraged Dominoes, or "One Things," consistently direct your attention and focus. 

According to Gary Keller, the purpose of a goal is to act appropriately in the moment.  If my goal is to finish this blog post, and I’m well aware of the cost of interruptions -- I had it tattooed on my forehead. If I allow notifications to distract me with other people’s priorities, am I acting appropriately in the moment? Negative.

However, if I turn off my notifications, install Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator, make it a habit of doing my One Thing without distractions — boom, drop the mike!

Yet, I’m…old. 

What if I go through this same exercise with my 16 year old today after school? Imagine the years he’ll have to practice the habit and reap the rewards of living a vertically aligned life in which he’s managing distractions, setting goals and spending time wisely? (I did this and it’s quite useful.)

Then again, he got busted with his laptop in bed last night, so maybe not. As they say in the book, it’s simple, but not easy.

Marissa Verson Harrison is the co-founder of​ ScreenAge BootCamp, an online training platform for modern families. We help parents, and the teens they love, balance media use and learn new skills for the knowledge economy. Sign up here to find out more!

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