Life lessons learned
If you’ve been reading the Beacon in recent months, or if you participated in our first Virtual 50+Expo last fall, you will know something about Dr. Ken Dychtwald, the respected author of 18 books on aging, founder of Age Wave, and world-traveled consultant and public speaker on the topic.
We profiled him on the cover of our October 2020 issue, and he gave the keynote address at our Expo. More than 1,000 visitors watched his presentation on our Virtual Expo website, and we received many positive comments about it.
I bring him up again because, at age 70, he is publishing a memoir, Radical Curiosity: One Man’s Search for Cosmic Magic and a Purposeful Life. He kindly sent me an advance copy.
It’s in the format of a collection of stories and essays, many of which build on each other, describing a number of intriguing, exciting, emotional and educational experiences, and some of the lessons they have taught him.
I vaguely knew that Dychtwald had a colorful past centering on the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California during the 1960s. But his memoir really puts readers right in the midst of encounter groups and other New Age and mind/body (even out-of-body) experiences that were Esalen’s hallmark at the time.
It was also there that Dychtwald first came to realize great wisdom could be gleaned from older adults (at that point, older hippies) — a discovery that was to shape his entire career.
In the same direct and insightful way, Dychtwald shows us how he (perhaps like many Boomers) transitioned from the anti-materialism of the 60s, to a college education and early work life in the 70s, to a “meteoric rise” as a business advisor and world expert in the 80s, to a multimillionaire venture capitalist in the 90s, only to be briefly left bankrupt, destitute and suicidal by the collapse of the whole enterprise due to unforeseen effects of the internet on his business plan.
It’s a wild ride in this book, from the Tao to the Dow and back again. While a more conventional autobiography might be more cohesive and better organized, I like Radical Curiosity for its evident honesty, self-awareness and sense of humor, even if readers might imagine Dychtwald has a few more life lessons to learn before all is said and done.
He invited me to print an excerpt from the book in the Beacon, and I have chosen the following short chapter that made me laugh out loud when I read it.
Also, upon further reflection, I realized it contained one of the most valuable pieces of advice in the book. I hope you enjoy it:
Learning from “the Best”
Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.
— Dolly Parton
In the 1980s, with the arrival of cassette-tape players in cars (replacing eight-tracks, but far before CDs, DVDs, podcasts, or the Internet), more and more people began to purchase audio self-help learning programs they could listen to while commuting to work.
Usually there was a six-tape course, with each tape/module lasting around twenty-five minutes — which, handily, was the average commute time.
The leading publisher in this audio-learning space was Nightingale Conant, based outside of Chicago, which produced an unending stream of self-help learning programs in conjunction with best-selling authors and sought-after motivational speakers.
Since I was conducting seminars on bodymind, wellness, and peak performance, they reached out to me and commissioned me to produce a six-tape set, entitled The Keys to High Performance Living. It was fun to do. I recorded the six sessions in a studio, got them edited, and then sort of forgot about it.
However, as a regular buyer of Nightingale Conant programs, I wound up on several of their targeted databases as the kind of guy who was interested in many self-improvement subjects. So, when a new program was released that might be up my alley (according to their database, which tracked my purchases), I usually received a direct-marketing brochure for the tape set and an offer to purchase the program in one of those customized form letters we all were getting used to receiving in that era.
While I was conducting seminars on bodymind, holistic health, wellness, and peak performance, I had overloaded my life with more pressure and complexity than I felt I could handle. My exercise regime was faltering, and I had gained weight and was having trouble sleeping.
Then one day, I received a brochure in the mail from the president of Nightingale-Conant, Dave Nightingale, which read:
Dear Mr. Ken Dychtwald:
Do you feel you have lost control of your life? Are you suffering from too much stress? Are you finding it harder and harder to stay on your regular fitness program? Are you struggling to balance your work and family responsibilities? Do you feel that you are not achieving your highest potential?
If so, then Dr. Ken Dychtwald can help you! In his new six-tape program, this well-known expert on high performance living will help you solve all of your problems and take control of your life again.
What? This letter was indicating that if I was out of control, then I could help me.
Although I didn’t buy the six-tape Keys to High Performance Living, this existential message from me to me seemed strangely like a very good idea. After all, when most of us feel like we’re losing control, we probably don’t need some “expert” to tell us what to do.
One of the nice things about growing up and growing older is that most of what so-called experts can teach you, you’ve already learned. The real challenge is often less about knowing what to do and more about doing what you know.
Excerpted from Radical Curiosity: One Man’s Search for Cosmic Magic and a Purposeful Life by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, with the permission of Unnamed Press. © 2021 by Ken Dychtwald
I’d like to know what you think about that pearl of wisdom, and what pearls of wisdom from your own life you would like to share with your fellow Beacon readers.
Please email or write us, or send us a comment through our website, thebeaconnewspapers.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Copies of Radical Curiosity can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com, $28 hard copy, $11.49 Kindle. The book will be available April 6.