Why I Wrote My Memoir “Radical Curiosity: My Life on the Age Wave.”

September 9, 2023

Why I Wrote My Memoir “Radical Curiosity: My Life on the Age Wave.”

May 29, 2023

Time and again, I’ve been surprised by how often my professional interests and pursuits have collided or overlapped with formative events and explorations in my personal life. For example, my personal and professional dive into the importance of life lessons and leaving a legacy.

Around a decade ago, my company, Age Wave, oversaw a national study about leaving or receiving an inheritance. In focus groups, participants were uncomfortable with talking about inheritance. Feeling stymied, I told the focus group moderator to “try changing the word from inheritance to legacy. As it turned out, everyone was eager to share a wide range of feelings about what they hoped to leave behind for their children, grandchildren, and community. Our subsequent survey among thousands of people uncovered four key pillars of legacy. 

One pillar had to do with the disposition of wealth or real estate. While valuable, it ranked fourth in importance.

The second (and third in importance) was “possessions of emotional value.” There was a thought-provoking study conducted by the University of Minnesota called “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?”—that title said it all. 

Third was “instructions and wishes to be fulfilled.” Here’s an example from my own family: My mom and dad had the good fortune of being in love and married for seventy-one years before my dad passed away. He had become blind in his last ten years from diabetes-related macular degeneration, and my mom had Alzheimer’s. In his later years, my dad insisted that my brother and I spend a day for him to share his wishes for how he wanted our mom, his beloved wife, to be cared for after he died. He didn’t want her in a nursing home and never wanted her to feel alone or frightened. He also wanted us to spend whatever was necessary for her to feel secure and loved. We agreed to all his wishes with respect and honor, and we realized that this provided him with very important peace of mind. 

The fourth and most important pillar of legacy turned out to be “values and life lessons.” Not everyday details like What’s your favorite football team? Deeper, significant stories that reflect core values and important life lessons. The ones that answer questions such as: What do you hold to be true? Who do you love and why? What was your experience as a child, and what do you believe your role has been as a parent? How do you discern right from wrong? How do you feel about religion, and what are your beliefs about God? How do you feel about your work, your life, your impending death? What can we learn about the journey of life from your experiences?

Inspired by this research and motivated by the profoundly moving experience of my dad’s passing, I decided to write my memoir, Radical Curiosity: My Life on the Age Wave, to consider, create, and share my legacy stories and my most important life lessons.

In this book, I take a deep look at what it means to age in today’s changing world and explore how curiosity can impact your life. There are fun stories as well as struggles and lessons from my journey, including seeking and finding purpose (again and again), being caught between the Tao and the Dow, overcoming failure and loss, why I’ve remarried my wife 40 times, coping with the death of loved ones, and the primal role of loving relationships.

Readers will get a front-row seat to intimate conversations and “menterning” (thanks, Chip Conley, for this terrific word/concept!) experiences with several Presidents—including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan—as well as luminaries such as Betty Friedan, Huston Smith, Maggie Kuhn, Nelson Mandela, and many more. I hope readers enjoy and learn a bit from my very irregular journey…it is still a work in process.

Note: All of the earnings from this book are being donated to Esalen Institute. 

Dr. Ken Dychtwald is North America’s foremost visionary and original thinker regarding the lifestyle, marketing, health care, economic and workforce implications of the age wave. He’s a psychologist, gerontologist, and best-selling author of 19 books on aging-related issues, including his recently updated memoir, “Radical Curiosity: My Life on the Age Wave.

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