Getting to know Communicator, Editor, Writer, Storyteller, Author and Motivational Speaker

Dwight Whitney

In another era, he’d be known as a man of words.  Dwight makes his life through words.  Telling stories.  Solving problems.  Promoting ideas.  Helping people to find their own way in the worlds of life, business, pleasure and brand building.

Over decades Dwight has been a writer, editor, and contributor to a wide range of national and international publications and platforms, particularly magazines.

Being naturally creative, positive and having a sense of fun, fuelled by having three parts of his story by way of heritage, history and the ‘here and now’—has allowed him to travel easily across sectors and subject matter.  He has applied his own wordsmithing to creating  stories that people mostly enjoy; some find life changing and empowering.

Many moons ago as a member of the original Metro magazine team, editor Warwick Roger labelled him as Hunter S Thompson of the Southern Hemisphere.  Most likely due to being American and having a writing style attuned to New Journalism.  Unlike the original Dr Gonzo, he’s not an alcoholic, nor biker, nor reliant on ‘wretched excesses’ to start stories. Like him, however, he is creative, humorous, and passionate, using his ability to tell stories, to open ideas, and share different worlds.

That desire and talent has now taken him into the world of wanting to share his experiences, and even solutions, to help people age young and well.  Helping them belong, be resilient, deal with the myriad of demons this good old world produces, and show that there is always hope and happiness.  This is not a ‘kumbaya’ approach of ideology; but one grounded, hard earned and waiting to be shared.

Available for:

  • Keynote speaker
  • Media commentary on ageing young, bullying, resilience, belonging, and any other matter or issue related to living/ageing well.

Here’s your chance to learn more about one of New Zealand’s fantastic storytellers

You’ve experienced a lot of trauma in your life, how did that come about?
Through no desire of my own, I seem to find myself in situations that are not only challenging but life changing.  Ask me about my wife dying during childbirth and me being the one to keep her alive.  Or the story about the Japanese land lady intent on starving me to death as punishment for WWII.  Or being told I had six hours to live…and made it through.  Then there is the really wicked one of the trauma produced by being maliciously and sadistically bullied for over a year and having the effects flow up like a time bomb over 30 years later.  But wait…there’s MORE.  Yet, I’ve been resilient and kept a sense of happiness and fun regardless. I learned from martial arts, training the ability to fall seven times and get up eight.

What was the tipping point for you, and what impact did that have on your life?
There could well have been a plethora of tipping points, but the one singular event was having to reconstruct myself from the deconstruction of having to face the traumatic effects of severe bullying some 30 years after the fact.  When I was told I was the most traumatised person the professionals had ever met…and who was still alive and functioning.  I was diagnosed with PTSD and effectively had to rebuild my life.  At the same time, I had to be ‘on board’ for the here and now of my life as a man, husband and father.

A lot people would have given up, what is it that kept and keeps you going?
I come from a very old US family—so without the blind patriotism side of things, I took pride in this and used this frame of reference to battle the abuse and ridicule.  I also loved my daughter and wife, mother and father.  I had a duty to be there for them and that gave me extraordinary power and insights, which I then put to good effect in creating ideas and initiative to make the world different.

Do you think your story is more familiar in New Zealand that we realise?
New Zealand leads the world in a great many positive spheres.  Sadly, also among very negative indicators of bullying, abuse, domestic and other violence.  Our suicide rates indicate the attrition rate is very high.  In work I have done to try to end bullying in New Zealand I’ve come across hundreds of people with stories of their own…many about people they’ve known killing themselves as they couldn’t find any way to ‘belong’.  That needs to change, and I’m committed to that.

Who or what has had the greatest influence on your survival and current health today, and why?
Me as the extraordinary driver of staying alive and wanting to thrive came from me and a commitment to belong, and be there, for my daughter and wife primarily.  They naturally helped me along with some special friends who ‘got’ what was going on and supported me on the rebuild.  Keeping a smile on your inner face at least is essential.  I think having an inner strength and pride in my own family history, plus having been exposed to a radically different culture, gave me extra endurability.

Men often suffer in silence, because it isn’t manly to admit you need help in the New Zealand psyche, what one piece of advice would you give to a male reading this?
Firstly, belong with yourself and in yourself.  If there are any issues or demons lurking in your physical, mental, spiritual or other important ‘worlds’, deal with them.  Forget what the people on the side lines might be saying.  It’s your game, win it for yourself and the ones you love.

You’ve been an editor and writer for years but how did authorship come about?
I co-wrote a book on entrepreneurship with Dr Ian Brooks.  I have been a ghost writer for several books—mainly to do with business, entrepreneurship and, surprisingly, reinterpretations of Christianity.  I even wrote a one off ‘gift’ to Sir Richard Branson—a book about him if he had been born a New Zealander.  Joining up with my good friend, media consultant and evolutionary psychologist Julian Macfarlane spawned the Ageing Young series.  Our combined stories, we felt, would help people around to world to age well, young and free.  Julian’s good friend Mark Pritchett, David Bowie’s original lead guitarist, gifted us the title; In the spirit of you’re NEVER too old to rock n roll.

Aging well is a concept we understand; you’ve taken that a step further by calling it aging young, what do you mean by that?
There are tsunamis of pressure and influence to make you conform to ageing on others’ terms versus your own.  Like ‘growing up’, ‘being mature’ and the like.  In the books and from our own experiences, we document how you can change the process to suit you and your own life.  Part of that is remaining ‘young’.  Throughout the books we pay homage to a great deal of rock culture and ideas—the music of our times and life.  Particularly Jethro Tull—our by-line of ‘You’re Never Too Old’ comes from their rock opera of a similar name.

You speak Japanese and spent a lot of time there. As a culture is there anything to be learnt from how the Japanese age?
They have Confucian influences on culture so respecting older people is essential.  Being a ‘foreigner’ in Japan was perhaps the greatest gift as it taught me that you can be different, you can be yourself, and not having the pressures to conform on others’ terms was very empowering.  I worked at Japan Broadcasting as a writer; taught journalism and literature at a university; and was adopted by a sushi master and became part of his family.  I really belonged even through I was TOTALLY alien.

How did you become a motivational speaker, and why does your message resonate with everyday people?
Through the years I’ve shared stories of my life with others.  These have brought astonishment, disbelief, laughter, tears, anger, but also encouragement.  The Ageing Young platform is a great starting point to explore all sorts of themes including belonging, resilience, dealing with the demons and the like.  What I think has amazed people the most along my journey of dealing with miles and piles of trials…is the ability for me to keep smiling.  I laugh a lot and seem to allow people to share in this humour to gain insight into themselves.  Life is a laughing matter.  In many ways I’m extraordinarily ordinary but seem to have a gift to find the essence and meaning of a lot of things.