Their Way is the Highway

Few people do well in life when they try to live by the credo “My Way or the Highway.” And, arguably, doing “well” by this precept could include only parochial or narrow experience.

Those who, instead, choose a life rich with experience and learning will take a different route. World travelers are a good example. They understand that dynamic and cosmopolitan experience is often led by a someone else’s perspective, a sort of “Their Way is the Highway” position on experiencing and learning.

My time travelling and living abroad was best when I opened myself to other ways of doing things. And working with thousands of international teachers has affirmed for me that people gain much more from an experience when they relax their own predispositions and try to fully immerse themselves in new perspectives, lifestyles or day-to-day practices.

If I were to package “Their Way is the Highway” into 3 key insights, I’d say the following are most instructive:

  1. Grey is Gold: we find it easier to organize ways of doing things into binaries like “right” or “wrong”, “true” or “false”, etc. But, there really is so much fluidity to ways of living and experiencing that black or white thinking will cut us off from true experience. Grey is the golden perspective on new experiences. Remember to process other peoples’ perspectives on a spectrum of valid experiences.
  2. Ask, Try, Listen: before attempting to try something new or even to try something old in a new environment, first ask for guidance about how to do whatever the task is at hand. Once you try to do the task using someone else’s guidance, then seek and listen to the feedback you’re given. The point here is that you can truly experience and learn only when you allow yourself to understand and follow someone else’s guidance.
  3. Meaning Maps: each of us has a history of (mostly positive, hopefully,) experience. As we move forward in life, that experience history serves as a meaning map, a set of learned instructions, for navigating life. If the aim is to gain a fresh, new experience, then it’s best to temporarily set aside our own meaning maps so we are less likely to fall into a closed loop of trodden experience. Remember, new life paths with entirely new challenges, entirely new rules and entirely new opportunities is sometimes a better route to edifying experience.

I suppose it’s important to note that blindly following any other person’s or any other people’s instructions is not always safe. Of course, choosing the person or people from whom a new experience can be gained must involve one’s own best judgment, the input of trusted family/friends and others “in the know” before we open ourselves to new experience.

Some of you know the American actor Shia LaBeouf. He recently completed his “#takemeanywhere” project, which involved posting his current location on social media and then accepting any travel experience from strangers who first arrived at his location. That version of “Their Way is the Highway” is not exactly the approach I would want my own son to take. But, the underlying principle is there. As LaBeouf put it, “I go from self-examination, to self-love, to people-love, and, so, it’s really joyful on the other side of these projects.” 

Jordan DeCoste is Regional Manager, North America, and Learning Systems Manger, Global at Edvectus and he is based in Toronto, Canada. 

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