Thoughts on Experience


We live in an increasingly experience driven culture. Some folks have gone to far as to call this over fascination with experience as relativism. Regardless of our opinion about the current cultural climate in which we exist, we cannot deny that experience is an essential thread in the fabric of our society.

And experience isn’t all that bad. Think back with me for a moment. Can you remember the first time you experienced great joy or hope? How about when you had your first kiss? Or the first time you rode your bike without training wheels? Perhaps the experience that comes to mind is one of great pain or sorrow. What can be said of all of these experiences in your memory (recent or past), they have shaped you in some fashion.

My favorite food to eat on our planet is pizza. I really enjoy it! But this favorite food of mine would not have become my favorite if I didn’t first experience what it was all about. My experience of tasting pizza shaped my personal preference in favorite food options…and that’s ok.

The challenge with experience is when we desire for our experience to be the experience of others. Call it jealous, envy or controlling behavior, our intentions (however good they may be) of seeing others experience what we’ve experienced are often misinterpreted as something negative instead of something positive.

Here’s an example. You might enjoy the fact that TELUS provides your cable service, while others may not share your enthusiasm for this particular cable provider. Your experience might have been great, but another person’s experience of the very same thing you greatly enjoyed might not be. This, I would suggest, is probably the number one challenge for today’s parent. We make our decisions on how to parent our kids based on our own personal experiences. We either want them to have what we didn’t have, or we want them to have what we had. The misconception with this parenting reality is that our own experiences cannot and should not be the experiences of our kids. Just because our experience was great, doesn’t mean that theirs will be…there are no guarantees in life other than death and taxes, right?

My daughter’s school experience is a valuable reminder of this basic concept for me as a parent. In her school, you would be hard pressed to find a single desk outside of those the teachers occupy. The learning experience for these students is one that is based upon a learning focused community instead of a teaching focused one. What this means is that students are invited to engage in learning according to their natural learning outlet (visual, audio or kinesthetic). When I was in school, there was only one way to learn and if you didn’t get it, your experience of school may have suffered. While my personal experience of school wasn’t terrible, outside of the generic rhetoric of disliking it, but just because my experience wasn’t bad doesn’t necessarily mean any of my kids would experience the exact same thing as I did in the setting that I did.

As a parent, and a leader, I shouldn’t succumb to the pitfall of fixating on creating or subjecting others to the same experience that I had, but instead I should be looking for them to simply have a great experience. Isn’t that all I could really hope for? I can’t recreate what I’ve experienced to the same degree that I experienced it…or am I really that vein to think so?

Experience isn’t a bad thing, but our experience should never seek to be THE experience of others. Instead, I should have the courage, freedom and wonder to allow those whom I care about to pursue and embrace a great experience, even if that means it’s different than what I know. There is great beauty in embracing the diversity of life and the experiences that it brings. Differing experiences adds to the richness of the full life that is promised to all of humankind if we simply accept the invitation to be part of adventure that truly does last a lifetime.

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