I Did It My Way

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Aug 20, 2011

"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, the only way, it does not exist."
Friedrich Nietzsche

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey as the only child of Italian immigrants where he was raised as a Roman Catholic. He began singing for tips at age eight (8). He was a rowdy teenager and dropped out of high school. He began singing professionally in the 1930's as a teenager learning music by ear and never learned how to read music. 

Sinatra got his big break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. He later got a job as a singing waiter and from there he joined the Frank Mane Band on a one year contract for $75 per week. 

But it was at a November 1939 meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago when band leader Tommy Dorsey invited him to join his band. Because Dorsey's band was one of the hottest bands at the time, that meeting was a turning point in Sinatra's career. By 1941 he was at the top of the male singer polls. Sinatra went on to become one of the most recognized voices in America. 

Over the years his career and personal life bounced from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Early in his musical journey he even tried to commit suicide, but in spite of being at times manic depressive, his influence earned for him the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Ronald Reagan. 

But one of the most significant contributions of his entire life was the way he popularized the Paul Anka song "My Way." Sinatra recorded his version of the song on December 30, 1968 making its way into one of the top songs of that era. 

Over the years the song "My Way" has gone through many mutations and it has been performed by countless musicians. Elvis Presley began performing it in concert during the mid-1970's. Punk rock musicians sang a version of it. U2 regularly performed a bit of it on their 1992-1993 tour. All over the world musicians included it in their repertoires. It even became the song most frequently played at British funeral services. 

The lyrics of "My Way" tell the story of a man who, near death, is comfortable with how he dealt with all the twists of his life while always maintaining a certain degree of justification for how he had lived. 

Since I kind of knew the words and I kind of liked the tune I guess I kind of consented to the primary idea behind the song. Sure, it seems a bit grandiose and even precocious, but with feigned importance who of us has not belted out that line with our best Sinatra-like imitation just to make a humorous point, "I did it my way." 

But the actual message of "My Way" is anything but funny. When our "end is near" and we "face the final curtain" after we have "lived a life that's full" and "travelled each and every highway" with "a few regrets" for "biting off more than we can chew" and "loved" and "laughed" and "cried" with "my share of losing," how sad that we did it all "my way." 

And the final words say it all: 
For what is a man? What has he got? 
If not himself - then he has naught. 
To say the things he truly feels 
And not the words of one who kneels 
The record shows I took the blows 
And did it my way. 

Is "my way" really the best way? Elton Trueblood said it this way, "The ancient truth is that the health of the self comes, not by concentrating on self, but by such dedication to something outside the self, that self is thereby forgotten." 

I would rather live my life that way instead of "my way." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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