3 lessons we can learn from "Hamilton, and American Musical."

Ok, people, this week I’m interrupting the 4-part series from the last three weeks to get on the bandwagon and blog about Hamilton, an American Musical (and winner of 11 Tony Awards!).

I’m not going to apologize for my continued obsession with Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda.

Not only was Hamilton fresh, riveting, and completely amazing when I was fortunate enough to see it in the theater, but it just keeps getting better and better the more I listen to it.  Frankly, it’s downright brilliant and inspiring for many deeply important reasons that I won’t discuss here, but among the many reasons I love Hamilton is that it is chock full of SO many important life (and career, because we all know that I don’t think they’re two separate subjects) lessons, which I continue to find truly inspiring.

So what can Hamilton teach us about starting businesses?

Well, a lot, starting with the fact that the story of Alexander Hamilton is about the least obvious idea for a musical ever, that the show took six years to write, and, despite all that, Lin Manuel Miranda followed his heart, believed in his idea, and didn’t let any of the naysayers stop him (even when he was laughed at when he first presented the idea at the White House).

The musical itself is just as inspiring as Lin’s determination and belief in his vision:

Hamilton's overarching theme is about legacy—Hamilton is obsessed with the impact he’ll make and what he’ll leave behind. 

"What is a legacy?" Hamilton says “it's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

In contrast, Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s frenemy, is more concerned with the recognition and influence he can achieve while he’s alive.  The difference between the two men is clear: Burr seeks status, compares and competes, and his own envy, ego, and victim mindset eventually lead him to murder Hamilton, destroying his own career in the process.  While Burr wants more than anything “to be in the room where it happens,” Hamilton is, instead, motivated by his passions and convictions and his unwavering belief in their importance. 

Hamilton has many lessons to teach us, both as a society and as individuals. I’ll leave you with three that apply directly to building a stand-out business:

 

  • 1. Take a stand for what you believe in.

It won’t make you popular with everybody, but it will draw the right people even closer to you.

  • 2. Discover what you have to contribute and commit to contributing it.

Hamilton contributed with his words and ideas, Alice Waters contributed through a little French restaurant in North Berkeley that started a movement. Don’t confuse contribution with altruism or with genius either— you don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Mozart. You contribute by being the best version of yourself and throwing your hat in the ring.  What do you have to give?

  • 3. Stop comparing yourself to others.

Stop right now. The only time you should be thinking about how others’ success and achievement impacts your career is by finding inspiration in your heroes. The end. 

 

And one final message: seize the day.

In the moving sonnet that was his Tony’s acceptance speech, Miranda describes the muses that captivate and compel us and how little time we have to follow them: “We chase the melodies that seem to find us/ Until they’re finished songs and start to play/When senseless acts of tragedy remind us/That nothing here is promised, not one day.”

Sending my love and encouragement to all of you nurturers, connectors, and educators, to you stewards of the environment and keepers of culture.

 

Believe that what you want to do is possible. Hamilton did. Lin Manuel Miranda did. (And I do too).

Now you: What would you like your legacy to be? How would you like to contribute? Does comparison and competition trip you up? Love Hamilton just as much as I do? 

I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments below! 

Emily Halpern