- The Tony Awards/Youtube
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit “Hamilton” is everything (you don’t win sixteen Tonys by just being mediocre).
It’s also pretty much about everything: it manages to cram musings on history, passion, governance, memory, legacy, friendship, war, jealousy, love, race, America, and death into its 47 catchy songs.
I’d argue that one of the musical’s most important threads deals with success and drive.
The entire show hinges around the boundless ambition and superhuman work ethic of Alexander Hamilton, as played by Miranda. Meanwhile, Leslie Odom Jr.’s Aaron Burr has his dreams of political success frustrated. Angelica Schuyler Church, played by Renée Elise Goldsberry, sees her ambitions stifled by the sexist standards of the 18th century. Other characters, like the members of Hamilton’s squad, George Washington (Chris Jackson), and Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), all doggedly pursue their own goals.
“Hamilton” might be about statesmen that lived and died over 200 years ago, but the musical is so accessible that it’s easy to relate to its characters and ideas. Forget the “10 Duel Commandments” – here are 11 of the musical’s pearls on success that you can apply to your own career and ambitions:
Take your time
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Don’t rush your dreams.
This piece of advice may sound odd, especially given the meteoric rise of both the real-life Hamilton and the 2015 musical based upon his life.
But it’s important to reflect on how much work went into this play. After getting inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of the first Treasury Secretary, Miranda spent six years of his life writing “Hamilton,” according to Fortune.
Instead of rushing to capitalize on his good idea and the momentum of his previous Broadway hit “In the Heights,” Miranda took his time. He nurtured and cultivated his inkling until it was polished.
So, don’t hurry your passion. Take the time you need to hone your craft and make your projects special, whatever they may be.
Never stop learning
In the musical, Hamilton is always striving to gain more knowledge.
As a young clerk in the Caribbean, he worked hard and “read every treatise on the shelf” before getting sent to King’s College – now Columbia University.
As a young undergraduate, he focuses on his studies, but also educates himself on the complex politics brewing in colonial New York City on the eve of the American Revolution.
He gets the coveted position of aide d’camp to George Washington and becomes immersed in battle strategy. After the war, he went back to New York and became one of the best lawyers around. As Treasury Secretary, he willed the nation’s financial system into existence.
The man is constantly expanding his mind and reinventing himself – he is never satisfied with resting on his laurels.
One of Hamilton’s defining traits is his ability to “write like he’s running out of time.” His work ethic is off the charts.
This is clear when an amazed Burr points out that, when it came to writing the influential Federalist Papers, John Jay quit after writing five, James Madison wrote 29, and Hamilton wrote … the other 51!
His monster productivity, whether he’s in the army or the President’s Cabinet, allows him to quickly rise to prominence.
… but don’t burn yourself out
As a result of his ambition, Hamilton struggles to maintain a good work-life balance.
Time and time again, the character resists his family’s insistence that he “Take a Break.”
As a result, he gets so burned out that he has an affair with Maria Reynolds, resulting in extortion and a disastrous fall out.
So, work hard, but don’t let work ruin your life.
Your support system is crucial
The musical makes it clear that, while Hamilton was a remarkable individual, he wouldn’t have succeeded without his team.
Hamilton’s squad – the Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and John Laurens – single him out as a talented, passionate individual and include him in their group. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington immediately singles out Hamilton as his new “right hand man.” The Schuyler sisters provide him with an actual family.
Through their support and encouragement, these individuals all played a major roll in Hamilton’s success. It’s important to find the people that you can rely on in your life.
Take a few risks
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During the musical’s first act, Burr constantly advised Hamilton and his friends to lower their voices and back off criticizing England and King George. Revolution would be bloody and risky, he reasoned.
They ignored him, took a risk, and it paid off big-time.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to go with your gut.
Don’t be afraid to fight
Hamilton doesn’t mince words. That gets him into trouble throughout the musical, but it’s also one of his most admirable qualities.
In “Cabinet Battle #1” and “Cabinet Battle #2“, Hamilton deftly schools his Democratic-Republican rivals in Congress. Later on, he jumps back into the political game during the contentious “Election of 1800” to shoot down Aaron Burr’s campaign.
He’s honest and he never shies away from defending his beliefs. If you’re going to pursue your goals, you’ve got to be able to stand up for your beliefs. If you won’t, nobody will.
Figure out what motivates you
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Tragically, Hamilton is motivated by his traumatic childhood. He believes death is lurking right around the corner, and seeks to leave a positive, powerful legacy before he dies.
It’s important to figure out what motivates you (hopefully it’s nothing that dark). Tap into that and use it to propel your goals forward.
Keep moving on
For such a joyful musical, “Hamilton” deals with a lot of heavy stuff.
Hamilton himself faces numerous obstacles and setbacks. These include personal tragedies, like the deaths of his mother and son. His own poor decisions impact his life, like his affair with Maria Reynolds and subsequent, misguided attempt to save his legacy by public ally revealing the tryst.
Still, the man doesn’t stop moving. He seeks forgiveness from his family and resolves to be better. He re-enters politics to stand up for what he believes in.
He doesn’t give up.
Success isn’t a zero sum game
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After killing his rival in a duel, Burr makes a startling realization: “The World was Wide Enough” for him and Hamilton. He’d been blinded by jealousy and resentment toward his old friend. And, in the end, he paid for it.
Remember, life’s short
Hamilton doesn’t ever hesitate – he attacks his life with gusto.
This intense motivation had a dark side; his ambitions often complicate his personal life. He could win Eliza’s love with his barrage of love letters, but he still broke her heart by drowning himself in work and acting carelessly. He loved his son Philip and fought a war to provide him with a bright future, but he had trouble unwinding and spending quality time with his family.
So we should follow Hamilton’s lead and pursue our goals like crazy, while avoiding his mistakes – life is short, make time for the ones you love.