The popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s record-breaking musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, has not only electrified theater stages in New York and Chicago but has reinvigorated an interest in American history and Alexander Hamilton, himself.
I had the good fortune of attending a recent Chicago performance of Hamilton and I couldn’t help but take note of the many valuable lessons I came away with after hearing and seeing Alexander Hamilton’s story and that of our Founding Fathers’ brought to life. What was clear to me is that no matter your political point of view or background, you have the ability to change history – now – and leave behind a legacy for future generations to build upon.
“The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter, by fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter.” – Hamilton: The Revolution (McCarter & Miranda, 2016)
As the oldest of ten growing up in a rural area with daily outdoor chores, I’m familiar with the concept of hard work. At a young age, I was taught the value of a hard day’s work – bailing hay and putting up fences. It was both a joy and an early lesson in sweat equity. My parents encouraged me to earn a college degree in accounting so that I could one day “do the books for my husband.” I was fortunate to have their support in pursuit of my college education and they were brilliant to suggest a degree in accounting since a fundamental understanding of finance is critical in business. However, where our logic differed was in how I would apply my degree – balancing my husband’s checkbook versus pursuing my own career in business.
Lesson # 1 – As an entrepreneur and daughter of immigrants, I encourage each person that seeks advice or inspiration to be a self-starter – to make things happen by being proactive. There will be so many obstacles standing in your way to success, but no amount of success can be achieved without working harder and smarter than others.
“I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.” – Hamilton: The Revolution (McCarter & Miranda, 2016)
No matter if you’re a recent college graduate, a new entrepreneur or an established executive, you learn quickly that building your career or a company requires long hours, networking, and wearing every hat imaginable to get the job done. I am inspired by the ambition and creativity of our younger generations whom I’ve met when speaking at various universities and corporate functions. These young, hungry students and recent graduates are chock-full of ideas, but lack experience in business and leadership, and access to capital resources. These shortcomings can be turned into opportunities through the right coaching and mentoring from experienced professionals.
Lesson #2: I encourage tenured businesspersons to engage younger generations through mentorship so we can continue to innovate, infuse fresh thinking into business and foster a thriving economy. We depend on the ideas and creativity of each class of graduates to keep our country ahead of the curve. The best way for our nation to succeed is to encourage and cultivate these scrappy ideas and nurture them into something great.
“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”- Hamilton: The Revolution (McCarter & Miranda, 2016)
Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and so many other Founding Fathers raced to create a country liberated from British control; in doing so, they were essentially building and flying the plane at the same time. They had no rule book. They had no economy. There were only spontaneity and fundamental ideals of freedom. Alexander Hamilton and others wrote those ideas down in our U.S. Constitution and left a legacy to uphold for future generations.
Lesson #3: This improvisation is exhibited in entrepreneurship. There are well-established ways to run a business and some rules that cannot be ignored, but in many ways, entrepreneurs are writing their own rule book. Building a business or a career is chaotic, so it’s important to focus on the ideals you think are most important and figure out how to protect those standards going forward.
Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda and many others have created revolutionary legacies for themselves and for their respective fields; in this case, politics for one and entertainment for another. There are many ways to achieve greatness and to leave a remarkable legacy for future generations. You just need to have the grit, hunger, determination and focus to see those ideals through.