Alexander Hamilton: Too good to be ignored

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We are at peak Hamilton.

The broadway musical is all the rage. Tickets are impossible for the foreseeable future.

The cast just graced the White House for a mini performance.

And the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has a compelling story of his own along with charisma galore.

I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat on my Mac at work. It’s excellent music whether or not you’ve seen the show or even know the basics of the story.

I’ve been reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, and it’s clear why Miranda found inspiration in the life of one of our (previously) more obscure founding fathers. Hamilton was an intense, charismatic personality with a knack for putting himself in the center of the most important events.

And he was a baller whose titanic work ethic and oversized ambition rocketed his talent to inevitable greatness.

Hamilton was a poor kid whose father abandoned him and whose mother died and left him in poverty on a hellish island in the Caribbean. Objectively, he should have been just another anonymous kid whose life was derailed by misfortunes beyond his control.

But Hamilton was too talented and too determined to be ignored. Largely self-taught, he was a prodigy with a quill and ink. The kid wrote his way off that island and into American history. (Go read the book or somehow see the show. It’s a killer story.)

What’s striking to me as I read about Hamilton is how his talent and effort and sheer audacity created the opportunities that made him and ended up helping to make our nation.

Whatever task he was given, he gave it his all. As a junior officer when the American revolution began, his competence and attention to discipline and detail in the midst of what was generally a ragtag band of half-hearted soldiers caught the eye of George Washington. His effort and resulting insights and instincts made him indispensable as General Washington’s young assistant.

Hamilton had a prodigious ability to just do work. As the architect of some of the nation’s primary government institutions and philosophies, he would write late into the night and get back at it early the next morning. He was young, but he was no overnight sensation. He  worked hard and earned his seat at the table.

I regularly refer to the comedian Steve Martin’s admonition: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” This worked for Steve Martin in stand-up comedy in the 1970s and for Alexander Hamilton in nation-building in the 1770s.

The surest way to success is focused, smart, persevering, old-fashioned effort.

You can’t control what others do or what opportunities are offered to you, but you can control what you do with what you’ve been given.

Pursue mastery. Settle in for the long haul of gradual, continuous improvement. Be awesome, and be ready to take your shot if it comes.