Yesterday I saw Hamilton at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles and it’s safe to say my jaw has yet to stop hanging open. It lived up to all the hype and was somehow able to be better than I expected. For amongst the talent of the actors and actresses, the incredible music provided by the orchestra and the simple yet beautiful choreography and set design, the pure genius of the lyrics is what truly left me speechless. And while I could probably write an entire essay about the lessons I learned from the historical content of the play, I think that’s something you can only appreciate if you have the pleasure of seeing it in person. I did however walk away with a handful of lessons about the play itself, where it came from, what inspired it, and how it came to a city near me.
1) Consume Everything
Lin-Manuel Miranda first got the inspiration for Hamilton after picking up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton titled, Alexander Hamilton. After reading it, he started to envision the story being told as a musical. Now, clearly this idea turned out, you know, decent. But just think what would have happened if Lin-Manuel Miranda never picked up a copy of that book. Or rather, think what wouldn’t have happened. All those critical accolades, all those sold out Broadway shows, even this very blog post wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t grabbed a copy of ole A. Ham at the airport. That being said, it’s important to consume as much of anything and everything as we can. You never know where you’re going to find a new inspiration or a new passion that could completely change your life. So read books, see movies, get out in the world and take in what it has to offer, then (preferably) write a kickass musical about what you find so I can have something to do on Tuesday nights.
2) Pursue the Crazy
“Honestly, Lin, a musical about Alexander Hamilton?” I have no proof of anyone ever saying this to him, but I think it’s safe to assume that at least one person was on team doubt during this endeavor. But Lin-Manuel Miranda had an idea, a vision, and he pursued it, no matter how many people gave him the “Honestly, Lin” speech. And in the end, it didn’t matter how many people told him he was crazy, because that quickly became far outnumbered by the people telling him he was a genius, and probably overshadowed by a vast number of people asking him to sign their baby. Regardless, Team Doubt is looking pretty bad these days.
3) Be Bold
In my post-show stalking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I also learned that his first performance of what would eventually become the opening number of Hamilton, was at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. You know, a casual venue…where he had been invited to perform a different song! At the time he was starring in the Broadway show In the Heights—which he also wrote the music and lyrics for, isn’t it a shame this guy has no talent?—and was invited to perform music from that show, but instead he showed up with a song about Alexander Hamilton, thus treating the White House stage as the birthing room for what would go on to become one of the most successful shows in Broadway history. The man doesn’t go halfway, people.
4) Do it Your Way
“A musical about a key segment of American history, great! Wait—what do you mean it features a lot of hip hop music?” Again, I have no proof of this conversation taking place because I wasn’t in the room when it happened, but I’m just spitballing here. Lin-Manuel Miranda could have showed up with a very proper, classical musical with beautiful gowns and elaborate choreography and a few tangent storylines that were only included as people pleasers. Instead, he created this musical mastermind of a history lesson that somehow makes you want to dance and go back to 11th grade to pay closer attention at the same time. There is no recipe written anywhere that told him this would work, but he believed in it, and sometimes that’s the hardest part of any pursuit.
5) Go Out and Do It!
Whatever it is. Whatever idea you have bouncing around in your head. Whatever you find yourself daydreaming about during the workday. Go after it! Write it down. Start taking the small steps. Put a plan into motion. Because just as Hamilton probably wouldn’t have existed if Lin-Manuel Miranda hadn’t grabbed that copy of Alexander Hamilton at the airport, it also wouldn’t exist if he didn’t dig deeper into the inspiration he found in its pages. So stop throwing away your shot. Stop letting those ideas and dreams simmer out. Believe in them, chase them, write a historical hip-hop monologue about them, you never know where it might take you.