I talk a lot about how we can have clearings in our lives, moments of extraordinary insight; the kinds of insights that rock your world forever. Seeing the musical Hamilton is one such clearing for me. I received unexpected tickets to the show, making me feel as if I’d won the lottery. During the performance my mind was equally captivated by what was happening on stage as it was running wild with all of the life and work parallels I was drawing from the story.
I was a history buff in high school and took the AP exams in both American and European history. At that time, I’d been more drawn to European history. When I saw Hamilton, though, American history came alive for me. During that three-hour musical journey, I saw with crystal-clear understanding the value of bringing present-day sensibilities and perspectives to the extraordinary story of our country’s founding, two hundred and forty years ago.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the son of Cuban immigrants and writer and composer of Hamilton, is, perhaps, not someone we might have expected to pen and perform such a dynamic production based on American history. Throughout the musical, Miranda uses spoken word, rap, soaring melodies, and rhythm to capture the anticipation, fear, and hope that burns in the human heart when the reality of personal and political freedom is just around a very bloody corner. Miranda himself said in a 60 Minutes interview, “Rap is the language of revolution.” It is only fitting that Hamilton’s look at history through a new perspective and modern lens should also be reflected in the style of music. Making history come alive in the way that Miranda breathes new life and a new perspective into the birth of our nation, we can see how noble and also how vulnerable we are as humans. We still stumble and fall, suffer and rejoice.
When I think about what Miranda did to reframe a history, I see how clearly it connects with our present day. Miranda applied today’s perspectives to the “story of us,” a process we can use to question and reconsider how we live and work from day to day. We can completely shift how we view our stories—business, personal, or otherwise.
How often in leadership do we find ourselves fixed on today’s to-do list, grinding out the work at hand; or focused on projections, and all the things that could go wrong, taking us and our team down an unforeseen future path? Are we stranded in a present that’s always informed by the same old, threadbare interpretation of the past? Maybe it’s time to put a little Hamilton in our business history! Looking at the history of our team, our organization, and our own career, with fresh eyes can open up a new clearing for our unexpected genius to show up.