Considering Personal Excellence: Reflections from a Hamilton Fan, Part 2
I saw Hamilton in early December 2015 and, on many mornings since, I have awakened with one of the show’s iconic songs looping in my head.With other tunes, I might have been driven mad, but no. I welcome this repetitive mantra. It felt like the show, the story, was pulling me in again and again to think about what I’d seen—to really consider how and why the seeing the play was such a major experience for me. This personal clearing reminded me that unexpected genius can appear suddenly and create huge growth on many personal and professional levels.
Early on in my coaching career I learned through a certain type of assessment that one of my personal strengths is a tendency to exhibit qualities of a “maximizer.” People who display the maximizer talent look for the best, the excellence, around them. They discover or build on what is already outstanding and then refine and apply it.
I know this strengths assessment was pointing to something that resonated with me because given a choice between teaching two-year-olds how to turn their legs out to first position and bend their knees into a plié, or choreographing a technically challenging dance with pre-professional teens, there is absolutely no question that I would get more energy and more inspiration from the second option.
In recognizing the maximizer strength in myself, I find my greatest joy is working with people who are already dedicated and committed to their craft. I find flow and feel the most energized when I am around someone who is leveraging his or her talents to continue to grow to the next level of success. This means that I share fewer tendencies of a “developer,” or someone who finds deep connections in supporting those at the beginning of their paths. They are patient and kind teachers whose bliss revolves around spending their days teaching beginners, hoping to spark a life-love of the craft. And when they see that “ah-ha!” moment on their students’ faces, it’s all worth it for them. Though I'm so glad someone like that was there to help me develop early on in my journey, I know innately that helping others develop their interests is not my preference—helping those already interested.
Clearly, Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda landed on an extraordinary bundle of personal gifts, which I imagine he took some time to cultivate before they were ready to apply and manifest at the level of excellence demonstrated in his latest hit. He has apparently learned over time how to tap into that unexpected genius that shows up for a guy who’s willing to feel into our nation’s gritty past, reach back, and turn our sense of history on its ear.
The clearing for me here is twofold. First, I sometimes hear that little voice in my head criticizing me for taking so long to get where I am going, to make what feels like significant progress. And second, that strengths and talents can be used to develop skills that lead us on the path to excellence. In regard to the first clearing, beating myself up for not being better than I am now makes me push and push and work and work. I absolutely believe that excellence requires focused effort. And about that second clearing, when we discover our “strengths,” which also mean “talents which have been developed,” it means we don’t mind the work and that the work is paying off. The show Hamilton is a clearing for excellence because I see it as an eternal invitation to express my gifts and support others in expressing theirs.