Life Lessons from Hamilton

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to go watch one of the most revolutionary musicals of our generation: Hamilton. Although it’s been a couple years since the show’s Broadway premiere, the Pantages theater was completely packed, and a long line of people hoping to snag a last-minute cancelled ticket stretched down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The show was fantastic, and Lin Manuel-Miranda’s lyrics are absolutely phenomenal, transcending genres and teaching important life (and history) lessons along the way.

What can the orphan bastard son of a whore and a Scotsman teach us about life? Here are a few quotes from Hamilton the musical that stuck with me:

  • “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait.”

I really empathize with this quote. There’s so much that I want to explore, things I want to create, ideas I want to nurture. Time is limited, but it is over time that we can accomplish everything we set our minds to. Hamilton envisioned grand plans he could accomplish, and took the time and energy to bring them to fruition. In your life, choose the things you want to spend your time on wisely, imagine what the end result will look like, and focus all your efforts on making that vision become a reality.

  • “Immigrants – we get the job done.”

The United States of America was founded by a nation of immigrants, divided as they were, seeking a cohesive identity. Immigrants have helped this country prosper, and around the world immigrants are the life-blood that reinvigorates old cultures and old countries. We need new ideas to foster innovation and spur discussion that increases the human capacity for creativity, as Hamilton himself demonstrated in the musical and in real life.

I’m the proud son of an immigrant, and he is one of the hardest-working doctors I have ever known. A strong work ethic is something that we should strive towards.

  • “If you live for nothing, Burr, then what will you fall for?”

This is one of the most poignant quotes that stuck with me for the entire musical. I sympathize with the musical’s adaptation of Aaron Burr – it can be dangerous to reveal strong beliefs, and sometimes it’s better to act neutral in times of increased polarization. I refuse to swing the pendulum and immediately jump to an “us versus them” mentality for every cause, but this quote has inspired me to be more active in taking a stand. If we truly and strongly believe in something, we need to add our voices to the discussion, regardless of consequences.

  • “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

Death is uncertain, but inevitable. The memory of you as a person, and perhaps more, will be told by unreliable narrators outside of your control. Writings, video, audio, any tangible recordings you leave behind help you shape the narrative, but you cannot truly control how others remember you. It is only while you are living that you can reach out and touch a person’s heart, your everyday actions shaping your memory as you walk this world. Facades are easily broken, and illusions quickly pierced; spend your time being genuine, and set aside some time for personal growth so that your genuine self is the person that will be remembered.

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