Don't Throw Away Your Shot

When I saw Hamilton, I was not only blown away by the brilliance of the lyrics and the acting, but I also realized how relevant some of the show's themes are to my life, despite the vastly different time period. Here are 10 lessons I learned from Hamilton that we can all benefit from and apply to our lives:

Don't size someone up so quickly.

When Angelica first met Hamilton, she judged him so quickly that she didn’t see the feelings she had for him, a mistake that pained her for the rest of her life. It is often easy to form an opinion on someone within the first few seconds of meeting them, but try to resist that urge. First impressions can often be mistaken, and you never know what you could miss when you judge someone too quickly. When you meet someone new, give them a chance, go into the conversation with an open mind, because you never know what it could lead to in the future.

Teach them to say goodbye.

Washington knew he couldn’t lead forever, and resigned the presidency to prove that the ideals he created in leadership would live on without him. The realization that we can’t always be there is something that all of us will face at some point. We often want to hold on to what we create, to ensure that we can keep it going, but we eventually have to let go. Unfortunately, we can’t be around forever, but what we create can, and at some point we have to let it live on without us.

Duels are dumb and immature.

Dueling brought an early end to Hamilton’s life. What began as a difference in opinion ended in a deadly clash. Violence is not the way to go about solving disputes, and often does more harm than good. If you disagree with someone, talk it out instead of fighting. With a civil argument, chances are both sides will come out having learned something that will deepen their understanding and perspective. In a violent fight, someone ends up hurt. Disputes should stay between the issues, and a violent method of resolution will only lead to pain and suffering.

You are the one thing in life you can control

Burr’s love interest was married to a British officer. Hamilton was denied a command every time he requested one from Washington. Sometimes, circumstances are far less than ideal, and you have no control over that. The one thing you can control is how you react when things don't exactly go your way. Do you sit back and complain, or do you suck it up, get out there, and fight through the hard times. What defines your character is not the adversity you face, but how you chose to react to that adversity.

Take a break.

The stress of being overworked can often lead to bad decisions. Hamilton’s case was extreme, as it led to an extramarital affair. In our lives, it will probably never be that extreme, but our heads are not clear when we’re under stress. Whether it’s a big paper or exam, or anything else that seems like it’s impossible to get away from, you will benefit in the long run from taking a break. If you feel stressed and overworked, step back for a bit, clear your head, and it will go a great way to ensure that you are able to put your best foot forward when you return to work.

Make it impossible to justify the cost of the fight.

In the face of adversity, persistence is key. The revolutionaries may have been outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, and out-planned, but their willpower and refusal to give up ultimately pushed back the British and won them their freedom. Just because you’re outmatched doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. In the face of adversity, keep fighting. If you really want something, show the resolve to keep going after it, and you will succeed.

Never be satisfied.

Hamilton was never satisfied with his work. Once he joined the revolution, he wanted to fight. Once the revolutionaries won, he wanted to help build the new nation. His drive to improve was instrumental in creating the financial structure of our nation, which would never have happened without Hamilton’s constant desire to do more. There is no such thing as perfection, and there is always more you can strive to do.

If you stand for nothing, what'll you fall for?

Burr’s major flaw was that he never took a strong stand on his opinions and ideals. He always veiled his opinions to stay out of trouble, and Hamilton called him on it throughout the play, showing us how important it is not only to hold ideals, but also to stand by them in the face of adversity. Stand up for what you believe in, let the world know how you feel, because you will never be able to bring about change if nobody ever knows your visions for the world. But, sometimes you may have to…

Talk less, smile more.

Fighting for your ideals does not always mean talking constantly to get your point across. Hamilton may have criticized Burr for not standing by his opinions, but sometimes less is more. Hamilton’s mouth often got him into trouble and had the potential to cause disputes that could’ve been avoided. You can get your points across without shouting over everyone else in the room, and sometimes you can gain more insight by listening to and internalizing what the other side has to say. And finally…

Don't throw away your shot.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore grow up to be a hero and a scholar? By working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, and, most importantly, by being a self-starter. When he saw an opportunity, Hamilton took the initiative to chase it. This is the single most important tool for success. The only way to achieve anything, to advance yourself in life, is to go after opportunities when they appear. These opportunities could appear anywhere and at any time, so keep your eye out for them and don’t let them pass you by.

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