In his award-winning musical “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda makes the case that if Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton had taken a break from work during one particularly high-pressured summer, he could have gone onto become one of America’s greatest presidents. Instead, Hamilton refused to go on vacation with his family and made the worst decision of his life by starting an affair. The career-killing mistake is now infamously known as one of America's first political sex scandals.
“"I hadn’t slept in a week, I was weak, I was awake / You've never seen a bastard orphan more in need of a break"”
Miranda discussed the link between fatigue and poor decision-making in a livestreamed interview with The Huffington Post President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington and HuffPost Live host and producer Alyona Minkovski before his appearance at the Rockefeller Foundation’s "Insight Dialogues" series Thursday. He sang the praises of both sleep and the importance of taking a break -- for himself as well as for his characters.
“There’s no magic pill for it. No ginger, no apple cider vinegar will substitute a good night of sleep,” said Miranda. "I do believe we make our worst decisions when we’re tired.”
Huffington, who has seen the musical three times, wrote about the link between Alexander Hamilton’s lifelong workaholism, lack of sleep and his fatally poor decision-making in a May story for HuffPost. In it, she wondered whether his lack of sleep influenced not just Hamilton’s decision to couple up with romantic partner Maria Reynolds, but his agreement to participate in a duel with his political enemy, Aaron Burr.
"What connection did his burnout have with his untimely death?,” she wrote. "When you find yourself walking to a duel at dawn -- after you had lost your son in a duel three years earlier -- it’s fair to ask if you’re mustering all the wisdom you’re capable of."
The link between rest and creativity
The happy flip side of the link between fatigue and poor decision making, however, is the link between relaxation and creativity. Miranda has won Tony and Grammy awards, a MacArthur Genius grant and a Pulitzer Prize for his race-bending Broadway take on the founding fathers, and he credits the inspiration for the musical to one fateful trip.
"It’s no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life -- perhaps maybe the best one I’ll ever have in my life -- came to me on vacation," Miranda said.
"When I picked up Ron Chernow’s biography [of Hamilton], I was at a resort in Mexico on my first vacation from 'In The Heights,' which I had been working seven years to bring to Broadway,” he continued. "The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, ‘Hamilton' walked into it.”
Both Miranda's and Hamilton's stories serve as lessons for those who feel too busy to take a break -- whether it's a good night’s rest or a full-blown vacation. Miranda later joked that his experience is an excuse to justify any vacation that he wants to take for the rest of his life, and that he was looking forward to an upcoming break once he finishes performing his last show on July 9.
Take a break, Mr. Miranda! Your fans can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
CORRECTION: This story incorrectly spelled Maria Reynolds' name and said Lin-Manuel Miranda had won an Emmy for "Hamilton." It was a Grammy.