What Can Hamilton Teach The Next Great Self-Starters?

At the heart of Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash-hit musical Hamilton is the idea that we are all running out of time. The titular character Alexander Hamilton is a man driven by ambition and concerned with the legacy he is leaving behind. He works non-stop and is undoubtedly one of the great self-starters in history. While a dramatized account by nature, the musical provides valuable insight into his entrepreneurial spirit that is applicable to all of us.

It’s difficult to achieve goals. In a time when so many of are plagued by feelings of apathy, it's hard to see how anyone smashes through barriers and achieves astounding success. It isn't uncommon to hear amazing stories of regular people doing unbelievable things. We see awe-inspiring interviews on the news with athletes battling disabilities or even entrepreneurs creating multi-million dollar companies from the ground up. No matter how unattainable these achievements may seem, these successful individuals have several things in common. In the opening song titled "Alexander Hamilton," Lin-Manuel Miranda writes:

The ten-dollar founding father without a father

Got a lot farther by working a lot harder

By being a lot smarter

By being a self starter

By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a

Trading charter

These early lines set the tone for the rest of the musical depiction of Alexander Hamilton's life. He was born impoverished and at a severe disadvantage, with few privileges to speak of. When he came to America, he wasn't formally educated and he was penniless. Working his way to the top of the American political sphere was no easy feat. Alexander Hamilton was an orphan, immigrant, soldier, and statesman -- but before that he was an entrepreneur.

When you examine the context of the lives of great individuals, you can often find the catalyst that sparked their thirst. This catalyst is vital to accomplishing goals. Alexander Hamilton was orphaned at an early age -- this was his catalyst. He learned quickly that, "you gotta fend for yourself." He tirelessly taught himself and read every book he could find. Fourteen-year-old Alexander started, “workin', clerkin, for his late mother's landlord / Tradin' sugar cane and rum and all the things he can't afford."

Hamilton learned important entrepreneurial skills in charge of a West Indies trading charter, and that set the stage for his future successes. Bartering in the Caribbean taught young Alexander the importance of compromise. This is where he developed an understanding of the importance of economics, foreshadowing his later role as the first Secretary of the Treasury. Not only did he surround himself with like-minded allies, he encouraged greatness is those around him. Hamilton's zeal was infectious. Key to his success was an acute awareness of his own mortality. He never expected to live long and didn't put off his dreams until tomorrow.

Self-starting individuals surround themselves with like-minded mentors, friends, and followers. It's difficult to stay motivated if your friends don't believe in you. Learn when to tune in and when to tune out. Not everyone is worth your time. Avoid anyone who would rather tear you down than help. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are depicted at odds with each other primarily due to their ideological differences. Hamilton's life was built on the practice of relentlessly pursuing his goals. He was the original self-starting entrepreneur. Burr preferred to bide his time, waiting for the perfect moment instead of creating it himself.

Learn from your mistakes and use them to teach you how to succeed. Self-awareness tempered with persistence will equip you to overcome your trials. Take the time to cultivate your talents and pursue your interests. Whether it's reading "every treatise on the shelf" or writing "your first refrain," you must practice what you intend to achieve. No one else can achieve for you.

Surround yourself with worthwhile friends and mentors who can teach you valuable skills and offer support. Take the time to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit. Persevere and learn from your mistakes. Don't put off what you can accomplish today. Pursue your goals every day and soon you'll get your shot. Alexander Hamilton was willing to go to any lengths to preserve his legacy. 212 years after his death, the world still knows his name.

David Kirby is a screenwriter, editor, and columnist. You can find more of his work at McCauley's Columns.