Let’s talk about something I love: Hamilton.
And in case it needs to be noted, I’m talking about the musical about Alexander Hamilton, not Hamilton himself.
(Although my obsession has led to learning a lot about him, and he was pretty kickass too.)
I can’t get enough of it. It’s the soundtrack to all my waking hours, and I even take a Hamilton dance class. In case you haven’t seen it gushed over online or watched its awesome Grammy performance, here’s the low down: It’s a Broadway musical containing mostly rap and R&B songs about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
And it’s not your everyday show.
I go crazy over showtunes all the time, but most people don’t (shame on you, society).
Hamilton is an exception. People are going crazy for it. It’s sold out on Broadway for about the next 200 years, has already had to announce a tour, and it’s created a fandom that rivals those of the most popular or cultish TV shows.
The Obamas and James Corden both love it, and Rosie O’Donnell has seen it something like 12 times (not cool, Rosie, tickets are hard enough to get without you buying TWELVE).
A few more facts…
What Makes Hamilton Special
- It all started because the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, read a biography about a Founding Father and saw someone who “embodies hip-hop.” He explains it to the White House here, when he unveiled the first song in 2009. That’s not the kind of connection most minds would make, and the world is worse for it!
- All the snobby white dudes that make up America’s history are played by actors and actresses of color – making a dent in Broadway’s diversity problem. The one white principal actor is Jonathan Groff, and he’s The Groff – 100% welcome in anything I’m ever watching or listening to, ever, ever, ever.
- It manages to draw on classical Broadway influences like Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim, while also nodding to hip-hop legends Biggie and Mobb Deep, rocking Usher-esque slow jams, and including catchy Beyonce-inspired pop anthems. (Given that the two main genres I listen to are showtunes and hip-hop, this was enough to have me hooked.) There are also about half a dozen other music genres on the cast recording.
- But really, the musical influences are just a list of classics from both ends of the spectrum: Les Miz, Pirates of Penzance, The Last 5 Years, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Biggie, Big Pun, Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes, Ja Rule and J.Lo, Jay-Z, Eminem, Destiny’s Child, The West Wing, and more. (Here’s a playlist of songs that inspired Lin-Manuel.)
- You see that history really repeats itself. It’s surprising how easily this story mirrors both modern hip-hop and pop culture, as well as modern politics.
- Lyrically, it’s the fastest-paced Broadway musical ever, with over 20,000 words in about 2 and a half hours.
Really, there’s not enough time to talk about the reasons Hamilton is worth paying attention to. Especially when you’re asking me. Again, this pretty much combined all of my favorite things (hey, another Broadway reference!).
And when something gets a reaction like this, you need to take notice. You need to think about what it’s doing right – inspiring such an obsessive reaction in people.
And for me, at least, yes it’s entertaining as hell and surprisingly relevant. But it’s also incredibly inspiring.
Why One Woman Shops Should Listen
The way Broadway genius (and actual MacArthur genius) Lin-Manuel framed Hamilton’s story, based on Ron Chernow’s biography, is the ultimate “underdog fighting their way to the top” story.
It’s really summed up in the first line of the musical:
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and scholar?
And another huge focus of the show is how Hamilton’s power came from his writing.
His words were what got him to New York.
They’re what built his legacy through his saved and published letters.
They’re how he persuaded people about his ideas, his writing is what built his political career.
They cleared his (professional) name with The Reynolds Pamphlet (America’s first sex scandal! Woo!).
For online business owners, I love how that drives home the necessity for great content and copy.
So here are 16 lines from the musical (I cut myself off here, I could’ve found dozens more) that say a thing or two about solopreneurship you should keep in mind.
16 Hamilton Lyrics to Inspire Female Solopreneurs
“The $10 Founding Father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter.” – Alexander Hamilton
When you’re doing everything yourself, being smart or working hard won’t be enough. You need both. You need to take action yourself, learn things yourself, do things yourself. You need to be an expert people want to listen to, and there’s no boss telling you how to do that or telling you to get out of bed and get started.
Hamilton wasn’t just smart, or just a hard worker. He combined them both to become an epic teenager that showed so much promise, his town basically Kickstarted his one-way ticket to New York.
“There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.” – Alexander Hamilton
Ever struggle with having too many ideas and not enough time to do them? Hallmark entrepreneur problem, I do believe. That doesn’t make the feeling suck any less, though.
I try to tell myself when I want to launch a new service or plan a new product to be patient. If you’re setting your biz up for long-term success (and isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?), you’ll have time for things later. Tell yourself “just you wait,” or to borrow lyrics from another Hamilton song, “wait for it.”
“Hey yo, I’m just like my country. I’m young, scrappy, and hungry. And I’m not throwing away my shot!” – My Shot
This is pretty self-explanatory. Solopreneurs need to be scrappy and hungry. And the younger your business is, the more scrappy you might have to be, whether that means automating and hooking together stuff with IFTTT and Zapier, or releasing a “minimum viable product” in cases where done is better than perfect.
“I gotta holla just be heard, with every word I drop knowledge.” – The Story of Tonight
You don’t want to build a business where you have to shout just to be heard, for your audience to take action. Sure, emailing a hard sales pitch your entire email list daily for two weeks will make sure they know about your launch.
But you could also be a little subtler, vary your volume, and “talk less, smile more.” (That line appears in like half of Burr’s songs, so you know it’s important.)
“Work! Work!” – The Schuyler Sisters
Okay, so you don’t need to be told to work. But also, you. better. werk. And this song feels more like a “werk” song than a “work” song. It’s the Destiny’s Child-esque jam that will do wonders to bring out your inner diva, using the Beyoncé definition, of course – the female version of a hustler.
(This is also the perfect song for a girlboss dance break, which are necessary maybe 2-4 times per day.)
“So listen to my declaration: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, Imma compel him to include women in the sequel. Work!” – The Schuyler Sisters
Just another girlboss anthem quote here. This verse is about women being well-read and well-educated, and ends with this feminist declaration. If that – combined with this song’s groove – doesn’t make you feel a little “I am business woman, hear me roar,” I don’t know what will.
“Ayo, I’m gonna need a right-hand man.” – Right-Hand Man
Everyone needs a support squad. Alexander Hamilton’s was the Founding Fathers (even though he clashed with them so often). Talk about #squadgoals.
They’ll come in handy when you need to vent to someone who understands, need feedback on your latest brainstorming sesh, or are itching for a collaboration.
“Look at where you are, look at where you started.” – That Would Be Enough
This kinda heartbreaking song is where Hamilton’s wife talks about the drawbacks of all his ambition, and the fact that “he’ll never be satisfied” (another song). Too much ambition, and forgetting to stop and appreciate what you have, can suck sometimes.
So when you’re feeling discouraged, as cliché and flowery as this sounds, remember that you’ve already accomplished and learned a lot.
“You have no control – who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” – History Has Its Eyes On You
Given Hamilton’s concern with his record and his legacy, this line seems like an excellent lesson in branding. Remembering that your brand is what people say when you’re not in the room, this lyric rings true. The only way you can control how people tell your story is by branding yourself to control the message.
“When you knock me down I get the fuck back up again!” – Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
Let’s be real, this is just something solo biz owners need to be good at. Shake yourself off, son. Make this your mantra.
“Oceans rise, empires fall, it’s much harder when it’s all your call.” – What Comes Next?
Ah, the struggles of being a one woman shop. Even if you outsource stuff and have a great support system, everything’s on you at the end of the day – as King George reminds you here. Much like a political empire, your business empire needs impeccable management. Otherwise, the empire might fall.
“Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room? Soon that attitude may be your doom!” – Non-Stop
Always operate as if you’re the dumbest in the room. That opens you up to learning more, and you won’t come off as an egotistical ass. Always great.
But really, you should be willing to learn from any experience. Never assume someone doesn’t have anything to teach you. When everything is on you, as we established with the last lyric, you can’t let ego stand in the way of learning important skills and lessons.
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” – Non-Stop
Your friendly reminder that your website is your business’s storefront. It should be clean and tidy – no overgrown grass, litter scattered around, or any other ugliness.
“Show me how to say ‘no’ to this.” – Say No to This
To be honest, this line is talking about infidelity – “say ‘no’ to this married whose husband is going to start blackmailing you.” You know, your average PSA that failed to prevent the first sex scandal of our new nation.
So that’s not really what we’re going for, but raise your hand if you’re an entrepreneur who had to learn how to say “no” to opportunities and ideas. Prioritize your projects so you’re growing your business instead of treading water.
“No one really knows how the game is played.” – The Room Where It Happens
Like Alanis Morissette said in the 90s, “no one’s really got it figured out just yet.” (I feel like bringing external lyrics into this is getting confusing, but it is what it is.)
When you feel lost and confused and all the WTF, remember you’re not the only one. No one 100% knows what they’re doing.
“I should’ve known, the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” – The World Was Wide Enough
There’s room for everyone in your niche. It can be a blow to see someone doing something super similar to your own stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s either them or you. Think of people less as competitors and more as frenemies – sometimes you’ll be competing, but more often than not they’re more like allies.
Have You Listened?
If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack, it’s available for free on Spotify. If you have, what parts of it inspire you?