3 Minutes with Lin Manuel Miranda Will Teach You All About Leveling Up

Todd Brison


When was the last time you dared yourself to go further?

The first surprise comes within a matter of seconds.

“‘My Shot’ took me a year to write.”

Lin Manuel Miranda is totally engaged, earbuds dangling from the sides of his face. I hesitate to use the word “genius” much. This man may deserve it.

If you somehow don’t know, Miranda is the mastermind behind Hamilton, the Broadway phenomenon that recently released as a film on Disney+. More than just a sizzling pop culture phenomenon, Hamilton is now over a billion dollars in global sales.

The money is less interesting than Miranda himself, though.

A three-minute Rotten Tomatoes interview reveals why Hamilton is the masterpiece that it is. After admitting a single song took him 365 days to write, Miranda explains.

With a straight face, he compares dry, historical characters to key players in hip hop history. John Larens, Hercules Mulligan, and Marquis de Lafayette are all characterized in the play as what Miranda calls “pre-Rakim” rappers in the song before. Hamilton himself changes the game. He is apparently “Big Pun times Eminem times Notorious BIG,”

After having somehow mirroring entire history of hip hop as it relates to pre-revolutionary America, Miranda goes on to discuss the second verse.

Now the practical tip comes in.

Says Miranda:

“If I can express something in four lines, the challenge now becomes can I express it in two lines? [Writing Hamilton was] a constant dare with myself to compress it and compress and compress and compress until you could kick the tire on any part of the line and it is unf*ck-with-able.”

When was the last time you dared yourself to go further?

Miranda hits on the head why, exactly, he is maybe the most popular theatre figure alive today. It isn’t because he had the most money or the best connections or the coolest idea (even though all of those are part of the success).

It’s because Miranda goes further than the first idea.

I often don’t have the patience of Miranda. I write a scruffy adjective in the first draft and never revisit it. I blabber on in a sentence and don’t fix it.

Maybe you can identify with this — you send an incomplete email and don’t think twice. You scribble a business plan and then assume it will serve you six months down the line. You skim through a book without a plan to remember and use what you just read.

Do you know why this happens?

Because culture tells you fast is better than good.

If you’re anything like me, you wake up feeling like the world has already left you behind. There are 1,000 tweets to send and 57 emails to respond to and Instagram pictures to take. Self help bros tell you if success hasn’t come yet, it’s because you aren’t doing enough.

What if it’s the other way around?

What if it hasn’t come because you haven’t spent enough time on one idea?

The other “dirty secret” of Hamilton is that the entire play to 7 years to write. Coincidentally (or not), this is also the amount of time it took Taiki Waititi and Bong Joon-Ho to write their Oscar winners, and the amount of time it took Adele to release her trilogy of world-stopping albums.

I’m reminded of a Hank Green quote:

“Often, restraint is far more remarkable than action.”

But the question remains, how can you step out of the hustle trap and start making work worthy of world recognition? Again, Miranda has the answer. Look again what he says about writing those Hamilton lines:

“It was a constant dare with myself.”

What he didn’t say was this:

“Well, Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton’s musical director) asked me to look over the lyrics once more and so I fixed some of them.”

No. Nobody could have possibly made Hamilton as tight, as compelling, or as longstanding as it is except for Miranda himself.

With that in mind, a few questions:

Do you wait for your manager to give you a deadline?

Do you wait until the money runs out to go make more of it?

Do you save time in your business before you have to?

Do you allow your schedule to flop around wherever it goes?

It’s fine if the answer to all these is yes. Just know the life you have right now reflects that answer. Also know that nobody can change that answer — and therefore change your life — except you.

Be Miranda.

Make your work un-f*ck-with-able.

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