What “Hamilton” Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Taught Me About Valuing People
Let be up front: I am a huge fan of “Hamilton”, the smash Broadway musical created by Lin-Manual Miranda. “Hamilton” won 11 Tony awards in 2016 and has been the most talked-about musical in decades. And for good reason: It’s absolutely mesmerizing.
But there’s another reason I’m such a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda: he took the time to send my son a handwritten card in the mail. As a result, I’ve found an even deeper respect for this celebrated artist. I’ve also learned a few things about valuing people.
A Bond with My Son
I began listening to “Hamilton” last summer. I had heard about it for a few months, but I’m not a big fan of musicals in general, so I didn’t pay much attention. On a whim, I decided to give it a listen one day and I was instantly hooked.
For several months, “Hamilton” was literally the only music I listened to. I listened to it in my car. While riding my bike. While exercising. While doing office work.
I mentioned to a number of people that I thought it was the greatest work of art that had been released in my lifetime. And I still believe that.
My son Ben, who is 12, began listening to “Hamilton” as well. Pretty soon, he was hooked and it gave us a common bond. It’s not often that parents and their kids like the same music, but we would often turn up “Hamilton” in the car and sing along to the lyrics we had both memorized.
The Card Arrives
A few months ago, Ben decided to write a letter to Lin. He had read somewhere that Lin responded to every piece of fan mail, so he was excited about the possibility of hearing from one of his heroes directly. In his letter, Ben described how much he enjoyed “Hamilton” and how it had inspired him to get through the trials middle school.
For the last several months, Ben has been anxiously checking the mail, seeing if there was any response. I kept reassuring him that it would come, but privately I wondered if it would happen since Lin is enormously popular and probably swimming in fan mail.
Earlier this week, I came home from work and my wife told me that Ben had a surprise for me. He came bounding down the stairs and showed me the card. It was an actual handwritten note from Lin-Manuel Miranda! Here’s a picture:
3 Lessons on Valuing People
This whole experience has been incredibly meaningful for Ben, but I’ve learned a few things as well. Here are three lessons Lin-Manuel Miranda has taught me about valuing people.
1. Surprise and delight your audience.
Nothing says “surprise and delight” like a personalized card from one of your favorite performers. But if you’re not a Broadway star, how can you put this into action?
The general idea is to give people something they don’t expect. One of the ways I try to do this is by giving people a print copy of my book The Artist’s Suitcase when appropriate. I will often send a copy along with a thank you note to someone, leave a copy for a teacher when I’m substitute teaching, or just give someone a copy when they express interest.
I also write handwritten notes to people and often include a small key inside. It’s a way to remind them of their power to unlock other people’s creative potential. The main idea is to find something meaningful that expresses your personality. (Check out the site Tons of Thanks for many great ideas on writing thank-you notes.)
2. Use a personal touch.
It was clear by Lin’s comments in the note that he read my son’s letter. It wasn’t a generic response. This small personal touch made a big impression.
A personal touch can mean the difference between a purely business transaction, and a relationship that is something more. People do business with others whom they know, like, and trust. Showing a personal touch is an important part of working toward that.
But it’s not only important in the business world: it’s important in life. For example, I dare you not to be inspired by this amazing 5th-grade teacher who uses a personalized choreographed handshake to greet each one of his students.
I’ve already mentioned handwritten notes. Another way to show a personal touch is by remembering details about other people. For example, in my college classes, we often take a couple of minutes to mention prayer needs. I write these down and ask students about it the next class. It shows that I care about them.
It’s the little things that matter. It’s all about valuing people and showing that you care about them.
3. Believe that everyone has value.
Lin has many important things to do, and many people competing for his attention. (He’s also pretty busy accepting lots of well-deserved awards.) But he places so much value on his fans that he takes the time to respond to them.
All of us are overwhelmed with responsibilities and commitments, and it’s easy to categorize people according to what they can do for us. But every person has value, regardless of whether they can—or can’t—help us directly. Everyone is worth our best effort. Every person has something to teach us if we’re willing to learn.
Lin, thanks so much for taking the time to send my son a note. He will treasure it forever. In the process, you’ve not only made a 12-year-old boy happy, you’ve taught me something as well.