• Adam Tarnow

Don't be like Aaron Burr

Updated: Jan 9

Hamilton rules my house. We, like millions of others, have become huge fans of this production. Thank you, Disney +.


My boys listen to the soundtrack every day: explicit lyrics and all. I tell myself, “A few bad words won’t hurt them. They’re learning history. It’s educational.”


Pray for me.


Lin-Manuel Miranda's story has layers. As I continue listening to the soundtrack, I’m noticing things I didn’t catch the first time I watched the production. There are some great leadership lessons buried in these songs.


Some of my favorite lines that relate to leadership...


Figure it out, Alexander, that’s an order from your commander. I’ve already written about this line here.


Ah, winning was easy, young man, governing’s harder. Anyone who’s ever led a group of people for longer than a day understands the truth of George Washington’s words to Hamilton.


Legacy, what is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. Every parent or teacher nods their head in agreement when they hear Hamilton say this to Aaron Burr.


However, the most relevant line to me is from Aaron Burr's character.I should’ve known. I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.



Burr says this immediately after killing Hamilton. Now, if you feel like I just ruined the story for you, I’m not sorry. The first Got Milk commercial ruined it for me 27 years ago. Plus, the Broadway production has been on Disney + for almost three months, and the story has been around for 216 years.


Aaron Burr was right. The world was wide enough for him and Hamilton to co-exist. He didn’t have to take out his enemy. There was enough room for both of them to grow, lead, and be successful.


We have the luxury of learning from the mistake of someone else. To be clear, I don’t know if Aaron Burr ever really had this thought after killing Hamilton. I want to think he did.


In the Broadway production, Aaron Burr suffered from what leadership guru’s call a Scarcity Mindset. He believed there would never be enough (power, opportunities, money, credit, etc.). Therefore, he viewed Hamilton as a threat and killed him.


What Aaron Burr needed was a good old fashion TED talk or leadership book. He needed to know there’s a different way of thinking. Instead of adopting a Scarcity Mindset, he could have adopted an Abundance Mindset.


An Abundance Mindset believes there is more than enough (power, opportunities, money, credit, etc.). Therefore you don’t have to hoard opportunities or resources. You don’t have to create a Doomsday Bunker kind of life. You can be generous. There’s plenty for everyone.


I wish Burr could have read Give and Take by Adam Grant. Grant’s research lines up with what Burr learned the hard way.


According to Grant, those with a Scarcity Mindset end up losing. People with an Abundance Mindset are happier and end up better off. Turns out, giving is better than taking. Who knew? Well, a few people.


An Abundance Mindset has been so helpful as I start my business. As a business owner, I now have to think about money, competition, brand reputation, and market share. It’s exhausting.


An Abundance Mindset frees me. It keeps me focused on serving others and prevents me from creating a Doomsday Bunker kind of life.


Where are you tempted to believe the world is not big enough for you and your Hamilton? The Scarcity Mindset might not lead you to murder your competition, but the research proves it won’t make your life better.


Your city is big enough for…


...multiple businesses that serve the same market.

...multiple authors who write on the same subject.

...multiple pizza places.

...multiple coffee shops.

...multiple thought leaders.

…multiple churches.


Your organization is big enough for…


...multiple “rising stars.”

…multiple leaders.

…multiple valuable players.


The world was big enough for Hamilton and Burr. In the end, Burr didn’t kill his real enemy. His real enemy was his short-sighted pride.


Take a deep breath. Your biggest competition isn't “out there.” Your biggest competition is you. You’re going to be okay. Live graciously and generously. In the end, it’ll all work out.


Keep leading with clarity...



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