How Lucky You Are to Be Alive Right Now

This past June, I had the honor to see the Broadway sensation Hamilton in New York City. Conceived, written and starring (until last July) Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton tells the story of one of our often forgotten founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Based upon Ron Chernow’s biography, the show tells the story of the founding of this nation through music (rap music) with Hamilton as the central character. While there are many impactful lessons to be taken from the show Hamilton, one leadership opportunity and lesson in particular recently caught my attention as I was listening to the song “The Schuyler Sisters” (Alexander Hamilton married Eliza Schuyler and had a close relationship with her sister, Angelica Schuyler).

One lyric from “The Schuyler Sisters(click to listen) goes like this:

Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!

History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be

In the greatest city in the world.

The Schuyler sisters are singing about how lucky they are to be living in New York City at the time of the Revolutionary War, when history was happening in what would become the United States of America. Yes, it was a dangerous and uncertain time, yet the song focuses on how lucky they were to be living in that time to be a part of witnessing and shaping history. All of us have that same unique opportunity today as history is happening (and can be shaped) again in the United States.

If you’re like me, you find the current national dialogue challenging, often feeling like it is made up more of attacks than conversations. People are more entrenched and less open to different ideas. People are uncertain and even afraid. It feels like the country is more divided than ever, and it’s easy to wish that things were different. But here’s the shift opportunity – what IF we choose to see these times as did the Schuyler sisters – how lucky we are to be alive right now?

Too often I see people experiencing the recent election and its resulting fallout as either negative or positive depending on what side you were on. But this article is NOT about politics or political views. It’s about leadership – specifically, the leadership opportunity that is right in front of us in this moment in history of uncertainty and questions. When things are simple and easy, personal leadership may seem unnecessary. Likewise, when the seas are calm and it’s smooth sailing, it’s easy to relax and even go to sleep. In this moment in history, things are neither simple, easy or smooth, and that’s when courageous personal leadership is most critical.

While I regret the seeming difficulties in having open-minded conversations about difficult topics, my strong sense is that people on all sides of the issues and with all different perspectives are waking up, looking around and using their voices to seek change. Certainly, different people are seeking or supporting different kinds of change, and that’s the nature of the world. It is precisely in these uncertain and even challenging times that personal leadership is so vital, and I believe that We the People are the ones in the best position to create and shape the future in our country, in our communities, in our organizations, in our families, and in our lives.

Now is the time to decide whether you will be a victim of (or a passive participant in) circumstances and the choices of others, or instead courageously choose to be a part of change. There’s no assurance that your perspectives or objectives will be achieved, but one thing is certain – your silence ensures that, whatever the outcomes, you will merely be living with them rather than seeking to create them.

With a focus on personal leadership – specifically, various essential traits of impactful leadership – I invite you to compare and contrast these different leadership approaches:

  • Making statements versus asking questions
  • Jumping to judgment versus empathy and compassion
  • Talking versus listening
  • Seeking to be right versus seeking to understand
  • Attacking versus accepting
  • Closed versus open
  • Your view versus our view

Leadership is a choice – a personal choice – and my invitation is for each of you to consider in what ways you will choose to lead in every part of your life, especially during these most interesting times.

As you consider your views on what is happening and what is in front of us in these United States of America, you are compelled to answer this one leadership question that faces each of us – will I merely be a witness to change, or will I seek to be the change? Whatever your answer, I hope you can feel and experience “how lucky you are to be alive right now.”

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