The World is Wide Enough

Posted In: Confidence and Control
Posted On: 4/3/2018

I was just listening to the soundtrack from Hamilton for the umpteenth time. When I got to the 45th song, The World was Wide Enough, I realized that I had never made it through the whole track and this song was new to me. 

I have personally been struggling with what success means to me. And for me, success’ ugly stepbrother is competition. Competition in the sense that if someone else does great, then I have been less great, or I have been less successful. In this song, Aaron Burr’s words resonated with me very strongly and shed a light on competition in a new and nuanced way.

In case you have not listened to the Hamilton soundtrack recently, here’s the song’s quick back story. Once colleagues, now competitors, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton have just had their famous dual with Hamilton dying as a result. And in the wake of his death, Burr’s final reflection goes:

I survived, but I paid for it

Now I’m the villain in your history

I was too young and blind to see...
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

His big insight in this moment is that there was room for them both to have success.  It didn’t have to be Hamilton VERSUS Burr, it could have been Hamilton AND Burr.  Unfortunately, only upon the death of Hamilton, did Burr realize that the world was wide enough for both of them to be successful.

With less dramatic outcomes (like a dual to the death!), this type of VERSUS approach permeates my world in many ways.  I know college seniors who haven’t yet landed their first job and view with envy that peer who knows where she is going to work after graduation. Or how about that entrepreneur who just got featured in a podcast and you listen with a bit of a jaded point of view about the role of luck versus talent. Or my current favorite VERSUS is reading about a start-up company that sold for a gazillion times sales to a big corporation and my immediate reaction is not “congrats,” but that sucks for me because I have never done it!

So how in our lives do we create an AND mentality instead of a VERSUS mentality as we build our careers and seek success? How do we remain competitive, while not having competition bring out the worst in us?  How do we celebrate the wins of others instead of having their win become our loss?

Here are my 5 Tips for Creating the AND Mentality:

1. Be clear on the outcomes (the wins) that are important to YOU. Sometimes we are jealous even when someone else’s success is nothing that we want!
2. Develop a PLAN to reach those outcomes. Gain control of your outcomes by putting concrete actions in place.
3. Dig deep into your reaction if someone’s win becomes your loss. Why is that? What was it about their win that felt bad to you?  If you can articulate it, you can deal with it.
4. Think CONGRATS when you hear of someone else’s win! Try to train yourself to immediately celebrate the positive in others’ successes.  Focus on how this impacts them NOT you!
5. Take time to celebrate your own wins, even the little ones! Success begets confidence and confidence begets more success.

And if you really want to get psyched about winning and taking ownership of your success, listen to the third song on the Hamilton soundtrack: My Shot. 

Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda for making history relevant to the business world!