My favorite moment and song from the musical Hamilton is without a doubt when Christopher Jackson’s Washington sings “One Last Time” and explains to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton that he will not be seeking re-election and will step down as President of the United States of America after just two terms.
After a fun and melodic back and forth, Hamilton relents and agrees to help write Washington’s farewell address, which they then start to speak and sing portions. It’s an incredibly touching moment, made all the more poignant because Washington really did demonstrate that level of resolve and commitment to country. In fact, his farewell address is such an inspiration, to this day, on Washington’s birthday, one Senator is chosen to read that address aloud and then inscribe their name and brief thoughts into a black, leather-bound book
The full address is over 7,600 words, so I won’t make you read it all right now (though you can on your own time
!). Rather, I’m going to share with you just a few key portions that I think are incredibly relevant today, even if you aren’t trying to shepherd a newly-formed republic.
Gratitude & Humility
After taking a moment to explain why he’s not running for re-election, Washington begins to express his profound thankfulness to this nation that’s empowered and entrusted him, but does so in a way that makes it clear he isn’t boasting of his accomplishments. He said, “In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal.”
As I write this, Thanksgiving in the United States is just days away and with all we’ve gone through this year, gratitude and thankfulness may not be the easiest of expressions, yet I find it incredibly important to focus on the things I’m thankful for, and the accomplishments of my recent endeavors, particularly with the help I’ve accrued.
My family. My team. My squad.
It’s actually been a successful, healthy year for me, and to that I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the people around me who are my support system. I know it’s hard some days to see past the negativity and serious issues that surround us, but if you were to take a moment right now to practice gratitude, what would you be thankful for?
Speaking of practicing gratitude, let me do that right now by thanking YOU for taking the time to open and read my thoughts. I really appreciate it and I wanted to let you know that I’m working on making it even easier for you and others to do so in the future. Starting in January, this newsletter will be available online and as a podcast! Would you subscribe to the Marketing Hyperdrive podcast? Hit reply and let me know.
After speaking at length regarding the perils of partisan politics, and even allowing ourselves to be too distracted by divisive issues when we’re all still largely the same, Washington touches on the need as a nation to stay neutral in the affairs of other nations. This is a point that is brought up in the musical when Thomas Jefferson extols Washington to come to the aid of France, and he refuses. The musical suggests that Washington ignored past promises but it’s clear in his farewell address that wasn’t his intent.
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world—so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it—for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements (I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy)—I repeat it therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.”
Translation: stay out of other people’s business, but always keep to your word. Honesty is always the best policy.
Washington begs us not only to tell the truth, but to be true to our commitments. When we tell someone that we will do something, we need to show up.
Who has shown up for you recently? Were you thinking about them earlier when we talked about being thankful for the people around you? I know I had folks like that in mind. People who have repeatedly honored the relationship that we’ve built and the tacit understanding that we have each other’s backs.
Incidentally, those are the kind of people you need more of in your life, both personally and professionally.
As Washington wound to his concluding statements, there were two powerful messages that really resonated with me this week. The first was the admission that while he may not have intentionally made any errors during his tenure in office, he knows that he is imperfect and therefore doubtless made mistakes.
“Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”
Well, unlike Washington, I absolutely know that I have and continue to make mistakes. It’s not just probable. Yet the underlying lesson here is clear and comforting: mistakes will happen. What’s important is that we serve each other with humility and understanding. And then of course work to mitigate those mistakes.
Washington also mentioned in that last portion that he’d dedicated forty-five years of his life to service to his country. The man was due a vacation!
“Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize without alloy the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government—the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.”
Read that bit again: “I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself…” – you know what that is? It’s a reward for a job well done.
Do you ever promise yourself a retreat or reward?
I was reminded of that necessity this week when, after my summit had concluded on Wednesday, I went back to work and re-doubled my focus on projects and priorities that had been neglected the past few weeks. I gave myself neither rest nor reward, and that was a mistake. By the end of the day Friday, I was exhausted and irritable.
What I should have done, and will most certainly do in the future, is block off the day after a significant event and project like that to rest and reflect.
Thinking beyond myself, one of the challenges for many this year has been to take time off work, even when vacation days are offered, since it’s hard to do the kinds of activities we’ve been accustomed to in the past. Many have determined that if they can’t travel, there’s no point in wasting vacation days to just sit around at home. They might as well work.
Yet that, too, may be a mistake. Even if it’s not safe or reasonable to travel, taking time off work to relax and refocus is a smart idea. One can use the time to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy nature, and spend a little time working on home improvement projects. I know, that sounds like more work, but I think it’s even more important now that your home, at least your home office if you have one, is a space that you are happy and comfortable in. Spending some time and a little money painting, decorating, organizing and re-arranging the space that you are working in day after day will pay huge dividends in the coming months.
That’s what I wish for you, now, the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
Stay safe and well-rested, my friend.