I saw an ad for Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser on Facebook last fall showing it’s mustard yellow cover which features a drawing inspired by the famous Trumbull portrait in which A. Ham is sporting a mercurial smirk and come hither eyebrows as though he is about to flirtatiously utter “good-day madam”. Once I started reading the book, I realized that it was exactly what I thought it was going to be: the type of book that does not take itself serious and is meant to be a light hearted distraction, with lots of pop culture references and ironically used slang. Potentially lucrative stock tips are actually described as “sexy” by Wilser which annoyed me for some reason.
The book is divided up into ten sections devoted to different eras of life. Each section has chapters which focus on specific lesson we can learn from Alexander Hamilton’s life, whether by following his example or taking a warning from it. As the ultimate go-getter and underdog, Hamilton’s life seems right for the self help book treatment. Even if we never have to fight in a war, form a new government, deal with a life ruining sex scandal, or die in a duel with a bitter enemy, we could all use a dose of Hamiltonian ambition and work ethic.
This humorously dissected and analyzed look at the founding father’s life ends on a surprisingly thought provoking note.
“…The point is that you should believe in something-whatever it is-with so much passion, so much love, so much hunger, that you would be willing to die for it. Hamilton believed in the United States of America. He believed in his family. He believed in steady improvement if the projector is constant. What do you believe in? Is the projector constant?”
(Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life, Page 289)
This passage reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” Whether right or wrong, for good or for bad, Alexander Hamilton acted on principle and did so with gusto.