P.T. Barnum gave us great advice (from his wonderful book The Art of Getting Money; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money)

The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young man starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most congenial to his tastes.

Do what you love. If you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. This advice was true yesterday and it’s true today.

The logic is basic. But still, many people cannot follow it. One reason (according to Barnum) is they receive poor advice from their parents:

Parents and guardians are often quite too negligent in regard to this. It very common for a father to say, for example: “I have five boys. I will make Billy a clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor, and Dick a farmer.”… He does this, regardless of Sam’s [his child’s] natural inclinations, or genius.

Very true. Many parents are concerned with the prestige of a child’s position; sadly, they overlook the natural talents of the child. And so the boy grows up in a job that he hates. And more importantly, he never becomes a GREAT MAN.

Barnum mentions that he, himself, had very few talents. He was not mechanically inclined, and he sucked at mathematics. However, he stumbled into a job that he loved – owning a business. And because of this, he was able to apply his natural talents.

Barnum summarizes the message:

Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed.

See Related Article: Book Review: The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa 


3 thoughts on “On the Wisdom of P.T. Barnum

  1. Captain Capitalism would disagree.

    At captaincapitalism.blogspot.ca, you will find “the manosphere’s economist” who has written a book entitled, Worthless about which university degrees around worth the paper they’re printed on, even as toilet paper. His position is don’t do “what you love” but suss out what’s in demand in the marketplace, and zero in on it like a homing missile.

    Myself, xxI think average people should follow Cappy’s advice, and superiors follow what you and X are doing. But hey, we’ll see who works out a bigger success in life: those who follow, or those who lead.

    — X.

    1. “His position is don’t do “what you love” but suss out what’s in demand in the marketplace, and zero in on it like a homing missile.”

      There is some truth to that. Nobody can dispute the importance of making a shitload of cash.

      1. xxI think it’s a juggling act of some competence. First off, Barnum really IS right when he says do what you love. But say you love law and want to join Big Law — you’re gonna have to be REALLY TALENTED and definitely HARD-WORKING to out-beat the glut of law students, especially in the third-tier law schools. But you can do it, especially if you have the optimism that is reality-based to pull it off. Check out xxmy star entry on the subject of optimism:



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