P.T. Barnum is a popular name in American lore. But like so many historical figures, very little is known about him. The Art of Getting Money (1880) provides a nice glimpse into the man. It’s filled with philosophical quips and general advice – I highly recommend it.
Some of my favorite lines were the following.
“Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt. There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a slavish position to get ill…Debt robs a man of his self-respect, and makes him almost despise himself.”
“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.”
“The foundation of success in life is good health: that is the substratum fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick.”
As you can see, Barnum gives common sense advice. And let’s face it…the world needs more common sense. The book is perfect for young adults. The style is direct and engaging, giving sold advice to the emerging man (or woman).
I find that financial books are helpful in the general sense: i.e. Rich Dad, Poor Dad; The Millionaire Next Door, etc. They keep our mind focused on the attributes of wealth. Specific information is omitted, since the “nuts and bolts” of any industry come with experience and are varied. Therefore, the information remains on the surface for a logical reason.
That being said, it still helps to read the words of wise men. When trying to improve at something, we should listen to those that have experience in such matters. P.T. Barnum fits the bill with regards to wealth – his strategies are common sense tidbits and very important reminders.
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These are the wise words of PT Barnum in his book, The Art of Getting Money:
DEPEND UPON YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXERTIONS. The eye of the employer is often worth more than the hands of a dozen employees. In the nature of things, an agent cannot be so faithful to his employer as to himself.
The wise employer is overlooking his business. He’s like a parent, observing his child on the playground. He watches with astute wisdom from afar. He takes note of every incident, every moment. And when his child is about to make a mistake, then the parent intercedes.
So it is with a business owner. The minute he goes away, his fortunes begin to fail. For the employee has no real stake in the affair. So while the boss is in Punta Cana, the employee is speaking with a flippancy to the customer. While the boss is in Dubai, the employee is leaving a mess on the counter top.
The eye of an employer is what rules over a business.
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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.
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