The Investment site Motley Fool (Fool.com) recently wrote an article on P.T. Barnum, who was known as the greatest showman on earth. We still credit him for his amazing circus shows.
By the middle of the 19th century, he had become the second known millionaire in the United States. He wrote a short paper on “The Art of Money Getting” which had ideas that are still useful. Below, I have pasted portions from the Motley Fool article. In reading this, it also caused me to research Tom Thumb, who had quite a story of challenge and success.
1. Spend less than you earn. Barnum writes that the key to wealth is quite simple: “it consists simply in spending less than we earn.” Despite the simplicity of this maxim, he notes, “more cases of failure arise from mistakes on this point than almost any other.”
Barnum tells the story of a woman who cut her expenses by refusing to burn candles in the evening. She may have saved five or ten dollars by doing so, but she lost out on the knowledge she would have gained by reading during those hours. That benefit outweighed “a ton of candles.” The bottom line for Barnum is that “true economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go.”
2. Take care of your health. Good health is the foundation of success in life and is also the basis of happiness, according to Barnum. Without good health, a person is very unlikely to accumulate a fortune – he’ll have “no ambition; no incentive; no force.” He recommends avoiding alcohol and tobacco, while also making other healthy choices when possible.
3. Persevere. To illustrate this rule, Barnum shares a line from Davy Crockett, “This thing remember: when I am dead: Be sure you are right, then go ahead.”
Everyone must actively cultivate a sense of “go-aheaditiveness,” according to Barnum, and must not become overwhelmed by the “horrors” or “blues.” Everyone will encounter difficulties and challenges – it’s how you respond that determines whether you’ll succeed or not.
4. Be cautious and bold. This one appears to be a paradox, but it is not, writes Barnum. He believes “you must exercise caution in laying out your plans, but be bold in carrying them out.” A man who is all caution won’t take on the risks necessary for success, while a man who is “all boldness, is merely reckless, and must eventually fail.”
5. Use the best tools. Barnum believes that workers must always have the very best tools to do their work. As a businessman, he feels there is no tool he should be, “so particular about as living tools.” When looking for employees, therefore, one “should be careful to get the best.”
6. Be focused. Barnum urges the aspiring entrepreneur to focus on “one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it.”
This rule is related to persistence in that sometimes we have to keep at just one thing until we’re successful. Barnum warns that “many a fortune has slipped through a man’s fingers because he was engaged in too many occupations at a time.” As Steve Jobs realized, focus sometimes means “saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”
7. Advertise your business. Barnum was a remarkable pioneer in the field of advertising. For one of his promotions, he was able to transform a five-year-old dwarf named Charles Sherwood Stratton into “General Tom Thumb, Man in Miniature.” Tom Thumb eventually became a gigantic hit in Europe, and was received by Queen Victoria and numerous other crowned heads-of-state.
P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb
8. Be polite and kind to your customers. P.T. Barnum actually never said “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Instead, he had great respect for his customers. He writes, “the man who gives the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still reserving for himself a profit) will generally succeed in the long run. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also.”
9. Preserve your integrity. Barnum concludes his work by saying to all men and women, “make money honestly.” He sincerely believed that the desire for wealth is laudable as long as the “possessor of it accepts its responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.”
This final rule, in relation to Barnum’s career, requires some context. In a lot of his promotions, he was known to bend the truth somewhat, so “integrity” might not have been the first word that came to the mind of his contemporaries. For example, he once exhibited an African-American woman who was supposedly 161 years old, and was formerly George Washington’s nurse. When challenged about the truth of this promotion, he replied, “the story seemed plausible.”
For pic o’ day, here’s one that Stacey S. sent yesterday, with all the snow forecast: