The Art of Money Getting by P. T. Barnum

Animated Book Review

P.T. Barnum was an incredibly successful promoter and showman. He created and ran a travelling circus that was known as “The Greatest Show On Earth”. He was aware of the public’s obsession for the whacky, weird and outrageous and he exploited this by exaggerating and even making up his acts. These included a woman allegedly 161 years old and a real live mermaid (which was actually a monkey wearing a fish tail).

Preferring to use his brains rather than his hands to make his fortune, Barnum became extremely wealthy and was mainly known for his promotion and showmanship relating to his travelling circus. In 1880 he wrote a book called “The Art Of Money-Getting: Golden Rules for Making Money” which highlights how he made his fortune, became bankrupt and then worked his way back to the top again. Much of his guidance is still applicable today. This video will show you real-world examples of how his advice has benefited successful people and businesses.

1. Don’t Mistake Your Vocation

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

Charles Darwin is somebody who originally trained for the wrong vocation. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor but Darwin neglected his studies in medicine and instead switched universities where he began researching his passion of natural science.

2. Select The Right Location

“You might conduct a hotel like clock-work, and provide satisfactorily for five hundred guests… yet, if you should locate your house in a small village where there is no railroad… the location would be your ruin.”

Ben Silberman the founder of Pinterest was working as a consultant in Washington DC when, after playing around with software on side projects, he realised that he wanted to build a product. He read tech blogs and really wanted to be part of the tech community in California, so he moved there. That decision led to him getting a job at Google before co-founding Pinterest, based in San Francisco.

3. Avoid Debt

“Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down… but let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world.”

Early in his career, Walt Disney drew political cartoons for movie theatres. He created a company (The Laugh-O-Gram Studio) to work on more and more ambitious projects. Disaster stuck when a distributor vanished with money earnt from Walt’s work, leaving him in a ton of debt. He put the company in bankruptcy but he got in even deeper debt to the point where he couldn’t afford to eat. He eventually raised some money by charging parents for movies of their new-born babies and later moved to Hollywood.

4. Persevere

“Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance. Many persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow trouble. Then they ask for advice, and they will be governed by one wind and blown by another, and cannot rely upon themselves. Until you can get so that you can rely upon yourself, you need not expect to succeed.”

Before his calling in politics and public affairs, Benjamin Franklin worked running a shop business but after he and the owner of the shop both got seriously ill, the owner died. The store and therefore Franklin’s employment, was lost. He decided to partner with a friend and they opened a new printing-house. It became a success due in part to the reputation gained from Franklin’s work ethic and determination to deliver, regardless of any accidents or mishaps.

5. Whatever You Do, Do It With All Your Might

“Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

The entrepreneur Derek Sivers believes that ideas are worthless unless they are executed and it is the execution that is more important than the idea. His scoring chart shows that a brilliant idea with no execution could be worth $20 but that same idea with brilliant execution could be worth $20 million.

6. Depend Upon Your Own Personal Exertions

“The eye of the employer is often worth more than the hands of a dozen employees… nobody can understand his business thoroughly unless he learns it by personal application and experience.”

Colonel Sanders had many different jobs before he made millions with his Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was offered the opportunity to run a petrol station, filling up the cars tanks with fuel. However, he ran the station offering extremely good service, from windscreen wiping to pumping up tires, all free of charge. After only a month in charge, he was selling three times more fuel than anyone else had previously at that station. It proved to him that hard work works, in this case with a helpful and personal service. His own experience in the service station business led to him serving food as well in the station, the first step to his career path towards KFC.

7. Use The Best Tools

“Men in engaging employees should be careful to get the best. Understand, you cannot have too good tools to work with, and there is no tool you should be so particular about as living tools. If you get a good one, it is better to keep him, than keep changing. He learns something every day, and you are benefited by the experience he acquires.”

According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, no amount of business strategy can substitute for talent. Google’s recruitment process is carried out by a committee of the interviewee’s potentially future peers. The committee make the final decision. Sometimes people are hired even if they don’t suit an available role. The important thing is bringing in the best possible people into the company.

8. Don’t Get Above Your Business

“Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience. Give a boy twenty thousand dollars and put him in business, and the chances are that he will lose every dollar of it before he is a year older… whoever excels all others in his own line, if his habits are good and his integrity undoubted, cannot fail to secure abundant patronage, and the wealth that naturally follows.”

Sam Walton grew up during the great depression and went on to create Walmart but he started by selling magazine subscriptions at around 7 or 8 years old. It taught him the value of money. He knew how much hard work it took to get it and that when you did, it was worth something.

9. Learn Something Useful

“Every man should make his son or daughter learn some trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes — of being rich today and poor tomorrow — they may have something tangible to fall back upon. This provision might save many persons from misery, who by some unexpected turn of fortune have lost all their means.”

As a youngster seeing all the hard, manual work taking place on the farm, Henry Ford was drawn to mechanics. He got an apprenticeship at a machine shop and after completing it, concentrated on designing and developing a steam engine that could pull a plough or wagon. When he realised people were more interested in travelling on the roads than working on farms he switched his focus to road cars.

10. Let Hope Predominate, But Be Not Too Visionary

“Many persons are always kept poor, because they are too visionary. Every project looks to them like certain success, and therefore they keep changing from one business to another.”

In his book “Essentialism”, Greg McKeown advocates a mind-set for achieving more by being more selective when deciding what is essential. By focusing our energy and effort on goals that really matter, we can actually accomplish more by doing less. However, this is only possible by focusing on the present moment and asking yourself “What is important now”? By focusing on the present your drive is not dispersed by distractions and you’re able to apply all your energy to the job at hand. The harder you work on something, the easier it is to execute on it.

11. Do Not Scatter Your Powers

“Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it. When a man’s undivided attention is centred on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. One day he gave his personal pilot and friend some productivity advice. Buffet told him to write down his top 25 career goals. Then he asked him to circle his top five. Buffet said that as well as working on those top five, rather than treating the other 20 goals as a lower priority, his friend should avoid them at all costs until he’s succeeded with his top five. This will hopefully stop you having 20 half-completed projects and instead move closer to five completed ones.

12. Be Systematic

“Men should be systematic in their business. A person who does business by rule, having a time and place for everything, doing his work promptly, will accomplish twice as much and with half the trouble of him who does it carelessly and slip- shod.”

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds enforced strict rules at each of his restaurants to ensure consistency and conformity but did allow franchisees to suggest new ideas. The Filet-O-Fish and the Big Mac were both added to the menu via this method. He used this system throughout the 1960s, during a period of vast expansion opening restaurants all over the US and into Canada and Puerto Rico.

13. Read The Newspapers

“Keep thoroughly posted in regard to the transactions of the world. He who don’t consult the newspapers will soon find himself and his business left out in the cold.”

Although now the importance of newspapers has declined due to other mediums, the ability to read is still as important as ever. Elon Musk has had a compulsion to read his whole life. At one point when he was a young boy, he ran out of books to read at the local library so he read the Encyclopaedia Britannica instead. According to a colleague at SpaceX, Musk literally taught himself rocket science by reading textbooks and speaking to people in the industry.

14. Beware Of “Outside Operations”

“We sometimes see men who have obtained fortunes, suddenly become poor. Frequently it occurs because a man has been engaged in ‘outside operations,’ of some sort. When he gets rich in his legitimate business, he is told of a grand speculation where he can make a score of thousands. He is constantly flattered by his friends, who tell him that he is born lucky, that everything he touches turns into gold… but before the time comes around to realise, the bubble bursts, (and) he loses all he is possessed of.”

It is important to stick to what you know if you don’t want to lose money. Felix Dennis the English publisher said that more entrepreneurs get themselves into trouble by overreaching than exercising discipline.

15. Don’t Indorse Without Security

“No man ought ever to indorse a note or become security for any man… to a greater extent than he can afford to lose and care nothing about, without taking good security. Do not lend or invest money that would ruin you if you were to lose it all.”

One of British entrepreneur Theo Paphitis’ secrets to business success is to know that cash is king. You can live without profit for a certain period of time but not cash. No cash could mean that you can’t pay the rent or the wages and then it’s all over.

16. Advertise Your Business

“Those who deal with the public must be careful that their goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and will give satisfaction. When you get an article which you know is going to please your customers… then let the fact be known that you have got it. Be careful to advertise it in some shape or other, because it is evident that if a man has ever so good an article for sale, and nobody knows it, it will bring him no return.”

When Arnold Schwarzenegger went into the movie business and became an actor, he knew that when he finished filming, his job was only half done. He promoted his films across the world to cultivate and expand his audience with each movie. As Ted Turner said, ‘Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise’.

17. Be Polite And Kind To Your Customers

“Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. The man who gives the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still re- serving for himself a profit) will generally succeed best in the long run.”

Bo Peabody who built Tripod to the 8th largest website in the world before selling it in his twenties says that you must always be gracious in every meeting and in any situation. Being irate never pays. You will be tested often and be tempted to become defensive, but your ability to remain gracious is key as the business world is a small place and who knows what opportunities lie ahead in the future.

18. Be Charitable

“Of course men should be charitable, because it is a duty and a pleasure. But even as a matter of policy, if you possess no higher incentive, you will find the liberal man will command patronage, while the sordid, uncharitable miser will be avoided. The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help themselves.”

In 2004, Richard Branson set up Virgin Unite which provides a way for his staff to work together to solve tough social problems around the world. As a businessperson you can do a great deal of good if you use your power wisely, he says.

19. Don’t Blab

“Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business secrets. If they make money they like to tell their neighbours how it was done. Nothing is gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost.”

In his book, “Zero To One”, Peter Thiel states that every current well-known idea was once not known and was at one point, a secret. A valuable company that has not been built yet is also therefore a secret and if there are many secrets left in the world then there may be many successful companies that haven’t been built yet. One of the questions that Thiel believes every business must answer is “have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?”. By telling everyone your idea, the secret will no longer be a secret and the answer will be “no”.

20. Preserve Your Integrity

“It is more precious than diamonds or rubies. The public very properly shun all whose integrity is doubted. Strict honesty, not only lies at the foundation of all success in life (financially), but in every other aspect. Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable.”

When it comes to ethics, Peter Drucker advocates what he calls the “mirror test”. Ask yourself “what kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”. Your personal value system should be compatible with that of the organisation you run or work for. Avoid conflicts where your values differ. For example, is the company’s emphasis on short term results or long term goals and do they match yours? This is the ultimate test to see if you’re compatible.