PT Barnum's get rich slow advice

Austin "Steal Like an Artist" Kleon pulls the Table of Contents from PT Barnum's 1880 book Art of Money Getting (which Mark wrote about last year), noting "Like most prescriptive books (including my own) you could probably write a whole book simply stating the opposite, but there’s so much in this book I love..."

* Don’t mistake your vocation
* Select the right location
* Avoid debt
* Persevere
* Whatever you do, do it with all your might
* Depend upon your own personal exertions
* Use the best tools
* Don’t get above your business
* Learn something useful
* Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary
* Do not scatter your powers
* Be systematic
* Read the newspapers
* Beware of “outside operations”
* Don’t indorse without security
* Advertise your business
* Be polite and kind to your customers
* Be charitable
* Don’t blab
* Preserve your integrity

P.T. Barnum, The Art Of Money Getting (1880) (via Beth Pratt)


    1. I always assume that books like this are part of the long-term grift plan.

      Even today – if I see a book on “How to Make Money”, I assume that the advice “Write a Book on ‘How to Make Money’ and find a bunch of suckers willing to pay for it” won’t be in the table of contents.

      Click through and read some of the text from Project Gutenberg – it’s a book of fairly banal advice like:  Don’t go into debt.  Okay sometimes debt is okay, like if you are going to buy land or something else that will make you money long term, but not to buy a new suit or a fancy watch.  I think I could write a book like that just remembering all the trite bits of wisdom that they put at the end of old 50’s TV shows.

      I’ll bet Barnum made some money off of it though.  Notorious salesman puts out a book about making money – I bet it flew off the shelves even once people read it and realized he was just regurgitating stuff their grandma told them when they were kids.

      1. From all I have read he was into the delivery of wonder and amazement. For that purpose sometimes he created hoaxes and scams, but he always delivered what he really proposed.

        Not like he was selling fake insurance or some amazing new vacuum cleaner that works worse than the normal ones.

    1.  Yeah. . .  I noticed that too.  We should continue:  “Never take vacation.  Don’t give in to temptation. . . “

    2. We can make it rhyme, can’t we? I’ll start:

      Don’t mistake your vocation.
      Select the right location.
      Don’t go into debt.
      Don’t give up yet!

  1. P.T Barnum’s best strategy for making money was to steal ideas from his competitors.   One of the biggest acts of his time was “Krao the Monkey Girl”, a Thailand woman whose body was covered with hair.   When Barnum failed to hire Krao away from her manager, he went out and found himself a Russian “missing link” act that he billed as “Jo Jo, the Dog-faced Boy”.   Barnum made a lot of money off  the suckers, er I mean customers…

    1. If someone does something that’s been done before, it’s stealing ideas?

      Oh, those vicious cobblers, stealing the idea of repairing shoes.  Those thieving brewers, stealing the idea of alcohol fermentation.  Those rotten bricklayers, stealing the idea of stacking one thing on top of another…  why, now that I think on’t, commenting on forums is clearly theft from ancient Greeks!

  2. that advice, grandmotherly or not, did apply to managing large crowds of unruly patrons. imagine getting ripped off and walking away.  as the manager spending money on wardrobe and accoutrements putting themself into debt will not insulate them from assault by the dissatisfied. like does not normally attack like. a little bit of difference is ok, an outfit that tries to make others feel a little bit superior for example. there are ways to insulate a business, legitimate or not, from too many unprofitable questions. the goal is to consistently make a reliable income, every one else is the fool born a minute. have fun online.

  3. I realized a truism while reading these comments; A libertarian is someone who believes he is not a fool.

    1.  Wait, I just do that for fun as it is, you mean I can get RICH doing what I love? By which I mean beating the shit out of elephants? Super!

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