P.T. Barnum was a fascinating figure in American history. Though he was at turns a businessman, author, and politician, he was at heart a showman. He helped form, along with James Bailey in the 1880s, what became the recently shuttered Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum was a genius at self-promotion, and wrote "The Humbugs of the World" (1865), "Life of P.T. Barnum" (1854), "Struggles and Triumphs" (1869), and most unusually, "The Art of Money Getting" (1880). The "Art of Money Getting" is a surprisingly spot-on collection of financial tidbits that are easily applicable for businesspersons today.

Money advice for spendthrifts

The book emphasizes spending less than you earn and staying out of debt. Barnum's warning here is ominous: "There is no class of people in the world, who have such good memories as creditors." To avoid this and move ahead financially comes down to making income exceed the "out-go," Barnum wrote. The book talks at length about what a "true economy" is, that is, what is true and smart frugality as opposed to being pound-wise and penny-foolish.

The book plays up the simple pleasures of life: "an evening's reading in the family circle, or an hour's play of 'hunt the slipper' and 'blind man's buff' will be far more pleasant than a fifty or five hundred dollar party."

Money advice for everyone else

There is much debate today about whether one should "follow their passion" or develop their skills and then become passionate about their skill set.

Author and Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport (in his book "So Good They Can't Ignore You"), argues for the latter. Many Business and sports luminaries in popular culture argue for the former. Barnum's sentiment seems to run closer to following one's passion. "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."

Much of Barnum's advice is timeless.

He exhorts readers to persevere; do what you do with all your might; use the best tools; learn something useful, and advertise your business. You can listen to "The Art of Money Getting," which is in the public domain, here:

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