The Art of Money Getting - Barnum Book Review Part 2

4년 전

What are you willing to do for money?

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This is the question we are considering as we work through P.T. Barnum’s book The Art of Money Getting.

This book was originally published in 1880 and is therefore no longer subject to nor protected by U.S. copyright law because the copyrights have expired.

Therefore, this book is found freely available online and the reuse of it here is permitted and may trigger content detection on the excerpts that are included for discussion.

The plan is to include excerpts and discussion through a series of posts, so there will be new content provided by me that include my thoughts on the reading to promote discussion in the comments.

For more on Barnum’s Background check out my previous post on this book.

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We will pick up this session with DON'T MISTAKE YOUR VOCATION:


By P.T. Barnum


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. 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 then goes into town and looks about to see what he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says "Sammy, I see watch-making is a nice genteel business; I think I will make you a goldsmith." He does this, regardless of Sam's natural inclinations, or genius.

We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen boys of ten years get together, and you will soon observe two or three are "whittling" out some ingenious device; working with locks or complicated machinery. When they were but five years old, their father could find no toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but the other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I belong to the latter class; I never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it would not leak. I never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the principle of a steam engine. If a man was to take such a boy as I was, and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might, after an apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart and put together a watch; but all through life he would be working up hill and seizing every excuse for leaving his work and idling away his time. Watchmaking is repulsive to him.

Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation. Yet we see many who have mistaken their calling, from the blacksmith up (or down) to the clergyman. You will see, for instance, that extraordinary linguist the "learned blacksmith," who ought to have been a teacher of languages; and you may have seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were better fitted by nature for the anvil or the lapstone.


After securing the right vocation, you must be careful to select the proper location. You may have been cut out for a hotel keeper, and they say it requires a genius to "know how to keep a hotel." You might conduct a hotel like clock-work, and provide satisfactorily for five hundred guests every day; yet, if you should locate your house in a small village where there is no railroad communication or public travel, the location would be your ruin. It is equally important that you do not commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in the same occupation. I remember a case which illustrates this subject. When I was in London in 1858, I was passing down Holborn with an English friend and came to the "penny shows." They had immense cartoons outside, portraying the wonderful curiosities to be seen "all for a penny." Being a little in the "show line" myself, I said "let us go in here." We soon found ourselves in the presence of the illustrious showman, and he proved to be the sharpest man in that line I had ever met. He told us some extraordinary stories in reference to his bearded ladies, his Albinos, and his Armadillos, which we could hardly believe, but thought it "better to believe it than look after the proof'." He finally begged to call our attention to some wax statuary, and showed us a lot of the dirtiest and filthiest wax figures imaginable. They looked as if they had not seen water since the Deluge.

"What is there so wonderful about your statuary?" I asked.

"I beg you not to speak so satirically," he replied, "Sir, these are not Madam Tussaud's wax figures, all covered with gilt and tinsel and imitation diamonds, and copied from engravings and photographs. Mine, sir, were taken from life. Whenever you look upon one of those figures, you may consider that you are looking upon the living individual."

Glancing casually at them, I saw one labeled "Henry VIII," and feeling a little curious upon seeing that it looked like Calvin Edson, the living skeleton, I said: "Do you call that 'Henry the Eighth?'" He replied, "Certainly; sir; it was taken from life at Hampton Court, by special order of his majesty; on such a day."

He would have given the hour of the day if I had resisted; I said, "Everybody knows that 'Henry VIII.' was a great stout old king, and that figure is lean and lank; what do you say to that?"

"Why," he replied, "you would be lean and lank yourself if you sat there as long as he has."

There was no resisting such arguments. I said to my English friend, "Let us go out; do not tell him who I am; I show the white feather; he beats me."

He followed us to the door, and seeing the rabble in the street, he called out, "ladies and gentlemen, I beg to draw your attention to the respectable character of my visitors," pointing to us as we walked away. I called upon him a couple of days afterwards; told him who I was, and said:

"My friend, you are an excellent showman, but you have selected a bad location."

He replied, "This is true, sir; I feel that all my talents are thrown away; but what can I do?"

"You can go to America," I replied. "You can give full play to your faculties over there; you will find plenty of elbowroom in America; I will engage you for two years; after that you will be able to go on your own account."

He accepted my offer and remained two years in my New York Museum. He then went to New Orleans and carried on a traveling show business during the summer. To-day he is worth sixty thousand dollars, simply because he selected the right vocation and also secured the proper location. The old proverb says, "Three removes are as bad as a fire," but when a man is in the fire, it matters but little how soon or how often he removes.

My Thoughts:

"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."

This sounds like much of the commonplace wisdom of “loving what you do” so you “never have to work a day in your life”.

I can see the idea here being good, but is it really possible for all of us?

Isn’t work, well..., work?

It depends on who you ask and what you do. Selecting something that we are more inclined to do or enjoy makes the completion of the tasks involved easier. Yet with every vocation or job or career, there is bound to be parts you would rather leave off.

I enjoy writing, but then it comes to naught without sharing and promoting my posts.

The trick is to find a balance and motivation to keep going with the bits that are not enjoyable to make the good part make you money.

But should we just pick what we think we like to do?

According to 80,000 Hours:

“We all want to find a dream job that’s enjoyable and meaningful, but what does that actually mean?

Some people imagine that the answer involves discovering their passion through a flash of insight, while others think that the key elements of their dream job are that it be easy and highly paid.

We’ve reviewed two decades of research into the causes of a satisfying life and career, drawing on over 60 studies, and we didn’t find much evidence for these views.

Instead, we found six key ingredients of a dream job. They don’t include income, and they aren’t as simple as “following your passion”.

In fact, following your passion can lead you astray.”


That is a far cry from this “old school” advice P.T. throws out. I like the idea of “doing what you love” but think maybe 80,000 Hours is onto something…

There is value however in finding your strengths and working within those parameters. It allows more success and value to be created rather than trying to improve your weakness to get them up only to a more mediocre level at the opportunity-cost of maximizing your positive abilities.

Barnum takes the approach that we are all good at one particular thing and should just stick with that.

I, however, think most all of us have a few, maybe 3 to 5 things, that we could be really great at. The trick is finding a way to make it profitable if you want it to be something that you can live on.

But must we do what we enjoy to make money?

Perhaps it is more enjoyable not to turn your “love of X” into a monetized scenario, but rather leave it a hobby where you just do it because you want to rather than have to.

Many things in my life have become less enjoyable once money was introduced into the equation.

Let’s move on to SELECT THE RIGHT LOCATION, shall we?

This short story ends with an “old proverb says, "Three removes are as bad as a fire," but when a man is in the fire, it matters but little how soon or how often he removes.”

The point is that you need to take action and move to a new location if you are not successful where you are currently located.

Much of this may hold true for job seekers in markets that are not good. They may find employment if the merely move.
But moving is not so easy, nor is it cheap.

Plus some people have non-monetary reasons for sticking around an area such as desire for the climate, local attractions or the enjoyment of family who lives in their area.

With the ubiquitousness of the Internet and new online ways to earn money, moving may not be as necessary as it may have once been.

However, Barnum points out that “It is equally important that you do not commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in the same occupation.”

This is a bit more tricky when working online in many different types of work where the market for such services is flooded with any takers who may take little for their work and drive down the potential wages.

Barnum’s story ends with a guy who “is worth sixty thousand dollars” in or around 1880’s money, which according to this Inflation Calculator comes out to be about $1.37 Million dollars today!

It sounds like that move really paid off!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Next time we will pick up with and continue on with AVOID DEBT.

Stay tuned.
Stay interesting.
Stay Strange.


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However, Barnum points out that “It is equally important that you do not commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in the same occupation.”

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Sounds awesome!

Glad you got something out of it and best of luck!

Vocation and Location! Great points here. Really enjoying this series @strangearray!


That's a great recap summary!

hey my dear @strangerarray, your every part is Awesome, thanks for sharing with us.

Love you,My dear.


Welcome My dear Sir @strangerarray

Nice story
Thank you for sharing
I really like it


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