The following quotes by PT Barnum are original and have not been edited or modified in anyway. PT Barnum’s text and rules are too good to add any commentary – thus you are reading this undiluted. These are by far some of the world’s best how to make money secrets you will ever come across. So keep reading and hit jackpot! This is a highly recommended read for career people, business people, students, apprentices, teenagers, adults, baby boomers, and just anyone that desires real success in life.
- LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS
True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go.
Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new pair of gloves; mend the old dress: live on plainer food if need be; so that, under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs, there will be a margin in favor of the income.
A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending.
Here is a recipe which I recommend: I have found it to work an excellent cure for extravagance, and especially for mistaken economy: When you find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them into a book and mark down every item of expenditure.
Post it every day or week in two columns, one headed “necessaries” or even “comforts”, and the other headed “luxuries,” and you will find that the latter column will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the former.
The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most of us can earn. Dr. Franklin says…
“It is the eyes of others and not our own eyes which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not care for fine clothes or furniture.”
In America many persons like to repeat “we are all free and equal,” but it is a great mistake in more senses than one.
- PICK THE RIGHT VOCATION
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.
“Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed.” -P.T. Barnum
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.
- SELECT THE RIGHT LOCATION
After securing the right vocation, you must be careful to select the proper location.
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.
- AVOID DEBT
Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt.
There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a slavish position to get in, yet we find many a young man, hardly out of his “teens,” running in debt.
He meets a chum and says, “Look at this: I have got trusted for a new suit of clothes.”
He seems to look upon the clothes as so much given to him; well, it frequently is so, but, if he succeeds in paying and then gets trusted again, he is adopting a habit which will keep him in poverty through life.
“Debt robs a man of his self-respect, and makes him almost despise himself.” P.T. Barnum
Grunting and groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when he is called upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this is properly termed “working for a dead horse.”
I do not speak of merchants buying and selling on credit, or of those who buy on credit in order to turn the purchase to a profit
When a man is in the right path, he must persevere. I speak of this because there are some persons who are “born tired;” naturally lazy and possessing no self-reliance and no perseverance.
But they can cultivate these qualities, as Davy Crockett said: “This thing remember, when I am dead: Be sure you are right, then go ahead.”
It is this go-aheaditiveness, this determination not to let the “horrors” or the “blues” take possession of you, so as to make you relax your energies in the struggle for independence, which you must cultivate.
How many have almost reached the goal of their ambition, but, losing faith in themselves, have relaxed their energies, and the golden prize has been lost forever.
“If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you and get the prize.” -P.T. Barnum
Remember the proverb of Solomon: “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.”
Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance. Many persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow trouble. They are born so. 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.
- 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 old proverb is full of truth and meaning, “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”
Many a man acquires a fortune by doing his business thoroughly, while his neighbor remains poor for life, because he only half does it.
Ambition, energy, industry, perseverance are indispensable requisites for success in business.
“Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.” -PT Barnum
It won’t do to spend your time like Mr. Micawber, in waiting for something to “turn up.” To such men one of two things usually “turns up:” the poorhouse or the jail; for idleness breeds bad habits, and clothes a man in rags.
The poor spendthrift vagabond says to a rich man: “I have discovered there is enough money in the world for all of us, if it was equally divided; this must be done, and we shall all be happy together.”
“But,” was the response, “if everybody was like you, it would be spent in two months, and what would you do then?”
“Oh! divide again; keep dividing, of course!”
- DEPEND UPON YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXERTIONS.
The eye of the employer is often worth more than the hands of a dozen employees. In the nature of things, an agent cannot be so faithful to his employer as to himself. Many who are employers will call to mind instances where the best employees have overlooked important points which could not have escaped their own observation as a proprietor.
No man has a right to expect to succeed in life unless he understands his business, and nobody can understand his business thoroughly unless he learns it by personal application and experience. A man may be a manufacturer: he has got to learn the many details of his business personally; he will learn something every day, and he will find he will make mistakes nearly every day. And these very mistakes are helps to him in the way of experiences if he but heeds them.
He will be like the Yankee tin-peddler, who, having been cheated as to quality in the purchase of his merchandise, said: “All right, there’s a little information to be gained every day; I will never be cheated in that way again.”
Thus a man buys his experience, and it is the best kind if not purchased at too dear a rate.
I hold that every man should, like Cuvier, the French naturalist, thoroughly know his business.
“The possession of a perfect knowledge of your business is an absolute necessity in order to insure success.” -P.T. Barnum
Among the maxims of the elder Rothschild was one, all apparent paradox: “Be cautious and bold.”
This seems to be a contradiction in terms, but it is not, and there is great wisdom in the maxim.
It is to say; “you must exercise your caution in laying your plans, but be bold in carrying them out.”
A man who is all caution, will never dare to take hold and be successful; and a man who is all boldness, is merely reckless, and must eventually fail.
But if he has simple boldness without caution, it is mere chance, and what he gains to-day he will lose to-morrow.
You must have both the caution and the boldness, to insure success.
The Rothschilds have another maxim: “Never have anything to do with an unlucky man or place.”
That is to say, never have anything to do with a man or place which never succeeds, because, although a man may appear to be honest and intelligent, yet if he tries this or that thing and always fails, it is on account of some fault or infirmity that you may not be able to discover but nevertheless which must exist.
There is no such thing in the world as luck.
There never was a man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street to-day, and another to-morrow, and so on, day after day: He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it.
“Like causes produce like effects.” If a man adopts the proper methods to be successful, “luck” will not prevent him. If he does not succeed, there are reasons for it, although, perhaps, he may not be able to see them.
- 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. He is worth more to you this year than last, and he is the last man to part with, provided his habits are good, and he continues faithful.
If, as he gets more valuable, he demands an exorbitant increase of salary; on the supposition that you can’t do without him, let him go.
Whenever I have such an employee, I always discharge him; first, to convince him that his place may be supplied, and second, because he is good for nothing if he thinks he is invaluable and cannot be spared. But I would keep him, if possible, in order to profit from the result of his experience.
An important element in an employee is the brain. You can see bills up, “Hands Wanted,” but “hands” are not worth a great deal without “heads.”
Those men who have brains and experience are therefore the most valuable and not to be readily parted with; it is better for them, as well as yourself, to keep them, at reasonable advances in their salaries from time to time.
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- DON’T GET ABOVE YOUR BUSINESS
There is no greater mistake than when a young man believes he will succeed with borrowed money. Why? Because every man’s experience coincides with that of Mr. Astor, who said, “it was more difficult for him to accumulate his first thousand dollars, than all the succeeding millions that made up his colossal fortune.”
“Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience.” -P.T. Barnum
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. Like buying a ticket in the lottery; and drawing a prize, it is “easy come, easy go.”
He does not know the value of it; nothing is worth anything, unless it costs effort.
Without self-denial and economy; patience and perseverance, and commencing with capital which you have not earned, you are not sure to succeed in accumulating.
Young men, instead of “waiting for dead men’s shoes,” should be up and doing, for there is no class of persons who are so unaccommodating in regard to dying as these rich old people, and it is fortunate for the expectant heirs that it is so.
Nine out of ten of the rich men of our country to-day, started out in life as poor boys, with determined will, industry, perseverance, economy and good habits. They went on gradually, made their own money and saved it; and this is the best way to acquire a fortune.
So in regard to wealth; Go on in confidence, study the rules, and above all things, study human nature; for “the proper study of mankind is man,” and you will find that while expanding the intellect and the muscles, your enlarged experience will enable you every day to accumulate more and more principal, which will increase itself by interest and otherwise, until you arrive at a state of independence.
“You will find, as a general thing, that the poor boys get rich and the rich boys get poor.” -P.T. Barnum
Young men loaded down with other people’s money are almost sure to lose all they inherit, and they acquire all sorts of bad habits which, in the majority of cases, ruin them in health, purse and character.
In this country, one generation follows another, and the poor of to-day are rich in the next generation, or the third. Their experience leads them on, and they become rich, and they leave vast riches to their young children.
These children, having been reared in luxury, are inexperienced and get poor; and after long experience another generation comes on and gathers up riches again in turn.
And thus “history repeats itself,” and happy is he who by listening to the experience of others avoids the rocks and shoals on which so many have been wrecked.
No profession, trade, or calling, is overcrowded in the upper story. Wherever you find the most honest and intelligent merchant or banker, or the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best clergyman, the best shoemaker, carpenter, or anything else, that man is most sought for, and has always enough to do.
As a nation, Americans are too superficial– they are striving to get rich quickly, and do not generally do their business as substantially and thoroughly as they should, but 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.
Let your motto then always be “Excelsior,” for by living up to it there is no such word as fail.
(Excelsior = “ever upward” or “still higher”)
- LEARN SOMETHING USEFUL
Every man should make his son or daughter learn some useful trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes of being rich to-day 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.
- 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, always in hot water, always “under the harrow.”
The plan of “counting the chickens before they are hatched” is an error of ancient date, but it does not seem to improve by age.
- 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.
A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched.
When a man’s undivided attention is centered 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.
Many a fortune has slipped through a man’s fingers because he was engaged in too many occupations at a time. There is good sense in the old caution against having too many irons in the fire at once.
- 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 slipshod.
By introducing system into all your transactions, doing one thing at a time, always meeting appointments with punctuality, you find leisure for pastime and recreation; whereas the man who only half does one thing, and then turns to something else, and half does that, will have his business at loose ends, and will never know when his day’s work is done, for it never will be done.
Of course, there is a limit to all these rules. We must try to preserve the happy medium, for there is such a thing as being too systematic.
There are men and women, for instance, who put away things so carefully that they can never find them again.
- READ THE NEWSPAPERS
Always take a trustworthy newspaper, and thus keep thoroughly posted in regard to the transactions of the world.
He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.
In these days of telegraphs and steam, many important inventions and improvements in every branch of trade are being made, and he who don’t consult the newspapers will soon find himself and his business left out in the cold.
- BEWARE OF “OUTSIDE OPERATIONS”
We sometimes see men who have obtained fortunes, suddenly become poor. In many cases, this arises from intemperance, and often from gaming, and other bad habits.
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. Now if he forgets that his economical habits, his rectitude of conduct and a personal attention to a business which he understood, caused his success in life, he will listen to the siren voices.
He says: “I will put in twenty thousand dollars. I have been lucky, and my good luck will soon bring me back sixty thousand dollars.”
A few days elapse and it is discovered he must put in ten thousand dollars more: soon after he is told “it is all right,” but certain matters not foreseen, require an advance of twenty thousand dollars more, which will bring him a rich harvest; but before the time comes around to realize, the bubble bursts, he loses all he is possessed of, and then he learns what he ought to have known at the first, that however successful a man may be in his own business, if he turns from that and engages ill a business which he don’t understand, he is like Samson when shorn of his locks his strength has departed, and he becomes like other men.
If a man has plenty of money, he ought to invest something in everything that appears to promise success, and that will probably benefit mankind; but let the sums thus invested be moderate in amount, and never let a man foolishly jeopardize a fortune that he has earned in a legitimate way, by investing it in things in which he has had no experience.
- ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS
We all depend, more or less, upon the public for our support. 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, and that when they have tried it, they will feel they have got their money’s worth, 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.” -P.T. Barnum
You may advertise a spurious article, and induce many people to call and buy it once, but they will denounce you as an impostor and swindler, and your business will gradually die out and leave you poor. This is right.
Few people can safely depend upon chance custom. You all need to have your customers return and purchase again.
A man said to me, “I have tried advertising and did not succeed; yet I have a good article.”
I replied, “My friend, there may be exceptions to a general rule. But how do you advertise?”
“I put it in a weekly newspaper three times, and paid a dollar and a half for it.”
I replied: “Sir, advertising is like learning–‘a little is a dangerous thing!’”
So a man who advertises at all must keep it up until the public know who and what he is, and what his business is, or else the money invested in advertising is lost.
Some men have a peculiar genius for writing a striking advertisement, one that will arrest the attention of the reader at first sight. This fact, of course, gives the advertiser a great advantage.
Sometimes a man makes himself popular by a unique sign or a curious display in his window, recently I observed a swing sign extending over the sidewalk in front of a store, on which was the inscription in plain letters, “DON’T READ THE OTHER SIDE”.
Of course I did, and so did everybody else, and I learned that the man had made all independence by first attracting the public to his business in that way and then using his customers well afterwards.
- BE POLITE AND KIND TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly.
The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him. “Like begets like.”
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 best in the long run.
This brings us to the golden rule, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them” and they will do better by you than if you always treated them as if you wanted to get the most you could out of them for the least return.
Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also.
- 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 that the liberal man will command patronage, while the sordid, uncharitable miser will be avoided.
Solomon says: “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”
Of course the only true charity is that which is from the heart.
“The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help themselves. Promiscuous almsgiving, without inquiring into the worthiness of the applicant, is bad in every sense.” -P.T. Barnum
But to search out and quietly assist those who are struggling for themselves, is the kind that “scattereth and yet increaseth.”
But don’t fall into the idea that some persons practice, of giving a prayer instead of a potato, and a benediction instead of bread, to the hungry. It is easier to make Christians with full stomachs than empty.
- DON’T BLAB
Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business secrets.
If they make money they like to tell their neighbors how it was done. Nothing is gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost.
Say nothing about your profits, your hopes, your expectations, your intentions. And this should apply to letters as well as to conversation.
Goethe makes Mephistophilles say: “Never write a letter nor destroy one.”
Business men must write letters, but they should be careful what they put in them.
If you are losing money, be specially cautious and not tell of it, or you will lose your reputation.
- PRESERVE YOUR INTEGRITY
It is more precious than diamonds or rubies. The old miser said to his sons: “Get money; get it honestly if you can, but get money:”
This advice was not only atrociously wicked, but it was the very essence of stupidity: It was as much as to say, “if you find it difficult to obtain money honestly, you can easily get it dishonestly. Get it in that way.” Poor fool!
Not to know that the most difficult thing in life is to make money dishonestly!
Not to know that our prisons are full of men who attempted to follow this advice; not to understand that no man can be dishonest, without soon being found out, and that when his lack of principle is discovered, nearly every avenue to success is closed against him forever.
The public very properly shun all whose integrity is doubted. No matter how polite and pleasant and accommodating a man may be, none of us dare to deal with him if we suspect “false weights and measures.”
“Strict honesty, not only lies at the foundation of all success in life (financially), but in every other respect.” -P.T. Barnum
Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable. It secures to its possessor a peace and joy which cannot be attained without it–which no amount of money, or houses and lands can purchase.
A man who is known to be strictly honest, may be ever so poor, but he has the purses of all the community at his disposal–for all know that if he promises to return what he borrows, he will never disappoint them.
As a mere matter of selfishness, therefore, if a man had no higher motive for being honest, all will find that the maxim of Dr. Franklin can never fail to be true, that “honesty is the best policy.”
To get rich, is not always equivalent to being successful.
“There are many rich poor men,” while there are many others, honest and devout men and women, who have never possessed so much money as some rich persons squander in a week, but who are nevertheless really richer and happier than any man can ever be while he is a transgressor of the higher laws of his being.
The inordinate love of money, no doubt, may be and is “the root of all evil,” but money itself, when properly used, is not only a “handy thing to have in the house,” but affords the gratification of blessing our race by enabling its possessor to enlarge the scope of human happiness and human influence.
The desire for wealth is nearly universal, and none can say it is not laudable, provided the possessor of it accepts its responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.