When I first came across this book, my thoughts were: 1) I had no idea P.T. Barnum was an author, and 2) I wonder what kind of financial advice would be given by the man who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Since then, I have learned that even though it is commonly attributed to him, Barnum probably did not utter that famous phrase, but Barnum’s reputation as a formidable businessman still had my interest piqued about the subject matter.
I also learned that P.T. Barnum was indeed an author, with his autobiography being such a prolific seller that it was second only to the New Testament in America when it was issued.
Barnum introduces his idea of “true economy”. To him, “true economy” is the common-sense way of making sure the needs are met in a good and reliable way before contemplating the luxuries. He points out that many people do not have or do not exercise the ability to discern need from want, and do not give the needs their due consideration before living beyond their means with the wants. This, however, seems to be a constant in a capitalist and consumer-driven society. He appeals for a return to the happiness and peace of mind that proper perspective can bring.
Barnum doesn’t so much offer practical insights as offer the standard phrases of “easy come, easy go” and “keeping up appearances”. He shows a particular disdain for extravagances of any kind, and comes down especially hard on tobacco and its users as an injurious habit with no redeeming value.
It begins with choosing a proper and suitable vocation; staying out of debt; be determined; work hard; be accountable to yourself first; use the best tools (hire the best employees); stay focused; learn something every day; maintain a reasonable hope; don’t spread yourself too thin; devise and use systems; be aware of your world; avoid risk and vice; do not overextend yourself or your credit; advertise; be polite and kind; be charitable; be careful what you say; and finally, your integrity is your currency.Barnum then walks through the important lessons of having a successful career, and each short chapter is his commentary on each subject.
The examples given in the detail on each subject are a little dated, of course, but most of the advice is so common-sense that it remains largely true and useful today.
The book can be downloaded for free at Feedbooks.
You can also find the book for free at the Project Gutenberg site in various formats including plain text, ePub and Kindle.