P.T. Barnum and debt

debtIf you wanted to know where to look for advice you would only have to twist your head from side to side for it rests on both of your shoulders. Advice are those “either or suggestions” that we grapple with; they are the suggestions we often do not know which one to adhere to. For when we are in need, both sides can be ever so convincing.

Advice is the food we feed our indecisions, sometimes it is fattening…filled with saturated fats and sugars….not very good for us but very satisfying; and then there is the more nutritious proposals, not as immediately fulfilling but in the long run more wholesome. And there lies the problem, which advice to ignore and which one to adopt; for as we twist our head from side-to-side, our hunger for contentment amplifies. Perhaps this is why many a person has succumbed to advice that grants immediate rewards… deciding to attend to the details later. But when “later” comes round such advice heaves and sighs under the weight of debt and disappointment. And with poor advice it is often too late to realize that like unwanted calories, debt increase at a rate where suddenly we are quite a bit stouter.

Alas, the burden of deciding which advice to take is not easy. And wouldn’t it be nice if there was the proverbial crystal ball that could tell us which side of our head to listen to. But like the little devil and angel on either shoulder, we can only hope our choice is correct.

Barnum circus posterToday’s post returns to you a man who presumes to have the right advice: the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1801-1891). Although the Barnum name is part of the American circus legacy, Mr. Barnum was 61 years old when the circus collaboration was presented to him. It was in his marketing ingenuity and genius that brought him to the forefront of 19th century society. He crafted his life by taking chances and making changes. He was mostly successful in business although at times suffered for under his miscalculations

From his book The Art of Money Getting, I have extracted some words of advice in the essay, “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… 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…

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When you have it mastering you; when interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world. It is no “eye-servant.” There is nothing animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry weather…”

Esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum

There are very few things that everyone likes however if I had to make a guess, I would have to surmise that a bit of “civility and politeness” would be such a pair we all yearn for. For who does not enjoy receiving a simple “please and thank you,” which are delivered without monetary cost. And knowing that all persons like these bits of politeness added to a conversation one would think that they would be scattered about like ants at a picnic. Yet, to our dismay, civility is not the norm everywhere, but rather present in some places and vacant in others. Like climate, we find that some folks are generally pleasant, spreading their politeness about like a summer breeze, while in other regions we find the population lacking in their pleasantries like a late winter storm.

But let us look at civility not as a luxury but as something that can be freely expressed; and so if we give it away, let us hope that the recipient will forgo their miserly disposition and reciprocate with an equally pleasant bit of civility. It is curious to see that though it is free, it can reap benefits beyond its original façade.

PT Barmun portrait

Today’s post introduces the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) a man whose life encompassed the entire nineteenth century, a man who employed and some say exploited the culture and technology of his era. Barnum was an author, showman, and visionary that often scandalized his contemporaries.

Born in Connecticut, Barnum was both a brilliant and shameless promoter often accused of fraud as well as believing there was no such thing as bad press. Barnum’s success will always be connected with the great American circus, although it is believed that his greatest success arrived when he presented European opera star Jenny Lind to the American public (1850). “The Swedish Nightingale” sang 95 concerts for Barnum.

1881, Barnum joined promotional forces with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson creating “Barnum & London Circus.” In 1885, Barnum and Bailey went their separate ways, but revamped their business relationship again in 1888. That year, the “Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” first toured America.

And so, I bring to you the advice from a successful but often scandalous showman; from his book, The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money here is a snippet from “Be Polite and Kind to your Customers,” Mr. Barnum! (For the curious… P.T. stands for Phineas Taylor)

And though we may not agree with his methods, we all must agree that he obtained success.

“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…”

Second image: Charles D. Fredricks & Co., photographer, between 1860 and 1864, 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10.1 x 6.0