P T Barnum on Success


P T Barnum was a Victorian businessman who is remembered for his traveling circus – the ‘greatest show on earth’ – and the weird and wonderful ‘exhibits’ it contained. For some, Barnum was an exploiter and an opportunist, a man who took advantage of the weak and the vulnerable and who preyed on the credulity of his audience – the phrase ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ was coined by Barnum. For others, he is the epitome of success and philanthropy. He established the Biology department at Tufts University, for example, and many of his ‘exhibits’ – the unfortunate individuals who were paraded in front of amazed audiences – became quite wealthy in their own right.

He lived in a different age, but whatever you might think about his circus, Barnum was a remarkable person who enjoyed fame, wealth and success. There is a great deal we can learn and apply from this master of entertainment in our own efforts to become successful.

Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant


I’m sure almost everyone wants to have more money. Few people will be satisfied with their current financial situation. And this is not a bad thing – there desire to keep growing and achieving more is a natural and normal impulse; if we are not moving forward then we are moving backwards – standing still is not usually an option. Money means freedom. The more money you have, the freer you are – the more options you have. But the desire for more money for its own sake can be enslaving, and some people become very wealthy and yet fail to enjoy their wealth, being so bent on preserving and acquiring more.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, if money becomes our master then we can live impoverished lives, never enjoying the freedom which money represents. If there is no enjoyment and no freedom, what is the point of becoming wealthy? Keep money in its place – it’s important, but not for its own sake.



Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed


We all have own particular talents and skills, and some activities and occupations suit us better than others. Many of us have been brought up to believe that work has to be boring and difficult and hard, and that it’s just a way to pay the bills and enable us to live our ‘real life.’ But until we find work that is meaningful and enjoyable to us, we can never be successful. What we enjoy, we will work harder at, and yet the work will be a lot easier – effortless, even, and will be more likely to lead to success.

Ask yourself: ‘what would I do if I had so much money that I wouldn’t need to work?’ The answer to this question will give you a clue to the kind of thing that you ought to be doing.



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


It is amazing that some businesses treat their customers badly. I fly a lot, and there are certain airlines (who shall remain nameless) I will never use because I know their customer service is invariably so bad. There are others I love, since I know I will always get great service and be treated well. I’ll even pay more to fly with these airlines.

It’s all about adding as much value as you can – doing your best. When you offer a service or a product, when you provide something to someone, do it as well as you can. If you ask me for the secret of success in any field, the simple answer would be ‘relationships.’ People want to be treated well – they want to feel important, not just another customer but an individual. You can apply this to anything you are involved in – your business, your job, your family – make people feel special and important and things will go well.


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


If you know where you are going and you keep walking, you will get to your destination – one step at a time. The walk can be a chore – it can be tiring and difficult; but it can also be pleasurable – a great adventure, even. If you love what you’re doing, your work is never a chore. Weekends, evenings, holidays – it won’t matter. Like a rambler or a mountain climber, there might be times when you are tired, but in the end, it’s all part of the journey – you love it all, and you will keep on going. It’s worth it because you love the exercise, you love the scenery, and you love the journey.

Success is not always an easy thing. Usually, it takes time and it takes work. But when you are doing what you love and when you are patient and have the right attitudes, success is sure to follow. Take it from P.T. Barnum and the greatest show on earth.

Mark Harrison writes for a number of self development sites, including his own, EffortlessAbundance. Check out his latest book, Thirty Days to Change Your Life.

Mark Harrison writes for a number of self development sites, including his own, Check out his latest book, Thirty Days to Change Your Life.

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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