PT Barnum and The Art of Money Getting

P.T. Barnum’s The Art of Money Getting is an interesting read. Some of the principles of money getting are just as true today as they were in the 1800s. And, heck, Barnum was pretty successful as a business person. Here’s what Barnum has to say about the importance of having a calling or 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. 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.

I’m no PT Barnum, but I agree that it makes sense to do something that hearkens your passions. Of course, I also think it’s important to try to do what you love for profit.

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