I was surprised when I read The Art of Money Getting and found that I not only agreed with the vast majority of what he was saying – but that it was still eerily accurate some 137 years later.
“A few changes to the language,” I thought, “a couple of updates to references and this book would be a solid piece of advice for any entrepreneur.”
So, I decided to do just that – to add modern interpretations to a classic book in order to give it modern context.
Then I started doing my research into Barnum, and I realised that “purveyor of hoaxes” was way too gentle for what he was into—Barnum was not the harmless good guy the motion picture about to be released would make him out to be.
Barnum is a complex character – he would outright lie and deceive to get people into his shows, he bought and sold human beings as attractions, and he seemed to have no moral dilemma over any of it.
It’s hard to know whether his changes of heart over the course of his life were a man truly stepping into his maturity and regretting his past actions, or whether it was all just another side show.
Much of Barnum’s advice is accurate if viewed separate from his behaviours – basically, he took these behaviours to a dark place, but the tools themselves are indifferent. A hammer can be used to put a roof over the heads of poor people, or it can be used affix chains to people held as slaves – the issue is not with the tool but with the intent of the wielder.
So don’t forget who he was as you read this book – but also don’t forget who you are. All of these tools can be used to deceive – and they can also be used with integrity for the greater good.
The difference lies only in your intention.