P.T. Barnum’s 20 Rules for Making Money

Earlier today Kottke published a great list on P.T. Barnum’s 20 rules for making money from the book The Art of Money Getting published in 1880. Every entrepreneur would do well to study and follow these 20 rules:

  1. Don’t mistake your vocation
  2. Select the right location
  3. Avoid debt
  4. Persevere
  5. Whatever you do, do it with all your might
  6. Depend upon your own personal exertions
  7. Use the best tools
  8. Don’t get above your business
  9. Learn something useful
  10. Let hope predominate but be not too visionary
  11. Do not scatter your powers
  12. Be systematic
  13. Read the newspapers
  14. Beware of “outside operations”
  15. Don’t endorse without security
  16. Advertise your business
  17. Be polite and kind to your customers
  18. Be charitable
  19. Don’t blab
  20. Preserve your integrity

While a few aren’t applicable to tech startups, almost all of them are still relevant and useful 130+ years later.

What else? Which one of the P.T. Barnum’s rules is your favorite?

4 thoughts on “P.T. Barnum’s 20 Rules for Making Money

  1. I think Jason Kottke and I were both inspired to blog about Barnum’s book by a recent post on the news.ycombinator.com site. I wrote a slightly longer version that excerpted a key paragraph about each rule and explored how each was still applicable to an entrepreneur today. See http://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2016/03/19/p-t-barnums-golden-rules-for-making-money/ there are actually 21 rules if you example the introductory material you see another one that’s not numbered but suggests that personal expense control diligently applied is the starting point for entrepreneurship.

  2. They are all so true! I particularly like “do not scatter your powers”. It’s a trap many people fall into. Here’s my version of that, and the advice I give to myself and my team: Pick three things that you are going to do REALLY WELL, then do all the other stuff that has to be done in the rest of the time you have. This applies to your plan for the year, the quarter and the day.

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