The Greatest Showman: P.T. Barnum

Hawk Mikado      Tuesday, March 6, 2018

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As we begin 2018, hope and courage fill the air. Especially in the hearts of entrepreneurs and business owners alike. It was no secret that the country was shrouded in turmoil after the election of President Trump, yet now things seem to have calmed down (at least in the world of business).

And with the promise of a prosperous 2018, it is only fitting that the new film released at the end of the last year, The Greatest Showman features one of the fathers of marketing. P.T. Barnum of the famed Barnum and Bailey circus is the hero in this musical, showcasing his mark on the entertainment industry.

Barnum was a shameless marketer for his many businesses, a few of which are featured in the film.

As Benjamin Reiss, professor and chair of English at Emory University, and author of The Showman and The Slave, of Barnum, explains in an interview with Smithsonian.com, Barnum’s legacy has become a sort of cultural touchstone. “The story of his life that we choose to tell is in part the story that we choose to tell about American culture,” he says. “We can choose to erase things or dance around touchy subjects and present a kind of feel good story, or we can use it as an opportunity to look at very complex and troubling histories that our culture has been grappling with for centuries.”

 

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It is very clear that while at the time Barnum certainly wasn’t politically correct, the film strives to honor and uplift those that are different. Barnum’s marketing abilities were creative and outlandish. While flyers, products, and discounts were all used, so too were the use of his animals. As we see in The Greatest Showman, Hugh Jackman can be seen riding an elephant to greet his family with marketing materials attached to the elephant promoting the show.

This isn’t far from reality.

10 Things You May Not Know About P.T. Barnum

BY EVAN ANDREWS
The celebrated circus owner and entertainment impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Connecticut on July 5, 1810. During a more than 50-year career, the self-described “Prince of Humbugs” established himself as the world’s premier purveyor of spectacle and hucksterism. He wowed the masses with larger than life hoaxes and shamelessly promoted everything from freak shows and zoos to alcohol prohibition.

Check out 10 surprising facts about the 19th century’s most legendary showman.

 

 

1. Barnum was an entrepreneur from an early age.

Barnum’s knack for money making first manifested during his youth in Bethel, Connecticut. The future showman sold snacks and homemade cherry rum during local gatherings, and by age 12, he had made enough money to purchase his own livestock. By 21, his holdings also included a general store, a small lottery and even his own newspaper called the “Herald of Freedom.”

2. He first rose to prominence by engineering a famous hoax.

In 1835, Barnum launched his career in entertainment by purchasing Joice Heth, a blind slave touted as being the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. After billing Heth as “the most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the world,” Barnum put her on display in New York and took her on a small tour of New England. Visitors lined up to gawk at her withered body and hear her tales of “dear little George,” and Barnum helped fuel popular interest by spreading a rumor that she was actually an automaton controlled by a ventriloquist. The truth about Heth didn’t emerge until after her death in February 1836. During a public autopsy—staged by Barnum at the price of 50 cents for admission—it was revealed that she was most likely no older than 80.

 

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3. Barnum didn’t go into the circus business until relatively late in life.

Barnum is best known for his traveling three-ring circuses, but he didn’t make his first forays under the big top until he was 60 years old. Before then, he was better known as the owner of the Manhattan-based American Museum, a sprawling collection of historical artifacts, aquariums, animal menageries, zoological curiosities and freak shows. Some of the museum’s most notable exhibits included General Tom Thumb, a child dwarf who Barnum famously brought to audience with Queen Victoria of Britain; and the “Fejee Mermaid,” which was actually the upper half of a monkey sewn to the bottom of a fish. Barnum only launched his traveling circus after his museum was twice destroyed by fire. He later teamed with his famed partner James Bailey in 1881, and the two went on to make a fortune running their “Greatest Show on Earth.”

4. He helped popularize opera in the United States.

Despite his association with sideshow acts like the Nova Scotia Giantess and Zip the Pinhead, Barnum was also responsible for introducing many Americans to high culture. In 1850, he inked a deal that brought the European opera singer Jenny Lind to the United States on a multi-city tour. Lind was largely unknown before her arrival—Barnum himself had never heard the soprano—but he cultivated her celebrity with a media blitz and a nationwide contest to write a song for her to sing onstage. With his help, the “Swedish Nightingale” became an overnight sensation. Barnum reportedly netted a staggering $500,000 on the tour, and Lind’s popularity helped make opera a mainstay in American theaters.

5. Barnum never said “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Barnum is often credited with having coined the phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” in reference to his gullible customers, yet there is no proof of him ever using it. The quip’s precise origins are unclear, though some claim one of Barnum’s rivals may have first said it after seeing crowds queued up for one of his exhibits. For his part, Barnum always maintained that his patrons were not “suckers” but willing participants in his light hearted pranks and hoaxes. “The people like to be humbugged,” he once said.

 

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6. His famous elephant “Jumbo” is the mascot of Tufts University.

In 1882, Barnum purchased a gargantuan 6-ton African elephant named “Jumbo” from the London Zoological Society. The sale proved controversial in Britain, where the animal was a cherished national treasure, but it marked the start of “Jumbo Mania” in the United States. People turned out to Barnum’s circus in droves and bought Jumbo postcards, hats and other souvenirs. The elephant’s fame even helped popularize the word “jumbo” as a synonym for “large.” Jumbo’s reign came to an abrupt end in 1885, when he was accidentally struck by a freight train and killed during a performance in Ontario. Barnum had Jumbo’s hide stuffed and later donated it to Massachusetts’ Tufts University, a school where he served as a trustee. The pachyderm was a popular campus monument until it burned in a fire in 1975, but it remains both the school’s mascot and the inspiration for its nickname, the “Jumbos.”

7. Barnum once used his circus animals to test the strength of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Shortly after the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, rumors that it was structurally unsound sparked a human stampede that left a dozen people dead. The bridge’s owners had previously turned down a $5,000 offer from Barnum to let him parade his circus animals across it as a publicity stunt, but they changed their minds after the accident. On the night of May 17, 1884, he marched 21 elephants and 17 camels over the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. The famous Jumbo was part of the procession, as was “Toung Taloung,” a white elephant Barnum had recently acquired from Thailand. The parade was a priceless piece of advertising for Barnum’s circus, and the combined weight of the elephants—many of which tipped the scales at over 10,000 pounds—helped put to rest any worries about the bridge’s stability.

 

 

8. He was a famous supporter of the temperance movement.

While Barnum enjoyed the occasional tipple of wine or scotch in his younger days, he swore off alcohol entirely after attending a lecture by a pro-temperance reverend in the late-1840s. He would remain an avid teetotaler and prohibition advocate for the rest of his life, and regularly gave speeches on the evils of liquor. Drinking was forbidden in his American Museum, and visitors to its lecture room were treated to performances of “The Drunkard,” a cautionary play about alcoholism. Barnum liked to say that both he and his circus animals drank “nothing stronger than water,” but his famed elephant Jumbo reportedly loved beer and was known for his ability to down a full keg in a single sitting.

9. Barnum also served as a politician.

Barnum first dipped his toes in the political waters in 1865, when he won a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly as a Republican. Despite his past ownership of the slave Joice Heth, he quickly distinguished himself as one of the legislature’s most impassioned advocates of African American equality and voting rights. He later tried to run for the U.S. Congress—ironically, against a distant relative also named Barnum—but lost in a heated campaign. Following a stint as mayor of his adopted hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Barnum later returned to the Connecticut Legislator in the late 1870s and became a leading advocate for pro-temperance reforms and the abolition of the death penalty.

 

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10. He spent years writing and updating his autobiography.

Along with his reputation as the “Prince of Humbugs,” Barnum owed much of his fame to the runaway success of his autobiography. “The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself” was first released in 1854 and was then continuously re-edited and re-issued over the following decades. New editions and appendices appeared on a near-annual basis, and Barnum helped increase sales by putting the book in the public domain and allowing anyone to publish it. He even instructed his widow to write a new chapter that chronicled the events of his 1891 death. All told, the book sold more than 1 million copies during Barnum’s lifetime.

If you are a business owner and are even thinking about going into business, The Greatest Showman is on the list of must-see films. While it lacks historical accuracy to PT Barnum's life, it speaks volumes to the life of an entrepreneur. In this case, we have a rags to riches story, literally. And while many of us may not have grown up that poor, it’s not an uncommon origin story in the lives of the massively successful.

Life Lessons for an Entrepreneur from The Greatest Showman

1. Have a Massive Work Ethic
It’s very clear in the film that Barnum does all that he can to support his family. Sometimes that means holding a desk job even though you don’t want to. While he can’t give his daughter the ballet slippers she wants for her birthday, he does use his creativity to create a beautiful light machine that he calls a “
wishing machine”. Sometimes it is better to give our kids dreams to strive for rather than material objects to collect. Barnum is a hustler in the best sense of the word as he pursued opening a museum and later his “freak” show. As that venture takes hold he then enlists Jenny Lind the opera singer to go on tour and they make a tidy profit off that. It’s vital to remember that while work ethic is an essential, it can also easily overtake your whole life.
 

“All the shine of a thousand spotlights/All the stars we steal from the night sky/Will never be enough/Never be enough/Towers of gold are still too little/These hands could hold the world but it'll/Never be enough”

 

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2. Dream Big

Over the years I have been in several mastermind groups and one of the biggest blocks I see other business owners struggle with is “playing small”. For whatever reason, they are fearful of dreaming big. They may have aspirations though they lack ambition. To be an entrepreneur or to have any large impact on the world, you must have your cup overflowing with ambition. We see this in how Barnum has many different ideas and with each one increases the stakes and drives for bigger ventures.

“Every night I lie in bed/The brightest colors fill my head/A million dreams are keeping me awake/I think of what the world could be/A vision of the one I see/A million dreams is all it's gonna take/A million dreams for the world we're gonna make”

3. Make Sure Your First Venture is Stable Before Adding A Second

Barnum is quick to run off on his next venture touring with Jenny Lind before being a leader with his first business and properly handing off the responsibility to his partner Carlyle. This in turn results in backlash from both the performers and the audience. All too often it is clear that people are buying a person, not a product or service. In this case, Barnum has fallen into this trap without realizing it. He is busy producing another show only to come back to find the place burning to the ground. And while that may seem like an extreme metaphor, it is actually about how high the stakes actually are when it comes to running a business.

“Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go/We're walking the tightrope/High in the sky/We can see the whole world down below/We're walking the tightrope/Never sure, never know how far we could fall/But it's all an adventure/That comes with a breathtaking view/Walking the tightrope”

 

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4. Have the Strength to Rebuild

Inevitably at some point in your business something will go wrong. A bad hire. A poor product choice. Financial challenges. And they can all appear seemingly out of nowhere. The key is to have resilience when the road blocks and pitfalls arise. Often times your business is better after the set back than it was before. Adversity forces your hand and you have to be better than you were before the challenge occured. Enjoy the bittersweetness of failure because it means you are doing something right.

“I saw the sun begin to dim/And felt that winter wind/Blow cold/A man learns who is there for him/When the glitter fades and the walls won't hold/'Cause from that, rubble/What remains/Can only be what's true/If all was lost/Is more I gain”

5. Be Yourself

One of the greatest attributes to be successful in business is to be yourself. Too often you will find copycats in the marketplace and those trying to be someone. They want you to think they have this amazing life or they do everything that their mentor does rather than being their own person. It is one thing to follow the path of success laid by entrepreneurs before us, it is another to dress like them, talk like them, sell the same products as them and even take similar actions as them (even if it’s against your values.) This will cause a massive imbalance not only within yourself but your business as well. Find what you believe in, who you are and what is most important to you and sell that. Because no one else in the marketplace is you. Be authentically, unapologetically you.

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down/I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out/I am brave, I am bruised/I am who I'm meant to be, this is me/Look out 'cause here I come/And I'm marching on to the beat I drum/I'm not scared to be seen/I make no apologies, this is me”

6. Remember Why You Started In the First Place

It is easy to become lost on the journey of success. It is far from a straight line and in all the pivots and turns you may find that you don’t even remember where you started or why. Purpose is a pillar, a beacon to hold on to as you make your way through this world as an entrepreneur. This is different from your why, which is also an integral part to your business why you do what you do. This is what comes before. Why you got started in the first place. It could be your family. It could be to change the way things are done. Often the drive is to leave this world better. So, on a regular basis check in with yourself to ensure that you haven’t drifted from the spark of why you started.

“I drank champagne with kings and queens/The politicians praised my name/But those are someone else's dreams/The pitfalls of the man I became/For years and years/I chased their cheers/The crazy speed of always needing more/But when I stop/And see you here/I remember who all this was for”

 

  

At the end of the day The Greatest Show is first and foremost a musical. And with that territory comes a facade, a letting go of the real world for 2 hours to enter a place of could be. For that is what you must do as an entrepreneur. Let go of what is and imagine what could be. So, while P.T. Barnum is creating his own facades, there is some truth in the story he creates. The people who were already extraordinary he would add and exaggerate further. So it is true with the entrepreneur life. We share truth but for many there is an enhancement to that truth.

 

As an example, living the laptop lifestyle, Hawk took a picture poolside working. And while he was working poolside the picture didn’t convey that the weather was cold, or that we were staying at a friends house. And while there is kickback in the marketplace for “fake” social media posting, at the end of the day as marketers we are creating or living the life our customers want. Some do so in authenticity and integrity and others not so much. The key to set you free from being seen as a fraud really comes down to transparency and people are starved for it in every industry. Whether it’s autotuning in the music industry, plywood pretending to be a wood desk, technology advancing pixel by pixel (that’s just on your camera), or even the claims of restaurants being farm to table. That is how a restaurant works, they buy the food from the supplier and it ends up in your meal that day.


So the next time you see a post with the hashtag “#NoFilter” there is always a filter and it’s the one everyone comes with. We are always processing information through our own lens and then each person perceives that message differently based on their lens. Through the lens of Funnel Magazine The Greatest Showman is a masterpiece in its story of entrepreneurship and even sales funnels. It promises powerfully inspiring music to uplift anyone who has ever been in the world of business. It’s spectacle so sharp, we all wish our businesses were the well oiled machine that is the choreography of this film. 

 

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How The Greatest Showman Touched My Life

By Hawk Mikado

 

P.T. Barnum was one of the best entrepreneurs, and in The Greatest Showman, it shared an embellishment of that story. Now, I don’t generally feel inspired, or react the way I do to movies like I did with The Greatest Showman. The opening scene, not only had a lot of power, but the song itself, the intro song, shared how the movie was going to progress. And it was an inspiration to entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, as a businessman, as someone who dreams big, as someone who goes for what I want in the world, it gave me chills.

 

So, when I say, if you’re an entrepreneur, and you want to see something powerful, and inspirational, and really get a feel for what the journey might look like for you make sure you watch The Greatest Showman. If it’s still in theaters when you’re reading this then go see it in theaters, it’s absolutely worth it. But I want to show you a couple of key things I found in the movie. From a business perspective, it was really powerful to look at it from someone who’s gone through the ups and the down, the obstacles, who’s built a business, to booming success only to have destroyed overnight.

 

In the story when everything kind of falls apart for P.T., you get to see how being an entrepreneur really has not just struggles, but has a light that always shines. No matter how dark things get, no matter how painful things get. That was one of the reasons why, when Kate and I were talking after seeing the film, we decided to have P.T. on the cover of our exclusive edition. This man was able to take an idea, something he was passionate about, that he knew would take people by storm. It was something that has never been done before. It was something that had really captivated the audience he was targeting. That was really, really inspiring, and powerful to see that.

 

As he was creating this vision of how he wanted to impact the world, he knew the people going to see his show wanted to see something unique, spectacular, something that had never been done before to that scale. He took the underdog, he took the people who had been shunned by society, and he put them in the spotlight to be seen for all. And if we look at this in business, we see this happen all the time with the most successful companies. They take something that isn’t in the spotlight, they take an idea that is generally not well accepted, not well known, and they look at how they can make it shine.

 

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How can they make it work better, how can they make it go, and do the things nobody else has done before. We can take a look at a company like ClickFunnels. They took the pain and struggles people were having with LeadPages and with InfusionSoft and they took all of the things they wanted out of those two platforms, and revolutionized it. To be something powerful, that truly transforms their client’s life. Now going back to P.T and The Greatest Showman, he starts by creating a museum, which would later be named to the circus, of all of these people who had been cast aside by society. He targeted and built a community of people that were interested in what he was offering. Now what made him more successful, was the fact that he had critics.

 

He had people who hated what he was doing. If we look at the Presidential Election, traditionally anywhere between 40 to 60 percent of America did not vote for the President of the United States. Whoever that is, whenever they are elected 40 to 60 percent of the United States do not vote for that person. Yet, they’re still the elected official, they’re still the President of the United States. They’re still the person who leads America, the United States, and the free world to accomplish what they were put there to accomplish.

 

And at the exact same time, all of the other people who didn’t get their official elected, are pissed off. And that’s okay. That creates “us” vs “them”; that creates a unity for the people who stands for the President, or who stands for the product, or who stand for the service you’re providing. So having that is really important. Knowing exactly who you want to target is extremely important. From there, being able to make sure you’re providing the value, you hold a vision for your audience.That’s one of the things P.T. held for his community.

 

He held a vision for the dancers, and the people who are in his circus. That they were there to shine, he showed them the value they actually held in the world, and he let their value shine, and show for itself. The bearded lady was an incredible singer, and you had the trapeze artists who were doing things up to that point were considered to be completely inappropriate. Yet, what P.T. created was something that revolutionized the world. Later on, out of that was the birth Cirque Du Soleil the next evolution that’s taking P.T.’s idea, and bringing it to the next level, combining art, dance, and the circus together to create a story.

 

That’s why when you see as the movie progresses, that P.T.’s vision right off the bat fails. He goes through what he wanted to create, trying to figure out what to do. He realizes there is something magical about the unknown. Something magical about uniqueness and that his original idea really didn’t hold. That’s when he started to go out and enroll. He went to the houses to talk to all of the people who had this talent and ability to change lives. He goes out and connects with them sharing the vision and the value he sees in them.

 

 

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He’s able to bring them in, in order to share that with the world. And he has them boost up what they are doing. He has the person who is already very tall, and puts them on stilts. The person who is 500 pounds and adds pillows to expand the waist even more. But at that time, it was something that helped revolutionize the industry he created. Through that process he was able to design this show and was able to captivate the audience. It added value to them, it was able to take them by storm.

 

Help them think for themselves, help them think for the future, and help create this inner freedom for themselves and for their future. And that was the brilliance of what they had done. He builds up this circus show, and then he gets distracted. Which is a very common entrepreneurial syndrome. Finding an opportunity, and going for it just because it presents itself. He goes off into another opportunity and he’s successful with it. But then, as a result of that success, his circus starts to flounder. People were there for him, and that’s how he created it. So as he was developing this show when people came, they were coming for him. They were coming for his brilliance and his ideas. And when he comes back from this opera tour, his second opportunity completely fails as a result of the scandal and his museum was burned to the ground. He has to figure out how to rebuild, and he almost gave up.

 

But the people around him, all the people who were is his show start to believe in him more than he believes in himself. And that belief they gave back to him was the representation of how your customers and clients believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. Because all it takes is asking, ”Hey, what was the value you got out of this?” and that will remind you why you’re doing it, that will remind you, and inspire you to get off your ass. Move forward even when the toughest times come around. P.T. was able to rekindle the relationships he had, rebuild his business, and they look at a new opportunity they have. They realized they don’t need a building and that real estate is really expensive. So, that’s where they put up a tent instead. They expand it, and expand it, and expand it.

 

Then he figures out how to step out from his own business. So he can spend more time with his family and friends. There is story that embodies the way in which entrepreneurs think:

 

A businessman was travelling on this remote beach. He sees this fisherman, and he goes to this fisherman, and he asked the fishermen. “Just out of curiosity why do you fish?” and the fishermen goes, “So, I can provide for my family, and spend time with my grandchildren, and I can do things that I want to do.” and the businessman says, “Well, what I can do is I can help you. We can get you a fleet of ships, we can grow it to a massive fleet so in 10-20 years, you’ll be able to have more money than you can ever possibly imagine. You will have to work really hard.” and the fisherman said, “Why would I do that?” the businessman answered, “So you can provide to your family, spend time with you grand children, and you can do the things you want to do.” and the man in the beach (the fisherman) reminds the businessman, “That’s what I’m doing right now.”

 

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So how can you put yourself in a position to be able to do that? You’re growing a business not so that you can run it, not to be there every single day, but to create something that runs itself. So you can step out and have your business run with somebody else at the helm, or having run itself by using automation and systems. So you can do the things you wanted to do, spend time with your family, provide for them. I thought the story of The Greatest Showman was a true testament to the ability to do that. If you know anything about me and the thing that I’ve done in the past years.

 

We have grown a company just to do that, at the end of last year, I stepped out of my business and closed down the majority of our U.S. operations for our agency. Obviously, the magazine kept going. We established Invert Global, which is a managed marketing team providing marketing teams for companies who want support in growing their company. They don’t want to go and hire and train people. We created a company where I didn’t need to be in it. So I want you to take a look, first go watch the movie because you’ll see some powerful insights that will come out of it. But then I want you take some time, and I want you to look at your business and ask these questions: Where do you really need to be in your business? Where don’t you need to be in your business? Who you can hire, to actually support you, and implement different ideas for you so you can actually create the success you want to create? Because if you can do that, you can do just about anything.

 

So making sure that when you’re inspiring your followers, you’re creating a movement for what you’re doing. You’re not just doing it so you can just work, so your movement can work for you. At the end of 2017, after closing our business, we started to move forward into something I had always been passionate about. Something that is truly inspirational to me, something I knew from the bottom of my heart from the day I started business over 20 years ago. That this is where I’m going to end up. And that’s why I decided to run for Governor of California this year. Because I knew I had to take the next step, I knew with the ability to step outside of my business, I could focus on something that inspired me more than building funnels.

 

Well, I absolutely love it, and enjoy it, this the next step for me. Is the next step for you to travel the world with your family? Is the next step for you to spend more time with the one you love? Is the next step for you to create something new? After you step out of your business identify what you will do.

 

 

What’s next?

 

Hawk Mikado is the Publisher of Funnel Magazine. To learn more about Hawk, what he does, and access his recent articles just click HERE.

 

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