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The Greatest Showman
What can the the movie, The Greatest Showman, teach us about money and living a more balanced life?
Before we get into the 7 things, a quick backstory.
Down But Not Out
Growing up in the ghetto I saw and experienced firsthand the struggles of being poor and feeling like there was no way out of the poverty trap.
Being around that suffering instilled in me a competitive drive to succeed and work my way out.
It’s partially this drive to succeed that I sometimes hole myself in my room for days while working on a project.
I get so driven to achieve my goals that I forget to spend quality time with family, exercise, eat, or sleep.
Basically I get so driven, I forget to take care of myself and those around me.
It was the complete opposite of paw pieng, the Thai art of living contently while striving for financial self-sufficiency.
I was not content.
*Disclaimer, the movie has factual inaccuracies with his actual autobiography (which I read as well). But it was still a heartwarming movie.
You can get his autobiography here.
In the movie, his initial dream to create a better life for his family after struggling in a tough childhood resonated with me.
I felt for him when his ambitions blinded him to the needs of his family as he pursued more and more business and money.
You can imagine how that ended.
For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer.
What Can The Greatest Showman Teach Us About Money?
The movie opens with Hugh Jackman singing these lyrics:
“It’s FIRE, it’s freedom, it’s flooding open.”
You can listen to the song by clicking on the YouTube video here 🙂
Notice: “It’s FIRE. It’s FREEDOM.”
I want to point that out.
It’s like the song is an anthem to the FIRE movement that’s sweeping the globe.
So what can The Greatest Showman teach us about money?
1. Money Can Help You Live A More Comfortable Life But It Isn’t Everything
He started out poor.
Married the girl he loved.
Got a desk job.
Lost the job.
Started a business to give his kids a better life.
Had a big house, fancy clothes, and servants.
Wanted more money.
Did more shows.
Forgot about his family.
Already had comfortable life but wanted more.
Not being content with enough.
Not paw pieng.
His life was already comfortable after he became more successful but it was his thirst for more that ruined him.
Which is why money can make your life better but it isn’t everything.
We mustn’t get blinded by the money and lose sight of why we wanted it in the first place.
2. Make Sure To Save
His circus tent burns down.
He doesn’t have enough money to rebuild.
Luckily his business partner had been saving his share of the profits.
His partner lends him the money to rebuild and they run off to build back bigger and better.
This wouldn’t be possible if his partner didn’t have the foresight and fortitude to save his income.
Which is why it is important to save your income, however much you can.
3. Then Save More Than You Think You Need
If his partner didn’t save enough money, he wouldn’t have been able to give P.T. Barnum the money to build back his business.
So always save more than you think you need.
It’s painful right now as I’m aiming to save and put away over 50% of my monthly take-home income.
My January 2019 savings rate was 28% and I’m looking to keep increasing this as the months go on.
So I understand it can be painful at times.
But money makes one promise, “Save me today and I will save you tomorrow.”
4. If You Can Provide Value To People, You Can Make Money
The value P.T. Barnum gave to others was entertainment and excitement that they normally wouldn’t get in their normal everyday life in the 1800’s.
There was a scene where a harsh critic asked him, “Doesn’t it bother you what you’re selling to these people is fake?” He meant the circus acts.
P.T. Barnum told the critic, “Look at the smile on that little kid’s face. Does that smile look fake?”
The critic was speechless.
It reminded me of something I read from Walt Disney.
That his actually currency was smiles.
The dollars were just a byproduct of making sure families were entertained and taken care of.
So if you’re trying to make more money to reach financial independence faster, ask yourself:
“Where can you provide value to people’s lives? And how can you make money from that?”
“Where can you provide value to people’s lives? And how can you make money from that?”
You might not be the best violinist, but if you can drive a car, you can drive for Uber or Lyft for a couple hours a week to pick up additional income, right?
Or you can’t drive a car but you happen to be decent at video editing and can pick up some freelance video-editing gigs on Upwork.com, right?
5. Don’t Forget About Your Family While Striving For More Money
In the movie, P.T. Barnum wanted to make money to give his wife and two daughters the life he never had.
He wanted to give them a better life than the current one where they were struggling.
After taking out a business loan and buying out a struggling museum, he turns it around by packing it with human oddities like the bearded lady, wolf man, a midget who pretends to be Napoleon Bonaparte, etc.
His business becomes very popular and he makes a lot of money.
He’s able to buy a mansion and fancy clothes for his family and they are now taken care of.
But at some point he forgets about his family and we see his wife all alone in a big house.
I’ve seen this before after reading Warren Buffet’s biography, The Snowball.
He spent decades of his life looking at investments and doing business and he didn’t spend much time with his kids.
Then when they were all grown up, he regretted not getting to know his children.
Reading The Snowball about Warren Buffet’s regrets in his old age taught me that being the richest man in the world, with all the money, can’t buy one thing:
Quality time with your family spent now.
Remember Paw Pieng and live contently while striving for your financial goals for you and your family.
Money helps with just about everything, but it isn’t everything, and don’t forget to take care of and remember to spend quality time with your family.
6. Remember What Was It All For?
We see P.T. Barnum realize his mistakes and he sings about it in a beautiful song that I highly recommend 🙂
Listen to the YouTube video of the song.
He sings about how he got blinded by the lights and wined and dined with politicians who praised his name.
But who he became was not who he wanted to be.
I sometimes forget as well what my initial reasons were for working toward certain goals.
What I found helpful is writing the goals out in big letters and posting them on my actual physical wall at home.
Then I write the reason why they’re important to me underneath.
So the goals and their reasons are next to each other and there’s a purpose to it all.
7. And How Will You Know When You Reach It?
One of the most important questions!
This is where I use S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Instead of setting abstract goals like “I want to be wealthy,” you brake down your goals into:
- S for “Is the Goal Specific?“
- M for “Is the goal measurable?”
- A for “Is it Achievable/Attainable?”
- R for “Is it Realistic?“
- T for “Is it Time Bound?“
Specific: Instead of saying “I want to be wealthy,” you can say something specific like “I will have $1 million in my Vanguard by the time I’m 30.”
Measurable: that million dollars can be measured, whereas “being wealthy” is different to different people and is an abstract yearning.
Attainable: ask yourself “can you attain a million dollars?”
Say you’re 89 years old and your doctor said you’re going to die in 3 months.
Is getting that one million dollars attainable in 3 months while you’re still alive?
If I were 16 years old and have 40 years to acquire $1 million, that might be more realistic, right?
Realistic: Can I be president of The U.S. by the time I’m 70?
Is it achievable?
Is it Realistic?
I’m an immigrant and current laws say you have to be born in America to run for president.
If laws change in the future, maybe.
If you want to be wealthy, that’s not time bound.
But if you specifically want $1 million by the time you’re 30 years old and you’re 25 right now, that’s time bound.
You have a clear timeline to reach it.
This last one has helped me with goal setting.
Before, I would fail at my goals because I didn’t set time bounds on them.
I start out doing them and then fail because I lost sight of the reason why.
Or it would drag on indeterminately and I’d give up.
What’s Really Helped Me With This Last One
What I’ve found really helpful to help me visualize my SMART goals and help me attain my annual goals is the SelfCo’s Annual Calendar.
It’s a dry-erase calendar that shows all 365 days on one sheet so you can plan out the year.
I write down what my 3 big goals are for the year according to Michael Hyatt’s specifications mentioned in his Storybrand Podcast episode with Donald Miller.
I then brake it down into quarterly SMART goals of what needs to be done.
Then I brake it down by weeks.
And I adjust accordingly because we all know that life isn’t perfect and things happen.
Visually seeing the physical wall calendar of my plan laid out for the year helps keeps me on track to not lose sight of the reasons why.
Because if it were in digital form online, I can’t see it all the time.
There’s something magical about being able to write it out.
Also, by being able to visually see it and interact with it in real time, I’m able to focus on the tasks and say no to people who are suggesting activities that would otherwise distract me from achieving my 3 big goals for the year.
Reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown has definitely helped me in that aspect of just being okay with saying no and realizing that our time is the most precious resource in the world and we have to safeguard it at all costs.
He called it “getting caught in the thick of thin things.”
So now I am working on not getting caught in the thick of thin things.
Or in the case of P.T. Barnum, not getting blinded by the lights of richness and glamour.
Like P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman, working hard is admirable.
Trying to create a better life for your family is admirable.
But having self-awareness to know when enough is enough is key.
I can sometimes be blinded and not know when enough is enough.
Because movies like The Greatest Showman teach me about how to live a more balanced life, I try to set reminders on my phone to take a deep breathe, exercise, drink plenty of water, visit family to say hi.
Let’s take a lesson from The Greatest Showman and continue working toward building wealth and providing value to the world, while living contently along the way.
Remember Paw Pieng, the Thai art of living of contently while striving for financial self-sufficiency.
Good luck on your journey!
- Autobiography of P.T. Barnum
- The Greatest Showman “The Greatest Show” Song
- The Greatest Showman “From Now On” Song
- CNBC article on the FIRE movement that’s sweeping the globe
- My article on Paw Pieng: The Thai Art of Living Contently While Striving For Financial Self-Sufficiency
- The Freelance gig website Upwork.com
- Warren Buffet’s biography The Snowball
- Wikipedia article on SMART Goals
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
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