121. What Can We Learn from The Greatest Showman?

The Greatest Showman might be a fun musical movie, but there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the film, including the power of entrepreneurship.

Links:

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So I just got back from Utah visiting my family, and while I was there, we all sat down and watched, and sang along to one of my favorite movies, the Greatest Showman. I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie, Connor.

Connor: Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Brittany: Yeah. so it’s one of my favorites. I’m a musical theater nerd, but, one of the reasons I love this movie so much is that it’s not only filled with super catchy songs, it gets stuck in your head for days and annoy my father, by the way, But it also touches on the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s family-friendly to you so you can watch it with your kids. We watched it with all my nieces and nephews, but I wanted to give a disclaimer before we jump into this, because while the movie tells a story of P.T Barnum, it doesn’t always reflect reality. I don’t actually know a whole lot about the real PT Barnum, and I’ve heard both good and bad things. So today, while we’re talking about PT Barnum, I wanna make it really clear that we’re talking about the character and the Greatest Showman and not the actual P.T Barnum. but for those of you who don’t know, he’s the man who was responsible for funding or founding, the Ringling Brothers Circus. And even though I despise circuses for many reasons, I love this movie.

Connor: I remember being at a circus and Honduras once in Central America, and it was the weirdest thing ever. It turned me off to circuses forever. But so, you know, like in this story, you’ve got, this Barnum guy whose real first name is Phineas, and you know, he’s depicted as this poor child who has really big dreams of, you know, creating a better world for himself and others. And the beginning of the story has him, you know, growing up in poverty until his father dies and he’s forced to live on the streets. I mean, you can imagine how hard that would be, especially as a child. But he starts to learn very quickly that if he’s gonna survive, he’s gotta make something of himself. He’s gotta, you know, figure out what to do. And that’s where entrepreneurship, I think, comes into play in the story.

Brittany: It does. And there’s one side note I wanna add that will make sense later. There’s one scene where he is basically homeless, trying to feed himself. And somebody who would’ve been considered kind of a societal outcast hands him an apple and walks away. And this will make sense later, but just remember that part in a bit. But you’re exactly right. and Barnum ends up selling newspapers like 11 to feed himself. And well, that doesn’t make him rich, obviously. I don’t know if anyone’s ever had a paper route, you might not become a millionaire, but it helps him survive. And eventually, he grows up. He marries the love of his life, and he goes on to work a boring office job. He’s kind of forgotten about all these big dreams he has as a kid. and then he’s once again faced with poverty. Cause he gets fired or the company closes, I believe. and now it’s not just him. He has to support, right? He’s got a family to support. But the thing is, no matter how cruel the rest of the world treats him, and this is one reason I love his character, he’s kind of unfazed by the opinion of others. You know he’s a perpetual dreamer, I guess is what you would call him. ’em.

Connor: I like that because especially for kids, it’s so hard with peer pressure, we’re often wondering what other people think and influenced by other people’s opinions of us. And it’s so liberating when you reach an age or enough maturity when you realize that other people’s thoughts about you, you know, don’t really matter. There’s a great quote that I came across of I’m not gonna do it justice, but it says something like, never take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. Ooh. And, so people are gonna be critical of you all your life, but if they’re not a person that you would turn to for advice, then don’t pay attention to their criticisms. What they think about you doesn’t matter. But if it’s a loved one, if it’s your boss, if it’s a mentor that you know, you see them as someone who’s trying to help you become a better person, more successful, whatever, then their criticisms are gonna be born out of love. They’re trying to help you improve. And so those are good criticisms to take, right? But if it’s just people being critical, trying to tear you down, you know, that matters far less and shouldn’t matter at all. So I like how, how in the story, right? He’s, he’s kind of unfazed, as you say, by the opinions of others. And if I remember correctly when he loses his job, he decides, you know, enough is enough. He’s searching for his true calling in life. And, you know, as, I think most entrepreneurs understand, when you set off on your own path, there’s a bunch of risks. And in the story, Barnum faces plenty of them. But when there’s high risks, you can often get high rewards when there’s things in your life, as we’ve talked about many times, especially when we talk about entrepreneurship when there’s something very risky, it means you have the opportunity of, you know, getting a lot of profit or getting a lot of experience, or, you know, you’re embarking on something that few people have. And so you are going to get the, you know, fame or the money or the success, or the satisfaction or the influence or the impact that other people aren’t because you are embarking on that, you know, riskier thing. and that’s, I think why we often encourage kids to think about entrepreneurship. They don’t have as much to risk as adults. It becomes more risky when you’ve, you know, got a family to feed and a mortgage to pay bills to pay when, whereas when you’re younger, you can take more risks. And so, it’s better to think as a younger person about how you can be an entrepreneur and how you can, you know, like Barnham to decide enough is enough. I’ve gotta, you know, figure out my own path and what that’s gonna be.

Brittany: Well, like you said, it gets a lot hard to renew a family, right? And I think that’s actually probably what encouraged Barnham to have to make something work. Because at some point, you know, and you as a father, I’m sure understand this, you don’t want your kids to go hungry. And I think there’s also a sense of pride in being able to provide for your family. So after he loses his job, he uses all the money he has, which isn’t much, and he purchases a building and he wants to turn into a, it’s called Barnum’s American Museum. And unfortunately, like many entrepreneurs are on the hard way. This venture is a dud. The only tickets he sells are to his wife and his two daughters. And even they don’t like it. You know, his daughters walk in and it’s a bunch of like stuffed, he calls them rarities from all over the world. But what it really is, is like stuffed mermaids, like a stuffed unicorn. You know, things like, it’s like almost a wax museum, but like, the worst version of a wax museum. so no customers, obviously. he’s got to feed his family. And so there’s that point. And I think the movie Pursuit of Happiness, kind of reminds me of that. If you’ve ever seen that movie where there’s a scene where the father kind of has to be successful because he’s got this son, I believe he’s homeless. Have you seen the movie before? it’s a beautiful movie. Oh, highly recommend it. That’s a family-friendly one too, with Will Smith and his real son. but it’s kind of one of those like, all right, it’s about an entrepreneur as well, where he’s like, all right, I have to do this, or I’m going to fail my family. So he goes in search of something incredible, something that’s going to bring people into the show, which he decides are gonna be rare human acts. So he goes back to the drawing board, he’s trying to think what he really wants, and, you know, this is a key component to entrepreneurship. You are going to fail. We’ve talked about this so many times. Failing is part of the process because that forces you to go back to the drawing board and kind of see, okay, what worked, what didn’t work. And then you use that knowledge to help you create something better. Maybe something you would’ve even thought of the first round.

Connor: I think what’s most admirable about this part of Barnum’s life is he’s really dedicated to hard work. And, you know, he might have these big, crazy dreams. He wants to create something amazing and spectacular, you know, that the world has never seen before. And a lot of times in the real world, there are, plenty of dreamers, but they stay dreaming, right? They hope their ideas will come to life without actually doing anything about it. someone ought to do something, right, that should exist. I mean, honestly, I spent a few weeks in this state myself, and Yep. I wanted, you know, books that would help me teach my kids about the ideas of freedom and going on Amazon and trying to find something dreaming of, oh, if only there were, you know, something like this, then I could, you know, teach my kids these ideas. And after a few weeks, I had to kind of snap out of it and say, you know, come on guy. You, you talk about entrepreneurship all the time and risk, and you know, why don’t, you know, you start working on something like this? And that’s how the TuttleTwins was born, which again, shows like, you know, it could be a crazy idea, like Barnums, it could be something influential like the Tuttletwins. It could be starting your own restaurant, it could be whatever, you know, your project is. But if we stay dreaming, if we don’t put in, you know, the hard work, we’re not gonna make our dreams a reality. And, that’s what we see in Barnum’s story, right? He’s, putting in the hard work, he’s doing what it takes to make those dreams a reality.

Brittany: Yeah. And so, one of my favorite songs, and I’ll just say the lyrics for you, actually, I was just playing it on the piano before we started. Ooh. But, he says, so you sing into the, as he’s like gathering his ideas, he says, and the world becomes a fantasy, and you’re more than you can ever be cuz you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open. And what I like by that is what he’s saying is he’s actually doing it right. He’s actually putting forth his dreams into the reality, into the real world. But his entrepreneurship isn’t the only admirable quality about him or about this movie. We talk a lot how entrepreneurs benefit from their craft, right? They make money, but they also make the world a better place too. And people benefit from that. And in this case, and again, I wanna clarify this is the movie, not necessarily the real life, but Barnum helped people who may not have otherwise been able to get that, you know, to get help.

Connor: Which maybe contrasts against our Scrooge story, right? Where it’s, I’m already being texted to support the poor. I don’t need to, you know, do it. But, we’ve talked at times about how the free market is the greatest equalizer, right? That it’s helped address racism and slavery. it’s helped poor people in rural communities who are poor. It’s lifted people out of poverty. Entrepreneurs have been able to create great wealth and then give back to their community and help other people. and so, you know, in the Greatest Showman you have Barnum’s Circus helping, you know, the outcast of society, get jobs, create meaningful work and, lives. you know, we don’t know how the real Barnham felt maybe, but you know, at least the character in the movie, he’s going around collecting other, you know, circus freaks as.

Brittany: As they’re known.

Connor: Right? You know, ranging from like super tall to totally tattooed and a bearded lady, right? All these different outcasts. And they’re setting out to not only prove that they deserve to be a part of society, but that they have value to add to the world through something as simple as entertainment. And that’s when, you know, Barnum’s production really takes off. Cuz here he is kind of using the market in entrepreneurship to fill a void and find his own little niche, his own little kind of category that no one else is in. And create value for these outcast people who now feel that they have something to contribute to the world and that can be fulfilling for them and provide money for them to, you know, sustain and provide for themselves. but then he is entertaining people and there’s something novel and interesting and, creating kind of the win-win scenario that is so prevalent in the market, right? If I go, you know, by gasoline or I hire someone to weed my backyard, right? That’s a win-win. I, they’re getting paid, which they like, and I’m getting the weeds pulled, which I like. And, that’s how the market works. You, find like entrepreneurs are finding problems to solve, for people who would pr rather pay money than do that thing themselves. you know, I just bought one of those little robot vacuums.

Brittany: Oh, the Roombas?

Connor: Yeah, the Roombas the popular brand. I bought a different brand. But, yeah,

Brittany: Yeah, brands

Connor: That’s the idea. It is amazing. Oh my gosh. Like I’ve been telling my wife, we should have bought one of these like five years ago or four. Cause we have two dogs and a cat and their hair would always, you know, shed a little bit clump up and just dust and, kids dropping food. And so having to sweep and, and the ability for us to even before we like get home, we can start the robot so that we come home and the house is completely vacuumed, no pet hair anywhere. You know, like the fact that I could pay a bit of money for this device and be benefited because all that time savings and stress and hassle, that is a massive service to me. And they found a little niche, they found a category, Hey, robot vacuums, right? Who would’ve thought? And that is the amazing thing about entrepreneurship. My life is now better cuz of this random little robot or that I can drive to a restaurant and be fed a delicious meal without having to cook. Or that I could go to a circus and watch quote-unquote circus freaks and have a good time. and, you know, and so anyways, it is just a fun story that kind of encapsulates the power of entrepreneurship.

Brittany: Yeah. And it’s funny cuz a theater critic who actually hates Barnum’s,  whole thing in the movie, he says, everybody leaves your show with a smile on their face, even though I don’t respect what you do. So kinda remind what you said, all your audience members leave with a smile on your face. But even bigger than that, one thing that I love about it is Barnum actually empowers these, and again, I’m quote unquote circus freaks as they’re called in the movie, to kind of stop being ashamed of their flaws, which I think is also a cool aspect of the story that they start being more confident about who they are. And, you know, as Barnum predicted, audiences were shocked and thrilled to see unique talent. This is an 1850, I believe and being different was not something celebrated at this time, right? Even, you know, racism was still, a pretty prevalent thing as well. So if you didn’t fit into society, you know, prescribe, you know, those little boxes you didn’t belong. So he created something that was actually against what he thought consumer, you know, most consumers wanted. But as it turned out, the consumers did want it. They were craving these unconventional, or I guess you would say like unique performers. And so these flaws turned into something that actually became what we call like a market entity, something that people really liked. And they also found inner peace and acceptance by being able to perform.

Connor: What I like, in this story, and we’ve talked about it with past stories, is that you often find in movies and books, or you know, often not always, we’ve also done an episode about how movies and cartoons can actually be, you know, kind of propaganda and have bad messages that we need to be on the watch for. But in some redeeming and, and positive stories like this, we find a lot of things that we can learn from if we’re kind of paying attention, not just to a fun, you know, movie and oh, that was a, you know, fun thing and we were entertained for an hour and a half. But instead, we can kind of find some of these lessons. Like even, with kind of these circus freak type people, some people might be like, oh, that’s exploitation your’re exploiting those vulnerable people. And like, well, those people would are probably glad they have a job. Yeah. And would, you know, they clearly prefer to be doing this over, you know, shoveling manure somewhere, you know, picking Connor’s weeds in his backyard, right? Like, out of the options that they have, this is the one, that they prefer. And so there’s a lot of lessons like that, that we can unpack. That’s the power of understanding some of these free market ideas that we talk about in Tuttletwins and entrepreneurship and so forth. Because as you watch more of these stories, you begin to see some of these ideas playing out. And you can observe them, you can talk about them as a family, you can apply them to your own life, become so much smarter and successful than a lot of other people who are just kind of plugged in, going along in life, and they don’t really get it. And so that’s the power of really paying attention. and so much more to talk about, you know, in this story. But just wanted to share some of that with you guys because maybe it’s worth watching again or for a first time as a family and paying attention to some of those ideas, and finding what the redeeming aspects are of these stories that we can apply to our own life. So, thanks as always for subscribing. Make sure you’re subscribed if you’re not already, we’d love to have you be part of the family. And, until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to You later.

 

Interested in more content?

Check out our latest email…

The Federal Government is Dumbing Us Down

I was thinking earlier about how easy it is to think that things have simply always been the way they are now. For example, my kids have never known travel without long security lines, having to take off their shoes and jackets, and witnessing their parents occasionally groped by power-tripping TSA goons. They can’t imagine the days that represented most of my life where you would walk your loved one all the way to their gate, watch them board, and wave as their plane pushed back from the jetway and taxied off. Or how about the generation of kids growing up thinking that masks are a normal part of life, or that grocery store workers have always been encapsulated in plexiglass? Or that someone can be fired for choosing not to undergo a particular medical procedure? The way things are tend to make us forget that all of these practices

Read More »

From the trusted team behind the Tuttle Twins books, join us as we tackle current events, hot topics, and fun ideas to help your family find clarity in a world full of confusion.

Want More?

The Tuttle Twins children’s book series is read by hundreds of thousands of families across the country, and nearly a million books (in a dozen languages!) are teaching children like yours about the ideas of a free society.

Textbooks don’t teach this; schools don’t mention it.

It’s up to you—and our books can help. Check out the Tuttle Twins books to see if they’re a fit for your family!