3 Lessons For Entrepreneurs From The Greatest Showman

The Story of An Entrepreneur


The story of P.T. Barnum is a fascinating one, to say the least. The son of a lowly tailor, Phineas Taylor worked himself into being the greatest entrepreneur and entertainment mogul of his time. And he did it in the most unorthodox way possible.

One of Hollywood’ latest musicals, The Greatest Showman, explores the dreams and magic of Barnum’s rise to fame. The music, dancing, and cinematography are as captivating as the story. After seeing the movie twice, (and quite possibly more to come,) I realized there is more to gain from Barnum’s story than catchy songs and dazzling lights. He was a revolutionary marketer and entrepreneur of his day, and it’s never too late to learn from the best.

I strongly encourage you to see the film and apply these lessons to your entrepreneurial journey!


1. He recognized an untapped market.


Back before the days of Buzzfeed and Twitter, people didn’t have widespread access to variety. The plays and entertainment were similar in style and content, and the social parameters they lived in were far stricter than that of today. Barnum saw that the world was ready for a mixup, for something unseen. It made his circus unparalleled in the industry and skyrocketed him to fame.

In our century, it feels like there are no more original ideas. Since we have the Internet, people from all over have unprecedented access to what the world has to offer. So is it possible to find an untapped market?

Perhaps not to the extent of Barnum’s time, but there is potential out there if you know where to look. All businesses are built on fulfilling a need. Analyze your target audience and search for pockets of people that can benefit from your business, but you haven’t reached yet.


2. He understood human nature.


We’re fascinated by the different and we want to be surprised. The character of Barnum states this over the course of the film. 

And whether or not you agree with the ethics of his business, you can’t disagree with his analysis of humanity. To this day, we still stare at the unusual. Barnum took that facet of humans and turned it into a money-making machine.

Far before Nike was telling us to just do it, Barnum was putting branding into action. He sold people the promise of astonishment, and he delivered it. He knew the crowds couldn’t resist seeing the world’s smallest man, trained lions and elephants, or death-defying trapeze stunts. And once they saw them, they couldn’t help but tell others.

That’s the goal of branding: to deliver so well that your consumers become your biggest marketers.


3. He dreamed big and was relentless.


A big point of the movie is how caught up Barnum was in his dream and wild ideas. It’s the cause of the climax and the tenderest moments. It also perfectly captures the mindset of a born entrepreneur. Every person who sets out to become their own boss lives out a David and Goliath story, a battle against the odds. Those who make it through do so because they have the tenacity to never give up on their dreams.



Barnum had failed ideas and attempts that fell short. He had tragedy and opposition. He wouldn’t be considered the greatest showman if he had given up. When you hit a roadblock in your journey, you are given a choice of turning back or powering through.

Some things I find helpful when I inevitably hit one of those blocks:

  • Read blogs from other struggling entrepreneurs. There’s comfort in the solidarity of shared pain.
  • Set small, achievable goals that can help me break through the block. Seeing things in easier-to-digest chunks brings greater motivation.
  • Take a step away and try to gain a better perspective.

As an entrepreneur, it is especially wise to find ways that can help you power through the stormy times of life. These are my tried and true methods, and I encourage you to find yours!



P.T. Barnum was a flawed hero. He began by exploiting social misfits and often lied and exaggerated. But in the end, he created a unique family and a legacy that has lasted far longer than his lifetime. The Greatest Showman is an amazing film to indulge in and a wonderful story to take inspiration from. The music is equally uplifting and has become a great addition to my playlists! I hope this exploration of the movie was encouraging and gave some great tidbits as you continue to brave your journey. After all, the show must go on!


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