by Dr. Joe Vitale

Too many business leaders are looking to the future and shaking in their shoes. They fear intense competition. The new century. Change. Technology. Price wars. Product limitations. Employee turnover. Unsatisfied customers. The list goes on.

Yet a quick peek into history reveals that many of the solutions to our future problems are in the past. P.T. Barnum, for example, created an empire, made himself globally (and eternally) famous, helped his employees and partners become rich, and did it all during the Civil War, slavery, famine, political upheaval, and economic panics.

Furthermore, he did it without radio, television, computers, faxes, or the Internet! How? Barnum and other business leaders from history employed some bottomline methods for success that were no-frills tools anyone can still use today — if we know of them.

For example, in a new book I just completed, I describe how Barnum took a little boy that no one thought very special and turned him into the world’s first superstar — as General Tom Thumb.

And I discovered in my research of Barnum how he took the famous Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, an unknown in America, and made her the talk of the country. Barnum made Thumb and Lind — and himself — rich. But his secret was something anyone can use today: publicity, creativity, and audacity.

And you don’t need high technology to accomplish it!

Read biographies of great leaders. Find out what they did to weather their storms, survive, and ultimately prosper. Five days before he died in 1891, P.T. Barnum wrote, “If you faithfully follow my methods you cannot fail.” Here was a millionaire, a business leader, a celebrity, saying that he knew a formula for success potent at any time and for anyone.

How do you discover his and other formulas today? By studying the past! Futurists are popular now because every leader wants a handle on the future. Yet the great irony these days may be that your future success depends on lessons you learn from the past. In other words, if you want to know how to handle the new century, turn back the pages of history and find out how leaders handled the turn of the last century.

Like you, they were human beings. They, too, had hopes and fears, challenges and problems. They solved their problems and achieved their dreams without the fancy tools of today. Learn their past techniques, add present technology to them, and you can handle anything the future may bring.

In short, what a leader should be thinking about right now is — the past!