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Founders / – #312 Mark Twain

Founders – #312 Mark Twain

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In this episode of the “Founders” podcast, the host explores the life and journey of the renowned American writer, Mark Twain. From his early days as a riverboat pilot to his adventures in the Wild West and his rise to fame as a humorist, Twain’s story is one of reinvention and pursuing economic opportunity. Join us as we delve into the fascinating life of Mark Twain and uncover the lessons we can learn from his journey.

Main Takeaways

Mark Twain’s Journey West

  • Mark Twain’s journey from Missouri to Hawaii was a winding journey of self-discovery, filled with high adventure and low comedy.
  • Lighting out for the territory was a common theme in Mark Twain’s life, as he grew up watching people reinvent themselves in the West.
  • Twain’s six-year journey west introduced him to interesting and crazy characters, such as stagecoach robbers and the leader of the Mormons.

Twain’s Career as a Riverboat Pilot

  • Twain’s dream job was to be a steamboat pilot, which he considered the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived.
  • His days as a riverboat pilot came to an end due to the confusion and danger caused by the Civil War.
  • Twain’s mentor, Captain Horus Bixby, played a crucial role in shaping his career as a writer by teaching him the valuable skill set of being a riverboat pilot.

Twain’s Rise as a Humorist

  • Twain’s experience with Artemus Ward, a popular humorist, inspired him to pursue a career in humorous literature.
  • His first big hit, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” opened up many opportunities for him and led to his acceptance of his talent as a writer.
  • Twain’s deep hatred for his job as a beat reporter ultimately led to his fight with his editor and the discovery of his identity as Mark Twain.

Twain’s Journey to Success

  • Twain’s opportunity to become Mark Twain came from relationships, specifically a friend offering to publish his work in a literary magazine.
  • He capitalized on the success of his story by turning it into a humorous stage show, showcasing his phenomenal marketing skills.
  • Despite financial and emotional struggles, Twain persisted and found success as a writer, with his works including novels, short stories, essays, and travel pieces.


Mark Twain’s Journey and Reinvention

Mark Twain’s life was marked by his constant pursuit of economic opportunity and reinvention. From his journey west, where he encountered fascinating characters and witnessed the reinvention of others, to his career as a riverboat pilot, Twain’s experiences shaped his writing and outlook on life. His decision to leave Missouri and avoid fighting in the Civil War was crucial, as it allowed him to fulfill his potential as a writer and humorist. Twain’s journey to success was not without its challenges, but his determination and ability to trust his instincts ultimately led him to become one of the most celebrated writers in American literature.

Lessons from Mark Twain’s Life

Mark Twain’s life teaches us valuable lessons about reinvention, the pursuit of economic opportunity, and trusting our instincts. Twain’s ability to “light out” at the first sign of trouble allowed him to escape his past and seek greater economic opportunities. His career as a riverboat pilot, though cut short by the Civil War, taught him the importance of mentors and the value of a specific skill set. Twain’s journey to success as a humorist highlights the significance of relationships and seizing opportunities. Ultimately, Twain’s life serves as a reminder that success often comes from embracing change, trusting ourselves, and pursuing our passions.


Mark Twain’s life is a testament to the power of reinvention and the pursuit of economic opportunity. From his early days as a riverboat pilot to his rise as a celebrated writer, Twain’s journey is filled with adventure, humor, and valuable lessons. His ability to navigate through challenges, trust his instincts, and seize opportunities allowed him to leave a lasting legacy in American literature. As we reflect on Twain’s life, we are reminded of the importance of embracing change, pursuing our passions, and never being afraid to reinvent ourselves.

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