Draw attention to yourself by creating an unforgettable, even controversial
image. Court scandal. Do anything to make yourself seem larger than life
and shine more brightly than those around you. Make no distinction between kinds 0/ attention-notoriety 0/ any sort will bring you power. Better
to be slandered and attacked than ignored.

P. T. Barnum, America's premier nineteenth-century showman, started his
career as an assistant to the owner of a circus, Aaron Turner. In 1836 the
circus stopped in Annapolis, Maryland, for a series of performances. On
the morning of opening day, Bamum took a stroll through town, wearing a
new black suit. People started to follow hirn. Someone in the gathering
crowd shouted out that he was the Reverend Ephraim K. Avery, infamous
as a man acquitted of the charge of murder but still believed guilty by most
Americans. The angry mob tore off Barnum's suit and was ready to lynch
hirn. After desperate appeals, Barnum finally convinced them to follow
hirn to the circus, where he could verify his identity.
Once there,

 old Turner confirmed that this was all a practical joke-he
hirnself had spread the rumor that Barnum was Avery. The crowd dispersed, but Barnum, who had nearly been killed, was not amused. He
wanted to know what could have induced his boss to play such a trick. "My
dear Mr. Barnum," Turner replied, "it was all for our good. Remember, all
we need to ensure success is notoriety." And indeed everyone in town was
talking about the joke, and the circus was packed that night and every night
it stayed in Annapolis. Barnum had learned a lesson he would never forget.
Barnum's first big venture of his own was the American Museum-a
collection of curiosities, located in New York. One day a beggar approached Barnum in the street. Instead of giving hirn money, Barnum decided to employ hirn. Taking hirn back to the museum, he gave the man
five bricks and told hirn to make a slow circuit of several blocks. At certain
points he was to lay down a brick on the sidewalk, always keeping one
brick in hand. On the return journey he was to replace each brick on the
street with the one he held. Meanwhile he was to remain serious of countenance and to answer no questions. Once back at the museum, he was to
enter, walk around inside, then leave through the back door and make the
same bricklaying circuit again.
On the man's first walk through the streets, several hundred people
watched his mysterious movements. By his fourth circuit, onlookers
swarmed around hirn, debating what he was doing. Every time he entered
the museum he was followed by people who bought tickets to keep watching hirn. Many of them were distracted by the museum's collections, and
stayed inside. By the end of the first day, the brick man had drawn over a
A wasp named Pin TaU
was long in quest of
some deed that would
make hirn forever
famous. So one day he
entered the king's
palace and stung the
little prince, who was in
bed. The prince awoke
with loud cries. The
king and his courtiers
rushed in to see what
had happened. The
prince was yelling as
the wasp stung hirn
again and again. The
courtiers tried to catch
the wasp, and each in
turn was stung. The
whole royal household
rushed in, the news
so on spread, and
people flocked to the
palace. The city was in
an uproar, all business
suspended. Said the
wasp to itself, before it
expired from its efforts,
"A name without farne
is like fire without
flame. There is nothing
like attracting notice at
any cost. "
LAW 6 45
Even ,,,hen Fm miled
al, I Rel my if"ola or
1 4'!2-1 550
A work Ihal was VOllllllarily presenl<,d [0 a
prinee was hound to
secm in some way
special. The artisl
himself miRhl also try
10 atlract the attenlion
0.1' the cOllrl throuRh his
hehaviollr, In Vasari's
judRmenl Sodoma was
"weil known hoth for
his pen,'ollal eccentrlcities am/ for his replllation as a Rood painter. "
Because Pope I"eo X
"found pleasure in
such stranRe, harehrained individuals, "
he made SOl/oma a
krtiRhl, callsinR the
artist 10 RO completelv
out ofhis mind. Van
Mander found it odd
Ihal the produCls of
Cornelis Kelel's experiments in mouth and
fool paintillR were
hOURht hy notable
persons "hecallse of
their oddity, " yet Ketel
was only addinR a variation to similar experiments hy Titian, URO
da Carpi ami I'alma
Giovane, who, ilccordinR (0 Boschini [Jainted
with their finRers
"hecause (hey wished
to imitate the method
1/sed hy the SuprCllJe
Creator. " ValJ Mander
46 LAW 6
thousand people into the museum. A few days later the police ordered hirn
to cease and desist from his walks-the crowds were blocking traffic. The
bricklaying stopped but thousands of New Yorkers had entered the museum, and many of those had become P. T. Barnum converts.
Barnum would put a band of musicians on a balcony overlooking the
street, beneath a huge banner proclaiming FREE MUSIC FOR THE MILLIONS.
What generosity, New Yorkers thought, and they flocked to hear the free
concerts. But Barnum took pains to hire the worst musicians he could find,
and soon after the band struck up, people would hurry to buy tickets to the
museum, where they would be out of earshot of the band's noise, and of
the booing of the crowd.
One of the first oddities Barnum toured around the country was Joice
Heth, a woman he claimed was 161 years old, and whom he advertised as a
slave who had once been George Washington's nurse. After several
months the crowds began to dwindle, so Barnum sent an anonymous letter
to the papers, claiming that Heth was a clever fraud. joice Heth," he
wrote, "is not a human being but an automaton, made up of whalebone,
india-rubber, and numberless springs." Those who had not bothered to see
her before were immediately curious, and those who had already seen her
paid to see her again, to find out whether the rumor that she was a robot
was true.
In 1842, Barnum purchased the carcass of what was purported to be a
mermaid. This creature resembled a monkey with the body of a fish, but
the head and body were perfectly joined-it was truly a wonder. After
some research Barnum discovered that the creature had been expertly put
together in Japan, where the hoax had caused quite a stir.
He nevertheless planted articles in newspapers around the country
claiming the capture of a mermaid in the Fiji Islands. He also sent the papers woodcut prints of paintings showing mermaids. By the time he showed
the specimen in his museum, a national debate had been sparked over the
existence of these mythical creatures. A few months before Barnum's campaign, no one had cared or even known about mermaidsj now everyone
was talking about them as if they were real. Crowds flocked in record numbers to see the Fiji Mermaid, and to hear debates on the subject.
A few years later, Barnum toured Europe with General Tom Thumb, a
five-year-old dwarf from Connecticut whom Barnum claimed was an
eleven-year-old English boy, and whom he had trained to do many remarkable acts. During this tour Barnum's name attracted such attention
that Queen Victoria, that paragon of sobriety, requested a private audience
with hirn and his talented dwarf at Buckingham Palace. The English press
may have ridiculed Bamum, but Victoria was royally entertained by hirn,
and respected hirn ever after.
Barnum understood the fundamental truth about attracting attention:
Once people's eyes are on you, you have a special legitimacy. For Barnum,
creating interest meant creating a crowd; as he later wrote, "Every crowd
has a silver lining."

 And crowds tend to act in conjunction. If one person
stops to see your beggarman laying bricks in the street, more will do the
sarne. They will gather like dust bunnies. Then, given a gentle push, they
will enter your museum or watch your show. To create a crowd you have to
do something different and odd. Any kind of curiosity will serve the purpose, for crowds are magnetically attracted by the unusual and inexplicable. And once you have their attention, never let it go. If it veers toward
other people, it does so at your expense. Barnum would ruthlessly suck attention from his competitors, knowing what a valuable commodity it iso
At the beginning of your rise to the top, then, spend all your energy on
attracting attention. Most important: The quality of the attention is irrelevant. 

No matter how badly his shows were reviewed, or how slanderously
personal were the attacks on his hoaxes, Barnum would never complain. If
a newspaper critic reviled hirn particularly badly, in fact, he made sure to
invite the man to an opening and to give hirn the best seat in the house. He
would even write anonymous attacks on his own work, just to keep his
name in the papers. From Barnum's vantage, attention-whether negative
or positive-was the main ingredient of his success. The worst fate in the
world for a man who yearns farne, glory, and, of course, power is to be
If the courtier happens to engage in arms in some public spectacle
such as jousting ... he will ensure that the horse he has is beautifully
caparisoned, that he himself is suitably attired, with appropriate
mottoes and ingenious devices to attract the eyes 0/ the onlookers
in his direction as surely as the lodestone attracts iron.
Raidassare Castiglione, 1478-1529
Burning more brightly than those around you is a skill that no one is born
with. You have to team to attract attention, 

"as surely as the lodestone attracts iron." At the start of your career, you must attach your narne and reputation to a quality, an image, that sets you apart from other people. This
image can be something like a characteristic style of dress, or a personality
quirk that amuses people and gets talked about. Once the image is established, you have an appearance, a place in the sky for your star.
It is a common mistake to imagine that this peculiar appearance of
yours should not be controversial, that to be attacked is somehow bad.
Nothing could be further from the truth. To avoid being a flash in the pan,
and having your notoriety eclipsed by another, you must not discriminate
between different types of attention; in the end, every kind will work in
your favor. Barnum, we have seen, welcomed personal attacks and feIt
no need to defend hirnself. He deliberately courted the image of being a
reports Ihal C;ossaerl
allraeled Ihe alIenIion
o[ Emperor Chartes V
by wearing a [anlaslic
paper coslume. In
doing so he was adopling Ihe laclies IIsed by
Dinoerales, who, in
order 10 gain aecess to
A lexander Ihe Greal. is
said 10 have appearet!
disguised as Ihe naked
Hereules when Ihe
monarch was silling in
LAW 6 47
48 LAW 6
The court of Louis XIV contained many talented writers, artists, great
beauties, and men and women of impeccable virtue, but no one was more
talked about than the singular Duc de Lauzun. The duke was short, almost
dwarfish, and he was prone to the most insolent kinds of behavior-he
slept with the king's mistress, and openly insulted not only other courtiers
but the king hirnself. Louis, however, was so beguiled by the duke's eccentricities that he could not bear his absences from the court. It was simple:
The strangeness of the duke's character attracted attention. Once people
were enthralled by hirn, they wanted hirn around at any cost.
Society craves larger-than-life figures, people who stand above the
general mediocrity. 

Never be afraid, then, of the qualities that set you apart
and draw attention to you. Court controversy, even scandal. It is better to
be attacked, even slandered, than ignored. All professions are ruled by this
law, and all professionals must have a bit of the showman about them.
The great scientist Thomas Edison knew that to raise money he had to
remain in the public eye at any cost. Almost as important as the inventions
themselves was how he presented them to the public and courted attention.
Edison would design visually dazzling experiments to display his discoveries with electricity. He would talk of future inventions that seemed
fantastic at the time-robots, and machines that could photograph
thought-and that he had no intention of wasting his energy on, but that
made the public talk about hirn. He did everything he could to make sure
that he received more attention than his great riyal Nikola Tesla, who may
actually have been more brilliant than he was but whose name was far less
known. In 1915, it was rumored that Edison and Tesla would be joint recipients of that year's Nobel Prize in physics. The prize was eventually given to
a pair of English physicists; only later was it discovered that the prize committee had actually approached Edison, but he had tumed them down, refusing to share the prize with Tesla. By that time his fame was more seeure
than Tesla's, and he thought it better to refuse the honor than to allow his
riyal the attention that would have come even from sharing the prize.
If you find yourself in a lowly position that offers little opportunity for
you to draw attention, an effective trick is to attack the most visible, most
famous, most powerful person you can find. When Pietro Aretino, a young
Roman servant boy of the early sixteenth century, wanted to get attention
as a writer of verses, he decided to publish a series of satirical poems ridiculing the pope and his affection for a pet elephant. The attack put Aretino
in the public eye immediately.

 A slanderous attack on a person in a position of power would have a similar effect. Remember, however, to use such
tactics sparingly after you have the public's attention, when the act can
wear thin.
Once in the limelight you must constantly renew it by adapting and
varying your method of courting attention. If you don't, the public will
grow tired, will take you for granted, and will move on to a newer star. The
game requires constant vigilance and creativity. Pablo Picasso never allowed hirnself to fade into the background; if his name became too at-
tached to a particular style, he would deliberately upset the public with a
new series of paintings that went against all expectations. Better to create
something ugly and disturbing, he believed, than to let viewers grow too familiar with his work. Understand: People feel superior to the person whose
actions they can predict. If you show them who is in control by playing
againsttheir expectations, you both gain their respect and tighten your hold
on their fleeting attention.

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