Their rule is sovereign, and you quarrel with them at your peril. Seeing is believing, and you are the sum of what you seem.
In Philadelphia in 1743 the immortal Benjamin Franklin, still a young printer but wise beyond his years, took the trouble to be seen on Market Street every day at noon, pushing a wheelbarrow stacked with reams of blank paper--not because the paper needed to go anywhere, but because Franklin was
promoting his reputation for diligence, industry, and thrift.
The times have changed but not the principle, which is why you always rent the Ferrari when visiting Los Angeles or run up a $500 phone bill when staying for three days in a New York hotel--to promote the impression that you are very busy, never out of touch with Rupert Murdoch or Michael Eisner.
Some of the country's conservative churches and liberal universities make invidious comparisons between appearances and what they call reality. The distinction is malicious and false, a cruel punishment visited upon thirteen generations of otherwise happy Americans by Puritan clergymen who objected to the display of gold lace.
The first impression is also the last impression, which is why it is important to always
wear clean shoes. You don't wish to be
remembered as the stain on the rug.
Seek out the acquaintance of people richer and more important than yourself and never take an interest in people who cannot do you any favors.
This rule admits of no exceptions. When Henry Kissinger was secretary of state, he put it plainly
to a woman seated next to him at a Washington
dinner party. "A great nation," he said, "is like an ambitious hostess. It cannot afford to invite unsuccessful people to its parties."
In the event that you become either rich
or famous you may collect friends in the way that Nike acquires prize athletes or Philip II of Spain collected dwarfs.
Your fellow countrymen like upbeat, happy people, and if you come up against bad news--
a missing child, the loss of your right hand, your name left off the guest list for Barbra Streisand's birthday party--imitate the television anchorpersons, who manage to smile brightly when reading the reports of floods in Ohio or massacre in Rwanda.
Never forget that you are always having fun. The attitude is especially important when being
arraigned on charges of sodomy or tax evasion.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Lapham's Rules of Influence by Lewis Lapham. . Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.