Since finishing You’re Invited a couple weeks ago, I’ve been seeing its core concepts on display everywhere. Give of yourself generously. Be remarkable and novel. Curate interest with others. Writes Jon Levy, “The fundamental element that defines the quality of our lives is the people we surround ourselves with, and the conversations we have with them.” A behavioral scientist, Levy shares such wisdom throughout his new book which he based largely on lessons learned from The Influencers Dinner, a global community he founded in 2009 made up of big shots that cook, dine, and brainstorm together. The goal for the reader is to learn to capture the attention of industry leaders and to connect on deep and meaningful levels. For those who want to build such relationships successfully, it’s crucial to shape memorable interactions and to appreciate that “strong communities have an alignment of values and a fulfillment of needs.”
Levy as a thinker is at his best when turning a typical approach on its ear. For those who sell memberships, he advises to take a begin-with-the-end-in-mind tack not unlike thoughtfully navigating a maze. Rather than the traditional strategy – pushing discovery to forcing engagement to hawking sign-ups – we’re told to work backward. In other words, design a program that anticipates what participants want to feel, think, and do; anticipate what it’ll take to realize this sort of membership; then engage accordingly to capture the attention of an audience that’ll likely respond positively. Of course in this sort of business book we expect the author to injure himself with repeated “how I did it” pats on his own back and it’s no different here, but where Levy is remarkable is sharing tales of the almost famous and especially incorporating women leaders’ stories into his writing. Extolling the virtues of UCLA gymnastics head coach Valorie “Miss Val” Kondos with nary a mention of the repellent Steve Jobs (RIP… I guess)? Refreshing for sure.
And when you’re a self-described community builder, it makes sense to nod at colleagues in recognition of their good work. Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, and Daniel Kahneman are all cited as Levy has no issue crediting his more famous peers. Better yet are the off-the-wall ideas; one is so odd that it almost comes off as urban legend. In a gathering called Dogs of Wine, ten wine enthusiasts are invited ten times per year to a restaurant secret handshake style and must bring two bottles to be served blind at some point in the evening. Submissions are rated and whoever is revealed to have contributed the lowest scoring bottle is thrown out of the group. Not even the founder is safe, so everyone is on edge but also appreciates the ever-changing make-up of participants, meaning there’s always a balance of familiar and new faces on the path to 100% turnover. “The strength of communities comes from shared values that benefit the members,” writes Levy. Usually that comes down to trust built through generating worthy ideas to be implemented in business and in life. Yeah, and other times it’s just about the booze.