Today we are flashing back to episode #36 with Jon Levy, one of the most interesting people we’ve ever featured on this podcast. Jon Levy is a behavioral scientist and author who is best known for his work in influence, human connection, and decision-making. More than a decade ago, Jon founded The Influencers Dinner, a secret dining experience and community whose participants have now included more than 1600 leaders across all industries ranging from Nobel laureates, Olympians, and celebrities, to top executives and business leaders, and even royalty. Jon is the author of a new book, “You’re Invited”, in which he guides readers through the art and science of developing influence and gaining trust in order to create deep and meaningful connections and build community.

BUY JON’s NEW BOOK — You’re Invited — CLICK HERE


Q: Let’s start with how you ended up starting with Cutco/ Vector

  • I grew up in New York City and my parents were both in the arts. Mom is a composer and conductor and my dad was a painter and sculptor.
  • I went to school at NYU and came back from a year off and needed a job. I saw a flyer advertising the job and I was attracted to the pay.
  • When I met the team there was a guy who had made $10,000 that summer and his only transportation was riding his bike from appointment to appointment all around Long Island in the summer heat.

Q: What were some of the lessons you feel came out of your experience?

  • Vector/ Cutco is really the only company I’ve heard of that will give a brand new rep who’s a college student the opportunity to give a talk at a team meeting after their first week on the job.
  • The job is what you make of it and the opportunities to level up are all around you and everyone there is rooting for you.
  • Vector really gives people the ability to develop their soft skills. Something I think that’s really lacking in college graduates these days.

Q: What are two or three of the soft skills that you find are most important now?

  • “Grit” is one, for sure. Being presented with a situation that challenges you and having to work through it.
  • Learning to take action even when I don’t feel like it.
  • Another soft skill is around the idea of “presenting.”Everything from how to dress, how you speak and communicate.
  • Also, the importance of “community.” Being an individual and being part of a team.

Q: I want to go back to the idea of “grit” for a moment.  One of my favorite Jim Rohn concepts is something like, “make what you do the product of your decisions, not the product of your feelings.”

  • That’s interesting. There’s this behavioral economist, named Dan Ariely, who was a speaker at a conference I attended and was asked, “do you think we can get better at making decisions?”  “Absolutely!” He replied. “Just not at the time of the decision.”
  • If you’re really serious about, let’s say, waking up at 6am, you need to set things up for yourself so that you can’t sleep in. But you make that decision beforehand and hedge against the reality that our emotions will want to pull us in another way in the moment while our commitments pull us another.

Q: So you graduated from NYU.  Tell us about your path following college.

  • I sold Cutco for 2 summers then ran a Branch Office my 3rd summer.
  • After college I went into education but quickly realized I had a knack for behavioral science.
  • “The fundamental element that defines the quality of our lives are the people we surround ourselves with and the conversations that we have with them.”
  • There was a study on obesity referenced in a book by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, “Connected” (link below), where they wanted to see if obesity is a type of epidemic that spreads person to person like a cold or is it a statistical percentage of the population. What they found was astonishing:
    • If you know someone who’s obese, you have a 45% higher chance of becoming obese.
    • Your friends, who don’t know them, have a 20% increased chance of being obese.
    • And their friends, who don’t know anybody in this scenario, have a 5% increase in becoming obese.
    • What’s interesting is that these percentages have the same effect for other things like happiness, marriage/ divorce, smoking, voting, etc.
  • I realized that I need to figure out how to bring together the most influential people in every field.
  • If I want to live an extraordinary life, the most important thing I can do is curate the people around me. All I need to do is figure out a way to get all these people to want to connect with me and then figure out how to build trust with them quickly.
  • So in short, influence. Influence breaks down into two things: who knows who you are and how much do they trust you in that capacity?
  • I started to study people who I thought might have solved this problem already and that’s what led to what I’m doing now.

Q: And that’s what led to the hatching of this Influencers Dinner. I’d love to learn more about how this started and your take on that.

  • I spent about a year trying to figure out what made these top performers want to connect with me and I found 4 things that appeal to this audience. But first I recognized that everyone is after these people for the same 5 things: (STEAM)
    • They want their social clout
    • They want their time
    • They want their expertise
    • They want their access
    • And they want their money
  • So if we want their attention and we’re after something, we need to give them something without any expectations of getting anything in return.
  • The second thing is that these successful people have already experienced so much so if we want to get on their radar can’t do the same thing as everyone else. We have to trigger a part of the brain called the SMBTA or the part that triggers the novelty part of the brain which induces us to explore and understand things.
  • Another thing… who do the most influential people get to spend their time with? Most people would say “other influential people” but the reality is, most influential people are spending the majority of their time with their admin people and direct reports and family.
  • Arguably the most desired human emotion or experience is awe or wonder. So if you can trigger that, people will feel more generous and more connected.
  • If you find a way to make these 4 things available, people will want to connect with you.
  • So I decided to create a secret dining experience.I invite 12 people at a time. They’re not allowed to talk about what they do or give their last name.  Everyone cooks dinner together and when they sit down to eat, everyone gets to guess what everyone else does.
  • To keep the group connected I created a salon series. I get 60 past participants together and have 3 of our alumni give various talks.

Q: I’m sure people listening right now are thinking, “how can I do this in my community?”

  • I have a few suggestions. First of all, don’t copy anyone else’s format. That’s because my format works for me and yours will work for you.
  • Be willing to use a format that you know you’ll be willing to do more than 3 times.
  • As it grows you develop status within the community. You develop a mailing list. You develop a reputation for being able to bring people together.  Companies become interested and ask if they can sponsor it.

Q: Before we wrap up, I want to have you quickly talk about your book, “The 2AM Principle.”

  • I wanted to figure out a way to get paid to travel so I wrote a book about the science of adventure.
  • I literally break down the science of living a fun and remarkable life.


  • I love his lessons from his Cutco/ Vector experiences. Grit, presenting skills, and the importance of community.
  • Jon’s big lesson, “The fundamental element that defines the quality of our lives are the people we surround ourselves with and the conversations that we have with them.”
  • Everything passes through the super-human network of ours. If you know someone who exhibits a certain trait, you’re much more likely to exhibit that same trait.


Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina.

To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!


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