Behavioral Scientist Jon Levy on benevolence, historical underdogs and his new book, 'You're Invited'

·5 min read

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In the opening pages of You’re Invited, by Jon Levy, you’ll find testimonials from one of the most bizarrely diverse groups of people imaginable.

The blurbs come from Olympic athletes, comedians, actors, Nobel laureates and even a world-famous guitarist. All of them praising Levy and his “extraordinary” ability to bring people together.

It’s easy to see why. Levy, a behavior scientist, author, consultant and public speaker, is also, notably, an organizer. He’s the mind behind the Influencers Dinner, a now-famous, regularly occurring event in which Levy brings together a group of 12 highly successful people. At each event, these dozen strangers bond over a simple task: preparing a meal. 

By working toward a common goal, Levy’s guests develop connections, trust and a sense of community — all without knowing anything about one another. It’s only later, after they sit down to eat, that Levy allows his guests to reveal their identities. 

The premise of his new book, available as of May 11, is an extension of that principle. It’s a practical text; a set of strategies that, through years of work and hundreds of star-studded dinners, Levy has developed as a guide to creating real, meaningful connections.

Shop: You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence, $23.22

That said, there’s nothing self-help-y about the way Levy shares his knowledge. His book does offer a philosophy for life and its many relationships, but it does so through compelling — and highly entertaining — case studies. 

Levy uses surprising heroes — from Frederick Douglass to Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch — to show how, behind so many success stories, there’s a deeper story of influence, trust and human connection. It’s these case studies, which are vast and diverse in their scope, that make You’re Invited so entertaining. They’re also, for both Levy and his readers, what makes the book so believable. 

“The thing I’m probably happiest about is that while researching this book and doing all of my work, [finding] that everything we really care about does come back to the people that we engage with,” Levy told In The Know. “That is incredibly reassuring.”

Another thing that sets Levy’s conclusions apart is the way he suggests his readers use them. Throughout You’re Invited, the author breaks down an equation — his guide for influencing others. However, each description comes with the constant warning that his advice only works if it’s used for honest, benevolent intentions.

“For strong ties to exist and for us to trust each other, you have to feel like I have your best interests at heart,” Levy explained. “Because, otherwise, why would you want to engage with me?”

To Levy, benevolence is an essential part of influence — professional, personal or otherwise. It’s a truth that, the behavioral scientist told In The Know, he learned after years of his beloved Influencers Dinners. 

“I think one of the reasons I’ve been able to create such a large community of people who are, frankly, so much more impressive than me, is that I’ve never been willing to risk or mess with their trust,” Levy added.

The number of people who do trust Levy is pretty remarkable. It’s the reason there are many famous and successful people willing to write blurbs for his new book. It’s also the reason he’s managed to expand his Influencers Dinners to 10 cities across three countries — an entire network of collaborators. 

It’s a level of success Levy attributes almost fully to his philosophy. His influence equation — which he breaks down piece-by-piece throughout You’re Invited — has changed his own life just as much as many of the figures in his case studies. 

“I do think the book is absolutely a culmination of like, years of trial and error,” he said.  

As Levy explains at the start of his book, he began this journey as an exhausted, dissatisfied 28-year-old who had a lot he wanted to change. Despite reading countless self-help books from business leaders and entrepreneurs, he spent most of his 20s “beating himself up” for having what felt like an incomplete life. 

One day changed things for good. At a seminar, Levy heard a talk about how, above all, it’s human connection — not money, or good looks, or political power — that defines a person’s quality of life. 

That idea sent Levy on a path that changed his own life, the lives of countless Influencers Dinner guests and, he hopes, the lives of many new readers. It’s also the ultimate selling point of You’re Invited: The thought that personal success is achievable through something as simple and encouraging as human connection. 

“When you go through history, it’s not some incredible skillset or larger-than-life personalities that are necessary,” Levy said. “It’s people consistently bring others together, and over time, impacting their quality of life.”

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