Sid Levinsohn at 81, past a way this week. I have known Sid most of my life. As a young man I played tennis with Sid, and enter the world of ideas in a profound way. I remember having so many thoughts as a kid that no other kids wanted to speak about, how the world worked, how people thought, existential wonderings. Sid was such a great person to talk to about ideas. He never choose to judge you and listened deeply and then he was “The Great Asker” of questions, he then shared his insights based on his learning and experience. When he spoke, he spoke with such passion, conviction and depth. His passion did not come out as hard, harsh or selling but more like a authentic whisper.
A Penny for My Thoughts
As I grew older and began our business, my partner, Rick Diamond and I asked Sid to sit on our board. We had no money and he graciously accepted our honorary position without enumeration. As we struggled to build the business in the first year he tried to create opportunities for us to earn money (something every board member could learn). He once asked if we wanted to a direct mailing project for him. At the time our mission statement was, “Anything for a buck, as long as it is legal and ethical.” So we were paid to take a newsletter promotion Sid was doing for his business, we was a gifted writer (and a student of great copy writers), and attach a penny to each of the 18,000 newsletters. Then we were to folded stuffed and posted. What we thought was a small project turned into a very lengthy one (any time you do 18,00 of something you should think it is a big project) which we were afraid we would miss the deadline to get the promotion mailed. Like good students who never wanted to be late for assignments, we began recruiting everyone we new, family and friends to help out. It is remarkable how long it takes to stick a penny, fold, stuff, stamp and send a letter. At the beginning of the letter it read “A penny for my thoughts.” He found that there was a large increase in read through rate if you attached a hook and the penny was his hook. Sid so believed in studying everything he approached, to maximize effectiveness of his efforts.
Meme’s the Word
Some great people leave behind a legacy of a company, a building, a monument, Sid’s legacy is the memes he leaves behind. His thinking that will be past on and shared by those he interacted with either in his writing or in person and their passing it forward. Today at the funeral it was so wonderful to hear so many stories of Sid many I did not know and the common thread through all of them was Sid and his memes (A meme is a term referring to a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another).
One of the greatest lessons Sid taught Rick and I was USP (Unique Selling Proposition). When ever we had a discussion at the board meeting or over any business discussion he would ask what is your Unique Selling Proposition. It is hard not to carry this meme with me as I continue my work with business leaders. I know the same is true with Rick – because we both brought it up when we saw each other at the funeral.
Sid carried the same enthusiasm into his own work. When Sid had identified he had Cancer many years ago he became a student of the survivors of cancer to discover the common traits they had. He interviewed them, he read what research was out in the public domain and he wrote a book on what he discovered and he not only changed his life he changed everyone that wanted to listen. He was a master story teller. He did not let the status quo confine his thinking he constantly push past to discover what was not always traditional, and yet when he shared it with you even if you were a little skeptical he new his stuff. Occasionally, he would say something that stretch my thinking so far I would be in disbelief and then I would start reading about what he had shared only to learn what depth of knowledge he had around the subject. Age was not a barrier to his continued growth.
Last time I saw Sid was several years ago at a funeral. There were people everywhere that we each new and to him I was the only person in the room. This was so Sid. When he was with you the rest of the world was tuned out! It was only you and he in a crowded room. We began one of our deep conversations about life and biology. And he mention a book “The Biology of belief” and if Sid suggested a book you should read you really don’t want to miss the opportunity. I had the book ordered, thank you Amazon, before I went to sleep. It is based upon the research by Bruce Lipton, that the body at the cellular level is effected by external environment and that external environment is you. As I read I began to have a glimpse of what Sid was trying to teach me when we spoke at the party. I have reflected on that learning and many others that he has taught me over the years.
He was so generous of spirit, time, and attention – leaving those who spent time with him feeling very special. Who are those people in your life that make you feel special every-time you are with them? What is it that they do that you would like them to know while they are living?
Sid, thank you for the memes and I will do my best to honor you by sharing them often!