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Hacks from Dan. 

My stepfather turned 90 this week. My Opa (grandfather in Dutch) made it past 90. So did my great Aunt Hetty for whom our daughter, Henriette ("Hettie") is named. Longevity is a blessing in so many ways. 

What struck me this week more than ever is that age is a mindset. You can be old in your 40s and young at 90. You can be inspired, motivated, passionate, and dedicated, so long as you choose to be. For my stepfather, 90 is nine decades of life and over a half-century of impact in his adulthood - in public and private housing through The Habitat Company, the arts (from board service on public television via WTTW and WFMT), health and fitness with his pioneering development and management of the East Bank Club, public policy through his service and generosity to The Harris School and Law Schools at the University of Chicago, and so much more. 

As I wrote about Dan in Leadership and Life Hacks, he is a master of understanding his customer - whether a tenant in a public housing or market-rate development, or a member at East Bank. In my teenage years, I learned through osmosis of my stepfather’s stories about running his business at Sunday night family dinners. During summer internships in college, he graciously drove me downtown each morning and home each night. I’d watch him take 5 pm meetings with his team over a glass of scotch and nibbles. I learned his style of “walk-around management” through direct and indirect observation.

Both my grandfather and my stepfather were powerful role models in my life, albeit one allegorical and the other more tactical. Even as a young woman, I knew I could start a business or run a business because starting businesses and running businesses were just what people did. This is the power of mentorship. 

This week of his 90th birthday, I am reminded again of Dan's timeless business role modeling to: 
  • (1) Build a company to last, not to sell;
  • (2) Find an industry you’re passionate about, then fix what’s broken;
  • (3) Think and act entrepreneurially.
So, Mr. Levin, on the week of your 90th birthday, cheers to you!
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