Derek Sivers

Ben Kihnel


I just got the call from the super-connected Alex Steininger that our mutual friend Ben Kihnel died in his sleep. He was only 48.

Ben was employee #2 of CD Baby. (#1 was the great John Steup.) John hired Ben the day we moved the company to Portland, Oregon. I don’t even know how we met Ben. Then all of the early employees at CD Baby were Ben’s friends, so Ben was really the start and the heart of everything for us in Portland.

Ben was one of my favorite people. Such a warm, open, empathetic guy. Such a great conversationalist. People often talk insincerely — echoing cliché phrases, or saying one thing but meaning another. But even Ben’s shortest communications were really sincere and engaged — fully listening, understanding, and sharing. He was always great at getting to the heart of things.

I hope I remember to tell people how I appreciate them when they’re alive.

So sad he died so young. We last talked a year or two ago, and he was wonderful as ever. I’ll always remember him fondly. He was a really special person — an exceptional soul. The world was a better place with him in it.

Ben was the one who told me to post the “232 sand dollars” story on my website, because he thought it defined me. That’s why many of the comments on that page from 2011 are thanking Ben.

I don’t take many photos, so the only two I have of him are from 2002: on the phone at work, and at a New Year’s Eve party. But I can hear his voice clearly in my head.

Ben Kihnel Ben Kihnel