Tag Archives: Paul Johnson

Jesus: A 21st Century Biography by Paul Johnson

  1. Author wrote this book to broadly summarize the life of Jesus and to explain the joy he gets from following him
Key Takeaways
  1. Jesus was born in the context of a very powerful and expanding Rome and a wealthy Judea ruled by Herod
  2. When Gabriel told Mary that she would bear Jesus, The Annunciation as it later became known, is one of the most touching moments in history
  3. Jesus’ time as a shepherd affected him throughout his life – his love of high places for prayer and how he delivered and thought about sermons
  4. No prophet is accepted in his own country
  5. Jesus was a reluctant performer of miracles as he knew that this could cause a stir and possibly riots. It made people realize he was special but also aroused the anger of the authorities
  6. Jesus’ teachings were often new and counterintuitive. They stressed forgiveness and inner acceptance rather than riches and outer rewards
  7. Compassion has quite literally no limits. Not race, sex, religion, status or any other common dividing line
  8. Jesus was a poet and almost always used very memorable images and parables to get his lessons across. It was his way of directing and capturing emotion
  9. We are all neighbors and our salvation and happiness depends on kindness and charity, not tribe or nationality or race
  10. Heaven is not so much about justice as mercy
  11. Jesus’ redeeming feature was his friendliness, opennness and willingness to listen. He accepted everyone as they were
  12. Jesus made marriage indissoluble and this gave women status like never before. He was also unique in his love of children and their innocence
  13. The aim of Jesus was not to change the world but to make its inhabitants fit for the kingdom of God. He did not want to start a new regime but portray a new way of life. A leader whose goals are entirely spiritual was new to the world at this point
  14. Personality is unique but incomplete. Soul is given by God and has a need to return. Through free will we can accept this and return to the kingdom
  15. You cannot lay down laws of love but you can show them and that is how Jesus lives his life
  16. A life of mercy is a holy one. Grace is mercy. By showing mercy, we act as close to God as we can
  17. He was a man who always kept his head, was always equanimous
  18. Was against those whose minds were closed
  19. Truth is both found in God and in nature. That is why he went to the desert to pray
  20. Jesus frightened the current religious orders as he was attracting a huge following. The priests trembled for their lives, jobs and property. They did not believe or understand that Jesus’ kingdom was solely a spiritual one
  21. Pilate did not condemn Jesus because he thought he was guilty but because he was afraid that the Jewish religious leaders would report him to Rome. In fact, him and his wife thought him innocent
  22. After the crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected and Mary Magdalene was the first to see him and to report back to the Disciples. Shortly after, there was a mass baptism for 3,000 people and thus began Christianity
  23. The Gospels are meant to be read and re-read, gaining something new or a deeper understanding every time
What I got out of it
  1. I really enjoyed and learned a lot about Jesus, his teachings and more from this short biography

Intellectuals by Paul Johnson

  1. A good summary of some of history’s most influential intellectuals, how they were influential and some of the darker sides of their personalities
Key Takeaways
  1. Recently, for the first time in history, intellectuals have the freedom to openly express their thoughts and beliefs without fearing for their lives. This is led to their outsized influence over the last several decades.
  2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    1.  One of the first modern intellectuals to believe that the system could be changed so intellectuals would have the freedom to think and express themselves.
    2. He believed that in order to change man’s behavior the culture and environment in which he lives would need to change as well.
    3. Rousseau came from a wealthy Swiss family and his mother died at a early age and his father was often violent. He grew up wealthy and ended up with a lot of self-pity.
    4. Was a failure in pretty much every sense until he was 39 when he wrote his Essays which became wildly popular. One of his later books was clearly anti-Catholic and almost got him arrested.
    5. Rousseau was perhaps mentally sick but at least paranoid and had dementia but his incredible skill as a writer made him one of the most influential writers in history and one of the ultimate seekers of truth and virtue and the “friend of mankind.”
    6. One of his more popular works, Confessions, was found to be riddled with lies and inconsistencies. This was common throughout his works but his skill as a writer made people forget about it.
    7. Believed that virtue was the product of good government and therefore politics must be the center of man’s life. He believed that the state should have complete control over man and his education in order to get the most out of him
    8. Widely influenced the Enlightenment as well as French Revolution
  3. Shelley
    1. Believe that intellectuals had a moral duty to help restructure society for the better. Social progress can only be made if it is guided by an ethical guidelines
    2. Published a paper in college espousing atheism which promptly got him expelled. This followed him throughout his life as publishers were reluctant to publish anything for fear of blasphemy or sedition. This lead to the poet not being recognized during his life time but his influence is widely felt today and influenced many great thinkers from Marx to Gandhi.
    3. Instability, danger and excitement were seemingly a prerequisite for this contradictory poet’s life. He lived a very promiscuous life and ended up having 7 Holstein by 3 different women and died at a young age of 29
  4. Karl Marx
    1. Has had a wider influence on thought and actual events than any other due to his thoughts and policies being implemented in two of the worlds largest countries – Russia and China. Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung were all faithful Marxists and deep believers in his line of thought
    2. Marx was heavily influenced by the Talmud
    3. Marx was a great journalist and a compelling writer but many of his famous phrases, such as “religion is the opium of the masses”, was taken from others
    4. Determined that social ills stemmed from the ruling or bourgeois class and that he working class needed to cast off their chains and regain the world. In this new world, the intellectuals would form the elite and the proletariat the foot soldiers
    5. Marx so praised science but his approach to Marxism was wholly unscientific
  5. Ibsen
    1. Ibsen managed to reshape theater from a country, Norway, that had little to no cultural background. He is widely considered to be the most important playwright since Shakespeare and considered the father of realism
    2. Ibsen was close to an alcoholic, very  vain, destitute before becoming a famous playwright, estranged from his family
    3. Ibsen was a loner and had trouble with relationships. He believed that friends were a luxury and if that you wanted to dedicate yourself completely to some pursuit most friendships would likely not last
    4. He was totally against democracy because he believed that most people are not fit to have an opinion.
    5. One of his plays “A Doll house” helped launch the feminism movement as it showed marriage not as sacrosanct and also that a husbands power could be questioned
  6. Tolstoy
    1. The most ambitious of the intellectuals described in that he thought he could enact a moral revolution and bright the Kingdom of Christ to life. Felt divinely possessed and his nonviolent beliefs influenced Gandhi and MLK. However it is hard to consider whole story a Christian as he simply took the parts from the Bible that he agreed with and dispensed with the rest
    2. May be the greatest novelist of all time. He was better able to describe mans nature than anybody else
    3. Born into a high class family but wasn’t very rich. This made him feel apart and above the majority
    4. Tolstoy had issues with women and gambling and while he was very distraught over certain sins, others he was able to ignore completely
  7. Emerson
    1. Emerson is the quintessential American intellectual. He became a national hero and the embodiment of thinking although much of his work was convoluted and difficult to understand. Essayist, lecturer and poet
    2. Lead the transcendentalist and individualist movements. Believed all things connected to God and therefore all is divine. Truth could be experienced directly from nature
  8. Hemingway
    1. Was the archetypal American of the time and one of the greatest authors. He was a perfectionist in his prose and read voraciously. He painstakingly developed his unique style which revolutionized prose. Truth, honor and loyalty in his writing was his core goal, lack of adjectives and just quality. However, his promiscuous and lie-filled life shows he had different standards for himself
    2. Despite his parent’s deep religion and pressure, Hemingway was an atheist
    3. Hemingway was a man of action who loved war, hunting and big game fishing. He served as a war time journalist and later supported many communist regimes.
    4. Hemingway was a chronic alcoholic and often injured himself due to drunkenness. The quality of his work of course suffered and he could not live with this so he killed himself
  9. Bertolt Brecht
    1. Became the most influential theater producer in the world. He used women and totally ignored his family. The author notes that he seems to be the only intellectual who does not have a single redeeming feature
  10. Bertrand Russell
    1. One of the more influential philosophers, writers, logicians, mathematicians and more of the 20th century and wrote about every imaginable topic. Considered the Socrates of the 1900s
    2. His mathematical background lead him to believe that anything could be solved with pure reason – analytic philosophy
    3. Anti war activist and railed against nazism and Stalin as well as us occupation of Vietnam
    4. He was a womanizer and failed as a father but had a tremendous influence on every field from artificial  intelligence and computer science to epistemology and metaphysics
  11. Sartre
    1. Like Russell, a philosopher, writer and playwright who aimed to reach the masses
    2. He was very egotistical And spoiled as a child
    3. He believed that mans actions, his deeds, not his words, determined his life. Paradoxically, much like the other intellectuals, he could not live his life according to his beliefs. He wrote a lot about anti-Nazism but took little action
    4. He preached freedom and existentialism at a time when the public were hungry for it. Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come
    5. Bad faith – spiritually destructive conformity
    6. Hell is other people
    7. Open relationship with Simone de Beauvoir
  12. Edmund Wilson
    1. American writer who inherited a love for truth from his father and known for shrewd and objective writing. Explored Freudian and Marxian themes
  13. Victor Gollancz
    1. British publisher and humanitarian who advocated for helping Germany post WWII when that idea was quite unpopular. He was against everything “anti” and “pro” as he was for all humanity
    2. He was very liberal with the truth and would only publish what he agreed with. He often eliminated entire passages because they disagreed with him. He wanted to publish slanted books without them appearing to be slanted
    3. Very degrading to women like many of the other intellectuals described
  14. Lilly Hellman
    1. American dramatist and playwright who had several successful Broadway plays. She was politically active and later became known as a staunch Stalinist which hurt her reputation
  15. George Orwell
  16. Connelly
  17. Norman Mailer
    1. Like many of the intellectuals, spoiled as a child and had an overburdening mother. He ended up very vain and violent
  18. Tynan
  19. Baldwin
  20. Chomsky
    1. Linguist who came up with the theory that humans have inmate structures of mind and therefore social engineering is immoral
    2. Like many other actuals discussed Chomsky made the intellectual leap of thinking that because he was an expert in one area he had the knowledge and the right to speak in public affairs and about morality
  21. One of the takeaways from this book is that you should beware and be skeptical of intellectuals opinions on areas they are not expert in. Also always remember that people are more important than ideas
What I got out of it
  1. Many of these people had tremendous impact on the world and even if you see their impact as positive, many had extreme flaws which hurt themselves, their spouses and family and in Marx’s case millions of people. Everyone is human and has their flaws

The Gorilla Game: Picking Winners in High Technology by Geoffrey Moore, Paul Johnson and Tom Kippola

  1. Moore, Johnson and Kippola outline what the gorilla game entails and how to go about being a successful investor in the high-tech space
Key Takeaways
  1. The basic framework of the gorilla game includes
    1. Find a hypergrowth market (~100% revenue growth year over year). Hypergrowth begins after the ‘herd’ (general consumers) adopt the tech
    2. Buy a basket of potential gorillas (2-4)
    3. Consolidate these holdings into one stock once it is likely it will become the gorilla
    4. Hold for the long-term
    5. Sell only when a new category, based on an alternative technology, threatens to eradicate the gorilla’s power
  2. High tech markets develop in unique ways and this leads to more gorillas (companies with almost impenetrable moats, think Microsoft, Cisco, Intel)
    1. Chasm – time between early adopters and mass adoption
    2. Bowling alley – earliest signs of potential gorilla game, niche customers adopting tech
    3. Tornado – chaotic period where mass market begins adopting. A handful of companies are battling to become the gorilla. Goal is to identify recognizable milestones in the development of a high-tech market that the private investor can use as signals for buying and selling
    4. Main St. – after 3-5 years of tornado, main st. begins recognizing the power of the gorilla and gorilla gains even more power through variation and assimilation. Gains market share, margin share. Often loses over half its value first time its earnings miss but if a true gorilla, prudent investors use this fall to accumulate more
  3. Criteria for the gorilla game are very strict and limits potential holdings to a small universe. Must have proprietary architecture and high switching costs
  4. Discontinuous innovation is what makes the gorilla game different. These new innovations are not compatible with existing systems and therefore creates a whole new environment around it
    1. Boom because of technology adoptoin life cycle and punctuated equilibrium – change does not happen linearly which leads to hypergrowth
    2. “Hypergrowth markets, in order to scale up quickly, will often spontaneously standardize on the products from a single vendor. This simplifies the issue of creating new standards, building compatible systems, and getting a whole new set of product and service providers up to speed quickly on the new solution set. In short, it makes it much easier for the new value chain to form. The vendor on the receiving end of this spontaneous standardization enjoys an extraordinary burst in demand. Everyone wants its products because they are setting the new standard. Its competitors by contrast, must fight an uphill battle just to get considered. It makes for a huge competitive advantage.
  5. What makes the gorillas so potent and valuable is that they also increase their competitive advantage over time – law of increasing returns
  6. Important to differentiate between the early market, tornado and chasm. Before you invest, the companies have to cross the chasm and be in the tornado phase
  7. Market share tends to get set during the tornado as switching costs become too high after standards have been set
  8. Competitive Advantage Period (CAP) = power = higher returns (get more customers, keep more customers, push prices down while increasing profits)
    1. Gorillas are the ultimate value chain leaders
    2. Gorillas have the influence to outsource low-value, high cost parts of the value chain
  9. Architecture of software very important – proprietary (gorillas) vs. open
  10. Monkeys vs. Chimps – Monkeys are clones of the gorilla and chimps are gorillas without the market share or CAP but can occupy small niches
  11. Kings, princes and serfs – Kings are leaders, princes are challengers and serfs followers of the gorilla but don’t have proprietary architecture
  12. Power of gorilla corresponds to number of purchases it influences, power in own market and industry
    1. Enabling technology (capability to drive radical change in the capabilities of a user or culture) crucial in gorilla game and much more powerful than application technology
  13. Potential gorilla collisions are important to follow
  14. Barriers to entry help short term and scalability helps long-term advantage
  15. Any disruptive tech shifts leads to potential vacuums where new gorillas can emerge
  16. Gorilla stock almost always appears extremely expensive but in fact the market is almost always undervaluing a true gorilla. Therefore, this gorilla game framework is vital to know when a stock is just hot and expensive vs. when you’re dealing with an up and coming gorilla
  17. Investing is all about understanding a company’s competitive advantage
  18. Great execution which doesn’t raise competitive advantage is relatively useless
  19. P/S is a better metric than P/E for hypergrowth stocks as tracking revenues is a better indicator
  20. Market undervalues true gorillas for two reasons – true returns and the CAP are under appreciated
  21. End of tornado correction – market will over penalize gorilla if it misses earnings expectations because expectations run too high and/or the company didn’t communicate effectively
    1. Use this opportunity to add to position
    2. Protect and lower risk by selling chimps before the end of the tornado
  22. 4 mega sectors in high tech – semiconductors, services, computer systems, vertical market system. Gorilla game focuses on computer systems
  23. Can outperform market by outthinking and out reacting but out thinking is much safer, more consistent and profitable over the long-term
    1. Consistent business model and research practices to spot tornadoes
  24. Tornadoes only form when a new value chain comes into existence
  25. Questions to ask regarding value chain
    1. Can this value chain develop into a tornado mass market?
    2. If so, what conditions are currently holding it back?
    3. Are these constraining conditions likely to be removed, and by whom?
    4. If so, when is the last remaining constraint likely to be removed, and by whom?
  26. Deal with obstacles first and then enablers
  27. Adoption complexity and implementation (producer) complexity are two barriers. Must be able to produce mass quantities to meet demand and help supply hypergrowth
  28. Need killer app to provide consumers continuity and value but discontinuity in supply chain (producer’s end)
  29. 10 Rules
    1. If the category is application software, begin buying in the bowling alley
    2. If the category is enabling hardware or software, begin buying after the tornado has formed
    3. Buy a basket comprising all the gorilla candidates – usually at least two, sometimes three and normally no more than four
    4. Hold gorilla stocks for the long term. Sell only on proven substitution threat
    5. Hold application software chimp stocks as long as they exhibit potential for further market expansion. Do not hold enabling technology chimps
    6. Hold kings and princes lightly, selling individual stocks on a marketplace stumble and the category upon deceleration of hypergrowth
    7. Once it becomes clear to you that a company will never become a gorilla, sell it
    8. Money taken out of non-gorilla stocks should immediately be reinvested in the remaining gorilla candidates
    9. In a gorilla collision, hold your gorilla candidates until there has been a definitive outcome
    10. Most news has nothing to do with the gorilla game. Learn to ignore it
  30. Filters
    1. If it is not about a tornado, you don’t want to know
    2. If it is about a tornado, you want either bad news or facts (see questions above)
    3. New value chain, niche market, killer app, third party partners doing, proprietary architecture, switching costs, new tech to shorten gorilla CAP?
  31. Selling worries – focus on process and whether it was good or bad and the decision if it was good or bad, not the outcome
  32. A lot of press a great sign of gorilla status
  33. Gorilla can leverage high stock price for accretive M&A
  34. Gorilla process = SHARES
    1. Scan for trends, new categories, confirmations, exceptions, irrelevancies
    2. Hypothesize through tech magazines, website
    3. Analyze to gain sense of CAP
      1. “The focus of all these interactions should be on refining the model of the market place, drawing the maps of power, understanding the sources of competitive advantage, and anticipating how competitive dynamics might change, occasionally within categories, but more commonly because of categories colliding.”
    4. Respond – no paralysis by analysis
    5. Evaluate – invest only 4x per year
      1. Spreadsheet – revenue and earnings history going back at least 6 quarters (if available), stock price chart, current market cap, P/S, P/E, estimated market share in category
    6. Strengthen by putting additional funds into potential gorillas
  35. Don’t predict, respond
What I got out of it
  1. Awesome investing framework for investing in “gorillas” in the high-tech space. Argues that by following this framework, you can remove a lot of uncertainty and produce incredible returns by investing in companies that will have the fattest competitive advantage period