10 Things to Learn from Killing Jesus

imageKilling Jesus” from Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is more like Jesus, the Superhero (or Jesus Christ Superstar). I am not religious at all; I respect those who use faith to guide their lives, but I do not respect those who use religion to differentiate themselves or look down upon others.

That said, I was very (and pleasantly) how much I enjoyed this factual history of Jesus’ life and the explanation of the world around him. O’Reilly and Dugard explain their approach in providing a history, based on reliable sources (I did not realize the Roman Empire was so good at record keeping) of the times, and do not judge or attempt to embellish, for better or worse, what was reported.

Thus, as silly as it sounds, I found myself rooting for Jesus, even though I obviously know what happened to him, and somehow hoping there would be a happy ending. In some ways, I guess you might say there is a happy ending, but it came about in a very sad way. I’ll let you interpret that on your own.

I highly recommend the book and here are ten excerpts I found most worth remembering: (as a bonus, “Christ” means King)

1) If anyone thinks it odd that a smooth-cheeked, simply dressed child from rural Galilee should be sitting alone among these gray-bearded rabbis, with their flowing robes and encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history, they are not saying. In fact, the opposite is true: Jesus’s understanding of complex spiritual concepts has astonished the priests and teachers. They listen to his words as he speaks and treat him like a savant, marveling to one another about his amazing gifts.

2) The most common modes of killing a condemned man in the Roman Empire were hanging, burning him alive, beheading, placing him inside a bag full of scorpions then drowning him, and crucifixion. As terrible as the four might be, the last is considered the worst by far.

3) Working together, the men who, just moments ago, were praying, now cut off any route of escape. Jesus is forced to the edge of town, where a tall cliff provides a commanding view of Galilee. The men’s intention is to hurl Jesus to his death. And it appears that might happen, for Jesus seems powerless. But at the last minute he turns to face his detractors. Drawing himself up to his full height, Jesus squares his shoulders and holds his ground. He is not a menacing individual, but he has a commanding presence and displays an utter lack of fear. The words he says next will never be written down, nor will the insults these men continue to hurl at him ever be chronicled. In the end, the mob parts and Jesus walks away unscathed. And he keeps walking.

4) By early in the year 28, Jesus has selected twelve men to follow him and learn his teachings as disciples, so that they may one day go out alone into the world and preach his message. Four of the apostles—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—are fishermen. Jesus has specifically singled out men from this calling because their job requires them to be conversant in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and a little Latin, which will allow them to speak with a wider group of potential followers.

5) Jesus is undermining their [the Pharisees] authority. If allowed to flourish, his movement will destroy their way of life, stripping them of wealth and privilege. And that cannot be allowed to happen. For as much as the Pharisees say they love God, most of them are arrogant, self-righteous men who love their exalted class status far more than any religious belief system.

6) But if the disciples think that Jesus has shared his deepest secret, they are wrong. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law,” Jesus goes on to explain. This doesn’t make sense to the disciples. If Jesus is the Christ, then he will one day rule the land. But how can he do so without the backing of the religious authorities? And if that isn’t confusing enough, Jesus adds another statement, one that will be a source of argument down through the ages. “He must be killed,” Jesus promises the disciples, speaking of himself as the Son of God, “and on the third day be raised to life.” The disciples have no idea what this means. Nor do they know that Jesus of Nazareth has less than a year to live.

7) Whether knowingly or unknowingly, Jesus has led a life that is a continual fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. He was born a Jew. His lineage is that of David. A great star rose in the morning sky as he was being born in Bethlehem. It could be argued that as he grew and learned Scripture, he intentionally began contriving his actions and words to mimic the prophets’ predictions. And now comes the ultimate symbol: if Jesus chooses to ride into Jerusalem at Passover astride a donkey, he will be sending a powerful message.

8) For the past three years, Jesus has been adored, but he has also been subject to attack and suspicion. Even his disciples, despite their deep belief in Jesus and his teachings, sometimes care more about jockeying for power than about understanding his true nature and his message for the world. He has been very specific with the disciples that he is more than just an earthly Christ. They don’t understand. He has told them again and again that he is a divine being, the Son of God. They cannot comprehend that concept. Jesus has made it clear that he is the Christ but that his kingdom is not of this world. They don’t understand what he’s talking about. Three times, Jesus has told his disciples that he will die this week. But his followers refuse even to contemplate that.

9) [When Jesus is supposed to rise from the dead] But this presents another immediate challenge: Mary is physically incapable of rolling away the tombstone; she will require help. Yet most of Jesus’s disciples are still in hiding. Since yesterday was the Sabbath, and she followed the mandate to do nothing but rest, she does not know about the Roman soldier ordered to stand guard outside the tomb. But there is no guard. As the two Marys approach the tomb, they are stunned. The tombstone has been rolled away. The crypt is empty. Mary Magdalene cautiously steps forward and looks inside. She smells the myrrh and aloe in which Jesus’s body was anointed. She clearly sees the linen shroud in which the body was wrapped. But there is nothing else there. To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.

10) The crucifix, that iconic image showing the body of Jesus affixed to a cross, was not a part of the Christian culture until six centuries after his death. The lack of representation of the cross may have been due to the Church’s belief in his resurrection.

10a) [I apologize for the cheating!] Little is known about what happened to the others [Jesus’ disciples – this shows that regardless of whether Jesus returned after death or not, his disciples believed he returned and led lives of misery to spread Jesus’ message after he died], except that each apostle spent his life preaching and was killed for doing so. It is a fact that the disciples of Jesus traveled as far as India, Britain, and even into Africa in their zeal to spread their faith, marking a vast sea change from their timid behavior during Jesus’s life and in the hours after his death.

10 Things to Learn from The Start-up of You (LinkedIn, Career)


The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (by Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn) was highly recommended to me by Lily Phan, and after reading it, I can understand why – it’s a wake up call to what the world is like today, in terms of the professional career.

It’s a summary of what you need to do in order to thrive in today’s work environment – Hoffman makes the parallel of one’s career to a startup. How a startup survives (hustle in chaos, pivot, etc.) is similar to how you must manage your career. Yes, it’s tough, and unlike what your parents went through, but that is what is required today. Accept and embrace it or fail.

While many of the lessons (you must compete, differentiate yourself, etc.) had been taught to me by my dad (he told me 20 years ago, that for my generation, the bachelor’s degree would be so common as to be meaningless – he was right), and have been taught by me to others, the book reinforced those lessons.

This reminded me of an article in the San Jose Mercury News a few years ago. In it, a young woman, having recently graduated from San Jose State University, told the reporter that she felt she had fulfilled her responsibility by getting solid grades at the school. She did not understand why she did not have a job – she felt that going to college meant that she deserved a job when she finished.

Someone like that would not yet have understood the critical points of The Start-up of You. At times, the book feels like an advertisement for the LinkedIn service. While I disagree about the actual  effectiveness of some of Hoffman’s LinkedIn usage recommendations, they do make sense, at least conceptually, and you can tell that his team has put in a lot of thought and research into activating the social network to foster professional relationships.

Other than that, Hoffman has good advice for adjusting your LinkedIn profile (see mine here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeldinhnguyen/).

I could not export my Kindle notes, so I’ll paraphrase ten notable lessons from the book:

1. The days of lifetime-guaranteed jobs and continual on-the-job training is over. You need to be ready to work when you go through the door. Companies don’t want to invest in training if people are just going to leave in a few years. Companies die too quickly to guarantee a lifetime contract – the average a company stays in the S&P 500 today is just 10 years.

2. Loyalty is no longer to the company, but among your social network.

3. Understand what differentiates you by completing the following thought: “A company hires me over other professionals because….” (What makes you so much better or more valuable than everyone else who wants the same job?) If you cannot answer this, you need to create your answer (not make it up, but work on differentiators).

4. Don’t assume you need a perfect 5 or 10 year career plan mapped out – things rarely work out this way. Successful companies often change directions drastically before reaching success. In the process, they experience near-death and lots of adaption. Your career will be the same.

5. To enter a new industry or new job direction that needs previous work experience that you do not have, not only make contacts with people in those areas, but do work for free on the side. Example, if you are interested in product management, ask if you can write up your ideas (following the proper work structure) and have actual product managers review (and be able to use them without having to pay you) and give you feedback. You would do this new work in addition to your existing work. This would also be applied to learning new skills.

6. The self-made man is a myth – it’s about you and your network that will ultimately define your value and success.

7. Physical proximity (if you live across the country from someone, your relationship strength will suffer) is a strong indicator of relationship strength, networks of strong relationships can be of maximum 150 people at one time.

8. Focus on helping people first. Provide value before seeking it – differentiate yourself this way.

9. If you are not truly pained by the risk in your strategic choices, this is a sign this is not the breakout opportunity you are looking for. No pain, no gain, meaning that amazing opportunities come with a lot of risk (the pay is too low, it’s in a different city than I want to be in, etc.) and disruption to what you want.

10. We are afraid of risk much more than we should be  – we overemphasize risk and underemphasize positives when evaluating situations. For example, dying in a plane crash is virtually impossible, yet people have an irrational fear of it. Learn to absorb risk over time, get used to it – step into the fear.