Ep640: Peter Johnson – Pick the Right People to Work With

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Quick take

BIO: Peter W. Johnson, Jr. is the founder and principal of PWJohnson Wealth & Legacy, LLC, a fee-only Registered Investment Advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, California.

STORY: Peter invested in two business ideas that came too early for their time. Both businesses had minimal uptake because people didn’t understand what Peter was trying to do.

LEARNING: Never invest all of your money in risky things; always stay diversified. Pick the right people to work with. A great idea is not the only thing you need to succeed.


“Never invest all of your money in risky things; always stay diversified.”

Peter Johnson


Guest profile

Peter W. Johnson, Jr. is the founder and principal of PWJohnson Wealth & Legacy, LLC, a fee-only Registered Investment Advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, California.

His independent firm has provided investment and financial planning services to clients and families for 30 years, with a balanced emphasis on both the analytical and human sides of the wealth equation.

Family wealth is personal for Peter. Peter’s great-grandfather was a self-made businessman who built his wealth to $100 million. But he subsequently lost this wealth over three generations.

Worst investment ever

Peter has always been a computer geek. It was no surprise when he attended a conference in 1995 where they discussed setting up websites, and he immediately came up with a business idea. The internet was just opening to commercial use. Peter thought it would be a good idea to build an online community of investment professionals who could share their favorite websites and store them in a database. He hired friends to set up the community.

Peter immediately went out to market his community. He realized he was speaking to people who didn’t know what email was. Only 10% of the people he talked to had email, internet web databases, or bulletin boards. The uptake was very slow, and people were reluctant to pay even though the value was self-evident. Peter’s idea came just too early for its time. People simply didn’t grasp what he was trying to do.

In 2001, Peter went to another conference about publishing ebooks. He started doing ebooks on the side in collaboration with a little book publishing company. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the subscribership he needed. Then 9/11 happened, and everything went into a funk. The business ran out of money and could no longer afford to pay the people Peter had hired.

Lessons learned

  • Never invest all of your money in risky things; always stay diversified.
  • Pick the right people to work with.
  • Learn the joys of guerilla marketing to become a hell of a marketer.
  • If you want input from friends and family, form an advisory board.
  • Pay attention to your gut feeling.
  • Don’t be early and don’t be late.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • A great idea is not the only thing you need to succeed.
  • The runway is not just money. It also involves your emotions.

Actionable advice

Be kind to yourself and invest in yourself. Follow your passions because there’s something there. As long as you learn something, it’s okay to fail. Sometimes you won’t learn anything, but you’ll learn to survive.

Peter’s recommendation

  • Peter recommends finding and joining a community of people who can inspire and lift you up. People you can meet, talk to, share ideas with, and support each other.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Peter’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to build a new podcast called Life, Love, and Legacy. He hopes to use the platform to let people know the value of doing more than surviving.

Parting words


“There’s so much that we have to offer people and such platforms are a great way to get the word out. So thank you for the work you’re doing.”

Peter Johnson


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk. But to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce Miss risk in their lives. And that mission has led me to create the become a better investor community where you get access to the tools you need to create, grow and protect your wealth go to my worst investment ever.com. Right now, to claim your spot. Fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Peter Johnson, Peter, are you ready to join the mission?

Peter Johnson 00:41
I am ready to join the mission and rocks are

Andrew Stotz 00:45
we are going to run we are going to rock and I want to introduce you to the audience. But before I do, it's interesting, and I'm sure we'll have a little discussion about this is that, you know, you've had experience in the podcast space when the podcast space wasn't such a big space. And I'm just curious about that over time. But before we get into that, I want to introduce you to the audience Peter W. Johnson Jr. is founder and principal of PW Johnson wealth and legacy LLC, a fee only registered investment advisory firm. based in Silicon Valley, California, is independent firm has provided investment and financial planning services to clients and families for 30 years, with a balanced emphasis on both the analytical and human sides of the wealth equation. family wealth is personal for Peter. You see, his great grandfather was a self made businessman who built his wealth to $100 million. But that wealth was subsequently lost over three generations. Peter, take a minute and tell us about the unique value that you bring into this wonderful world.

Peter Johnson 01:51
Wow, I am really blessed Andrew to serve people in an area that confuses so many. Money is complex money is emotional. And having had the experiences I've had, I'm in a pretty good position, to pull it all together and communicate it to people in a way that's helpful. Not just intellectual knowledge, but putting it to work. And I get to work with some of the heroes in my life and talking to you is certainly another little high point for me. We did run a podcast 15 years ago, the first week that Apple came out with podcasts on iTunes. Incredible, we were in the now brag time, we were in the top 20 Business podcasts for like two years. And when my partner left, and it was 2008. We just got depressed and so sorry that we didn't continue, but we're gonna get back into it here soon. But yeah, I get to serve people and walk by their sides and get that firsthand experience and the value that I bring. And I have no desire whatsoever to retire, maybe work easier, somehow smarter. But that's kind of it. And a big piece of my life too has to do with being privileged to do some men's work over the last 25 years, which simply is personal growth with men in really close knit communities, which has been one of the biggest blessings I've heard. So

Andrew Stotz 03:19
that's interesting. Yeah, that's interesting that you mentioned that because, you know, particularly during the pandemic, I think people got lonely people got scared, people got panicked, terrified, they got depressed. And people, people in order to survive that many of us, you know, decided we have to dig into our communities and our family or, and that community support is so valuable. The people on the podcast that know me, they know that I went through a huge amount of I went through drug addiction at a young age and rehab, where we had a lot of group therapy sessions, you know, for many, many, many hours that I went through all of that. And it really helped me to be a better group member, when I am in a community to respect you know what other people are saying and help people to kind of go through it, but, and I started a community a couple, two years ago, I started to achieve your goals, community of executives in Thailand, who want to achieve their goals faster. And then I started another one called to become a better investor community, which I did in 2022. And it's just, you know, you just realize like, and I think when I was younger, I wasn't really, I didn't get into a community and that way and I think for younger people who are listening, my advice is find a community getting it participate, you'll get so much out of

Peter Johnson 04:39
it. I think we undervalue and really don't understand community and connection very well in Western society, and is one of my big bugaboos and the reason we want to work with families is you can get that grounding in yourself and with your small community there and build on that which is really invaluable. You learn a ton out of participating with other people giving and taking and realizing what's important to you. And we've, we've just been pointed back to the importance of that, of that whole area of our lives. And thank goodness we've done kind of awakened to it.

Andrew Stotz 05:21
Yeah. So it's a good, it's a good kickoff to our discussion, because I think if if someone's listening, and they're feeling like, they're still kind of down, or they're not recovered out of, you know, the nonsense that we've been through over the last few years and all that, you know, it is time to reach out. Well, speaking of time, it's now time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment, thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to and then tell us your story.

Peter Johnson 05:52
All right, perfect segue because we're talking about connection here and one of my personal values. So turning the clock back to 1963. How long do we have? I was a little geek running around 12 years old and wanted to build a computer. I don't know why back that long ago was a different world. But I did put something together. And I picture in Los Angeles magazine with this thing, this binary computer. And then years later at the mutual fund, where I work, they gave me pretty much the control of the personal computers and the mainframe for security and things like that. So I've always been kind of a geek, and then I got into Macs in early 80s. And they're just so darn powerful. I thought I can do anything with these. I went to a conference where they talked about setting up websites, this is 1995. So the internet that just open to commercial use. And I thought, oh my gosh, we could build a community of investment professionals online, we could share our favorite websites, you know, type in our favorite URLs and have them stored in a database. And we have conversations and threads, and avatars and share our best ideas are all working as pretty much little silos out here, many, many of us. And it just filled all of my potentially it filled all of my desires to be connected, to have an edge up to get that encouragement when you need it. And I've been rewarded by being not only in men's work, but in ham radio, where people are super nice and helpful. So I said, Oh, well, we should do this, then we should create this community. There were a few details to work out, coming up. But that's how I got started with this dream, and hiring a couple of friends I knew to set it up.

Andrew Stotz 08:05
And so that's 9095 It's interesting, you know, that's kind of when things were just starting. So how did it progress from there?

Peter Johnson 08:14
I hope thanks for reminding me that it was just starting. Because I, I went out to market this darn thing as a darn thing just because it was painful. Looking back on it here but I I was speaking to people who didn't even know what email was. Only 10% of the people in the audience had email, internet web databases, bulletin boards, I must have been speaking Greek. So I was way too early with this thing. And I was trying to communicate it to people and boy, I had a lot of fun. With different presentations. I did the very first one I did. I couldn't connect to do a live presentation in front of my fellow CFPs in Sacramento. Because I didn't know why I was trying to dial up our special dial in number and all that turned out our consultants house burned down the night before. So that's why I couldn't get through. But every darn time I went out to speak or something and my computer broke or there was some problem in the office with the server. Anyway, so we did give it up to 1000 people. We got up to 1000 members, we screened everybody to make sure they didn't have any biases or products to sell that they get in there and start to mess with our heads. And yeah, it was very slow and people were very reluctant to pay which was a surprise to me because the value was self evident. But again, I think people didn't really grasp what we're trying to do. And there should have been a simpler solution. Anyway, so And

Andrew Stotz 10:01
were they paying by transferring money or sending in a check or how was payment being done at that time.

Peter Johnson 10:07
We were doing like monthly billings through credit cards, okay. But that was a whole, that's a whole nother area. Well that I then to compound the work in the font. In 2001, I went to another conference remind me not to go to conferences. Because then I get ideas. I went to a conference about publishing and about ebooks. And that was, before they were being talked about this was 2000 2000 or so and wound up becoming the first small publisher during ebooks with Amazon. So if we've had these little tastes of success that could like carrots, dragging me along, and I suddenly got this 1000 people's a lot of knowledge, and we've got the public who needs the knowledge. And publishing super easy. Now, you don't have to order 5000 books and kill a lot of trees. So we started doing ebooks on the side with a little book publishing company as well. But as I say, we really didn't get the subscribership we needed. And then 2001 911 came along. And we all just kind of went into a funk. Nobody was doing anything making any decisions. And frankly, I just ran out of money. I over hired that I figured it would sort itself out. But it was a lot to take on for a guy as a sort of a side work job here.

Andrew Stotz 11:47
And when you were doing that, that was side work while you were doing your regular job.

Peter Johnson 11:53
Yes, I continued to serve my clients. I thought about just moving over and doing internet stuff. But I got a few wise people that said, probably not your best move. And I think that's that was good.

Andrew Stotz 12:09
Can you go back to the day or the time that you realize that you got to hang it up? And you know, I, as they say in these days, you ran out of runway. But what was that? Like? What was the feeling like? And you remember the day or the time?

Peter Johnson 12:26
Yeah, I was in Denver for a conference. And I had undiagnosed sleep apnea. So here I was up at 5000 feet, not sleeping well and headachy. And just kind of miserable anyway, and then, you know, it was 911 to happen. Right then. But anyway, I was depressed and upset, barely. I felt like a lot had fallen apart. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pull it all together, especially with the problems in the market. So that was a lot of stress.

Andrew Stotz 13:04
And when you gave up on it, did you feel relief in stress? Or was it Oh, God, I feel terrible now.

Peter Johnson 13:12
I felt terrible. Because I still think it was a great idea. You know, and I was doing it, right? I just hated to lose out on the vision really, it wasn't even as much the loss of money as just that. I was upset for quite a while if I went to conferences and saw the internet sessions filling up more and more in sync. But I knew about this a little feeling sorry for myself, I guess. And yeah, the funny thing is, and I want to mention this as one of my learnings. When I had the idea to start this project, at the conference, I was sitting in the middle of a conference session. And I had a really kind of a dreadful feeling come up in me when I thought about it. Like there was a feeling of, I don't know, foreboding or something. I don't, I don't want to call it fear. But I would say you know, pay attention to your gut. Because my head had one story and my gut had another and I should at least more thoroughly check that out. I think

Andrew Stotz 14:31
the other lessons that you've learned from it.

Peter Johnson 14:33
Oh, my goodness. Yes, quite a few. Quite a few lessons. I've actually jotted a few down so I wouldn't forget them. Number one, never invest all of your money. You know, especially in risky things always stay diversified. For me it was I got to the point where it's very tenuous for me to pay my personal debt. Ulsan business skills, I had to borrow a little bit, I did pay it back very quickly. But, you know, things could have gone differently. And I've seen this play out in different ways in different people's lives. That I won't go into detail here. But if you've made you're not, if you've got enough to retire on, set that aside and have all the fun you want with the rest. And number two, pick the right people to work with. I worked with people who really didn't get my vision to some extent, and people who lack confidence and therefore overcompensated, and that things of insecurity they probably didn't need to do. I did learn the joys of guerilla marketing, I became a hell of a marketer. I love marketing now. And it was like a dirty word before but you know, you're forced to do things when you take things on and. And necessity is the mother of invention. So, guerrilla marketer, I learned to go with the bumps during the presentation to another house burning down or server being restarted at an inopportune time or whatever. It's like, okay, it's not like I hope there isn't going to be a bump. It's going to be like, what is the monk going to be? Oh, there it is. Okay, it's just a lot easier. So expect the bumps in the road? I'd say form an advisory board to get your friends to weigh in. Mine tried to but I wouldn't listen. So it's not their fault. And then I learned about book publishing, because fascinating. Oh, my gosh, what a world that is, and changing so quickly. And then they don't ignore the gut that I said, and the last one's kind of tongue in cheek, but also true. Don't be early. And don't be late. That's easy, right? Simple. Simple, yes. Easy? No.

Andrew Stotz 17:10
Well, let me maybe I'll go through some of the things that I'm taking away from it. That story, too, just to kind of sum it up, you know, going back to 1995. I was really in my second year as an analyst in Thailand. And yeah, the internet, which wasn't a thing, because I remember all the information I got, I was traveling, whenever I traveled outside of Thailand, I went to bookstores and brought back books. And that was how I learned particularly about bank analysis, which is what I was doing. But, you know, I would say the one thing is that setting up a website and building a community of investors, great idea. So that's what's really seductive about this story is that, you know, you started with a great idea. But a great idea is not the only thing. The other part is the execution. Now, you talked about marketing. And you know, at that time, people didn't know what email was. And you mentioned even databases, I remember when my father talked to, you know, got a computer, he got, he was on the test group of DuPont employees that got a computer. And he figured out how to do databases and things like that. And he just saw, you know, the value and, of course, all of his jazz albums he put into databases, and you know, all of that. So, you know, he enjoyed that. And, but those are the days and I also was thinking about, you know, you mentioned that you got up to 1000 members, that is a lot of members. That is not an easy feat. And then I think about the credit card and manage, you know, managing those monthly billings on credit cards. And then, you know, you're a conference guy, you know, another conference on publishing. In fact, this could have come together perfectly the community, the topic, the publishing, but that's where it comes down to this point of running out of runway. And I would say that you know, you are, you're given an example that the runway is not just money, it's the emotional runway. When your ideas not working, when people aren't buying into it, when it's not going the way that you plan. I think that that is a time that it can get tough. It gets tough for the entrepreneur, but it also gets tough for the people that are following the entrepreneur because you need to make sure that people stay invested. And the other thing I'm just go through one of the things you talked about, you know, never invest all of your money, stay diversified. I have a way I call it I say don't get knocked out. There are times in life where your whole objective in that round. Think of Muhammad Ali and Frazier going into round 1314 of their third fight. It was just all about not getting knocked out. And the great story about how Muhammad Ali said it was the closest to death that he had when he was sitting on the stool between the 14th and the 15th. round with the third rematch of Frasier now and Frasier is on the other sitting on the other stool. Mr. Hamid Ali is telling, telling his trainer cut the cut the gloves off, I quit, he wouldn't do it. In a couple of seconds later, Fraser's team threw in the towel before the 15th round started. And so you've just got to stay and not get knocked out. And that's a critical one. And just one last thing is go with the flow, right? Learn that there's going to be problems, there's going to be challenges. A story that I have is when I went to the Philippines, once I gave a speech at a university, and they drove me outside of Manila to this university, and they showed me I said, they said, everything will be fine. Tomorrow morning, I was like, no, no, let's go to the event. The venue, so we went to the venue, it was huge. And they were gonna have 2000 people in this venue. And I got back to the back of the venue. And I realized that the screen that they had to project my files, my PowerPoints was just tiny, and I needed to increase the font size on those PowerPoints. And I basically went back to my room, and it took me until about 3am, because every time you expand power of the fonts, you have to move stuff and all that. And it taught me a lesson that one of the ways that I go with the flow is that I never go into a presentation with small fonts. Just never know. So I got a lot out of out of is there anything you would add to that?

Peter Johnson 21:23
Yeah, I think you're right, learning to go with the flow and accepting that and it's not just you, it's just the world is difficult place because it doesn't work smoothly. One thing that was playing into it for me too, was my dad had inculcated the value of don't quit. I remember eight years old, running around the house, I'm going to do 80 laps around the house, my dad says well, don't don't quit to hit 80. Thanks, Dad, I should have quit. But the other thing is I love you don't get knocked out. When people come in and talk to me about investments. Now. I say, we don't try to be smarter than the market. There's an awful lot of smart people out there. I don't believe in totally efficient markets, but you're not going to outguess the market. So just don't make any big mistakes, which is what people do over and over and over. And it's partially behavioral finance, but it's in there. That's a whole nother discussion. But

Andrew Stotz 22:32
so let's go back in time, and relive this in a kind of an alternate, let's imagine at that time, or a young person now, who's doing what you were doing based upon what you learned from this story and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Peter Johnson 22:57
Build relationships. Relationships will not only give you a lot of emotional runway, because we do get renewed, and learning how to take care of ourselves emotionally, is part of life and part of what we're talking about with families and so on supporting each other. So there is that? And I would say don't be hard on yourself, be kind to yourself, and invest in yourself. Like, just take care of yourself and do follow your passions because there's something there. People say, well, as long as you learn something, it's okay to fail. Well, sometimes you don't learn anything, you only learn that you survive. But guess what that's useful. And along the way, you know, you build relationships, I would start with, if I were to do it over, I would start with building a core group of people that I was in touch with that, where we use the platform. And it grew organically rather than me going out and trying to sell people on some that was elite. Great,

Andrew Stotz 24:14
great advice. Great advice. And I know, when I started my platform for become a better investor. I just went out to the people I know. And I offered a founding membership at a very low price with the idea of I wonder how many people would sign up and continue to pay on a monthly basis. And from that I got a core group of people that I started to serve and meet and talk to and talk about what needs they had before I took it out to the big market. So to this year 2023 I'm much more ready to say let's bring that out to a wider audience now. So you know, I think the getting that core community, testing it out building it a little bit is great. And what's a resource have yours or have any other resource or something that that's helped you in your life that you'd recommend for our listeners?

Peter Johnson 25:11
Thank goodness, so many. Right now, my number one thing comes to mind as being part of this group out of Colorado that works with high net worth and ultra high net worth families. And people are coming from 20 Different disciplines. So we know we have the estate planning attorneys, we've got the philanthropy people, and we've got the trustees, and we've got the health people. And it's just the kindest, most most supportive group of people I've ever encountered, like 350 members. And that just inspires me and lifts me up. And it's just such a goldmine of people to talk to, and meet and share ideas and support each other. So you get in the right kind of environment. Yeah, good stuff happens.

Andrew Stotz 26:05
I think that that turns out to be a theme of this conversation is community and support and things like that. So that so much of what you've talked about builds on that. So last question, what is your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Peter Johnson 26:20
My number one goal is to build this new podcast called life, love and legacy. And just let people know that they're heading for a brick wall that they don't see till somebody dies, and then it's too late. It's just so much grief, and trauma, and lost wealth, and upset. Just all kinds of nasty stuff. And we need to build that strength in family so that people can be more resilient and even regenerative because the old rules don't even apply. We've got to have got to do more than survive. We've got to create new world while we're dealing with all this shit. And the world needs improvement. And I'm excited about that.

Andrew Stotz 27:08
Fantastic Well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. If you haven't yet joined the become a better investor community just go to my worst investment ever.com right now to claim your spot as we can clewd. Peter, I want to thank you again for joining our mission. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience

Peter Johnson 27:34
on? No, I'm just going to wait for my trophy because I can't imagine what it's going to look like. But it's going to be good. Yeah, I know. It's really been a pleasure to meet you, Andrew and spend time talking. There's so much that we have to offer people on this is a great way to get the word out. So thank you for the work you're doing for everybody.

Andrew Stotz 27:53
I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I know, for my community. We all appreciate that. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our wealth fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate that today. We added one more person to our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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