The Week in Review -- January 8, 1999

The Markets

  12/31 Close 01/08 Close Change %Change
DJIA 9,181.43 9,643.32 461.89 +5.03
S&P 500 1,229.23 1,275.09 45.69 +3.72
Nasdaq 2,192.69 2,344.41 151.69 +6.92

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Foolishness Is What You Make of It
by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

Let's start with a brief online autobiography: I first got wired in 1995. I paid $160 for a really slick 14.4-bps modem and plugged in. After a few months logging on to local bulletin boards, and an abortive stint with CompuServe, I slipped one of those ubiquitous AOL promotional floppies into the drive of my trusty Mac Classic and never looked back. That was August. By October, I was already an avid reader of The Motley Fool's Message Boards. Soon I was posting frequently, and before long I was doing regular freelance work for the guys in the bell caps. My involvement with TMF steadily increased, and by April 1997, I woke up to find myself a full-time employee for The Motley Fool. That $160 investment has been returning dividends ever since. Somebody pinch me.

Serendipitous as it is, my story is far from unusual. Wander around our website and you'll find that a great many of the screen names sporting the TMF prefix belong to people who, not all that long ago, were everyday Fool readers. These are people who emerged from the ranks of our community to assume a leadership role.

Hiring your customers -- what an interesting way to do business.

This first week in January has been a pretty good year, especially for the Rule Breaker Portfolio, which is already showing a year-to-date return that would look impressive on December 31, never mind January 8. The Rule Breakers are still enjoying the fruits of their commitment to Internet stocks, which continue to soar even after boosting the portfolio to triple-digit returns in 1998. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing about it. (Can you tell I don't own any of those soaring 'Net stocks?) That's why I found last Tuesday's Fool on the Hill commentary by Warren Gump (TMF Gump) so refreshing. Imagine, taking a value-based approach to analysis of a company -- CBRL Group (Nasdaq: CBRL) -- that draws its name from the words cracker barrel. Quaint. Old-fashioned. Like value-based investing. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Well, let's run with that "quaint and old-fashioned" thought, because it resonates deeply with Fooldom. There is much in Foolishness that is value-based, and I'm not talking about the sort of value you can put a dollar sign in front of. I'm talking about a certain self-reliance, a bootstrapping approach to life that is pervasive throughout our community. There is a barn-raising spirit here, as each individual Fool adds his or her own small effort to make a greater whole. Whatever The Motley Fool is, it was made by our own readers in a way that is more profound than any other business I know of. Has there ever been a company in the history of American commerce that was built, to such a large extent, by the willing and eager contributions of its own customers?

I used to be a customer here myself, and I felt that eagerness to contribute long before I ever found myself on the payroll. I see that spirit reflected back to me every day. You can sample it yourself in our Post of the Day feature, which turns the spotlight on one of the thousands of daily contributions to our message boards. Or look at our Fribbles, which resound with the voices of people who have stepped up, not only to take control of their financial lives, but are doing service to the rest of us by sharing the lessons they have learned. Check out Thursday's from Fool contributor Shoma Aditya, a 25-year-old investor who shares the spirit.

I feel extremely lucky that I was tapped on the shoulder one day to enjoy the role I'm playing today. But looking back, it all seems fitting -- it is in the culture, and in the nature, of The Motley Fool to behave this way. The pattern was invoked at The Motley Fool's inception. David and Tom Gardner, the founders of this accidental world, were themselves posting on AOL message boards way back when, and they, before me, were tapped on the shoulder to assume a larger role. Since then they have been promoting that power of appreciation, that spirit of contribution. Look what it has built already.

I've used up my space, but before I go, let me make fast mention of a couple of other items well worth your interest. First, there's Dayana Yochim (TMF School)'s piece, How To Save $7 Billion -- it outlines steps to help you get out from under your credit card debt. Also, don't miss Monday's Foolish Four Report by Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC) -- it's a timely examination of the importance of patience when using this proven approach to beating the market averages.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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