The Habit of Audacity

by Jerry Thomas (TMF Cheeze)
December 17, 1999

Greetings, Fools.

Every week, in preparation for writing these Notes, I patrol the content of Fooldom in search of material to highlight for the thousands of you who are kind enough to spend a few minutes of each weekend with me. I never quite have time to read everything the Fool produces (after all, I still work for a living). But my habit of scanning the pages and pages of stuff on the Fool website more or less at random sometimes leads me to notice connections that would not otherwise be apparent. Let me point out a couple of quotes from this week's offerings to illustrate the point. The first comes from David Gardner in Tuesday's Rule Breaker portfolio report:

The Markets -- December 17, 1999
  12/10 Close 12/17 Close Change %Change
DJIA 11,224.70 11,257.43 +32.73 +0.29
S&P 500 1,417.04 1,421.05 +4.01 +0.28
Nasdaq 3,620.28 3,753.06 +132.78 +3.67

"I think one of the most exciting developments this decade in finance is The Motley Fool message boards. No joke."

Now, that remark is certainly cheeky enough. The emergence of our Fool Community is not a development that one would immediately cite as one of the great financial creations of the decade, and probably most of Wall Street would dismiss the comment as a bit of self-promotion on David's part. One can certainly forgive a company leader for making a large boast about one of his company's most important features. But to consider the remark only in the context of routine corporate posturing risks overlooking the bald truth of what he is saying: Those message boards really are the amazing, revolutionary breakthrough David claims they are.

The rest of David's column amounts to a primer for making the message boards a great resource for your investing, so make a point of checking it out. The truth is, though, I might not have mentioned it had I not come across the following quote from Bill Mann (TMF Otter):

"We reject the Dow Jones Industrial Average as the premier gauge for market performance due to its dependence on the industries of yesterday, its equal weighting, and its unresponsiveness to the changes in the global economy. Similarly we question the lack of representation of international companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. International borders are becoming less and less relevant in the world of global commerce."

This Week's Top News Stories

Context? That quote comes from the Fool's announcement of the list of 50 outstanding companies that will constitute The Motley Fool's NOW Index. This new stock index is fully intended to replace the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and other benchmarks as the relevant index to watch as the next century unfolds.

There it is: that audacity again. Look at that bunch of Fools, rejecting Wall Street convention, making an annoying habit of challenging the accepted order. Audacity, it turns out, is a Fool's trait, as it takes more than a bit of cheek to speak the truth to the king. Where do we get the effrontery to say such things? Hey, we're Fools. That's what we're here for, Jack. Circumspect we ain't.

Let's distinguish, however, between audacity and arrogance. Audacity is the sometimes unpleasantly gauche assertiveness that confronts propriety. Arrogance emanates from the complacent abuse of position and power. You might find some clarification of this distinction in Thursday's Fool on the Hill commentary by Bill Barker (TMF Max). Bill reports on a proposed new SEC regulation that will put tighter controls on the cozy traditions Wall Street has for collecting selective disclosures of materially relevant information from publicly traded companies -- an appalling practice that happens routinely, without apology, and gives a shockingly unfair advantage to those in certain posh Manhattan offices. The Fool has been railing against this kind of snug behavior since Folly began, and we owe a salute to SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, who has long been a champion of more equitable disclosure rules.

Audacity, then -- while it might be brazen, garish, uncongenial, or even motley -- can also be a tool for reform. Happy, that.

Okay. The foregoing amounts to me blaring the Foolish trumpets, and maybe a little more loudly than I ought to. Without a doubt, the most important development to emerge from Fooldom this week is our new Retirement Portfolios area, managed by David Braze. These portfolios, managed with real money and divided into three different investment approaches (from less aggressive to more aggressive), have generated a really surprising reaction from our readers -- David reports that the announcement of these portfolios in last week's special got such a huge response that his email box is jammed with messages. Obviously there is more hunger for this kind of information than even we were aware of, and David is just the Fool to feed that need. He devotes his first regular report to answering some of the most frequently asked questions that have landed on his desktop, and your retirement is worth the time it takes to read along with him. You'll find all of these great articles and more in our new retirement area.

This week I enjoyed Monday's Fribble, by Anne Duncan, in which she simply lists the steps she has taken in the last 14 months to take control of her financial life. It's surprising how much can happen when you make a habit of audacity yourself, and begin making your own financial choices rather than merely accepting old ways of money management that are less than empowering. This week's Dueling Fools is a lot of fun, as David Forrest and Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMFs Bogey and Edible) go to the mat over their differing opinions of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment (Nasdaq: WWFE). And those who follow the Rule Breaker Portfolio will want to check out Thursday's report, in which Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff) announced a new buy for the portfolio: PE Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA).

There are only a couple of weeks left in our annual Foolanthropy Charity Drive. Be sure to check out the latest update from Robert Brokamp (TMF Bro). Over $110,000 has been collected so far, and it's not too late to add your contribution to the total!

Until next week,
Fool on!


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