<THE RULE BREAKER PORTFOLIO>
Many of us are very adept at living "for the future." American culture in particular subscribes to the notion. As soon as we start preschool, the true goal is to prepare for elementary school. Once in elementary school, first grade is merely the first step after kindergarten. Once you get there, the goal in first grade is to reach the second step -- second grade. This is followed by the next goal, third grade. Middle school is merely a precursor to High School, which for many is practice for college. Always, in so many ways, one is looking ahead. College is the next step and it offers a ticket to the next step that follows it: the Real World. Typically college grants admission to the Real World on a higher rung in the social ladder.
In the so-called Real World (as if there were an unreal one), you're greeted immediately by more steps. These steps may include sales quotas, revenue goals, customer account growth, or they may be more abstract. Whatever the goals, though, they are typically measurable and monitored in -- what else -- steps, or levels. The same is true of one's personal progress. The ultimate goal in the Real World usually involves Retirement, which is the oddly coveted final step.
So, we're raised from a young age to look ahead, to always strive for the next step. Although with context the advice to "think ahead" is good, without proper context, it's nothing short of disastrous. If a person doesn't learn how to enjoy the present, they can't possibly be prepared to enjoy the future when it finally "arrives." First, the future never does arrive, of course -- not like a train does. The future simply becomes the present in the same way that the summer becomes the fall. So, how does summer become fall? Well, it doesn't. First there is summer. Then there is fall.
Philosophy isn't on today's menu, though, so we won't take this beyond the main point. The point: the Fool is about long-term investing and thinking years ahead, but it is even more so about enjoying each current day, and using each day Foolishly. Living for a future is smart mathematically ("If I save and invest this much, I should have this much"). However, living for the future is ridiculous by almost every other measure. The future is the one thing that none of us will ever reach. It is always receding. Therefore, only by knowing how to enjoy the present is someone able to enjoy what is commonly regarded as the future.
A summary: when we write that "20 years from now is what matters," what we're really saying is that enjoying today is what matters. There's some philosophy for ya.
The Rule Breaker enjoyed gains today from Amazon, eBay, Amgen, and others. The main news of the day has interesting implications. eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) joined forces with America Online (NYSE: AOL) in offering a co-branded eBay site that makes it easier for AOL users to surf the auction leader. The new site can be seen at http://pages.ebay.aol.com. It is little different from eBay's existing website. The largest difference is the top-left banner which states: "AOL Presents eBay." The right banner is also slightly different.
My first reaction to the news is to question AOL's technology and its long-term plan. First, why is it that AOL users require a special page to get the most from eBay? If a special page improves the experience, how true is that of sites other than eBay, too? And then, how willing are other sites to offer, in effect, dual services, one on the Web and one tweaked for AOL? American Greetings has already made a similar agreement with AOL, so perhaps many companies will.
AOL and eBay both benefit from the relationship -- as long as it goes smoothly. Now AOL presents eBay as if it is its own brand: "AOL Presents... eBay!" Meanwhile, eBay is given thorough promotion to AOL's 18 million users and is supposedly easier to use. The main argument for the co-branded site shared by AOL is that it uses the same navigational tools that AOL users are already used to. So although linking to eBay's website seems many times easier, instead AOL is in effect working to make its online service an operating system on which users come to increasingly depend upon. It's almost as if AOL really does want to be the Internet on training wheels.
During a backlash when AOL was perceived as something "separate" from the Internet, AOL promoted itself as the gateway to the Internet and everything on it. But all the while, AOL has been signing partnerships and building an interface that strives to keep AOL members on AOL, or AOL-partnership property, rather than the Internet. Of course, this makes excellent business sense, but it does present interesting challenges. For one, can AOL properties keep pace with the fast-changing Internet? And how many companies are willing to work on two interfaces (the Web and AOL) indefinitely? So far, many companies (including the Fool) have published on both the Web and AOL. It can require significantly increased resources.
Financial details weren't provided regarding the AOL and eBay relationship. One could imagine that AOL is sharing in sales revenue generated at the AOL-branded eBay site, as it shares with other partners past certain levels of revenue.
In other news (picture a news anchorperson behind a news desk, but wearing a big fluffy jester cap), Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) announced that it invested more than $45 million in various online companies, including WebMD and Biztravel, as it works to bolster its content offerings and brand.
Elsewhere at the Fool, we're looking at stolid gum leader, consistent grower, Wrigley (NYSE: WWY), in Drip Port. Enjoy and Fool on!