We are the music-makers,Six years ago today, The Motley Fool surprised the world by starting an online site dedicated to the belief that you and I, average people, non-professionals, can and should be managing our own money. With jester caps perched firmly atop our heads and smiles on our faces, we told anyone who would listen what our dad had told us, from an early age: The stock market is where your savings should be. Invest for the long term. Become part owners of the greatest companies you can find. Be patient. And, whether you succeed or fail, make sure you have fun!
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
--"Ode," Arthur O'Shaugnessy (1844-1881)
Dad had taught us about common stock and net profit margins and return on equity and all the rest from an early age. And at birth, he had started individual accounts for us each, so that when we came of age (18) we were handed the fruits of his saving and smart investing on our behalf. We were now the managers of our own accounts, given that responsibility, and opportunity. Money was opportunity, we learned -- the opportunity to do what you want in life. To act, rather than be acted upon... in our case, one day -- as if by accident -- to start a company.
I say that six years ago "The Motley Fool surprised the world" but in fact that very day, August 4, 1994, we welcomed only a few dozen visitors. We got 60 "hits" -- the nomenclature of the time -- remember? The second day, I remember, we got only 45. ("Down 25% in audience from the day before? Tom, what the heck did you screw up?!!") So The Motley Fool didn't exactly surprise the world on its first day. I hope that we have surprised more of it since.
I remember the first time our company name appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Tom and I were giggling. The Journal, that staid old establishment paper we'd seen Dad read from time immemorial -- the Journal -- had just printed the phrase "The Motley Fool." Hysterical! We look back on the successes in our lives and sometimes have a hard time feeling again what it was like when we first succeeded. But I'll tell you, I shall always grin at that first moment.
Or how about when Al Gore mentioned The Motley Fool in a speech?
Or when Alex Trebek read off a question about The Motley Fool on Jeopardy? (And the guy nailed it, in a broad ChiTown accent: "What is The MAT-ley Fool?")
Or the first time we appeared on Good Morning America, right after Kermit the Frog?
Or that Donald Trump would fly us up last summer to his Trump Towers to convince us to stop shorting his stock? (Shortly thereafter we did. Donald? It's lower today.)
Or that just a few months ago, we had 14,000 people in Seattle's Key Arena raise their fists over their head and chant, "Fool! Fool! Fool!"
Or how about this letter, in just this week from Warren Buffett himself?
I tell you, nothing in my business life will ever match how satisfying it has been to create something you love, launch it, and watch that sucker take off and go. I'm still watching, and still building. If you saw the movie October Sky, you know that feeling of watching something into which you've poured your heart ignite and zoom off into the blue heavens, leaving a trail of fire, white smoke lying like a long streamer below.
Surrounded by 350 beloved employees today, rather than just one, I took my two young children around the various floors of our Motley Fool offices this afternoon and I watched their eyes drink it all in. As I write, Fool HQ is decked out gorgeously and magically (to their bright eyes) with balloons and rainbow streamers and candy dangling from the ceiling every which way, with stuffed animals, an in-house swimming pool, our company foosball championship raging upstairs, and smiles everywhere you look. And watching their enjoyment and sense of mystery as to what's around every corner, for me I reconnected again with the magic at the very beginning, which then was only a dream of a one-day hoped-for reality.
Life has been far better to us than we've ever deserved, and I hope you are sitting there reading this nodding your head and blessing your lucky stars right along with me.
In a sense, way back when (only six years ago -- younger than my daughter -- but in "Internet time," way back when), we wanted to make music. And with your help, with your voices, over these past six years together we have been music-makers, in Arthur O'Shaughnessy's enchanting words that make up the epigraph at the top of the page. We have been the music-makers, and with you together we remain so. We are the dreamers of dreams.
As we watch the SEC move toward what looks like a correct ruling against selective disclosure by public companies next week, I think of all the time that has been put in by members of The Motley Fool community to make that happen. More than half the letters the SEC got on this issue were from Fools. We've been crowing about this for years before the Commission even launched its inquiry. But that's just one example. Deeper, we're watching the world turn toward capitalism and away from socialism. Toward ownership and away from disenfranchisement. And toward Foolishness and away (one hopes forever) from Wisdom.
And I feel very strongly -- I see it in my children's eyes, Mr. O'Shaughnessy -- that this age is a dream that is coming to birth.
I wish to thank you, dear reader, dear Fool, for your hand in making The Motley Fool such an early success, with so much hope and promise for the future. It's still very early: We're up at the plate in the top of the third inning right now, with a couple of runners on. But speaking just to the past for a moment -- the past which I dwell on only on special occasions (too busy, otherwise) -- I thank you for your hand. Whether it was a great one or a small one.
And to the best contributors to The Motley Fool -- those who've given so much of themselves, paid and unpaid, for the longest: Together, we are going to do something truly great in this world.
Thus, to end as I begun, to you I dedicate this timeless classic by Stephen Spender, my favorite poem:
I think continually of those who were truly great.Folly forever,
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious is never to forget
The delight of the blood drawn from ancient springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth;
Never to deny its pleasure in the simple morning light,
Nor its grave evening demand for love;
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are fï¿½ted by the waving grass,
And by the streamers of white cloud,
And whispers of wind in the listening sky;
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
August 4, 2000