In 2013, Motley Fool co-founder and CEO Tom Gardner made a bold bet: He publicly predicted that at some point in 2014, the stock market would drop 10% from a recent high (which, believe it or not, could be a good thing for investors). If the market didn't take that kind of significant hit, Tom vowed to walk on his treadmill desk for 26.2 miles per day for five days while he runs the business here at Fool HQ.
In a turn that Tom himself describes as comical, he was only a few points short of winning his bet. Now he's making good on his vow in a way that's fun, challenging, and supporting a great cause -- you can donate to one of Tom's favorite organizations, public charter school network DC Prep.
Check out our DC Prep campaign page at 131.fool.com, where you can either make a per-mile pledge or contribute a flat fee of your choice. We've got a $25,000 fundraising goal we'd love to achieve or even exceed, so we hope you'll contribute!
Also, you can check for updates on our Culture Blog and follow along on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) at @FoolCulture and the hashtag #foolswalk131, or check out our the Motley Fool Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) page. You can also check out DC Prep's website and follow them on Twitter at @DCPrep.
Read on for more on the compelling reasons to support Tom as he walks off this wager.
Foolish Learnings 101
First, let's ponder the big investor education takeaway inherent in Tom's bet. Here's the upshot in his own words:
The lesson learned is just to make more bets like this -- designed to teach and based on data. The stock market falls 10% every 11 months on average -- and investors need to understand this sort of data to win. Investors need to prepare for that volatility -- either learning how to ignore it or to take advantage of it by buying for the long term at opportune times. So I'm glad I made the bet. It was, of course, comical what happened. The S&P fell 9.86% so I lost the bet. Now I walk.
A fresh example of withstanding market volatility occurred very recently after the U.K.'s shocking Brexit vote. Our own Morgan Housel gave counsel on how to keep calm and carry on as the rest of the market panicked.
In Morgan's article, he laid out the performance of the S&P 500 from 1871 to 2012 and pointed out that it fell 10% from recent highs 97 times, yet ultimately still increased 10,000-fold over that time frame.
While clearly we here at The Motley Fool work to foster the kind of calm temperaments that allow us to welcome such market weakness -- even what feels like severe weakness -- to pick up great stocks at even better prices, we also try not to obsess about the short-term madness of the day-to-day marketplace.
Tom's prediction may not have come to pass (although it was such a squeaker!), but it's all part of the journey to being a great investor and achieving financial freedom.
This learning and educational moment has a second tier, though: Tom devoting his walking for a cause near and dear to his heart.
More on DC Prep
In 2003, DC Prep launched with a single school and 100 students. Today, the charter school network can boast a total five schools with over 1,500 preschool through 8th grade students (or "Preppies") in Wards 5, 7, and 8, which are Washington's historically most underserved neighborhoods.
Here's why DC Prep makes the grade with Tom: "DC Prep is a remarkable charter school. It educates more than 1,500 students in the DC area, who previously would not have had access to such a truly solid education. It makes me very optimistic about the long-term future of education in America, even with so many systemic problems to be solved."
Among the many interesting things about DC Prep and its approach is that the tuition-free public charter school network has an open admissions process, so students are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Obviously, we're a big fan of performance here at The Motley Fool, financial and otherwise, and DC Prep is most certainly focused on that. For four years running, DC Prep has been the No. 1-performing public charter school network in Washington based on results from the 2015 PARCC exam and past DC CAS exams. In addition, 100% of its eighth-grade graduates since class of 2007 have been accepted by college-prep high schools.
There are plenty of ways that DC Prep helps its Preppies succeed while fostering a nurturing, warm, and loving approach in the classroom. Not surprisingly, its schools concentrate on rigorous academics, especially reading and math, both of which are clearly fundamental in a solid education.
However, DC Prep also teaches the "soft skills" of character education. It encourages its students to do the RIGHT thing utilizing skills that will prepare them for high school, college, and the rest of their careers. In the school's lingo, "RIGHT" stands for Respectful, Intelligent, Genuine, Hardworking, and Team-Oriented, which represent a variety of skills that are tracked on daily "Prep Notes," where teachers track and write notes on kids' behaviors and achievements that parents review every evening.
DC Prep's incentives are also very interesting, as it has set up a "token economy" strategy tracked by Prep Notes. Kids are assigned "responsible dollars" and "irresponsible dollars" based on their classroom behavior tracked throughout each day on the Prep Notes. Responsible dollars go toward schoolwide incentives like class parties and field trips, giving students a little extra reason to go those extra miles.
Speaking of parental reviews, DC Prep fosters a "virtuous cycle" of communication between parents, teachers, and students. Not only do parents get the Prep Notes, but they also receive regular "Bank Statements" to track their kids' academic and behavioral progress as well.
Students and parents are definitely very engaged, given DC Prep's innovations and processes, but it has super-engaged teachers, too. In just one example, teachers are available until 8:00 every school night so parents and students may call them with questions. Instructors also receive more than 300 hours of professional development per year, and DC Prep sets up data days on which faculties can share learnings across campuses. DC Prep has a very data-driven approach to sharing information, emphasizing transparency and "no surprises."
Ultimately, DC Prep aspires to serve 3,500 students across 10 campuses. That's where we can all come in, by contributing to DC Prep while supporting Tom's educational treadmill endeavor.
"Learning has no limits"
Tom's taking on an aspirational challenge to walk a whopping 131 miles in five days. If he were taking to the actual roads instead of a treadmill desk, he could walk from D.C. to Philadelphia, where he could ponder sitting down for an authentic (and after all that exercise, likely guilt-free) Philly cheesesteak upon completion of the challenge.
Meanwhile, DC Prep believes learning has no limits. Preppies aspire to the great things they can do with their lives and careers after they soak in a foundational, multifaceted education from their early years on -- one that prepares them with the right foundation to keep walking toward the future.
Indeed, we also believe learning has no limits here at The Motley Fool, and our aim, as always, is to educate, amuse, and enrich. Help us cheer Tom on -- and support DC Prep's efforts to reach more and more kids.
Alyce Lomax owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.