On this Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Gardner returns to his "Great Quotes" series with another five pithy quips that provide him with good jumping-off points to discuss matters of importance to Foolish investors. Some of those jumps, naturally, are longer than others. But across a range of sources that ranges from the immortal Bard of Avon to David's brother down the hall, he delivers some quotes that apply across culture, business, and, of course, finance.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Aug. 16, 2017.
David Gardner: Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. I hope you're enjoying your August. It's been a motley month for this podcast. As I look back over the last few weeks, you've been treated to such delights as -- well, how about "Great Company Culture, Volume 3," when I had my friends Kara and Lee in, and we talked about ways to think about your workplace and how you might improve based on anything we know.
And we improve a lot based on things you know, so anytime you have an idea for us, [email protected] Maybe you have a great thing you do at your company. Well, when I do August Mailbag in a couple of weeks, I'd love to feature a few things that we can learn from you. We have people all across the world who are fellow Rule Breakers. We'd love to get better at our own company culture with your help, but we did try to share out some of what we've learned in that podcast.
Then last week it was time for the "Market Cap Game Show." I thought that my good friend Matt Argersinger was more than game. He was (a) quite good at the game, and (b) he was a gamer just for accepting because, as you would have heard if you'd listened -- and I hope you do because it's a really fun show, and you can play along at home -- you would have known that I asked Matt whether he'd do this with me, without telling him what it was, approximately 10 minutes before we went on air. So we kind of slammed that one together, but I enjoyed it so much that I think -- and I saw at least one of you tweet this out to me -- I think that one's going to come back, the "Market Cap Game Show."
You know, we do have a number of recurring series on this podcast. In fact, you're going to be listening to one today, because today is "Great Quotes, Volume 6." But with my producer, Rick Engdahl, we were reviewing before the show today that we've actually racked up about a few more than 10 recurring series on this podcast, which I really enjoy. Things like, well, how about having Lee and Kara in to talk about culture tips, which I do about once a year? Or another example, talking about my biggest losers. Something every investor I think should do, and we certainly do it here at The Fool. Usually some early January podcast each year, I'll look back and see all the horrible stock picks that I made over the previous year. Or "Great Quotes," and in this case volume 6, which is my pleasure to share with you today.
But before I do, I just want to mention how motley this podcast is. How I enjoy motley. It wouldn't be nearly so fun if every single time I was talking about investing or investing terms. I love those things. We have at least one great investing quote for you today. But I'd much rather also include things like business, and talking about culture, and talking about our culture like culture writ large globally. Or how about your workplace culture? Or darn it, we've got to talk about games sometimes. We also sometimes play games, as we did last week.
It's funny. When I try to think about how this podcast should be summarized, I look at what we have right now, which is kind of the boilerplate that we use to describe my podcast.
And you may have seen it before -- I think it's up on our site -- but I think we can improve on that somehow. And if anybody is so motivated to top the couple of sentences we have where it says something like, "David Gardner talks about tomorrow's most disruptive and innovative companies," certainly I love to do that, and certainly I would never want you, after given a few weeks to look back, to say you didn't hear any of that on the Rule Breaker Investing podcast.
But darn it, without too much navel-gazing here at the start of this week's podcast, I want to say I think we're different than that. More than that. And if you have a good way to put that into words, I'm very open to it.
"Great Quotes, Volume 6." And like a few of the previous volumes of this series, I've got five for you this week. And let's kick it all off with really, well, the way that The Motley Fool, in a sense, got kicked off, because it's the quotation from As You Like It, William Shakespeare's comedy, back to Scene VII.
It's the quotation that has our name in it, and it was a book of quotations -- in fact, it was the Penguin book of quotations I was flipping through more than 20 years ago this summer, and I came upon a shorter version of this quote. I'm going to give a little bit longer form, I'm happy to say, and since this one is being videotaped, I can tell you you'll see I'm doing this from memory, because I try to memorize certain things that matter a lot to me and here's one of them. It goes like this.
Quotation No. 1:
"A fool, a fool, I met a fool i' th' forest,
A motley fool. A miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool,
Who laid him down and basked him in the sun
And railed on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms, and yet a motley fool.
'Good morrow, fool,' quoth I. 'No, sir,' quoth he,
'Call me not 'fool' till heaven hath sent me fortune.'"
And we'll just leave that one right there, although it goes on and has some more great quotes. In fact the whole Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It -- I hope you've seen it in the theater. You may well have read it at some point in your schooling. It is probably the single greatest scene in all of Shakespeare celebrating foolishness.
In fact, what I just shared with you was pronounced by Jaques, who is a very foolish figure himself and arguably the most foolish fool in the play As You Like It, but he's actually reflecting on just having that touchstone who is the more formal court jester, the fool of the court. He's just seen touchstone in the Forest of Arden, and he's kind of reflecting on that and enviously talking about how awesome it must be to be a fool.
So I love that quote, of course, for obvious reasons. But what I want to highlight about that particular quotation, I just love that final line. We don't play -- we do play with language a lot, not just on this podcast but in Motley Fool writing. Whether it's our marketing or our stock write-ups, language means a lot to us. We have many writers -- contractors across the world who write for us every day -- so language really counts here, but I do kind of love that line, even though again we don't use it very often. "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune."
Well, that's really what we're trying to do for you. We're trying -- with heaven's help, we hope -- to send you fortune and to let you call yourself a Fool. Now fortune can take many forms. Of course a lot of us might think about the next 50-bagger. I certainly think a lot about it. What will it be? Are you and I going to be on that train or not? So we think about big fortune, but it all starts with, for a lot of us, that first stock we ever pick, and usually that's not with a lot of money.
But maybe it does well for you, or maybe like for me and some of my first few stocks, maybe it doesn't do so well for you. Maybe you start to celebrate that first time you ever bought a stock and it doubled. And you held it all the way through and maybe, I hope, kept holding it if it was a fine company.
Fortune can take many forms. It's not always monetary. Just the fortune of you and I having found each other and spending this time together each week. But it is indeed a fortune for us to have people of like mind who we spend time with through our Motley Fool podcasts, our five every single week. "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune. A fool, a fool, I met a fool i' th' forest, a motley fool."
All right, quotation No. 2:. This one is an investing quotation. I mentioned it earlier. I foreshadowed there will be at least one great investing quotation this week, and this one comes from my brother Tom. This is one of my favorite lines from my brother. I've heard him say it innumerable times. He's right. You might have heard it. If you're a longtime Motley Fool fan you may have heard this from Tom's lips, but if you haven't, I want to make sure you know it. Here it is.
"Whatever your holding period, double it, and you'll be a more successful investor."
"Whatever your holding period." I know some people who will hold stocks a matter of a few days. I think that if they held it for a few weeks they'd probably do better. I know people who hold stocks for a few months. If they would just hold for a year.
By the way, when you do hold for a year and a day, you're going to get, if you made money, a lower tax rate. It's called the long-term capital gains tax rate, of around 15% or so. If you sell a stock inside of one year, you're going to pay your normal income tax rate for that short-term gain. I'm glad that the U.S. government has set things up that way.
I'm sure all of us would like our taxes to be lower, regardless of what form taxes take, and I think that's been true throughout history. But I'll say this: 15% is one of the lower rates you can find, and it's pretty darn awesome for people like you and me -- Fools, Rule Breakers all -- who think in three-plus year increments, because the good news is you're going to do better by holding and extending your holding time. As my brother Tom says, you're going to do better, and you're going to pay less tax as a consequence.
Now you might think, "Well, that's almost unfair. We should change the rules. People who hold for long periods of time make a lot of money. They shouldn't get a tax break." But let's also remember the other side of that coin, which is that they're being very patient. They are forgoing the use of that capital. Anybody who is an investor has, by definition, taken a portion of what they could have spent gratifying themselves or their families in the short term. They've done something very hard. They've said, "I will not use that. I will save that. And not only that, I will risk that."
When I put money in a stock, when you put money in a stock, we have no certain benefit. So we've not only said no short-term gratification, no near-term use, but we could also -- and it happens to me all the time -- we could literally lose some, even -- this has never quite happened to me -- all of that money that we decided to invest. So yeah, I think that there should be a break for people who hold stocks for a year and a day or more.
But maybe you're used to holding three years. I think Tom might say, "Consider six." I've certainly increased my own holding terms over time, and Tom's words are a good reminder to all of us that regardless of what our time frame is, if we think even longer, he says -- I agree with him -- we think you'll do better.
All right, quote No. 3. I'm going to turn what was really spoken by an entertainer -- maybe an actor. If you don't know his actual name, you'll remember, if you're an old-timer like me, his character. You'll probably have seen this. If you didn't see it live, maybe in reruns at some point.
I'm going to turn that quotation into a business quotation. I'm not sure he intended it that way, but that's one of the things we do here at The Motley Fool. So Max Baer Jr. Raise your hand right now, even if you're driving your car, but keep the other hand on the wheel. Raise your hand right now if you know who Max Baer Jr. is.
And I can say I'm raising my hand, not because I was a huge Beverly Hillbillies fan, because I wasn't, although I certainly did see some of the shows back in the day and maybe have seen them once or twice on reruns. But Max Baer Jr. played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies, so if you're raising your hand, you already knew that. If you didn't, you should know that The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the biggest-time ratings draws of its time, and in some ways that was true because when The Beverly Hillbillies ran on TV, there were only a few networks.
And so, as has been well documented since then, when we have 500 or 1,000 cable channels today, it's very hard to focus a huge amount of attention on any one channel or any one show. But in an earlier version of American or even global history, there were far fewer choices for TV watchers, and therefore Max Baer Jr. was very well known.
And one of the things my brother Tom and I used to do when we had a radio show is we would interview people like Max and just have fun talking about what they learned over the course of their lives, ask them if they're a stock market investor or not, and then get a few lines of perspective or wisdom from them.
So here's what Max Baer Jr. said once to my brother Tom and me on The Motley Fool Radio Show. He said, and I quote, "I've been a has-been, a once-was, a used-to-be, but Jethro will always be an is." I've been a has-been, a once-was, a used-to-be, but Jethro will always be an is.
And the reason I love that line, and noted it at the time, and have saved it in Evernote, which is where I keep so many of my notes and quotes over the course of time -- the reason I saved that is because to me, that's reflecting on the power of brands.
If you're a Rule Breaker investor, and you know our six traits, our six principles we're looking for when we pick stocks, you'll know that one of them is the "powerful brand." I love to find companies that are recognized. That are not only recognized, but that are actively chosen.
Because we have a wealth of choices. We just talked about cable channels today. Or just the internet as its own channel. How many different YouTube channels are there? I don't even know. There are tons of choices for our entertainment. There are tons of choices for just what toothpaste you select at the five-and-dime, which I guess is a little old-school term.
Or the supermarket these days. The SKUs. Just the sheer number of choices of toothpaste are remarkable. It might be Crest. It might be Colgate. But is it the tartar control or the gentle whitening, and are you going to take it in a tube or a pump? It's remarkable, the SKUs of just that one product category.
So we're talking about a proliferating number of choices that we all have, and it is a remarkably great problem to have. I think it can be a problem, but let's pinch ourselves and be really grateful that we would have that kind of abundance around us that we would actually have to feel like it could be stressful just to select a toothpaste. Kind of a great problem to have, but it is the power of brands that causes you and me to go, "This one, not those."
And this one sometimes just habitually. Mechanically. Not even thinking about it. In a good way, sometimes we turn off our brains, as in The Power of Habit, which is an excellent book by Charles Duhigg. We've had Charles on some Motley Fool interviews in the past. Anyway, one of the things Charles teaches us is that once we kind of figure out how to do something we turn off a part of our brain and just mechanically do that.
And if, by the way, you're the business on the other end of that consumer transaction, I'm not suggesting that you want to turn people brain-dead to follow your norm, and I'm not saying any of us actually is, because at any point you can shock yourself out of it and go, "You know what? I didn't have a good experience there. I think I'm going to switch." Or maybe something better comes along. Somebody invents a new way to do something and you want to take that service, instead of the old one.
We have a lot of choices, but it is the power of brands. It is that Jethro will always be and is. Those are the kinds of companies I think that you and I should be scrutinizing. Asking ourselves, "Huh!" as Jeff Fischer and I once did back when we were running The Motley Fool, Fool Portfolio on AOL back in the day. It was Jeff who said this to me. "Huh! Did we think about Starbucks (SBUX 3.36%)?"
And even though Jeff and I both enjoy coffee -- we certainly have spent a lot of time at Starbucks, both individually and sometimes together over the course of years -- at that time, I think the year was 1998, we hadn't yet thought to put it in our portfolio. I'm pretty sure Starbucks went public. Maybe it was 1992.
It was definitely early '90s, so Starbucks had already been out there for five-plus years, and we were regularly consuming and appreciating the product, and finding a Starbucks in whatever airport we had just flown into rather than whatever the coffee was that was served one door down.
I think you know it. I think I may be describing a lot of people. I have Starbucks in my hand as I make this point. But the power of a brand is so very powerful, and Jethro will always be and is. And you, dear Rule Breaker, should always seek out and respect brands when you consider which stocks you want to be buying and owning for the long term.
All right, and now to quote No. 4. Again, four of five this week. And in fact five, I'm going to mention ahead of time, is one of my very favorite quotes. Maybe a top 10er for me personally. But this is a great quote from Jeff Bezos.
And I'm going to give it to you in a sec, but I want to say something Rule Breaker-y, briefly here, which is that as famous, now, as Jeff Bezos is, as impressive as Amazon.com (AMZN 3.15%) has been, clearly is, and will be, it's remarkable to me how little most people know about him, and I include myself as well.
This is a little bit of an unfair comparison and possibly an invidious one, which is not the point of this, but think about all of the books written on Warren Buffett. There are innumerable books. So many people study -- especially if you're an investor -- so many people studying Buffett.
Buffett, I think, started buying Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 2.29%) (BRK.B 2.38%) shares as an investor and really kicked off his whole relationship with Berkshire Hathaway in 1962, and today Berkshire Hathaway, one of the largest and greatest companies the world has ever known, has a market cap around $450 billion.
Well, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com on July 5 of 1994, so about 32 years later. This comparison I'm about to mention really hurts. This was just one month before The Motley Fool would start online, and you can think about how big they've gotten and how not big we've gotten.
But Jeff Bezos started in 1994, and today Amazon's market cap exceeds Berkshire Hathaway's. So for every great thing that we all rightly think about Berkshire, with a 32-year deficit, giving Buffett a 32-year head start, Bezos has built something bigger, and frankly, looking at the relative growth rates, I think Amazon's going to continue to be even bigger than Berkshire -- although it's kind of like arguing which is bigger, the offensive tackle on the one team that weighs 372 pounds these days, if you're a football fan, and the defensive tackle on the other side who weighs 380 pounds. These are very, very large things, and I don't think a fine difference between them is worth talking about.
But I think my main point here, is a lot more of us should know a lot more about Bezos, and there should be much more scrutiny -- in a positive way, I mean -- and much more admiration and study of this remarkable entrepreneur, who, I often say when asked what my favorite company is -- and I even include my own company when asked this question -- I say Amazon. They've added so much to my life, not just as an investor, but yes, not every day do we find a 300-bagger stock. But really as a consumer. As a lazy bum who loves to click his mouse and look like he's either more generous, more energetic, or more on top of things thanks to delivery than otherwise I would be or appear.
So, Jeff Bezos -- here he is on strategy. I first found this one in Harvard Business Review. I think it was about 10 years ago or so, but these days it's often quoted more frequently as one of the ways that Bezos thinks. Here it is.
He says, "It helps to base your strategy on things that won't change." He goes on. "There's a question that comes up very commonly: What's going to change in the next five to 10 years?" But, Bezos continues, "I very rarely get asked what's not going to change in the next five to 10 years. At Amazon, we're always trying to figure that out, because you can really spin up flywheels around those things."
So that was a little bit more of an extended quote, and like most great quotes it kind of speaks for itself. I don't want to try to embellish or adorn it with much more than it already features, but I think it's a great point. I guess what I appreciate about it -- and this is the Rule Breaker, again, in me and you -- is I love it when things get reframed and when someone takes a contrary angle at something that sounds conventionally wise otherwise.
And so, yes, how many times do we see -- and I'm part of this, too, with my own tastes and interests -- the cult of the new? What's the new thing? What's going to change? What's the new, cool trend? What stock should we be buying, or what strategy should we be favoring because of what's expected to change? Not just five to 10 years. How about next year? Sometimes it's inside of a year. A very short-term orientation to these questions. So I love the Rule Breakers who encourage us, often, to look at the exact opposite viewpoint and say, "Hey, what's not going to change? Not over five or 10 months? What's not going to change over five or 10 years?"
I'm sure Bezos has more answers to that question than you or I might have. One that occurs to me is certainly a desire for convenience. Or how about just inherent -- I'll sometimes use the word "laziness" to refer to myself. But we could also just say that we're all kind of time starved, and there's a lot going on. We prize convenience, so I think that's something that's not going to change in the next five or 10 years.
And I guess that in this case I'm speaking to you, the entrepreneur. If you've got a new idea, think about Bezos's approach to strategy and ask yourself if you're setting yourself up for what's not going to change some years from now.
All right, and quote No. 5: Quote No. 5 comes from Archbishop William Temple. Now, I don't know a lot about Archbishop William Temple. I did do a little cursory research, so I was ready for this podcast. I can tell you that he was born in 1881. He died in 1944. He was, at one point, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a very august position in Great Britain.
He had some great lines. Most people who have a great line probably, like roaches, there are other ones out there, too. Benjamin Franklin has a great line. It turns out he had hundreds of them, especially if you start reading Poor Richard's Almanac. So, these kinds of people are often "machines." In fact, here's one that I see referenced on the internet.
I can't verify it, but it says that William Temple said this. This is not my quote. I'll be sharing my favorite quote in a sec, but here's one. "The only way for a rich man to be healthy is by exercise and abstinence. To live as if he were poor." Food for thought. I like it, William Temple.
And I should mention briefly that this comes from a religious figure. Religion is not something that is often discussed, either in polite circles these days or in general ways. In some ways, religion has been pushed off onto the sides, and only the fringe feels like it can talk about it. I'll just mention very briefly that I try to go to church each week. I highly recommend the practice, regardless of what faith you have.
Sometimes we're described as a faithless world or a post-religious world. I don't think that's what we are. I don't think the numbers actually suggest that, but I certainly know that in lot of areas of the world, going to church sounds like something dowdy or old-school. But I do appreciate what I think about and the opportunity for reflection that I have each week in church, and so people like William Temple I'm going to be somewhat positively oriented toward, especially when they develop five-star quotations like the one I'm about to share with you.
But before I share that, and I don't mean to keep dragging this out like a Motley Fool marketing video, but I'm -- but I should mention one other great quote. This also comes from a church figure. William Ellery Channing was the foremost Unitarian preacher in the U.S. back in the early 19th century. It's about loneliness. I thought this was great.
He said, "People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges." Love it. As you can see, I think I've done this in past "Great Quotes, Volume X" series. Sometimes you get a few more quotes than just the five that I'm sharing.
Anyway, now back to the Archbishop William Temple quote, and here it is: "The greater the island of knowledge, the longer the coastline of mystery." The greater the island of knowledge, the longer the coastline of mystery.
Why do I love that quote? Why do you maybe love that quote? I think it's because it reminds us how big the world is and how valuable intellectual curiosity really is. There are so many things to learn in this world. I've been trying to read The Economist once a week. I can't get through more than about one-half to one-third of it in a given week before the next one comes out, and I'm trying to read other things, too. There are so many things that we can try to learn.
I think I mentioned earlier this summer that I've turned off regular news feeds in my life, so I no longer check the Google news page X times a day. Or as I drive into work, if I'm not listening to a Motley Fool podcast, I'm no longer listening to the local news spinning back every half hour. These kinds of things. I've just kind of said, "No, I don't want to be too distracted by that." But even then I can't get through all the things that I want to learn. Maybe you feel like you can't, either.
After all, one of the themes of this week's podcast is we do have a lot of choices, don't we? But given that, how rich it is for you and me to have intellectual curiosity. To have that burning bright -- that flame burning bright. Always fascinated. And then to think that "the greater the island of knowledge, the longer the coastline of mystery."
And beyond just the poetry and the imagery of that lovely phrase, Archbishop William Temple, I think is the humility that is implicit within it. Because most people, I think, expect that as they gain knowledge they become more authoritative. Some people might start calling them experts. Nobody really ever calls me an expert. That's one of the reasons I love calling myself a fool -- maybe you do, too -- because I don't want people to overrate my knowledge or my authority.
So in a world where often you'd assume that people who have built up a huge island of knowledge would be a little too proud, in some cases, beyond just being an authority, we're reminded that "the longer the coastline of mystery," the more you know, I guess we could paraphrase, the more you know you don't know. And the humility, as I say, that's implicit in that concept is very true -- it's very true -- is important for all of us.
Well, I hope you enjoy your next week ahead. Next week on Rule Breaker Investing I'm going to have a lot of fun introducing my favorite new book to you, so stay tuned. In the meantime, Fool on!
As always, people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at RBI.Fool.com.