On this Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner revives a theme he first used early last year, based on the classic rhyme for wedding luck: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." It suited the hodgepodge of points he wanted to make then and a similar patchwork of ideas on his mind this week.
In his third segment -- something borrowed -- he's poaching a couple of bits of clever. The first is from cyberpunk author and icon William Gibson. The second, often attributed to music legend Jerry Garcia, was actually a line spoken about the Grateful Dead by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. There's also a third quote from the thinker you hear from regularly in this podcast: David Gardner.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on May 23, 2018.
David Gardner: All right, something old. That was certainly something new. Now comes something borrowed, and I'm just going to go tick through a few of my favorite thoughts, just three one-liners, each of which I've shared before on this show. Each of which is borrowed because, of course, it's a great thought or quotation, and that's so much of what I do, and I hope what you do, in your thought work. All of us are thought workers these days and an information technology world is [what] we're borrowing.
We're constantly -- if you listen to Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine fame, who I interviewed a few months ago on this show -- all sharing. We're borrowing, we're copying constantly, and there's actually a lot of good. Even though you and I were taught not to look over Johnny or Suzy's shoulder and copy their paper in grade school, the more copying and borrowing of great stuff and good stuff shared through social media, or through new business models, or by entrepreneurs, I think the better.
So, here you go. Three quick ones.
The first is William Gibson, the sci-fi novelist. His line: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." And it's great to remember that. Right now, in some labs in different places around the world, there are things being invented and that are already known that you and I don't know about, but within three or five years we'll start hearing about them.
Think about the first time you heard about cloud computing -- probably a while ago -- and think about what cloud computing has become today. Or how about the internet? The first time you ever heard that mentioned? I remember watching Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric when they first heard the phrase "the internet" on the Today show. You can watch this on YouTube. It's pretty funny. It's about a 90-second video. Their reaction to what was, they said, "internet." They didn't say "the." They said, "What is internet?"
So, think about the gains that were made from that point, which was in the mid-1990s right through to today. "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." William Gibson reminds you and me to pay attention. To be curious. To be intellectually curious. To be poking around -- especially as investors with money to invest -- and to realize there are things happening that we should be respecting and finding out about that are innovating and be investing in that.
The second comes from the Grateful Dead. This one I think is attributed to Jerry Garcia, but it might have been another member of the band or their band manager. But here it is, and I've heard it taught in business schools. The line goes like this. "We were never trying to be the best at what we do. We were trying to be the only ones doing what we're doing."
If you think about it [even though I'm not a Deadhead myself, as I've said in the past on this podcast. I couldn't even name a couple of Grateful Dead songs], I admire the thinking. Because what was this band doing in the 1970s? They were saying, "Go ahead! Bring your cassette tape recorders. Tape our concerts. Bootleg us. We don't care."
In other words, they had figured out open source before the rest of their industry, and in many ways before many other industries that would come afterward. Open source. Go ahead, copy us! And by the time that Jerry Garcia died, sales of Grateful Dead albums that year, I think, were No. 1 worldwide. This is a band that said go ahead. Break the rules! We're going to break the rules. Let's see what happens. And I think the world saw what happened.
So, I've often used that line to think about picking stocks. I love to find companies that weren't trying to be the best at what they do, but become the only ones doing what they're doing.
And I think of a company like Amazon. If I were to say Amazon is Coca-Cola, who's Pepsi? It's hard to answer that question today. In a lot of ways Amazon, which started by selling books on the internet, has become something that is the only one doing what it's doing, and that's often true of innovators in every industry.
They're the lead huskies whose view never changes. They're that husky dog out front, and they're leading us in new, sometimes unexpected places, and that's such a powerful position to be in if you're a business, and for us as investors such a great place to be invested. So, we were never trying to be the best at what we do, but what are the companies in our world, today, that increasingly seem to be the only ones doing what they're doing?
And my last borrowed quote. This one's really easy to borrow because I'm borrowing it from myself. Here it is. I've said this a few times on this podcast. I'll say it once again. "I try to find excellence, buy excellence, and add to excellence over time. I sell mediocrity. That's how I invest."
There's the line, and I hope you can say it along with me. I won't ask you to repeat it right now, but I hope you agree. I hope this is the way that you treat your money. Of course, I was applying that to stocks, but I think going for the first-rate in whatever contexts makes sense for you in life, as opposed to settling for the tenth-rate.
I think this is why humanity has crawled up from the marshes eons ago, and why we're where we are today, and why we're continuing to progress forward, as Steven Pinker pointed out on this podcast a few months ago with his book Enlightenment Now. I think we're trying to find excellence. We should be buying it and adding to it over time. Selling mediocrity. I think that's how you should invest, and I think that's, whenever practicable, that's how you should live, too.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.