When Motley Fool co-founder and Rule Breaker Investing host David Gardner picks one of his trademark five-stock samplers, he's usually making his predictions for at least a three-year window. But because he's fastidious about keeping score -- and keeping track -- he doesn't wait that long to grade his results. Every year, around the anniversary of each sampler's debut, he tallies up the share prices, talks a bit about the factors behind each company's performance, and measures those mini-portfolios against the benchmark, the S&P 500. (Why that benchmark? Because if you're going to call yourself a good stock picker, you'd best be able to do better than the person who doesn't pick at all and just invests in a broad index fund.)

For this week, the rotation consists of a trio of samplers, and he's brought in Fool analyst Emily Flippen to help with the review.

One year ago, it was Five Stocks That Got in Trouble With a Capital T. Gardner had four criteria for that group: The stocks had to have been big long-term winners for the Rule Breakers portfolio, had to have hit new highs in September 2018, had to have fallen at least 20% between then and the podcast, and (just for fun) had to start with the letter T. His choices: 2U (NASDAQ:TWOU), Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO), Teladoc (NYSE:TDC), The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD), and Trex (NYSE:TREX).

Two years ago, it was Five Stocks That Let You Eat Cake -- as in, companies that let you have your cake and eat it, too: 2U, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), CBOE Global Markets (NYSEMKT:CBOE), Match Group (NASDAQ:MTCH), and NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA).

Four years ago, it was Five Lesser-Known Rule Breakers -- a criterion that speaks for itself. And you may still not be familiar with Middleby (NASDAQ:MIDD), Trex, NuVasive (NASDAQ:NUVA), MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR), and NetSuite (NYSE:N).

How'd they all do? Let's find out.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Nov. 19, 2019.

David Gardner: Four years ago this week, I picked five stocks, Five Lesser-Known Rule Breakers. It was November 11th, 2015, and the market was about to go into a big swoon. How have those picks fared? Two years ago this week, I picked five stocks, Five Stocks that Let You Eat Cake, because they're businesses that let investors have their cake and eat it too. For instance, I'm going to give you a choice here. You can either have the No. 1 company globally in e-commerce, or you can buy the stock of the No. 1 leader in cloud computing storage today. Which one would you take? I think you know the punch line. The answer is both. Have these stocks let us eat cake? We shall see. And one year ago this week, I picked five stocks, five stocks that were down and out that were in trouble. Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Fool, well when spelled with a PH. Let's look at their performance, too. Three five-stock samplers, all reviewed in one podcast with my friend Emily Flippen? It must be time for Reviewapalooza on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.

Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. I'm David Gardner. My voice, a little under the weather this time of year. Yep. Last week was Foolapalooza that's our annual corporate offsite. So we had about 400 of us go to Lansdowne, Virginia. Spent a beautiful two days together, a memorable two days together. And one of the things that happens at the end of Foolapalooza every year is that some of us get a cold. And anytime you're going to congregate around 400 people coming in from different cities, and places around the world together, someone's going to walk away under the weather. And I am one of those people. In fact, I was talking to Kara Chambers my friend who oversees Motley Fool culture here, and she was like, "David, you got the Loosa-cold," we call it. So, I was one of the Loosa-cold suffers. There are about 10 of us, sometimes more than that every year. I'm one of them. But as I'm trying to be the Cal Ripken of podcasting, and never not do a new podcast every week, here I am with a little bit of a frog in my voice.

But enough about me, Emily Flippen, how you doing?

Emily Flippen: I'm doing well. I was one of the lucky ones who did not get sick. But hearing you speak makes me think that maybe I wasn't speaking enough, right? Maybe if I had been more engaged, I would have walked away with a little bit of a scratchier throat.

Gardner: I think that you were pretty engaged, Emily. Now, was that your second Foolapalooza?

Flippen: It was my second.

Gardner: Yes. And you had a speaking role, stage role, at least once. Can you briefly share with Rule Breaker Investing podcast listeners what you shared with our employees?

Flippen: Sure thing. We talked about scaling and what it takes for businesses to scale. My role was relatively small. I talked a little bit about Spotify, actually, which is another subscription-based B2C business that has really done an excellent job of scaling. Not necessarily making investment advice here, just thinking about the business and their opportunity. It's an impressive business that has a unique method of scaling. We chatted momentarily about that.

Gardner: Wonderful. Yeah, it was a game show. That was the setup. It was a game show. Does It Scale? And so the question was Spotify, does it scale? And the answer is?

Flippen: Yeah, it seems to be, at least so far, although their scale has changed a little bit over the years.

Gardner: Now, we're going to get to our three five-stock samplers very shortly, Emily. And thank you very much for being here once again to look over the companies and help us understand why they've done what they've done over one, two, and four years respectively.

But before that, we had a snowball fight at Foolapalooza, and I thought it was kind of amazing. Would you briefly explain that?

Flippen: Yes. It got really cold, so we shoveled all the snow from outside into the building. No, I'm joking. It was a great exercise in recognizing employees who you may not otherwise have the opportunity to recognize all of us gathered in the room. So, we all took out pieces of paper, wrote down the name of an employee that has impacted us here at The Motley Fool, and somehow explained how they have impacted us, usually for the better, hopefully for the better.

Gardner: Yeah, in a sentence or two. Just writing a couple sentences about this person.

Flippen: Exactly. Crumpled them up into snow balls, you could say.

Gardner: Which felt completely wrong. At you've at the top, you've written the name of somebody that you esteem. Then you've given a couple sentences about why you esteem them. And then the next thing you do is you crumple it up.

Flippen: But, much easier to throw. as opposed to a flat sheet of paper, which I think was the intended effects. So everyone crumbled their papers, for better or worse, and then tossed them into the air. Preferably to the other side of the room, so you never knew who they came from. And then everybody after the five minutes or so picked up a piece of paper off the ground. And their goal was, for the rest of Foolapalooza, to find that person and read them their notes, their nice commentary.

Gardner: Yeah. We didn't sign our names to it, so it was kind of anonymous. You just got one or more. Emily, did you get any?

Flippen: I did not get any.

Gardner: I'm so sorry to hear that.

Flippen: Oh, no worries.

Gardner: My brother Tom Gardner also said he didn't get any. I just got one. Now I feel really bad, that I'm the only one who got one. Regardless, it was the kind of thing that a lot of us will walk away remembering from this year's Foolapalooza. And I love sharing out what we do with The Motley Fool because surely, among the many employees and entrepreneurs who listen, maybe that's an idea you could steal. You could use that at a family Thanksgiving party, let's say, or maybe your next corporate offsite. Anyway, that was a lot of fun.

Alright, we're about to go back to the past and look at five-stock samplers, what was picked and how they've performed. I do want to mention, though, that I was looking back at podcasts of the past. As I looked back and saw, "Oh, that was the five-stock sampler. We need to review that one this week," I also noticed, the week or two after or before there was a podcast, I thought, "That was a really good one." Especially this time of year, I'm thinking about our Get Started Investing podcasts. We did them in two parts, right around a year ago. If you go back on iTunes or Google Play or just google it, you'll find Rule Breaker Investing, Get Started Investing Part 1 and Get Started Investing Part 2. I had a bunch of some of my favorite Fools around the table, and we all shared how we got start investing, and how you should get started investing, or get other people started investing in your life. If that's hitting you right now, maybe as a new listener, or you have a friend that you're thinking of, that two-part series is there for you to do something really important in this world, get started investing. I will also mention that on January 2nd, of this year, we did Get Your Kids Started Investing. If you didn't know we'd done those podcasts, or if you'd forgotten, and they hit you in a place of relevance right now, avail yourself of those. They're are a lot of fun.

Alright, well, speaking of fun, we have a lot of fun picking stocks on this podcast. Emily Flippen, thank you for doing a little bit of due diligence, looking through 15 stock picks made over the last four years. Let's start, as we've traditionally done, with the most recent.

The date was November 14th, 2018. Five Stocks That Got Trouble. And what we were looking at when I picked those five, Emily, is we were looking at companies that had three compelling attributes to them. The first is that they were all big-time winners in our Rule Breakers service. So all five of these stocks had rolled up generally 100%, 200%, 300% in value in years past. Big-time winners, attribute No. 1, from Rule Breakers. No. 2, they'd all hit September 2018 highs. Just two months before, they'd all hit all-time highs. And then, attribute No. 3, they were all down at least 20% from that September high to the November 14th, 2018 day when we published Five Stocks That Got Trouble. So, a compelling lot. The fun, maybe, fourth attribute, which was not as important, but makes them all hang together, the ticker symbols all start with the letter T. I've definitely had some fun with letters on this podcast. I think a lot of people know that I love language. And I picked the Five Mm-MM Good Stocks, stocks that start with M. Those worked out pretty well. These all started with T. But more importantly, big-time winners, recent highs, down 20%-plus.

Now, before we get the first one, Emily, do you remember what you were doing on or about November 14th, 2018?

Flippen: It's so recent, I do. I'm sitting here thinking, I can't believe it's already been a full year.

Gardner: And it has.

Flippen: Yes. We'd just finished Foolapalooza. So I'd just gotten back from my first Foolapalooza. Left directly from there, and actually went on a trip to Berlin and Budapest with a couple of friends. On November 14th last year, I was in Budapest.

Gardner: That is amazing. That's really cool. I'm seeing that I was out at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where I was on the board for 10 years. They were having a campaign dinner to raise support for their theatrical season. In addition to being the world's foremost collection of Shakespeare that happens to be located right here in Washington D.C., through the generosity of the Folger family, they also put on some pretty spectacular versions of Shakespeare's plays and other Renaissance playwrights. That's what I was doing that day.

But enough about us, Emily. We've got five stocks here. I'm going to name them right off the top. 2U, Take-Two Interactive, Teladoc, The Trade Desk, and Trex. Those are our Five Stocks That Got Trouble.

Now, looking them over, I like to look at the one that's done best, the one that's done worst, and then the others. The one that's done best, Emily, and it's still been a rocky ride for the stock over the last year, is The Trade Desk. That day, it was at $116.50. Today, it's over $232 a share. So the stock has basically, we're taping this Tuesday morning, Tuesday the 19th of November, I'm seeing the stock is up 99.7%. Maybe even during this podcast, Emily, it could officially double. But as of now, we're just below a double. What has happened with The Trade Desk over the last year?

Flippen: For those who aren't familiar, Trade Desk is the ad bidding advertising platform that allows people to better target their ad campaigns. This is truly a story of solid execution on The Trade Desk's part, but also just the trillion-dollar industry that is online advertising. It also helps that we've seen such a boom in connected TV, like with Roku, for instance, that really benefits The Trade Desk's business. They had a really solid acquisition in DataShoe, which has really improved their underlying business. I think it also helps that a lot of fear, when you look back a year ago at The Trade Desk, was actually that companies like Amazon were going to start getting involved and start to undercut what was, at that time, and still relatively, is a small business for them. Well, it really benefits them that Amazon recently announced that they were going to actually partner with The Trade Desk platform as opposed to entering it themselves. So, it's been a very solid year for The Trade Desk. I think it just goes to show that there's no reason why the next two years can't be equally as solid.

Gardner: Well, thank you for that bit of research and that reminder, Emily. I also want to point out, this stock has had a very volatile year. It hit a high over $280 in August, and then by the end of September, it was down to $180. That was disconcerting, I'm sure, especially for people who were buying over the summer and watching their stock lose more than a third of its value in just a month. But when you take it all in all, when you ride these bucking Broncos, these Rule Breaker stocks -- this is a true Rule Breaker -- you need to be used to that kind of volatility and not sweat it too much. It has been nice to see Trade Desk bounce back from $180 to over $230 as we speak today.

But that is the top performer for this five-stock sampler. Now let's go to the worst performer. I'm sorry to say this stock makes a recurring appearance in another of the five-stock samplers we're going to be reviewing this podcast, and that is 2U, ticker TWOU, the online education company. Emily, it was at $51.77 when I picked it a year ago this week. It's down below $23 right now. It's lost more than half its value.

Flippen: Everything seemed good until late July this year, when the company lost about half of its value in a single day. It's definitely been a couple hard months here for 2U. That's largely because of just the changing landscape in higher education. I would like to say that we didn't see it coming. I don't think anyone saw it impacting 2U's business as significantly as it does. But we do see just a rising cost of college education and a growing importance on certifications as opposed to programs. It's not to say that there's not an opportunity for 2U. But it is to say that the opportunity is so great that now 2U has so much competition on local levels, so, people who are then looking to get an online education aren't necessarily doing it through 2U's platform. 2U partners with some of the biggest universities, which is wonderful for them. But here's the thing about big universities -- they don't let everybody in. With a declining number of people actually being enrolled into 2U's programs, that's definitely hit their business thus far.

But it's interesting to watch because they actually made a recent acquisition called Trilogy, and that's really been the hope here for 2U. That's focusing on those certification-level programs. There's hope that they can regain some of that growth that they were feared to have lost earlier this year through those programs.

Gardner: Looking again at this volatile stock, yeah, I picked it at $52 a year ago. It hit 80 by February. I was feeling really good. The stock is now at $22. $80 to $22 in just seven or eight months. It has been a remarkable decline. At the same time, the stock bottomed at about $11 in August, and it's now at $22, so it's doubled over the last three months. Again, what we're seeing here are Rule Breakers and the volatility that the market often can send these kinds of companies through. You have to keep breathing, keep holding. We're going to lose. I've definitely lost a lot as an investor. I talk about that a lot on this podcast. But the winners tend to wipe out those losers. It'll be interesting where 2U goes from here.

Chip Paucek, the CEO, appeared at FoolFest this year. I interviewed him somewhere around May. The stock had dropped down, it was around $45 then. It's $22 today. But, again, bouncing from $11 in August. It is a company that's more of a local greater D.C. area company, and one that, whenever I talk to employees, they're like, "I love working there." So, that seems to bode well. But boy, has this been a dog. Cut in half of this stock that got trouble, my friend. You got trouble right here in River City.

Alright, so that was the best and the worst. I'll just mention in passing, Trex is up 48%. Teladoc is up 36%. Take-Two Interactive is up 15%. Emily, of those -- Trex, Teladoc, Take-Two -- do you have any takes you want to share on any of those?

Flippen: Yeah. Take-Two is an interesting one because not only was the market volatile this time last year, but there was a lot of hate for gaming companies because of Fortnite.

Gardner: I remember that. 2018 was the year that Fortnite was the only game anybody was apparently playing.

Flippen: Exactly. Take-Two interactive was a timely thing. Maybe hasn't performed as well as Teladoc and Trex, I think it is still so competitively positioned given the skepticism that still exists in the gaming industry today.

Gardner: Alright, so when you take this five-stock sampler -- again, we're just one year in. We generally target three years, as I have for this one. We're one year in, and on average, these stocks are up 28.4%, with the market up 15.5%. So I'm really happy to say we're up basically 13% for this five-stock sampler taken all in all, including a real dog loser in 2U and a pretty impressive winner that I'm just hoping actually can move up before the end of this show, so that I can claim a double on The Trade Desk despite it losing a third of its value in early fall. So, Five Stocks That Got Trouble.

I guess a final thought there is, that was a fun list for me. I think it's really cool to look at companies that have long winning streaks and then recent highs but have dropped 20% or more. And the market afforded us that opportunity near the end of last year. And we took advantage of it. And these stocks, well beating the market.

Alright, now let's go further back in time. Two years ago, this week-ish. It was November 22nd, 2017. I note, Emily, in passing, that it was the day before Thanksgiving. We probably taped the show the week before, just like we're taping our mailbag this month this week, not next, so that we can all enjoy our Thanksgiving and not have to be doing a podcast. But, again, two years ago this week, it was Thanksgiving that week. So we published Five Stocks That Let You Eat Cake the day before Thanksgiving.

Now, at the top of the show, I mentioned that these are stocks where you can have your cake and eat it, too. A lot of people have a trade-off mentality in my experience in life. They think this one or that one, but you couldn't have both. I'm always trying to have both whenever I can. So I gave the punchline of Amazon -- would you rather have a great e-commerce company or the world's No. 1 cloud computing company? The answer is, you can have both. Another example might be -- and this is true of another of the stocks, Emily, in the sample -- would you rather have a safer company, a lower-risk company, or a dramatic out-performer? Which one would you rather have, Emily?

Flippen: I'd rather have both, David.

Gardner: So would I. They exist out there. That was true of each of these five companies. They're Stocks That Let You Eat Cake.

Alright, so, reviewing, as we did earlier, we'll do the same thing here. Emily, let's look at the biggest winner of these five, let's look at the biggest loser, and then talk to the others. Now, I should point out, two years ago, the S&P 500 was 22.2% lower than it is today. So, yep, the S&P is up 22% over these two years. So that's what we're shooting for. And I'm sorry to say that of these five stocks, only two of them have actually beaten the market. So, these five companies, again, in alphabetical order: 2U. Yep, it just reappeared in this five-stock sampler. You can guess that's probably not been a good performer. We'll find out shortly. And then, Amazon, stock No. 2. Stock No. 3, CBOE Global Markets. That's the stock I referenced earlier that is a safer company that has been a dramatic out-performer. And then the last two are Match Group and Nvidia. Looking over those five stocks Emily, again, we're trying to beat 22% gains for the S&P 500, the broader market, over those two years.

The No. 1 performer in this group is?

Flippen: Match Group.

Gardner: That's exactly right. Match Group was at $30 a share. It was actually at $29.96 when we recorded it on 11-22-2017. Now it's over $70. So the stock is up 137%. Spectacular winner.

Flippen: I actually went back and I pulled some articles about Match Group from 2017 because I was so interested in what the dialogue was like back then. Everyone was so worried because Match Group had a lot of users coming through for Tinder and Plenty of Fish, it was amazing, but their average revenue per user was falling off a cliff because the apps were free to use. And everybody was saying, "Oh, Match Group, oh, they're not going to make any money off these people." Fast forward two years, and man, where they -- and admittedly I at some point -- were wrong about this one. Their ability to monetize Tinder has been outstanding, none to mention their ability to expand internationally. You definitely saw it, David, the power of that network of people. It's one that other companies, like Facebook, have tried to make inroads in over the past two years, and they really haven't succeeded thus far.

Gardner: Indeed, Facebook was another of those saber-rattling moments if you've owned Match Group for some years, because the threat was that Facebook, at one point -- I can't remember the timing.

Flippen: They tried many times.

Gardner: Basically, Facebook said, "We're going to start matching people up." Do you want Facebook to be your dating app? Turns out, the world hasn't really wanted that from Facebook as much nearly as from Tinder. And a lot of people said Match Group should rename itself, Emily, Tinder because that's such a big performer for the company overall. I was just listening, because I listen to all our Motley Fool podcasts, and Matt Frankel, our colleague, was on Industry Focus earlier this week, hosted by Jason Moser, Matt was mentioning, he met his wife on match.com. Emily, I feel like I'm compelled to ask you as a millennial, have you ever used any match.com properties?

Flippen: I unfortunately have not. But I will say, my sister has met her long-term boyfriend on Tinder. A lot of people in my life have used their properties.

Gardner: There we go. And I've made a lot of this over the years because we've talked about Match Group, and I picked it in some other five-stock samplers. This is the No. 3 way that people are now meeting their spouse or partner, long-term partner, worldwide. No. 1 remains word of mouth, friend of a friend, family connections, these kinds of things. No. 2, organized marriage, because India is such a populous country and that's very common in India and other places, too. It happens the United States of America as well. Might surprise us. But, that's No. 2. No. 3, though, is online. And what a big move online has made over the last 20 years, to go from nothing to being No. 3 worldwide. Those of us who own Match Group have watched the global leader continue to profit and dominate. That's been awesome.

Now, not awesome, Emily, is the performance of our worst stock in this five-stock sampler. You may have heard of this one before -- 2U.

Flippen: I wish I had a different story for you, David. But I don't. 2U until June this year seemed to be alright. Like I said, they were pulling out those partnerships, but it really ultimately is just a changing landscape for them. I don't think they're down and out, despite the fact that I think they're losing, what, nearly 90% of the market over this period. But I do think it's going to be a tougher ride for them than we initially thought.

Gardner: Yeah. The stock was at $66.76 on that day, November 22nd, 2017, the day before Thanksgiving. And from $66.76, as we already mentioned, it's down to $22. So it's lost two-thirds of its value. That really hurts a five-stock sampler, when you have a stock, out of a group of five, that loses two-thirds of its value. That really makes it hard for you to beat the market with a five-stock sampler.

Now, I mentioned two companies among these five, Emily, have beaten the market. The other is Amazon. Amazon up 51% over the last two years against the market's 22%. That's helped.

Flippen: Yes, Amazon has definitely helped. I think if you've looked at Amazon in 2017 and thought that it'd be up 50% over the next two years --

Gardner: It was already so big.

Flippen: It was huge. So, I love that. I love the fact that Amazon is the second-best performer. And then, when you look at the two, I don't want to say underperformers, but not nearly as strong performers as Match and Amazon, that is Nvidia and CBOE Global Markets, both those businesses are actually really strong businesses. It's just the market has been on fire. Like you said, up over 22% over the same time period.

Gardner: That is true. CBOE is up 2% and Nvidia is down 4%. Both of them are losing to the market. Which begs the question, are Five Stocks That Let You Eat Cake actually letting you eat cake? Here's the full accounting. Again, this is as of two years later. This group has another year to run around the track. But I'm really happy to say that on average, they're up 24.2%; the market up 22.2%. So, yes, this group of stocks is beating the market averages by 2% over the last two years. Not spectacular, but it is in the win column. And it's remarkable, Emily, to think that would be true even with 2U, an albatross around this five-stock sampler's neck.

Flippen: I love that too, because it just goes to show that you can only lose 100%. Right? That's the most that you can lose in any company. But you can gain a lot more.

Gardner: And we've still never done that in Rule Breakers, although I've come close. Stock Advisor, too. But, it's really important to say that and resay that. So, thank you for underlining that, Emily. I think a lot of people, especially new investors -- and I feel like we speak to this a lot on this podcast, so I'm hoping our listeners already know this -- but a lot of people just don't want to lose it all. They live in fear of a stock losing 20%, let alone 50%. But our style and the approach that we've taken, whether we're talking about Motley Fool Blast Off, which you and I worked together on in 2019 -- is Blast Off 2020 coming?

Flippen: It is coming in January.

Gardner: Excellent. So, whether it's the Blast Off stocks or the Rule Breakers, or the Stock Advisors stocks, really, they all go in under the umbrella for me of Rule Breaker Investing. In this style, you need to be willing to lose. I lose far more than most people I know when I'm picking stocks. And that's really important to understand and to internalize.

Alright, and now we go back to November of 2015. The date was November 11th, 2015 when we published this podcast, the episode that week, Five Lesser-Known Rule Breakers. The companies: Middleby, MicroStrategy, NetSuite, NuVasive, and Trex. Five Lesser-Known Rule Breakers. I submit to you even today in 2019, most people don't know what Middleby is, or NuVasive. So, I think that these five stocks have lived up to the billing I gave them. The question will be, how's their performance?

Those were the five, Emily. And this is a funny omission or oversight on my part. I'm going to give a lesson right at the end. But these technically should have expired last year because I do these samplers for three years. By the way, I always think you should be continuing to hold these stocks. We don't actually sell these stocks after we stop tracking them on this podcast. It would just be onerous to have so many five-stock samplers in play and always be updating them for years and years. So I tend to keep it to a three-year game. But I missed the end of the three-year game last year. So, here we are, one year later, looking at these stocks. I have the scores for how they did end a year ago. We'll speak to that. But also, how they're doing since.

Emily, Middleby, MicroStrategy, and NetSuite, which is no longer a public company, NuVasive, and Trex. The market up 31% over three years. The No. 1 performer here, Trex.

Flippen: And that's going to be a surprise for a lot of people. If you're not familiar, Trex is the non-wood decking material, proprietary decking material. That might not sound like the growth-iest industry.

Gardner: This surely couldn't have risen 205% from November 2015 to November 2018. Not among these other tech companies. Could it, Emily?

Flippen: Well, if you combine a really quality product with a really strong management team and a growing housing market, then yes, it can, apparently. People just continue to see their houses as investment. So, over that three-year period, people were installing and improving their decks. Even commercial uses for Trex as well have been growing. Lots of great underlying growth for this maybe not intuitively growth-y company.

Gardner: Emily, you've mentioned that this stock grades out pretty well with our ESG folks -- environmental, social, and governance. Looking at companies that are doing well by doing good. This is a company that grades out pretty well.

Flippen: Yeah. John Rotonti, this is a favorite of his. They grade out not only on the quality of their products, so, obviously, not using wood is more environmentally sound than using wood for decking; but also, the way that they have the corporate governance structure set up as well is extremely shareholder-friendly.

Gardner: The S&P 500 from four years ago, up 31%. Trex, up from $20 to $61, up 205%. That's the top performer. We do have one dog, MicroStrategy, down 28% from November 2015 to when this technically ended last November 2018.

Flippen: This is really just a story about Tableau, and about how great Tableau was at defeating competitors. Obviously, eventually, they were acquired. MicroStrategy was this business intelligence software company. It was really on the down and out even back in 2015. It had just laid off 700 employees, I think 20% of their workforce. They cut their CEO pay to just $1, catalyzed by an SEC investigation into its accounting practices. Sales were still growing, and there was this belief that it was trading at a much, much lower multiple than it probably should have been. But typically, when you see companies like this, when there's one skeleton in the closet, maybe there's more. That was unfortunately very much the case with MicroStrategy. Not only were they not really able to compete with competitors like Tableau, but they also had a couple of issues with internal controls and management churn. It's ultimately not been the biggest dog, but it was definitely not Tableau.

Gardner: We've had some other stocks, like Splunk, that have really played into the big data revolution. I loved how MicroStrategy was positioned. Michael Saylor, the founder there for a long time. Very mobile-focused. But I have to say, these are D.C. brethren here. 2U and MicroStrategy, both greater D.C. area companies. Both real dogs over the last few years, I'm sorry to say. It's not on them, it's on me, because I'm the one who picked the stocks.

So there's the sublime -- Trex, tripling -- and the ridiculous -- MicroStrategy, down 27%. In between the sublime and the ridiculous, Emily, we've got NetSuite, NuVasive, and Middleby. Of those three, Middleby and NuVasive have underperformed. Do you want to say anything about them?

Flippen: Not to say that their underlying businesses haven't been sound, but, again, it goes back to the fact that the market has been so on fire, especially over that three-year period. Middleby continuously struggling with integrating their acquisitions into their core business. NuVasive ultimately not taking as much market share in the minimally invasive spine products as they expected to. Very much losing out to companies like Intuitive Surgical.

Gardner: The last one I'll mention, which did beat the market, but in an unusual way, NetSuite within a year, inside a year of it being picked on this podcast four years ago, was bought out -- I think most of us know this by now -- by Oracle. Oracle, which had a significant stake in the company, Larry Ellison's company, now owns NetSuite.

Flippen: Yes, NetSuite was a very expensive acquisition for Oracle. I think they spent something like $9 billion to acquire it. But it's definitely paid for itself. NetSuite continues to be one of the growth-iest aspects of Oracle. Oracle actually retains it as an independent business within its business. As investors, we were a little bit sad to see a company like that go, but at the same time, the premium they paid for it was much appreciated.

Gardner: It really was a fine Rule Breaker, and an advertiser on Motley Fool podcasts. I think a lot of us hear NetSuite regularly read on this show and other Motley Fool shows. Anyways, I always loved about NetSuite that they had Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics baseball team general manager, who was made famous by the movie and book Moneyball, Brad Pitt played Billy Beane in Moneyball. Billy Beane was on the board of NetSuite. I always kind of loved that when I picked the stock. And it was a very fine company. And it's always sad when some of the early start-up kinds of companies, we see so much growth ahead, then they get snapped up by somebody bigger.

OK, let's do the final accounting here. From 11-11-2015, these closed out a year ago, 11-12-2018 -- again, I forgot to do this on the podcast, which is why I'm mentioning it now. These five stocks taken together rose 43.3%. The market over that time, up 25.5%. So, this five-stock sampler outperformed by 18% as a group over those three years. I should mention that I'm factoring in NetSuite with the market only up 2.6%, because, of course NetSuite was only around for, well, less than three years, less than one year. The market was up 2.6%. NetSuite was up 27.3% over that time. Of course, that premium buyout helped.

Of course, what a difference a year can make. I do continue to track all of the five-stock samplers even after they expire. So I'm now looking at the numbers if we were to do it four years later. These stocks are up as a group 78.4%, with the market up 40%. These stocks are actually now 38% ahead of the market. Now, that's not going to be true of every five-stock sampler. But I hope it'll be true more often than not.

Of course, while we're scoring these games for three years, we sure hope you're investing for more than that. When you find great Rule Breakers, buy and hold them through thick and sometimes thin. We've seen thin over the last four years a couple of times. My own portfolio swooned 25%. I always love it when people say, "When will that bear market finally come?" I'm like, have you not noticed that twice last four years, these kinds of companies lost about a quarter of their value? My portfolio sure did twice in the last four years. So, while we do have to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it is worth remembering that resilience for Rule Breakers often gets you a spectacular win over the only term that counts, which is, of course, the long term.

Well, thanks again to Emily Flippen and to my producer Rick Engdahl, as always. It is the Thanksgiving time of year. Thank you for suffering Fools gladly. I hope you enjoy this podcast every week. You can always subscribe, if you haven't already, via iTunes or Google Play. Heck, subscribe to all of our Motley Fool podcasts. That's pretty much how I spend my non-Audible time when I'm listening to things, driving around the greater D.C. area in my car.

Alright. Next week, it's the Rule Breaker mailbag. Now, technically, we're taping it even before you hear this podcast. We've already gotten 26 pages of notes. I have all that I need for an excellent mailbag. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. We'll do mailbag next week. In the meantime, stay thankful and Fool on!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.