In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, we look at "Great Quotes Volume XI: The Listener Edition." We've got quotes from Shakespeare and a poem from Tecumseh. We have a guest announcement for our April 1 episode. Learn why it's never late to start investing, the importance of habit, and much more.
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This video was recorded on Feb. 25, 2020.
David Gardner: The Rule Breaker Investing podcast is built on the bones of series, with recurring episodes. On September 2nd, 2015, a couple of months after our July debut, I picked five stocks for the next five years. Really glad that MercadoLibre was one of those, which has helped that five-stock sampler crush the market. But reviewing five-stock samplers is a different series, we do that other times. No, but Five Stocks For The Next Five Years was my first episode in my first recurring series; that of Five-Stocks Samplers, which we repeated 22 more times since.
Two months after that, we did our first mailbag, our most repeated series, the Rule Breaker Investing Mailbag. Your questions, our answers; your sharing in, our sharing it out. And that's what we did last week, and while I don't number them, they are our single most prolific series. Last week's mailbag was our 52nd.
A third series launched in 2015, debuting on that December 16th, Great Quotes Volume I. The very first one was this William Gibson gem, "The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed." I did four more of that podcasts and nine separate times I've done that again, five quotes every time. So, we've now shared with you the Foolish wisdom of the world 50 times over 50 great quotations. But the biggest limit to those up till now, is that I was pulling my favorites. So, about a month ago, I thought, it's time to mailbag our great quotes series.
For this episode at least, you, my dear fellow Fools, are going to take a turn at the wheel. We asked for quotes, we got dozens back from you. And to some of them were attached stories. And so, Great Quotes Volume XI: The Listener Edition was born, only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. Now, I want to mention two things right up front, housekeeping notes, the first is that I recorded this podcast last week. I am on spring break, I'm skiing, hoping not to break any bones, hoping for great snow somewhere in Colorado. Since this is a family haunt that I've been to year-after-year for a couple of decades now, I want to share this vacation tip that I've learned the hard way a few times; I bet you already know that, but I'm going to say it again in case you don't or you need a reminder.
So, over the more than 25 years that I've been working at The Motley Fool, most of those years, I've gone to this place in Colorado to ski. And of those +25 years, maybe five or six of them, I've taken the time ahead of time to schedule in a call into work -- these days maybe a Zoom into work, little work here and there during that week. And without exception, those five or six years out of my +25, when I'm sitting there in Snowmass, Colorado, I start saying, "What the heck was I thinking scheduling a Zoom meeting at work this week?" So, if that's helpful for you, a nudge that when we vacate, we should really vacate. And so, yes, I recorded this week's episode last week.
That's point No. 1, and it works particularly well for this series, because I'm not sure there's a more evergreen, timeless weekly podcast that I could bring to you then a look at some of the great things ever said by our fellow humans over history identified by me, and this week, by you. So, that felt like a great time to record a Great Quotes episode. So, that's point No. 1.
Point No. 2 is, we won't be speaking to the market and its gyrations pretty much at all this week. I mean, I might glide over into that corner of the ice briefly; I'm not really sure where these five quotations this week will take us. But as I'm recording, this week I've watched the stock market, and you did too, drop 3% or more several days during this week. I have no idea what has happened the few days before you've heard this podcast. And as I hope you would recognize, I respect what the market does, I'm always going to take my lumps. I've taken many, I'll take many in future, I hope you will too along with me.
But I think there's something pleasing about stepping away and just thinking great thoughts together this week. It calms some of the noise, and in some cases, some of the heartbreak as we watch our stocks get back some of their recent gains in somewhat dramatic fashion. I don't know exactly where the world will be, even just five days from now in terms of how we're thinking about things like coronavirus or the markets. So, this is all just a reminder that I'm doing this kind of in a vacuum, and I think there's something good about that this week.
So, there you are. Let's get into some great quotations, some Great Quotes Volume XI. Now, I mentioned up-top on the show that some of these had stories attached. And I did find reading through so many great quotations that some of the ones that had stories that stuck out to me more because they're by hung-a-tale, which by the way is alluding to Shakespeare, some of you will know that. I want those who don't know that, to know that the very stanza from which The Motley Fool, the very speech from which our name The Motley Fool comes from, Act 2, Scene 7, of As You Like It, ends with Jaques saying, "And thereby hangs a tale." So, I've always loved that phrase, because it fits right into the very same paragraph from which we picked our name 27 years ago.
So, hereby we'll hang some tales, and here's the first one. So, this comes in from Warren Kiesel. Warren starts by saying, "Hello Rule Breakers, there's a quote that makes me think of the time I first encountered David and Tom Gardner when I went to Fool Fest this past year. David was curious how various people had come across The Motley Fool?" And by the way, Fool Fest, for those who don't know, is an annual member gathering where we have hundreds of people, flying sometimes from around the world to join with us. And we'll be doing that, I hope again this year.
Warren you were there last and you said, "You were called back into the 1990s, the early days of the Fool. In fact, I had no idea about The Motley Fool when I was working at the Kinko's in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia at 112, South Washington St." Warren goes on, "I was at a pretty low point in life when I saw two young guys in blue suits come in to pick up their printing order wearing jester caps. I wasn't sure what they were doing, but I was certainly convinced it looked like a fun endeavor. Thinking of this quote from Henry IV, Part 1, Act 1, Scene 2 ... " of course, Shakespeare here, " ... gave me a motto to make some much-needed changes to my life."
And here's Warren's great quote, "I'll so offend to make offense a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will." And I'll break that one down in a second. But let me go back and finish Warren's story, he goes on to say, "I vowed to improve my situation at the time. Another chance encounter, while browsing at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore, led me to see a book with the two guys in suits and jester caps. I discovered their names ... " this is a few years later, " ... and that of The Motley Fool. And then and there, I purchased The Motley Fool Investment Workbook and it forever impacted my life using David and Tom's investing philosophy to significantly improve my life through learning to take control of my finances and start investing with the use of The Workbook, and Motley Fool investing services, Stock Advisor, Income Investor and Rule Breakers. I have my 'save the date' for Fool Fest 2020. I hope to see my fellow Fools being smarter, happier and richer for a chance meeting back at that Kinko's in Old Town."
Well, what a pleasure to be reminded of that story, Warren. That's funny, Warren, you know you never know who you'll meet in a Kinko's; assuming you can still find a Kinko's these days. I was double-checking, FedEx bought Kinko's in 2004. I believe it was for about $2.5 billion. A brand I certainly recognize, but you were dead-on, that was the exact Kinko's, Warren, that we used to print off our print newsletter, stick it in envelopes and ride to the post office nearby, mail them off, hoping that friends and family would subscribe to our $48/year print newsletter. That lasted for one year, then we started on AOL, and the internet got started and we shut down our print newsletter, didn't go to Kinko's. I'm not sure, I've ever been back since.
So, thanks for a great story, but of course, this is the great quotes episode. So, I want to look again at that Shakespeare passage and just share, ironically perhaps, Warren, one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes is earlier in the same passage. Now, this comes from Henry IV, Part 1. And I'm looking this up, Act 1, Scene 2. But I think the importance of what Prince Harry is saying at that stage of the play, and this is a famous portion of it and, Warren, clearly a quotation that you could relate to at the time, is that Prince Harry is kind of letting our audience, his audience know with some dramatic irony, he's letting you in the audience know that he is going to transform from being kind of a ne'er-do-well hanging out with wastrels like Falstaff, having a great time, but he's going to throw off that yoke and he is going to become a very different Prince Harry. In fact, he's going to become King Henry V, one of the most celebrated of all English kings.
Now early in that same passage is one of my favorite quotes, Prince Harry says, "If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work." Which is a really elegant way of saying, without pain there can be no pleasure. We need the bear markets to make bull markets feel good. If all the year were playing holidays. If you and I were spending all of our time on spring break somewhere, that kind of play would start feeling tedious, more like work. And so, I love that passage, but in particular, Prince Harry ends by saying "I'll so offend to make offense a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will."
And in so many ways, what Harry was saying, and I think what you were saying back at that time in your life, Warren, is I am going to change up who people think I am. I've got something to prove, I'm going to throw off an old mantle and become transformed into something new. And the story that you shared attached to that quote is very moving to me. I'm so glad to hear that in your life, Warren. We're trying to do that with as many people as possible. I challenge you to share that out and make that true of somebody else's life, somebody else in your life, I bet you have. A lot of younger people these days would really be benefited to get on the road to investing, to become savers and investors themselves. That's a never-ending task, a challenge for all of us.
Thank you, Warren Kiesel.
Okay. Great Quote Volume XI: Listener Edition No. 2, this one comes from Erin Timmons, writing in from Kansas City. Erin, thank you for sharing a quote from one of my favorite books that I've read in the last few years. Clearly, you liked it as well because you gave the expanded form of this great quotation, I'll read it and then name who it comes from. Erin you wrote, "Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous."
And that comes from the book Atomic Habits, the author is James Clear. James who has his own amazing backstory, just starting to enter the prime of his career, but one of the more popular bloggers on the internet, somebody who deeply understands the value of time and of building habits. And, again, Atomic Habits, a book I certainly recommend. Not only that, but, Erin, you might be excited to know, I hope you will be, that James Clear will be my guest in just a few weeks on this podcast. In fact, what better day than April Fool's Day, April 1st, the first podcast next month, Atomic Habits author James Clear will be joining us all and answering some of my questions and thinking and making us smarter and happier and richer through his expertise, which is helping you think about how you live from day-to-day.
So, I'm delighted, Erin, that great minds think alike. You think that's a great quote, I also think it's a great quote. Why do we think that? Well, of course, as fellow Fools, we appreciate the power of compounding interest. We see it in money. You could see it happen over time. It happens so slowly at first. It takes you seven years on average to double your money in the stock market, unless you find better stocks that beat the market, which I hope you do through The Motley Fool. But it still takes years to do that first double, but when that second double happens, all of a sudden, you're up four times, and when it doubles again, now you're up eight times from your original investment. And you know how the math works out from there.
And as James Clear points out, it's also true of how you behave. What you choose to do, what you choose not to do today, tomorrow and the next day, it seems so insignificant in the moment. So, profound in terms of our health, mentally and physically; in terms of how we influence other people, those we love, those we don't love; in terms of what we do in our world, through our lives, whole life long, it's that minute-to-minute, it's those processes that you put into place, sometimes you're not even aware of them, your habits, the good ones or the bad ones.
Puts me in mind of one of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, this one I might have used before in this podcast, but this is a bonus, this is an asterisk for No. 2, "Sow a thought, reap an act; Sow an act, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny." James Clear coming to Rule Breaker Investing, April 1st. Thank you, Erin Timmons.
Okay. Great quote from a listener No. 3. This one is sent in from Zach Timpe. I hope I have that right, Zach, you spell your last name T-I-M-P-E. So, that's my best shot, shooting from the hip. You prefaced it with this, and I want to read it, because I like what you say. You said, "I believe the following quotation presents principles for anyone seeking to make meaning of their time here on earth as well to take a disciplined and pragmatic approach to investing."
Zach, you go on, "As a young investor, I often have to remind myself of my personal and financial goals, particularly, during times of market mania or fear it's easy to be impulsive to look for a quick buck or to turn one's head the other way when a company's ethics are called into question. But when I think of my family and how I hope they view me when I'm gone, I'm able to carefully vet a company and calm my nerves when everyone else is yelling to get out," or I might even say, Zach, get in everyone else is yelling.
You close, "For myself, the long-term approach is the only path forward." And here comes the quote, and it's a little bit longer, in fact, it's a poem from Tecumseh, the Native American leader who led a confederacy of Native Americans that ultimately failed and he perished, in fact, during the war of 1812, somewhere in upper Canada. But for his 45 years on this earth, this is somebody who lived deeply and thought deeply. And I really love this quotation you're sharing with us, Zack.
Now, before I read it, I want to say straight out that what European settlers, and those are some of my own forebearers, did to an entire race and multiplicity of cultures over the course of a few centuries was, is, to me anyway, one of the great tragedies not just of American history but of human history. We humans have many times in the past, and even of course today, in the present, treated each other horribly. Power plays, robbery, of course, pillaging and killing; not all of us, all the time, fortunately.
I was quoting Roger Williams on this podcast recently. Roger Williams who founded the great state of Rhode Island, as a separatist and a place of peace for all people, worshipping all religions, this is more than 300 years ago. Though he was a fervent deeply committed Christian himself, Williams was the first to say, "There should not be an intermixing of church and state." He said, "We must respect all people." And when he was banished from the Plymouth Bay Colony by the pilgrims who rejected his belief in these freedoms, Williams sought succor from whom, in the hinterland, winter-land wastes? Native Americans, Indians as they were known at the time, though Williams got to know them as the Narragansetts. He befriended them, respected and loved them; he learned their language. He wound up, at one later point, tutoring John Milton himself in Native American languages.
There are good and bad people throughout all of history. But what big bands of people, whether they are tribes or nation states have done to each other, can be most repugnant. So, before reading this quote, I just want to say, I'm left so sad, as I think about it once again how much we should have learned and respected and included those whose land, of course, this originally was. So, you think about the tribes and the cultures, their respect for the earth, the whole nations that were wiped out. One of the most devastating, still often leased acknowledged, perhaps most forgotten tragedies.
So, anyway what was Tecumseh saying in his poem that you sent me Zach Timpe? Well, here it is, great quote No. 3, "So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart, trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. And when it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."
Alright. Great quotation No. 4, this one comes from Matt Rantala. Matt, thank you for sending this in. A little bit of a story is attached. Matt, you write, "Dear, David, a repeated thank you for your podcast. I look forward to it every week." Well, thanks, we look forward to bringing it to you every week. Thank you, Matt. "The recent Blast from the Past Volume III ... " which we did about a month ago, that was fun, " ... it was especially a fun listen because I had recently listened to the very episode where you originally told the story about the Greatest Secret of All. I felt like I had inside information as you summarized it that week. I did want to suggest a quote for the upcoming episode. I'm sure you've heard the saying, if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well." And Matt goes on, "That does have a certain obvious appeal, we generally don't want to encourage shoddy work, but in the spirit of Scott Fitzgerald's statement that, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Matt says, I would suggest an opposing quote, and I do love this one and I'm a big Chesterton fan as well. So, thank you, Matt. G. K. Chesterton wrote, in a few places that, "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." He was advocating for amateurs and hobbyists, not for giving poor efforts.
Matt concludes, "I'm a longtime runner and a certified running coach. Often when this comes up in conversation, someone will say that they run some, but that they're not very good. My response is generally, not to confuse the speed that you run with the quality of your running. If you're getting benefits, health, mental, social from you're going out for a run, then it's time well-spent regardless of speed. Sometimes the value is in the doing, not the outcome, whether it be running, podcasting, writing or singing." Which Matt identifies as his personal shortcoming. [laughs] "If it brings you joy, then it's worth doing even if the results aren't deemed 'good.'"
Matt exits with, "Not sure how this applies to investing, but luckily for me the podcaster gets to figure that out. Thank you for doing your podcast well. Fool on! Matt Rantala."
Thank you, Matt.
Well, in this first ever listener quotes edition, I feel as if I don't necessarily need to say that much, because each of you is bringing a context that is, I think, richer than anything I could say in reaction. I would only add, since Matt you're encouraging me, since this is after all Rule Breaker Investing the podcast, and we're talking as much about life as about investing this particular week and some other weeks besides. But you're saying, "Hey, let's get it back to investing." And I think that makes sense and it's very easy to do with this one. Because many times, in fact, on the Blast from the Past podcast that we shared last month, I talked about all my many losers, about how I have more bad stock picks than any analyst in Motley Fool investing history. I have more bad stock picks, dozens and dozens of them picked over 27 years. And I have more bad stock picks, like, ones that have done really poorly, like for example, stocks that I picked that have lost 50% or more of their value.
But as Chesterton has said, as you say on more than one occasion, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." And so, the good news to pull it out of all of those bad stock picks is that the ones that have one have done wonderfully. And as my regular listeners know, a single wonderful stock can literally wipe out every single bad stock you've ever picked and still leave some profit on the table. That is my own experience as an investor, that is many of your experiences as an investor, because you write me and then you say, "That's what's happened to me," and it makes sense, mathematically it makes sense to me as well.
So, Matt, I think we would agree, if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well. And Matt and Gilbert Keith Chesterton, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." And I've always loved the Fitzgerald quote about being able to see both sides of something and still be able to retain your ability to function. In fact, I think that is Foolish in the best way. So, thank you and Fool on yourself Matt Rantala!
Have I saved the best for last? It was hard for me this week. You sent in dozens of quotes. There were so many good ones and I could only fit five. Maybe it's how you ended this note, Andy Bartus, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I don't think so. I really think it's the quote itself. But I think I'm just going to read this straight out to close.
"Hi, David, a quote that reminds me not to dwell on the past or missed opportunity, comes from an inspiring Chinese proverb, 'The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.'" Andy goes on, "Up until subscribing to Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Rule Breaker services in 2018, I had been mailing it in on index funds. I had foolishly looked at stocks like Amazon and Netflix many years ago, and I thought I had already missed the opportunity and I listened to pundits saying, you can't beat the market."
"This quote struck home to me, as a person who has been forward-thinking enough to literally plant trees to enjoy the future benefits of their privacy, wildlife habitat and syrup from the sugar maples..." Andy says, he plans to tap. "It can be applied to investing and all other aspects of life as well." Before I go on, with Andy's close, I'm going to say it again, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, second best time is now. Picking it up there, Andy says, "Thanks to your services and podcasts, I've realized that 'winners win,' and have enjoyed discovering innovative and disruptive companies and industries along with The Motley Fool and on my own. This quote reminds me to be forward-thinking and committed to life-long learning."
And I would say, it reminds not just you, Andy, you're reminding all of us.
You close, "I've converted a vast amount of my investments to individual stocks in companies that I feel will benefit society. And I'm happy to say that I am crushing the market. Onward to the future where I will enjoy the capital gains and sweet homemade maple syrup. Thank you for all your wisdom and perpetual optimism. Foolishly, Andy Bartus, Minneapolis, Minnesota." PS -- It's that time of year people. "PS: Go twins."