In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing: Mailbag, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner shares some listeners' stories, deeds, proposals, and thoughts from nine mailbag items. Discover how you can allocate to your winners and some great soccer solutions for PKs. David shares his views on the Chinese government's hand in Chinese businesses and many other great stories.
Also, get a sneak peak on what's coming up on next week's Rule Breaker Investing and some cool stuff coming to Investor Island, The Motley Fool's mobile game.
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 July 28, 2020.
David Gardner: Great quotes. Pet peeves. Uncomfortable conversations. Blasts from the past. July 2020 was a month of five Wednesdays. So we had an opportunity to cover an amazingly wide breadth of material this month, from Stocks Celebrating the World Cup to discussions I never thought I'd have on this podcast, and yet, I'm so glad I did. Oh! And by the way, there's a global pandemic going on. And stocks too; you know, investing.
The final Wednesday of every month is your Rule Breaker Investing: Mailbag. I just read through 39 pages of comments, thoughts, stories. That is a Rule Breaker Mailbag record. Thank you very much.
The purpose of The Motley Fool is to make the world smarter, happier and richer. Shall we? Only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. Happy July! July, it's not going to last very much longer. If you're like me, you're kind of hoping 2020 just ends at some point. You like ripping the pages off of your paper calendar if you have one. So get ready to rip July off. Let's get to 2021 as quickly as possible. 2021 not be that much easier than 2020, but I have a feeling it has a happier ending.
Speaking of happier endings, I hope that there is no real ending to the baseball season. I know many of my Rule Breaker Investing listeners don't care about baseball. Some of you are halfway around the world, and baseball is far removed from your mind, but for me, it's very much front and center every year. I love baseball for a lot of different reasons, but I particularly love that it's getting played right now, because I think it says something about resilience, something about entertainment and fun, and something about bringing communities together. Sometimes I think that not being able to talk about our sports teams with each other around the, in this case, virtual water cooler has lots of pent-up feelings. And I think sports allow us, in some ways, to process emotions and feelings communally with each other. And, yeah, we can talk trash with our friends too. And not having that, I think, is pretty restricting. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed this week for Major League Baseball in the United States.
So yeah, get ready to rip off that page, July 2020 of your calendar. Let's get set for August. But not too fast, because we have nine Rule Breaker Mailbag items for this mailbag. And as I mentioned at the top, yep, you sent me 39 pages of thoughts, words, deeds, stories, proposals.
Thank you, Blaine, for offering free fitness consulting to all our members. I'm not going to put that formally through, but if anybody wants some free fitness consulting via Zoom, you can drop us a note, RBI@Fool.com. We have Fools raising their hands in a lot of different ways to offer help to others, and I think that's something that I'm going to remember about the year 2020. So Blaine, that was a kind offer. Thank you.
Now, before we proceed forward, let me just make sure I highlight what's happening next week on the podcast. Next week is August, and as longtime listeners will know, we typically reserve August to books. I make it "Authors in August," and sure enough, that's where we're headed this August. I'm just going to preview, a week ahead, each of our books. I'm going to let you know right now the book I'll be covering on next week's podcast. If you have a moment and you're at the beach, let's say, it's time for some summer reading for you. The book is Completing Capitalism by Bruno Roche and Jay Jakub. I'm really looking forward to my conversation. In some ways, it's about conscious capitalism, but with some new constructs and some really thoughtful and smart research-backed thinking that I just bet might open your eyes further about how we can measure good business. So Completing Capitalism is the book, I'll be talking to Jay Jakub next week for our first week of Authors in August.
Completing Capitalism, I suggest you read it.
Now, I'm about to wind it up for Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 1, but before I do, I want to mention a long-standing tradition not just on Rule Breaker Investing Mailbags, but generally what I try to do on this podcast all the time, and that is save the best for last. So I love all nine of our points this particular week, but I want to pay particular attention to the ending of the show. And so if you typically love to listen the first half hour and don't go there, for whatever reason, as a regular listener, I'm going to particularly underline that you hang around for point No. 9.
Now, point No. 9, I should mention, speaks to the Uncomfortable Conversations podcast. The first eight points I'm leading off with this week, don't reflect on it at all. But of course, a lot of the correspondence I got over the last couple of weeks was about that podcast. And I have a pretty remarkable thing to share with you at the end of this podcast. So I'm just mentioning that here right now.
But let's get to it here. Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 1. This one comes from Rich Smith. Rich you wrote, "Podcasting Fools, in short, thanks. Today I had the distinct privilege of nabbing my first ever spiffy-pop, while I know you all collectively have attained so many spiffy-pops, [laughs] you stopped counting them, I was downright giddy when I noticed it today. In a sense, I tend to think of certain Foolish investing milestones almost like leveling up in Investor Island. And today definitely felt like I had leveled up. I can't quite say which podcast alerted me to Shopify, but I'm ever so thankful for having bought in when I did. I'm also realizing there aren't a lot of people who are familiar with Foolish jargon. People tend to give you a weird look when you say, you spiffy-popped today. [laughs] Regardless, I wanted to share my enthusiasm with you all. Keep up the great work, and thanks again. Foolishly, Rich."
Well, Rich, first of all. Thank you very much. I'm so happy that you had your first ever spiffy-pop. You never forget your first, as we say on our spiffy-pop page. Anybody can Google spiffy-pop and find your way to The Motley Fool Knowledge Center, where you'll have spiffy-pop defined for you if you are a new recruit to Foolishness, to Fooldom. If this is your first Rule Breaker Investing podcast and you have no idea what we're talking about, because, yes, we do have some strange language around here. Sometimes that language stands for some strange concepts for many people; many people, of course, in my experience, think the stock market is gambling or they don't really think much beyond six months or a year. We think about it radically differently, and sometimes, yes, the language we use dresses that up in exotic clothes for some. So a phrase like "spiffy-pop," Rich, I get it, and I know many of my listeners get it. I do acknowledge much of the world still will not, and that'll be true for the years ahead. But a secret handshake, Rich Smith. Great job with your spiffy-pop.
Now, you did use the phrase "leveling up in Investor Island," and that made me think of my favorite mobile game in the App Store, and that is, of course, The Motley Fool's first mobile game, Investor Island. And I wanted to have my friend Max Keeler, our fearless leader of Investor Island, back on this podcast. It is summer. For me, summer says something about games and fun, and Max, you're releasing some new stuff this week for Investor Island, I wanted to talk about it a little bit with you. But first, let me just say, welcome.
Max Keeler: Hey, David, it's always great to be back on the Rule Breakers podcast, always great to chat. I can't wait to talk about some of the cool stuff coming with Investor Island. It's going to be pretty awesome.
Gardner: Well, I'm delighted, Max. So I know you have a few points; we're going to talk through them. But before we get started, let me quickly say, have you managed to find a little summer in your summer?
Keeler: You know, we're trying our best around here. We have managed to go to the pool. They have all [laughs] sorts of restrictions, bubbles, and times. But you know what, for just a few brief moments, it feels like you're floating in the pool, it's summer, the heat is speeding down, and at the end you can, kind of, forget about it all, until they blow the whistle and tell you to get out, because it's been 20 minutes.
But, David, I've been working along with a really talented team on this game with you for quite a while now. We actually released it back in December, so it's coming up almost in about a year of live time. And when we released it, we knew it wasn't done, but it was good enough to play. And since then, we've added a lot of features, added a lot of players. We have thousands and thousands of players now. They love the game. We're doing really well on the App Store. And we're actually getting to the point now where I think we're kind of ready to really, like, let this thing loose. And so we actually, this week, we're doing a pretty big promotion on the game, we're going to really push it out and see -- kind of get the next wave of players. And we're hoping we can get a bunch of people to play.
And actually, we have a very special offer just for the Rule Breaker members if you're listening to this podcast, but it's out there for everyone to play. We've got lots of offers out there. We have a really nice one for Rule Breaker members. So keep your eye out for inbox, it should be coming out tomorrow, I think, you should be seeing that. Yeah, we're getting pretty psyched for the next level. As you said earlier, this is the next level for us, so.
Gardner: Excellent. Let's try to blow Rich Smith's mind, shall we, Max?
Keeler: Yeah, [laughs] sure.
Gardner: Right. Well, let's talk a little bit about a few of the features that are now coming to Investor Island. Yes, as you point out, we have been on the App Store for about eight months now. We are really proud that we have over 500 reviews just on the Apple App Store. And we're at 4.7 out of 5 stars, which says a lot of good things about what you've created, Max, with the team. So thank you very much for that. But, yeah, when we first shipped, we didn't have perks, we didn't have some of the things you're about to talk about. We have added, in the last three to six months, a lot into the game. And now, we're actually about to go big with our first promotion, and so that's what you're queuing up here for our members. They're going to probably get an email saying, "Hey, Investor Island is ready for you, open for business, come on in." And I hope anybody who has not yet had a chance to try our mobile game that they'll take advantage of the offer. And we're excited about that this week.
But, Max, could you just lay out a couple of the new additions to the game, especially for the Rich Smiths of the world, who've been leveling up all along?
Keeler: Certainly. One thing that we added to the game is what they call seasons. And so seasons is basically a period of time in which the players compete, and as you rise up the ranks, you get higher rewards and more prestige. And you have until the end of the season to get as high as you can. And so we're in our inaugural summer season right now. We just started, and it will end, you know, we're kind of timing it with the markets. So it should end right before October. And so you have until October to get in, learn the game, level up, and get some awesome rewards. We've added in a whole bunch of ranking tiers, everywhere from Bronze... I think, the Bronze intern, [laughs] all the way up to the Grand Fool sparkling jester cap, raining sparks and everything. So we...
Gardner: Yeah, and I wish I could get there, Max, but I'm somewhere stuck in around Silver 3 right now; which I'm not, you know, unhappy with, and I may not be able to rise that much more, but I love that we're about to kick off that season where you can race up the standings.
Keeler: Yeah, and there are some legit competitors out there, David. I think I'm in low Gold. [laughs] And I'm one of the developers of the games. [laughs] So these people are no joke.
And that leads me into our second big feature. But just to give you a feel, a lot of our listeners may not know exactly, you know, what is this Investor Island, how does it work? It's basically -- and I think you've done this analogy before is, it's a little bit like Risk meets the stock market meets chess meets Chutes and Ladders, [laughs] and then sprinkle in a tiki theme onto all of that, and you've got Investor Island. You choose stocks when you play, and those stocks, how they do in real life affects how you do in the game. They don't determine, but they, kind of, help you out, or hold you back a little bit, depending on...
Gardner: That's right. And in general, you're using the game board as a way to deploy statues that kind of start to take over parts of the board, kind of like Risk, as you mentioned, Max. And so we have our island theme, of course, but I think it's an excellent strategy game on its own. And you and I are strategy gamers who love board games. And anybody who loves board games should definitely check out Investor Island. But the key is, unlike the dice that somebody would roll in risk, we use real-life stock market returns to power, in part, how you play the game. And so there's definitely that unique mash-up angle that I think would only come from The Motley Fool, which uses stock market data to power the game.
Keeler: If you have some investor know-how and some knowledge of the stock market, I think it helps you a bit in the game, but it's certainly not necessary. And actually, what we're seeing, which is interesting, is that people who are normally not into the stock market at all are really getting into it and researching the returns, because it helps them in the game. And so [laughs] we like to say we're tricking them into becoming investors.
And you know, if competition isn't really your bag, that's our next feature. And we added a suite of, basically, we call them the bots, so they're different AIs you can play in the game. And we've recently added, I think we have four levels of AI now. And these are done by our programmer, Brian O'Donnell, who is, I'll just say, he's incredible. And these AIs are no joke. [laughs] They will beat you. And so I think, David, I programmed the first version of them, and it was just something like, let's give something that people can play with. And I think the win rate of my highest, you know, my most difficult bot was, like, 10%. [laughs] But, yeah, so you can play the Jester Bot, you can play the Warrior Bot, you can play all the way up to the Demon Bot, which is very challenging. And I have lost many times to the Demon Bot, and I've beat the Demon Bot a few times too, so. [laughs]
Gardner: That's impressive, Max. And, you know, I do want to underline, as you're pointing out, a lot of people just want to play games solo, they just want to have fun, they don't want to feel like they're playing another human or having to sync up their schedules with anybody. And so just enriching that AI and that solo experience is just a wonderful enhancement for the game. I think, I won't put you on the spot, Max, but a significant percentage of all of our players of these first eight months just play solo, they just love to play the game solo. It's always there for them. And now it's pretty dramatically enhanced.
Keeler: Yeah, in terms of the number of matches, people just like to, kind of, casually play against the bot, which is, you can do it at your own pace. And so we get a lot of people doing that. But then when they're ready for some competition, I think most people are surprised that they'll usually win their first match or two, and then they get hooked when they're playing against other competitors, and it's a lot of fun, it really is.
Gardner: Well, Max, anything you want to highlight before you go?
Keeler: Keep an eye out for our promotion. We'll be giving away some stocks in the game that are kind of hard to get through the promotion, so it's a good opportunity to get started and have fun. And if you have any questions or thoughts about the game, you can email me. Probably the best way is at InvestorIsland@Fool.com.
Gardner: That's great, Max. Yeah, and obviously, we're not really talking about the game this time, we're more just mentioning a couple of the new features. But if anybody has never heard of Investor Island before, feel free just to Google it, you can read a lot more. Part of what Max referenced right there at the end is that, as a player of the game, you start to collect and build your own collection of stocks. In a sense, it's kind of like building a portfolio; it's of course, all a fantasy portfolio. But whether you have kids who are starting to learn about the stock market or if you're a competitive strategy gamer of approximately 54 years of age, like me, I think all of us can enjoy this game. But there is an aspect you're not collecting Pokemon in this case, you're collecting stocks. So yes, some rarer stocks on offer in this particular promotion, so.
Well, Max, thank you for all your good work, and thanks for joining us this month on Rule Breaker Investing.
Keeler: Always a pleasure. Thanks, David.
Gardner: All right. Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 2. This one comes from Cody writing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thank you, Cody. "Hi, David and Fools ... " you write, "I'm a longtime listener, but new to the Rule Breakers paid service. I'm a 26-year-old full-time employee and part-time student earning my master's in financial econometrics. I have little downtime, but your service allows for me to narrow my search significantly and decide which of your recommendations fits with my own investing philosophy. Now, one thing I've struggled with," Cody writes, "is how to add to my portfolio. Per the Gardner-Kretzmann Continuum, I should only be holding 26 stocks. I had trouble narrowing down my selections, and I ended up with about 60.
"I decided to use your rule to help influence my allocations; meaning, each deposit into my investment account, I evenly distributed the funds to my top 26 winners. Now, I wanted to know your thoughts on my rule and ask how you allocate to winners. Do you weigh your allocations based on the highest winners and do losers receive no allocation? How do you judge your winners, winners from the past year or month or week or when you initially purchased?" Cody closes, "I'll also note that 1 of my 60 is VOO."
I even needed to look that up. That's just the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF VOO, like, as in Voodoo, VOO.
Cody says, "That way I'm able to compare how my picks are doing against the S&P 500. It also forces me to invest in the S&P 500 if it is a top performer." One of his 26. "However, that has not happened as of yet, thanks to your service. Your Fool, Cody."
Well, thank you, Cody. A few things I want to say. First of all, and most prominently, I don't think anybody has to follow the Gardner-Kretzmann Continuum. Now, I realize that may sound like heresy. And I did in fact speak to this last week on last week's podcast when we went over the Blast from the Past, 5 Blasts from in the Past. In 2018, Rick Engdahl, my talented Producer, replayed the classic clip of David Kretzmann and I inventing, spontaneously, the Gardner-Kretzmann Continuum together. And while I am serious about it, I think it's a good general guide, it is by no means a hard-and-fast rule or anything that anybody has to listen to. Like the pirate's code, right? Going back to the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow, it's really just guidelines, right? They're just guidelines. The pirate's code is not firm rules, and the Gardner-Kretzmann Continuum is definitely a pirate's code. So I don't think anybody needs to make sure that they start shaving down their portfolio to reach their age or be insecure if they have 60 stocks at the age of 26; that's kind of where David Kretzmann is, and I think that's pretty great, personally.
So Cody, and everybody listening, of course, we like the idea, but this is not a cardinal rule of Motley Fool investing or even Rule Breaker Investing, it's really just guidelines. And certainly, Cody, you're talking some about allocating to winners.
And I think that's the right thing to do. There's no mechanical rule that I can give you or anybody about adding to your winners. For example, if one of your winners has just won so far above and beyond on its own that it dominates your portfolio, I don't think you should add anything to that particular winner. I would add to winners that seem as if they are underallocated in your portfolio. A big part of my add-to-your-winners mentality -- and it's right there in our six traits of the Rule Breaker investor, trait No. 2, add up, don't double down. It's there just to remind you to add to your winners. It's something most people don't reflexively do, they assume they should add to their losers, and I think they end up with a suboptimal result as a consequence. So there is no hard-and-fast rule about which winners to add to.
We all have different-looking allocations and portfolios. I'm trying to provide you with a pirate's code to help you understand how to do better as an investor. I myself am not optimized, I'm not optimal in every way as an investor. I don't think it's possible to be perfect. I'm just trying to give you -- and me, half the time I'm talking to myself after all -- a reminder that it's a good thing to add to your winners. You should tend with new money, if you're going to add to existing positions draw a line under all of the ones that are winning, exclude the ones below that unless you have very strong conviction and they have great balance sheets and good forward prospects, tend to do what most of the world doesn't, and add to the things that are working. Learn well from your successes.
So in closing, yeah, the winner is not judged based on the past [laughs] month or week, certainly, but at least the past year, and generally, since you initially purchased. So there are some thoughts back. Cody, thank you.
All right, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 3. Now, we have talked in recent months, including this one, about soccer. Of course, most of the world knows the sport as football; American soccer. And we've talked about penalty kicks and how unsatisfying the world's greatest sport ends when it goes to so-called PKs. And for some years now, we've been kicking around this podcast, what's a better way to do that? Yes, this is definitely part of the breath of Rule Breaker Investing. We have to talk about how to improve PKs.
I think I got to very -- maybe one excellent suggestion, but two pretty good ones. I want to present them here in this mailbag item. So Peter Mucha. Peter, thank you for writing in. You said, "Soccer solution: Add a mandatory pass to penalty kicks." Boy, I really like that idea. Peter goes on, "Not one-on-one, but make it like three-on-three or five-on-five. One team has free access to the ball, but they can't just kick on the goal to start, they must pass. And so the turn ends either with a goal right then or maybe it goes out of bounds, and then it's the other team's turn," Peter says, "and then after every round of each team getting a chance, if one is ahead, the team wins. It's like overtime in college football." Peter concludes.
Well, I think that's definitely a superior suggestion to what the sport has settled on these past many years. I would really like that, a little three-on-three or five-on-five game where you have to pass at least once before kicking it in. And maybe do it a few times, and whoever is ahead at that point, if somebody is, they win the game. That feels more like soccer than the ridiculous coin flip of the random kick. And I realize some people don't think it's totally random, I still do. The largely random kick and largely random guess by the goalie as to where the ball will go, and the World Championship, the World Cup can be dependent on those moments. So I really like that idea, Peter, of a mandatory pass with small teams, maybe three-on-three, and each team gets a shot, usually a few times, and you see who's ahead. Much better.
But maybe even better than that, Matt Maurer, power in. Matt, thank you for this suggestion. Talked it over offline with my Producer, Rick Engdahl, who is a much bigger soccer fan than I am, and he liked this one too. I thought it was pretty brilliant. So Matt, here you go, you said, "PK adjustment proposal. In the event of a tied game, the PK number, the penalty kick number that a team gets, equals the number of its shots on goal during that game. So for example," Matt writes, "team A, had three shots on goal during the game. Team B, had seven. So in that tied game, for the PKs, team A gets three shots, team B gets seven." Matt concludes, "It incentivizes more aggressive play for the entire game." And boy, do I think that is an elegant solution.
Now, if teams are tied, let's say, after a long game it was 3 to 3, and both teams had over 20 shots on goal, which usually doesn't happen, but it could be a little tedious to have 20 PKs, so you might want to do parameters, right? So if you had zero to three shots, you get one. If you had four to seven, you get two or something like that. But the concept Matt has there of making it allocated based on the same proportion of shots on goal, that really makes soccer a better sport, because teams more aggressively attack the net, especially in close games, knowing they'll get more PK shots afterward.
Well, to conclude, you could combine these ideas, you could give allocated PK shots based on shots on goal during the game, but make it a mandatory pass rule with maybe three-to-three, five-on-five, boy! would that be a better ending to the world's most popular sport. Thank you, Fools.
All right, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 4. Boy! I loved this one. Thank you very much. In fact, I've got two different correspondents that I'm bringing together for this Rule Breaker Mailbag point. If you haven't already heard me mention in recent weeks and months, Motley Fool Live -- and I bet you have if you're a regular listener. For a lot of you, you're already using it, it's at Live.Fool.com, and it is the equivalent of a television channel on our Motley Fool website. We program typically 9:00 to 5:00 on weekdays, every hour or every 30 minutes in some cases. We change up what the program is. We might be doing a deep dive on stocks one hour, and play a business trivia game show the next hour. We're going to have interviews with authors, CEOs, bright lights across business and investing. This has just been a tremendous development. And, yep, I'm going to say, it was brought on by COVID, ironically enough, perhaps.
But wanted to just share a couple of thoughts. Again, this is members-only programming. So if you're not a Motley Fool member, if you're not subscribed to at least Motley Fool Stock Advisor, it's not presently available to you. But so many of my listeners are. And among them is Matt Green @MattG5289. Thank you for this note, Matt. "Dear @RBIPodcast and the entire Motley Fool. I work as a PA in a respiratory assessment center. I evaluate patients for COVID every day at work. Needless to say, this becomes exhausting over time." Matt writes, "In these times I have found myself needing, more than ever, to have a way to escape from work on my days off, and listening to you on podcasts and Motley Fool Live has provided that release. Being able to think about great companies and doing my own research as well as listening to Fools' analysis has helped me to briefly decompress. I never thought I would say thinking about investing would help me decompress, but it has. With your help, as well as help from a friend whose ideas run pretty parallel to The Motley Fool, I've been able to triple the returns of the S&P 500 since April of 2018. Thank you, David, Tom, Brian Feroldi, Brian Stoffel, Jason Moser, Emily Flippen, Bill Mann ,and the entire Motley Fool for all you do." Well, thank you, Matt, that means so much to us.
And in the same vein, Randy Stevenson writing in, "David, I've never gotten so much out of my Rule Breaker and Stock Advisor subscription as I have the last few weeks. After watching Brian Stoffel do a deep dive on Atlassian today, I just had to send you this email. What a fantastic hour, I learned so much. I wasn't just given a fish; I was taught how to fish. That's the kind of helpful nature that is so prevalent in Fooldom, but with Zoom Video, it's even better. I did get the news that Fool TV will be now a permanent part of the services going forward."
That's right, a lot of people were wondering, maybe in some cases were worried that once COVID leaves this earth, which we can't wait for, that maybe Motley Fool TV would too. But, nope, we announced emphatically that Motley Fool Live, what we call Fool TV, is a permanent part of your services as a member.
Randy concludes, "I'm so happy to hear that. I appreciate the whole day's lineup of analysts. Today was a banner day with the interview with Federico Sandler, head of investor relations of MercadoLibre. If only I didn't have to work my day job,' Randy writes, "and The Fool is getting me closer to not having to do that also. Much thanks. Randy Stevenson." Well, again thank you, Randy.
You know, the effort that we put in, nobody is getting paid extra to do Motley Fool Live these days, but it's clearly catching on. So hearing that special tribute from Matt Green, Randy your words, that means a lot to all of us here at Fool HQ.
And in fact, I want to use this opportunity briefly to mention something. Chris Hill sent me an email earlier today, hoping to get a brief survey in the hands of our listeners. So here's what I want to do. I want to ask for your help with something. I promise it's going to take less than a minute. Yep, that's the way we like our surveys here at The Fool. So we have a very brief survey, and if you, as a listener Rule Breaker Investing, would take less than a minute out in the week ahead, maybe right after this podcast or even right now if you want to pause it, that would be great. You know, one of the things this pandemic has done is, it's made a lot of companies look at their businesses and how they're serving their customers and look for ways they can do things differently. So if you've been listening to the show for a while, you may have noticed, we haven't been running any ads lately, have you not noticed, that's right, no Harry's razors, no Rocket Mortgage, etc. I think more than ever, we at The Fool are focused on just helping as many people as possible from our members, to our readers, to listeners like you invest better, and that's why we're taking a break from those external ads. And so to the extent that we're going to promote things on our shows, it's just going to be for ways in which The Fool can help you invest better.
So to do that, we'd like to know just a little bit about who you are and how we can help. So here it is, the catchy URL I'm about to flash your way, this will also be in the show notes if you just want to see it and click it, but it's mot.ly, that's right, MOT.LY, it's one of those short URLs. Mot.ly/survey. It's a two-question survey. Again, that's Mot.ly/survey. Thanks again for helping us out.
All right Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 5. This comes from HouseHunter. Pretty sure that's not your name. I think it's just your catchy screen name/email address, HouseHunter. But there's a chance the surname Hunter, somebody maybe has the nickname or even the given name House, which would be pretty cool.
Anyway, you write, "The Chinese government obviously has a very large hand in Chinese businesses. How do you filter this in when it comes to recommendations?" House Hunter writes, "I know Huawei has a reputation for having back doors in the equipment or software installed, which the CCP, that would be the Communist Party of China, allegedly has them do. And that is alleged. Alibaba's Jack Ma quotes voluntarily signing over his interest in Alibaba to men controlled, if not being outright from the CCP. Baidu's database, allegedly, being able to be accessed at will, if the Communist Party of China needs to utilize the information that Baidu gathers. Tencent ordered not to release a video game, and so on and so on. Who would not love to invest in the opportunities China presents," you conclude, "but I find myself more and more concerned about this topic. I know this may not be an easy or politically correct topic to discuss, but I feel I'm not the only one with these concerns. Fool on! And keep washing your dang hands. LOL."
Well, thank you HouseHunter. So this is a thorny one. There's no simple answer for this one to me. I am somebody, at The Motley Fool, who's probably recommended as many Chinese stocks as any other advisor or stock picker. And some of them have been winners, and in general, the winners have well outweighed the losers. And I feel as if it was pretty contrary to picking a company like NetEase, back when we did, or Baidu. A lot of the world was saying all those Chinese companies are frauds, and you shouldn't recommend those stocks. And they've gone on to become huge winners for many Motley Fool members.
And I'm aware of the perception of China worldwide, which is, in my experience, mixed. China gets a lot of credit for the investments it's made across Africa and a lot of the rest of the world in infrastructure, investments that it was invited to make and it did make. And in a lot of ways, I celebrate the presence of China, and I believe that China's business has created goods for all of us and has demand for our goods. And I want the best for China, and I spoke about this on last year's podcast in the summer, you can Google A Rule Breaker in China and you'll see my reflections on my first trip to China.
But I'm also troubled by some of these accusations. I'm not in a position to verify or not, and I realize, there are a lot of different viewpoints on these. But I'll say this: What I think is really important, not just in the business world, but in the world at large today, is my favorite capital-T word, and that word is "Trust." I believe that the best businesses, the best people, and the best countries create trust. I think trust is the fluid that enables us to trade with each other. And I'm not just talking about goods over borders, I'm talking about ideas, conversations, thoughts, relationships. Trust is the lubricant that enables so much of humanity to be human. I hope for my own company, The Motley Fool, that we're building trust every day. And whenever we take actions or do things that undermine trust, those would be the things that frustrate me the most at my company and perhaps you at yours, or in relationships. I think we have to always be building trust.
And whatever else we want to say about China and the dragon that roars in the 21st century. -- And I wish the best for China, because I think a better China equals a better life for me and for you. -- But if the Chinese truly want to be world leaders, and I don't think they are today, they will be building trust. And when you undermine trust at a systemic global level through some of the actions and initiatives that you take, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. So I think these are legitimate questions. I have some of them myself, and I have thought hard and will continue to do so about where I want to put my money.
Tell you what, you and I are going to do best as investors when we're investing in trustworthy people, doing trustworthy things, knowing that the world is getting better as a consequence. So that's a challenge I put out not just to China, but to the United States of America, not just to countries but to me and to you. For me, the big story of the next generation is trust.
All right, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 6. This one comes from a longtime Fool and correspondent Dave Geck, the Gecko. Thank you for this note, Dave. You start, "I've kept old copies of Rule Breakers, Stock Advisor, Hidden Gems, and Global Gains newsletters. I love to go back once in a while and randomly reread one of them and recollect what I was thinking about at the time." Now, Dave is, I think, reacting to my "Essays of Yesteryear" podcast, in which I go back and share some of those older essays with you, the ones that strike me as more timeless and relevant to today.
Now, Dave goes on, "I could go online, which would delight my wife, but I like paper." Well, thank you for that. Good on you, Dave. And I'm glad to know you're holding on -- maybe those will have some worth -- have you thought about maybe selling one of those on eBay and seeing what you can get for probably not much, but maybe hold on. Anyway, you go on, "Another interesting segment was the lawyer who has not had his first spiffy-pop." That's right, that was from, I think, last month's mailbag. "My guess is, he will. It's good that you stop counting when you get to 12." That's right, we no longer count spiffy-pops for a stock. When a stock makes more money in a single day for a 13th time, we stop counting from that point forward. Dave says, "With the cost basis of $2.52 for Netflix, I imagine you've had a baker's dozen spiffy-pops." Oh, we certainly have. "I do like days, though," Dave concludes, "when our net worth increases by not my first annual salary, but on special days when it increases by more than what I earned in my five years of service as an army officer. On those days," Dave writes, "I think, ugh! that was a lot of work for no money. But I do not regret the experience, although there were days I did. Dave Geck."
Well, thank you for writing in, Dave. And you know, every time you write, and this happens maybe just one or two times a year, I find myself compelled to share your story, because we have new members coming on all the time. We have a lot of young people. In fact, I have so many correspondents in their 20s this particular month. So you probably may not have heard Dave's story about saving money. I've done this several times on this podcast, it's brief, but powerful. I'm going to do it again right now.
So a couple of years ago, Dave wrote this to us: "Back in 1975, one of my instructors took a few minutes to talk about finances. He had a recommendation. He suggested that when we graduated, we take $5 of our $625/month that we were going to receive as second lieutenants..." Again, this is back in 1975. "And do so without fail or changing the amount. $5/month until we were promoted to first lieutenants. So he asked us, how much would we have? Well, knowing it would take two years until we were promoted, we quickly figured 24, that's 24 months, times $5, plus interest, that would be about $125. Now, he commented that, yes, it would not be much, but the goal of the first two years was to develop the habit of saving.
He then suggested that upon getting a raise, actually two raises, one for the promotion, one for two years of service, that we save half of the increase and use the rest to pay additional taxes and increase our standard of living. He pointed out that if we could make ends meet on a second lieutenant's salary in our 24th month, then we could make it during the 25th month on that amount, plus half of the increase. He said to do this throughout our career, and we would have a sizable sum by the time we retired. It made sense to me."
Dave Geck went on, "I did not have a career of military service, but I followed his advice with my civilian pay. And when I was about 55, my wife and I went out with another couple, and the husband asked, if we had saved anything yet for retirement. He said they were concerned as they had not yet started. I related the story of my instructor's suggestion and said, we were probably saving about 40% of my gross salary. They were shocked. The next day, I came home and my wife greeted me with music to any husband's ears. She said, 'You're right.' I had no idea what she was speaking, was almost afraid to ask, about what I was right. She said that when she heard my story, she thought it was quite an exaggeration to say 40%. She said she had never added it up, but did so that morning. We had some money going here, some going there. She was shocked to find out that it added up to 42%. She said she would have believed 30%, but obviously not 40%. In all my years, I've never heard of anyone else following that approach. I have suggested it numerous times, but know of no emulators."
Though Dave does say, "I think my youngest daughter and her husband have been close to following it."
Well, that's the end of the note and the story. And the reason I like to share that and reshare it is because, we can't ever hear enough, I think, of the success that great investors have saving money. After all, you can't ever become a great investor unless you have saved money. And the discipline, and how hard it is just to save that first true dollar, that's your capital, and invest that in the stock market, that is much harder for most people, would've been for me. In my experience, that's much harder than just picking stocks and being successful as an investor. And to think about that story and the story of a couple that's saving 40% of their salary and living happily and comfortably, starting from such a small amount is inspiration to every one of us. I hope it is for you.
And, Dave Geck, thanks for letting me share that once again.
All right, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 7. Lucky seven. This one comes from Taj Thompson. Love this note, Taj. "Hi, David, I'm Taj, a 20-year-old senior in college, and I'm a fairly new member to The Motley Fool. I got back into investing and started following The Fool after the market crash," that would be earlier this year, "and I haven't regretted it since. I've since completely adopted The Motley Fool mentality, and I proudly call myself a Fool." Well, that's great to hear, Taj. Thank you.
"However, I also have some family members who invest differently than I. And we regularly get into debates of which I almost never win. My uncle believes that investing is basically gambling and I'm taking a 50-50 chance. To him, it's all speculation. There's no guarantee that I'll see a return on my investment. I truly believe that even though I may not know what stock will be the next Amazon, Netflix, or Shopify, by following your investment advice, and doing my own research, that the group of stocks I come up with will most definitely have some amazing winners as well as some losers, but so long as I keep investing, the winners will certainly outweigh the losers. Now, my uncle is much older," and he says, "I am young and I have a lot to learn. And although I do admit that's true, I can't help but refute his claims that it's basically gambling, when I know in my heart that I will do extremely well. Am I wrong?"
Well, I love this note, Taj. And in part, I love that your family even has these conversations. And while your uncle and I and you might each have our own independent viewpoints, I think it's just great that you're talking about it as a family and kicking it around. And I think there's an opportunity probably for some friendly trash talk; I wouldn't be surprised that that's already happening. But let me just give you a few tips for that conversation.
So the first thing I would say to anybody who thinks that investing is gambling is to remember that gambling has a net negative return. After all, if you play a game like roulette or if you pull the slots, every dollar you put, you're going to typically be losing somewhere between $0.05 and $0.15 for every pull. It is an extractive business. Most gamblers lose; that's why gambling exists. The only reason there is a house that would want to offer you a gambling game is because it will win most of the time. Gambling is by definition a net-negative return. The stock market is clearly the exact opposite.
Look at a graph of the stock market over the last century, lower-left to upper-right. If you do the math, and I bet you can do it, you probably can do it better than I can, Taj, and I bet your uncle knows this too, it averages around a 9% or 10% gain depending on which market we're talking about over what periods, but it goes up from lower-left to upper-right. That's the exact opposite of gambling.
You have a tailwind at your back. It's called business, commerce. Capitalism, when it's done well, creates value for all stakeholders, and of course, shareholders is one of those. So that is not gambling at all, it's quite the opposite. It's an expected return that you and I should expect over meaningful periods of time for very logical reasons. I'm pretty sure you know that and I bet your uncle would understand that as well. So I never think it's a 50-50 chance to make money or not, maybe for any given investment, that might be true, but not the active investing overall.
Ah! But as for whether people can beat the market? Taj, as a 20-year-old senior yourself, whether you can beat the market or not, well, there are legions of investors who use Motley Fool services and outperform the markets. After all, if you just follow our scorecard, action for action, in a service like Motley Fool Stock Advisor or Motley Fool Rule Breakers, all of the numbers are right there for all of our members to see. We are very regularly and substantially beating the markets over time. If we weren't, I'd be the first to say, don't subscribe to our services. You could just buy an index fund and get the average return. But we believe for our members, they can and indeed have done better. So if you are, and you're describing yourself as a new member to The Motley Fool, so if you're using Stock Advisor, Taj, just pop open the "performance" tab and show him every stock that I or my brother Tom has ever picked, or jump over to Motley Fool Rule Breakers and see all the stocks there. All of our Motley Fool services lay out all of their picks transparently, and anybody can run math or numbers and see what's happening. But the bottom line is, they're substantially beating the market. So that doesn't sound like gambling to me either.
To close, there are even free things. Take a look at Motley Fool CAPS, CAPS.Fool.com. Go to my page, if you like, you'll see the free stock picks that I've made over 15 years, CAPS.Fool.com. I'm TMFSpiffyPop, you probably know that, you can see right there. Yes, I have a lot of losers and I have a lot of winners. The winers well outweigh the losers, as you were arguing to your uncle, and you'll see the benefits of that. And darn it! How about Five-Stock Samplers on this podcast. I picked 25 of them now; that's 125 more free stock picks. And anybody who's been following those knows the record of outperformance on those is absolutely remarkable.
I don't know what more evidence we could give to people. I hope this doesn't sound like bragging; these are all just numbers in black and white. You can see all the pluses and all the minuses, but it's very evident that this approach to investing works. And the reason I think it will continue to work is because so many people doubt it. In fact, it is this skepticism of the crowd that makes it possible, I think, for you and me to excel as Fools.
I bet your uncle is a gentleman, I'm sure he's a fine man. I disagree on the gambling part; I hope I've made that clear. But in the end, you have an opportunity simply to demonstrate to him through your actions, measured over time, the intuition that you and I share that you can and will beat the market. Good luck, Taj Thompson.
And good luck to so many +20-year olds that wrote in for this particular mailbag. Yep, I couldn't feature most of you; I could only fit nine Rule Breaker Mailbag items into one big podcast this week. So I had to exclude so much and so many worthy questions. But it's just always going to be a delight for me to hear from a young person with so many decades ahead to invest.
All right, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 8. I love this story. This is pretty much a straight read. Sharing from David Dudash writing in from Arizona. And as I mentioned earlier, typically I would probably close a podcast with a note like this one, but this particular month, I have something maybe extra special saved up.
But here we go, Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 8. "Dear fellow, David," writes David Dudash. "I am sending this note of appreciation for you and The Fool, generally. You've changed my life. I am a high school English teacher in Arizona, a hot spot for the coronavirus. My school district seems to want to open in the fall, contrary to many health professional guidelines. I'm pretty worried about everyone's safety. I am 55 years old, and I've been teaching for 30 years. The Motley Fool has been an amazing guide for me, especially recently during the pandemic. I am eligible for retirement this September, not quite there, but close.
"My portfolio in March, just four months ago, was devastated, but per your advice, I sat on my darn hands and did not sell anything. In fact, I bought more; MongoDB, Okta, and Fastly. One of my main holdings is Shopify, and has been since you first recommended it. Well as you can imagine from those companies listed, my portfolio is substantially higher than back in March. In fact, I've made almost $285,000. That's more money than I ever dreamt I'd have. English teachers don't make much out here in Arizona.
"If I may, I'd like to share an Aha! moment for me, and it's kind of Rule Breaker-y. If you work for a company or organization that doesn't pay very much or, like in my case, is going to be an unsafe working environment, it's a real blessing to be able to invest hard-earned dollars in companies that think differently, that do better, that enrich the world. If I cannot work for a company like that, then I sure can invest in them. At my age, I don't think I'm changing careers anytime soon. I have no skill set for MongoDB or Okta or Fastly or Shopify, but I have enriched myself through their expertise and their foresight.
"But I don't think I would have found those great companies without your wonderful organization. My subscriptions to Rule Breaker, Stock Advisor, and the rest, plus the free podcast, and now Motley Fool Live have just been tremendous, tremendous. Thank you. The Fool has changed my life. It's given me optionality. I may be retiring instead of returning to a classroom, possibly dangerous to my health. You'd think schools would be run better from the standpoint of treating all stakeholders responsibly, but they're not. Sincerely, David Dudash."
Well, overall, that is just a beautiful note to read and to share. And I'm honored to receive it, David. And I know you're in a tough position, a pickle, a lot of us, and I'm thinking especially of parents, really do want our schools to reopen. And we're all in 50 different American states, and some of us are around the world listening to me right now. And one of our dreams would be that we wouldn't have to keep having our kids in our laps or behind us as we Zoom in from work. And they'd get the true teaching that they deserve, in classrooms from excellent teachers like you, David Dudash. So a lot of us want our schools to reopen, and it would be a huge disappointment this fall if they don't.
But as you point out, from a teacher's point of view -- and the older we get, we hear the more vulnerable we can be to coronavirus. You're pointing out, importantly, there's another critical stakeholder group, and that is our teachers. Some of us are in unsafe conditions in states that are very dangerous right now, and others of us are not so much. Everybody is in a different place. Each of us has to make the best call we can make, starting with our own health, which I want to double underline. But then again, of course, thinking about the health of our families and our friends and those around us, and I don't just mean, by the way, the physical health, it also comes down to the economic health as well, and that's part of the calculus that leaders in society are trying to make.
Because we could all lock down indefinitely and definitely drive out the coronavirus; the problem might be, what would be left if we all locked down for that much longer? So it's very difficult. There is no easy answer here. I really appreciate you sharing your viewpoint. And especially to know that you've been liberated to be able to make, potentially, the best decision that you need to make for yourself thanks to your investing. And certainly, as somebody else who loves the English language and appreciated my high school English teachers, good on you, David Dudash.
Well, from a pretty remarkable story, let's move on to what I hope will be a remarkable close. Now, I mentioned earlier in the show that we got an all-time record amount of correspondence in the past few weeks, not solely due to Uncomfortable Conversations Vol. 1. After all, we've just filled up most of a mailbag with eight points that had nothing to do with that particular podcast, but it's fair to say, we got a lot of tweets. I'm going to share a few of those now, and then a remarkable letter to close.
Rule Breaker Mailbag item No. 9. Now, probably, the podcast I'll remember years from now from this month -- I mean, I like to think I remember them all; I hope you do. But the one that I'm going to still be reflecting on a year or two from now is probably Uncomfortable Conversations Vol. 1 with my friends, Vennard Wright, Stephen Baldi, and Dan Simons. And as expected, I got a lot of feedback, and it's mixed, and I can absolutely appreciate that. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was expecting that.
So I got one big 1-star review on iTunes, not surprised to have that. And I'm certainly not suggesting that anybody who did not enjoy the episode is in some ways backward, crazy, or insane. No, there are a lot of sane people, I pride myself on the sanity of all of my listeners and all my fellow Fools. And there are lots of different viewpoints, and I'll try to present a few of them here in some of the tweets that we received about that episode.
So Don Karpick @TokyoBoiler. "Just listened to the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, very powerful and thought provoking. Thanks for stepping out to do this. I take away two things," Don writes. "We're all a little racist" and "the black tax." Thanks again.
Now on the other hand, Ben @tmfneuroguy said, "Tax, everybody has their own tax we don't even know about. Who does it serve to educate a generation of kids with a victim mindset? I hope you can bring @ThomasSowell to @RBIPodcast in the future."
To that, responding on Twitter, @deedubya78, Desmond Walker, replied, "The context of the current conversations (not monologues)," Desmond points out, that's right, this was a full-blown dialogue, "is that racism isn't a political issue, but a human rights issue." Desmond goes on, "The fact that racism has been politicized has detracted from the progress. It's not about "the other side". It's about all sides' increased awareness."
And I really do appreciate that point that Desmond makes, because I do want to respond to two things that he highlights. The first is, just how things are being politicized, and I'm not just thinking about race or any given conversation these days. I feel like so much of the world -- and is it our news media, is it the social media? Ultimately, I'm not going to blame anybody but you and me, we should turn the focus on ourselves. But I feel as if a lot of us are making almost anything into a political issue. And this just wasn't the world that I grew up in anyway, I'm happy to say I was raised by parents, who in my case, were not particularly political people, and that's probably why I don't really view the world in political terms. And so it's felt in the last 5 or 10 years, as if so much of everything has to be processed through a political lens.
I've certainly gone back to Dickens and my reading of The Pickwick Papers, and those, some of you will remember, and I've even Blast from the Past-ed this, brought it back to the podcast, the Blues and the Buffs, the classically comic, and yet, sardonic, and in some ways poignant, in retrospect, view of the world, [laughs] where, the protagonist, Pickwick, happens upon the town of Eatanswill, and there, everybody in the town is either on the blue side or the buff side. And anything that the blues do, the buffs won't do that, and they'll say the opposite thing. And all the blues just eat at the blue restaurants and the buffs eat at the buffs restaurants, and everything has been completely politicized. And it reads, to me anyway, like a dystopia that I sure don't want to live in.
And I'm happy to say, in my life anyway, maybe yours too, not everything is politicized, but boy! does it seem like lots of things are being politicized. And as Desmond said in his tweet, racism is being somewhat politicized. It's not about the other side. And that's the other thing I wanted to highlight. The conversation that we had is, it's just that, it's a conversation. A conversation among friends. And I think, for me, the most powerful point was, that it's just important to have that conversation. And Dan Simon says, "The conversation is only uncomfortable if you don't do it very often or if you never do it. Then it's particularly uncomfortable. But if you just open things up with somebody who looks different than you for any one of a number of reasons and just have a conversation about their viewpoint about any given topic, and just invite dialogue, build a new bond, strengthen a muscle of community around you. Like anything else in life, the more you do it, the stronger that muscle gets; the less you do it, the weaker that muscle gets." So I appreciate those points.
And one more tweet, this one from Stephen P. @Scuba2315. I just appreciated this. He said, "I spent months of my 20s obsessively listening to Avenue Q, and to hear David table read 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' on @RBIPodcast was surreal and fantastic." Well, thank you. Steve and I appreciate that. The thespian in me enjoys occasionally having an opportunity to perform. It was a delight to perform that, I thought those lyrics are spot-on. I think like a lot of good art, it thinks ahead of time about the world, and then as history proceeds apace, we start to look back and see the progressive thinkers who were thinking about things years ahead of where the world got to. So thank you Stephen.
And thank you, everybody, for suffering Fools gladly. Yep, all four of us. As Stephen himself said, he's a Fool, I'm a Fool, we all four of us are Fools, none of us is an expert, as I said. The conversation was probably sloppy at times, but I think it was meaningful, it meant a lot to me anyway. And we're not going to do that every week on Rule Breaker Investing, but I'm going to look back fondly on that podcast.
And here's a big reason I'm going to look back on it fondly. You know, there's the podcast and then there are the tweets and then there are the online reviews on iTunes and Google Play, but then there are the emails that occur behind the scenes and stories that emerge, and I want to share one with you. And this is with the permission of the correspondent; his name is Joe Hickman. I don't know Joe. Joe works with Vennard Wright at their company Iron Bow Technologies. And boy! Was I proud to receive this forwarded email. And I've received Joe's permission to share this on Rule Breaker Investing.
After having listened to Uncomfortable Conversations Vol. 1, Joe wrote Vennard this note. He said:
"Wow! Vennard, what a powerful hour. Thank you so much for not only doing this, but for sharing with us. I hope you share it with the entire Iron Bow community. This may be a long email, but in the spirit of the topic I will continue the conversation and give you some information about me and my relationship with race, or as you read, my lack of when I was young.
"I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. Even though we were the county seat, and therefore the largest 'city' in the county, the population is only about 4,500 people. All of them, with very few exceptions, Native Americans or migrant workers from Mexico, with very few exceptions, all of them were white. My father was a union leader, so growing up our conversations were geared more toward people's economic stations in life. He taught me a lot about not judging people based on what they couldn't afford or what type of house they lived in or the car they drove. Maybe it was because he was born and raised in Nebraska just like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, that race wasn't something he had a lot of experience with as well. The people he represented were mostly white factory workers that lived and worked in Midwestern towns and cities. That world was our life or circle of influence, as it was represented in the podcast.
"Flash forward to when I was 13, and we moved to Fairfax, Virginia. I was plunked down in an extremely diverse school that had more people in it during the school day than the town I grew up in. To say I was ill prepared would be an understatement, but perhaps because of that, I really had no interest or care that someone looked different than me. What I quickly realized in being in that place in the late 70s was that it wasn't a popular way to think. My white friends said things that I had never heard or even understood. The Black kids in the school would say things to me or make accusations about me that I also didn't understand. Until roughly the same time, I had never had a conversation with someone who is Black. So why was I being lumped in with others? It was hard for a young teenager to comprehend.
"It's easy for me to blame it on my own ignorance of the way the world really is or even the stupidity of my friends, but much like Dan Simons said on the podcast, what I realized later in life was that I should be angry I wasn't taught these things. And I wasn't taught the whys of the way people viewed me. My family had Life and Look magazines. So I saw the pictures and the articles, when I was little, about the race riots and such, but I had no real-life context, so it didn't mean anything to me.
"Another major flash forward to a few years ago. My father had just died and as the youngest of seven kids, my brothers and sisters decided I should be the one to hold on to the family photos and small heirlooms. My wife started a campaign to scan and document every single photo. There are thousands," Joe writes, "and to also scan the many other items, such as, newspaper clippings, marriage, death, birth notices and the like. She came across a small book that my great-great-grandmother had written about her journey West from Kentucky to Missouri in the 1850s. In it, she talked about how they went to the family plantation in Kentucky to say goodbye to everyone. I had always heard my family had a large presence in Western Kentucky, and that there's a town named after them, but I didn't realize why until my wife handed me the booklet. I read the words that I don't think anyone wants to read about their forefather: 'Grandfather's slaves came out to tell us good-bye.' I was devastated to learn this about my family and even more devastated that there is a town that people live, work, and die in, that is so named because of the wealth my family made off the enforced slavery of others.
"But similar to Dan's comments about his own ignorance and what people taught him, I started to really think on the subject. My father's side of the family arrived in York, Virginia, in 1690. They had always lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and they were considered well-to-do farmers. Why wouldn't I have realized that slave owner was also a title they held, and why had no one in the family ever discussed it?
"About the same time I found out this information, a good friend of mine published his first book of poems. Well, having a few beers one night, after he performed one of his readings, he kept telling me that I should write poems. I told him the problem was, I didn't feel 'something' stirring in me to write about. It's easy to write about Fall colors or the beauty of a lake," Joe Hickman writes, "but I had no interest in writing a poem about something like that, and I couldn't do it better than the masters had already done. But I did have something gnawing at me ever since I read that booklet. So I finally sat down and wrote out my thoughts.
"I will tell you, I have only shared this with one person: my best friend for the past 40 years, who, like me, grew up in Nebraska and moved here when her father was transferred, so she and I had a very similar upbringing. As you might have realized, I am an extremely quiet and humble person, so stepping outside of my comfort zone is hard for me, but again, in the spirit of an 'uncomfortable conversation,' I will share it with you, because quite frankly, sharing this makes me uncomfortable, and that's the point of this email. I titled it 'The Knowledge.'"
Well let me just insert. Wow! That is a remarkable note to think that a co-worker dropped that on my friend Vennard. And that led to a tighter bond between them, and this conversation, and to think that Joe Hickman said, "Not only can you share it with the rest of our company, but yeah, Dave, feel free to share this on the Rule Breaker Investing podcast." I'm going to read this poem in just a minute, but I just want to make sure that we're all paying respect to what has been done here. Again, to me, this is not a political issue, and anybody can politicize it if they want, but for me, this is a human story, and this is important to share. And I really want to thank Joe for his courage and also Vennard for that relationship and for all that he did to make something like "The Knowledge" possible.
Here it is, "The Knowledge" by Joe Hickman.
It wasn't me.
Why didn't anyone tell me? Why didn't I figure it out?
How could anyone commit that horrible act against their fellow man?
That was so long ago.
It wasn't me.
Did the time era matter? Did the way of the South matter? Do the sins of our fathers matter? Do apologies matter?
It wasn't me.
How do you repent for what your family did? How can you not be ashamed?
I wish Harriet, Frederick, John had been able to live normal lives. I wish that part of my family hadn't.
It wasn't me.
The questions come. Can I stand up for what is right? Can I teach freedom to my children? Why does it run through my head? Why does it run through my heart?
It wasn't me.
But I am my family.
Now, stand up for what is right. Now, teach my children freedom. Learn from the knowledge. Teach from the knowledge, because it was me. I am my family.