It has been a difficult year in so many ways. But taking a contrary view, it is perhaps more important than ever to take some time to express gratitude. In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner shares some of the things he is grateful for this year. And yes, there's a lot to be grateful for!
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This video was recorded on December 9, 2020.
David Gardner: What do you have to be grateful for? Well, that's the way I led off last month's Rule Breaker Investing mailbag, and pretty much because it was the week of Thanksgiving here in the U.S., the final week of November. It was thematic, a way to open a podcast. But this week, this week is, in basketball terms, going strong to the hoop with gratitude.
Now, there are great reasons and benefits to gratitude, which I'll mention briefly. There is reason to the rhymes. But mostly, I ask you to indulge me for a time, pull up a chair and stay awhile, and let us be grateful together. Let us reflect on our world at the end of another year. Let us rejoice in the good things that we have, for in a year that was so full of bad, as Sam Gamgee once said, "But in the end, it's only a passing thing, the shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer."
One thing is for sure, gratitude helps us get there. Only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. A delight to have you join me during what is, for me anyway, I bet for you too, one of the busier months of the year. So thank you for sparing some time to suffer Fools gladly. This, the 9th of December, that's when this podcast comes out, typically around 4:00 p.m. Eastern, every week, weekend and week-out, thanks to my producer, Rick Engdahl.
Speaking of thanks, that is the theme of this week's podcast. It's not something I probably do enough in life. It's not something I do a lot of. I don't have an annual practice of gratitude on this podcast, maybe I will going forward, but darn it, this particular week, I wanted to give thanks. I wanted to think from a position of gratefulness and gratitude and the power of that. I was reminded of that recently when having a talk with my son, Gabe. Gabe is a well-read young lad at the age of 24. One of the books he had on his shelf in the last year or two was Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. It's by Robert Emmons. This book originally came out, I believe, in 2007.
I haven't read it, but my son, Gabe, did read it. While I was talking about it with him recently, he said the thesis of the book is the general research on just how a bit of gratitude every day is one of the few things that can increase our baseline level of happiness.
Now, maybe you, dear listener, have a practice of gratitude. Maybe you say a prayer each morning, have a meditation, or gratitude can take many different forms. Maybe you have a systematic, regular process. If you do, that's more systematic probably than I have. But as it turns out, as Robert Emmons shows through his studies -- there's a lot of positive psychology in this by the way for positive psychology fans. Well, as the inside of his book flap says, "Did you know that there is a crucial component of happiness that is often overlooked?"
In fact, I'm just going to read from the dust cover and keep going here. "In the pages of this eminently readable book, Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, draws in the first major study of the subject of gratitude of 'wanting what we have' and shows that a systematic cultivation of this underexamined emotion can measurably change people's lives." It goes on, "Readers will discover how, 1, people who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their set point for happiness by as much as 25%." That's sort of your baseline level of happiness, as much as 25%.
"Two, such increases can be sustained over a period of months, challenging the previously held notion that our set points for happiness are frozen at birth. And three, keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can result in better sleep and more energy." It closes, "Emmons also reaches beyond science to bolster the case for gratitude by weaving in the writings of philosophers, novelists, and theologians like no other book has before. Thanks!" -- that's the title of the book -- "Thanks! inspires readers to embrace gratitude and all the benefits it can bring into our lives.
Well, before I get started with my eight gratitudes this week, I want to give a couple of more quotes and I want to thank, speaking of thanking, my son, Gabe, again for sharing it out. One quote, this comes from the intro of the book. "It is gratitude that enables us to receive, and it is gratitude that motivates us to repay by returning the goodness that we have been given. In short, it is gratitude that enables us to be fully human."
Finally, the great 20th-century humanitarian physician, theologian, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer called gratitude "the secret to life." In one particular sermon, he summarized his position by stating that, "The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life, giving thanks for everything."
Well, everything sounds like too long a podcast this week, but I do have eight things queued up to give thanks for. Before I start with the first one, let's just think of the opposite of gratitude. That would be ingratitude. For me, it sounds a lot like complaining, complaining about everything. I hope you don't have anybody like this in your life. If I ever did, I don't have now, I'm happy to say, but people whose first instinct is to complain.
Whenever I have in mind those feverish, selfish little clods of ailments and grievances, I have to go back, speaking of quotes, to another of my favorite quotes, previously covered on a great quotes Rule Breaker Investing podcast. That would be the George Bernard Shaw quote from Man and Superman on living a great life. Let's do it one more time here.
This is the true joy in life. The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community. As long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life, for its own sake, life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Thank you, George Bernard Shaw, for that beautiful contrast between feverish clods of ailments and grievances complaining the world won't devote itself to making you happy, to the exact opposite, and that is gratefulness, in Schweitzer's words, for everything.
For my first gratitude, well, darn it, I want to thank you.
Yes, you, whoever you are, wherever you are, and you are many places, and you are all different. But I'm speaking to you right now. You, a member of what I would call the Rule Breaker Investing podcast community if you like. A community that I can say, with Bernard Shaw, my life belongs to. Thank you for being there.
Not just, of course, to my Rule Breaker Investing podcast listeners, although, most of all, to you, but I want to thank all Motley Fool members. Really, all Fools everywhere. People who are not yet members today but who are awakened to the beauties of questioning conventional wisdom, which is at the heart of Foolishness. So for all Fools everywhere, for that spirit of challenge, and for doing it in a fun way, which has to be the case if you're a Motley Fool. It's one thing to be a fool challenging eventual wisdom as a fool, but if you're a Motley Fool, you're bringing some humor to it, just like Shakespeare's jesters.
To every Foolish spirit everywhere, I say thank you. Because, arguably, as much as I enjoy largely talking to myself from one week to the next, occasionally with friends or special guests, I wouldn't do it just to talk to myself. I suppose I should especially thank you, if you're somebody who's shared your story, if you've shared your question, if you've written into our mailbag, any of the mailbags this year or any other year, thank you.
Some of you have written poems. I have enough good poems from Rule Breaker Investing listeners that I've considered maybe some time in 2021 just dedicating an entire week, just that week's podcast rereading the poems of Rule Breaker Investing. We've had some great ones. It would be great to share those back again. This podcast is powered a quarter of the time by you. About one week in every four its mailbag, and it's your awesome stories, poems, and questions which power this podcast, so an especial thanks to you.
All right, gratitude No. 2. This is just to the savers out there. The savers in this world. I get some really great notes about people who have gotten started investing here through The Motley Fool. We get notes written into Rule Breaker Investing, our podcast. So many people are starting the journey of investing through The Motley Fool. Not merely through this podcast or through the services I work on, but taken it all in all, millions of people through all of The Motley Fool services, whether you're using Motley Fool Live, a wonderful development in 2020, or you listen to some of our podcast, or you read our articles or all of the above, or a third thing you heard about it from a friend or you tell it out to a cousin.
Many of us have gotten started with investing... Especially in this past year, we've had a huge surge in the number of people who've got started finally investing, but you know what precedes investing is to me the hardest thing to do of all, and that's saving. It's one thing to already have capital and then ask yourself, "How can I best allocate it? Which is the stock that makes sense for me?" I was having a conversation just this morning with a friend of mine who recently joined Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and he was saying, "David, you have two new stock picks each month, you have five Best Buys Now. So that's seven ideas a month times 12 in the year and that's 84 bits of advice you're giving me. Should I buy 84 stocks? And if I didn't, which ones should I actually listen to?"
While this is off topic from my gratitude point, I'll just close the loop by saying that I said back to him, "I would say over those 84, which are the stocks that sing to you, that speak your name? Which are the companies where you know something extra more than the average person because you work in the industry or it's your hobby? Which are the ones that give you energy to learn about? Choose your own adventure through those 84 bits of advice."
Everybody is going to do it differently. Some people do, in fact, mechanically buy everything that we do, and they do quite well. But most of the rest of us are picking and choosing, so make sure what you pick and choose out of the advice you get to start investing with The Motley Fool is the advice that works for you, that makes sense for you. Don't just take what looks like a hot stock because it's in biotech and somebody told you should buy it. That doesn't sound like a great recurring recipe for success. Making it your own is the way to win.
But again, before you ever start allocating that capital, you had to save it. To me that's the most heroic thing of all, and the biggest challenge that most people have between where they are today and investing, it's saving. So darn it, gratitude to all the savers. You send me such kind notes, but you guys are the real heroes, you're the ones who finally created a life in which you could save more than you spent, and you set yourself up and your family for great success from then on.
Gratitude No. 3. Well, when I think about Motley Fool podcasts and I think about the growth of Motley Fool podcasts in 2020, I have to express great gratitude to the entire group that brings our podcasts to you every week. It started side of desk, I believe it was Chris Hill, somewhere around 2009, and a small team who started saying, "You know what? Let's do a podcast." It sounded crazy at the time. What are podcasts? A lot of people in 2009 were wondering about. Well, it has grown today to the point that we're receiving about 4.5 million downloads a month, which if you do the math, means we had over 50 million downloads of our Motley Fool podcasts in the past 12 months, and that takes a lot more than a side-of-desk effort today.
I now think about the full-time jobs that have been created by that vision, that enjoyment, that love of sharing our thoughts about money and investing, which is at the heart of the effort in 2009. We've been rocking this podcast since July 2015, so we passed our fifth-year anniversary.
I, of course, especially want to thank my producer, the very talented Rick Engdahl. A lot of people had a tough year this year, and I would say Rick, as I've gotten to know him, probably had a tougher year than most. Very modestly, he doesn't talk about it much, but earlier this year, he lost his father and then a few months after that, he lost his mother. That's something that I never would've had to experience myself. I think most of us, while we're eventually all going to lose our parents, if naturally things happen, they'll leave before we do, doesn't even always work out that way. But to lose two parents within a few months of each other is heartbreaking.
So my heart goes out to my talented producer Rick, but also my gratitude goes out to Rick, because he has been such a delight to work with, not just in 2020, but in every single year since we started, '15, '16, '17. I'm not going to read them all. I will say we've got over 300 podcasts taken all in all. Rick, thank you.
Gratitude No. 4. This one goes out to somebody who rarely listens to my podcast. That's my dad. My dad doesn't really listen to podcasts. It's not that he's not supportive. He could not have been more supportive of my brother and me as we've created The Motley Fool, our child together, the kid we didn't know were going to have together as brothers 27 years ago.
But of course, at the heart of that was the parent who had us. Our dad, really, first of all, he's the only one on earth who's known me my whole life. He's been such a positive force, in particular, unbeknownst to me as I've sometimes talked about in the past in this podcasts, unbeknownst to me at the age of zero.
When I was born, he was investing for me. He started an account for me at birth, and he funded it over the course of time, and he brilliantly invested in it, and then he turned it all over to me and Tom and our sister, each of us at the age of 18. He said in so many words, "Here you are. I've made this for you, I've taught you the lessons behind why this works, why it has worked and why it should work. Now, don't screw up." Although he never really said it that way. He did say, "This is pretty much all you're ever getting from me; anything I have left at my death" -- and fortunately, that hasn't happened now, 80-plus years later yet -- "anything left at my death will go to your kids." So go forth and multiply, he said in so many words.
Starting a portfolio for me, I am so profoundly grateful for that, Dad. Then of course, more importantly, teaching me to invest. It's one thing to give somebody a fish, it's another, as the cliche goes, to teach them to fish. But boy, have I been taught to fish by a dad who probably won't hear this because he doesn't really download podcasts on his iPhone anymore, but teaching me to invest, to trust my instincts over the course of time, certainly my instincts sometimes ran contrary to how he thought about investing.
I remember in the earliest days, I was so excited by the idea of finding stocks that could multiply that I took some silly risks probably. I once bought a penny stock early on at the age of 18. I made some poor choices in those first few years as I was figuring out how to invest. I know, I was going against his instincts then, but he let me. It's a great lesson for parents. It's hard for parents to let kids do that, but boy, is it helpful for kids, for parents to let us make our own mistakes.
Then as I started to succeed, and I was taking a Rule Breaker approach, which he had appreciation for, but wasn't his own approach, to trust my instincts, and that has been so valuable. So darn it, gratitude to my dad.
I would be greatly remiss if I didn't close at No. 4 with gratitude to our mother. Our mother died in 2008. I don't have as much opportunity to talk about her because she's not around, and she wasn't an investor, but she was an artist, a homemaker, a society woman. She was a great talent. One of the untold stories -- well, it was once told on the front page of the New York Times shortly after her death, but if you ever want to read a little bit more about it, just google the phrase "Comforts of the Carlyle." That's Carlyle as in the hotel in New York, and you'll read a beautiful story about her. Get to know her and her talents a little bit more. Thanks, Mom.
Gratitude No. 5. We get a lot of credit, Motley Fool, for picking winning stocks, and you get a lot of credit, and you should, for following along and for picking some of your own as well. We all credit each other a lot and that's a healthy thing, as I'll be covering in No. 6 very shortly, it's a healthy thing. But let's face it, any great stock needs a great company for it to be a great stock, and every great company has great people working at that company.
In particular, gratitude No. 5 to all the CEOs who have made the great companies into great stocks for us. A lot of my work is some form of bandwagoning and kind of a prurient term term: voyeurism. I don't mean it in this way, but voyeurism. We're just hanging out, watching what's working and getting to jump in and become part-owners when we recommend a stock, and you when you follow those recommendations, you are doing the same thing. You are hopping on the bandwagon based on your best read on the world on what's working. Every single day, talented people work hard for us the shareholders.
The beauty of investing, one of them anyway, is you and I don't have to do much work. We let our money do the work, and even that, the money if you're investing properly, is just sitting there. It's not that interesting to watch from one day to the next, but taken over time, it can be fascinating to watch fortunes be made. The reason that fortunes are made are the entrepreneurs that start the amazing companies that turn into the amazing stocks that you and I buy to hold for years or a generation.
For every 10-bagger, if you've ever made a 10-bagger thus far, dear Rule Breaker, you should be thanking the person who started that company and the people who work at that company every day. We don't have time on this podcast to list every one of them, but how about every 100-bagger. I've had four of them so far, Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Stock Advisor. Let's call them my four horsemen. I thank personally, in fourth place, Elon Musk.
Elon, as of this afternoon's trading, your stock is up 10,103% since I first picked it in November 2011. Ten thousand one hundred, that means it's 102-bagger. Thank you, Elon.
The only stock that's done better than Tesla in Motley Fool Rule Breakers is MercadoLibre. MercadoLibre is up 111 times in value. It was founded by Marcos Galperin, and we've gotten to know that company better and better over the years. I suspect we'll get to know it even better in years to come, because they're still in many ways just getting started. But those of us who found it at a price that is up 111 times since 11 years ago when we first bought it, we say thank you, Marcos Galperin.
Then over to my two 100-plus-baggers in Motley Fool Stock Advisor. Let's raise the bar, in fact, because each of them is actually up more than 200 times. In second place all time is Amazon.com. Amazon is up from $15.31 a share picked for Stock Advisor members in September 2002. Here we are, it's gone from $15 to over $3,000, it's up 206 times in value. Thank you, Jeff Bezos.
What would be the one stock that has outperformed even Amazon for Motley Fool Stock Advisor members? Well, this is a CEO we first got to know in the early days of The Motley Fool radio show, interviewed him a number of times. Really glad we got to know Reed Hastings so well at Netflix.
When I first recommended it in the fall of 2004, it was at a split-adjusted today, $2.33. It's up 278 times in value from late that year 2004 at a re-recommendation, in fact, at $1.85. Yeah, it lost some value and I re-recommended it and that has been the best stock in Motley Fool services history. Thank you, Reed Hastings.
So a little bit of opportunity to brag about my four horsemen, but I hope you heard the real point there, which is a true thanks to the entrepreneurs that create amazing solutions that go on to reward customers, to reward the employees who work at those companies, the partners, the suppliers, our community, the world at large.
You think about all the good work being done by capital. Think about what Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have been doing for this earth, especially through the Gates Foundation in recent years. How important that work is. It all comes from for-profit entrepreneurs that created something amazing. Thank you. Gratitude No. 5, thank you to the CEOs and the entrepreneurs.
All right, on to gratitude No. 6. Now, I hope I do this properly and delicately, because if I do this the wrong way, it's going to come off wrong. But I want to thank myself, and I want to explain something about this first.
There are lots of reasons for self-appreciation. One of the most persuasive to me is generally, people who have the healthiest lifestyle start to serve their body better once they appreciate it. That's a good example. We tend to treat well the things that we appreciate, and darn it, a lot of us have kicked ourselves silly. I see it when somebody has a bad stock, they feel bad about it, not just the stock but about themselves. There are a lot of people who have lower self-esteem, in my opinion, than I think that they should have.
That's no doubt true of some of you hearing me right now. So I want to make sure you know the benefits of appreciating yourself and so I, for No. 6, am just going to model this briefly by saying that I would like to appreciate one thing about myself here, gratitude No. 6, and that is, I appreciate the forward-thinking nature that has led me to invest differently from the world at large.
Rule Breaker Investing is all about breaking the rules, and you know how to do it if you've followed me over the years. You know the six traits of Rule Breaker companies and the six traits of the Rule Breaker investors. So you know, you have pattern recognition that you're developing around which companies to focus on, and you also have a framework that provides you an exemplar, which I tried to be an exemplar of myself, to exemplify how to invest in Rule Breaker stocks, things like rule No. 1: Let your winners run high. So I appreciate the approach that we've developed together here and that it gives us a forward-thinking nature.
You know the gains that we've seen in Rule Breaker stocks in our portfolios this year, this is true of many Motley Fool services. The advice that we're giving is all about thinking backward from the future and ask what is probably going to win, what's probably going to work? I always say "probably" because we just don't know, and I've picked more bad stocks than anybody in Motley Fool history. But the key is, we think ahead of time about, as Wayne Gretzky once said, where the puck is going, and we skate to where we think it's going with our money as opposed to where it is right now. In a year in which everything was accelerated, where gains for digital businesses that would've taken three years as the world converted over to its digital solution, in some cases, it's taken 3 to 9 months, and we've seen gains in our stocks. We had a wonderful moment.
I'm going to close gratitude 6 with this week, just earlier this week in fact, it was on Monday of this week. I have now picked 27 five-stock samplers over the course of the history of this podcast. I hope a lot of you have been with me through those.
You might remember what I was saying at the time. You know for sure that I picked the five stocks. I put them in a themed sampler, and we start scoring them from that very day forward. Every year after -- I want to appreciate this about myself as well -- I check back in with it. Whether it's doing well or not. We check back and see how they're doing.
I also want to appreciate this magical moment which happened on Monday of this week. Across the 27 samplers we've done in Rule Breaker Investing history, 24 of them are beating the market. That is a hit rate of 89%. That's like in baseball batting .890. I would never expect to bat anywhere close to .890, but that's been outstanding. The real magical moment was that of the 135 stocks, yeah, 5 times 27, of the 135 stocks picked for five plus years in those samplers, all of them taken together just passed triple digits. They just jumped over 100% for their average gain for each of those picks.
The 135 picks given freely through this podcast across 27 amusing themes, sometimes gunslinging one of them like, how about just five stocks that start with the letter M or T? Other times very thoughtfully thinking about what are the core values of America, well, here are five stocks for America, or for the coronavirus. So from the serious to the silly and everything in between, all 135 of those stocks, based on forward thinking, now average over 100% gain. And I can only tell you, I could never have dreamed that anything like that would happen, and I doubt I, possibly anybody else, will ever do that again. It has been a remarkable five years for the market, but especially for the Rule Breaker Investing approach. I appreciate that. This is the only time you're going to hear me say this on this podcast. Thank you, me.
Gratitude No. 7, and this one goes out to another family member of mine and that would be, I hope you know him well, I hope you love him well, my brother Tom. My brother Tom, thank you for a great year. This has been in so many ways, such an odd and difficult experience for lots of different reasons. For you, for me, for all of our employees, for everybody hearing me right now, we're all still trying to figure out a pandemic of all things as we enter 2021. But I think over the course of this year, the great stock picks that you've made and been rewarded for, Tom, thinking about stocks like Zoom, Appian, just outstanding performers driven by teams that do great things in this world, that really do add value to the world, that throw off positive effects for the things they do.
Think about how Zoom is used to replace church this year. In some cases, Zoom has knitted families together that wouldn't have seen each other otherwise. I've sometimes wondered what it must have been like in the pandemic in the year 1918 without the internet, how truly isolated everybody must have felt. Well, Tom has done a great job identifying companies that benefit from that, and of course, he picked these stocks before the pandemic showed up. We're just getting and reaping the returns of them now.
I also think, Tom, of Motley Fool Live. You challenged our company in March of this year: "Hey, what if we started to do live programming? Basically, TV programming from a new channel. We'll use Zoom for it as a channel, but we'll put it up on our website, like Motley Fool the TV show." Every single day since, with the exception of just a couple of holidays, understandably, we have produced hours and hours of live content for our members. A lot of people hearing me right now love Motley Fool Live, and some of you who are not yet Motley Fool members, a great reason to become a member in 2021 is Motley Fool Live. It can be a little addictive. Beware. I've spent a lot of hours watching friends, fellow analysts, talented authors, CEOs, on Motley Fool Live. Tom, thank you for that ingenious invention.
Then finally, thanks for looking after the health of our employees. We were one of the first companies in the Washington, D.C., area to close. Probably one of the earliest companies in the nation to close our offices, full stop, early March in advance of what at the time seemed a nuisance and ended up becoming a worldwide pandemic and something that, darn it, should have been taken and was seriously from day one.
Tom, you positioned our company to do that by decreeing as our CEO, you said, "We're all working from home." You also said we'll be among the first to close. You've also, since said that we'll be among the last to reopen. Motley Fool headquarters will not be reopening until at least August of this coming year. But from that space of March this year to August of next year, we have experienced some of the most outstanding growth in our company's history, and that is due to you and your vision. Thank you, Tom Gardner.
Finally, gratitude No. 8. Now, I don't want to say "best for last," because every one of our first seven gratitudes is heartfelt and they don't compete with each other. Being grateful for everything, along with Schweitzer, I think is the right approach. But finally, how can I not, although she's too modest to ever want or need me saying anything in public, which is why I so infrequently mention her. How can I not close out by thanking my wife?
We're a private family. I was raised to be a private person. We we raised our kids the same, but I can't do a gratitude podcast thinking about this year or, frankly, any other of the past 30 years, the length of our marriage so far, or the five years we dated beforehand, without saying thank you to my dearest friend, my wife, Margaret. We met as fellow Morehead-Cain scholars at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I still remember her that first weekend, freshman year thinking, she laughs at my jokes. Well, the one who laughed at my jokes began dating me sophomore year.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered." So 30-plus years and three grown children later, Margaret is and will always be the greatest joy of my life here on earth and the person here for whom I have the most gratitude.
Now the Morehead scholarship is given for leadership; that's what the Morehead awards, and without being a particularly public persona, Margaret got better grades than me in college. She went on to run the boards of our schools, oversees the multimillion-dollar mission giving budgets at our church, volunteers in hundreds of ways, and never asks for credit. She surrounds all of us with beauty every day, both her own and the gardens at home she creates, especially with her award-winning flower designs -- oh, and grow a family together too. Making sacrifices too innumerable for me to count: support, nurture, love.
What more can I say? The list goes on and on, but of course, there wouldn't ever be time to say it. Anyway, this is all I pretty much ever would say here on my podcast. Thank you Margaret. She is my everything.