On this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, we rewind the podcast and all that's happened in 2020. We've had authors, entrepreneurs, advisors, and leaders. It's time to revisit not just the stories but many of the lessons and the guests as well. It's a rule-breaking year in review!
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.
10 stocks we like better than Walmart
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have an investing tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*
David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Walmart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.
Stock Advisor returns as of 2/1/20
This video was recorded on December 15, 2020.
David Gardner: This year has been one for the ages. Frequently contrary to expectations, sometimes to all expectations. Sadness, surprises, a lot of growth, transformations, new chapters. What a year! And I'm only just talking about this podcast.
For the rest of the world, the 99.999% of planet Earth that has nothing to do with Rule Breaker Investing, well, 2020 will be etched on our individual and collective memory for some time. History books will have a field day latching on to this year. We've muddled through sometimes heroically and sometimes pathetically, and boy, did the stock market provide a truly incredible backdrop. We're a sideshow.
If you were invested in the companies we've been talking about here for five years or on the Motley Fool Rule Breaker service for 16 years, or for the Motley Fool writ large, 27 years, if you've owned these kinds of companies, you've likely had an incredible investing year -- but with a mask on, I hope, having washed your darn hands and ever trying to ensure your older relations are kept safe. It has been one for the ages.
So I thought, why not put together a year-end extravaganza? You deserve it. We deserve it. Why not look back at our best of 2020? Reflect for a few minutes on each of them, and even better, why not have cameo appearances from the favorite voices that we got to know this year? Tie this whole thing up in a bow? Why not? Only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to this, possibly the most special edition of Rule Breaker Investing this year. Because we're doing it for the first time, our Besties. It's our Besties of 2020. I've identified 10 of my favorite podcasts that we brought to you this year. These are not ordered, these are not ranked in any way, shape, or form. But looking back and thinking through the roster of the 50 podcasts we've done so far this year, I thought, what are 10 that stand out to me, probably to you based on what I heard through Mailbag, and why not talk briefly about them and, when possible, have some voices returned to share some reflections both about the year that was and the year that will be?
Now again, these are not ranked, and of the 40 podcasts that are not included here, I wouldn't want anybody to think that I didn't think they were really great too. We have some authors I'm bringing in this week, but it doesn't mean that the other Authors in August I didn't think were spectacular. I did. But you can only fit so much in a Besties of 2020, and this is our first crack at it after all, but I've felt like this is such a special year, darn it. You deserve it. As I said at the top, we deserve it.
Now, before I get started, I want to mention next week's podcast, and that's the Market Cap Game Show. I am excited to be welcoming our returning champion, Maria Gallagher, and a past multi-champion, Emily Flippen. Maria and Emily will be competing with you and me on the Market Cap Game Show next week, our second to last podcast of the year.
But let me, in particular, mention our last podcast of the year, which is of course our mailbag. The reason I'm underlining that is because we're taping both of those podcasts I just mentioned this week. That way, Rick and I can enjoy our holidays and you can too, knowing that we're bringing you awesome podcasts to close the year, but we're doing them ahead of time, thus with the mailbag. If you would like to be featured on the year-end mailbag, you need to write to us right away. We are recording that this Friday afternoon, so we'll need to hear from you today or tomorrow right immediately. If you're interested, the email address is [email protected]. Of course, you can also tweet us @RBIpodcast.
So to summarize, next week, the Market Cap Game Show, the week after the year-end mailbag, but we need to hear from you right away if you'd like to be considered for this mailbag, which records Friday.
Well, I have a guest coming on for the fourth one. I'll be highlighting our first cameo on the Besties of 2020, but the first three, I can just present to you myself, because as I thought back on what were three podcasts where I was the primary voice, therefore, I don't need to have somebody else come on and cameo. Which ones did I enjoy most doing? I want to highlight two to start with.
The first one is your annual birthday gift to me, and that was What You've Learned From David Gardner. In this case, it was Volume 2 that appeared on May 20th of this year for anybody who wants to go back and listen to it. Part of doing the Besties of 2020 is to encourage you, if you didn't hear any of these 10 podcasts, in fact, to go back and listen. The reason I'd like to highlight this one is, this is probably annually the best summary. If you are new to Rule Breakers, either as an investor or a thinker, as a rule-breaking business person, if you aspire to break the rules in your own profession or industry, of course, break the rules in the best way, then it's not a bad short course simply to go to the "What you've learned from David Gardner" each year, where I read back what you've learned from me.
A lot of key themes emerged. Critical teams like winners win, for example, that would be one of them, spoiler alert. But there are about 10 or so lessons that I love sharing each year, and they come from your voices, from you to me in terms of what you've learned. So it is, as I said, your annual birthday gift to me. I really appreciate that every year. Thank you for that episode every year, and that was one of my favorites of 2020.
Now, one other one that I did, this is much more recent. This was November 18th, so just last month, the Losing to Win podcast. A really important concept, especially if you're going to be a Rule Breaker investor. Especially if I'm rewiring how you think about investing when you come to Rule Breakers because we intentionally go against the conventional wisdom that most of the rest of the world operates on. It can be really helpful to be reminded of the importance of losing. In my case, losing constantly. And to talk about that and be transparent about that in order to recognize that. Like most good venture capitalists, we're going to lose more often than we win. But when we win, we win big. And so I have both the numbers to share with you. Some really eye-opening numbers from a month ago, but of course, the lessons underneath those numbers as well. So the second one I'm highlighting here, one of my favorite 10 of the year was that Losing to Win podcast, November 18th.
Then before I clear the way for Chris Hill, who's about to show up in just a couple of minutes, I want to mention a third Bestie of 2020. This one jumped out to me, I hope you too. The day was April Fool's Day. That's always a special day every year. James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits, joined this podcast on April Fool's Day. Now, I had hoped to have James make a five-minute cameo like many of my other guest stars this week, but James is on paternity leave and God bless him. I hope it all goes really well. James, I had so much fun with you on this podcast, having read and admired your book, Atomic Habits. I love books about creating habits and about productivity and how we can live better from one day to the next. It doesn't matter what culture you're from, how rich or poor you are, where you come from. If you're able to read, I think it's great to read toward self-improvement, toward betterment, and books like Atomic Habits, which here's the subtitle of the book. This is from memory: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.
Often, in nonfiction books, it's that subtitle that tells you the real guts of the book and makes tiny changes in how you behave from one day to next. Tiny changes like take one extra step on your walk tomorrow and then one extra step the day after. Tiny changes roll up -- and don't we know this as investors with compounding returns -- roll up into amazing results, so James Clear. My one regret about that particular podcast is I feel as if we didn't have the best audio, so at different points, James sounds like he's talking from the bottom of a well, but perhaps that adds a sense of resonance and gravitas to his voice and what he brought. But that was a wonderful hour, and I highly recommend that April 1st podcast, which was entitled James Clear and Atomic Habits, a Bestie of 2020.
Now, to our fourth Bestie of the year, and this is the day the market crashed. It came out on January 15th, right at the top of 2020. In addition to many other roles and responsibilities that he has had and has at the Fool, Chris Hill started our podcast division with Motley Fool Money and Market Foolery, which he continues to host more than a decade later. Now, Chris, I have flagged the day the market crashed as a best of 2020, mimicking what Orson Welles once did with War of the Worlds. We did a live-to-tape recording of a simulated, it was completely made up market crash. It was to help our listeners acquire a better mindset. The episode, as I mentioned, January 15th of this year. Two months later, history will show the market did crash 35% in 32 days.
So for each of these, when I have a guest, I'm giving an intro of them which I've done. I'm saying why it was a Bestie and then I want to say thank you to each guest and then welcome them on. So Chris, thank you. For what, for many people, they thought it was our most remarkable Rule Breaker Investing podcasts this year, truly a game changer for many a Fool's mentality and portfolio. Numerous are the notes, they continue to flood in on Twitter months later from people who say, having us do a podcast simulating a market crash in January truly prepared them to make great decisions when the market really did come a cropper in March. Chris, what's one reflection you have now about that podcast we did together?
Chris Hill: I'm so gratified that people responded the way that they did. Because I know that you and I were excited about the possibility of doing an episode like this, and to see it play out the way it did and the response from listeners is incredibly gratifying. I think to the extent that we did anything right -- because I went back and listened to the episode recently -- I think we really nailed the fact that when the market is tanking like this, the volume of news about investing, about individual companies, about industries goes up dramatically, and if you have 20 stocks in your portfolio and maybe 10 more on your watch list and you have news alerts because you're interested in following the company. Guess what? You're getting exponentially more news alerts, because it's not just the quarterly earnings report. As we saw this spring, it's companies coming out of the blue and saying, "We're suspending our dividend. We're laying people off. We're closing stores. We're pausing our buyback program." I think that the frenetic pace of that episode -- because I sound like I've consumed several quarts of coffee. I think that speaks to the very real thing that happens these days, which is that there's so much news coming in so quickly. It can be a little dizzying.
David Gardner: Thank you for that, Chris, the effort that you teamed up with some Fool analysts who provided some of our made-up news stories. I'm not going to say fake news, because that has its own meeting here in 2020, but are made-up stories in order to stimulate what it would feel like, what it will feel like. This will happen in the future. Markets drop; that's part of what they do. It was a great team effort.
I do think, Chris, that of all the podcasts done this year, this one might be the one that people go back to three, or seven, or 17 years from now and relisten to, because it's the kind of thing that helped set your mind. You can be at ease once you've trained your mind on being willing to accept the consequences of losing money, which is part of investing, even in a dramatic quick way, can really help you during the times when they actually show up, so we'll see.
For each of my cameos, I basically have two questions for them. I already asked the first of Chris -- reflect back on what we did together -- but here's my closing one. Chris, what's a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for the year 2021?
Hill: I'm not going to make a prediction, because 2020 has blown up so many predictions that we had. I think my wish for myself and for anyone listening is to find one new skill set when it comes to investing. What I mean by that is, we all have our circles of competence. We all have the things that we gravitate toward. One of my goals as an investor in 2021 is to find one additional tool that I can get good at and keep that in my toolkit. Because I've gotten better as an investor over the years, but I hope to improve even more in 2021 and beyond.
David Gardner: Chris, thank you so much for your work. I love that. I'll be inspired by that myself and to think that we're at about the 50 million download mark for Motley Fool podcasts and you got it all started more than a decade ago, really remarkable. Thank you so much for joining with me not just on the day the market crashed. Then, the actual days that we spent together when the market was crashing, but of course, on this year-end extravaganza as well. Chris, Fool on!
Hill: Fool on, David.
Gardner: Well, the Besties and our cameo appearances continue now. This next guest, and this Bestie is not necessarily one of the podcasts done on this podcast this year. No, this is something called an honorable mention, if you will, but let me start with my special introduction. Tom Gardner is the CEO of The Motley Fool. Tom is a five-tool athlete -- that's a metaphor drawn from baseball describing the best players who could do all five of these: well, hit for average, hit for power, run fast, and No. 5, field well. Well, Tom can run an organization as CEO, while two, picking stocks. Three, he's a learning machine. Four, he's an Internet personality, and five, he's a man of character.
So why Motley Fool Live as a Bestie of 2020? Well, I simply cannot put together a best of 2020 list for this podcast without flagging again one of the great innovations of the year at The Motley Fool. That would be something I've plugged endlessly here on this podcast, and such a great reason to become a Fool member on its own just for this: Motley Fool Live. The equivalent of a new TV channel that sits at live.fool.com for our members from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern every weekday, 10 more hours of programming on weekends. For every day, since the pandemic began, we have filled up live.fool.com with member-focused sessions on investing mindset, deep dives on companies, interviews with CEOs and authors, and lots of fun besides.
So I say thank you to each of my guests this week. For anyone listening to last week's podcast, they already heard my extended gratitude to my brother, Tom, not just for a great year for our company, for making all Fools everywhere smarter, happier, and richer, but also specifically for his invention, the creation of Motley Fool Live.
Tom, during the dark time for the markets and for the pandemic earlier this year, thank you for challenging our organization to rise, to meet our members' needs through live, empathetic, interactive advice, which continues through to this day and well beyond. Tom, welcome.
Tom Gardner: Oh, Dave, thank you. And it's been such a traumatic year in so many ways, and it's called on all of us to try and think about ways that we need to work together and different formats, and Motley Fool Live is just one of the number of things that we have at the Motley Fool over the last nine months that I think have helped us move closer to our members, understanding where everyone is coming from as they make investments. We all have different backgrounds, different capital amounts in our portfolio, different temperaments, different time horizons, and so really making sure that we are a company that you can access 24/7 and that we're here to help you live a smarter, happier, and richer life and invest better forever. So thank you for the Bestie.
David Gardner: You bet. Now, Tom --
Tom Gardner: I mean, honorable mention, all right. Next year --
David Gardner: You know, honorable mentions usually mean "also ran," you didn't win. This one is not that. This is mentioning with honor something that has been awesome. Tom, what is one reflection you have now about standing up Motley Fool Live?
Tom Gardner: Well, first of all, I think when you actually look inside of our company and all the communication tools that we use, there are a number of people that had ideas similar to it, so I don't think it's the idea. Sam Barker, for example, wrote up a great note in our Motley Fool Slack channel about this idea a while ago. I think what's really been amazing is to see Shannon Jones and Dylan Lewis and Mac Greer and so many Fools come together behind the scenes and on camera to go live eight hours a day.
Again, I think the world needs a platform, a financial investment resource and a business resource to check in throughout the day if you have a crisis or you want to just learn more, you want to make better decisions about your financial life. Again, we didn't get this education in school, most of us, and so The Motley Fool is hard at work to try and make this always on and available to learn and succeed.
David Gardner: Thank you, Tom. So well put and totally agreed. Tom, before I let you go, what's a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Tom Gardner: I think my wish is that we have more and more people in the world learn about the Rule Breaker investment methodology. I know that's easy to say here in this podcast, but it's such a transformative way to think about investing, it's something that every family member can have some access to.
And our dream, Dave, we showed this dream, 27 years old, to have everyone in the U.S. around the world own shares of one company and get a position to be able to get out of debt and be able to save and get some capital in there. To be a shareholder in one business, because we can learn so much about the world together. And sometimes, you have somebody like Dave that unlocks Amazon early on and never sells, or rarely sells. Like Netflix and so many great companies.
So my wish is that a year from now, more and more people feel connected to capitalism and to conscious capitalism and see that they have a part and a place in it and that they can gain value in their life because of it. So I love this podcast and all that you're trying to do with Rule Breaker Investing.
David Gardner: Well, thank you so much, Tom. I really appreciate you saying that. We're not going to see each other at Christmas this year, we're on opposite coasts, and there's not a lot of travel. So Tom, I'll just say right here, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, happy Fool Year 2021.
Tom Gardner: Right back at you and your family, Dave. Fool on!
David Gardner: Well, all right. Our fifth podcast that keeps coming back to me that happened this year happened in August. In fact, it was August 19th of 2020, Amy Castoro, president of the Williams Group, came and talked about transitioning family wealth. Now, Amy is a leading expert on preparing heirs. She's the co-author of the second edition of the Preparing Heirs book, which is entitled Bridging Generations. She works with families to align members for a successful wealth transition. She helps these families address the issues that often can derail family harmony and their ability to communicate honestly with each other. Why did this one keep coming back to me and earn a Bestie of 2020? Well, for me, what jumped out about our podcast on August 19th of this year, in addition to it having been I think Amy's wedding anniversary that day?
Amy Castoro: It is.
David Gardner: There again the confirmation, but it's that we work so hard, don't we, as fellow Fools to save money, to invest it over the course of our lives, and to create a better future for our families, but if you don't fully think that through in terms of how to transition the wealth that you've created well to your family, doing it right, you can actually do the opposite of what you've intended. You might even mess things up for your descendants. So Amy and I went through a 10-point checklist that if you missed it, you should download that podcast right away and listen to it and score yourself and learn.
Amy, I want to thank you for writing books and doing professional work that truly help families align together to stay in relationship and, via their family wealth, add value to their lives and of course, to the world at large. It's quiet, deeply important work. Welcome.
Castoro: Thank you, David. I'm truly honored to have this platform to be able to get this message out. So thank you.
David Gardner: You're very welcome. Thank you. Amy, as I've asked my previous guests, what's one reflection that you have now about that podcast that we did together?
Castoro: I think we did a great job, David, in bringing up those 10 key questions, because even if families start asking themselves just a few of those questions, we can start to reverse that shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves paradigm. It's so much easier to have those conversations while you're on this side of the daisies. So if we get anybody moving that conversation forward and keeping a family together, it was worth it.
David Gardner: Thank you, Amy, so true. I'm going to rock back a statistic that, of course, you lead with, it's so core to your work. But again, for anybody who didn't hear us talk in August, they might not realize, this is global, this is not just one nation or one subculture, typically, 70% of all wealth transitions from one generation to the next fail. There are many reasons for that, and what failure looks like is different from one to the next, but only 1 in 3 actually succeed. So I want to make sure that anybody who didn't already know that knows that and is inspired to ask why to make better decisions. Not everybody has huge wealth or even any wealth. Many people have no wealth to transition, but so many listeners of this podcast are dreaming about creating that kind of wealth and doing it right, closing it out as they hand it on to those who come after, passing the torch forward in a way that keeps that torch burning. Amy, before I let you go, what's your wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Castoro: Do you know what surfaced for me through this pandemic? That more and more of the next generation are starting to think out of the box. So my wish is that more principals, family leaders, will start to really listen to the next generation in ways that let their innovation shine. They are given a clean slate with the way the pandemic has changed so many things and there's a lot of interesting things coming out of their perspective, out of the situation that will give us a whole new future, lots of innovative opportunities there. That's my wish.
David Gardner: Thank you, Amy. That is a wonderful wish. It reminds me again of another element of your work, where traditionally, we all imagine that the patriarch and matriarch of the family make the top-down decisions and tell everybody how the wealth is going to be used, but your work comes from the bottom up. It's an organic grassroots approach to hear from all voices, not just those giving but those receiving, so everybody is included, and that's part of the alignment that leads to success. I wish for that for all of us, in many aspects of our lives, not just wealth and better alignment in 2021. Amy Castoro, thanks for joining us.
Castoro: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. May you have a wonderful 2021.
David Gardner: Well, the guest star parade continues and the memorable podcasts of 2020 for Rule Breaker Investing, that list continues. Now, I'm hitting No. 6 again. A reminder, these are not ranked in any way, shape, or form, this is just mainly, it's actually how our guests could sign up what time of day made the most sense for them as we put the schedule together. Near and dear to my heart, probably one of my three favorite podcasts that I did this year was with Vennard Wright. It was called Uncomfortable Conversations Volume 1 and included our friends Dan Simons, Stephen Baldi, Vennard Wright, and me.
Vennard Wright first came to my attention when we both joined the class of 2019 of Leadership Greater Washington, which is an organization that for more than 30 years has graduated one-year classes composed of leaders all across the Greater Washington, D.C. area, whether from business, government, not-for-profit, education, organizations of all kinds, a wonderful mosaic of different leaders.
Now, Vennard is a chief technology officer by trade, having served in that capacity both in the private and public sector. Today, he's president for Wave Welcome, which focuses on automation and data analytics for companies looking forward to becoming more efficient.
So why did this podcast, Uncomfortable Conversations Volume 1, jump out to me as one of the Besties of 2020? Well, I think it's pretty clear. If you'd told me at the start of this year that I would be doing a podcast with some friends, old and new, about racial injustice, systemic injustice, and these other topics, I would've said, "Well, that's an interesting topic. I don't know much about it. By the way, we're an investing podcast," I think I would've said at the start of the year. But boy, did it make an awful lot of sense by the time July 15th rolled around, which is just about the midpoint of 2020, to have that conversation.
I want to thank Vennard, in particular, because he introduced me to a concept called "black tax," and if you've never heard of the black tax, join the group. I hadn't until he spoke about it so eloquently in that conversation on July 15th and laid out his own perspective. So I want to thank Vennard, because it's one part gratitude and one part courage to come on, in your case, from the private sector, Vennard, just sharing your perspective, an eye opener for me personally. This is a podcast that I will relisten to in the years ahead and be reminded of where we were back then, and I hope the progress that we will have made from then until whenever we check in years from now. Vennard, welcome.
Vennard Wright: Thank you, David. I must say that it was very cathartic for me to be able to have that conversation with you. No. 1, the fact that you are a friend, and No. 2, the fact that you are so well respected, so just the opportunity to really be able to share that message with your audience.
In terms of the message that I'd like to put across and what I got out of that conversation is really the fact that I should be grateful that I was in position to even pay a black tax, because so many people aren't. Since that conversation, I really have been very reflective based on the fact that I have so much. I have you as a friend, I have my wife Janelle, I have four amazing children, I've had an incredible career. Those are things that so many people around me, so many people that look like me, are not fortunate to have. The fact that I'm able to pay a black tax means that I am blessed. That is something that I made a point of focusing on from that point forward.
David Gardner: That is a beautiful statement. Thank you very much, Vennard, for saying that. What I love about that conversation we all had together is that all of us come from different places, and even if you look the same as somebody else, you have a different background. I mean, we all are unique individuals, but the more we can string our uniqueness together, interthread it with others, and become part of each other's lives, that's something that I think Leadership Greater Washington for you and for me did, Vennard, but we wish that for the world. So to have two black guys and two white guys just talking it out in a raw, vulnerable way, in a way that helped models for others the right way to do it.
One thing I remember Stephen Baldi saying in that conversation is, "We all have at least one important circle, and that's our circle of influence." It may not be big, it might just be your family or your community or your church or whatever, but that is a circle of influence. It's a concentric circle outside of you that you can influence, and so that's powerful, and make use of that, and influence for good. Vennard, that's exactly what you've been doing on this podcast.
Wright: Absolutely. I appreciate that, David. It's a very good point that you make. Something I've been trying to do is to make sure that the people who are around me also realize that they have a lot to be grateful for, that they are carrying that message forward and realizing that there are a lot of people who have more than we do and we tend to focus on that, but you should also focus on the fact that you have so much more than everyone else. I think that a lot of times we are tempted to sink down into the pit of despair and look at how ugly the world is, but if we open our eyes and practice gratitude, the world is a beautiful place and we can make it more so by just making sure that the people around us feel the same way we do.
David Gardner: I intentionally just left an extra second or two in there for silence because I really hope that people heard that and feel that, especially this time of year, especially this year.
Vennard, before I let you go, what's a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Wright: I have a prediction that 2021 is going to be an amazing year, just based on the fact that there are so many major things that are happening. We have vaccines that are being rolled out, so eventually we'll be able to get out of the house and break bread together. Also, we have a new administration that really is committed to mending the country and making sure that we get past the differences that we have right now. Also, just the fact that we're above ground means that there's still potential for us doing great things, and I'm very optimistic about the next year. And that's my prediction that it is going to be a good year.
David Gardner: Thank you, Vennard Wright, and I look forward to spending a portion of my time in this upcoming year in your presence, that we won't just be Zooming all year long. Vennard Wright, thank you for joining me once again on Rule Breaker Investing.
Wright: Thank you, David.
David Gardner: Well, from Uncomfortable Conversations, we next move toward the pandemic, which has dominated the year 2020. Thinking back on my favorite podcasts of this year, one of them certainly was with Dr. Jeremy Brown. The date was August 12th, Authors in August, Jeremy Brown on influenza and the COVID.
Jeremy Brown trained at University College School of Medicine in London. He completed his residency in emergency medicine in Boston. He was the research director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University before he moved on to the National Institutes of Health, where he now directs the Office of Emergency Care Research. His opinion pieces have been published in New York Times, The Washington Post. He's written for Discover magazine, but more important personally to me, he wrote a book called Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure The Deadliest Disease in History and joined my book club to present that.
It was a year and a half ago, which is only 18 months until you start to think, is that forever ago, because the world seems so different? Well, it was a delight for me to welcome Jeremy and to talk about his book, Influenza, looking back at 1918, but how could we not this August further reflect on the year 2020, and maybe we'll get to hear a little bit from 2021 before he exits. But before I talk about it actually, let me welcome him on. Jeremy, welcome.
Jeremy Brown: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be back.
David Gardner: I thanked each of my guests. I want to thank you in particular for your accessibility and your humility. You have made yourself available, not just on my podcast. You've been on Motley Fool Live a number of times this year, among many other appearances, of course. I just know the Motley Fool part of it mainly.
Jeremy, off the air, you and I were talking about how you said scientists are just trying to be a little less wrong than everyone else. It's from that place of humility that I think every good professional works, but especially perhaps in the medical discipline in the year 2020, that seems a particularly good orientation. So thank you for your accessibility, for making yourself vulnerable to all of us, for being willing to talk about the future and sometimes be right or wrong and not get too hung up on that. Jeremy Brown, great to have you back on Rule Breaker Investing.
Brown: Thank you so much. As we were chatting just before, just like investment advice that we hope is right, but we're trying to give people good advice. I think in medicine as well. We really have to remember that the medicine that we practice today and the science that we are studying today, in all aspects of science, whether it's astronomy or biology or zoology or physics, we're trying to be a little less wrong. We're trying to make the world a little bit more understandable without any claim that this is the way, this is the light, this is the truth. I think that is humility and that is a stance a lot of scientists share and I'm very hopeful that with that stance, things will indeed continue to improve.
David Gardner: Thank you. It has to be considered remarkable that actual vaccines have shown up basically within the same calendar year, Dr. Brown, that we identified a major problem. Is that precedented?
Brown: I think it's unprecedented. Let's just go back. I remember when I think we were talking about this, I offered two perspectives. I said, if you were a betting person, you would look at how long it takes a vaccine to go through the steps and how many of them fail, and you would simply say, we doubt that any of these will succeed, simply on the lore of what vaccines do over time. In the same way, I suppose that if a share had not done terribly well for years and years and years, you might expect that to remain unless something [...] . Here's the thing, something did change.
Of course, what's changed was that we weren't doing things the old way. No. 1, we were putting a great deal of time and effort. It was a worldwide effort to find a vaccine. No. 2, we have tools that were available to the scientists that were absolutely unprecedented and unimaginable even only a few years ago. So we were not starting from the very beginning, we were starting with many things at our disposal. So the suggestion that, well, the vaccine is going to fail because most do turned out thankfully to be wrong.
David Gardner: It is remarkable. You are living this every day, this has been your professional life, you have a perspective that the rest of us are just wondering what it is, because we don't have the history or background to be able to say something like that.
Jeremy, I've been asking my cameo guest stars here to reflect back on the podcasts we did together, but the world is so different from just August, I'm tempted to just throw that one out and ask you, what do you think about where we are now? I'm going to ask you my other question about 2021 in a sec, but how can you be helping us look forward a little bit at 2021 in coronavirus?
Brown: Well, I think two things. First of all, I am one of the majority, I suppose, of families in the United States that has personally not been touched by deaths from coronavirus, but it doesn't mean I didn't know people who passed. But nobody in my immediate family circle or my immediate circle of friends. That's not true, of course, for so many people in this country and throughout the world. While I'm extremely optimistic, and we'll come to that in a second, well, I think all of us who have not personally suffered a loss have to pause and reflect and spend a moment for those who have. It has been a devastating year, and that needs to be front and center of our thoughts as we continue and frame this conversation. I and my family are thankful that we survived unscathed, but many didn't.
Looking optimistically, I think, though, as you pointed out, things are so different from when we spoke in August until today. As we said, the vaccine has been developed at an unprecedented rate, speed. There's a lot more work to do; everybody needs to realize that. We're not out of the woods yet, and we still need those very, very important basic steps: handwashing and wearing masks. I cannot emphasize that enough. But there is also this light, I believe, at the end of the tunnel that's the long incoming train. I think we are closer to the end than we are to the beginning.
I've been thinking a lot about framing this in terms of something that's going to happen on December 21st. Now, December 21st this year is not only the shortest day of the year, it's the day of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. What this simply means, for those of you who have not been reading about this, what this simply means is if you look up in the night sky here in the United States, if you look up in the night sky shortly after sunset in the Southwest, you will see two dots of light, one is Saturn, one is Jupiter, and they're moving closer, and closer and closer together until, just a few days from now, December 21st, they will appear almost as one.
The two planets have not been seen this close in this thing called a conjunction since about 1623. I was thinking about that, because when you look at history, and I wrote about this in my book on influenza, the stars and planets are always thought to influence what happened on Earth. The word "influenza" comes from the Latin and Italian, "influentia," meaning influence, and the disease, influenza, was thought to be caused by the astral circumstances by where the planets were and indeed, by the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that caused terrible things to happen here on Earth. We still have this word, "influenza," meaning influence even though of course we know that it's nothing to do with Saturn and Jupiter, but it is indeed to do with a tiny virus that we discovered really only half a century ago.
So we now have this light in the sky that I really encourage everybody to step out and look over the next few days until, as I said, on December 21st, there will be a single point of light almost. No, this is not the heralding of some catastrophe, but I think it's a light in the sky that I think is emblematic of the good things that are yet to come. As we recall, this was celebrating the last few days of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. We have Christmas coming, Kwanzaa coming, and just good family time coming, whether or not you celebrate any or none of these festivals. But it's worth looking up in the sky, seeing that amazing point of light, and just saying, maybe that is the light of better things to come, a new start, the vaccine is here, and we can hopefully look at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror of the year 2020 and look forward to much better things in the year to come.
David Gardner: Thank you for that. That's something that speaks to all of us everywhere and for all time. Jeremy, thank you for that. My parting question then for you: What is a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Brown: Well, I think in one of the interviews that I had given over the last year, I was hopeful that in the background of all the political unrest that we've had in this country, in the United States, that the virus would bring us together as a people. I hoped that it would, and I was entirely wrong about that, I think.
Again, there are deep pockets and millions of people for whom that is true. We've heard wonderful things happen of neighbors caring for neighbors, of people really looking out for one another, but this has been against a violent and ugly backdrop. I look forward to thinking perhaps not as the virus being able to unite us but the lessons now of the virus being able to unite us. Have we learned from this? Are we going to be able to develop a system of healthcare in this country that is fair and equitable to everybody? Are we going to be able to learn the lessons of this terrible vaccine, and work with humility with nature instead of thinking that we can always conquer it?
David Gardner: Very well put. It makes me wonder in closing, Jeremy, whether you've got a sequel in you at some point, because there was 1918 and a worldwide pandemic, and you've just lived through it, still are and through one now. Are you expecting to write a follow-up?
Brown: I am. I've got a couple of ideas. Let's just say that the publishing world is rather full of proposals right now for books on COVID and lessons from the histories of. So let's see. For now, my work at the National Institute of Health is keeping me, thankfully, very busy. Like everybody else. I'm hoping to get that call that it's my time to roll my sleeves up to get the vaccine and to start the next phase in the post COVID world. I really hope it will be the story of '21, the post-COVID world.
David Gardner: Wonderful. Well, Jeremy Brown, thank you again for joining us on this guest star cameo appearance on Rule Breaker Investing. A delight. Happy New Year to you in yours, and Fool on!
Brown: You are very welcome. Fool on to you and do take care!
David Gardner: From the worlds of healthcare in some ways, right into the world of healthcare. Because another Bestie 2020 for me and I heard this back from many of you was from somebody else who helps us think about our health. But in this case, our mental health. Shirzad Chamine is the author of The New York Times best-selling book, Positive Intelligence. He's been the CEO of the largest coach training organization in the world, he's trained faculty at Stanford and Yale. He lectures on positive intelligence at Stanford University. I am sorry to say that Shirzad was unable to join us this week, but that in no way diminishes my appreciation for his contribution to this podcast.
The podcast, by the way, October 21st of this year, Positive Intelligence with Shirzad Chamine. The reason this jumped out to me, in particular, I remember Shirzad telling us, I would call it, his superhero origin story, how he came from a very hard childhood, and he realized the benefits of positivity. He wasn't himself a positive person. He had to learn, he had to be told by Stanford Business School classmates in a very memorable story. If you didn't get to hear it on October 21st, darn it, you've got to download Positive Intelligence right away. He was told he needed to be more positive. He didn't fully understand or appreciate that at the time, and yet it seems like in the subsequent decades he's dedicated himself not just to understanding what that means, but to teaching all the rest of us the importance not just of your IQ or your EQ, not just your intelligence quotient, if you will. Or your emotional intelligence, no. How about your positive intelligence quotient? How positively do you react to things? How prepared are you mentally to rebound from hard things that happened to you, that happen to all of us.
For me, it was a remarkable conversation, and in part, some of the mailbag items I've already shared with you and will be sharing with you later this month, people whose lives were dramatically changed or improved, I really should say, by that simple podcast and their exposure to Shirzad's work. I myself, I'm looking forward to digging in to know more and more. I had not read Shirzad's book. I was reacting to the wonderful personality test that I enjoyed about who are your saboteurs. If you go to positiveintelligence.com, you can take that test as well and learn a lot more about yourself. I really have appreciated Shirzad, not just from that podcast, but ever since. I know many of you have as well. That for me is all it takes to be a Bestie of 2020.
From positively, we moved to No. 9. A ninth memorable Bestie of 2020 for Rule Breaker Investing. John Mackey is the founder of Whole Foods Market and also the founder of conscious capitalism. Now, John's interview about his book Conscious Leadership debuted on a special extra for our podcast, Rule Breaker Investing this fall. It was dated September 26th, 2020. If you didn't get to hear it back then, I highly recommend you listen to it now.
Having read numerous books and articles on leadership, I can tell you, John's book is one of the best. I particularly appreciate the range of topics he covers from leading with love, which is the opposite of what many business leaders would think they should do, to highlighting the benefits of exponential thinking. There's something in Conscious Leadership for everyone. Because every one of us, when you think about it in many different contexts, is a leader and a leader who could be more conscious.
Well, John, thank you for a remarkable book. In a year where I can't imagine you had a normal book tour, I was delighted to spend that hour with you, and I hope many people will think to wrap up Conscious Leadership under someone's tree. John, welcome.
John Mackey: Thanks, David. It's good to be here.
David Gardner: What is a reflection that you have? I'm curious, just thinking back on the launch of your book, this unusual time. I don't pretend you remember much of our podcast that week because you've had 38 different interviews just landed in a week, but a reflection about your book in this fall.
Mackey: Well, this is the fourth book that I've written or co-authored, and first time it's been virtual, so that's been very convenient. I have done all these interviews and podcasts from my office. On the other hand, I'm not really connecting with people in person, I'm not shaking anybody's hand. I'm not autographing books for people in person, and that's been kind of strange. I think I've probably reached more people, but I haven't connected quite as deeply as I have in the past.
David Gardner: Isn't that interesting? John, Whole Foods Market, the business, seems to have done really, really well in 2020. No one was expecting the pandemic, I don't think, but were you expecting that you could do as well as you have in these kinds of circumstances?
Mackey: Well, we didn't really. Never been through a pandemic before, so no reference point for it. Our overall sales were up substantially, but actually our in-store sales are down slightly and our traffic counts are down, but our overall sales are significantly up, primarily because of delivery. We tripled our delivery sales in 2020 versus 2019. That's been surprising and challenging. Sometimes we've had so much demand for delivery, we weren't able to do it. Our stores are crowded with shoppers, Amazon shoppers now, and sometimes, like, it's in the way of the customer trying to shop. It's been challenging and our prepared foods have collapsed while our meat, seafood produce, and grocery staples have all exploded. It's been a weird year.
David Gardner: It really has. Well, my personal theme, my one-word theme for 2021 is comeback. I hope that happens. John, a question I've been asking everybody. What's a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Mackey: Well, I don't like to make predictions, because your own story has certainly proven wrong. As you know, predicting the stock market's tit for tat. Exactly. What I wish, I wish that we get past this pandemic, and I wish America will start coming back together again. It's disheartening to see so much conflict and hatred and anger and separation. I am wishing we will become more conscious and forgive each other and come back together.
David Gardner: Thank you, John. Well, your book is certainly part of the solution, not the problem. I do want to bid you adieu and thank you, you're a wonderful Rule Breaker investor. You and I share a lot of the same stocks and a lot of the same thoughts about businesses. It's been a remarkable year. You want to give us a favorite stock of yours here in 2020?
Mackey: A favorite stock for 2020... I will have to admit I sold my Shopify after 40x returns, I used to get that one. Tesla is another one that's gone through the roof. So is Fiverr. I'll pick Fiverr.
David Gardner: Great. Yeah, a wonderful Tom Gardner selection. John, thank you so much for joining us again on Rule Breaker Investing. Happy holidays.
Mackey: Thanks. Same to you, David.
David Gardner: That brings us forward to the 10th podcast that jumps out to me thinking back over 2020. By the way, what a motley variety of different podcasts we've highlighted this week, but I think of one of my favorite ongoing series and the most recent version of it that we did, and that would, of course, be our Company Culture Tips series. In this case, I'm thinking of our September 16th podcast from this year, Company Culture Tips, Volume 7, the Work from Home Edition.
Now, Lee Burbage is a key member of our People Team, where he has been for 22 years while raising his two amazing boys and his dog, Zuko. My producer, Rick Engdahl, clued me in to remembering that Zuko comes from the movie Avatar. Maybe Lee can say something about that in a minute. But before I have him on, I want to say why this podcast jumps out to me as a Bestie of 2020.
For me, this was the year that we worked from home. Now, some of us have worked from home in different ways for years. Some companies have been virtual, and distance learning has been a thing for portions of our society well before 2020, but this was the year that all of us were in the same plight in the best and the worst sense of that term. Working from home, whether you had little kids surrounding you, or hey, you're retired and you've been in your den by yourself a lot of years before 2020, we were all working from home. So to have Kara Chambers, who unfortunately couldn't join with us this particular week, and Lee Burbage come together as that talented superhero team to give 10 of our best tips for working from home, that was a delight to share.
As I welcome him on, I want to thank you, Lee, not just for helping us think ahead of company culture and how to make it better for all of us at work for this particular podcast, but the six that preceded it. Thinking that we now have a long-running series, seven hours of content with you and Kara joining with me, discussing how to do it better, the things we do at work, I so appreciate that. Thank you, Lee Burbage, and welcome.
Lee Burbage: Thanks for having me. You and Rick make it easy.
David Gardner: Well, Rick certainly makes it easy. I think I make things difficult for Rick, but that's a whole separate topic. Thank you, Lee. Lee, what is one reflection that you have now? It's what, three months or so since we did that podcast together about the Work from Home Edition?
Burbage: Yeah. I was looking back at our list of top 10s, and the one that jumped out to me was, I believe, No. 9, and it feels particularly holiday appropriate, here we are, while a number of people around the world are celebrating all kinds of holidays. No. 9 was take days off, even if you can't go anywhere. I was thinking about people that maybe aren't going to be able to travel this holiday season, and they might be tempted to just jump in and keep on working. I just thought, hey, let's take this moment to encourage them not to do that, to take a little bit of a break, take a breather. Even if you can't go anywhere, I think, clearing your head and doing something fun, it's super important.
David Gardner: Thank you for that. You're reminding me I need to hop outside after we record this podcast, get a little fresh air and a little bit of time in nature, physically distanced, of course. But yeah, there is that cliche, and cliches are often cliches because they're often true. There's that cliche that one day feels like another and you can't tell the difference between Tuesday and Saturday for a lot of us. Well, with you, Lee, I sure hope that we will be able to say we could tell the difference between the holiday we took those days this month and the other days, the days that we worked. There would be a real temptation or possibility to just miss that all together. Thank you for underlining that.
Lee, before I let you go, what's a wish, an interesting thought, or a prediction that you have for 2021?
Burbage: A wish I have for 2021. I'm actually going to tie the two together a little bit and wish for less meeting time. Another thing that we've noticed is, not only people need to take time off, we're all a little bit swamped with Zoom meetings. We're going to work in the year ahead to try to figure out how do we do less of that. How do we meet less? Can we substitute Slack, can we substitute emails or some other functions so we don't have to all be stuck in the same Zoom rooms for so long? That's my dream for the new year is finding ways to have less formal Zoom meetings.
David Gardner: Perhaps, more reflection. In the best sense, more "me" time, a little bit more opportunity to be intentional. I was speaking with a very talented game designer, a friend of mine earlier today, Reiner Knizia, who is a very famous game designer. Reiner, who's in the prime of his life, was talking to me about the one thing he's trying to work on. It reminds me of what you just said, Lee, and that is he's trying to make every minute count. People who have achieved a certain degree of success and certainly financial comfort, often their focus then turns to, "How do I make the best use of the time that I have?"
It is true that sometimes we get on hamster wheels. I think I'm on a hamster wheel in life. I need to pick three stocks every month. There are whole processes around that. But sometimes we need to step back a little bit and figure out how to do things better, get off that hamster wheel for a little while anyway. I'm not predicting any sabbatical for me or for you. I love what I do, but I do think it's valuable to have that metagame reflection about how to do it better. Thank you for that, fewer meetings. Lee, does that mean I'm going to be seeing less of you in 2021?
Burbage: When we do see each other, it's just going to be more meaningful, David.
David Gardner: There you go. Just like your latest appearance on Rule Breaker Investing, Lee and the missing Kara Chambers. I want to thank Lee and Kara for all that they do for so many Fools. I'm not just talking about our employees, because you're reaching it out here. You're sharing it out worldwide how to do the work of work better, culture, people count for so much. Thank you, Lee Burbage.
Burbage: Thank you.
David Gardner: Well, there you have it. From What You've Learned from David Gardner, Episode 2, all the way through to Company Culture Tips, Work From Home Edition. Company Culture Tips, Volume 7. One of the things I've really enjoyed about creating this podcast are these episodic series that recur over time. Authors in August has been another such highlight that you've heard in recent years. Well, what a wonderful slate of guests that I had to share with you.
One quick reflection here. Let's call this a bonus, we'll call this an 11th item. But I think I have to speak briefly to the success we had this year with our Five-Stocks Samplers. Among other things, 2020 will be remembered for, for me, I'll remember this as the year that all five five-stock samplers outperformed the market. Even though they're all just in their first year from Five Stocks that Sparked Joy, which are up 172%, five stocks I picked in January, just remarkable results, to Five Stocks for the Coronavirus, picked on April 8th of this year. I cannot even believe this number as I say it to you, but those five stocks are up 243.4% as I report here in late December.
The third five-stock sampler from this year, Five Stocks for America, done on June 10th, up 51% as a group. All of these, by the way, crushed the market. The fourth, Five Stocks Indistinguishable for Magic, up 13% since I picked it on September 2nd of this year. That's about 10% ahead of the market.
Then, my newest baby, Five-Stock Sampler, born on just November 11th of last month, up 4.4% with the market up 3.4%. Yep, we've got one point of alpha so far for Five Stocks That Will Press On. A bonus 11th item is the magic of five-stock samplers, which I've so enjoyed bringing to you. We've now done 27 of them over the five-plus years of this podcast.
Well, here's something to say then at the end of it here, that this was a show about our best. For me, if we did it right, this very show should be among the best, if not itself the best. Thanks to our focus on the best. I've learned to aim high in life. I'm here to encourage you, to challenge you. I try to do this every week, to aim high yourself, because when you aim high, even if you miss, even if your stock pick lost money or your podcast that week didn't fully gel, you will often still outshine your own previous lower expectations. You would otherwise have gotten a lower performance had you not aimed high. For my Besties of 2020, this podcast, I want to enshrine right alongside them. I wish for you the best this holiday season.