Some things can and should be forgotten over time. But the best things, the best songs, the best stories... they grow stronger in the retelling. That selfie with Jeff Bezos. Jerry Garcia shaking hands with Seth Godin. Business lessons from... Xena, Warrior Princess? Wait, what? Guess you'll have to just listen to this episode of Rule Breaker Investing with Motley Fool co-founder, David Gardner.
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This video was recorded on Feb. 9, 2021.
David Gardner: I never say never for just about anything, but I'm as close as can be to never on some things. Now, one of them is, I never think I'm going to enter the government or run for public office. First, I'm not particularly interested in it. I'm pretty sure my brother, Tom, and I both believe we can effect far more positive change in this world through the vehicle of our company, The Motley Fool, through the platform of hundreds of Fools every day, in our building, back when we get to our building, that all of us, and I mean you too of course, all of our members, we can make the world together smarter, happier, and richer. So, there's no political office needed, there's no campaigning, no special interest or pacts, or negative ads, oh my gosh, so, so many negative ads, no sloganeering either. This is particularly good for me because one of the things I'm the worst at is just saying the same thing, the same sound bite over and over. I just can't do it.
I take far more joy in coming up with something new for you every week on this podcast than if I were just saying the same thing over and over. But if I were good at that, well, that seems to be what politics are often about. You need to stay on message. You say the same thing over and over. That gets you the votes. But that's the opposite of my own inclinations and joy. So, to a fault I think, I need to keep coming up with new tricks for you every week on this podcast, to a fault I'd say, because if you're always playing a new instrument or a new tune from one week to the next, a new five-stock sampler every 10 weeks, you might make the mistake of forgetting to repeat some of the important truths, the timeless ones, the eternal verities. So, from time to time, I like to hail back to the past, remake some cardinal points that I've made before so they're not lost, because a lot of you are new. We have more listeners, more newcomers to The Motley Fool than ever before. I would be a fool, if I assumed you knew that critical lesson I taught on this podcast back in 2016, or one of my favorite stories from 2018 even. So, I started a new series a few years ago. It's called Blast From the Past; five points that I want to make sure you hear again or hear for the first time. We've arrived at Volume 5, Blast From the Past, Volume 5, only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. I sure hope you enjoyed my friend, Reiner Knizia, on last week's show, and maybe you got a play in of Lost Cities or My City, which is a remarkable game. I enjoyed it so much that I mentioned last week's podcast in 2020, a great one to play with a steady bubble lockdown group of family members or friends, if you like, a wonderful game. But wonderful to hear Reiner's back story of how he got started in business and then in board games, both as a little kid and then as very much a mature adult. An inspiration also anytime we hear from an adult who changes careers midstream and goes onto such wonderful success really in both contexts. I want to mention before we get into this week's Blast From the Past that next week, I'm going to bring it back from a few years ago, speaking of Blast From the Past, we're going to dedicate a fresh podcast to cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin very much in the news. I feel like we should talk some about it. I'm going to have at least one really talented guest join me. We might have a few guest stars on next week's show, and you can be a guest star too because I'd love to hear your best question, your most compelling question or thought about cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, etc. If you get that to me by Friday of this week, our email address is email@example.com, we will feature some of the best and most compelling questions or thoughts from our listener base on next week's show. Again, cryptocurrency is coming to Rule Breaker Investing next week. I think it's very timely and you can help guide the conversation with your best thoughts. Again, our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks in advance.
Blast From the Past every time consists of five points or stories, some of my favorites, and I'm bringing them back for a second time. Each of these has been shared once before and this may be the last that I ever feature it, although we do have some Mt. Rushmore moments or stories in this week's show, so I probably can't commit to never telling them again. But I'll say this; Blast From the Past is all about unearthing what I hope was some audio gold that we provided you a few years ago and we're bringing it back into the present day.
Let's start with Blast From the Past point No. 1. This one came pretty recently. This one comes from 2020, just a year ago. I'm going to start by just telling the story of how this came to mean something to me personally and what I try to make of it throughout 2020 on this podcast. If you've been with me for a year or more, you will get where we're going with Blast From the Past point No. 1. But if not, if this is new for you, well, that's why I'm reblasting it, because I think it's so important. About a year ago, this month, we were in a Motley Fool quarterly board meeting and we had two camps of thought on a certain topic. One camp thought a certain way and the other camp thought a different way. One of our board members, who happens to be the founder of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, today of course, his company owned by Amazon. I think John is one of the great living entrepreneurs. He's been a spectacular board member for 5+ years here at The Motley Fool. He also loves investing in Rule Breaker Investing. He might well be listening right now. Hi, John. John at that meeting said, "I'm observing this conversation, and what I'm hearing is one camp has a win-lose thinking, the other camp has a lose-win thinking or win-lose again, if you will. In other words, both camps are advocating something where if we do it that way, somebody wins and somebody loses." John said, "That's not good enough. We're better than that," and I'm saying by extension, you, my dear listener, you're better than that. We should all be shooting for win-win-win.
This phrase certainly comes from Conscious Capitalism, where we learn that the best businesses create a win for all of their stakeholders. It's called stakeholder capitalism. It's known by different phrases, if you will, but the idea is that a business is not just there to maximize value for shareholders. That is an important stakeholder group for for-profit enterprises certainly, but what about the customers? We definitely need a win for them. Otherwise, we're probably not going to be in business very sustainably. But you can't really win for customers unless you're also winning for your employees. You need to be a business where people love to work there. They're going to be happier and more productive as employees and do a better job for your customers. So darn it, you better create wins for your customers, for your employees. But how about for your partners or your suppliers? They better feel like they're winning too as you win. Depending on what type of enterprise we're talking about, you want to be creating a win maybe for your local community or maybe for the environment, depending on what type of business we're talking about. You need to create a win-win-win, and that is at the heart of John Mackey's vision for Conscious Capitalism.
John was on this podcast on September 26th of last year. That's a little bit of this Blast From the Past, talking about his book, Conscious Leadership, and Chapter 4 of that book is all about win-win-win. The only real ethical win, John says, is in everybody win. I want to pull one paragraph from that chapter and share it with you here just to really double underline win-win-win. Here it is, it's from a sidebar entitled, Practicing Win-Win-Win: The Power of Intention, and it reads like this, "When you're stuck in a difficult situation, one of the best things you can do is to repeatedly affirm your desire for a win-win-win solution to the specific challenge. Hold that intention in your heart and mind with great conviction. This doesn't mean you immediately jump to a solution, no, that's different. Rather, focus on your desire for a win-win-win solution to emerge. This practice activates your subconscious creative mind to go on an inner search process that can yield powerful, unexpected results. When your focus is this clear, your deeper subconscious algorithms are tasked to work on the problem, and sooner or later, a solution emerges. Often, it will do so in unforeseen ways; a sudden insight, a wisdom-laden dream, a breakthrough in the shower, an early morning intuition, a creative leap. A win-win-win solution presents itself. It may feel like magic," Mackey writes, "but it's not. It's the power of your own intention."
A really key thread happened in last month's Rule Breaker Investing mailbag. Just a couple of weeks ago, the January 27th podcast and my wise producer, Rick Engdahl, entitled that January mailbag, "Bring Someone Else Along With You." Why did he name it that? Because at least three of the stories in that mailbag had to do with somebody who switched on to the power of investing but didn't just do it for him or herself but made it count for others; might be a child, might be a friend at work, the importance of bringing someone else along with you, creating not just a win for you but a win for someone else, a win for the world at large. That's why to finish up Blast From the Past No. 1, I want to remind you of our Mental Tips, Tricks, and Lifehacks from last October 14th, again, just a few months ago, 2020, when I talked about the importance of creating your own holidays. A lot of us are used to religious holidays at various stripes, and we can recognize national holidays as well, whatever nation you're in. But I encouraged you to think about, what is a personal holiday? What is something that you think should be celebrated?
In a way, what mark do you want to make on the world? For me, I've advocated Feb. h each year as Win-Win-Win Day. To close up point No. 1, a bunch of you saw that and celebrated along with me on Twitter this February 4th. I hope that you'll circle your calendar next February 4th, because I'll be celebrating every February 4th for the rest of my life as Win-Win-Win Day, and I think a lot of my fellow Rule Breakers will recognize my line, "winners win," and why we tend to buy winning stocks at winning companies, in part, because other people won't. As the stock rises, people start to anchor to the price they could have bought it at and they don't want to buy it anymore, and that's actually part of the reason it works, to buy winning companies on the way up because people are staying on the sidelines. But anyway, "winners win" is a powerful mantra. It works in sports and investing. But Win-Win-Win Day goes one level deeper. Because as I said on that day, February 4th, on Twitter, I said, "Happy Win-Win-Win Day," but what do real winners do? They make sure everybody else gets a win too. The power of Win-Win-Win, making sure it counts for somebody else too, such a great message and such a productive way to lead a life. Again, thank you to John Mackey for his appearance on the podcast a few months ago. Thank you all for celebrating Win-Win-Win Day with me this year. If you missed it, let's do it together again next year. Shall we?
Blast From the Past No. 2 now. This Blast From the Past pertains, in some ways, to a modern-day event. It's just days ago that Jeff Bezos announced that he will be resigning from his position as CEO to become executive chairman in the third quarter of this year. Certainly, one of the world's richest men, one of the most successful entrepreneurs not just of our time, but of all time, and to think that still with so many years left, he would step down from being the CEO of his company, certainly sent a splash and lots of waves through the business world and the world of business media. On that day, my friend, Chris Hill, reminded me that on our podcast, the day the market crashed, which was one of our besties of 2020, we'd had an exchange about Bezos. It was a made-up story at the time, for those who know what we did with the day the market crashed. We simulated a market crash on that podcast, and so there were some fictional stories that we presented in order to make it feel like the market was crashing so everybody could mentally process that. One of them was that Jeff Bezos was stepping down from Amazon. Well, lo and behold, a year later, it happened for real. It's fun to think back to that exchange that I had with Chris and what we were saying a year ago at the time when it was just fiction, and now, what I'm saying with it being fact is that, although he is stepping down, this is by far the most important thing in his life over the next few decades.
He owns a huge amount of the shares, and so I don't think anybody needs to worry about Bezos stepping away from Amazon. In fact, the day he announced that, the stock went sideways and didn't even budge, which is a remarkable testament to the power of the company and what he has built. Again, that was just days ago, in fact, it was this month. But two years ago on this podcast, it was 2018, I got to tell my Jeff Bezos story, and that's what I'm going to share once again, now maybe in light of recent developments, but it's just one of my favorite more recent stories and it's a pleasure to bring this one back for Blast From the Past point No. 2. This is the story of when Jeff Bezos came to Washington DC for a speech he gave to the Economic Club of Washington. Now, I had interviewed Jeff Bezos a number of times in the past, although it was a lot easier to have Jeff on The Motley Fool radio show back in the day when Amazon was about 1/100th of the size it is today. It's very hard once their stars shoot so high to get any interview with the Steve Jobs's or Elon Musk's or Jeff Bezos's of this world.
Anyway, I knew that Jeff Bezos was coming to speak at the Economic Club of Washington in 2018. I'm a member and I was going to attend that night. It was a big bash. I told my wife, Margaret, the day before, "If I ever get to the guy, if I can get up to him, Margaret, here's my line for him. I going to say, 'Jeff, I believe I'm the guy with the second-lowest cost basis in the room on Amazon stock.'" Obviously, the guy with the lowest was the founder, Jeff Bezos himself, but I wanted him to know ever since recommending the stock at $3.21, shortly after its IPO in 1997, a recommendation that I've left in place ever since, it has been a huge winner for so many Motley Fool members, including the 2002 early pick I made for Motley Fool Stock Advisor, etc. So I wanted to be able to tell that to Jeff and reconnect with him if I could possibly get to him.
Fast forward to that next day, it was the evening, it's time for the big bash with Jeff Bezos at the Economic Club of Washington. As I approach it in the twilight hour, I see media all around outside the Washington Hilton. It's a large hotel where they have the White House Correspondents' Dinner traditionally here in Washington DC every year. It's a huge venue for an event like this, and there were thousands of people. There were even people across the street from the hotel protesting Amazon with a loudspeaker, but most were there to see him and it was a media circus. I got inside the door and I tried to get, given the hour, over to the bar, maybe get a glass of wine. It was almost impossible to reach the bar. There were so many people elbow to elbow, it was comic. You couldn't even move around the group. I was thinking I'm probably not going to be getting to Bezos tonight, and I got my table assignment and I was at table 334. That's right. They're counting by ones. So you can imagine, I wasn't at table one; I was at table 334. If that sounds like a long way from the stage in a big room, you would be right. The event starts, and David Rubenstein, the billionaire and head of the Economic Club of Washington, very generous, very intelligent interviewer who runs the show, he's reading off all the sponsors, and then he's reading off scholarships that we're giving out at the Economic Club of Washington. He then turns to Bezos, asks him briefly to stand up and raise his hand. You see a little guy way up front there showing that he is in the room and we're going to be talking to him after supper, and it continues on like that.
Finally, the announcements, which probably lasted 20 minutes or so, end, and we're all going to start supper. I turned to the guy on my left, who I had never met before, here at table 334, and the guy on my right, and I said, "Guys, I'm going for this right now. We'll all know within five minutes whether it works or not, because I'm going to try to get to Bezos right now. Excuse me." I stepped up from the table, worked my way past tables 330 and 329, got to the high 200s, wheeled around that, moved into the 100s, and then finally up toward table one, right in front of the stage with all the other tables, little circular tables spread out around a huge room. People are already sitting down eating. But I noticed up here at table one, as I got up to the mountain top, they're still standing and milling about and they're not sitting down to supper yet, and there's Bezos. There's one guy talking to him, so I decide, "Here's my moment."
I went and I stood right behind that gentleman. I just listened offhand to their conversation, which lasted maybe another two minutes or so, and then that guy finished, he stepped away, and there was Jeff. I looked him right in the eye, and I said, "Jeff, I believe I'm the guy in the room with the second-lowest cost basis on Amazon stock. Hi, Jeff. It's great to see you again. David Gardner from The Motley Fool. I used to talk to you," blah blah blah. What did Bezos do? He right away said, very warmly and familiarly, "David." Then the next thing he did is he whips out of his pocket his phone, puts his arm around me, holds it up, and he goes selfie. That's how I got a selfie with Jeff Bezos. Now, I may have been one of the few that night at the ECW bash that did, and I wasn't even at table one. You can't win the game if you don't get in the game, so just by playing the game, I somehow got selfied with Bezos, one I'll probably never see, because it's just on his phone, not mine. He's not exactly that easy to reach through social media or even through his own spokespeople today.
Anyway, Jeff, I loved the picture. But forget about the picture. That was a great fun event and story that I get to share with my fellow Rule Breaker Investing listeners to know. He's a really great guy. Very warm, very heartfelt. He's been an incredible value creator, think about it, not just for our country or for consumers but certainly for shareholders as well. I know a lot of people have questions about Jeff Bezos. Some people don't like Jeff Bezos. He's made a lot of mistakes. I have too, by the way. Maybe you have too. No one's perfect, but two things in conclusion I want to say. First of all, just think about the value that what he has done has created in the world, not just in this last year for COVID when deliveries were all the more important, and being able to be dependable and bring people everything from food to things that they needed to wear, to things that would help save their lives in some cases, Amazon has made that happen. But I also want to note No. 2, what I consider a rather magnanimous stepping down in contrast to despots worldwide who create a fraction of this value or actually destroy huge amounts of value, who desperately cling to their offices, and it's quite the opposite. So I really love this for-profit example of somebody who's done something amazing, stepping away graciously and gracefully, and I bet he's going to go on to create a lot more value. Blast From the Past No. 2.
Blast From the Past No. 3, this one goes back earlier in 2018. In fact, it was Valentine's Day this week, 2018, so three years ago this week, and Kevin Kelly. Kevin, one of the founders of Wired magazine, I had the delight to bring a full interview with him to you on this show reacting in large part to his wonderful book, The Inevitable, which I highly recommend. If you've not previously read The Inevitable, I think you're going to love the book. It's written a few years ago, but it's about the future, and some of that future has already started to come to pass. I have a great deal of appreciation for the visionary quality of Kevin Kelly. What I said right off the top with that interview, that's what I want to reblast now in 2021. Right off in the interview, I started with this quote, which comes from his book by the way. It also helps remind me of what a gifted writer he is. But this is from the book's intro and this is the blast from the past; I quote, "Change is inevitable. We now appreciate that everything is mutable and undergoing change, even though much of this alteration is imperceptible. The highest mountains are slowly wearing away under our feet, while every animal and plant species on the planet is morphing into something different in ultra slow motion. Even the eternal shining sun is fading on an astronomical schedule, though we will be long gone when it does. Human culture and biology too are part of this imperceptible slide toward something new."
In his book, The Inevitable, Kevin talks about 12 inevitable trends that will be happening in the future that you and I are living through, and each one is a gerund. It's not things like smartphones or robotics; it's Chapter 1, "Becoming." That's what he's referencing in the quote that I just gave you. We're all in the process of becoming something new. That's such a helpful way of thinking about the world. Everything is constantly changing, and he's like, step back and try to look at the big picture. Over the course of my 50 or so years on this planet, I think about how many things have gotten so much better than they were 25 or 50 years ago, the technologies from electric cars to smartphones to Zoom Video that we take for granted today that we couldn't have dreamed of. It would have seemed like magic in 1975. Here we are in 2021, still becoming. It's a great reason to be a Rule Breaker, isn't it? One of the concepts that Kevin introduces in the book is this concept that we're not a utopia. For sure, none of us thinks that this is a perfect world. He would also say we're not a dystopia. One of the things I don't like about so much science fiction is, so often, it premises that the future is so bad. But then 1984 shows up, and it's way better than George Orwell was writing about. Blade Runner, I had to check this, do you remember this, which was set in November 2019, that's right, the original 1982 Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford vehicle was set in November 2019. Did November 2019 look like Blade Runner to you? It didn't to me, and I'm pretty happy about that.
So often, science fiction imagination goes toward the dystopian. But no, Kevin Kelly says, we're not in a utopia, we're not in a dystopia. He said we are in what he calls a protopia, defined in so many words as this; tiny infinitesimal changes are occurring every day, and enough of them are good net-net that progress occurs. It occurs in tiny ways from one day to the next. It's more noticeable from one year to the next. But once you go from one decade to the next, and we as investors in so much great technology have seen this, you could really see vast improvements. Think about things like human mortality, human longevity; these things are wildly better than one century ago, and I'm speaking from a global pandemic and you're hearing me from one right now. It's not like the world is perfect, but if you're a Rule Breaker, you're investing in the future that you want to see, and you're pretty sure, and I think you should be, that enough things will get better, that it's worth being invested in this world, and you being invested in it will help shape the world that we're moving into; a world that is protopian. In tiny ways, it gets a little bit better every day, and you have to step away from it to see at a real arm's length how so many technologies improve, how so many companies grow, and why any meaningful history of the stock market will show a graph that starts in the lower left and goes up to the upper right. That is a protopia, and thank you for that observation, Kevin Kelly.
Before I go on to Blast From the Past No. 4, I'll just remember one other thing he mentioned in that interview. Actually, this is in his book. "All of us, every one of us," he wrote, "will be endless newbies in the future, simply trying to keep up." I have to admit, as much as I love technology, it also as a blessing can be a curse if you start feeling overwhelmed by needing to keep up with all those Windows updates, or whatever it is in this world. Kevin does point out that a lot of what happens is, if technology is designed well, it just updates itself in the same way that your smartphone app that you use just refreshed itself last night, or the electric car that I drive gets software updates through the air that I don't really have to pay much attention to. I feel safe and things get a little bit better with that app or that car. But it is true, and maybe it's especially as we age that we're going to feel like endless newbies in the future simply trying to keep up. Anyway, Kevin Kelly, thank you for your appearance on this podcast and for providing a wonderful blast from the past here in February 2021 when we all continue to be in a state of becoming.
Blast From the Past point No. 4. Now, here I'm going to be synthesizing two past points made on this podcast; one from December of 2015, and the other, August of 2018. The first is a Grateful Dead observation. This came from my very first Great Quotes, Volume 1, and that was in fact on December 16th of 2015. I've done more than a dozen new Great Quotes episodes ever since, always with new quotations that I love to share with you as we all learn together. Well, my very first one included this line which is arguably either from Jerry Garcia, the head of the Grateful Dead himself no longer living, or Bill Graham, who was the concert promoter behind the Grateful Dead during their golden year. This has been expressed in various ways, but I'll use this version as if it came from Bill Graham. Of the Grateful Dead, whose concerts he loved to promote, he said this, "They aren't the best at what they do. They are the only ones that do what they do." Expressed slightly differently if you remember the Grateful Dead. I'm not even a fan. I can't name any of their songs, but I sure do love this concept and line, and I appreciate in retrospect what they were trying to do often in this world. "We were never trying to be the best at what we do. We were trying to be the only ones doing what we're doing." Now, this of course was a band that encouraged its legion of fans, although that legion really showed up over time. This is a band that only ever had one Billboard top-40 hit, if you can believe it, with hundreds of millions of dollars of concert ticket sales over the course of its history, but only ever one top-40 hit. But they said, "Come to our concerts and record us. Bootleg the concert, we're fine with that."
They were all about open source before the world understood what Red Hat might be or what Internet open-source could be one day. Open-source is such a powerful development in the world of software today, and at a time when everybody else said, "Our music is intellectual property, and if you record it, you are stealing from us and we will send our lawyers at you," the Grateful Dead was doing the exact opposite. Now, that's one example. There were others where they were not just trying to be the best at what they do; they were trying to be the only ones doing what they're doing. I hope you get the line. Now, I want to synthesize it with this one other line uttered by Seth Godin, the hall of fame marketer, one of my favorite business authors who was on the podcast on August 1st of 2018. He was our first Authors in August. In fact, we started that series in the summer of 2018 and Seth joined in. Seth is one of those people who writes a new book every year. I can't even keep up with all of his books. I think a question I remember asking him is, "Which is the one that will be read 30 or 40 years from now?" Because I know he will be read 30 or 40 years from now, but which book really jumps out? Some people might say Purple Cow for those who might know his work. But I think the first Seth Godin book I ever read was called Free Prize Inside.
Among the many lessons I took away from that simple book on marketing and branding and making an impression in this world was this idea that, "Whatever your edge is," Seth Godin said, "Take that edge to the edge." I'm speaking to you dear listener in life, whatever your edge is, consider taking that edge to the edge. Now, if we synthesize these two concepts, this idea of not trying to be the best at what you do but trying to be the only one doing what you're doing, and then whatever that thing is, if you just focus on it, invest in it, and take it to the edge, I think we just came up with a pretty great recipe for success in the three realms that this podcast lives; investing, business, and life. Certainly, as an investor, I love to find companies where they're the only ones doing what they're doing. I just talked about Jeff Bezos a few minutes ago, Amazon. Very hard to put your finger on a clear direct analog to what Amazon is today in the world. From its obvious e-commerce routes to Amazon Web Services to Amazon Prime Video. The list goes on of all the different things that Amazon is doing in the world. It really feels like the only one doing what it's doing in this world, and think about what a spectacular stock Amazon has been.
One of my watchwords over the years has been, I love it when I can find the equivalent of a Coca-Cola Company and I can't see Pepsi. I can't figure out who is the Pepsi to that company's coke. This can work in any industry. It's not about soda and it's not about e-commerce. Let's go with Lululemon. It's unclear to me who is the Pepsi to Lululemon's Coke. The list goes on of great brands. Starbucks. Who is the Pepsi to Starbucks's Coke? This often has led me, maybe you too, to some of our best stock market winners, and whereas of course, over the only term that counts; the long term, playing the long game. So there is no doubt in my mind that it works in investing. This after all is an investing podcast at its heart, so I hope you've internalized that lesson. If you're hearing it for the first time, remember Jerry Garcia shaking hands with Seth Godin. There's your image if you can picture these people. One with a lot of hair, one without much hair at all, synthesizing such a helpful point for you and your investing. But it also works in business and in life. After all, of course, music is a business. The Grateful Dead was certainly a business, and Seth Godin is a business writer. He's not an investment guy. So at the heart of it, this advice and this synthesis is what works in business.
So many Rule Breaker Investing listeners, so many Motley Fool members are entrepreneurs of their own. Many of you have longer experience than Tom and I do in running your businesses, so you know the importance of finding good business lessons that work. I submit this is one of them. It clearly is working, because what's behind every great stock? Well, the business behind that stock. So that synthesis of Jerry Garcia's idea, of being the only one doing what you're doing, and Seth Godin suggesting to us all that we take that to the edge, that is going to work in business. Of course, I also think it works in life. Tom Peters, the long time writer on business and leadership, Tom Peters wrote a famous article, I can google it, I can see it right here in front of me; Fast Company magazine, 1997. You can google it. It's called The Brand Called You. It's not a bad idea to think about you. Forget about the company you're investing or the company you may work for. What is your reputation? What is your brand? Some of the lessons of brand management can make you a better person, and can build your character and your reputation. I haven't read this article in a long, long time, but I remember it as a classic. To conclude, the words of Jerry Garcia, the words of Seth Godin also I think can apply to you and your own self-improvement. That's why I wanted to bring this one back for Blast From the Past point No. 4. You've hung around with me this long. I might as well give you one of my favorites to close then.
Blast From the Past No. 5, if there were a Mt. Rushmore, which there isn't, of Motley Fool stories, this would be on my Mt. Rushmore. Anyway, this is probably one of my top five favorite Fool stories of all time. It's a pleasure now to bring it back to you this week. I first told this story on the April 12th, 2017 podcast. Almost four years later, maybe you've forgotten or maybe you'd never heard this one before. It starts like this. "Guys, I want you to come to California. We should meet. I think there's a TV show here." It was the late 1990s and The Motley Fool was maturing into a media company. Back then, Tom and I had a fraction of the audience that we have today, but we were doing lots of media back when we thought media exposure equaled business success, and a Motley Fool TV show, that would naturally follow from our radio show that we had at the time, our syndicated newspaper column, and the best-selling books that we were writing. I remember Tom saying, "But Dave, this guy's shows are like Xena, Warrior Princess, stuff like that. Does this make sense?" Well, I'm not sure whether it did or not. We decided though, what the heck. We accepted the invitation to visit Universal Studios in Los Angeles and meet with our host to plan the show, and then meet with the Universal producer the day after that to pitch the concept. Well, when we met our host, our champion, his name was Sam. We liked him instinctively. We'd driven straight from the airport to meet him in his rigged-out trailer on some generic-looking Hollywood film lot, and here he was. Five o'clock shadow, very casually dressed, shades tipped down over his nose surrounded by a small likable team of young creative types. Now, he may not have been the biggest name in the business at the time but they thought a lot of him certainly. "Hey, Sam is a genius. Good to meet you guys," said his assistant. "The Motley Fool is perfect for TV," Sam began. "I'm a big fan of you guys. You guys are like superheroes. The villain is Wall Street. You guys are going to vanquish them. The show can be great. Let me play you some theme music we're working on."
Well, he played it. It sounded, well, heroic, particularly to a couple of Internet entrepreneurs who in their early 30s had started all this as a newsletter for their parents' friends. Now, we're going to be superheroes with theme music. "Sam, what's the show going to be like?" we asked. "Depends what the markets are looking for. I have my ideas, " he said, and he laid out a few more of them. "Universal," he went on, "will have its own too." He then showed us some clips of Xena, or maybe it was his new Hercules show which was also then airing on UPN. Now, on the one hand, these didn't seem to be hit shows. They didn't exactly instill confidence in us. But on the other hand, Sam had two shows running on a TV network, so he was a player. "The thing is," Sam said, "if we go for this, you guys know you only have one shot. If you try and then fail on network TV, they'll never give you another chance." Well, at lunch the next day, the Universal exec threw us a curveball after the appetizer plates hit. The exec, we'll call him Ken, svelte and debonair, occasionally waving to other tables at the chic spot where we were dining, pushed his California blonde hair behind his ear and gave us the lowdown. "The only way Universal would do a show like this is for 10% of what you guys do." Now, by you guys, he meant Tom and me. He wanted 10% of all future Motley Fool everything. Sam, at this lunch, had just laid out how for 30 minutes on Friday prime time every week, our show would educate, amuse, and enrich millions of viewers with its cheeky market wrap and cartoon humor sketches. Ken, a grizzled realist, was willing to take this seriously if only because Sam did, and 10% was what Ken came back with.
Now, we were young and impressionable, and this was TV. I mean, Hercules, Xena, and The Motley Fool. But even back then, 10% was too round a number. Well, Sam talked gainly through the lunch, but along with us, looked increasingly crestfallen. By the time our host called the check, we walked out leaving things open ended. "Good luck, you guys." Well, I expect that's the way all such lunches, and really, whatever happens afterward. Well, back at Sam's trailer, we all realize that our two days together would come to naught. We had enjoyed meeting Sam and his crew, but it would be more Xena and Hercules for him and back to the Internet for us. That was 1998. The next few years for the Fool were tremendous.
Then came 2001 when the market crashed and almost brought down our company with it. Looked at, through the eyes of today, more than two decades later now, we couldn't really be happier looking backward that we didn't give Universal its 10%. But the best story of all is Sam's. Sam went on to make a real superhero show a few years later. A movie actually. It was called Spider Man, and director Sam Raimi's love of superheroes and villains culminated in an amazing film trilogy, the combined cost $600 million to make, it grossed over $2.5 billion dollars worldwide, and that's where our story ends. I have three lessons that I want to highlight for investors and entrepreneurs.
Three reflections. Maybe they're lessons, maybe they're just reflections, but here's the first one thinking back on that story now about 20 years later. One thing that I liked that happened there, and I hope I made it clear. I'm really glad that Tom and I didn't give away 10% [laughs] of everything that The Motley Fool is doing in order to try a television show pilot on probably UPN. I'm really glad we didn't do that, and I think the reason we didn't do it ultimately is that we're playing the long game, and that's reflection No. 1. Playing the long game, I said it earlier, it's going to serve you so well not just in life, or in this context, in business, but of course, as an investor. In fact, as I look over our Motley Fool Stock Advisor scorecard, we launched that service in March of 2002, I now have 10 +50-baggers since that service opened in March of 2002, and here's the key to them; every single one of them remains an open position. Every one of those 10 +50-baggers is an active recommendation today, and all the companies themselves, I probably like as much today as when I first bought them. Of course, that's probably because we've gotten to know them over time and they've done so well for us. For example, a company like Activision Blizzard or NVIDIA or Netflix, these are companies I've talked a lot about and I'm always going to talk a lot about in Rule Breaker Investing because they're the kinds of companies that were themselves playing the long game.
Every one of those picks was made more than 10 years ago. That's the story of playing the long game. That's what we were doing with Sam Raimi and Universal back in the day. Reflection No. 1, play the long game as an investor, as a professional, and in life. Reflection No. 2, it's a pretty simple one. That was a lot of fun. That story and getting to retell that story now in 2021, sharing that with you this week, it's just a lot of fun for me. Being there that day was a lot of fun too. In fact, we got there a day early. They'd given us free tickets around the Universal theme park that was around Universal Studios in Los Angeles so we just hung out in a roller coaster the day before it. Even though it didn't all play out, we still had a lot of fun. Part of it is that we did it as brothers, and I think that's something if you're an entrepreneur or you've ever started something with a sibling, you know what I mean; it can be hard sometimes. But for the most part, it's a wonderful experience. When I think of the people that are having fun out there, I think for example of the brand Life is Good. If you know those T-shirts, those hats, accoutrement, that comes from two other brothers, that's Bert and John Jacobs whom we've gotten to know a little bit over the years through Conscious Capitalism. They are having fun and they are creating fun every day for their customers.
Fun is probably always underrated, and I mean this again as a business person; I think you should be trying to have fun with the culture in your workplace. You should be trying to create fun for your customers. I think as an investor, you are going to be well rewarded for finding companies that do just that. Life is good. Have fun. My final one, reflection No. 3, I was thinking about some of the people that I've gotten to know over the course of my life. Now at the age of 54, I was thinking about Sam Raimi as an example who I have never seen since. Sam, I hope you're listening. I hope you enjoyed our story again. But a great addendum to our Sam Raimi story is what actually happened on the Motley Fool Stock Advisor scorecard. Because if you're a member of our service, you can go in and see this, if you look at my June 2002 pick, you'll see it's Disney. It was picked on my side of the scorecard in the month of June 2002. But if you actually double-click down, you'll see that it was Marvel. It was Marvel Entertainment that I picked. It was not Disney. Disney bought out Marvel subsequently and we've just kept that investment and re-recced it multiple times in place ever since. Now, you actually know the full story of my thinking at the time, because Marvel at the time was an underperforming old media play perceived to be a comic book company, and that wasn't a great business, and it was pinning its hopes at the time on converting its content to film. Our friend, Sam Raimi, was at the helm of that, and that investment today is a 99-bagger. I think about visionaries, I think about the dreamers out there. Sam Raimi is obviously one of them. He led me to Disney. I did get to meet Reed Hastings a few times, and that was the reason I ended up recommending Netflix in 2004, and then Elon Musk came to our Motley Fool offices to speak to our employees in 2011. Shortly after that, I recommended that stock, and if you think reflection No. 3 is about, you need to know the right people in business, no, that's not my point.
Please understand, I don't know personally any of the people that I just mentioned to you. But what I think is true of these encounters and these interactions is that I was attracted to each of these people, connected with them in some cases. It's because they were visionaries, and this is reflection No. 3. Look for visionaries. Love your visionaries, the dreamers out there. I think I have one more thing to say, but I see Rick Engdahl, my talented producer, raising his hand. Rick?
Rick Engdahl: Well, I just want to point out, and maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's not, I'm not sure, but I started at the Fool about 20 years ago. One of the first stocks I bought on your recommendation was Marvel, which I still hold as Disney. On my own, I also bought Sony, which was actually the company that produced the Spider-Man movies, and I have a new puppy whose name is Xena. So watch out, Sam, I'm coming for my 10%.
Gardner: [laughs] That is spectacular. Thank you for sharing that, Rick. I love it. Probably one of my favorite college basketball players in recent years, for obvious reasons if you follow the sport, was the point guard of the most recent team to win the national championship for my university, University of North Carolina. His name is Joel Berry. Now, a lot of people have tattoos these days and a lot of them seem to play basketball. If you look at the college or pro basketball team, you'll often see a lot of tattoos. Joel Berry only ever had one. He just had one tattoo. When he was interviewed, he'd say, "I'm not a tattoo guy. This is the only one I have." I believe it's his right bicep. It's just the word "believe". He said he looks down at that and he's reminded every day to believe. I think that's what we do when we succeed as investors and business people; we believe. In some cases, we need to believe in ourselves. But in other cases, we need to find the visionaries and believe the vision that they have.
We can make a good superhero movie out of a comic book, or maybe people will ultimately be streaming content over the Internet instead of their cable TV, or darn it, electric cars will succeed. So look for visionaries. If you're a visionary, congratulations. Look for the dreamers and believe. This Blast From the Past was, again, from April 2017 when I first told the Sam Raimi story from back in the day, 1998, but that year 2017, just four years ago, there was a movie that classically almost, it did and then it didn't, won the best picture Oscar. I'm sure you remember now. It was La La Land. My favorite song in La La Land is entitled "Audition" and the parenthetical subtitle of that song is "The Fools Who Dream." You remember the movie? You remember the song? Maybe you remember Emma Stone singing these lines to close. Have a wonderful week. Fool on!