Sometimes the quotes are worth repeating, even if the attribution is suspect. Somebody said it after all, and the wisdom of words rings true regardless. In this podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner brings some of his favorite quotes to you.
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David Gardner: I didn't start collecting quotes until I was an adult. One of our family keepsakes, is our now-deceased mother's own journal of quotes and inspirations that she found through her life, so there is some family, cultural, maybe even genetic heritage here. Somewhere in my early adult years, I guess I started finding other people, really quotable, authors from my reading, great figures in the world of sports, entrepreneurs. So It began. I started it in Evernote, a single notebook I called Visceral Quotations, because they spoke to my heart or my gut, my insides. Great quotes for me are visceral. Then I co-founded a company and found myself even more drawn to thoughts high and noble or sometimes disarmingly funny.
Whatever might help our Fool employees and our worldwide Fool community toward better thinking and better actions. Then, well, this podcast, Great Quotes Volume 1 debuted on December 16th, 2015. In retrospect, it was inevitable. If we're going to talk to each other back-and-forth, you and me, every week of the year, probably one or two of those weeks I'm going to bring out more great lines or thoughts, sentiments, usually from well-known people, and share and think about them together for a bit. Great Quotes Volume 1 brought you my first Motley array from Jerry Garcia to Antoine de Saint-Exupery. That same purpose and Motley mix and fun has carried through now to this 15th episode in this series through to today. Great Quotes Volume 15. Only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
David Gardner: Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. A delight to have you joining me this week. I mentioned the first Great Quotes, Volume 1 on this podcast, Jerry Garcia and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I love both those quotes and this is a round number episode for this series, so I think it's fair briefly to hail back to the start of it. It was never clear whether it was Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead's greatest star or the band manager Bill Graham who said this. I paraphrase, I'm doing this from memory. I think I mostly have it right. "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." Such a great line. If you'd like to hear why I think that's a great liner, what I thought about it seven years ago, Great Quotes Volume 1 is there for you. It also includes the great Antoine de Saint-Exupery line.
Of course, this was written in French but translated to English, it goes something like, "If you want to build a boat, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide up the work, and give orders, instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea, if you want to build a boat." A couple of memories from the very first podcast in this series, I want to mention before we get into it next week, I have a special guest. There is a professional tennis player who plays around the world, who is a Foolish investor. In fact, how did I get to know Sem Verbeek? Well, it was through the mailbag of this podcast last year that Sam wrote in and talked about his life as a tennis player and his wish that more of the people, his peers who played tennis every week would understand money better and could he help to spread some of The Motley Fool's love of financial literacy and the importance of this topic to other people on the tour. That's something that Motley Fool Foundation has been hearing and listening about and thinking.
But in the meantime, I've gotten to know Sam a little bit better and you're going to next week as he joins me to talk about growing up the story of his life, life, and tennis today, and Foolish investing. Very delighted to bring a new face and a new guest to the show, Sem Verbeek next week. But that will be then and this is now. Let's get started. Great Quotes Volume 15, quotation number 1. This one comes from a graduation speech. It was given at Princeton University, the Princeton baccalaureate speech this year. It was this spring by Wendy Kopp. I don't know Wendy but she started Teach for America. She then later started Teach for All, which basically takes the model of training young teachers and putting them in tougher schools where they really need teaching. She's taking that to the world with Teach for All. That's her entrepreneurial background. She is a Princetonian. I was not there for this speech, but I heard it later and I love this line, so great quote. Number 1. Thank you, Wendy Kopp.
Here we go. "In this era, there's more attention than ever, especially among your generation, speaking of course to young adults, on personal well-being and finding balance." She puts that in quotes. She goes on, "What I've seen is that the highest form of well-being is the exhilaration that comes from immersing ourselves in things that matter. The path to happiness is not balance per se, but rather congruence between the values we hold most dear and where we spend our energy." Wendy Kopp is one of those Princetonian. Jack Bogle was another who used the point of her senior thesis to launch her own career. Bogle famously wrote about something called an index fund, which didn't really exist when he graduated Princeton decades ago. He went on to found Vanguard and the world's largest asset management firm, largely premised on index funds.
Well, Wendy Kopp's 177-page senior thesis at Princeton was entitled An Argument and Plan for the Creation of the Teacher Corps. I didn't read this thesis. Maybe like the peace corps except for, let's get some teachers out there in the field. The reason I love this Wendy Kopp quote is, not only have I read it to each of my 320 something kids and think that it's so wise. But the reason that I particularly love it is because she goes after balance a little bit and I think balance is overrated. I first started thinking this, thanks to Stew Friedman, longtime academic and business author on leadership. He wrote a book called Total Leadership. That was the first time I saw somebody assail the phrase work-life balance. He said, "How stressful is that?" In so many words, Stew Friedman said, "It's like you're on a seesaw and you're on one side of it and you're like, I need to spend more time at work. I really do. I need to spend more time at work. Then you sit down too hard on that side and oops, you smack the ground, and all of a sudden, you realize, oh my gosh, I'm not paying enough attention to my life, my family. I need to balance.
You run to the other side of the seesaw and sit hard on that side and you're stressfully going back and forth, I guess, as you hope to maintain" it quotes "work-life balance". It even implies there aren't anything other than work and life to balance, but I think there are a lot more things to life and I don't think balance is the right metaphor anyway, which is why I love this Wendy Kopp quote. I think I love in part conscious capitalism because it's not seeking a balance. It's saying, name your stakeholders. For example, your customers. Otherwise, why do you exist? Your partners and suppliers who make your business possible. Your employees who actually do most of the work. Your shareholders, yes, they are stakeholders too. Rather than trying to balance them one against another, trading off one for another, why not reframe it as creating a win for all of them. That's exactly what Stew Friedman does in his book, Total Leadership. He says, "There are really four areas of your existence.
There's you and your personal well-being, you, then there's your family, then there's your community or the world at large, and fourth, your workplace. Instead of trying to balance work and life so called, why not instead reframe it and make decisions that create a win across all four of those contexts? It's not always easy or obvious. Sometimes, it's in the striving itself that the value is created but reframing things to think through, how can I do it in such a way that that's a win for my family and a win at work and I feel great about it and it adds value to the world." Going back to Wendy's quote, "What I've seen is that the highest form of well-being is the exhilaration that comes from immersing ourselves in things that matter." She goes on to say, "There needs to be congruence between the values we hold most dear and where we spend our energy." Before I get to quote number 2, just one final thought here. I once wrote a column called Risk-adjust that Moonshot.
In fact, if you Google the phrase risk, moonshot, Gardner, I ranked number 1 on the Internet. Risk, moonshot, Gardner from my article Risk-adjust that Moonshot. In so many words, I talk about how I don't really like risk-adjusted returns. I don't think that's something to do or to go for. I respect some of the academic exercise. I respect the idea that if you take crazy risks and do really well, you might want to adjust for that because you might have gotten lucky, I get that. But really, do we risk-adjust our lives? Do we want to risk-adjust our investing results or risk-adjust the decisions that you made as an 18-year-old or as an 80-year-old? I wrote at the end of that column, "But whether or not you hold that stock, whether or not you hold any stock at all, if you risk-adjust reality, If you pat yourself on the back for taking a safer tenth-rate when you could have had the first-rate, we can say this for sure, you will never have the moon." Onto quotation number 2. I've done this a few times over the course of the series, never too much putting myself.
This is a more recent line and I realized it's well paired with my investing line. Any regular listener has heard this repeatedly, I hope over the years and for good reason, "Make your portfolio reflect your best vision for our future." I won't go into my sermonette about that right now. It's elsewhere. In fact, it's in this series. I made that a previous quote in this series. But because a lot of the time these days, I'm talking about three things. Investing, yes, but also business entrepreneurs and also life, fellow livers of life, my Fools everywhere, I found myself wanting a line that could express what I think we should be doing at a higher level than just our portfolios. Here's where I've settled. Maybe this won't be where it ends, but it's where it is right now and I like it. Here's the line, "Make your life reflect your best vision for your community." Just to speak to that one briefly, I guess, let's look at some of the words in it and reflect.
The first is make your life. I really think you have a tremendous amount of agency. I think often people forget that or they think they're victimized by these other situations, whether they're external, whether it could be something like the horrible weather of last week, or how someone treated them when they were a kid, the list goes on and we're all having to muddle through and do our best reacting to external forces. But most of the successful and happy people I know, and I say successful and happy people that I know, are people who recognize their own agency in life. I believe make your life is like make your portfolio, it's a creative act. What you're doing with your money and your life, and you are in charge, you really are. Make the next phase is your life, and I guess what I want to say briefly about that is, I'm not speaking about this moment or tomorrow, or every single moment of every day, that can be exhausting, but when we say make your life, we're talking about the long game, we're talking about, what I do a lot on this podcast, because not enough people do it in our world, the long term, the only term that counts. So making your life feels much more doable than making every minute of every day for me. Make your life. Then the next word is reflect.
One of the things I love about mirrors is assuming they're clear and not warped, they're true. They really do reflect back whatever is standing in front of them and that's what our lives will do one day when people think about who I was, who you were, what we did, what we didn't do, all of these things will reflect the choices that we made. Make your life reflect, I guess the next word I want to look at is best. I always go for the best, I'm always going for the first rate. I encourage you to go for the first-rate and not settle for the fourth, fifth, or 10th rate in life. Make your life reflect your best vision. That means you need to be able to picture it. Some of us are better at picturing things that don't exist than others. Conversely, some of us are better at planning things than others. I think I'm good at vision. I'm not so great at planning, but I think you need to be able to picture what you're shooting for to be the best version of yourself. You're not going to be able to do that unless you do have a vision. Let's just start coming up with one. Make your life reflect your best vision for your community.
That last phrase reminds us that it's a choice that you and I have in terms of who we want to work for, what we want to serve. It is the community that you should be thinking about in your life, and some of us think of a global community and others of us think of our zip code or the neighborhood where we grew up that we'd like to go back and help. You decide, as you make your life reflect your best vision, you decide what is in your community. Make your life reflect your best vision for your community. Quotation number 3. I've talked about this extensively in the past. Many quotations were not actually said by the person that they are attributed to. It's just always going to sound better to say that Abraham Lincoln said this than David Gardner or Joe Schmo. This line is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. I'm not sure he ever said it. It's a great line. It's quotation number 3.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax." Great line. I first came across this I think in the book Essentialism, the wonderful book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I don't even remember the context of it in the text of Greg's book, but this one stands on its own. Does it, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening the ax." So contrary, you can imagine if Lincoln were a kid, dad would be coming by and going, "Hey, what are you doing? I gave you six hours, it's already been three hours. Johnny, across the street, Johnny has already halfway taken down that tree. What are you doing?" I think what I love about this is three things are going on. The first is, Abe Lincoln has a smarter idea. He actually thinks about it ahead of time, he doesn't just act or react, he thinks about it, number 1.
Number 2, he comes up with a more effective answer. If you're going to spend any time chopping down a tree, seems to me Lincoln probably thought, having a really sharp ax will make this job easier, and presumably, if your ax, I think I have one in the garage somewhere is like mine is probably not that sharp. You probably would benefit by sharpening your ax, and if you want to be metaphorical about this, maybe sharpening whatever ax we're talking about in life, you probably will benefit. It's a more effective answer to sharpen that ax before you start the hard work. The third and final thing I love about this quote is it really just goes against our instincts. When you think you have a limited amount of time to do something that is a physical task, you probably thought you should get started as quickly as possible to get that done, so how Foolish, how rule breakery, how contrary, to actually not do anything seemingly on the tree for more than half the time that you've given yourself for this project. I think the reason this quote jumps out at me and I hope you too is it really goes against our natural instincts and so often those are some of the great quotations.
I certainly was taught as a kid to work hard. I don't think I ever did that much, I wasn't great at working hard. But at a certain point, I think as we started The Motley Fool and I started professional life, I started realizing, it's not always working hard. You know what's a greater than sign for me than working hard? Work smart. Greater than sign work hard. I think working smart is probably not taught enough. I was rereading Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She's all about getting you to think smarter about this thing that ironically most of us were never really taught. We're expected in our teenage years to become responsible and clean up after ourselves and keep our bed made and our closet not jam full, but the truth is, even our parents didn't really know how to do that and so they didn't really teach us, and we end up cluttering our lives and our closets because we've really never gotten smarter on the subject. I think a big reason that Marie has sold several million copies of her book of just a few years ago, is that she's giving us a work smart over work hard answer.
One of my favorite more recent hires at The Motley Fool Ana Filipovic Windsor who's done some help for this podcast, does some social media for The Motley Fool, and her Motley, that's the value she brings to work every day. That's what we call it at our company. You can use the catchphrase, "What's your Motley?" and ask that of any Motley Fool employee and they'll probably give you a word or a phrase that is the value that they prize that they try to bring to the Fool into work every day, and Ana speaks directly to this because in a world where we're talking about work smart versus work hard, she said her Motley has worked smart and I guess that's probably the best answer of all both work smart and work hard. I think Abraham Lincoln sure did. Quotation number 4, and if Abraham Lincoln, supposedly anyway with that line had has, in the 19th century, let's stay there for a little while, although Marie Curie lived into the 20th century, I think her first Nobel prize was with her husband Pierre in the year 1903.
Pierre would tragically die a few years later in a street accident, but Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She became the first person to do it twice in two different fields. Talk about first, she was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. The year then was 1906. Much of her life's work, of course, around radioactivity, that is a term she coined. Candice Maillard on this podcast in August talked about her fascination with Marie Curie and how she would have loved to have written a book about Marie, except most of Marie's adventure, and she's sure was an adventure, was in her mind, not in her life, and so it makes it hard to write a highly engaging, adventuresome account, which is what Candice likes to do with the life of Marie Curie. The life of Marie Curie ended at the age of 66, ironically, because having essentially codified radioactivity, having founded two elements on the periodical table, one of which she named polonium to celebrate her native land of Poland.
The other was radium. Ironically, as I'm sure many of you will know better than I do, I've never read the biography on Marie Curie, but she died of radiation exposure. She didn't understand what was happening to her over the course of her years at the age of 66. Anyway, here's a great line and I want to shout out at Foolharder on Twitter. Clearly, a Fellow Fool at Foolharder hailing in from Ireland. I saw this quote on your profile page. It's still there today last October. In fact, I even date stamp things like this. It was October 18th, 2021 that I saw this great Marie Curie quote on your page. Here it is, quotation number 4, "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." Boy, if that doesn't speak to our age, our life, and times, what does? "Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." I've often talked in the past about investing as a topic that most people aren't taught, and money, a subject that can be intimidating for many. Fear is a natural reaction many people have when they think about saving money to invest and putting it in something that they hope will go up.
But if they haven't been well taught, if they don't have the right mindset, it might not end well. I've likened how we as human beings react to investing when we don't know much about it to the cartographers of medieval times who would write there be dragons in the corners of their maps. They didn't write this, "No one's ever been there. I don't know what's here." They didn't write that on the corner of the map. They wrote, "There be dragons." We make fearful the things that we do not understand. "Nothing in life is to be feared," Marie Curie wrote, "it is only to be understood." Fear is not one of my favorite words. Often people will describe investing as bouncing back and forth between the market cycles of, you've heard this before, fear and greed. I don't like either of those words. Both of those words have very negative connotations for me and I've always slightly resented anybody talking about investing that way.
The idea that great, oh my gosh, now the market is going down, fear. Are we really going to be that low on Maslow's hierarchy or we're going to be down there at this survival level, fearing and greeting our way through life as investors? I've always tried to replace those words when I speak about investing. With fear, I replace it with safety. With greed, I like to replace it with opportunity. I experienced a life as an investor of succeeding cycles of opportunity and then a need for safety. Both of those words are uplifting. I think that the active investing should be, I think it is. In fact, it does beautiful things in this world. Yeah, I'm not a big fear person. Now that this is the 15th Great Quotes Episode, I was looking back at a couple of the others where the word fear appeared and there are two, and I'll give him right here, right now. DL Moody, this was actually the one I did in May of this year. Great Quotes, Volume 14. Do you remember this one? DL Moody, "Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter." Which itself speaks back to the top of this podcast.
Wendy Kopp reminding us, she was speaking to Princeton grads, the young people, but doesn't speak to people of every age that the highest form of well-being is the exhilaration that comes from immersing ourselves in things that matter. Well, along with DL Moody's quote, there's one more fear quote. This one was from Volume 11, the first volume, and the only thus far where I opened it up for you, dear listener. I basically said, send me some good quotes, I'm going to do my next episode with user's submitted great quotes and I had five of them. I had more than five of them sent in, of course, but I can only feature the five best in this series. The Great Tecumseh line which mentions fear. Again, I'm going to read it. It's more of a paragraph than a single line, but it's a beautiful poem and thought about life from a native American hero who died very sadly. He wrote, "So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart." That's the fear line, but let me just go on to fill out the rest of the stanza. "Trouble no one about their religion, respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life.
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day. When you go over the great divide, always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger. When in a lonely place, show respect to all people and gravel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision, and when it comes your time to die," Tecumseh concluded, "be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." Thank you again, Tecumseh and Fellow Fool who shared that through this podcast. As I set up for the final quote, one last thought, I guess, about Marie Curie and her line.
I think I went strong to the hoop here on fear and feared. But really what she's talking about is about understanding. That's what scientists do. We can't know everything, especially in a world that is constantly innovating and expanding into new areas of knowledge and technology. It's increasingly hard for anybody to know much these days. In fact, I heard the wonderful philosopher from the University of Utah, Thi Nguyen, who writes a lot about games and games as art, as a big part of his philosophical inquiry, loved to have him on this podcasts sometime I think I will love to share him with you, but I heard a wonderful discussion with him recently where he talks about how there's so much knowledge, there's so many things to know at this point that most of us can only know a few things and so what are we left to do? Well, we're left to do two things. The first is to ask rather than fear, as Madam Curie reminds us, maybe understanding is better.
Understanding replaces fear and the way to achieve understanding is to ask. Again, that's what scientists do. They often start by positing something as a hypothesis. They then ask questions and gather the data about it and eventually decide right or wrong. If they think they're right, they make it into a theory which could become a hypothesis, someone else then tests. It's a very rigorous process. It doesn't always get things right but at the heart of science is inquiry and open-mindedness. It's not possible to understand everything in this world at this point and it's only going to get bigger and more confusing going forward. Start throwing in machine-learning AI and robots. This world may seem awfully crazy to all of us 25 years from now. Ask is going to be a wonderful weapon against chaos for you in this world. Another thing that you can do is trust, because even trying to ask to obtain all the answers can be exhausting and too hard.
If your memory is like mine, you may get an answer but then forget it. What we're left to do, I think you and I, is to find good people that we can trust, to find a doctor who really knows her subject and trust, to find a lawyer that maybe went to school with you, lifelong friends. That person knows law a lot better than I do, trust. The list goes on. It's not only just trusting individuals or people in your personal life. It's trusting what we read, who we read on the Internet, social media. Some of us are far too trusting of things that are not true. Others of us are not sufficiently trusting of things that are true and there's a golden mean that we're all shooting for. I sure do try to get there every day but Thi Nguyen, the philosopher reminds us that increasingly we're forced to lean on each other and trust because you know your subject and I know mine. The only way we can make good decisions across both subjects is if we find the truth and trust. So thank you, Marie Curie, nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less. Now, closing it out, quotation Number 5.
This one comes from James Caan, the actor. Do you remember James Caan? Many will remember Sonny Corleone, the role he played in the Godfather and reappraised in the Godfather 2. He also played Brian Piccolo in Brian's Song football movie back in the day. Of course, he was the father to Will Ferrell and Elf among James Caan's many roles. He didn't do a lot of comedy. He did do some comedy, including the line that is quotation Number 5. I first came across this line on Twitter earlier this year. In fact, the date was January 10th of this year, and James Caan with a blue checkmark next to him, I think implies that this was James himself posting this to his own Twitter feed. Now, maybe he has a PR firm helping them out. But this was from James Caan and I regret to say many of you will know this, that James Caan died in early July of this year at the age of 82. Maybe this was one of his last tweets and if it was, it was a great one to go out on. Comedy has always been so important to us at The Motley Fool. Of course, Fools themselves, the court jesters of your often used humor which Shakespeare highlighted to make their points as they spoke truth to power in the different contexts of Fools throughout the ages.
That's been a key role of the Fools and one of the funniest people I know and one of the best storytellers I know is my brother, Tom Gardner, the CEO of our company. It's always been very important, I think for us at the Fool to have fun and when necessary to entertain, to be funny, to educate, to amuse and to enrich is how we launched our website. I was going to say website, but really, we launched as an AOL screen before the web was really the web. From the earliest days, we've recognized the importance of being Fools, F for our members, which involves education, yes, and enrichment, yes, but also amusement. I was surprised that James Caan at the age of 81 or 82, rocked this particular line but I loved it. I copied it down and I thought on some upcoming great quotes podcasts, I think I'm going to end it with this great line and before I give it, because it's really the punchline, it's going to end the podcast this week.
Before I give it, I just want to say that one of the great features of comedy is when it reverses our expectations. One of the human instincts to laugh is we think something's going one down, one whole or one direction and all of a sudden, something comedic happens, or is said that reverses our expectations and that causes us to laugh. In a way, that's what Fools have always been doing. The contrarian saying or doing something that goes against where you think we're going. I think the act of wearing a jester cap to give financial advice would be a pretty good example of a disarmingly contrary approach to life. This line from James Caan is a great example of taking something where we think it's headed one way and we go another.
Well, the prelude is almost over, but I do want to say that in some ways, James Caan with this line plays the Fool to me and all of our great "podcasts together". Because much of the time, I'm saying something in earnest, something that is serious, something that I'm hoping you'll agree with is important or special. Sometimes perhaps at my worst, maybe we got a little bit too precious. I'm not sure. This James Caan line arguably plays the Fool to this week's podcast. Let's close it out with quotation Number 5. I quote from 07:08 PM of this year, January 10th 2022 @james_caan tweeted, "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes." End of tweet. Fool on.