Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
 
No. of Recommendations: 109
Thank you for this past week's discussion and for your suggestions and comments. I thought I'd share a few of my conclusions so that we can back to the business of BRK. There are more important things to discuss here -- for example, answering the wonderful questions raised in Whitney Tilson's recent article that force one to ask, "Would Warren Buffett buy Berkshire Hathaway stock if he was investing less than $10 million?".

But I wanted to wrap up with some thoughts, and they are:

1) Schadenfreude, The Sin

When you're engaged in a service like this, there's simply no way to correct every inaccuracy. That's the nature of this place. Someone'll take you to task and then, a few notes later, apologize for a fundamental inaccuracy in their analysis. I liken The Motley Fool community to a masterful investment book writ by the world. Every day, we come in to refine our work, edit one another's thoughts, all in an effort to solve the next great series of financial mysteries. I don't mind -- in fact I love -- the messiness of it. It's fine to be wrong in a board post. Being wrong and making mistakes is not a sin here, nor for that matter inside the business run by Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett. The sins, among others, are a) intentional deceit, b) destructive criticism, c) arrogance and pride, and d) inflexibility. I've felt the same thing for ten years: You do not learn unless you listen; schadenfreude is a short-term antidote but it ruins all in time; be open to ideas and tend to the many who want to make The Motley Fool better, those who love to construct rather than to pull down.

2) The Sharing of Blunders

My original post in the thread came simply because I felt obliged to correct a note that suggested I was intentionally deceiving people by recommending Krispy Kreme in our newsletter, then swearing it off in a Fool.com article. As noted, that was David's recommendation and, candidly, as I review that article, there was nothing inaccurate or inappropriate in what I wrote about Krispy Kreme.

However, I do agree with the suggestion that, in cases like this, I should mention Dave's position in my writing; in future, I definitely will. I have no problem reviewing my mistakes; I'm even less resistant to reviewing those of my older brother. There is no mystery to that. Thanks for this suggestion.

Finally on this point, I certainly had no intention of bragging for avoiding the giant doughnut stock (pride wrecks). My goal -- perhaps held back by inadequate effort -- was simply to explain how my approach works -- aided directly by the thoughts of Klarman, Whitman, Lynch, Buffett, Royce, Nierenberg, et al -- and why it didn't lead to a KKD investment. Sadly, my approach still leads to its share of blunders. Someone suggested that I share some of these blunders, like doctors submitting their work for public critique. Readers of our newsletters (and, for that matter, everyone on our board of directors and the loose collection of superstar business minds that provides feedback for us) knows that by design we embrace the sharing of failures -- reviewing and then working to avoid them. However, that's perhaps not apparent enough at Fool.com. And so I'll dissect my mistakes in a year-end article, more authentic than William Swaggart in tears. Thanks for this suggestion.

3) To Strengthen the Message

As far as the statement of our investment returns, I feel good about this for all of our existing members. Once you're in one of our services -- whether it's Stock Advisor, Hidden Gems, Mathew Emmert's dividend stock service or Philip Durell's value investing service -- it's pretty clear and logical how the returns are being computed. However, for those not using the services (shame on you), I can understand the confusion. Mark Hulbert does a very fine job of objectively calculating returns across the industry. His efforts reveal that we're generating comfortably above-average results for our members. Those numbers are out there. In fact, by virtue of how he calculates returns, in the case of Hidden Gems for example, I believe his performance numbers for me may be higher than ours of 46% gains versus a cumulative market return of 10% (the rewards of seeking the small and unloved rather than the familiar and beloved -- from whom did we learn that?). That said, auditing makes a great deal of sense. The subject has come up in the past, not because newsletter members have asked for it, but rather to strengthen our messaging. Terrific.

4) Those Who Grow Gardens

I well know you can't please all the people, all the time. The Motley Fool has been alive for ten years. For those who enjoy and rely on it -- whether for help paying off credit cards, for investment ideas, or just for an opportunity to, with civility, bat around ideas with bright minds here in the Berkshire folder -- I'm confident The Motley Fool will continue to be a welcoming place for many more decades. We're a site that welcomes, by way of example, our competition into a public discussion with our customers. Ponder that, dear Fool. We give everyone an opportunity to sound off, accepting that some folks are just going to be religiously and unfailingly publicly negative about who we are, what we stand for, what we have or haven't achieved, and whether or not we'll survive (or deserve to). Yet the flurry of posts and articles and interviews brought to the table for and by four million people each month, is aiding and abetting learning, insight and discovery, and new ways of seeing.

For my part, without this community, by way of example, I wouldn't have learned the details of Walter Schloss' investment philosophy; I wouldn't have gained the chance to close out an engaging interview with Hidden Gems member Thornton Oglove (author of the very fine 1987 book "Quality of Earnings"); we wouldn't gain continuing counsel from some of America's greatest business leaders who have lived our mission long before we arrived; and Marty Whitman wouldn't have captured our philosophy so beautifully in advising us that anyone who knows he's right and that others are wrong is unlikely to succeed as an investor and businessman (leave aside in life). I remember his idea whenever I assess the work of others and whenever I read the analysis of our work by others. The greatest minds build. It is essential that you avoid at all costs situations where you're inclined to criticize someone or something without the intent of seeing it grow more vibrant, truer, and more useful -- else you will lose, not it.

And that's why I love this community, and this discussion group. Without the constructive thinking from so many of you, the swirl of curiosity and goodwill that is The Motley Fool would dry up like a fallen leaf. Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas. Out of it is sure to come better services, better marketing, better tracking, and improved presentation. The only way to take an A service toward A+, and then into extra credit, is to listen and learn from those who want to see this garden grow. Thanks to you all for that.

Tom Gardner
Print the post  

Announcements

What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.