“Rule Breaker Investing” Pet Peeves, Vol. 7

Don’t you hate it when people keep long lists of pet peeves? That’s why we’re here; to get those peeves off the list and out into the airwaves.

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.

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This video was recorded on September 7, 2022.

David Gardner: Are you impressed when you see a movie is based on a true story? But what about if it’s only inspired by a true story, are you OK with that? Does it bother you? Should we care? Well, I care about baseball, but you know what I’ve never really cared about and now I think is sillier than ever? Counting wins by pitchers. Well, last but certainly not least, let me ask you if it sounds like I might be complaining this week, well, yes, I am. That’s because once or twice a year on Rule Breaker Investing, I do complain. It’s a Pet Peeves episode. We haven’t done one of these since last September. So yeah, it’s time. Pet Peeves, Volume 7, only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.

Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. It’s one of my favorites, admittedly, most self-indulgent podcasts I get to do every year. The good news is, yeah, I only do this about once a year. In fact, the last time I did a Pet Peeves podcast was last September. Do I come back each year bitter from Labor Day? It’s been 12 months, and so I’ve had substantial time to let things happen, lots of things. If there’s a particular thing that happens and it bothers me for whatever often silly reason and I note it at the time, but then it happens again and maybe again and again. Well, I just grab my iPhone at that point, and I drop a quick note into my organizational system, and I start to build a list. Then suddenly here we are. It’s September 2022 and I have stored up a list in this case of six Pet Peeves that I’ve personally seen and experienced over the previous 12 months and so I’m ready because it’s been repressed. I bottled it up, I’ve saved it, I’ve just had to sit there and deal silently knowing one day I will be able to talk about it — and that day has come.

There’s probably some extra energy that I bring to this podcast each time I do it once a year because I’m still really feeling it like it just happened. Each time I do one of these episodes, and this is the seventh, I point out a couple of things. First, every single one of the previous six is non-duplicative. I don’t go back to the well or keep beating a dead horse over and over again. It turns out I can live my way through life and find enough to complain about new each time, at least once a year. But another thing I like to do with these podcasts as I open them up is just mention some of the others from the past, maybe to entice you to go back and listen. For example, to last year when I expressed my disdain for the line, bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered. That was featured in Volume 6 or the year before Volume 5. Penalty kicks to decide soccer slash football matches, especially ones that really matter, penalty kicks? Or the year before that, 2019 when I invade against the phrase “growth stocks” or 2018 Volume 3 before that, vanity plate hate.

Why do people hate vanity plates? Or the year before that Volume 2, people who lead off saying something to you with this line, I’ll be honest with you. For some of my longtime listeners, I think you already know where I’m headed with that one. But if that doesn’t describe you, I would encourage you to go back and listen to Pet Peeves Volume 2 or the very first Pet Peeves podcast of all on Rule Breaker Investing, which was in 2016 where I closed it with Pet Peeve Number 9, people who keep really long lists of pet peeves. Designed, of course, to be self-effacing because I think I’m one of those people. Clearly, now that we’ve reached Volume 7 of this episodic series, I certainly qualify as a person, apparently who keeps really long lists of pet peeves. But the good news is I give it in bite-size chunks once a year, so even though I have six more to add right now to the list, I’m going to spare you all the others. We’re just going to do these six for 2022.

Let’s get started. Pet Peeve number 1, last but not least. You know the situation, you’re going around the table, you’re introducing people, we arrive at the last person. It’s often the host or the generous emcee who says, last but not least, David Gardner, last but not least blank. In my mind, is this just me or do you feel the same way? It always immediately invites group consideration as to who probably is the least. You’re basically saying, the final speaker is someone who is not the person of lease standing here, not the person of lowest character, this is not the real scoundrel in the room. You’re inviting all of us to ask ourselves immediately, last but certainly not least. Wow, wasn’t thinking about that until now, but now that you mentioned it, let me look around the room a little bit more and definitely determine in my own mind, even though I wasn’t in any way thinking about this until you said that, let me spend some extra time now putting someone down just for a moment, looking around the room, who is the person who counts least, who is the real scoundrel? Who’s the weakest link? As I skip my way merrily through life, I’ll note these kinds of lines or things as they happen and I often date stamp them.

I wrote this one down on November 30th of last year, saving it up to share it with you. This week, I was seeing what I was doing that day, I was at a YPO event partnering with conscious capitalism. It was a Zoom event, and I’m pretty sure the emcee of that Zoom event probably had each person introduce themselves and the person who said, now last but not least or maybe even last but certainly not least. When that happened, I noted it down, saved up to share it with you. I try not to use that phrase.

Pet Peeve number 2. Let’s call this one “ever-widening gaps.” Got some headlines for you here. Gender pay gap widens. That’s actually from Korea. Here’s another one, primary school disadvantage gap widens to largest in 10 years. That’s from the United Kingdom. Another, Mexico’s trade gap widens more than expected on fuel import costs. Math rates fell, achievement gap widened in D.C. schools.

One more example: Premier League Club Revenues Increase as Gap Widens With the Rest of Europe’s Top Divisions. Now, before I continue this mini-rant further, let me make it really clear, I’m certainly not here saying gaps don’t matter or that they shouldn’t be addressed. Not at all. But what I I’m saying is that I think too many people are viewing the world through the lens of gaps. Often zero-sum trade-off thinking and I think anybody who’s listening to this podcast for any meaningful period of time will realize, I have the opposite mentality. I have more of an abundance mindset and we’re trying to create wins for everybody, win, win, win. But there are a lot of gap hunters in our world at large and I think a lot of them are journalists who write headlines because one of the things I almost never see in any headline, I was reflecting on this quite a bit over the last year, is that any gap is narrowing. You’ll rarely hear that a gap is narrowing. We go through our lives.

We’re hearing through media reports that likely spillover into the regular day-to-day of our social lives, the gaps are widening, people gaps, widening. Remember, widening, not really narrowing. Well, rarely so. If so, if such a thing happens that a gap would actually be narrowing, it probably won’t be newsworthy. I think one of the things that happens in life is that over the course of time, excellence shows up and a lot of things turn our attention more toward excellence and away from things that are not as excellent. A quick example may be instructive is the last headline I shared with you: Premier League Club Revenues Increase as Gap Widens With the Rest of Europe’s Top Divisions. I don’t think that means the Premier League is doing anything wrong. It is, after all, the most watched sports league in the world, doing a little research. It broadcast to 212 territories. It can reach 643 million homes, a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion. It just enjoys a lot more interest and attention than even great leagues like the Bundesliga, for example, which is one of those other European top divisions that is suffering from a widening gap with our interest in the Premier League.

I think as humans, we’re particularly concerned, especially if we’re fair-minded, we’re particularly concerned by the presence of gaps, which probably explains why there’s such an obsession with hunting gaps widening. It probably does deserve news headlines more so than gaps narrowing. But I thought I would let my fingers do the googling and see just how often we’re using these two phrases and check it. You can do this yourself. I just typed in gaps widen on Google and selected news. I discovered that there were 1,240,000 search results with gap widens in the headlines. I typed in gap narrows, there were 78,300 examples of gaps narrowing. What I I’m saying is that, again, I think too many people are viewing the world through the lens of gaps, but directly related at a ratio of 15.9 to one, you’re going to hear the gaps are widening, not narrowing.

This is not a real headline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “gap greatly widens between article headlines with gap widens versus article headlines with the phrase gaps narrow” or maybe “gap continues to widen between journalists obsessively searching for gaps versus those who don’t.” Thus much I guess, for gaps. I just want to say that it seems to me in life and in our environment and in human dynamics, gaps would probably narrow about as much as they would widen. But even if they only narrowed 1/3 as much of the time we live in a world where the headlines about gaps widening are outnumbering the headlines of gaps narrowing by 16 to one. It’s like losing every game in the Premier League that you play 16 to one, if you’re cheering on gap’s narrowing or the reporting of them, or if you’re even someone who would look for or notice, let alone celebrate, gaps narrowing. Nope. There’s a gap, gaps really, and they’re widening. Tune-in details at 11:00. Onto Rule Breaker Investing Pet Peeve number 3 this week. I spend a lot of time, I think probably too much time looking at language or thinking about language.

Diction is one of my favorite things in life. Diction, as I recall from my school- boy days, basically means word choice. It’s what you chose to say. It’s the tools that you use that you leaned on as you opened your mouth or took pen to paper. It’s the words we choose to use, and a number of my pet peeves in the past have often been about stock market reporting and how I think the language that we’re using misleads people or undermines your ability to succeed at investing or business or life. Pet Peeve number 3 is another one of those pedantic observations, but this one isn’t world moving or earth-shattering really is any of my pedantry, either of those but nevertheless, I did want to go here. Let’s go Pet Peeve number 3 to the word, if you want to call it a word, overly. If you google the phrase “overly is not a word” as I did, you’ll get a result about five results down on Google, listen NPR article that’s entitled, regardless of what you think, irregardless is a word, which is fine.

It’s not a word I’m going to use my aim to spread beauty and elegance in the world, and irregardless, I’m going to put that word in quotes, is akin to me to waste or wastefulness. Now a lot of people litter and just generating waste on its own isn’t illegal, but it’s inelegant. It doesn’t make a contribution, and especially for some of us, possibly over-indexing toward cranky, aging people like me. We notice what you say. We notice and care about how we write. There’s almost a wink, wink in a good way, when you write the word over-cautious, you’re going to get credit for me dear speaker or writer bonus points because you didn’t write overly cautious. When you write over-focused instead of overly focused and similarly, though you won’t notice it because irregardless is according to NPR, a word. You won’t notice that you lost bonus points as you said it or wrote it, but you will with me. Often I think you’re gaining or losing these bonus points invisibly with some of the better educated and discerning people out there.

Now, let me make it clear. I’m pretty sure in the past Motley Fool article or book or talk, I might have said the word overly. I probably did it, but we’re all human. This comes from a place of love and forgiveness. I’m not trying to denigrate too hard here, but a recent book I really enjoyed that, I guess I could have featured last month on Authors in August, just didn’t have room for it, is a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I highly recommend this book. McKeown is all about saving time and saving energy by focusing on the things that really matter. But ironically, McKeown frequently leans on the word overly throughout his book, which goes a little bit against the message, the elegance of essentialism. Just a few examples. He writes on page 178, don’t be overly focused on the details — that should be “over-focused.” Page 157, it’s easy to get overly committed to a certain idea — that should just be “over-committed.”

Page 174, our life can resemble an overly full closet. How about just an over- full closet? It’s an elegant phrasing. On page 183, “If 50 percent,” he writes, “seems overly generous,” that should just be “over-generous.” I will contend that every single time you ever come across the word overly, you could save a little time, save a little space by just combining it with the adjective that pseudo adverb is modifying. As you write over-full or over-committed or over-focused, your reader will experience a little bit of pleasure, and you will have saved a couple of letters or a second of someone’s time in this world. In closing, there’s another much more positive approach here. There’s a glass-half-full approach that can be taken to these things rather than denigrate human foibles as I think I am right now. We can certainly just uphold noble action and Nobel aspiration and leave it at that. This is what I tried to do the other 51 weeks of the year, but this is our Pet Peeve Podcast where we have demarcated our rant zones. Stay away or sign-off right now, dear listener, if this is not what you need this week, it wouldn’t be over-sensitive of you and I won’t be over-concerned.

Pet Peeve number 4, I mentioned this at the top of the show, not going to spend a lot of time on this because not many people care nearly as much as I do about baseball. But one of the things that is always seem silly, and it goes back from the earliest days of baseball, is that the pitcher, often the starting picture of the team, but ultimately, a pitcher will at the end of the nine-inning game be granted a win or a loss. Last I checked there are nine players on the field, and most of them, except the pitcher these days, spend half their time hitting what actually scores runs and then the other half of the time, eight of those players are fielding positions trying to deny the opponent runs and the pitcher, who is the most important player on the team, I think because they’re the ones actually throwing the ball, and that does matter a great deal. I want to make it really clear. I think pitchers are important, but the notion that we’re ascribing the win or the loss, game in and game out, a decade in and decade out, to a pitcher has never felt right to me.

There are certainly some games where a hitter on the team who might have made a great catch in center-field as well clearly deserves the win would deserve credit if we’re going to take a team sport and say, this person gets the wins. Some of the time we should be giving the win, I think, to a position player who had a couple of home runs and made a great catch. On the face of it, this is the Pet Peeve: Why are we giving wins and losses to players at all in a team sport? We don’t do that in basketball. Nobody says who got the win, the power forward, we don’t do it in football, although a lot of the media does cover football as if it’s all about the quarterbacks, which I think is a mistake in view of the sport. But only in baseball and I guess, yes, hockey with goalies, do we ascribe wins and losses to an individual player. But the reason I’m focusing on baseball here and talking about this, this week is that there has been a big change in major league baseball in terms of how pitchers pitch. I don’t mean that many of them now throw in the high 90s or over a 100 miles an hour, which was not even true 20 years ago.

Just about any pitcher that has been a change in pitching. But I’m talking about how pitchers are handled today by their managers, increasingly, starting pitchers, the person who starts pitching for his team at the start of the first inning, are on a pitch count. Typically, it’s about 100 pitches. This was not true of baseball when I was a kid growing up or the decades before that, pitchers would often throw a complete game of nine innings but these days, if you’re on a hard pitch count of 100, that typically will last into the fifth or sixth, sometimes the seventh inning, rarely, if ever after that. The way that we’re now managing pitchers and the way that we maintain their wellness, I guess in their longevity as players, is we only let them pitch four, five, or six innings, even starting pitchers and in recent years, starting with the Tampa Bay Rays and many others who are playing money-ball these days, a topic I’ve talked about on other Rule Breaker Investing podcasts.

Sometimes they don’t even start the so-called starting pitcher. They’ll start our reliever who will just pitch the first inning. There has been a lot of experimentation in terms of who throws, how long they throw and when, and yet the thing that has continued is the silly counting of wins and losses, which makes even less sense in an era where the starting pitchers don’t pitch that long. To give an example and just bring this back to specifics on a Minnesota Twins fan. The Twins had a game earlier this year in which their starting pitcher Bailey Ober threw for innings. Just for innings he gave up only one hit. He struck out six batters, with no walks. It was an excellent four innings for Bailey Ober. He got relieved by a relief pitcher in the fifth inning named Caleb Tealbar. Caleb proceeded immediately to give up two hits and a run. But because during those couple of innings, the Twins themselves scored more runs than the opponents. Again, knowledgeable baseball fans know exactly what I’m talking about, and for everybody else, this point is almost over.

Tealbar was credited with the win. Again, if you look at what happened that game, the best pitcher who threw for the longest time, four innings, he gave up one hit and no runs was Bailey Ober. But because baseball has a rule that you can’t get a win as the starting pitcher if you don’t pitch five complete innings, instead, the relief pitcher who comes in right-away gives up runs and only a couple of innings. Nothing like the contribution made by Ober, Tealbar got the win, it was his first win of the season. Now that’s just one game, but what I’m talking about here are meaningless statistics that continue to be counted and kept and probably drive some decision-making or at least some opinions on talk radio these days, statistics that don’t really make much sense anymore. I’m hoping this little pet peeves strikes a blow for freedom for better ways of viewing who’s adding value in the game of baseball. Pitchers getting wins, especially in 2022, silly. Two left. Let’s move on.

Pet Peeve number 5: astrology. When I was a kid, I thought this sounded pretty cool. There was a horoscope in my newspaper and even as an adult, we’ll have fun, don’t we, saying things like, I’m a bullheaded tourist. But yeah, pet peeve, easy. Number 5 astrology. I’m quite sure I’m stepping on a few toes here, possibly upsetting someone, but this is a Pet Peeves episode, so what would you expect? My constant friend Wikipedia puts it well, “Throughout most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. During the enlightenment, however, astrology disappeared as an area of legitimate scientific pursuit following the end of the 19th century and the wide-scale adoption of the scientific method. Researchers have successfully challenged astrology on both theoretical and experimental grounds and have shown it to have no scientific validity or explanatory power.” Yeah, for me, it all keys to think about these Greek mythological associations imposed on the pattern of hot rocks millions of light years away. Think about it.

It makes no sense, but don’t take my word for it, ask someone who follows it to explain to you exactly how it works. I realized for some astrology almost rises to the level of religion, and I certainly don’t spend any time and won’t really criticizing religion on this podcast, but it’s not, it’s a pseudoscience. Let’s close it out. Pet Peeve number 6. I led off the top of the podcast this week pointing to the association of movies with true stories. I have to admit having watched however many movies I have in theatres and out. Now at the age of 56, I’m not sure I ever remember one saying right at the start, a true story. I think if you really want to create a powerful moment as a director with your audience, you would just flash on just before it starts “a true story.” But absent that, which admittedly is almost over the top these days, we’re left with movies that are based on a true story and I would say, growing up, that was a phrase I would see more often than not and it always felt inspiring. I don’t think Rocky was ever based on a true story, but I think Chariots of Fire, it won best picture, I think it was probably based on a true story.

Since then, I’ve noticed an increasing preponderance of the phrase inspired by a true story, which increasingly has me scratching my head. I joked to family members when we saw the movie, I Am Legend, the Will Smith vehicle from some years back. What if it said inspired by a true story, which I guess most science fiction probably isn’t really, but I started to Google what we’re making? What is a true story? What is based on a true story and what is inspired by a true story? I found myself on the website, filmindependent.org, where there’s a good interview with Rona Edwards and she gives these words, she says, “Inspired by means that it’s based on a real-life event, but that a lot of the characters and scenes surrounding it are fictionalized.” She’s giving advice here to movie-maker. She says you may want to use “inspired by” if you’ve changed the story so much that it’s basically just an essence of the original story. She goes on, “Based on a true story” is more of an accurate accounting of the story though there’s probably some dramatic license taken.

Well, I feel like I’ve made use of my own dramatic license going through my sixth Pet Peeves with you this podcast, and rather than just complain the entire podcast, I thought I’d try to add a little value to you at the end and so let me share with you what I’ve found, which I love. If you Google the phrase “based on a true, true story,” you will find the top link from the site informationisbeautiful.net based on a true, true story. This is especially for movie aficionados or anybody who’s looking for more truth in this world, and if you’re a near web browser on your phone, click in with me, won’t you, and you’re going to see a really cool display. You’re going to see a number of popular recent movies as a thin strip across the screen from left to right and that’s the chronology of the movie and there are blue vertical strips or sometimes wide bands of blue and then red ones or pink ones as well and the more blue it is at any given moment, that’s the more true that story is, and the more pink or red that strip, these things look like ribbon candy. The more pink or red, the falser it is.

But what’s even cooler than just the already very helpful infographic where you can look across Bohemian Rhapsody and see it’s true 80 percent of the time, which is really quite good, especially when you compare it to the Imitation Game, which is right only 42.3 percent of the time, by the way, Selma 100 percent true. Now I hasten to mention, I didn’t initially notice this myself, my producer Rick has pointed out to me that at the top of the informationisbeautiful.net based on a true, true story page, there’s actually a dropdown selectable box entitled pedantry, which I think is beautifully relevant to this week’s podcast. But the pedantry levels for this page are the default setting, flexible, come on, it’s movies, the second choices can bear some dramatic license, and the third is only the absolute truth. So I should mention that if you select only the absolute truth pedantry setting, you will discover that Selma, still the most accurate of all these movies, is only 81.4 percent.

But what’s really cool about this site is you can click into any of those movies and those color strips left or right and it will show you the exact timestamp in the movie with a quick image and an explanation of how it’s true or false, but even if you don’t want to dial in that closely, just at an infographic level you have a stunning opportunity these days. I don’t know if informationisbeautiful.net is doing this for all the movies or just more popular recent Hollywood films, but you can really see what is true in that true stories so that’s probably my favorite Internet link of the week, and it’s my pleasure to close down the ranting and raving this week by actually making a positive contribution to the world, by pointing you to this wonderful tool. Well, in a world where it seems the gaps are always widening and there’s increasing skepticism about what’s true and what’s not and we often wonder what has been based on a true story or merely inspired by a true story. I think we see a little bit of the future looking at informationisbeautiful.net in terms of helping us figure out what’s true and what’s false, inspired by a true story.

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