As most of you know, I started writing for Seeking Alpha back in 2009.
I had recently “retired” from a successful career as an independent stock analyst for some of Wall Street’s greatest money managers… and I can honestly say that entire ride has the result of being in the right places at the right times.
In other words, I’ve been LUCKY.
I was lucky to have a good friend at International Data Corporation. He referred me for a job there. I had no idea that IDC was at the center of the technology revolution. I just wanted to escape my crummy $11 per hour job in mutual fund accounting.
A few years later, I was lucky to get hired away by AMR Research. I had no idea that the Internet boom would make AMR one of the hottest Internet consulting companies. I only went there because they offered me a position I might never have gotten at IDC.
I was lucky to be surrounded by such talented analysts there. Thanks to their expertise, I was able to help my customers escape the disaster when the Internet bubble imploded in early 2000. That allowed me to launch my own company, Pipeline Data.
I was also lucky that the real estate bubble didn’t burst until few years later. By the time it did, Pipeline Data had done well enough for me to retire.
Finally, I was lucky enough to discover Seeking Alpha. I had no idea that it would become a poster child for Internet-based stock research. I was just looking for something to do with my newly-found free time. Volunteering my research to Seeking Alpha was the perfect way to stay busy while giving something back to the world.
Over the years, I’ve attracted 10,000 followers, made many new contacts (and friends!) and have been lucky enough to pick 20+ multi-baggers along the way. Not everything has been lucky, but the good has far outweighed the bad.
So, what was the secret to all that luck?
I’ll tell you in a second… and I know it’s true, because I’ve seen it work for many, many people in my life. In fact, I heard David Letterman and Barack Obama talk about it on Netflix tonight.
Mr. Obama went out of the way to say “We’ve been lucky.”
He went on to say, “I worked hard and I’ve got some talent, but there are a lot of hardworking talented people out there. There was this element of chance to it.”
Letterman replied, “I have been nothing but lucky.”
The “secret” is simple.
WE JUST WORKED WITH RELENTLESS DEDICATION TO WHAT WE LOVED MOST.
This has been the common thread across nearly every successful person I’ve ever encountered.
Noticing that relentless dedication (working on stocks for 4+ hours a night after getting home from work) is the reason my friend recommended me for the job at IDC. The late nights I loved spending at IDC is why my name came up when AMR sought to launch a Wall Street service.
Similarly, catching me live at work (instead of catching my voicemail) at crazy hours of the night is why so many Wall Street firms gave my new company a chance…
…and those same late nights are why I’ve been lucky enough to find so many winning stocks. Because I love doing it, and that love fuels my desire to work hard at it every day.
So forget about the world and politics and anything else that might discourage you from trying. JUST WORK HARD at the thing you love most and have faith that luck will come looking for you.
It’s as simple as that. Good luck!
But don’t go away just yet.
There’s a bit more to this story…
It appears that I was also lucky to see the writing on the wall when Seeking Alpha started morphing into the equivalent of Uber for stock research a couple of years ago. I noticed that their strategic decisions weren’t geared toward fostering quality research, but rather the pursuit of traffic (eyeballs). So, quality has suffered, as we all know.
I didn’t (and still don’t) blame them. After all, Uber is much more valuable than any limousine service!
In case you’re wondering, this is one of the reasons I haven’t introduced any new “picks” on Seeking Alpha recently. Some have speculated that it had to do with my dealings with the SEC*, but that has only affected my level of cautiousness.
* I’ve discussed the SEC on Seeking Alpha several times over the past couple of years. However, for those who don’t already know… In 2015, the SEC decided to investigate all of my stock-related activities (articles and trades) going back several years. The had an issue with the disclosures regarding my trading practices. Hundreds of articles and thousands of trades were looked at.
Ultimately, a settlement was reached with no admission of wrongdoing on the basis of four stocks over a six-month period (among my nine years as a public writer, which began in January of 2009).
The issue originated from a weakness in my disclosure statements between February and July of 2014. The SEC settlement involved less than 1% of the stocks that were investigated. Similarly, the penalty represented a low-single digits percentage of my earnings during the investigated period. It should also be noted that none of my signature “Poised to Triple” reports were issued or implicated in that time frame.
This should help folks to pass judgement on this situation. That being said, I acknowledge that nothing can diminish the seriousness of this matter. The experience was embarrassing, costly, eye-opening, instructive, and humbling.
FYI, I’m currently in the process of pursuing legal action against the individuals who were in charge of posting / maintaining my disclosures during that time frame. Lesson learned.
The most humbling part of this experience is the realization that there’s no way for me to help people without the risk that my work causes harm. No matter what I do or say (and no matter how I do or say it), individuals’ interpretations and perceptions will vary. Consequently, their actions will also vary, leading to varying results – some good, some bad.
If you have 10,000 followers and 1% have a bad experience, that’s 100 people. That’s a lot. However, it’s still “just” 1%, which has made it easy to minimize the implications… until I made a concerted effort to see things through the eyes of those 100 people.
I asked myself, “Is it possible to interpret my work the wrong way? If someone else wrote this, would it be possible for me to view the writer as a pumper? If I make a mistake or a bad call, is it possible to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was just a mistake or a bad call?”
Of course, we all know the answers. Nothing is absolute… and whenever money is involved, consequences abound.
Consequently, that means that I pose a danger to others (even if it’s only 1% of the people who encounter me). Consequently, there will always be people who are convinced that I’m one of the bad guys.
Of course, I’m back in control of my content, using MY compliance lawyer. He’s used to be with the SEC, so he knows where the lines turn from white to gray to black. My aim is to avoid the gray (as well as the black) to avoid any infractions or risk of scrutiny.
So, my bases are covered. However, being safe from the SEC isn’t my primary goal (otherwise I’d just stop sharing my work and enjoy my retirement). My goal is to help as much as possible, while minimizing the chances that someone gets hurt by misinterpreting my work. Consequently, that means that I won’t be providing as much as I used to, because the sharpest tools are the most dangerous.
Consequently, I have only been / will be sharing information (NO recommendations, NO price targets, and as few opinions as possible). I’ve been doing this partially via my Interest List. However, going forward, I’ll be focusing more on this blog. I don’t want people treating the stocks in which I’m “interested” as recommendations. To be clear, they’re NOT.
I also find myself reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading what I write. As I do, I imagine if anything can be interpreted the wrong way or viewed as promotional. It adds a lot of time to the task. In other words, the “consequences” have been far more numerous and serious than I ever imagined.
At the same time, with all the recent changes and issues, things came to a head with Seeking Alpha. Consequently, I won’t be doing anything there anymore. As part of this, they notified me that they would be “removing (my) articles published after Sept. 15, 2017”.
That’s their prerogative. Consequently, I’ll probably opt to take them ALL down. I wish Seeking Alpha continued success. It’s a great company, but we can no longer see eye to eye. Besides, less headaches means more of what I love doing… research and collaboration with people who know my work. Strangers to my method are the most likely to get inadvertently hurt.
Disclaimer: Long-time readers will note some significant changes in how I communicate in the public domain. The sole purpose of this forum is now to attract new contacts with professional industry expertise to share research and receive feedback (confirmation / refutation) regarding my investment theses. Accordingly, this document should not be construed as an endorsement of the companies or securities discussed herein. It should also be noted that I frequently trade my positions and may buy, sell, or short the securities mentioned herein at any time, regardless of the facts or perceived implications of this article.
The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular security or course of action. I am not a financial advisor. Nor am I providing any recommendations, price targets, or opinions about valuation regarding the companies discussed herein. Similarly, the disclosure above may state that I am long or short shares of the companies mentioned herein, but should not be construed as an endorsement of any particular investment or opinion of the stock’s current or future price.
Any disclosure is true as of the time the article is published, but it is possible (or even likely) that I might be buying and/or selling the stocks mentioned herein immediately thereafter or at any other time, regardless of (and possibly contrary to) the content of this article or this website’s timing of its release.
I undertake no responsibility to update my disclosures following its publication and may be inaccurate thereafter. Likewise, any opinions are as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice and may not be updated. I believe that the sources of information I use are accurate but there can be no assurance that they are. I wrote this article myself and I receive no compensation for writing it. All investments carry the risk of loss and the securities mentioned herein may entail a high level of risk. Investors considering an investment should perform their own research and consult with a qualified investment professional.