Sunday, 9 September 2012

Inspiring Doug Shell

Probably as a function of the age I'm at, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how I got here. It's a fascinating gift we enjoy as human beings to have memory and analytical capacity, which allow us to examine every choice, relationship, and experience we've ever had and find points of connection between them, to draw maps and timelines of what we have done or experienced, and how it led to somewhere else, and ultimately to the here and now. Often there is a key person, a source of impetus or inspiration, at each of the main inflection points, and I have been thinking about some of those people of late.

The other day I stumbled across this clip from 1994, which is an entertaining little tidbit from the halcyon days of the "Classic Lineup" of Guided by Voices. At 2:11, a young man from the audience at the Threadwaxing show in New York says, "It was awesome. It was incredible. I feel myself becoming a groupie." I had to watch this a few times just to convince myself that I was not hallucinating, and I now have confirmation from a mutual friend that I was not, which I pretty much knew anyway. This exuberant young fan is named Doug Shell, and I met him in London nearly 10 years after this was filmed.

Back when I was doing the telecom financial analyst thing (which seems like two lifetimes ago), I determined that the only way to achieve some real job satisfaction, retain my sanity, and possibly open up some new doors, was to write in a different style, to produce more thematic and unconventional research. On my maiden voyage in this vein in 2003 (I think it was, possibly 2002), about an hour after I'd pressed the send button, I got an email from a sector specialist analyst at one of our fund management clients. His name was Doug Shell, and I hadn't previously had any contact with him, that I can recall. I think he was relatively new in that role. His email said something along the lines of, "This is an excellent piece of work, very different and thought-provoking. This is the sort of thing that investors can really benefit from. You should be really pleased with it. Keep going." Or something like that.

He subsequently became my most ardent supporter, though he was never quite so fulsome as in this video. But it mattered to my employers at the time that a client had been so impressed with something that our humble little research team had produced, and it gained me a lot of credibility with them, and gave me a huge degree of confidence that I was on to something, rather than just bored and crazy. We developed a friendly dialogue and spoke at regular intervals. He was always keen to hear my opinions and to debate industry issues, not so much specific stocks, and I think we learned a lot from each other.

Based on this critical early support, I did indeed keep going in the same vein, and many interesting and amazing experiences flowed from this decision. I've lost track of Doug, but man, wherever you are, thanks.

"And we're finally here,
And shit yeah, it's cool,
Shouldn't it be?
Or something like that."

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