Monday, 8 August 2011

Share and share, a lie.


Most people enjoy an occasional gamble. It might only be a once a year punt on the horses, a lottery ticket (It could be you - or someone else) or a scratch card. It seems to be part of our nature - the desire to take a risk and acquire a disproportionate reward. The trick of course is to have minimal risk for maximum payback, but probability is also a factor.

And every form of gambling has its own wonder tales and mythical set of golden rules. It's usually a friend of a friend who made a windfall and lived happily ever after. My brother David actually won £3500 on Euro 96, although he had staked £500. You could argue that's not a great rate of return for the risk (I did, after the fact), but he was convinced it was a sound bet based on the form.

David was also into backing horses. He once insisted I pick a horse out for the Grand National, given my interest in the esoteric. Never one to resist a challenge to my ego back then, I took the bait, scanning the list of names with my third eye blinking at the page (probably). One name caught my attention: Earthstopper. I think he put 50p or £1 on it, just to see what would happen. It ran the race, came in fifth then dropped dead.

Of course, there is one type of gambling that purports to not be gambling at all: investments.
Here is a brief history of my occasional foray into the world of sharedealing.
1. The ballad of Telewest. When I worked for BT, I read an article in the press, quoting a BT board member who mentioned Telewest and future developments. That was bonjour for me, as Delboy might have said, so I bought some. Within a week, they were on the slide. A smart person would have cashed in or walked away or both. Not me - I was now an investor. So naturally I bought some more when they were half their value, confident that I could cash in when the price once again rose heroically. Last I heard, following all kind of consolidation and restructuring, the company had morphed into Telewest Global and my several hundred pounds' worth of investment had been reduced to ONE share.
2. Energis. Gone. Popped like a spot.
3. There was another telecomms company. I can't remember its name, but let's call it 'Icarus 1990s' by way of summing up the experience.
4. Uniq. I actually inherited 201 shares from my brother and, following a restructuring exercise, it magically reduced down to just 20 shares. Add to that a looming takeover and I'll walk away with 20% of the previous value, whether I want to or not.

Writing is also a gamble. Just like investments, you benefit from doing research, from keeping abreast of trends and by studying the industry news. But unlike investments you can actually improve your chances of success by writing, editing and presenting to the very best of your ability. Plus, there's nothing to prevent you from investing the same material in two or more places at once. (And yes, I know that's frowned upon by some agents or publishers. Just as waiting six months for a response then being promised a phone call that doesn't materialise twice is frowned upon by me.)

Writing - it could be you next!

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