I HAD to choose what university degree I wanted to do at 16 and to help me decide, my parents forked out a few hundred hard-earned pounds on top of the school fees for some skills and personality testing that led to what I considered the blindingly obvious and therefore stupid conclusion that I should do at university what I was doing (and enjoying) at school, my specialist subjects of English literature, English language, maths, physics or chemistry.
It annoyed me that they had milked my mum and dad for something anyone could have told them and because of that and because I was a belligerent 16-year-old, I ignored them. My brother was doing medicine, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, so I decided to do law.
It was one of the worst three decisions of my life, so I now have a keen interest in guiding my kids during the "career choice" stage of their development. But being teenagers you can't tell them straight, you have to be subtle.
Do your kids ever hit you and shout "Punch Buggy Red" while you're driving. Mine do. I thought it was some part of Australian culture that I had missed in my childhood, but it's not. It came from a marketing campaign by Volkswagen in 2009, the "Punch Dub" campaign. It was the very commercial usage of something I have always known as the "Beetle syndrome".
The Beetle syndrome is the concept that once you start looking to buy a particular car,you start seeing that car everywhere. The Beetle syndrome is what happens when you become conscious of a previously unnoticed car, person, concept, country, anything, and the Beetle syndrome is something you can use to manipulate your kids. Drive your kids to basketball and just as they get out of the car call them and say "Hey, you should go to Russia one day" and before they have time to say anything, drive off.
They won't understand but by hitting them with something unfamiliar and out of context it will stick and assuming they have an interest factor and memory capacity beyond that of the average frog (a big ask) they will forever have the concept of visiting Russia in their brain. A concept you embedded.
Years later they'll be at a cocktail party and hear someone talking in a Russian accent and courtesy of that day at the basketball their antennae will prick up, they will wander over and say "My dad once said I should visit Russia" and before they know it, they will.
It is a concept I also use in the stockmarket. The stockmarket is about stocks, not the market and some traders will tell you it's about finding and trading five good stocks that you get to know very well and nothing else matters. How do you find them? Embed them. Embed potential stocks. Jot them on a Post-it note maybe. Keep them on your screen. Stocks that you think might be interesting. Something that catches your attention.
I have recently embedded a few stocks exposed to cloud computing. It's a growth industry. Now whenever I hear anything about cloud computing my antennae go up and I learn more and the risks of finding the best company and making money in these stocks, and not losing money, improves.
You can do the same thing. Consciously and constantly embedding (listing) stocks that catch your attention, stocks you read about, companies you see doing well on the street, stocks in growth industries, stocks with particularly interesting managers, stocks with impressive growth prospects and so the process starts. You don't have to buy them, just embed them for a while and see if they pop up again. If they are succeeding they will and one day you will end up buying them and when you do you will be a lot better off for the process of embedding that started months or years earlier.
Footnote: The best career advice my kids have had came from their school and it is along the lines of do what you enjoy and what you're good at. If only I'd known. And apologies to all those 16-year-olds playing basketball this weekend. If your mum just shouted "Hey, you'd be really good at heart transplants" and drove off, it's my fault.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and author of stockmarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial go to marcustoday.com.au His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.