There are moments in life that I call Mack Truck moments, when a Mack Truck comes hurtling towards you and you have to make a decision in a split second that will change your life forever. Jump left or right, no other option and whatever you decide, you live with evermore.
We've all had Mack Truck moments - call them regrets; I've had a few.
At 16, I was called to the housemaster's study and told the deadline for choosing which course I was going to do at university was up and I now had to choose. My parents had spent hundreds of pounds on a careers adviser, who told us I should do maths, physics or chemistry, the subjects I was doing and loving at A Level. I really wanted to do aeronautical engineering (building planes), but, standing to attention in front of the housemaster, I pulled ''law'' out of my arse to impress mum and dad.
Wrong. Four wasted years later and a career in ''flight vehicle'' aerodynamics was lost.
Then I got to university and was applying for the university air squadron. My dad was a fighter pilot in the RAF and I had been groomed pre-birth to follow in his footsteps.
I was not unhappy at that prospect.
The interview took a day. I knew the wing commander doing cadet selection, flew through the interview, blitzed the physical. I even knew every word to Top Gun. I was born to the task. But at the end of it all, a sergeant took me aside, gave me a coffee and a fag and casually asked me the crucial question: did I want to be a lawyer in the RAF (doing law at university remember)?
This was the Mack Truck moment. My dad had told me the question was coming. Of course I desperately wanted to be in the RAF, but I didn't want to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a pilot. So what did I say? ''No.''
Wrong. That was it. Didn't get in.
I had spent my youth idolising the RAF but at that age, my reaction was to thumb my nose. The reward for my petulance was a lifetime in stockbroking. Whoopee-do.
Another Mack Truck moment was when I was engaged to my first wife. It was all a bit unplanned and not very well considered, but the freight train of engagement and marriage was going full tilt, with all the families, a church booking and two cats on board.
She was older than me and a lot less naive. I'm sure she knew it wasn't right but the only way to take this lot off the rails was with an explosion. She stood at the top of the stairs, ripped her engagement ring off and threw it down the stairs at me. ''Let's just call the whole @#$%ing thing off,'' she screamed as £3000 worth of diamonds hurtled past my ear. This was the Truck. What did I say? ''No.''
Wrong. Five hundred thousand dollars and five years later …
As an investor, the road is littered with Mack Truck moments and whatever the successes, the one thing we all remember are the ones we got wrong. I sold 50,000 Zinifex shares at $2.18. They went to $21.60. That's $1,080,000 that could be sitting in my super fund right now.
I poured $100,000 into OneTel as a day trade minutes before they got suspended and went bust. World record for the fastest $16,000 burnt in history.
Ever met someone who sold 350,000 Oxiana shares at 14¢? Ever had the investor relations guys from Paladin visit you when the share price was 8¢ and ignore them?
I have. And I'm sure Sidney Kidman went to his grave remembering how he famously sold a 14th of BHP for $100 (up from $60). Now worth $14.5 billion.
Funny how we forget the successes but remember that little fork in the road in 1992 - 20 years ago - when, for some fleeting moment, we found a reason to sell 3000 Commonwealth Bank shares at $6, probably because of something they said on CNN. Twenty years carrying around a mental millstone. Mack Truck moments. That's life. A constant succession of forks. The art of it is not to dwell on the fork ups.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. His views do not necessarily reflect those of Patersons.