Steve Irwin's passing over the Labor Day weekend was unfortunate. He entertained millions through daring entanglements with crocodiles, tigers, and snakes -- yet a freak stingray accident ultimately did him in.
Irwin isn't the only daredevil living on the edge to slip away unceremoniously. Harry Houdini made a living out of escaping near-death stunts, only to succumb to a ruptured appendix. Jacques Cousteau invented the Aqualung and explored great oceanic depths, but he eventually died of a heart attack caused by complications of a respiratory illness.
In a nutshell, even if you live dangerously, the simplest of things can take you out. Would the same theory then hold true for investing?
Most people want the highest returns while putting up with the minimal amount of risk. It's an unrealistic aim. Risk and reward are inversely related. If you want market-thumping gains, you are going to have to eventually go out on a limb.
Irwin, Houdini, and Cousteau can teach us that you can carve out lasting legacies by taking chances. They also have grimly taught us that you can still be stung when you least expect it.
Want proof? Think of the classic corporate blowups we've suffered through in recent years. Enron. WorldCom. Refco. Tyco International (NYSE: TYC ) . These companies blew up despite toiling away in seemingly sleepy sectors. In that time, investors could have taken a chance on more adventurous equities, such as search-engine giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and iPod wunderkind Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , and made back their botched investments elsewhere several times over.
Investing is about taking chances. You can take precautions by diving headfirst into as much due diligence as possible, but in the end, there are no fire-retardant suits or lifelines in the marketplace. You are buying into a company convinced that the market will ultimately value it higher, but accepting that it can also go the other way.
Walkabout soup for the shareholder soul
Much has been said of buying stocks that let you sleep well at night. I wouldn't dream of it. I want to be agitated with the potential for greatness, rather than settle for steady drudgery that may very well implode anyway at the first whiff of an accounting scandal or a shady executive.
If you're going to invest, knowing that you are risking it all, why do it any other way but aggressively? I realize that that's the kind of stance that won't endear me to some of my fellow (and more conservative) Motley Fool analysts. I love them to bits, but if I'm going to invest with a mean streak, I may as well write that way too.
I don't want a stock that will bore me. I want to explore the wild secondary stock markets. I want to abandon the marked trail, headed into uncharted terrain to find "free range" growth stocks before they succumb to domestication by the masses. In a nod to Irwin, I want to find the next great investment before the rest of the market does. I'll belt out a "crikey, a stock me likey" before buying in and hopping on for the ride.
My portfolio is loaded with wild beasts and wildebeests. So is the Motley Fool Rule Breakers scorecard. Are you familiar with companies like LoopNet (Nasdaq: LOOP ) and Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL ) ? It's okay if you're not. They have just a handful of analysts following them (three and five, respectively), and that's ideal. No one likes a crowded safari.
LoopNet runs an online marketplace for commercial real estate. Universal Display is a leader in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. That's the ideal kind of quiet for observing growth stocks in their natural habitat, particularly when there's so much room for growth.
Some of the favorite stocks that I don't own at the moment are Jones Soda (Nasdaq: JSDA ) and Hollywood Media (Nasdaq: HOLL ) . You may recognize Jones Soda for its colorful pop and photographic labels. You may be familiar with Hollywood's Broadway.com ticketing site or its Hollywood.com celluloid portal. If so, you're one up on the faraway market watchers; Jones Soda and Hollywood Media have fewer than five analysts following their quarterly moves.
That's opportunity. For me, that's investing. If the story makes sense, and the financials make even more sense, these are limbs that I don't mind going out on. I realize that Rule Breakers investing isn't for everyone. Yet after watching the way a few celebrities and even more of my fellow investors get tripped up by the simple stuff, I don't mind taking chances in pursuit of wild returns.
Invest dangerously, my friend.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Tyco is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has adisclosure policy.