It was Christmas 1999. I was on the phone with an old pal. A few months back, he'd tipped me to a local scientist who claimed he could crack the human genome. There was an IPO. I bought in and forgot all about it.
What the heck is going on here?
You'll recall that the genome story was hot, but this was nuts. By Christmas, the stock was doubling every week. Turns out, some Fool named David Gardner bought it for his Rule Breaker portfolio.
Rule Breaker. I'll never forget the day I heard those two words. In December 1999, I had no idea what they meant, but these Fools were moving the market.
If you're a regular here, you may have heard that Rule Breaker investing is back. But it's probably not what you think. It's certainly not what I thought when I heard those two words on the phone.
For one thing, it's not all tech
Sure, there was some tech in the original Rule Breaker portfolio. David Gardner told his readers to buy AOL way back in 1994. Another well-timed play on Lucent, now called Alcatel-Lucent (Nasdaq: ALU ) , and a gutsy short call on Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) followed.
But Rule Breakers was never all tech. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) was in the original portfolio. So was AT&T. David is still a big fan of FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) , and he insists that low-tech Starbucks is the perfect Rule Breaker.
So, what makes Starbucks a Rule Breaker? There's no second fiddle, according to David. Where's the Pepsi to Starbucks' Coke? That's what makes Starbucks a Rule Breaker. If you bought Starbucks along with David in 1998 -- I wish I had -- you're one, too.
So just what makes a Rule Breaker investor?
To find out, I caught up with David Gardner and asked him. His reply? "It's an investor who can embrace the contrary nature of paying up for great growth stocks."
This is important. After all, great growth companies rarely look "cheap" to value-oriented investors -- witness Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE ) , king of the PDF and a 10-bagger. Like David says, you had to pay up for a company like Adobe in the '90s, but on the balance, it's been worth the gamble. Should you take David's word for it?
I would. When David shuttered his real-money Rule Breakers portfolio, he'd managed a 20.1% annualized return. That was in mid-2003, after a bear market just like this one. Compare that with 9.1% for the S&P 500 and 7.3% for the Nasdaq over the same period. That's the kind of performance that made legends of Peter Lynch and Bill Miller, and rightfully so.
Aggressive growth investing is not for everyone
Riding the growth tiger can get scary. David's subscribers learned that when the genome stocks blew up in 2000, and more recently with Under Armour (NYSE: UA ) , a company I like, but which is weighing on his new Rule Breakers portfolio.
Then again, if I've learned anything from working with David, it's that the best stock stories, the ones we brag about after a few at the pub, are Rule Breakers.
The trick, of course, is spotting them early and having the guts to take the plunge when you do. It certainly helps to get your information from someone you can trust -- someone who does the legwork.
So why not go straight to the source?
Here's what I'd suggest: Take a 30-day free trial to David's Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter. Poke around the website and see what David and his team are digging up now. (You can even read and download all the issues and see every active and past pick.)
There's no pressure to subscribe if you don't want to. Of course, I can't guarantee that David Gardner will make you rich, but I can promise you'll learn a lot, have a blast, and get some great stock ideas.
And your trial is free -- which is nice in these tough times. If you want to learn more about taking a no-obligation free trial, click here.
This article was originally published on Dec. 16, 2004. It has been updated.
Fool writer Paul Elliott doesn't own any of the stocks named here. Starbucks and FedEx are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Starbucks is also an Inside Value choice. Under Armour is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems and Rule Breakers selection. The Motley Fool owns shares of Under Armour and Starbucks. You can check out all David's Rule Breakers picks immediately with your free trial. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.