"If I have seen farther," Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, "it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
In fairness, the concept of attributing successes to the extra leverage gained from climbing onto the shoulders of past thinkers was around long before an apple went bonk on Newton's noggin. Usage of the shoulders-of-giants term goes as far back as 12th-century theologians and possibly even further still.
The evolution of the term is fitting, of course. Wordsmiths are simply building on what works and are practicing what they preach by standing on the shoulders of earlier writers.
So it's with a humbling amount of modesty that I suggest the concept of investing on the shoulders of giants. I googled the term "investing on the shoulders of giants" and came up bone-dry. Still, I'm not pretending to be original with this portfolio-planning proposal. It's not original, in fact, and that's the point.
Buy, sell, or borrow
Did you hear about the hermit investor who turned thousands into millions trading in a vacuum? Neither have I. Superior investing isn't about starting from scratch to make some scratch. It's about building on the due diligence of others to reach a Wall Street plateau where it's easier to pick the winners from the losers.
In the earlier days of Fooldom, a small company by the name of Iomega
However, Iomega had what was then a revolutionary product on its hands in the Zip drive. It was a floppy-drive killer. Even if you didn't own one of the first drives to roll off the line, you could have ingested nearly everything you needed to know about the company and its products by hanging out on the Iomega board to read everything from retail channel field reports to someone counting cars in the company's Utah factory over the weekend.
Shoulders never go away
You don't need to be a pioneer to make a mint on stocks. You could have waited several months after the first Apple Computer
Sure, you can sometimes miss out on heady gains that go to the fashionably early. But you are still placing yourself in a position to see clearer from the perspective of higher ground.
A perfect tool to practice my theory on is Motley Fool CAPS. It doesn't take long there for inspiration to strike. From the main page, you can check out the top performers in a playing field of more than 7,600 fellow investors.
Let's take Steve819, for instance. He started off the week as the second-highest-scoring player. In just a click or two, you can unearth why he is bullish on eBay
CAPS is brand new. Maybe we will need to get a little more seasoning behind some of the service's early leaders before we begin hailing them as investing-world giants.
That's OK. As I've said all along, you have plenty of time to make sure you get it right. Just don't blow it when the situation presents itself to leverage "the wisdom of crowds" -- as we are seeing right now with CAPS -- by not having a stepladder around when you need it to get on Mr. Market's broad shoulders.
Enjoy the view.
Motley Fool CAPS is a new community-driven experience in which individual investors pool their knowledge to seek out stock ideas. Are you up for the challenge? Go ahead and give it a shot .
Marvel and eBay are Stock Advisor newsletter recommendations.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't very tall, but he could be if you'd let him borrow that stepladder. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy .