These are tough times. There's no sugarcoating it. Our economy is suffering a serious recession -- one I believe was overdue, given the massive bubble that preceded it. There's been way too much greed, incompetence, and lack of personal responsibility from folks who were supposed to be intelligent "leaders." Our government policymakers are bungling "fixes," as far as I'm concerned. Dare I go on? Yeah, it's ugly.

Yet, as disappointed as I am in much of what's transpired, and as concerned as I am about the current state of the economy and what might happen going forward, I remain a true Fool in that I still fervently believe in long-term, buy-and-hold investing.

Could our current times prove to be even more of a "black swan event" than they've already been, and prove wrong the conventional wisdom that the best time to buy stocks is during savage bear markets? Sure, this could happen. But if it doesn’t, I guarantee many would-be investors will kick themselves for not picking up dirt cheap stocks at the current levels.

Walking the walk is harder than talking the talk
We've all heard the quotable quotes in the investing world. “Buy when there’s blood in the streets,” for example. Or how about Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B) chairman Warren Buffett talking about being fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful? Investors tend to get cocky when times are good, quite certain that we're willing to invest like Buffett and other sage masters, but when things really are scary -- which is the best time to find overly punished stocks -- many simply rush for the exits.

Just a few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN), and Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE) losing nearly half their value in the course of a year, as happened in 2008, or that they'd be trading at such (relatively) low price-to-earnings multiples.

But it happened. And rather than throwing up their hands and calling it quits, investors should be looking out for bargain stocks. Fools, after all, are not short-term speculators; we search for the best opportunities despite the harrowing news headlines.

My own philosophy in these troubled times is to seek out high-quality companies with leadership positions in their industries. I also want to see plenty of cash and little or no debt, and management teams (preferably led by founders) that have proven themselves to be trustworthy and motivated by more than just their own personal gain.

I believe these are the types of companies that will survive and thrive over the long haul, even with the serious economic problems we currently face. It doesn't do to just grab any old stock that's beaten down -- the economic climate will certainly weed many, many companies out. But the emphasis on quality is a must as you search through the rubble for stocks -- and the specific companies I named above are great places to start your research.

It may feel like the end of the world ...
We all must have the intellectual flexibility to look honestly at what's going on around us, but at the same time, know that panic will get us absolutely nowhere, and definitely won't help our portfolios over the long haul.

We remain steadfast in our belief that tough times like these can present great opportunities for long-term-focused investors. But now more than ever, you must focus on quality.

Of course, the old investing wisdom remains true: Be patient, do your homework, and maintain a well-diversified portfolio. This last point is the subject of The Motley Fool's just-released book, The Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio: How to Build and Grow a Panic-Proof Investment Portfolio. The book delves into the investing strategies we both preach and practice at the Fool, and gives guidance on assembling your own portfolio of stocks (as well as specific stock ideas).

You can learn more about The Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio, including how you can secure your own copy, by clicking here.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks and Urban Outfitters. Starbucks, Berkshire Hathaway, and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Blue Nile and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks and Berkshire Hathaway. The Fool has a disclosure policy.