What a market! One day everyone's calling it the next Great Depression, saying the world as we know it is coming to an end. The next, stocks skyrocket off their lows into a 60%-plus rally.

Blue chips like Citigroup (NYSE:C), Ford (NYSE:F), and Motorola (NYSE:MOT) -- which had dropped below $5 a share -- shot up more than 100% off their lows. Some small-cap companies -- like Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI) -- jumped more than 5,000% off their lows! All while volatility dropped from all-time highs to "normal" levels.

But most investors got caught up listening to the "market authorities" who called the skyrocketing indexes a "sucker's rally."

But as it turns out ...

The rally wasn't for suckers!
I'm not surprised that even the best market authorities didn't know that; short-term movements are notoriously difficult to predict. Just listen to these three well-respected and well-educated market authorities:

Authority

Quote

John Mauldin, former CEO of the American Bureau of Economic Research

"If you have a 10-year time horizon you probably can buy here and do OK. But I wouldn't. I think this market is going to have more problems." (Clusterstock -- March 14, 2009)

Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at the Stern School of Business

"The latest rally is just a dead cat bounce." (Roubini Global Economics -- March 14, 2009)

David Rosenberg, former Merrill Lynch chief North American economist

"We remain convinced this is still a bear market rally ... this is all it is." (Tech Ticker -- March 19, 2009)

The market went up 50% and 43% from those points, respectively. And these three guys weren't alone. I have a stack of papers on my desk more than an inch thick with identical quotes.

Even after the rally took hold, some of the best and brightest were still beating the same drum:

Authority

Quote

Andy Kessler, former hedge fund manager

"This sure smells to me like a sucker's rally ... [and] I won't buy into a rising stock market based on this." (The Wall Street Journal -- May 12, 2009)

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO

"Asked if U.S. Stocks have hit a wall, 'I think we have.' " (Reuters – Aug. 18, 2009)

And you know what happened after that.

Which means that it'd be silly to believe anyone can know whether the market is now headed further up, or back down.

And if these smart guys got it wrong
It's clear that the short-term movements of the market are tricky, if not completely impossible, to understand.

And investing in a market like this -- where even the smartest folks on Wall Street aren't sure whether an up day signals the beginning of a 60% rally, or whether the market will drop the next day -- requires a strategy that helps you profit from the market's upside, and protects you from the downside.

In the midst of this difficult market, that's the strategy one group of investors followed, and their performance has impressed the hell out of me. They've used a unique strategy to get through virtually unscathed. And they could probably do the same for you in the coming year. I'll share their names with you in just a second.

But first, let's look at how they did so.

Both long and short
This group of investors realized that the best way to make money in up, down, flat, or uncertain markets must combine elements of being both long and short. Because the market's short-term movements can't be predicted, a strategy like this helps you make money regardless of whether stocks rise or fall.

These investors have used everything from a covered call (which generates income and helps you if a stock in your portfolio drops in price) to a synthetic long (which allows you to profit on stocks with short-term catalysts). They have even used a strategy called a covered strangle, which is a way to profit on a stock you own and would be willing to buy more of or sell off at the right price.

And of course they've also bought normal long positions in well-known companies like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and popular exchange-traded funds like the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE:SLV).

And with this strategy, the group of investors -- which I will now tell you are led by Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and Jeff Fischer -- achieved nearly 25% returns. And with nearly 40% of their portfolio still in cash!

The best part is that this freed-up cash allows them to take advantage of weekly dips in the market; which is exactly what they're focusing on right now.

If you're interested in finding out more about exactly how they implement these tactics, you're in luck. Because right now, the doors to Motley Fool Pro are open for the first time since June 2009. To receive an email inviting you into this exclusive group of investors, drop your email address in the box below.

Adam J. Wiederman owns no shares of the stocks mentioned above. Ford is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Procter & Gamble is an Income Investor pick. The Fool owns shares of Oracle and Procter & Gamble. The Fool's disclosure policy is here.