"I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences."
-- Gertrude Stein

Stein was on to something. Whether we're talking about grammar or investing, what seems boring to some people can be fascinating to others.

Let's have a little fun. I'll describe six companies to you. See which ones make your heart rate jump the most:

  • A company that makes health and weight-management products, such as vitamins and meal replacements.
  • A company that makes outdoor footwear and related accessories.
  • A company that makes commercial ovens and food service equipment.
  • A company that makes men's clothing, from tuxedos to socks.
  • A company that sells used cars (and a few new ones).
  • A company that makes vacuum and heat transfer equipment.

Hey! Wake up! The list is finished. Now let me introduce you to the companies. In the same order as above, they are:

Company

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

10-Year Avg. Annual Return

Medifast

**

57.8%

Deckers Outdoor

**

45.2%

Middleby (Nasdaq: MIDD)

****

36.0%

Jos. A Bank Clothiers

***

42.3%

CarMax (Nasdaq: KMX)

***

35.3%

Graham (AMEX: GHM)

*****

29.7%

Data: Motley Fool CAPS, Yahoo! Finance, as of Apr. 14.

Did you notice anything interesting about these little enterprises? Maybe in the right-hand column? That's right -- they're some of the 40 best performers in the decade that just ended. A mere $5,000 invested in CarMax 10 years ago would have turned into more than $100,000. The same amount in Medifast would have swelled to nearly $500,000!

Boring -- with a twist
The table above shows us how seemingly boring businesses can deliver very unboring results. Think of Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). Discount retailing isn't terribly exciting, but the company's growth sure has been.

You won't necessarily do well with just any old boring company, though. It can really help if there's a twist involved, an angle that can be almost, well... exciting. Wal-Mart, for example, first thrived in rural regions, which most rivals thought incapable of supporting a big discounter. The company didn't immediately jump to big markets, but instead waited until natural growth expanded its distribution network to include them. That way, it reaped the logistical benefits of a dense network of stores.

Or take CarMax, which is more than just a used-car dealer. It uses an innovative online platform to sell both new and used vehicles at no-haggle prices. That helps it stand out, not just from other sellers of used cars, but from new-car dealers as well.

Middleby, which was a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation for several years, doesn't only sell ovens to mom-and-pop restaurants. It also supplies them to bunch of chains, including Subway, Starbucks, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, and many more. In case you hadn't noticed, there are a lot of those restaurants around.

Graham might look like a tiny little operation, but it already has great global reach, generating more than half its sales abroad. When you see that its customers include General Electric and ExxonMobil, and that it's involved not only in conventional energies, but also geothermal and biofuels, in many emerging markets such as China and India, well, it gets almost ... exciting.

Seek excitement
When you scour the market looking for the best bargains, don't let your eyes glaze over too quickly when you spot a tedious-looking company. These businesses can hold a lot of promise, and when they're not big, flashy media darlings, they stand a greater chance of remaining undervalued long enough for you to find them.

Tell us about the most boring stock you've ever bought. Was it an exciting performer? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Electricity is pretty darn boring -- except when it's lighting up India and making people rich.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of McDonald's, General Electric, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks. CarMax and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.