I'm not entirely comfortable with one-liner market philosophies. Either they're fabled mantras like "buy low, sell high," or they're golden nuggets of ear candy -- from sharp mouths like Warren Buffett's or Benjamin Graham's -- that pack wit and substance but skimp on direction.

The pursuit of the elusive bumper-sticker motto can drive one batty because stock advice is supposed to be malleable. Spooning out a universal elixir in concentrate form, as if some expansive deluge will bring uniform answers to all... well, it's no easy task. However, I think I've finally stumbled on a simple statement that will work if time is of the essence -- as if someone on the other side of the elevator door begs for that one morsel of market advice as the doors come together in the kiss that waves floors goodbye. There are five words that I'm willing to lay my hat on.

Invest like you mean it.

It's as simple as that. Take a stand. Show conviction. Believe in what you're doing. Whether you come around to embrace the ultimate growth investing strategy in our Rule Breakers newsletter service or find another philosophy that gels with your plan for financial empowerment, just do it. Hop off the fence. Make it happen.

Taking a stand is easier than you think
Why do you think we have thousands of mutual funds out there specializing in hundreds of investing market mantras? Could it be that, in the long run, they are all winners? Losing stock selection strategies have a funny way of bumping their head on the way to extinction. There has probably never been much of a cheering section for the Washington Generals as they take on the Harlem Globetrotters, no matter how much we all might love the hapless underdogs.

I side with folks like Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, who really knows how to pick great growth stocks early in the revolutionary process. If there is too much octane in that tank for your investing tastes, that's fine. Just take an interest. Investing is not a spectator sport.

If you can commit to the appropriate investing philosophy and take the time to understand the nuances and mechanics, how can you not beat the market? Somewhere out there in the vast investing universe, there may be someone who will buy only into companies that start with the letter E. Yet with some due diligence and resolve, even this selectively phobic investor can wind up with Israeli real estate specialist ElbitMedical (NASDAQ:EMITF) and assisted-living facility operator Emeritus (NYSE:ESC) -- two speedy stocks that have more than doubled over the past year -- instead of another Enron.

In fact, the way our real-money Rule Breakers portfolio trounced the market through the late 1990s on the strength of companies like Amazon.com, AOL, and Amgen, one could argue that you can slap the Street senseless without ever getting past the first letter of the alphabet. You don't think so? Consider AllianceImaging (NYSE:AIQ). The provider of MRI equipment and diagnostic services has seen its shares more than double since last summer. How about Able Energy (NASDAQ:ABLE)? The company has thrived in the fragmented heating oil segment, with its shares holding up as a six-bagger since November!

Every investor can be a Globetrotter
Investing without research is like riding a bicycle without brakes: Getting started is easy, but you'll often end up in a collision. That means that the person unfolding the grenadine-stained cocktail napkin in an effort to make a killer purchase on the basis of a blurry ticker symbol is as good as a Shirley Temple toast in the market.

If you've been investing for a long time, you probably know that your best investments have likely been in companies that you already knew well. Maybe you were a customer. Maybe you toiled away in the same sector and understood what made the company great. You saw the spark. Early. You kicked the tires. Often. You made the call. Once. For those of you who are relatively new to the market, trust me -- or ask someone you know with a little more market seasoning.

So why waste your time -- and your money -- speculating? Don't fear the educational process just because you think the market is going to toss you a learning curve. Investing is easy. It's investors who are complicated. Yet the only investor you really need to get acquainted with a little better is you.

Tapping into your "inner investor"
Some of my best investments in recent years have been in companies that I knew so well, I thought we would complete each other's sentences. Anyone care to quiz me on the quarterly subscriber counts at Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) since I first bought into the company in 2002 and ultimately recommended it while the stock was fetching less than $5 a share on a split-adjusted basis? Or how it drinks its coffee over breakfast?

This doesn't mean that your case has to be so compelling that others will have no choice but to nod in agreement. One of my favorite stocks right now happens to be Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG), a recent Rule Breakers recommendation. If you tell someone you just bought shares in a company that is empowering robotic arms to perform critical surgical procedures more effectively than a surgeon's own handiwork, you may get a chuckle or two in response. Dr. Roboto? Yet the installed base of the company's da Vinci surgical systems is growing quickly, now with a presence in more than 100 different operating rooms. More important for this wildly profitable company is that its accessories and instruments segments are growing faster than its new system sales. In other words, those who are using it are so excited that they are using it even more.

If you can drum up the courage to arrive at your conviction early, you will stand to gain that much more when the rest of the world comes around. A company such as Steiner Leisure (NASDAQ:STNR), one of the earliest Rule Breakers picks, may have seemed like an odd choice for an aggressive growth stock newsletter. Yet I was a satisfied, pampered customer and saw that younger travelers are now taking to cruises for vacation. That would be a feast for Steiner, the spa operator of choice for the major cruise lines, and it has been just that -- the stock has soared by nearly 60% since being singled out.

So who are you? Do you have Rule Breaker potential? Are you willing to take on the greater risk that is often shackled to the pursuit of greater returns? These are questions that only one person can answer, and that person will be staring back at you when those shiny elevator doors come together.

Yet before they reveal this ultimate investor, and while the doors are still cracked open enough to whisper words that will carry, tell me the five words that I long to hear as much as I long to have you understand my advice.

Invest like you mean it.

So where do you stand?

  • Find out if Rule Breakers is the right strategy for you by signing up for a 30-day trial -- for free. There's no obligation to subscribe.
  • Read about why I thought that Netflix provided a golden opportunity in the fall of 2002.

This article was originally published on Feb. 3, 2005. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really doesn't condone alphabet-soup investing -- though it may be the basis for another column that ferrets out the most lucrative letter in the investing alphabet. He owns shares in Netflix and Intuitive Surgical. Netflix and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool has adisclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.