Figuring that everything I'd learned en route to my MBA would help me make a killing on Wall Street, I was a sponge when I started investing in the stock market nearly 15 years ago. One of the things I quickly absorbed was that I still had a lot to learn about Mr. Market. Eventually, I realized that the learning process never really ends. And one lesson that I vividly remember came from some promotional literature for what was then the 20th Century Ultra (FUND:TWCUX) mutual fund.

"We buy tennis balls, not eggs," went the fund's marketing mantra. The theory was simple to grasp: When tennis balls drop, they bounce back; when eggs drop, they don't. The sales literature even came with needless photographic images. Tennis ball? Good bounce. Egg? Bad mess. It seemed only natural that a growth fund with an aggressive bent should try to educate its shareowners on the merits of volatility. But it was something that I found hokey and hollow at the time.

Just as most punch lines can be improved with a simple "wait for it" comedic pause, I guess some investing lessons just take a dozen or so years to fully marinate. I can now appreciate the paired analogy. Why? Rule Breakers.

Red, red whine
Our ultimate growth-investing newsletter service was launched late last year. A few months in, things looked pretty bleak. Back in April, in "The Next Garage Sale Picasso," I surveyed the damage. The average pick was showing a double-digit-percentage deficit to the market. Just five of the 14 recommended stocks were in the black. I was actually catching the basket of growth stocks at a good time. A week earlier, just three picks were beating the market.

We have always emphasized the volatility that comes with high-octane investing, but that doesn't always dull the pain behind the sting. I couldn't be prouder to be part of the Rule Breakers newsletter analytical team. I truly believe that the greatest stocks out there are the ones rattling the very columns that uphold conventional models. These are the heretics worth buying. These are the companies that will change their sectors forever and provide the early investors with the most rewarding of gains.

That's why it hurt me to click on the newsletter's scorecard tab at the time and be left seeing red. Red scorecard.Bad pupil. Where's the virtual Visine?

Hard lessons on a hard court
I'm happy to say there is an "after" snapshot to my rather grim "before" portrait. A lot of wonderful things have been happening with many of our subscriber service's stock picks. Eight of the last 10 selections started out this week ahead of their recommended prices, and the average stock is now showing a gain. Sure, we still have a few duds, but by and large, I'm starting to realize what we got right.

Yes, that's right, we recommended the purchase of tennis balls -- not eggs.

In our February newsletter, we singled out Archipelago Holdings (NYSE:AX) as a worthy holding. The electronic trading exchange had improved upon the old-school model with a more efficient way of hooking up buyers and sellers. It was a great story, but the market didn't seem to think so at first. The stock was priced at $20.42 when David Gardner provided his fleshed-out recommendation. By mid-April, the company behind the popular ArcaEx platform was marked down to $15.70 a stub.

Later that month, something amazing happened. The seemingly stodgy New York Stock Exchange came to grips with its own mortality. It decided it wanted to team up with Archipelago, and the companies agreed to merge. The stock soared. Archipelago is now fetching about 75% more than our initial recommended price.

That tennis ball didn't just bounce back. It aced the next serve.

Another recent bounce-back came from Provide Commerce (NASDAQ:PRVD). Shortly after the announcement of the Archipelago merger, the pessimist's baton was handed off to our resident floriculture play. Sure, delivering flowers seems old-hat, but Provide Commerce's model, which shaves off layers of costs by shipping orders directly from the growers, was too good to pass up. It was swallowing market share from its competition, and it continues to do so. It's also digging deeper into transporting its model to other perishable goods.

Despite a solid March quarter in which sales rose by 40% and pro forma profitability growing even faster, Provide Commerce warned of a weak June quarter. The shares wilted away.

The next day, the stock traded as low as $16.68. We quickly sent a flash report update to all of our subscribers. And that's one of the many benefits of running an online newsletter: We can disseminate news and perspective in a hurry. Yes, any company that misses its own earlier guidance deserves to be punished by the market. But no, the stock did not deserve to be beaten down that badly. The company's model was still sound. Growth was still in the cards. Provide's shares have risen by more than 40% since that dark day.

Other tennis stars that make Anna Kournikova look homely
Surely you can think of your own tennis ball stocks. How about Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL)? The stock was left for dead a couple of years ago, trading for little more than the cash and investments resting on the company's balance sheet. Now the shares have quadrupled over the past two years, as the iPod digital music player has become the catalyst for drumming up computer sales.

XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) and Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) are nearly 10-baggers since bottoming out a little over two years ago. They had been hot stocks until the market grew worried about their cost structures and debt-laden liabilities. But you can't keep a tidal wave trend down. The satellite radio story is easy to rally around, and the two companies own the booming market.

You can even characterize Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) as a tennis ball. Critics scoffed when the online heavy wanted to price its IPO at $135 a share last summer. The market's apathy weighed in, pricing the company's new shares at just $85. The stock has more than tripled since leaving that August starting line.

So what's the secret? Most of these stocks do have something in common, you know. Some were knocked down over valuation concerns. Some were roughed up after stumbling financially. Others were just victims of the market's perpetual amnesia. But despite it all, they all bounced back because they were great companies, doing things in unique ways that broke the rules of the industrial standards that they seek to redefine.

I would love for everyone to find out which stocks are bouncing back strong these days. Try a Rule Breakers newsletter trial subscription, on us. Even if you decide to pass up the offer, I hope it won't take you as long as it took me to discover the substance behind one of the corniest investing lessons out there.

Buy tennis balls, not eggs.

Some other online destinations that bounce back after a wicked swing:

  • Learn more about how to find the next Picasso at garage sale prices.
  • Check out the latest equity recommendations in our Rule Breakers newsletter service.
  • If 20th Century Ultra whetted your mutual fund investing appetite, Champion Funds may be right for you.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has never tried to play tennis with a crate of eggs. He has also never tried to make an omelette out of fuzzy tennis balls. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.