The years tend to fly on by, don't they? Each one seems to pass by quicker than the one before it. I have always wondered, though, whether time is going by faster or are we just getting slower with age? Either way, it's just not fair. That's probably why elders love to say that youth is wasted on the young.

Then again, I'm fairly sure that institutional investors feel the same way about individual investors like you and me. After all, managers with deep pockets have to buy in big lots to flesh out their portfolios. They are seasoned professionals with a nose for equity analysis, but they are forced to stampede in and out of their stock positions like elephants.

Imagine being limited to buying shares only in companies that are large enough to offer liquidity. Picture yourself chained to a small universe of stocks that lend themselves to trading in large blocks. Trust me, nobody looks good in fiscal spandex. That's why, despite the beefy salaries and corner offices, I can feel the institutional investor's lament: Nimbleness is wasted on the individual investor.

Most people out there will never take advantage of opportunities available to small-fries like us. They won't buy stocks. They will limit themselves to broker-sold load funds. They will turn their backs on the powerful flexibility at their disposal.

The opposite flex
Not me. I relish the fact that I can buy in -- or cash out -- of almost any stock out there. More importantly, I have no problem buying a small company early in its growth cycle. There is cheese in that mouse hole, and the big, grubby hands of institutional investors won't be able to reach it until much later in the aging process.

In 2002, I bought stock in Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). I could see that this upstart was set to revolutionize the DVD rental industry. I was a satisfied subscriber. I could see the viral magic working its mojo as subscribers pitched the service to their friends and those friends talked it up to their friends. It was the perfect stock for the nimble. It's been a wild roller coaster ride over the years, but by buying early I was able to get in at a split-adjusted price in the single digits.

Pixar (NASDAQ:PIXR)? Same deal. The stock is fetching three times what I paid five years ago when I scooped up some shares for my youngest son. Oozing quality, even if it meant breathing extravagant life to the field of animation with something as sterile and synthetic as a computer? You bet.

That's why you shouldn't be surprised if you come across an envious fund manager as you absorb the latest issue of our Rule Breakers newsletter service. That's because three weeks into every month, ultimate growth stocks are recommended based on their availability to revolutionize their industries.

We're talking about companies like Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM) that are seamlessly speeding up the delivery of online content and companies like Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) that are making visions of a future where robotic arms perform precise surgical procedures profitable today.

Those aren't just two examples of recent recommendations that have treated subscribers to some early gains. They also happen to be a pair of stocks with prospects so tantalizing, I bought them myself.

Stockpicking is a sport for early risers
Remember when Marvel Enterprises (NYSE:MVL) was just starting to cash in on its superhero library as Spider-Man hit the local multiplex in the summer of 2002? The movie was a huge hit. Marvel was lining up lucrative licensing deals and Hollywood was knocking at its door. Perfect? Wall Street didn't seem to think so. You could have bought into the company weeks after the movie's release at a split-adjusted price of less than $4 a stub.

The deep pockets waited until the company was able to prove itself and hack away at its debt and preferred stock. That's noble, but it's those with the dexterity to fling themselves in early who are now smiling the widest.

You wanted to buy into Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) just as the iPod was starting to take off? You wanted to buy into Dell Computer (NASDAQ:DELL) just as the company's consumer-direct model was starting to gain traction? Well, buying into Apple or Dell these days might still be a good idea, but pull up the chart. The early bird didn't only get the worm, it got first dibs on its choice of dipping sauce.

Rise and shine
Buying early doesn't mean placing your stock order in the morning. Buying early means buying shares in a company while it's still in the sunrise of its corporate life cycle. You can do it. You have that power. Others don't.

I just got back from vacationing with my family in Central Florida. While there we checked out the brand-new Fear Factor Live show at Universal Studios Florida. What does this have to do with buying in early? Everything.

We loved the show. It had the same collection of gravity-defying stunts and gross-out smoothies that one associates with the Fear Factor television show. The problem? Theme parks have to plan for new shows and attractions years in advance. Universal's show is just a few weeks old, but its debut came just as NBC was removing its the TV version from its fall schedule. Ouch! Don't invest like a theme park! You're much too limber for that.

For more Foolishness:

Netflix, Pixar, Marvel, and Dell are all recommendations of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service; Akamai and Intuitive Surgical are Rule Breakers picks.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that being early is the coolest. That's why he's been a part of the Fool family since 1995. He owns shares in Netflix, Pixar, Akamai, and Intuitive Surgical. 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.