Congratulations! Your portfolio is perfect. The collection of companies that you have assembled is -- mwah, tresmagnifique -- the perfect combination of bottle rocket and short wick. Celebrated investors like Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and David Gardner have you on speed dial. Riches beyond measure are just a few trading days away.

Now, I'd love to tell you that with a straight face. Really. I'd love to deny that I saw you nodding along with me just now. It's human nature, really. Every investor thinks he owns the best stocks. It's a bit like rooting for your alma mater's football team or cheering on that lottery ticket or roulette wheel. You think you've got a fighting chance to win -- or you wouldn't be there at all.

It's not hopeless. Beating the market is a lot easier than you think. It's just a matter of identifying the great growth stocks of tomorrow before the rest of the market comes around. Sound daunting? It isn't, really.

Best of breed in a flea-ridden world
By now you've probably heard the expression "best of breed" a countless number of times -- and you're probably wondering what it's all about. In the corporate software space, the phrase refers to cherry-picking the best applications that excel at a particular task. Instead of resorting to the integrated one-vendor solution suite, you assemble a hodgepodge of specialized brands. It's not the easy way out. It is, however, the best way out.

When you think about it, investing is just like that. Even if your portfolio is heavily weighted toward a particular sector, or if there is a theme that resonates throughout your holdings, every stock you own is unique. To you, it was the best of its breed.

"Best of breed" has evolved in recent years. These days, it's the process of ferreting out the superior company in a particular sector. If you're talking online shopping, (NASDAQ:AMZN) comes to mind. Even a battered industry like movie theater operators allows an IMAX (NASDAQ:IMAX) to float to the top.

The market rewards excellence. That's why finding these top performers is often a financially rewarding quest. What could be better than that? Well, for one, identifying these best-of-breed companies just as they begin to shine.

Finding great growth stocks early is what our Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service aims to achieve. It's not an intimidating process. Who here didn't know that dynamic companies such as Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) were up to something special early in their tenure? If you weren't familiar with their models, you could still have warmed up to their income statements.

Decelerate at the sign of acceleration
went public in 2002. The popular DVD rental specialist grew its sales the following year by a healthy 78%. Clearly, Netflix was promoting a service that was in high demand. Then something amazing happened: In 2004, the company grew its top line by 86%. That is called accelerating sales growth.

You just don't see that often. Logic would dictate that, as a company grows, it is doing so off a larger base of sales. That makes growth, on a percentage basis, more difficult to keep up with. Let's say a company produced revenue of $50 million one year, and then $100 million the next. That's a cool 100% growth in revenue. If it clocks in at $160 million the following year, that $60 million more in sales is even better than the $50 million it generated a year earlier. However, on a sales-growth basis, it would simply mark a 60% improvement from the previous year's $100 million sum.

Another company that stepped heavy on the accelerator was Audible (NASDAQ:ADBL). The company had carved a cozy niche as the leading provider of spoken content online. While others carved out the digital music market, Audible stayed true to its word. It paid off. The stock grew revenue by an impressive 49.8% in 2003, but followed that up with a 77.6% surge a year later. The stock may have been roughed up lately but it has still nearly tripled over the past three years. Even if you didn't understand the beauty of the Audible model, numbers don't lie.

The stock pick of the litter
When CNET Networks (NASDAQ:CNET) grew revenue at a mere 3% in 2003, it was difficult to envision the provider, technology industry publisher, and website operator as a speedster. However, a push to grow its online empire and monetize it more efficiently has paid off. The top line went on to grow by 18% last year and has inched 24% higher so far in 2005. Accelerating sales and the company's appealing portfolio of online properties in a dot-com world that is gobbling up producers has made the stock a double-digit market thumper since its recommendation to Rule Breakers subscribers three months ago.

Another accelerator in the tank has been Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM). Revenue actually dipped in 2002 before climbing by 11% in 2003 and soaring 30% higher last year. The online enabler has grown its top line by just 26% through the first half of 2005, but after two years of accelerating sales growth, there seems to be no turning back for Akamai. The stock has risen by nearly 30% since it was singled out in the newsletter six months ago.

Of course, it helps if you understand why growth is accelerating. Whether it's an established company with a suddenly vibrant appendage or a promising upstart bent on rewriting the rules, knowing a little about the disruptive shift that is taking place helps. However, you can always lean back on the income statement. Organic acceleration in sales growth is nothing to scoff at.

If you don't want to screen for success alone, why don't you join us in the Rule Breakers community? We're doing just that around the clock -- and now you can kick the tires for free as part of a 30-day free trial.

Congratulations! Your portfolio is perfect -- as in perfectly waiting for you to take the next step in market enlightenment.

This article was originally published on Sept. 12, 2005. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix and Akamai. He is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance. IMAX is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Netflix, Dell, Electronic Arts, and are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing for investors.