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" countless 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 there's a common 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 consumer electronics retailing, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) may be the first -- and only -- name that comes to mind. Even a cyclically vulnerable industry like semiconductors allows an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) or a specialist like Marvell Technologies (NASDAQ:MRVL) 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 Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) 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
Consider Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF). The specialty apparel retailer has been a perpetual grower over the years, but it seemed almost mortal last year. Sales were up a mere 18% as same-store sales inched just 2% higher. Earnings rose only 11% higher.

This year, the hip chain that doesn't flinch at the sight of controversy got its groove back. This past quarter, for instance, the company's sales soared 35% higher on a double-digit spike in comps. A fluke? Not likely. The top line has also clocked in 35% higher through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

You just don't see that often. Logic would dictate that, as a company grows, it's 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.

More often than not, you can single out the companies stepping heavy on the accelerator within the same year. When (NASDAQ:ANSW) decided to tweak its model last year, it was easy for growth investors to get excited. Instead of a sluggish subscription model to its resource website, it would open it up to the public and monetize it by serving up targeted Google text ads. It's worked and it's been working better and better with every passing quarter.

In the first quarter of 2005, revenues shot up 795%. Could it get any better than that? Sure. In the second quarter, the top line came in 860% higher than the previous year's June quarter. Then in the third quarter, it was a 960% spike in revenues. The company can't keep this kind of acceleration going -- and it sure would be nice to see it sport a profit -- but it's a classic example of a company getting better within the same year. Even if you don't understand the model, numbers don't lie.

The stock pick of the litter
When CNET Networks grew revenue at a mere 3% in 2003, it was difficult to envision the technology industry publisher 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 marched 22% higher so far in 2005. Accelerating sales, the company's appealing portfolio of online properties, and the recent rash of buyouts in a content-hungry dot-com world have made the stock a double-digit market-thumper since its recommendation to Rule Breakers subscribers five months ago.

Another accelerator in the tank has been Intuitive Surgical. Revenue grew by just 27% in 2003, but the company's line of robotic surgical arms was starting to gain wider acceptance in the operating room. Revenue grew by 51% last year and surged 66% higher through the first nine months of 2005. Does the market reward accelerating sales growth? You bet! Shares of Intuitive Surgical have more than doubled since they were first singled out to Rule Breakers subscribers nearly eight months ago.

Of course, it helps if you understand why growth is accelerating. Whether it's an established company with a suddenly vibrant business 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 with a 30-day 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 knows all about chasing accelerating growth, in part because he has two young sons. He is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing for investors.