I'll never forget the day I heard those two words.
It was December 1999. I was on the phone with an old pal. Last time we'd talked, he was raving about a genome-busting maverick who had set up shop in my hometown. That was all I needed to hear. I took a flier -- bought the stock and forgot all about it. Then suddenly, after a listless summer and forgettable fall, boom!
Have you ever caught lightning?
By Christmas, this one silly flier was my entire portfolio. And it was doubling weekly. News flow was upbeat, but this had to be something else. My old pal on the phone was trying to tell me what it was. Apparently, a fellow named David Gardner down the road at The Motley Fool had bought the stock for his Rule Breaker real-money portfolio. I had no idea what that meant, but at last I'd caught lightning in a bottle!
Rule Breaker. Well, you may have heard that Rule Breaker investing is back. But it's probably not what you think. I know this because the original rule breaker and I crossed paths, and he told me exactly what a Rule Breaker is.
And it's probably not what you think
Yes, you found a ton of tech in David's original Rule Breaker portfolio. And, yes, the live Rule Breakers scorecard (I'll tell you how you can see it for yourself in a bit) features XM Satellite Radio
But Rule Breakers are not all glamour and technology. To hear it from David, it's low-tech Starbucks that's the consummate Rule Breaker. Who else but Starbucks, he asks, sensed a need, met it, branded it, then spread it like wildfire from coast to coast?
We're talking havoc not seen since McDonald's
But you know what really makes Starbucks a Rule Breaker? There's no second fiddle. I mean, where's the Pepsi to Starbucks' Coke
Rule Breaker Lesson No. 1: It's not about tech. Exhibit A: Starbucks.
Martha, Martha, Martha
Not convinced? By 2002, David had moved on to Motley Fool Stock Advisor. But my impressions of the Fool were still tangled with the human genome, Amazon.com, and the profits David's Rule Breakers had booked on Amgen, AOL, and eBay. One word would change all that.
Martha. As in Martha Stewart. I remember Mark Hulbert, who watches over the investment newsletter industry, commented that David was the only advisor recommending Martha Stewart's beleaguered company to his readers. Small wonder -- Martha was a pariah.
That was November 2002. The stock was trading at $6.03. David closed out Martha Stewart at $9.05 for a 50% gain. The stock summarily ran to more than $35. Tough break. Here, I learned two lessons in one.
Rule Breaker Lesson No. 2: Buy when nobody else will -- especially if you love the business, the financials, and, most of all, the brand. Rule Breaker Lesson No. 3: Let your winners run. Exhibit B: Martha Stewart.
So just what makes a Rule Breaker
To find out, I asked David that very question. "Simply, it's one who can embrace the contrary nature of paying up for great growth stocks." That's straight from the horse's mouth. Should you take his word for it? I would.
Turns out, when David shuttered his real-money Rule Breaker portfolio, he'd managed a 20.1% annualized return. That was in mid-2003, after the bear market. Compare that with 9.1% for the S&P 500 and 7.3% for the Nasdaq over the same period. Those are the kinds of results that made legends of Peter Lynch and Bill Miller, and rightfully so.
Rule Breaker investing may not be for you
Aggressive growth investing is not for everyone. But let's face it, the very best investments -- the ones you brag about after a few -- are the stocks of high-growth companies that seem to come from nowhere and change our world.
The trick, of course, is spotting these earth shatterers early and having the courage to take the plunge. I don't have to tell you that this can be scary business. Or that isolation is deadly. But there is a solution.
You can take a 30-day free trial to David's Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Try the complete service for yourself and see every single stock David and his team are recommending now. That way, you can decide for yourself if lightning can strike twice. Best of all, you won't risk a penny.
Note: Since David launched his new Rule Breakers service in October 2004, his picks are up an average of 16.9%, vs. 4.9% if you'd bought the S&P 500 instead. Of course, you can view his entire scorecardwith your free trial.
This article was originally published on Dec. 16, 2004. It has been updated.
Fool writer Paul Elliott doesn't own any of the stocks named here, though he still owns his genome wonder, Celera. Time Warner, Amazon.com, and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.