The best way to know where a company is going is to know where it's been. That leads investors to put a great deal of faith in Wall Street estimates. However, what happens when a company blows past its profit targets? The pros underestimate where the company has been, so the chances are pretty good that they will come up short in estimating where the company goes in the future. That's an investing opportunity.

Let's take a look at a few of these beaters that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with 3M (NYSE:MMM). Even if you don't know that 3M stands for Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, you can definitely appreciate the company's patent-rich pedigree and its global presence, with subsidiaries in 60 different countries. And you know what the analysts didn't know? They figured that 3M -- an Inside Value pick -- would only be good for $1.12 a share in earnings. 3M came through with $1.18 in earnings per share for the third quarter. Even if you back out a penny per share in a tax-related gain, it is still comfortably ahead of the mark set by the pros.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was another topper, but what else is new? Ever since going public in August of 2004, Google has obliterated bottom-line targets in every single quarter but one.

This time, the company grew earnings per share to $2.62 after backing out one-time charges. That is well ahead of the $1.32 the company earned a year ago, as well as the $2.42 showing the market was expecting. The report came just two days after Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) -- a Stock Advisor recommendation -- failed to impress the market. The Yahoo! report may have rattled the faith of believers in the booming paid-search niche, but Google quickly restored it. Next time? Pay more attention to Google's numbers in order to gauge the sector's health, as trouncing estimates on a consistent basis can make you a better bellwether.

Then we have Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL). The company has been on a tear in recent years. With its iPod and computing products selling briskly, was there any reason not to expect it to smoke the model makers? Not really. Apple earned $0.62 per share, $0.11 ahead of where the Wintel-crunching analysts were perched.

So, keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for investors as the market rewards the overachievers. That's the kind of surprise we look for in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Foo l has a disclosure policy.