I lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was only the third Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States in recorded history, and it was a doozy. I remember waiting for the deafening gusts to subside before venturing out to see the savage destruction that the killer storm had caused.

When it comes to windstorms, Category 5 is as intense as they get. When it comes to investing, growth stocks would be the market's equivalent.

Growth stocks are powerful, which can sometimes be a good thing. Find the right stock on the cusp of blowing apart the landscape, and you can go from being a modest investor to a rich one in the blink of a hurricane's eye. Think Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) just as the popular casual dining eatery was branching out of its California home market with its heaping portions and thick dessert menu. Delve into eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) as it began to expand into more lucrative auction categories, or Benihana (NASDAQ:BNHNA) as it defied skeptics who figured that a Japanese teppanyaki chain could never work on a national scale.   

By the same token, growth stocks are volatile. I saw it when I stepped outside my home in 1992. You can see it, too, in a portfolio ravaged by the wrong growth stocks. Planet Hollywood? 3DO? They both blew my portfolio to pieces way back when.

Bracing for the big one
Snapping up the right growth stocks is the aim of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Every month, David Gardner leads a team of analysts in unearthing a couple of ultimate growth stock ideas. When he's right, Category 5 investing can be a thing of beauty. Five of the 24 recommendations from 2005 have gone on to more than double. Three have more than tripled in value! When he's wrong, the damage can be brutal. Ten of last year's picks are sporting double-digit losses.

The key to aggressive growth stock investing is to let your winners run. If you land that 10-bagger, it means that nine other similar investments can go to zero and you'll still have broken even.

Taking chances has led the service to single out some pretty eclectic -- if not outright eccentric -- companies. Baidu.com (NASDAQ:BIDU) has soared 56% since being singled out seven months ago, even with online juggernauts all over the world gunning for China's top search engine. Secure Computing (NASDAQ:SCUR) has held firm since its original recommendation last year, thanks to the growing need in the corporate space to keep computer networks safe. We could have gone for a steadier play, like RSA Security parent EMC (NYSE:EMC), but Secure is where the pure play is grinning the widest.

Earlier this year, the newsletter also landed a potential winner in Net 1 UEPS (NASDAQ:UEPS). The South African maker of smart cards is enabling commerce in markets that can't be reached by traditional banks.

Buying into exotic search engines, software developers, and transaction enablers can be risky. That's OK. Disruptive technology may not disrupt overnight, but when it does, the upticks can come in a hurry.

I'm fortunate enough to have been with The Motley Fool in the mid-1990s, when David was recommending the purchase of companies like America Online, PayPal, and Amazon.com. They seemed like radical investments at the time. AOL was battling it out in the cutthroat realm of dial-up online services. PayPal was battling established financial services titans in the field of online micropayments. Amazon was trying to turn retail distribution upside down by shipping book orders placed online directly to the end user. AOL, PayPal, and online shopping took off, and so did David's real-money Rule Breakers portfolio. 

Andrew, 15 years later
The storms keep coming. I still live in Miami, so I've had my share of windstorms come by in recent years. Two years ago, Katrina and Wilma came, and this year's season, starting in June, is forecast to be very active.

Last summer, I looked at investing styles and labeled them as hurricane categories:

Wrapping things up with the most powerful -- and sometimes deadly -- basket of stocks makes sense. I'm part of the Rule Breakers team of analysts. I buy stocks in all shapes and flavors, though I'm always smitten by a good young growth stock with a great story to tell.

Oh, they do tell stories. It was easy to snuggle up to a company like Steiner, one of the earliest Rule Breakers recommendations. I made the pick after watching cruise industry trends evolve over the years. It was no longer an elderly crowd lining up for shuffleboard. The sector was attracting a younger, self-aware audience through a growing number of ports.

I don't mind the exotic. I don't fear Category 5 investing. I've seen David excel at it for nearly as long as I've been telling stories of how I made it through Hurricane Andrew. 

Are you a Category 5 investor? If so, want to learn more about these powerful stocks? Give Rule Breakers a spin with a free 30-day pass to see if growth investing is right for you.

This article was originally published on July 21, 2006. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He owns shares of Cheesecake Factory. Amazon.com, eBay, and Time Warner are active Stock Advisor picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.