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 virus-detecting software gurus McAfee (NYSE:MFE) and Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC), just as the Internet was starting to load up with hackers and identity thieves. Imagine delving into VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN) just as e-commerce was starting to take off, with companies turning to VeriSign to provide protected shopping cart platforms to give potential shoppers peace of mind.

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. Six of the 24 recommendations from 2005 have gone on to more than double. Four have more than tripled in value! When he's wrong, the damage can be brutal. Nine 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. Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE) has more than tripled since being recommended three years ago. Selling engagement rings doesn't seem like much of a growth business, but the fast-growing online retailer has gobbled up market share by swaying nervous grooms-to-be to entrust cyberspace with their big diamond purchases.

AQuantive (NASDAQ:AQNT) doubled overnight after the interactive marketer accepted a generous buyout offer from the world's largest software company. Chinese online gaming pioneer Shanda Interactive (NASDAQ:SNDA) is another intriguing storyteller. The stock has doubled since bottoming out 10 months ago, with the world's most populous nation taking a shine to the company's role-playing fantasy games again.

Buying into flashy displays, shocking weaponry, and fiber lasers can be risky. That's OK. Disruptive technology may not disrupt overnight, but when it does, the upticks can come in a hurry. It's better to be early -- like buying into Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) when it went public three years ago at $11 a share -- than late (when Web-based software delivery is all the rave).

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 Breaker 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 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.

I don't mind the exotic. I don't fear Category 5 investing. 

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 does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Amazon.com and AOL parent Time Warner are active Stock Advisor picks. Symantec is an Inside Value recommendation. Blue Nile and Shanda Interactive are Rule Breakers selections. Blue Nile is also a Hidden Gems newsletter choice. The Fool has a disclosure policy.