"Rule Breaker." I'll never forget the day I heard those two words.

I was on the phone with an old pal who had tipped me to a local scientist who claimed he was about to crack the human genome. There was an IPO. I bought in and forgot it.

What the heck is going on here?
By Christmas, the stock was doubling weekly. Apparently, some Fool named David Gardner announced he'd bought it for his Rule Breakers portfolio. In December 1999, I had no idea what that meant, but it was moving the market.

Good times. I imagine this must seem a bit quaint in this market, where nothing seems to be working. But I assure you, there are companies doing work out there, and they’re getting downright affordable.

And if you're a regular here, you may have heard that Rule Breaker investing is back. But it may not be what you think. It's certainly not what I thought when I heard those two words on the phone from my parents' kitchen in Canton, Ohio.

For one thing, it's not all tech
Yes, there was technology in David's original Rule Breakers portfolio. But as it turns out, it's not so much disruptive technologies these folks are after as disruptive businesses. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), David points out, didn't invent the computer. It changed the way computers are sold, which made it a Rule Breaker.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), meanwhile, took inventory management to new heights and literally changed the way America shops. According to Gardner, low-tech Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is the consummate Rule Breaker. Who better than Starbucks, he asks, sensed a need, met it, branded it, and then spread it from coast to coast?

But you know what really made Starbucks a Rule Breaker in 1998? It was out in front. There was no second fiddle. If you bought Starbucks along with David in 1998, you're a Rule Breaker, too.

S, what makes a Rule Breaker investor?
To find out, I caught up with David Gardner and asked him. His reply? "A Rule Breaker is an investor who can embrace the contrary nature of paying up for great growth stocks." That's an important point.

David points out how great growth companies rarely look "cheap." In my line of work, I think back to when Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) and later Ameritrade -- now TD AMERITRADE (NASDAQ:AMTD) -- set their sights on Wall Street's broken commission model. They seemed risky at the time, and they look to have run their course, but Rule Breakers like these are worth the gamble.

If you can manage to get out in front. Should you take Gardner’s 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. That kind of outperformance made legends of Peter Lynch and Bill Miller, and rightfully so.

Are you a Rule Breaker?
Riding the growth tiger can get dicey. David learned that when the genome stocks blew up in 2000, and more recently when his team recommended Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) -- a true Rule Breaker, but a stock that's still weighing on the Rule Breakers portfolio.

Then again, David also led us to Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), which is still sitting on a solid double. Of course, the money is just part of it. This stuff is interesting, and these are the stocks you'll brag about after a few too many at the pub. There's certainly no shame in that.

The trick, of course, is spotting them early and having the guts to buy when you do -- especially in a market like this. It certainly helps to get your information from someone you can trust -- someone with a proven track record, who does the legwork. In other words, not from some wahoo like my old pal on the phone.

So why not go straight to the source?
Listen, I know times are tough. That’s why I want you to accept a 30-day free trial to David Gardner's Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter. That way, you can test-drive the complete service without forking over a penny and see what David and his team of analysts are digging up now.

You can even read all the back issues and cherry pick every active and past pick. Of course, there's no pressure to subscribe. If you don’t like what you see, you don’t pay a cent.

I can't say you'll get rich quick if you accept. But I can promise that you'll get some great ideas, and that you have nothing to lose. If you think you're up to it and want to learn more about taking a free trial, click here.

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. Starbucks, Schwab, and Dell are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Wal-Mart and Dell are Inside Value recommendations. Google and Baidu are Rule Breakers picks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. You can view all the picks with your free trial. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.