I was recently struck by the Rule-Breaking qualities of Stanley Kaplan when I read his obituary. As a kid, he paid classmates to let him tutor them, such was his fervor for his field of specialty. Before he came along, students took their SATs and hoped for the best, but as an adult, Kaplan saw an opportunity and began training kids how to do better. In the process, he helped make college acceptance more of a meritocracy and got more urban and ethnic kids into secondary education.

Kaplan ended up selling his business to Washington Post Co. (NYSE:WPO), and it's now one of that company's key growers and profit drivers.

Be a spotter
The business thinker Malcolm Gladwell has reported that to become a real expert at something, you need to practice it for at least 10,000 hours. That's eight hours a day for almost three and a half years. Fortunately, those of us who simply want to be better at something can get away without giving up all of our free time until 2013.

Still, it remains true that to keep improving at anything, we should keep working at it. In the world of investing, for example, we can keep an eye out for the kinds of investments we like, so that we can get better at spotting them quickly. If you're impressed with the concept of "Rule Breaker" companies like Kaplan's, you can look for companies that do more than make investors wealthy -- you can seek out the ones that break the old molds and transform the way we do business, profitably.

Other than Kaplan's business, consider some of these names and how they've changed our world. eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) both harnessed the power of the Internet to build vastly different but successful venues for people to buy and sell just about anything. Discount retailer Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and warehouse specialist Costco (NASDAQ:COST) both altered the way America goes shopping. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) revolutionized the computer industry to bring machines to the masses.

What to do
There's a lot to learn from Rule-Breaking companies and the people behind them. Focusing on them and their actions can help you track down tomorrow's top stocks today.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Costco, eBay, and Wal-Mart. Amazon.com, Costco, and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Costco, Dell, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Costco. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.