The new pictures of Fool writers threaten to curtail my lifestyle. For the past two years, I've been telling women who e-mail me that I'm a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede who spends most of his time training for triathlons. Now the truth is out.

At least I might maintain some accountability with the rest of you, right? As the Fool launches its new content format, accountability -- along with good investment ideas -- is what I hope to offer.

The Motley Fool covers everything from home buying to savings accounts, but in this column we will focus on investing in equities. My objective is to offer opinions on stocks, either good or bad, give detailed reasons, follow up on each, and in the process learn from successes and failures.

In this way, I also want to outline an investment strategy.

I believe the best strategy for investing in individual stocks is one that addresses each equity on its unique individual merits -- while sticking close to businesses that you know best. As you invest, you will find common themes running through all good and bad investments. Around those themes, you can build the framework for a lasting investing strategy.

The Fool has built investment frameworks for years, so we don't want to reinvent that wheel. However, I can't write an investing column without sharing the investment strategy that works (and doesn't work) for me. If I didn't do this, I'd merely be whispering stock ideas in your ear every week. That may sound just fine to most of you, but without the context of an investing framework, it would eventually burn all of us.

Investment background
This column's goal is to improve how we all invest. To start, I need to share some basic facts: I own nine stocks and hold options in one, as shown in my profile. I believe that over-diversifying (owning more than a handful of stocks) is tantamount to underperformance.

Most of my nine holdings have not changed in years. I tend to buy mostly large companies (sometimes I'll buy a company steadily, using dollar-cost averaging), and I am also inclined to make significant investments in a few small, promising companies. The idea is to have a stable portfolio of large and growing companies alongside a few small rockets that could carry the whole thing much higher. So if a rocket flares out, it won't take down the whole ship.

I used to manage the Fool's Drip Port (which consisted of large companies) and Rule Breaker Port (small companies), so my personal portfolio shouldn't come as a surprise. It's a mix of these two types of companies, with many of the large ones also qualifying as Rule Makers.

That's my general thinking, investment-wise. Portfolio-wise, I'm cursed with a good thing -- or too much of a good thing. Since 1998, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) has grown to "unbalance" my portfolio. What to do about situations such as this will be addressed under one recurring topic of this column: selling. I'll need to figure out what to do about eBay and I might as well do it publicly.

Being held accountable
I buy stocks that I believe will beat the S&P 500 well enough to justify the increased risk of individual stock ownership. Remember, you can save a great deal of time and effort by simply buying the S&P 500 index. If you're venturing into individual stocks, you need to be rewarded, or you shouldn't do it.

Admitting this, a recurring column that offers stock suggestions is all but meritless unless it holds itself accountable and compares itself to the S&P 500. So, for each stock on which I draw a conclusion, we'll track that conclusion against the S&P 500.

We start today. So far this year, I've ended several columns with the statement that a company, in my opinion, will or will not beat the S&P 500. Early this year, I said to avoid McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and AT&T (NYSE:T), believing that they'll underperform it. I wrote the opposite on Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) because I think they'll outperform it.

In giving such judgments, my time frame is usually at least a few years, but we'll start tracking performance within weeks. Now and in future columns, I will state whether I think a stock will outperform the S&P 500 (perhaps representing a "buy" for the right investor) or underperform it. On some occasions, I might suggest that a stock is an unequivocal "sell" or a "short," implying a stronger dislike than just "underperform."

But that's about it. We'll keep it simple. Plus, it'll be rare when an opinion changes, unlike with the large brokerage houses. (Check out this ridiculous record of opinion changes at brokerage firms. In the last 16 months, Merrill Lynch changed its opinion on Intel five times.) When my opinion does change, I'll explain why right away.

Below are the first stocks we'll start tracking:

    Column    Ticker   Price    S&P   Opinion
    01/02/03   MCD    $16.50    908      U01/16/03   INTC    16.34    901      O01/29/03   HD      20.72    844      O01/23/03   T       20.03    861      U02/04/03   TREE    11.99    843      OO = Outperform S&P 500U = Underperform S&P 500

We're using the share price and S&P 500 level from the day after the column about the company appeared. (We'll start showing returns soon.)

Today, I want to add three more companies to the list. All were held in the Drip Port (so I don't think I need to rejustify each), and they were recently written about. I personally own all three. I believe they're all positioned to outperform the S&P 500, especially from today's prices.

The three are PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Mellon Financial (NYSE:MEL) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). Next time we compile our stock list, these companies will be added with tomorrow's share price as our starting point.

Investing lessons, not stock recommendations
As much as this weekly column will be opinionated about the investments it considers, it's important that it be seen as a way for all of us to learn how to be better investors, rather than be viewed as a mere conduit for "buy" and "sell" recommendations.

You benefit most from Fool columns when you're able to transparently watch the investing successes and failures in them -- and you're more open and objective if you're not copying our opinions. Anyway, it's folly to simply follow along with what a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, strapping Swede thinks about stocks.

See you next week! (To discuss this column or Jeff's Swedish ancestry, head over to the Fool on the Hill board.)

Jeff Fischer wants to know who everyone on cell phones is talking to. Of stocks mentioned, he holds positions in all but McDonald's, AT&T, Home Depot and LendingTree. The Fool has a disclosure policy that satisfies the U.N.