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There are winning players and there are losing players -- you can throw out all the ones in between.

Throughout my career, I always gave everything I had and put my heart and soul into the game so that I would be a winning player. I wouldn't accept anything less of myself. And to be honest, I've never done things any other way -- I go full speed all the time.

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I love baseball and have respect for the way it is supposed to be played. I never chatted with players on the other team before or during games -- they were the enemy. We were playing for real money and they were my competition. Maybe that's why I was the most hated player in the National League for so many years.

However, more than anything, I tried to be smart by knowing my opponents and knowing the game inside and out. To succeed, you need to know the ground rules and then try to get every possible advantage within those rules. A lot of those advantages can come from simply doing your homework, reading scouting reports and picking up on little trends.

Off the field, I had to learn the hard way -- by taking a hit in the wallet -- before I really got the motivation to learn the rules of my new playing field: the stock market. I gave my broker $2 million to invest for my retirement. The next thing I knew, most of that money was gone. I had just $400,000 left. I was angry and couldn't believe my money disappeared. So I took one year to learn as much as I could about the market and then went at it.

In past columns I talked about the benefits of picking deep-in-the-money option calls and how with them you gain exposure to the best companies in the world at a fraction of the price of the common stock. I also have written columns about what metrics I look at when making a pick and how I interpret those numbers.

However, I often get questions about how I got started. So, I will take you through the first step in my process today. It's pretty simple. I establish a universe of stocks that I am interested in. Currently, I have somewhere around 100 companies that I look at.

There are stocks in all different sectors, including

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Texas Instruments Incorporated Report


United Technologies

(UTX) - Get United Technologies Corporation Report


Sigma Designs

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TheStreet Recommends




(KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report


Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Morgan Stanley Report



(C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report


Frontier Oil

( FTO),

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Eli Lilly and Company Report



(MMM) - Get 3M Company Report






( SGP) and


(NVDA) - Get NVIDIA Corporation Report

, just to name a few. I try to pick companies that are good solid companies. When I see a new stock I am interested in, I add it to my list.

Once the stock is on my list, I watch it every day. I try to find trends and see how the overall market and its sector impact the performance of the stock. I also try to see when the operators on Wall Street make a mistake and undervalue the stock. Getting started is not hard.

You can find any number of places online to track some of the basic metrics of all the stocks in your universe.

As for when it's time to pounce,

check out my newsletter Nails on the Numbers

. You get three exclusive picks each week.

Remember: Life's a journey, enjoy the ride!

At the time of publication, Dykstra had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Nicknamed 'Nails' for his tough style of play, Lenny is a former Major League Baseball player for the 1986 World Champions, New York Mets and the 1993 National League Champions, Philadelphia Phillies. A three time All-Star as a ballplayer, Lenny now serves as president for several privately held businesses in Southern California. He is the founder of The Players Club; it has been his desire to give back to the sport that gave him early successes in life by teaching athletes how to invest and protect their incomes. He currently manages his own portfolio and writes an investment strategy column for, and is featured regularly on CNBC and other cable news shows. Lenny was selected as OverTime Magazine's 2006-2007 "Entrepreneur of the Year."