Now that crazy madman is referred to as brilliant and fascinating. He is looked upon as one of the great innovators of our time. His goofy idea is viewed as genius and is the norm among the masses. His dream that was dubbed "too big," is now enormous, stretching to isolated pockets around the globe. The most recent visionary experiencing extreme success would be Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors ( TSLA). Maybe Tesla will end up being a huge flop but those who were in the company's stock early have already experienced a quick tripling in 2012 alone. Is there more room to go? Probably. Will it end up a success? Tough to tell. Maybe introducing a lower-priced electric vehicle that could be mass-produced at a cheaper price would drive Tesla's market share higher. But there is no question early investors were heavily rewarded, and this could just be the beginning.
There have been doubters -- it's pretty easy finding the bearish case on Tesla and the bears have solid points. But sometimes valuation goes out the door and a visionary's dream and early success are enough to drive the stock higher. Amazon was and is one of those names but some people have been bearish on Amazon for three, four, even five years -- and the stock continues to go higher. So how do you find the next visionary? Just look at the products because there's a huge difference between a fad and a revolution. For instance, when Crocs ( CROX) shoes were popping up everywhere, why wasn't that the next big thing? Because the shoes were made out of plastic from China -- not exactly a world-changing product. Now look at Apple's iPod. Until the iPod, the easiest way to listen to music was on compact disc or using an MP3 player with no real storage capacity, essentially a digitized version of a CD. That was until Steve Jobs came along. The iPod, with its simple and elegant design, made listening to music a joy. It was easy to store, find and listen to music. As Jobs constantly referenced, it was 1,000 songs in your pocket. Even if you missed the booming success of Apple's iPod for several quarters, you still could have gotten into Apple and made massive gains on the upside. Another example is the iPad. If you played with one for five minutes you knew no competitor would be able to generate something of equal caliber for quite some time. There were already versions of a tablet out there but they were essentially e-readers. They were nice and still have their advantages but the iPad is leaps and bounds above what any other product could do. An iPad was a touchscreen, keyboard-less computer that was incredibly simple to use. You know when it's revolutionary. If you stand there asking yourself, "This thing is a piece of junk. Why would anyone want to own this?" then you're likely staring directly at a fad. There will always be doubters who look at a product and would rather poke holes in it. Some bears might be right. However, there's a lot of money to be made on the upside of a visionary's dream. Stability from blue-chips, yield from high dividend stocks and growth from tech names are all nice. But thousands of percent in return from investing early with a visionary and his or her dream is even better. At the time of publication the author was long AAPL and SBUX.Follow @traderboy23This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.