I worked at Lehman with a guy who was an "early adopter." He was always bringing in new gadgets to work. One day he brought in an iPod, the first day it went on sale. "This is going to change the world," he said.
That was in 2002.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it would have been pretty obvious that Apple (AAPL) was a company on the move. There were some people out there for which it was obvious, like my early adopter friend who bought the stock. It is nice to be on the right side of a 50-bagger.
My first boss in the business said in my job interview that it helps to be a little clairvoyant. I thought I was doomed to fail because I wasn't the least bit clairvoyant. But clairvoyance is actually a skill that you develop over time, if you work on it. After 15 years of watching companies succeed and fail, you start to figure out what it is that makes them succeed and fail.
Chipotle (CMG), for example, was another one that I missed. In 2007-2008 there was one in Midtown that I would eat at all the time. It was brand new back then. I told people, I could eat here every day. This is where you smack yourself upside the head like in those V8 commercials. Why did I not buy this stock?
What is it about CMG that's so special? The food is awesome. And it's cheap, but expensive enough that they have better profit margins than fast food. The menu is super-simple. The stores are cool. They play cool music. And cool people go there (here in Myrtle Beach, it literally is where the pretty people hang out).