...so... allow me to temper this a little bit.
You've probably heard the phrase "blue chip stock." This is a known, trusted, predictable large company ("large cap") whose finances are stable. The company has been profitable for a long time and there's every expectation that it will continue to be. These companies, by virtue of being profitable, pay out dividends - every quarter, you get some amount of money per share you own.
Let's say you piled eleven thousand dollars into Ford on May 17. Why May 17? Because shares were $10.92 on May 17 which means now you own 1000 (ish) shares of Ford which is convenient for the sake of math. Right now, Ford is at $10.94. You've experienced a capital appreciation of 4 cents per share - if you were to sell all your Ford stock, you would have made forty whopping dollars. Congrats! But also keep in mind that three weeks ago, Ford declared a quarterly dividend of fifteen cents per share... which means you made $150 on your Ford stock without having to do a thing.
This is one of the reason people participate in the market. So long as Ford continues to make money, and so long as you continue to own Ford stock, you will continue to make money. You can sell that Ford stock at any time and you can do whatever you want with that money (within the tax regime it's invested in - if it's in a retirement fund, you'll pay heavy tax penalties if you pull it out before you retire).
Ford (for example) is not much of a gamble. Some crazy penny stock biotech firm? That's a gamble. You don't buy it because it's going to pay you fifteen cents a share. You buy it because there's an off-chance GlaxoSmithKline will buy it and double your money. Of course, if GSK doesn't buy it, you're shit out of luck because that stock will go to zero appallingly fast.
This is the sort of stuff it's worth reading about. Fundamentally, there are alpha gains and beta gains within the market. Beta gains are the rising tide that raises all ships - people wouldn't participate in the market if it were a zero sum game; everyone benefits just by investing in companies that will probably be profitable. Alpha gains are money you make above and beyond whatever the market is making. Alpha gains are zero sum - for every dollar you make above the beta, someone else makes a dollar below.
Alpha gains are speculative. Beta gains are straight boring investing. Be boring. Be cautious, be careful, be slow, be steady, and be boring. Over the long run you will make money so long as you don't fuck around like a jackass chasing wall street. You will lose.
Here's twelve High Frequency Trading houses tossing Merck orders at each other for ten milliseconds.