As the No. 1 ranked investor in the new Motley Fool CAPS service, I have a lot of folks ask me what my best picks are. That's a good question -- and I thought I'd take a moment to answer it. My best picks may not be the ones you'd think.

One of my best may have been my "underperform" call on Ann Taylor (NYSE:ANN). Why this pick? It certainly hasn't been my highest scorer -- it netted me just 12 points. But this is one of my best picks because at the time I made it, I was the only Fool to be thumbs-down on this retailer. I saw what looked to me like a high-ish valuation and acted on it -- despite the overwhelming "outperform" sentiment of my fellow Fools. I could have looked at the CAPS rating and said, "Zero underperform calls? There must be something I'm missing; I think I'll pass." But I didn't, and I learned a great deal from having the courage to trust my instincts and make this call, despite what my fellow Fools thought.

Another of my best picks is Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and for similar reasons. At the time I pointed my green thumb upward [which indicates an "outperform"] on Dell, the stock had a lowly one-star CAPS rating. While it's far too early to tell whether Dell will be a long-term "outperformer," I'm up about 20 or so score points as of this writing.

Another contrarian pick I've made was an "underperform" on Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI). It's a pretty neat feeling to bet against popular sentiment and be proved right (at least in the short term). Though time will tell whether this is something I can keep up in the long term, I'm learning to trust my instincts more and more as my experience with CAPS grows.

There's one more pick worth mentioning ... and it happens to involve two CAPS calls, but is really one "pick" -- my "outperform" on Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and my "underperform" on Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD). Again, you can read my pitches for my reasoning (especially my Intel pitch).

But the central theme of my best selections is that they were all instances where I put a thought into action that I'd never put into action before and learned a great deal from the experience. Sure, these were all successful CAPS calls, and I've had quite a few unsuccessful ones along the way. Still, I'm slowly beginning to come around to the idea that this thing I call "instinct" or "intuition" might be a more powerful investing tool than I'd ever realized.

I still have a lot to learn -- several lifetimes wouldn't be enough to encompass it all. And I am doing my best not to let a few short-term successes go to my head. I am really looking forward to learning more and more about investing and, perhaps more importantly, learning more and more about myself in the process. I'm pretty sure CAPS will be an invaluable part of this learning experience. To get in the game yourself, click here.

This piece originally appeared as a blog entry on our new Motley Fool CAPS investment research service. It has been edited.

Whole Foods, Dell, and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. To find more top-shelf stocks at bargain-bin prices, sign up today for a free 30-day guest pass . Dell is also a Stock Advisor selection.

Russell Carpenter (TMF Eldrehad) is currently ranked No. 1 out of 14,650 players in Motley Fool CAPS. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy always goes with its gut.