Dirt Bag

The sun set over the red desert as I bounced slowly down a dusty dirt road. There were a few old campers here and there, tucked into worn down pull outs with rutted entries and surrounded by sage brush. It looked to me like the usual crowd. A handful of dirt poor single dudes with old vans haphazardly parked into their temporary desert homes. A family with bike spread all over and a barbeque.

I kept driving. The road was wide and flat. Rolling desert hills lifted up across the horizon. A few miles more and there was no one. The few ragtag settlements I had seen were long gone and it was just me and that sweet desert silence as the sun finally gave out and the stars began to freckle the sky.

I was just barley on the Utah side of the Utah/Arizona border. There is some incredible BLM land just outside of St. George. The bouldering is excellent and mountain biking even better. I wasn’t here for either of those two things on this trip.

I had just left L.A.

I had been there for a long weekend at a trade show. I had spent the past 4 days talking to past/present and potential clients as well as customers. My small software business was getting a lot of attention along with my partner and my new venture. We did this show every year. It was fairly important to us from a business perspective but, more just an excuse to rent a house, hang out and eat too much good food.

If you’ve done a trade show, or worked to sell yourself in any way, you understand what it means to be “on”.

I had just spent the last two months preparing for this weekend. Software updates, client deliveries, organizing and communicating. All the prep had been flawless. Execution was dialed.

In the next two years, my partner and I would dissolve the venture we were there to promote because of the success of our primary businesses. Everything we were doing, and doing well, was just insurance. It was the extra mile.

That is what is required when you’re boot-strapping your own businesses. Throw out a wide net and see which one catches fish.

We got lucky.

None of that mattered now.

The work had been done and it was time for me to get some rest. I threw a sleeping bag down on the ground. Kicked off my shoes and curled up for the night.

I woke up the next morning and a thin shell of ice had formed over my sleeping bag. It had gotten fairly cold overnight, as it often does in late November.

I was happy.

Nowhere to be. The rest of the day to drive the 5 or so hours back up to Salt Lake.

Why am I telling you this story?

I am a human. I operate as a human. I am slow and inefficient. My mind can only take in so much before it reaches capacity.

Funny thing is, so are you.

In markets, we often overlook the human element. Both in our own methods and expectations as well as the methods and expectations of others.

I believe that in order to truly expand into excellence, a person must understand deeply both their ability to push, and their need to rest.


Markets work in cycles. People work in cycles.

Often, I see people override their rest cycle for more effort. More work, more money or more achievement. In doing so, they reduce the impact of their effort and future capacity. Their work becomes average.

In order to truly be excellent at anything, you must not only drive towards it but rest from it.


I use the above story because it is a large part of who I am. For me, to let go of all ambition and just be a dirt bag for a while is was brings me back to life. A few days not giving a rats ass in the desert can make all the difference.

For you, this might be something else.

It’s likely not a highly produced vacation. It’s probably something that satisfies a deeper part of who you are. I would argue, the more you understand what works best to decompress your own neurosis, the more effectively you can recharge and then re-enter into that state of intensity.

When to rest:

Here are a few things I see both in myself and in others that indicate a need for a little R+R.

  • Tension : Trading should flow. It should come easy. Setups you know should be hit without hesitation. If this isn’t the case, it’s time to chill.
  • Tilt : Tilt is not a common trait for traders hitting their edge and compounding their accounts. It’s often normalized as an excuse to keep the addiction alive.
  • Sizing Errors : Often, I see in myself and others a desire to adjust size when experiencing compound fatigue.
  • Lack of Clarity : We do the same thing every day, or at least we should be. Often times an overload in data processing muddies the mental waters.
  • Tunnel Vision : When the brain is taxed and not given rest, we often go into a strange fixation on solving problems. It’s a fight of flight response and it never leads to real answers.

These are just a few examples.

Over the years, I have come to accept the fact that I need to take time to be a dirt bag. There are times I just need to get away from all the superfluous caring. If I continue to trade beyond my caring limit, things go poorly.

Think about it this way…

You know that there are times you are ON.
There are times where you feel focus and dialed and the market seems to be in rhythm with your actions. Almost like you can’t miss.

Then, without warning, the tides turn. You’re off your game. The P/L begins to drop, or outright tank!

While this may be caused by a market condition change you were unaware of, it may more likely be because have run yourself into the ground without taking that required rest.


In markets and muscles, growth happens when we rest.

I have been working to increase my trading size over the past 4-6 months. It’s gone fairly well. However, it has also made this reality more and more clear. If one day, I strap 60lb’s on and do 30 pullups, I cannot expect my arms to be willing to do this again tomorrow.

By increasing intentional rest, with purpose, you increase your ability to deliver mentally and physically when the time is right.

Trade less. Trade with more purpose and realize that you too, are human.