The Christmas/New Year’s Eve Interlude

People smile, say “Merry Christmas!” and then live the next 6 days in utter misery as they wait for New Year’s Eve.

They just zip through the “Christmas/New Year’s Interlude” without much thought.

This got me thinking… linking behavioral expectations to certain days seems to help people focus. For example, on Christmas I give gifts. On Thanksgiving I eat turkey and see my family. On my birthday I fuck my harem of indentured servants.

a few members of my harem

So lets focus on this “Interlude” for a moment and make it special, like a holiday, so that next year you can use the time more productively.

What if you tried very hard for just these 5 days to focus on the little things that make your life move? Not the “big” New Year’s resolution that you’ll forget by January 21st. I’m talking more about things like washing the dishes after dinner each night, or feeding your pets.

Could you do these things better? I’m thinking that yes, you could.

Could you put your clothes on faster? How about showering? During the “Interlude” try cutting your shower time by a minute. Then, during the day, spend that entire minute telling someone close to you that you really love them. See what happens. Did they get sick of you after 20 seconds?

Then maybe you need to find a new lover. Congratulations, you have made the interlude work for you.

Do you tailgate? I know I do.

During the “Interlude” try not to tailgate everyone. Instead, focus only on those drivers who “need to learn how to drive.” Then, you’ll have a little extra negative energy stored up that you can use elsewhere.

I suggest taking that saved negative energy to start a war with your neighbor. For example, my neighbor blows leaves onto my property when I’m not home. But you see, he’s a silly idiot. I work from home, so who do you think is going to win that battle? The moment I see him back down his driveway to head out to his job as “office slave,” I return the favor. Meanwhile we both pretend that we don’t know what’s going on.

“Where’d all the leaves come from this year?” Duh.

A silent war like that takes a lot of energy. Again, save up some negativity during the “Interlude” and unleash it when you really need it.

That’s making the “Interlude” work for you; that’s time well spent.

Now, I’m not sure if this idea will “go national” or anything. It certainly won’t help the economy or enslave the lower and middle class, so I can’t see the government sponsoring the idea. When is the last time the government really helped you anyway?

Forget it. 2012 is all about empowering yourself. Use “The Lude” well.
note: this was originally published to my blogspot in 2007. that said, the message is as relevant today as it was back then.

Empower yourself in 2012. Follow me on Twitter.

Not all of my posts are “fucking hilarious.” Some are downright depressing like this one. Others are about buying beer. I even write about God and mexican food.


The Dark Side Of Freedom

Zeke’s face was bright red. He seemed to be holding his breath.

Beads  of sweat covered his brow and collected on his eyebrows. His keyboard  looked moist. In fact, it seemed humid and wet all around him, as if he  had created his own weather system. Dark clouds hovered. A large purple  vein, not a normal feature of his appearance, was prominent on his neck  and looked like a well-fed earthworm. His hair was pulled back, very  tightly, into a ponytail.

From  his lips sprang the same word, over and over again. “FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!…” Moments later it morphed into, “They’re fucking me.”  He was staring straight at his screen with his hand glued to his mouse.  He was motionless. It was like he was bracing himself.

They  sat me next to Zeke so I could learn from him. Zeke didn’t talk much,  but I did learn from him. I casually looked over at his monitor. He was  holding a couple thousand shares of VOD which in 1999 (before it split 5  for 1) was very volatile and trading over 200 dollars a share. He was  down over 6 thousand dollars in the stock.

His phone rang.

He  tried to sound calm as he spat into the receiver “It’s just this guy,  he’s fucking fucking me.” He hung up and doubled his position. In a few  minutes he was down over 10 grand in the stock and the risk manager of  the firm, a large man who looked more like a bouncer than a man who was  crunching numbers in a back office, paid him a personal visit.

Zeke knew his time was up.

A  short conversation between Zeke and the risk manager, a man who  everyone simply called “Mr. Bill”, ensued and then Mr. Bill watched as  Zeke closed out his position. Moments later Zeke put his very expensive  headphones over his ears, gathered up his very expensive coat and his  desk belongings and silently left the room.

It  was the first blow-up I had witnessed at close quarters. I had been  trading for only 3 weeks. I looked at my position monitor. I was down  $6.25 in my one position, 100 shares long of AVY. At that moment, I felt  incredibly “light”.

The  next day, Zeke’s desk was filled by some hotshot trader “from upstairs”  who didn’t say much and watched porn in a small video player that he  strategically positioned in a corner of one of his screens. This is a  small example of what the environment was like at my first firm, where I  traded for my first few years. I paid exorbitantly high commission  rates and was yelled at whenever I tried to get those rates cut.

But I have a certain nostalgia for those days. It seemed anything was possible.

Recently  I tried to get away from trading. I applied for other work and tried to  imagine myself at a “real job” with a steady check and a boss. Nothing  worked out and I find myself trading again. I revisited this post to try  to remember what it was that trading once represented to me, to try to  remember those early feelings.

I  traded because it represented a certain kind of freedom. Of course,  back then I only understood freedom as a good thing. You were free to  wear whatever you wanted to work and office politics didn’t exist. The  only thing that mattered to anybody was, “How much you up?” Thinking  like that seems very simplistic now and after 12 years I have a more  nuanced view of freedom.

Freedom  can be a good thing, yes, but it can also be a very horrifying thing.  In short, you are free to work hard and succeed and you are free to ruin  yourself. Worse yet, you can work very hard and still ruin yourself. Or  you can be like Zeke, you’re free to just throw it all away, easily.

There are no safety nets and you make the rules.

A  few years back the book “The Secret” was a big deal. People were all  about your thoughts creating your reality. I tend to scoff at that stuff  and when my mother gave me the book to read I just handed it back to  her, “No thanks, Mom.”

But  maybe there is something about understanding too much about the dark  side of freedom. And maybe for us traders it’s be better to pretend  it doesn’t exist, or even, remain completely ignorant of it.

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Another Lesson In Perspective

Last night, I caught the best wave of my life and it taught me a lesson.

The wave taught me the following, (I’m paraphrasing) it said, “DT, stop being such a dick.”

All day, my head was full of fuzz because some poor Hispanic dudes were outside cutting down trees. All day I forgot that I have a healthy family, live in a beautiful spot in the world and altogether, have it pretty damn good.

I just forgot and I let some bullshit trump the larger picture.

I paddled out into uncomfortably large surf. The report put the swell at 5-7 feet but it was clean and deep (high tide) so it felt even larger. All of my close friends were on the beach as were my wife and daughter. We were all eating dinner when I decided to “go take a few.”

Earlier, some kid in a pink ocean kayak tried paddling directly into the break. Within 2 minutes, he was separated from the kayak and getting sucked out by a strong rip current. On the shore, no one seemed to notice.

I was talking to a friend about nothing… he was there, talking about real estate, and I just started walking away, following the kid’s head as it was pulled out deeper with the current. He was probably 20 yards out, past the main shorebreak, but getting rolled by the constant white water from the larger waves breaking further out. I watched, feeling pretty helpless, as I walked down the beach closer to where he was.

He started to flail his arms and panic.

Jesus Fucking Christ, I thought.

I bumped into a hot blond in a pink bikini taking pictures of the whole thing with a fancy camera. I couldn’t take my eyes off of that head. I was just walking completely transfixed and terrified. I couldn’t swim out there and get him, even though I surf, I’m just not the strongest swimmer. I mean I can swim well, but I didn’t have a board, or any flotation device… it would have been a questionable procedure.

There were surfers out to the right. That’s where the “takeoff” is. The wave rolls in and peels to the left (surfers right) and basically ends close to the where the rip current was pulling. So it was maddening to watch 3 or 4 surfers pull off of waves not 20 feet from the kid and not even notice him there.

Thank goodness for the fat longboarder.

Honestly, I had never seen this dude before. He was fat like a dumptruck and on a huge yellow and pink longboard. The thing must have been over 10 feet long, wide, and thick. The first thing he did after splashing off the wave, was to go over to the kid and let him grab onto his board. Then the two of them proceeded to kick together out of the rip and towards the shore. They got completely pummeled by the shorebreak… but made it to dry sand.

The kayak kid just bent over at his knees and heaved for about 30 seconds. The fat longboarder walked right by me. He had a face, wide, dark, and deeply carved, that had seen a lot of sun.

He came from the ocean and he saved the guy’s life.

There was no applause. No one slapped him on the back. No one had even noticed. And I was lost in a state of bewilderment. I couldn’t believe that someone could just die like that, so easily, on a perfect summer night, on a beach full of people eating grilled chicken and drinking white wine.

But man, people die all the time. And why should we deny it?

I couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the evening.

“Did you see the dude on the pink kayak?” I’d say.

No one had.

So I had this all on my mind when I took that same rip current out to the lineup. I paddled right over the spot where that kid had flailed. The surf was big for me and my heart was beating faster than it really needed to.

Just then I heard a familiar voice. “Hey DT!” It was a relatively new friend of mine and he was paddling up next to me. “You look like you saw a ghost, man. What’s up?”

“It’s huge out here. I’m just a bit out of my league.” I explained.

“Ah, you’re fine. Enjoy this. It’s not going to be here much longer.” And off he paddled, the picture of insouciance.

As he said this, someone in the lineup yelled “Outside!” and the horizon seemed to lift. A huge set was feathering out there and was sure to break before it reached us. It did, heavily and with a rumble that gave the water some extra texture. With a deafening hiss, the white water rushed to where I straddled my board.

Now I have a longboard. It’s thick and buoyant. When a large wave breaks over me, I have to “turtle roll” which means I paddled towards the white water, take a deep breath, and then grasp both rails of my board, and roll over with it into the wave, fin side of the board facing the sky.

Then, with my legs, I kick towards the wave for all I’m worth.

I rolled through that first wave and looked around. Heads were popping up here and there, many separated from their boards, and a foam was sizzling on the surface. Oddly, and I remember this exactly, it smelled of fresh laundry.

The second wall of white water rolled toward me with the same force and speed as the first and I “turtled” under it as well. Man, my heart was thumping. I saw my friend paddling further outside, i.e., away from the shore, towards the open ocean horizon. The third wave just swallowed him and I was forced to roll again.

After that huge set, a calm descended onto the scene.

In the setting sun, most surfers looked kind of yellow. Due to all the white water, the surface of the sea was soft and foamy and the rising air bubbles touching the face of the water made a cool “shhhhhhh” sound. In this peaceful moment, I began to paddle for the next wave.

After the last set, the wave didn’t seem like much. But it was my perspective playing games with me. It was large enough. I paddled and the wave picked me up easily. I slid down the drop and just saw it stretch out ahead to my right. A slowly building wall of light green water, and white foam.

I didn’t “work it” by tearing up and down it like a maniac. I managed a couple of turns up and down the face of the wave but quickly realized I needed more speed if I was to continue along the line without getting “closed out” on. So I stepped up on my board, gained speed, and tore down the line.

The wave changed character as I moved closer to shore. What really happened, is that I had reached the rip, and so the water rushing out to the horizon from the shore met the wall of water that I was on, which was racing towards the shore. At this point, I got completely “destructed” as the wave picked right up and threw me down, hard.

Under the water, which was now, quite dark and gloomy, I searched for light to find the “top.” It seemed like forever under there, always does, and I wondered if anyone was watching my drama unfold from the shore, as I had watched the pink kayak guy. But you know, it wasn’t all that dramatic afterall, I quickly surfaced, in the rip of course, and was lucky enough to jump onto my board just before another avalanche of white water pushed me to shore.

That one wave was my entire session.

I pulled myself out of the water (which, given the circumstances of the shorebreak and the rip, was quite difficult) slid my board under my arm, and walked over to Judy.

“You see that?” I said, all excited.

“No. What?” She was brushing some sand off our daughter’s butt.

“That wave I caught! It was massive! My best ride ever!”

“No, sorry… it’s hard to watch all the time. By the way, Frank’s birthday is gonna be this Saturday. Jill just told me.”

And I thought then about that kid on the pink kayak again. And about perspective. And the difference between being out in the rip, in the waves, and standing on the shore. And the horizon, and how even it changes and is inconstant.

And just writing this now, I think about my best friend, who died almost 9 years ago, suddenly, and I wish that he could’ve been there tonight, standing on the shore with his kid and Judy, not watching me catch the ride of my life.

And I figured that most of the time I’m a selfish fuck, but every now and then, you catch a glimpse of light. And how important it is to remember what the light looks like when things go dark so that you know how to find your way back up to the “top.”

Why trade?

This past week was very hard for me. I was wrong consistently. Worse yet, I recognized that I was wrong but continued to “fight the market” nonetheless. This compounded the pain of being wrong and turned it into something far worse; stupidity.

At times like these, sometimes it helps to be reflective. To ask questions. One question that has come up over and over for me recently is, why trade? Why put myself through this? It’s been months since I’ve made real money. I’m stressed out and I’m dying the death of a thousand small cuts. Not to mention the two very large cuts that I suffered this past week…

Well, to answer that, I need to delve a little into my past. I have to remember the beginning of trading. What was life like before I began to trade?

I remember all too clearly my ex-bosses fat knuckles laying on her desk before me. She had asked me to write a memo, a menial little task. I wrote the memo and a half hour later there I was sitting across from her staring at those fat, pasty white knuckles as she ripped my little memo to shreds.

I remember getting paid $26,000 a year in my next job and having to fight (unsuccessfully) for a $500 a year raise that was promised to me. And I still remember the phone call I received from a friend of mine who had recently started trading when he told me that he had just nailed down $75,000 in one month. That’s when I quit that job and decided that I would learn how to trade.

Now, just as a reference point, it is not easy to make that much money in one month… or at least, it was never easy for me. I’ve traded now for 8 years and have probably made upwards of $75k in a month 5 times. And I haven’t made that much in a month since early 2001…

The early days, those days where I was learning were great. I was told to “paper trade” and to watch the market. I was told that it would probably take 6 months to really learn the sectors and the stocks and that I should just focus on learning and not worry too much about the money. There were hundreds of different traders in the office, but it was easy to discern a few main “types of traders”. Think high school where you had the jocks, the nerds, etc. With traders, there were the retracers, the trend traders, the news guys, the freaking psychopaths… I learned quickly that I hated to lose and that I was very conservative with my trading style.

I’ll write more tomorrow. This could go on for a very long time and it’s late. I really need to read a bit.