Eight Things the Dirtbag Diaries Taught Me

I am 23 years old.

I am a year out of college and I know I want to teach in some way or another, but am struggling to figure out how to make that happen.

I just worked 600 hours in a snowboard factory.

I made 1,568 snowboards.

I drilled out 18,816 inserts.

I worked from 3:30 to 2:00 AM.

I was miserable.

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Each day felt like my soul was getting sucked out as I did the same task over and over and over again. The hours were long, and it was hard on my body. It was dirty and physically demanding. I listened to a lot of podcasts. My favorite was The Dirtbag Diaries. I discovered it one day on my lunch break (10:00 PM), and it dramatically changed my life. I picked a random episode from 2015 and pressed play. After the 16 minute short, I stopped working, and downloaded all 219 episodes. I then proceeded to binge on the Dirt Bag Diaries. I absolutely loved each and every episode. I started to actually look forward to work, because I correlated it with the Diaries. I slowly worked my way through Dirt Bag Diary History all the way to the very first episode in 2007. On my breaks I would head to my car and write feverishly in my journal about the stories, the life lessons, and the wisdom of this amazing outdoor community that Fitz Cahall (founder) has managed to manifest into story form.

Here are eight things that the Dirt Bag Diaries taught me:

1) Life is all about seeing opportunity, where I’d only seen closed doors before.

In 2007 Fitz Cahall was on the verge of giving up on his dream to be a writer. He thought he had “tried everything,” and that all the doors were closed. It was sort of his last ditch effort to read a story from his closet in Seattle, into a microphone, and put it online. He then sent it out to some friends who responded positively to the first episode. He recorded another, and another. Now, the Dirt Bag Diaries has grown from a few downloads to over 9 million downloads.

Full Episode: Origins

*26:16 starts my favorite assemblage of words by Fitz in all 219 episodes 

2) There is always time to re-start my life.

Take it from Katie Craft, she was 30 years old wrapping up her tenth year working as a recruiter for an online advertising company. A job that she described as, “soul sucking,” and needing no “real life skills.” She claimed she needed a life re-start. So she quit her job and got a gig as a bar tender in Antarctica. She was then able to line up a guiding position in the Artic for the next season. In between the jobs she started living out of her truck. She started fishing, she took a lesson at a flight school, she started hiking more, she learned how to ski, she drove to Alaska, she even kayaked the Grand Canyon. She took a level 1 avalanche course, she got a Wilderness First Responder certification, and even took a fire fighting class. She then went to the artic and began driving and anchoring boats, tying knots, and identifying wildlife. She ended up creating the superwomen equivalent of herself that she set out to create two years before. The podcast ends with her heading to Greenland to work as a naturalist and an expedition leader. From boring 9-5, to guiding in Greenland, reminding me that what ever path I chose in life, its never to late to re-start.

Full Episode: Start Saying Yes

3) I am not defined by my first real job.

Brenden Leonard sure has lived one hell of a life. He beat alcoholism, moved to Missoula Montana to get a Masters degree. He then took that Master degree, and got a job at REI. He is now a full-time writer. Has published 8 books, is a contributing editor at Climbing, Adventure Journal, and The Dirtbag Diaries. His stories have appeared in Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, Sierra, Adventure Cyclist, and other publications.

While working in the factory, I kept asking myself over and over, “What are you doing with your life Kory?” I took my bachelors degree, and got a job in a factory. Thanks to Brendan’s story, he’s helped me develop a work ethic to move towards my dreams one day at a time, to practice patience. But most importantly, to understand that I am not defined by my first real job.

Full Episode: Live From 5Point Vol. 9

4) No matter what I’m going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“There is a lot of people who are going through similar experiences, or similar hard times, or what feels like the hardest thing in their life, and you just can’t give up. Even if you’re in the hole and got four years to go in prison, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can promise you from my experience the light is so much better then even you can imagine it. If you didn’t have the bad things happen to you, how you could fully experience the good things, how could you go through the best time in your life, without going through the worst time in your life.” – Roland Thompson

Full Episode: 081 

5)    Don’t live life by what I “should be doing.”

Kathy and Peter were spending their free time in the outdoors. They were loading and unloading every weekend from the road. They were paying a mortgage. They were doing what they thought they should be doing. Then, they sold their house, a lot of their belongings, and hit the road with their daughter Abby to live the life of their dreams. They showed me to, “do me.”

Full Episode: Winnebago Warriors 

6) Don’t Wait to long…

Paul Markel’s dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail. He was in love with the idea. It was his wildest dream. It was his obsession. It was the “thing,” he wanted to do before he died. But, Paul never got the chance to hike the Appalachian trail because he waited to long. He never acted on the dream. He died before his 50th birthday. This story taught me to never wait to long, to do that thing, that I’ve always wanted to do.

“If it (this story) gets somebody else off their ass, that’s even better. Because we waited to long to do this. If this sparks someone into action to stop listening to the podcast and get the hell out there, that would be even better.” - M’Lynn Markel

Full Episode: Paul’s Boots

7) I need to create my own definition of success

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. This story, helped me realize we each get to define our success. No one else can define, “my success,” but myself! Take it from Aimee Brown, who had a similar revelation after a 6-thousand-mile relocation for her “dream job.”

Full Episode: Successful Life 

8) If I want something, I have to go get it.

Kevin spent a decade writing and creating the “Emerald Mile,” but due to a disagreement with Barnes and Noble, they wouldn’t sell his book. Half the book stores in the U.S. refused to carry his book. His publisher marketing plan fell apart…and the book was dead. But not to Kevin, he decided he wouldn’t let the book die. So he climbed into his truck, and essentially went on his own book tour. He stopped at any independent book store he could find, and slept in his truck. He would read to crowds of 2-3. Usually the book store owner, and some friends he new. He did that for about a year. Slowly, it started picking up sales in the independent book stores and eventually it landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Kevin wanted people to read his book, so he went out, and got people to read his book.

Full Episode: The Threshold Moment

Once I listened to all 219 episodes, I no longer had the diaries to look forward to at work. It was devastating. One day, I had enough. I walked into the office and put in my two weeks. I had no idea how I was going to generate and income once I finished those two weeks, but I decided to take the advice from these stories. I spent every countless hour searching for a new job. A month later, I found that job, and I got that job: Education & Outreach Associate for a non-profit working to promote healthy, robust, Salmon stocks on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Thank you Dirtbag Diaries for all that you do.