Burst Your Bubble

We are spending turkey week down at our family place on Lake Texoma. The house is located in the Red River Valley with rolling hills and Fall colors, the lake, the wildlife, and surrounding topography of rolling hills and forest giving way to farmland. These form a beautiful landscape that is as close to a sense of “home” as any place else for me. I have lots of good memories here and I hope we have many years where we continue to visit.  One benefit of being in this place is that it changes my perspective and “Bursts My Bubble”.

I think it’s really important that all investors get outside their own bubble and see how other people and communities live on a daily basis.  

Our place here is near the communities of Durant, Oklahoma and Denison, Texas right on the border. To give you a sense of scale, Durant has a population of around 16K and Denison is modestly larger at approximately 23K. Each of the towns are lovely in their own ways but it would be hard to describe them as growing and thriving economies. They are hubs for the farming and small business communities with some bleed over from Dallas (45 minutes south). Their demographics skew older with a hollowing out in the middle. Many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck. My family has a number of rent houses in Denison that are left from my grandparents. These are generally low-rent ($300-450 per month) housing stock. Many people struggle to stay in these as their hourly wages leave little room for other necessities. One unexpected car repair or trip to the doctor can mean that they are missing rent or the electricity gets turned off.

Interacting with the local businesses, shopping at the local Wal-Mart, and talking to people can give you a real sense of place. Especially when you’ve been able to do this over many years. Small business, farming, and retail are the mainstays of this economy. Many of the most promising young people in these communities left for Dallas, leaving behind those that are less educated, many with young families they are struggling to support with retail jobs. This is not uncommon in small town America.

If you live in Silicon Valley, Austin, or Boulder with their affluence and prosperity, then you’re probably going to lose touch that much of our country is struggling. If you’re an investor, I encourage you to get outside your bubble several times a year and check-in to see how those outside the tech sector are doing. It will serve you and your companies to have a perspective beyond the echo-chamber of the tech sector.  And you just might find some good memories along the way.