Lessons From Austin

| June 26, 2019
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Good barbecue is worth the wait. That’s something I had to argue about with numerous people when I was in Austin last week, which was kind of a surprise to me, considering it is one of the best places in the world to buy meat cooked low and slow. My wife was traveling to Austin for a work conference, and I decided to tag along for a few reasons. I’ve been to Austin once before, I enjoyed the culture around food and music, and I wanted to go back. It wouldn’t disrupt my work too much since I planned to work during the day while my wife was attending her conference. And lastly, we have some friends in Austin who we wanted to visit on the weekend once the conference had concluded.

I’ll give you some background for why I wanted to visit Austin for the food. I started becoming interested in barbecue about five years ago when a friend of mine smoked a brisket on his Traeger and explained to me how it worked. Soon after that, I somehow convinced my wife that we needed to buy a Traeger as a gift to ourselves for our first wedding anniversary. We didn’t have the money in our regular monthly budget, but if we could use our “gifts to each other” budget, we could afford it. It actually sounds quite manipulative now that I think about it. Anyway, that anniversary is when my hobby began. I’m not going to quit my job and open a restaurant anytime soon (read: ever), but in the last five years, I’ve experimented with a few different cooking techniques, read some books on barbeque, learned a ton from my brother-in-law who is a lot better than I am, watched a couple of different TV series that are about smoking meat, and even participated in a couple of competitions. The person from whom I learned the most is Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. His restaurant is critically acclaimed, and I hadn’t experienced barbeque from the person who taught me a lot of what I know. Now was my chance to do it.

Before we even arrived in Austin, I got pushback for wanting to go to Franklin Barbecue. A local had sent us some recommendations ahead of time, and said she wouldn’t wait in line at any of the more popular barbecue places in Austin. When we did arrive, our Uber driver told me that they sell out fast, it’s not all that great, and I probably shouldn’t go.

Of course, I went anyway. I mean, I brought a lawn chair as part of my luggage just so I could sit comfortably while I was in line for 3-4 hours. I had read that you needed to arrive before 8:00 to get a spot in the shade, so I arrived around 7:30 a.m. and got one of three remaining spots in the shade. I claimed my spot, busted out my laptop and got quite a bit of work done. But as time passed and I heard conversations between people around me, my curiosity led me to start talking with them. The three people ahead of me in line were from Reno, Nevada and were visiting all of the best barbecue places in Austin. It was kind of an R&D trip for them, because they own a catering business and, like me, have learned about Texas-style barbecue from Aaron Franklin. They wanted to experience his food for themselves, and compare it to other restaurants in the area. We then shared stories about how we started our hobbies, what we’ve learned, and of course empathized with one another about mistakes we’ve made and having to deal with the haters who don’t understand our passion for smoked meat. When we finally did get our food, we shared a table and enjoyed one of best meals we’ve ever had…as a group who, 4 hours prior, had never met.

As I was thinking about that experience, I thought that, in an odd way, there are some parallels to conversations we have with clients every day at Flagstone. Much of our financial planning advice is centered around goals. Some goals are pretty common, but often times clients have goals that are really specific or meaningful to just them, and other people simply don’t understand or wouldn’t agree with their goals. It can be a vulnerable position to be in when sharing a unique goal or desire, because you never know how the other person is going to react when they hear it. Will they support you like my wife did when I told her I wanted to go to the restaurant? Judge you like my Uber driver? Try to convince you to do something else, like the local who recommended about 4 other places? Financial and non-financial goals are a cornerstone to good financial planning, and as fee-only financial planners, we do everything we can to support our clients in goals that are unique to them, even when it might not seem normal or wise to other people. Of course, there are tradeoffs that clients need to understand when creating very aspirational goals, but it’s our job to help them understand those tradeoffs and then help them down the path they choose.

For me, the trip was about more than just a piece of brisket or a couple of ribs. It was kind of a pilgrimage to a place that helped me develop my own cooking skills. When it came to the money, it didn’t make a lot of financial sense. I paid almost $50 for my meal (I had leftovers), and for barbeque, that’s a lot. But that $50 didn’t just buy me food. It bought me an experience with memories that will linger much longer than the taste of the best brisket I’ve ever had.

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