DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Chewed-On Numbers

Written by: on February 8, 2024

We got a puppy this week.  A routine trip to Walmart resulted in some potato chips, toothpaste, shampoo and a 9 week old Mini GoldenDoodle named Sullivan that we purchased from a nice lady in the parking lot.  In light of reading How to Make the World Add Up by Tim Harford I decided to look at some statistics related to this impulse buy.

According to Forbes the top lifestyle sacrifices made by dog owners include:

Meet Sullivan aka “Sully”

39.29% lived on a tighter budget to afford their dogs’ expenses.
13.96% moved from an apartment to a house so their dog would have a yard.
7.47% stayed at a job they disliked because it allowed them to work remotely or had a dog-friendly office.
6.78% broke up with a significant other who didn’t like their dog.
5.25% took a pay cut or accepted a position with fewer benefits to work remotely or have access to a dog-friendly office.
4.57% left a job they liked because another company let them work from home or had a dog-friendly office.
36% of dog owners reported that they would spend $4,000 or more out-of-pocket on life-saving medical care for their dogs. [1]

Additionally: 100% increase in damaged furniture, shoes, socks, and anything else within reach. Turns out puppies experience the world through their mouth.  And boy is this little guy curious!

This book was a definite change of pace compared to the last couple.  Not nearly as complex.  While Harford outlines ten rules for thinking differently about numbers, I think his 11th rule he terms “The Golden Rule” which is really the melody playing throughout the whole book, “Be Curious.”  For me that’s the lesson.  Be curious and ask questions.  When you first encounter a claim backed by a number: Be curious about your feelings. Be curious about your personal experience. Be curious about the numbers and what’s really being counted.  Be curious about the number and its context.  Be curious about the back story.  Be curious about missing data. Be curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Be curious about the statistical bedrock. Be curious about the graphs. Be curious about your own bias assimilation. 

I sense a consistent lesson from both Harford and Sully: Be Curious.  Chew on every number!  We need to go deeper not only with the statistics but our interaction with the statistics.  

I find this lesson both challenging and timely.  Challenging in that it isn’t quick.  It can take time to process and deep dive statistics in the way Harford recommends.  Chewing on the numbers may also be challenging because it can reveal what Harford refers to as “Motivated Reasoning” which occurs when someone’s judgment of the numbers is significantly swayed by their desire for a particular outcome to be true. [2] This is timely because as I have been researching my NPO I have fallen into this trap.  My NPO looks at the correlation between “Rugged Individualism” and human flourishing vs. languishing.   Recently I was reviewing numbers related to suicide rates, substance abuse, physical abuse, foster care and poverty.  I found myself hoping to find a connection between “Rugged Individualism” and human languishing evidenced by the numbers.  I realized my own tendency of biased assimilation. I wanted the data to support the connection.  I found just how common this tendency can be.

The challenge to self-evaluative curiosity reminded me of Camacho’s concept of “looking under the hood” of our life and leadership. [3]  Curiosity allows me to chew on and explore my biases both in research and leadership, allowing for transformation and growth.  In this way, curiosity is implicit to the transformative learning process which drives us to seek out new information, ask questions, face biases and engage with challenging concepts, especially those sometimes daunting threshold concepts. [4]

Key takeaway: Be curious, be a puppy, chew on everything, ask questions.

As Harford says, “If we want to make the world add up, we need to ask questions – open-minded, genuine questions. And once we start asking them, we may find it is delightfully difficult to stop.” 

Just to clarify.  Although the percentages for puppy ownership may indicate it isn’t a good idea, it is 100% worth it.  But then again I may be biased.

 

____________________________________

[1] Michelle Megna, “Pet Ownership Statistics 2024,” Last modified January, 24 2024, Accessed February 8, 2024 http://www.forbes.com/advisor/pet-insurance/pet-ownership-statistics/#:~:text=3%25%20of%20pet%20owners%20gave,deposits%20for%20apartments%20(5%25).

[2] Harford, Tim, How To Make the World Add Up, (London: The Bridge Street Press), 2021.

[3] Camacho, Tom, Mining For Gold, (London: Inter-Varsity Press), 48.

[4] Meyer, J., & Land, R. Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge,(Abington: Routledge), 2006.

[5] Harford, How To Make the World Add Up, 294.

 

About the Author

Chad Warren

A dedicated husband, father, pastor and teacher with a passion for seeing others flourish. Master's degree in Christian and Classical Studies and a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, I am committed to both spiritual and intellectual growth.

15 responses to “Chewed-On Numbers”

  1. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Chad, Sully is cute! I’m trying to be curious with the statistics you provided. I’m always curious is how data is collected – as that’s just as critical as what data is collected.

    I’m imagining that people who would have responded to a survey on their lifestyle modifications due to dog ownership are people who really love their dogs. I’m guessing that people who are more indifferent about their pets would be less likely to respond to such a survey. Could these numbers be inflated as a result?

  2. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Chad, Your new little one is definitely cute.
    I hear your comment about looking for research that backs your preconceived ideas. Mine is taking me in a completely different direction for the same NPO. Surprisingly, I am ok with that but I now know I have a whole lot more to learn. makes me a bit weary but that’s okay. So my curiosity is begging me to ask, what are you doing with the information that doesn’t support your initial idea?

    • Chad Warren says:

      Diane,

      I am trying to hold loosely to my preconceived idea and let the data be what data is. This week’s reading was timed perfectly to help me maintain a perspective about data and my approach to it.

  3. mm Chris Blackman says:

    LOVE your puppy!!! We have 2 golden doodles in the family, and they are just great dogs.
    After reading your article and the others, I see a trend that curiosity may be the key to all the statistical confusion. Curiosity will lead to asking questions. We all have biases that affect how we see statistical information. How do you get past them to come up with the right information that is being presented to us?

    • Chad Warren says:

      Chris,
      I think the first step is to know my bias. I’m not convinced research can ever be done in a vacuum, but at least knowing my bias gives me a better chance of detecting when it is present. I also see how exposing my research to others may help reveal bias. The discovery workshop was a good example of revealing bias. Thanks for the question.

  4. Jeff Styer says:

    Chad,

    I agree, beautiful puppy. I hope the costs don’t add up to be too much of a burden. Curiosity is so important, even though its what killed the cat (which is obviously why you got a puppy instead of a kitten). It is important to examine our biases and check ourselves when looking for “evidence” that supports our beliefs. I have to be careful of this in my teaching. Making sure that any data I find is fair or at least explain to the class the potential missing pieces. I am curious as to what you are finding with the relation to rugged individualism and mental health. I have my own biased ideas that would suggest a direct correlation.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Jeff,
      The connection between rugged individualism and mental health seems to involve isolation. To the extent that rugged individualism cultivates isolation, especially relational isolation. My NPO is confined to western Montana. There is a lot of interesting data around suicide, substance abuse, and mental health from the state. Thanks for asking.

  5. Nancy Blackman says:

    Chad,
    I personally think that adopting a puppy or dog (we happen to rescue senior dogs) is never considered an impulse buy, but that’s for a different discussion. Back to the numbers!

    But before we do … very, very cute puppy!

    Some of your percentages had me nodding my head. When I was engaged to Chris, I had 2 cats. When we started dating, I learned that he was allergic to cats, but they had become my ESA’s. In a conversation with my mother, she asked, “are you going to get rid of the cats?” I didn’t even have to think about it. I said, “No! I’ll get rid of him before I get rid of the cats!” Now … some people might think I was crazy.

    We got married and Benadryl became a regular purchase in our house.

    Then a crazy thing happened. We went to a service where this pastor was introduced as a healer. At one point in his message, he asked people who wanted healing in some part of their lives to raise their hands. I was surprised to see Chris’ hand shoot up. Later, I asked what he asked healing for to which he said, “I never wanted you to give up your cats. I see how much love you have for them and they for you. I wanted healing over my allergy.” I was so touched by that.

    We got home and Chris picked up one of the cats, buried his face into his fur and didn’t have one allergic reaction from that day afterward.

    I’m thankful for the curiosity of my husband and how he didn’t want to change the status quo but to figure out a way for us all to be healthy and happy together. I think that’s where life experience overrides the statistics. Just sayin’ 🙂

  6. Adam Cheney says:

    Chad wins the award for posting a pic of his puppy.
    I find that line between curious and destructive fairly thin with puppy ownership. I wonder if there are ways in which we can be so curious about information that we seek too much input? Can we be overly curious?
    I have found that my oldest daughter is very curious about everything and will research every decision beyond where it is helpful. I call it research paralysis. She is learning to “adult” and wants to make very good decisions but she will research and be curious about everything to the point where she can no longer make a simple decision.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Adam,
      You bring up a great point. The thin line between curiosity and destruction is real, and it definitely connects to research. I like your point about “research paralysis.”

  7. Debbie Owen says:

    Love this, Chad! Sully is so cute, it’s no wonder you took him home with you!

    And I agree: be curious. In the future, I’ll also think about chewing on the numbers… like Sully.

    Of course, Eugene Peterson wrote “Eat This Book” about chewing on God’s word. That’s a good thing to chew on too.

    Other than your NPO, are you beginning to notice any biases with regard to your daily and weekly spiritual practices and worship?

  8. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Chad! I love how you have the random pick up of your dog. Life begins now. LOL! My dog transitioned the same week we started class, but one of my favorite experiences of having him with us was coming home to a bible whose bound has been chewed off by Deacon! Thanks for making me remember the good old days! As you chew on your research how will you realign your thoughts if the numbers don’t add up?

  9. Thanks for this post, Chad. As a fellow dog-lover, I can relate to the hidden costs that come along with a pet. But I agree with your conclusion that one’s own emotional reaction can lead one to claim ‘100% worth it’, even against all the odds.

    My question is how I we look at statistics when love or passionate interest is involved?
    Naive realism (from Rule 2)?
    Embrace Keynes’ ‘when everything goes bad, adjust’?

    For you, even with your own evidence-based journey ahead, how will you use curiosity in balance with loving against any odds?

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