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

More Atlanta Hawks, the Cost of Raising Children, and Choosing Chocolate Over Healthy Snacks

Written by: on March 20, 2023

Are Atlanta Hawks fans (and executives) delusional, allowing “our emotional responses (to) influence our perceptions of reality”[1]? Are the Hawks spending too much time thinking about what might go wrong, prompting the front office to make some drastic changes (e.g., firing their head coach half-way through the season)? Or is the perceived mediocrity of the team causing management to grow annually concerned and worried about what to do? And what about the fans? Are the algorithms on fans’ social media newsfeeds populated with negative reports? After all, don’t Hawks fans already have a “bias towards information that confirms what we already believe”[2]? Are we, along with the Hawks top brass, too “focus(ed) on negative information”[3]? Who knows.

Regardless, my wife and I choose to spend a certain amount of money each year to watch our beloved Hawks, either through our TV provider or in-person at State Farm Arena. But what about these expenditures in our budget? Is this wise for us? Are we thinking rightly about splurging here and there, perhaps too frequently, to immerse ourselves in the drama that is the Hawks? Is this a “spend now, save later” strategy? Of course, if Mr. Duffy’s research is true, it’s chocolate now, healthy stuff later[4] for most people. And it’s HOW we process decisions like that that puts people at risk when it comes to other things, like financial planning.

For example, if I knew that it was going to cost us between $700K – $800K to raise our children[5], before they even hit college, MAYBE I would have made some different financial decisions in the early years of marriage. Maybe. With our oldest child now in his mid-twenties and our twins in their early twenties, we often ponder where our resources went. I resonate with Duffy’s lament: “No wonder so many parents—and I include myself here—are surprised at how poor they are, scratching their heads at where their money could have gone every month.”[6] He goes on to write, “The main issue is that we don’t think about the whole cost of child-rearing.”[7] Thankfully, I am married to a wondrously frugal and well-differentiated leader, able to allow System 2 to correct System 1 when necessary. Our kids are ALMOST off the books. But not yet. And we know that we are prone to be too “overconfident in our financial prowess.”[8] It’s why, as soon as the Hawks’ season is over, we will cancel our cable TV. We did the same thing last year.

If we’re honest, what parent really grasps the big picture, at the beginning? What marriage enters the scene fully prepared to engage the cognitive dissonance the couple will inevitably traverse as they come face to face with different ways the other is trying to make sense of the world?[9] Despite our often faulty assumptions that each will make conclusions like the other, “other people are not as like us as we think,”[10] including a spouse.

Thankfully, despite our financial planning, whether to spend now or save later, or whether the world around the Hawks organization is perpetually collapsing, there’s hope. If Bobby Duffy is right about the universe in Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding, then things are not really that bad. There’s hope in at least two ways: “First, the world, while marvellously (and sometimes less marvellously) varied, is frequently not anywhere near as bad as we think. Second, although we make mistakes, we’re not all as dumb, obstinate, or narrow-minded as we imagine.”[11]

In all seriousness, thanks be to God because he knows our limitations. He knows humanity’s propensity to be drawn to the dramatic, the quick fix, or even negative/fake news. He knows that we struggle to make sense of our world. He knows of our delusions, the same delusions that Duffy says, “need to be seen as arising from a complex system of forces, both in our heads and in the world, that reinforce each other.”[12] In the midst of this, God still cares for and sustains his good creation. It’s why things aren’t as bad as we might think. May God root us and ground us in his son. May the spirit of Christ empower us, as we depend on him, to acknowledge “the complexity and scale of the problem”[13] of just how delusional we tend to be, “individually and collectively.”[14]

[1] Bobby Duffy, Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding, (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 20.

[2] Duffy, 11.

[3] Duffy, 11?

[4] Duffy, 81-82.

[5] Duffy, 75. According to Duffy, it costs about $235,000 to raise a child in the United States, before the child reaches 18.

[6] Duffy, 75.

[7] Duffy, 76.

[8] Duffy, 73.

[9] Duffy, 232.

[10] Duffy, 233.

[11] Duffy, 241.

[12] Duffy, 221.

[13] Duffy, 20.

[14] Duffy, 20.

About the Author

Travis Vaughn

9 responses to “More Atlanta Hawks, the Cost of Raising Children, and Choosing Chocolate Over Healthy Snacks”

  1. mm John Fehlen says:

    I often tell premarital couples that if you really sat down and calculated how much it costs to get and be married, and then how much it costs to have and raise children, we would probably NOT do it. But we have to go for it, just do it, and it’ll pan out by the grace of God, and hard work.

    All of our four kids are, as you say, “off the books” – and yet here we are on a trip to Phoenix to see our youngest in college, along with his girlfriend who are talking actively about marriage. We’ve had a week with them, and it’s reminding me just how expensive he and his sibling were – gosh, this kid eats A LOT!

    But we love them all. And would do it any other way, even if we could. We love them that much. This brings to mind the idea of “passion” – for you it’s the Hawks. How much does our “passion” for something or someone contribute to the potential of wrongness? Do we hold tightly to our wrongness in direct proportion to our passion?

    Thanks so much for your writings Travis. You are an incredible thinker and communicator.

    • Travis Vaughn says:

      Thanks for your kind words, John.

      You have a great question around how much our grip on a “passion” relates proportionately to our wrongness. I believe that a “passion” (e.g., for fake news, for believing that we are smarter than our colleagues, or delusional belief about whatever) can indeed become an “ultimate” thing. And once something becomes an ultimate thing…like, if we have to do/have/experience this “thing” in order to establish meaning or true happiness in our lives…then that, according to Martin Luther, is the very definition of an idol. In Luther’s commentary on the first commandment, in the book of Concord, Luther writes: “So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears
      again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts.”

  2. mm Cathy Glei says:

    Yes, thanks be to God. There is so much I am wrong about for my own good, which can encourage me to trust God more. Isn’t that part of the garden story anyway (humans wanting to be like God in knowing all things; good and evil)?

    • Travis Vaughn says:

      Yes! Thanks so much for pointing that out, Cathy. There’s nothing new under the sun, including wanting to be all-knowing, having EVERYTHING figured out, including every single thing we are wrong about out. I know I wrestle with that, and that is very much a humanity-in-the-garden story. Thankfully, in the areas where I do recognize my delusions AND in the areas where I have no idea I’m delusional, God’s grace must be enough…that’s where our hope has to rest. We belong to God and are not our own (so goes the catechism).

  3. mm Kim Sanford says:

    You brought out some great points in your post. I’m curious where you see a “it’s chocolate now, healthy stuff later” approach among your NPO stakeholders. How is that affecting your research and your project?

    • Travis Vaughn says:

      Kim, you are asking a great question. I think part of the answer MIGHT be in wanting to experience “resolve” or “solutions” now and not go through the hard work — the longer work — that will be crucial to ministry leaders experiencing a flourishing connectionalism. Another “chocolate instead of healthy snacks” thing would be to just ignore some of the tension in the room, among stakeholders, and just go about business as usual. That option would be failing to ” (acknowledge) the complexity and scale of the problem.” (Duffy, Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, 20).

  4. mm Tim Clark says:

    Your final paragraph was honestly a devotional moment for me. Thanks be to God, indeed…

    “… He knows our limitations. He knows humanity’s propensity to be drawn to the dramatic, the quick fix, or even negative/fake news. He knows that we struggle to make sense of our world. He knows of our delusions.”

    You’re reading my mail, man. When I get emotionally invested in an outcome, it’s hard to see the forrest for the trees. I’m doing a lot of personal work right now in that space and your post was a bright light for me in that.

  5. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    I like how you brought in the financial planning and the cost of children…I often think about how much we actually spend on them, on one hand, we started off poor and had to make a ton of sacrifices to give them opportunities and experiences. We maybe have swung the pendulum too far the other way so this is good timing as college starts to loom in the near future for us! I know a lot of people who choose healthy snacks over chocolate thinking and almost hoard resources for a “fun-easy-going retirement” only to be devastated by unexpected illness or complications…a delayed joy. Perhaps the trick with all of this, with what we are learning is found in the balance? Such as enjoy a Hawks season, and canceling cable. Sounds good to me. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your children in their twenties on this topic? Will they listen or is this something we are all doomed to discover on our own?

  6. I can understand your concern about the Atlanta Hawks and how their recent struggles might be affecting your’s (and other fans’) perception of them. It’s easy for our emotions to influence our perceptions of reality, as you mentioned. But at the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes teams go through rough patches and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doomed to mediocrity forever. This is coming from a life-long Toronto Raptors fan who had seasons tickets during the 16-66 season.

    On a different note, I think it’s interesting how Bobby Duffy’s research applies not just to financial planning, but to all areas of our lives where we make decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information. It’s a good reminder that we should approach all decisions with humility and a willingness to learn and adapt. With that in mind, it would be fun to have a discussion with our cohort on what steps we can take to guard against our own biases and delusions decision-making processes.

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