So You Didn’t Win The Powerball

Maybe that’s a good thing. Because maybe what gets sacrificed when suddenly adding all those zeroes to your bank account is something that no amount of money can buy.

I was driving back from Thanksgiving weekend with my brother on Sunday when money was brought up. We both agreed things are tight for us, but then he started lauding the idea of winning this huge Powerball.

I went along with his fantasy to see where it would take us. The way I see it, people are quick imagine the parties and toys they’ll have with their millions, but that’s as far as they go. My brother went a bit further to say he’d travel the world and described the relief it would be to not have to worry about bills or debt. I couldn’t argue with him there. That would be breath of fresh air.

But after the parties, toys, travel, and relief–then what? The idea of this is much more convenient than the reality of what life in this situation would actually be like.

So you’re visiting Paris or the Galapagos Islands; you get your fill of one destination, so move on to the next. Sooner or later, though, you’re going to start yearning for the things in life that were put on hold because of your big win, things that don’t change regardless of how much money you have. Such things maintained throughout will be your interests in family and of settling down. You’ll have the same desire to accomplish something with your life. One can only take from life so much–toys, travel–without a deep desire to invest yourself and give back through a career or a project or a business venture or raising a family. This realization may surprise you, even confuse you: “I’m filthy rich, but yet I yearn?” You’ll also still be the person with the same personality and positive and negative characteristics.

The truth is that in some ways everything’s different, but that in other ways nothing changes.

And the danger of winning the lottery is that your pursuit of personal and professional development–which to me are what make life, life–is potentially capsized by this wave of wealth. I can imagine the temptation for me to quit my work with schools and other projects because I can up and travel anywhere I want. I can imagine buying friends by treating people to meals all the time. I can imagine decorating myself with fancy clothes, belongings, cars, and big house.

But though extraordinarily nice these luxuries would be, what a deviation from my path!

I want to be rich, but I believe in its attainment as one earns it. And by drastically disrupting this balance of hard work and reward, I don’t know if I’d ever develop the discipline and character that I aim for. And it’s evident that few other lottery winners are able to develop them as well. Many lottery winners end up worse off than they were before. (But that’s never part of our jackpot fantasy.)


I think if you want to progress in life, you’ll avoid the trap of trying to get rich quick via lotteries and such and also avoid the trap thinking too much about how great life would be if you did win. Statistically, it’s simply a bad way to use your money, and life’s too short to spend it regularly wishing to hit the jackpot. It only keeps you from working toward the life you want.

I know it seems crazy to say what I’m about to say, but when you consider the derailment many lotto winners face, when you think past the short-lived highs of having a bunch of money: you can actually feel a level of pity toward the lottery winners. And this’ll probably really shock you, but I’m also under the belief that if handed a winning Powerball ticket, the best thing I could do with it is set it on fire.

to new plateaus,


3 Responses

  1. lz

    Agreed. So many aren’t happy with what they have and their station in life. I’m sure if we got a milliion Pat would just keep going to the nursing homes with her dogs, I would would still be a mall Santa. Belated condolences on grandma.

  2. Katie

    Winning that amount of money would be nice – but I really don’t know what I’d do with it.

    What I really want in life is to do a job I’m really passionate about (which I’m already en route to), to travel and to own a speedboard (blue, open bow, outboard motor, 90+ HP, great for waterskiing… not to be too specific or anything…)

    Having that much money would be more a curse than anything. Too many winners lose all their money, or aren’t happy.

    I plan to be very successful, but I know that it’s something I’ll have to work very hard to do. And I’m ok with that. I want that around-the-world trip to be something I really savor because I’ve earned it, or because I’ve sacrified something else to do it. I think I’ll appreciate it a lot more that way.

    Not that I’d refuse if people wanted to shower me with money – but I never buy a lottery ticket. The odds are so small anyways, why bother?

  3. Maggie Ferdig

    Don’t set it on fire!! Give it to me!! I would love to have the money. I just will never win it because I don’t want to spend a dime on gambling – because that’s what it is – a gamble. I just don’t think I would be worse off if I had all that money. I think a person just needs to have a clear head about what to do with it.

What say you?