What Will You Do When You Don't Win the Powerball?
You're not going to win the $1.5 billion Powerball. All the positive thoughts, burnt incense and barganing with God isn't going to help. The odds are just too stacked against you.
But damned if you don't have your dreams. Just listening to all the media ask you what you would do if you won has been fun. Some of you promise -- swearing to every God since the Venus of Willendorf -- that you'll give most of it to charity and only keep, say, $500 million for yourself. Think of the children, you say. Others are more honest, saying you'll blow it all on drugs, booze and fast company...and then squander the rest.
This is the time of fantasy, a moment to allow our minds to wonder what we would do if we didn't have to worry about money.
That's a good thing. I'm not a fan of lotteries, directing my miserable whine to complaints that lotteries are a tax on the poor and an unacceptable government monopoly. But I'm softening because of what the craziness over the latest $1.5 billion Powerball is doing to all of you.
You are dreaming. You are giving in to your fantasies. You are imagining a life you want to achieve.
Now do something about it.
You're not winning the Powerball. At one-to-292-million odds, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while riding a manatee in a Vera Wang gown.
But your dreams can still happen. You just have to take them and turn them from fantasy to action.
Most people asked say they would quit their job if they won the lottery. Believe it or not, I wouldn't. I happen to love my profession, and the training, skill and experience that brought me here. I could never give up work. If I had to wager, I'd guess most people don't want to simply never work again. They're just frustrated with their current job or their current lot in life. They want a change.
You can have that change. Jobs and opportunities abound. You just have to look. With drive, ambition and a good amount of networking, most people could find a better job. Granted, it might be only marginally better, but it is a change for the better nonetheless.
You don't need to win the lottery to quit your job. You just have to polish the resume, improve your LinkedIn profile and invest the time in looking.
Then there's starting your own business. Entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing. You are taking your life -- financial, emotional, spiritual -- into your own hands. You are taking a step to determine your own future. There's no guarantee of success, but what you lack in assured outcome you make up for in equal opportunity.
Yes, there's a risk you will fail. In fact, you have just a one-in-10 chance of succeeding past the first year or so. But what the hell do you care? You're building a dream off a one-in-292,000,000 chance of success. A 90 percent failure rate is child's play.
You don't have to win the lottery to start a business. You just have to meet a market need, innovate a good solution, take the risk and be comfortable that you more than likely will fail.
Then there are the toys. We want a fast car. A bigger house. A megayacht. But do we really? Sure, we want to improve the objects we own. Take the megayacht. It's a nice thing to want. But do we really want a big, honking ship, crew and all? Or would we be happy springing a couple of thousand dollars on a boat, enjoying the rolls of the waves under your feet, the frustration of fishing and the solitude that only the sea can offer? A megayacht pales in comparison with Masefield's tall ship and a star to steer her by, the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, and a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.
You don't need to win the lottery to get better toys. You just have to live your life in a way to budget for the objects and hobbies that give you fulfilment.
Finally, we want to help others. For all the lies about greedy capitalists, people do truly want to help others. Without wealth there is no charity, and most of the too-oft villified "one percent" are too rarely praised for the good deeds their largesse provides those in need. The rich give, and give freely, their names adorning hospital wings, libraries, art galleries and soup kitchens.
But you can give, too. I've sat on nonprofit boards where I can honestly say a modest donation goes a long way to improve someone's life. The multimillion-dollar gifts make headlines, but the donation of $20 to the autism charity, the local PTA, your church or synagogue, or the Salvation Army bucket makes a difference. It can change a life. It's certainly a better investment in humanity than buying 10 Powerballs so your state government can continue its bloated, unchecked expansion. (God preserve me, I can't help myself.)
You don't need to win the lottery to better humanity. All you need is a commitment to active charity and willing service.
Just because you won't win the lottery doesn't mean you are a loser. Those dreams and desires unleashed by the chance of winning have meaning in themselves. Take a chance on those.
Ray Hennessey is the former editorial director of Entrepreneur.