Let's be glad we haven't won the lottery
By Brandon Ferdig
It's almost certain that you did not win the Powerball last Nov. 28, when the jackpot hit a record $587.5 million. (There were two winners, in Missouri and Arizona.)
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 that things were 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 to 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 would be.
So you're visiting Paris or the Galapagos Islands; you get your fill of one destination, so you 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 as having a family and 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 feeling 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 same person, with the same personality and positive and negative characteristics.
The truth is that in some ways everything's different, but 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 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, a 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 earning 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.)
When you consider the derailment many lottery winners face, when you think past the short-lived highs, you can actually feel pity for them. If I were handed a winning Powerball ticket, the best thing I could do with it is set it on fire.