A Billion Little Things

With the jackpot for the multi-state lottery exceeding one billion dollars last week, the thought of winning that sum of money tickles the fantasies of many. The odds of winning is only about 1 in 300 million, which seems about as likely as being struck by lightning while being attacked by a shark or getting hit by a meteorite while getting a hole in one. All the same, those buying tickets remain hopeful and imagine what they might do with their winnings.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” ~ Epictetus

Can you even imagine $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)? That’s a lot of zeros. To put it into perspective, having that much in $100 denomination bills would weigh about 11 tons. You’d be able to fill 1,000 briefcases with $1 million each. In gold worth about $1,800 per troy ounce (31.3 grams) that would be about 19 tons of gold – or 1,389 US gold bricks (400 troy oz each). 

“He is the richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” ~ Socrates

That amount of money seems obscene. Spending $27,000 dollars per day would take over 100 years to deplete it all. Or you could build 33 actual “six million dollar men” (bionically repaired astronauts) based on the adjusted price for inflation and the current technology capabilities. It’s nearly impossible to imagine what practical things you might do with all that money.

“There’s nothing in the world so demoralizing as money.” ~ Sophocles

A friend and colleague of mine would say “I hope they win the lottery” whenever we would have dealings with a particularly gnarly leader. At first this seemed to be such an odd wish to grant to these difficult people. Why bestow more good fortune to these people already in a seemingly undeserving place? But gradually the idea took hold that they would likely retire early with the winnings and leave their position open to someone more suitable, which would be a decent outcome.

“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” ~ W.C. Fields

What hadn’t occurred to me at the time was that the phrase “I hope they win the lottery” could be a curse as much as it could be a blessing. As it turns out about 70% of lottery jackpot winners are bankrupt within 5 years of their windfall. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/25/heres-why-lottery-winners-go-broke.html

“The surest way to ruin a man who doesn’t know how to handle money is to give him some.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Winning doesn’t necessarily make you happier, healthier, or wealthier long-term. In many cases it can lead to more financial challenges like overspending, theft, paying ransom money, gambling everything away, investing into shoddy business schemes, contending with frivolous lawsuits, and giving away more than one can afford. The personal repercussions can be even more devastating such as targeted stalking and kidnappings, plots of homicide for the inheritance, family members becoming tragically addicted and overdosing, divorces and disownments, and the paranoia that people are constantly after or interested in you only for the money. 

“Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it.” ~ Albert Einstein

As brilliant as my colleague is at seeing many sides to a situation, she wouldn’t have had direct ill-hope in mind for these people. This is one of those circumstances where she figured that karma and their true nature would determine their fate and, without the pressure of the job, perhaps their brighter side would shine through. They might even make a significant contribution to a charitable organization, or fund some research that cures a terminal disease, or start their own worthwhile foundation, or perhaps all three.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” ~ Buddha

So, without knowing someone’s intent when buying a lottery ticket and they wish you good luck on winning, always respond “Thanks, you too!”. Even if they haven’t bought a ticket themselves, at least you’re putting good karma out there for them. And if they have bought a ticket that turns out to be a winner, perhaps your well wishes will help them keep grounded in their fortune. Or that karma will return the favor to you one day…  

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” ~ Bob Marley

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