I bought a lottery ticket today.
I know that might not seem like a big deal to you. But it was a big deal for me. A very big deal.
And maybe you’re the person who thinks I’m a mark - a fool for playing at all. I don’t understand how odds and probabilities work. That lotteries are a tax on people bad at math. And I get that. And you may very well be correct.
There was a time I would’ve said all these things.
But I no longer use those words.
Because this decision turned into something very special, as you soon shall see.
Listening to the Voice
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my youngest daughter Lauren recently moved into her own apartment. She is doing really well and I’m very happy for her. Recently we were visiting her to see her newest feline addition to her home.
While we were there, she was doing some cleaning. My wife was appalled by the lack of food in her nearly empty refrigerator and decided that it simply would not do.
So the next day, my wife and I went out with her to shop for groceries. While we were checking out, I saw her looking at the vending machine for lottery tickets at the front of the store.
Suddenly, the little voice in my head said
“Buy a ticket.“
This was totally unexpected. I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life. At least not willingly. I have bought them before at the insistence of my wife - mostly to be used as gifts, as she likes our family to play them around the holiday season. We’ve never won more than a couple hundred dollars. But she has fun doing it. So I have resisted my conservative impulses and given in to her wishes.
The first reaction from my logical brain was:
“that’s ridiculous. I’m not going to win. At least not anything big. Even if I do win something, it’ll only be enough for another ticket”
So we went out to the car to unload our groceries and load my daughter's groceries into her car But all the while, the voice kept saying “Go back in and buy a ticket.”
Now lately I’ve been reading the works of Florence Scoville Shinn - A new thought author from the early part of the 20th century. Much of her work centers on the power of intuition and learning to use it over logic and reason.
As a person with a keen interest in mathematics and statistics, who has read such books as Freakonomics, the Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness by Nicolas Naseem Taleb, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I have always been one to let logic and reason dictate my life.
So when my wife told me that she needed to go back inside to use the bathroom, I said:
“I’ll come in too. I want to buy a lottery ticket”
“Oh really? Why?”
“I don’t know. Something is just telling me I need to buy one”
When I went into the store, I knew I needed to buy one from that same machine my daughter was looking at. I asked for a sign. I checked my wallet and saw I had four singles. I knew that was a sign that I wasn’t to spend more than that.
Scanning over the plethora of options, my eyes settled on one I’ve never seen before. It was a crossword game. With my newfound interest in writing and poetry, my longtime love of puzzles, and for games like Scrabble, it seemed ideal.
So after smoothing the bills out on the corner of the machine, I spoke the word. A phrase that I appropriated from Miss Shinn, Adding a bit of poetic flair:
Now is the time
Today is the day
My amazing good fortune is on its way
Then with happiness, a grateful heart, and zero expectation, but instead only curiosity as to what this adventure would bring, I inserted the three roughly worn bills into the slot. After no small amount of difficulty in using the touchscreen surface of the machine to make my selection, I purchased the ticket.
Seeking the Prize
Most scratch-off tickets in Tennessee are fairly easy to understand. But as I read the rules, I saw this one was a little more complicated. First, you scratch off a pool of letters. Then you find those letters in the completed crossword puzzle on the ticket.
At first, I saw that I didn’t have some of the most common consonants - R, S, T, or N. But as I kept going I finally found a word - LUMP. And then a minute later - AIM. So cool two words! That had to be good for something. A free ticket? Maybe five or $10? With a small measure of excitement, I looked at the rules to find out what my prize would be.
And the answer was…
Yes, unfortunately, you need three words to win a prize and my combination of two words wasn’t worth a dime.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Because I knew that whatever came out of the situation would be valuable - Materially or otherwise.
Many people have huge hang-ups over losing money. Daniel Kahneman has performed many experiments showing how loss aversion is a powerful motivator. Much more powerful than the thought of gain.
In addition, many people are scared of receiving money. The hassle and headaches, the taxes and the dealings with friends and family that come with it. This was always my thought when I was persuaded to play the lottery before. And as a consequence, it was more of a relief NOT to win.
In her book, The Game of Life, and How to Play It, Shin talks about taking leaps into faith - Taking giant swings. For me, this is exactly what this was- A giant swing into faith.
For me, this was a critical first lesson in listening to my intuition. To act without fear. A first step in allowing money to flow from me easily without concern over seeing immediate return and knowing in faith that it will be returned to me in multiples at the proper time.
Nothing in the universe is an accident. And everything has a purpose.
Does this mean I will start buying lottery tickets regularly? Probably not. Unless I do.
Will I pin my hopes of wealth on games of chance? Absolutely not!
But the next time I feel inspired to take a leap of faith, I will do so without fear, and with abundant faith that I am following the divine design for my life.
and that is worth far more than 3 dollars.