Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Winning the Lottery

     As you may know, I was part of the large wave of folks put out of work by the recession that began in September 2008. My case was not really due to the recession but more the result of a new Division President coming in and wanting his own people managing the subsidiary we were running. Being let go in October 2008? The timing was just horrible.
     Being part of the working disenfranchised in the worst recession in US history since the Great Depression was quite an experience. People would often inquire as to how things were going. They would ask about leads, if it were tough, and, more than you might think, what kind of job I might want. When asked what I wanted in my next move, I always joked with friends.
I want my next career move to be: Lottery Winner
Of course, I realize that one must actually buy tickets to have any chance of realizing that ambition.
     We would then have a good laugh and move on to other subjects.
     On November 4th, I read an interesting and most heartwarming article on Yahoo News, Nicest Canadian couple in world dole out lottery winnings http://yhoo.it/bwbODz. The article related the story about a Nova Scotia couple Allen and Violet Large. In July of this year, they won $11.2 Million Canadian in the lottery. Since then they have given almost all of it way. They gave money to their family, a wide variety of charities in Nova Scotia, and kept 2% or about $225,000 for a rainy day.
     Why didn’t they keep the money, spend it on themselves, luxuries, live it up, and travel the world? That is what the vast majority think of, including yours truly, when we contemplate what we would do if we hit it big.
     For Allen and Violet, the answer was easy. They seem to be simple people and very well centered on what is important to them: each other and the life they have built. Allen worked as a welder and Violet in retail. They are retired and quite comfortable in the home and surroundings. They never had further ambitions and see no reason why such a large windfall of funds should influence their lifestyle and priorities at this stage of their lives.
     The article pointed out that Violet is suffering from cancer and was having chemotherapy treatments when they won the prize. This may explain their largess in part. But, I see the glass as completely full simply due to what they said:
"What you've never had, you never miss."

"We're not travelers anyway. We live in the country and we're proud of it. Money can't buy you health or happiness."
      This story hit me in a way that made me think, take assessment of my priorities, and question my values. That is a good thing for anyone to do. It is not unlike when a close friend or loved one passes on and their funeral gives us time to reflect on their lives, our own mortality, and how we might change and live better moving forward.
     Part of lottery winning fantasy was about what the money would free me to do. It would first and foremost free me from having to work for anyone... ever again. When I was working in New York and reporting to a particularly parochial egomaniac, the fantasy included quitting work. But, I did not want to quit abruptly and leave the people that I liked high and dry so I would stick it those I didn’t like by telling them “Oh, I won’t be in tomorrow but I have hired Peter Drucker to come in hold down the fort.” If not Peter Drucker, I would use the names of Michael Hammer, Michael Porter, Joe Juran, Tom Peters, or whoever the guru of the moment was. I liked that fantasy. On particularly bad days, that in actuality were few and far between, I really liked that fantasy.
      How else did I envision spending my fantasy winnings? I would pay off the mortgages of everyone in my family and my wife’s family. I would pay off all debts, buy a sports car, and put on a screen porch. I would buy a place in Armenia and maybe somewhere on the ocean (I hear Mystic, CT or Cape Cod beckoning). This is the easy part. The harder part is then what? Play golf? Actually, learn to play golf? Travel? Climb mountains? What?
     After all my talk over the past few years about wanting to be a lottery winner, the article about this humble and noble couple in Nova Scotia made me really ask what I would do and what is important to me? Paying off any debt I have would certainly be a good use of winnings. Doing the same for close family is even better. Everything else? I could easily live with out them as I am currently living quite well without them. None of that list is particularly compelling. Much like Allen and Violet, I am pretty happy with what I have already. There is nothing more I really need in terms of possessions. I like that I can say that. As for everything else?
"What you've never had, you never miss."
     In my heart of hearts, I would welcome the bounty of free time that seemingly unlimited funds would afford. I would use the time to bicycle more and write a lot more. I would love to cycle four to five thousand miles a year. I would blog in an organized way that would build into books. I would be a prolific blogger and cyclist. I would use the rest of the money to set up an educational trust for my grandchildren (calm down, there is nothing on the horizon at this point). Depending on the size of the lottery winning, I would set up an education foundation to support a school in Armenia and provide college educations for graduates of my elementary school, Robert Burns, in Detroit. I really liked that school.
     Maybe I should actually buy a lottery ticket...

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