Until last week I had never purchased a lottery ticket in my life.
Unless you count those scratch-off tickets. I’ve bought a few of those here and there.
Oh, and years ago I remember filling in a bunch of number bubbles, much like a standardized test. I guess that must have been a lottery ticket too, huh? So maybe I have bought a few lottery tickets over the years.
Until last week I had never won the lottery.
Nope, not true either. There was a scratch-off ticket in my Christmas stocking a while back that yielded a $14 prize.
In spite of all that, the fact remains, I won the Powerball!
Not the whole thing, mind you. You might have seen me on tv if I had. No, I just won a small (very very small) part of it. Still, the thing is, I won! I paid $2 for my ticket and I’m receiving more than that back. That, to me, is winning.
Now I know that winning the lottery isn’t a good retirement plan. It’s not the way to build your future. The odds are stacked so high against you that winning anything is a thrill. But here’s the thing, it’s just like the commercials say, you can’t win if you don’t play.
Even with my winning record, I’m not planning on becoming a lottery regular, but when there’s a big jackpot I just might throw my $2 into the ring. To me it all boils down to risk vs. reward. The risk-which can also be though of as cost (in this case $2) is small, and the reward (possibly millions of dollars) is great. Now factor in the odds (astronomical) and decide whether it’s worth it. Every once in a while, to me, it is.
So how does this apply to everyday life?
Well, let’s take the example of the college scholarship game. There are gazillions of them available (so it seems) but they each have their own criteria and rules. For each one that a student applies to, he has to weigh the cost (what is this requiring me to do? how much time will it take? will it take away from my studies or other responsibilities?) with the benefit (is this scholarship worth $500, $5,000, $50,000?) and the odds (is it open to just anyone? is it well publicized? how many winners are awarded?). In a perfect world a student would apply for all of them and receive several, but in the real world students have busy schedules.
Applying for scholarships can’t take away from writing history papers and completing chemistry projects and studying for calculus exams, not to mention preparing for the SAT and learning to drive and going to tennis practice. A balance needs to be struck. Still, to not try for any of them seems foolish.
The same goes for the world of writing. There are writing contests to enter and the world of publishing is like one giant lottery. What shall I write? For which audience? To whom shall I pitch? Just like with the Powerball, though, if you don’t play you can’t win. Nobody will read anything that is safely stored on my computer or tucked away on a memory stick. If I want to win (and winning is subjective, does it mean a guest blog post on a favorite blog? an article published in an e-zine? a deal with a publishing house? a best seller?) I have to go for it. I have to not only write, but submit!
Like so many other things in life, the ideas are simple, but the follow through is difficult.
If I want my son to complete and submit quality scholarship applications, the least I can do is put my money where my mouth is and complete and submit quality pieces of writing. If he can do it, so can I. Maybe we’ll both end up big winners.