I've spent the last couple of days thinking about the phenomenon that is PowerBall, and how the people who play it (particularly in my own circle) do not follow their own logic. For the record, when I was asked if I bought a PowerBall ticket my response was, "I won $10,000 in the PowerBall lottery. Since a ticket costs $2 and a drawing is held twice a week, if I consider that I may live to be 90 then I've won $10,000. I'm a winner by never playing." This of course gets a response like "Haters gonna hate" or "Somebody's got to win so it might as well be me." And how does one argue with that? So, I just encouraged the people who were playing (rather than be an asshole) and said, "Chances are good you'll win! I'm rooting for you!"
And the thing is, playing the PowerBall lotto makes absolutely no sense to me because of the astronomical odds of winning. To clarify, gambling in a casino gives much better odds (craps for example). Yet whenever I've been in a casino (which are a lot of fun by the way) with some of the friends who play PowerBall, they won't gamble their money. They say that money is too precious and that they just can't see gambling when the house has the advantage. So I end up playing in Texas Holdem tournaments all by myself. However, these same people will drop $100 on a $1.5 billion dollar lottery. What the hell?
There's also a strange phenomenon that happens in Utah because we are one of the states where lotto tickets cannot be bought. People here drive to the border and purchase them in Idaho or Wyoming. But they only do it when the jackpot gets BIG. A hundred million (in other words) is totally not worth the three hour drive but a billion somehow is? It makes no sense. A paltry $100 million would be life-changing. So why aren't these people making that three hour drive twice a week? Silly, silly, silly.
Maybe John Steinbeck can give us a clue as to the phenomenon going on here. He's attributed with a quote, which is a paraphrase of bigger ideas that come from one of his writings. That quote is this: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
First off, I know no rich people. So if I think about what this is saying, all of my "poor" friends that race to play the Lotto are (in fact) just trying to claim a little of the money that they all feel entitled to that has just never shown up. The "I'm just down and out right now but you just wait until my money shows up" syndrome...never-mind that I point out they've been saying this for twenty years and that they are now 40 and still broke as a joke. "You just wait, Mike. Things are gonna change..." Uh-huh. I've been waiting....
And maybe...just maybe...the secret power that protects me from the PowerBall scam is that I'm very "in touch" with my own mediocrity. I accept who I am in totality and have no delusions of grandeur. And for that very reason, I feel no compulsion to play Lotto and become the next "billionaire" so that I can lord it over others and make a change in the world. In that respect, Lotto is probably the perfect thing for America. It preys on our idea of innate exceptionalism and rings the register with every sale.
It takes a particularly courageous individual (I think) to exist in our society and say truthfully "I'm not a special snowflake but just a normal and somewhat unremarkable person." And it shouldn't be because nearly everyone out there fits this category. Most people are of average looks, average intelligence, and average income. You aren't famous and probably never will be. Thousands of people won't cry for you when you die (like David Bowie or Alan Rickman). But at the same time, your mediocrity is armor. You should embrace it because it's a path to freedom. For one, you'll never suffer from "Fear Of Missing Out" or FOMO because you know there are no better options (when one presents itself) and there probably won't be anytime soon. It also keeps you humble (don't religious people preach that "Pride" is one of the seven deadly sins)? I'm sure there are any number of other examples and parables I could add to this list, but the message is all the same: don't play the Lotto people. It's a bad financial decision.
Don't be a temporarily embarrassed millionaire to set yourself up for a shearing when the truth is, you should be thankful for the wool you've got and should avoid giving it away for nothing. If you follow that advice, you will always be a winner (just one that no one cares about except
you). Just maybe that's the whole point of life anyway.