You probably know the idea of winning the lottery and it being a get-rich-quick scheme that rarely works.
You bet your hard-earned money on astronomical odds, all for a slim chance to gain wealth.
If it works, it’s great. I’ll never have to work again! So you think.
The reality: lotto winners often find themselves worse off than they were before.
What seems like a blessing to you quickly turns into a curse.
While this isn’t another Ted Talk about how the lottery is bad, this is a Ted Talk about something important to this phenomenon: the mindset behind playing the lottery.
I call it skipping the line.
You know the kind of line I’m talking about. The line that’s at a standstill, almost like it’s moving backward.
It reminds me of being at Cedar Point, the world’s greatest amusement park, waiting in line for an hour to enjoy a newly opened roller coaster. That kind of slow.
You start at the back of the line and you slowly, painstakingly move your way to the front. It’s hot out. People are sweaty and sticky. You’re sweaty and sticky. But you’re in line because you want an opportunity to enjoy this sweet, sweet ride.
You hear the woosh of the rollercoaster as it whizzes by overhead. You hear the screams of the riders and your anticipation builds. “Soon…” you think. “Soon, it’ll be my turn”.
You just gotta make it through this unbearably long line first.
You stand there with your friends and you all try to entertain yourselves, fighting back your annoyance at having to wait. But you do it because it’s what you have to do to get to the ride. It’s also part of the experience: You stand in line all that time because it’s the way to get what you want.
You know that it’s all worth it in the end.
And then someone somewhere created the fast pass and decided that, for a few extra bucks, you could skip to the front of the line and have instant access to the ride.
Bye bye to that experience. Adios to the misery of having to wait in a long, hot, sticky line.
Adios to the journey.
Put in these terms, skipping the line sounds sweet. And, hey, I would probably appreciate avoiding this kind of line, too. The problem comes when we apply this mentality to other parts of our lives.
It’s one thing to skip a line in an amusement park. The stakes are fairly low here. It’s when it comes to bigger areas of your life that it becomes a problem.
I promised no dunking on the lottery, so I’ll take it to another realm.
I have a friend whom I coach from time to time. They run a small business and are relatively new to the industry and business, but very experienced at what they do.
A customer, seeing their potential, reached out offering to invest in their business. They called me and a mutual friend recently, asking our opinions on this. I shared this analogy.
You could skip the line, getting everything you need handed to you by an investor, or you could wait in line and get to the front by yourself.
If you go with the investor, they will give you the money, knowledge and business skills to help you get much farther than you could on your own.
If you do it on your own without their resources, you will struggle for a while until you figure it out.
If you go with the investor, you could conceivably have the success you crave in a few months.
If you figure it out yourself, you could have the success you crave in a few years.
I don’t think one is better than the other. It’s a choice for what you want for your own life.
But looked at in this light, you can see that there’s a clear advantage to skipping the line. Why wait when you can have everything you’ve dreamed of right now?
Who needs to stand in line for an hour when you get to jump straight to the front?
Who needs to learn to save and invest when you can win several hundreds of millions of dollars tomorrow?
It’s an alluring proposition, for sure.
The problem is, that’s not the full story.
As I alluded to at the beginning of this piece, skipping the line can leave you worse off than before.
How do you handle millions of dollars when you can’t budget or manage the finances you have now?
How do you handle a successful business when you miss work deadlines and oversleep? When you haven’t learned what you needed to learn in order to manage it and make it sustainable?
How often do unskilled people get taken advantage of by people with skills?
And to be more charitable to my fellow human: are you ever able to manage it on your own if you never gain the skills? Isn’t it true that you’re always going to rely on others to maintain your level of success?
And if that’s the case… is it ever really yours?
Skipping the line is a choice. It’s a beautiful, alluring promise. I’ve fallen for it. We all have at times.
And at times, it may be the right choice.
Look, you can do what you want.
But I would argue that it’s the right choice when you’re ready for progress. And maybe when you find the right mentors who are comfortable with supporting you and helping you be your best self.
This concludes my Ted Talk.