Don’t play the lottery

Published 8:34 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

By Steven Kirkpatrick

While driving to Arlington recently, I stopped at a store to buy some gas and a snack. While I was waiting in line, a young man — about 20 years old — purchased $20 in “scratch and win” lottery tickets. I was flabbergasted. What a waste of money!

Obviously, this young man wants to be rich, just like almost everyone else. But what does it mean to “want” something, especially if you’re not willing to work at it?

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This brings to mind an interesting word that is worth pondering: “velleity.” It is defined as: “a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.” This is what I saw in the young man at the convenience store; he wants to get rich the effortless way. by getting lucky.

Needless to say, the odds are heavily stacked against him. If he had instead invested in a mutual fund that earned an annual rate of return of 8 percent, that $20 would be worth $638 upon his retirement.

If you really want to be rich — and I mean “want” as opposed to “velleity,” then you really need to work at it.

Here’s the problem as I see it: we are surrounded by messages that ignore, trivialize or even denigrate the notions of self-sufficiency and self determination. Our society encourages us to think in terms of seeking fulfillment in life from things outside of ourselves and beyond our own making. We are not being taught to recognize the tremendous, God-given power that we all possess that enables us to control our own destiny.

Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our unhappy lot in life is someone else’s fault. But that is never true. Your life is your own responsibility.

I believe this is one of the greatest, yet overlooked benefits of accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. Every Christian must turn to Christ for his or her own salvation. No one else can do it for us, and we have no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t. Has spiritual salvation become the last bastion of personal accountability?

The idea that we are destined to wait — or hope — for the good life to arrive suddenly at our doorstep on a silver platter is tantamount to wishing your life away. After all, what is “hope” other than a passive desire to get what you want without having to work for it?

You’re much better off spending a lot more time working for what you want, and less time just hoping for it.

Thus, my advice to never buy lottery tickets. It’s very bad for you, and not just financially. Yes, it’s a waste of money, but the real damage arises because you are unwittingly surrendering your ability to take control of your destiny and instead embracing the false hope that your whole life will be “rescued” by winning the lottery.

So all of you lottery players out there: Let’s be honest. How much mental energy do you commit to fantasies about what you would do with your lottery millions?

This is a destructive shift in your thinking that robs you of your talent, energy and motivation. You become acclimated to substituting hope and fantasy for personal responsibility and accountability. This, in turn, leads you down the path of disappointment, bitterness and envy, and that is no way to live.

Remember the lottery ad with the pitch: “All you need is a dollar and a dream?” What they didn’t tell you is that when you play the lottery, you’ll most likely end up losing that dollar and dreaming your life away.

Steven S. Kirkpatrick lives in Chuckatuck. He is a consultant and advisor to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Email him at