On Becoming a Billionaire
I didn’t win the $1.6Bn jackpot last night. I won $4. I really thought I was going to win. Really. Seriously. I made all the necessary sarcastic jokes about winning, but I kept my true feelings to myself. I was going to win. And when I did, I was going to do great things.
To prepare for the windfall, I read lots of articles about the benefits of taking the lump sum vs. the annuity. (Mark Cuban was especially vocal about taking the annuity.) I read the requisite posts about why winning could be a bad thing. (None of those convinced me that it actually was.) I had countless conversations with friends and family. (My 10-year old son would give half to charity and then divide the rest equally between my wife, himself and me. What? None for the dog?) And I called my friend (the one who knows about things like, you know, money) and told him to get ready to quit his job. I was going to set him up to manage the investments “and pay him handsomely.” (He immediately accepted the job.)
And then I didn’t win.
And then I felt a little sad.
What now? What do I do with all of my grand plans? What do I do with the fantasy of giving away millions of dollars to thousands of amazing people and organizations that need the money more than I do? What do I do with my dream of creating an amazing non-profit? The one that was to be unlike any other? The one that has my closest friends — the people I dream about working alongside — on the Board? What do I do about building out A Day Well Lived into this glorious media and lifestyle company that truly, positively impacts millions of lives? Not just inspires, but also creates action, movement, love and gratitude? And, what do I do about the houses in Colorado, Utah and Tahoe? All the travel? (Haven’t decided where the beach house would be.)
Mark Cuban said that the money can’t buy you happiness, but if you’re already happy, the money will certainly lift any financial burdens, which will probably make you happier. The truth is that I teeter on the fence of happiness. I let far too many outside influences affect my happiness. Things like car payments. Or negative energy. I believed that the jackpot could remove both.
I used to tell people to “act as if.” If they wanted to be writers, make business cards with “Writer” as your title. And write. Attract what you wanted. Become what you wanted. So, as I was doing laps in my pool of self-pity (which, when I really get going, has no shallow end and is infinitely long), I realized that I needed to act like a billionaire. (In a good way, not the Republican presidential candidate way.) The only way out of this pool, by the way, is some kind of realization like this. Without it, I keep swimming. Endlessly.
My biggest challenge (one of my biggest challenges) is that I constantly compare my real life to the fake life that I imagine. And, like Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s impossible to be happy or have any kind of joy if I’m constantly (CONSTANTLY!) feeling as though what I’m doing isn’t enough. What happens, more often than not, is that the little things I do don’t generate any excitement. They don’t make me feel good. They don’t bring me joy. Why? Because they aren’t that BIG, HUGE thing. (Whatever it is.) There are just too many “yeah, but” disclaimers whenever something good happens. It’s a horrible equation: Something Good + “Yeah But” = Discounting the Good Thing.
So the plan is to act like a billionaire. Act like I won the big prize. What does that mean? Well, it means doing all the things that I was going to do with my $1.6Bn. (With the possible exception of convincing my friend to quit his job. He does have those four kids after all. So many excuses!). I just have to do it on a much smaller stage. Instead of owning an Island like Sir Richard Branson, I’ll go have lunch AT Island’s. Okay, maybe that’s not the best example. But to review:
- What do I do with the fantasy of giving away millions of dollars to thousands of amazing people and organizations that need the money more than I do? Well that’s just kind of simple, isn’t it? I can’t give away millions, but I can give what I can. I donated to my friend’s fundraiser yesterday. Nothing brings me more joy than this.
- What do I do with my dream of creating an amazing non-profit? The one that was to be unlike any other? The one that has my closest friends — the people I dream about working alongside — on the Board? I don’t need to be a billionaire to do this. I can start this right now by calling the friends in question and starting something amazing.
- What do I do about building out A Day Well Lived into this glorious media and lifestyle company that truly, positively impacts millions of lives? Not just inspires, but also creates action, movement, love and gratitude? Me, talking to myself as I write this, “Geezus, man! Get off your ass! I thought you had gotten out of the pity pool and dried yourself off. Guess not.” In other words, I don’t need billions to do this, either.
- And, what do I do about the houses in Colorado, Utah and Tahoe? All the travel? Well, that’s going to have to wait, but I can travel to mountains and beaches. And if I can’t do that, I can get on a trail, take a drive. Travel doesn’t need to be big. Traveling can simply mean going somewhere you’re not. I can go be a tourist in San Francisco for a day. That’s travel.
All of this is within my reach. Right now. And more. I told my son that if we won the money, he would actually need to work harder for his allowance (I use this term loosely). I wouldn’t be the pushover who buys the $2.99 app without blinking or getting that new hat he wanted. I can use my new acting-like-a-billionaire status to do a better job teaching him lessons about perspective. I can be a better parent.
I need to believe in the impact that I can have. I need to stop dreaming about fantasies and start acting on dreams. I might not have won the Powerball jackpot, but maybe, just maybe, I’ve become a billionaire anyway.