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WinningThis time last week the biggest search phrase on Google was “Powerball”.

I thought it was perhaps a new App for the iGalaxy or SamPhone, but apparently not. It is in fact a US based lottery not dissimilar to our Lotto 649.

Obviously a dream is a powerful thing. Something that motivates into action, including searching on Google to see what the perhaps unfortunate winner of the Powerball Lottery, who was based in California, is going to do with his or her $425 Million.

It is the largest jackpot in US history. Quite a sum of money, yet in reality, the chances of that person actually having a life changing experience is slim to none.

It may be hard enough to buy the “winning” ticket if you understand that the odds are somewhat against you. But it turns out that the odds of even holding onto that money as a lottery winner, let alone growing a family fund with it, are also – slim to none.

An article in profiles 10 winners of large sums who couldn’t handle the change in lifestyle with much grace at all! Here are a couple of examples:

In 1988 William “Bud” Post won $16.2MM. A sum which would be much larger in today’s economy with inflation. His personal description of the experience was “a nightmare” and he wished it had never happened. His former girlfriend sued him claiming she was entitled to a vast amount of his new riches and his brother hired a hitman so that he could inherit the winnings. Ultimately, he made so many bad choices that within a year he was $1MM in debt and living on Social Security.

In 1993, Janite Lee won $18 Million. Apparently Janite was inclined to be generous, not a bad thing generally. However, in her case, it took 8 years before she filed for bankruptcy after giving more than enough away.

Another Powerball winner, Jack Whittaker, won $314.9 million. After multiple arrests, lawsuits, broken relationships and even death, his wife at the time said she wished she had tore the ticket up!   So why do we have a fascination with the overnight success that lotteries provide. Because we like dreaming. Dreams are certainly powerful. But they can help us rationalize away the fact that the opportunity to win is so small, it literally is like paying a fools tax to buy the ticket.   The question though,  “what would you do with $435 Million” is an amazing one. Think of the answers you could give. Think more about how it completely magnifies your character!

Money is inherently inert. It cannot change us, it cannot do anything. It simply sits in a big pile in your bank account and does absolutely nothing until you tell it to. So does money change us, or are our characters magnified with the gift of such a large amount of cash?

The choices we make with that money are what can change us. But the sheer magnitude of suddenly having access to that amount of cash is overwhelming for many people. It is so big relative to where many of us exist that it provides an opportunity to think without boundaries. But are we ready for that?

If you were interviewed for the job as the CEO of a company that was worth $425 million, how would you fare? If you feel you are not prepared for that or that you perhaps could not succeed at the job interview, then be very careful! Maybe you don’t want to buy the ticket in the first place. If you choose to buy the ticket, remember that the Board of Directors of that $435 Million company goes through a very lengthy and costly process simply to identify the CEO who they trust with their asset. Perhaps that free advice that all your friends suddenly want to give you isn’t so good after all!   The problem lies in the “apprenticeship” we undertake to handle that money. What opportunity did any of these people have to learn how to responsibly manage that money? None is the likely answer and then every parasite with an ounce of free advice came crawling out of the woodwork as soon as the money landed.

It is easy to see how these mammoth amounts of money can be re-distributed in a hurry.

What is sure today though is that the dream of winning is as big as it ever was according to Google. But perhaps that dream is more motivational than the nightmare of having won! At least according to many previous winners.

To book Mark Jennings-Bates to speak at your next meeting, contact him at

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