When the National Lottery came out in the UK, around 12 or 13 years ago, like many people in the country we started regularly buying a weekly ticket. In those days a million pounds would give you a millionaire lifestyle (not now, apparently - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4351880.stm) and the National Lottery was often paying out over £8 million on a weekly basis.
We once won £10, but that was the limit of our success. With a 14-million-to-one chance of winning the jackpot, the balance of probability was never really on our side. Statistically, if you were to buy your lottery ticket on Monday, then there was more chance that you would be dead by Saturday than you would be a jackpot winner.
After I left University I struggled to get a job. 6 months of unemployment was followed by 18 months on a government “Training For Work Scheme”. During this time I went through periods of chronic self-doubt and despair, and each week when the lottery draw came round I found myself increasingly desperate to win.
Without doubt, several million pounds would have helped us no end, but one day I was struck by the fact that the lottery was actually nothing but a sedative and a decoy.
So long as I was waiting for fate to intervene, it was an excuse for me to not sort out my own life. I couldn’t see a way out at that time, but I realised that it was pointless waiting for a miracle. So there and then we made the decision to stop doing the lottery. If I knew that I couldn’t wait on some kind of divine intervention, then I would have to find a way out for us off my own back.
6 months later I got the idea of becoming self-employed. When my first business went under I set up the second. And when I got sick of that I sold it and we created the life we now have.
If we were to win the lottery today our lives wouldn’t actually change that much. We might own a house instead of renting; I might drive a bigger car; we might have bigger holidays; but the general day-to-day life wouldn’t change. We would still be eating 3 meals a day, the kids would still be going to school, I would still be writing and Maggie would still be pursuing her textile art.
So by refusing to do the lottery anymore, it was the first step in getting to a place that isn’t too far removed from if we had won. It may have taken 10 years, but by doing the lottery the odds were that my numbers would only come up once every 250,000 years.