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Colleague Corner: Featuring Tom McMillian "Lottery Game"

Posted by By Tom McMillian on 08/09/2017
If you’re reading this blog, you work at bringing passion to your work.  You spend time figuring out how to lead and motivate people.  It’s likely that you work on strategy, and then relentlessly execute tactics to make your vision real.  However, there’s a genuine possibility that you may not be providing the same focus to yourself and your future self. 
I know that was true for me.  I spent many years working as a director at a large pharmaceutical company, encouraging my colleagues to achieve success for themselves and the corporation.  When I left that job, I started my own consulting company.  I focused on doing my best for the people I worked with and my clients.
One day, someone I admired shared a story with me about a man who dreamed about playing golf upon retirement.  When he left his company, the people he worked with gave him a beautiful set of golf clubs as a parting gift.  On his first day of retirement, he went to the driving range and was shocked to find out that hitting a golf ball was hard.  He was not able to hit a golf ball any distance at all.  Dream shattered.  My friend then shared with me the moral of the story: 
“Whatever you dream about doing when you retire, you should start doing now.  Give yourself the gift of future mastery by figuring out what you want to do in your future by starting now.  Not tomorrow, not next week, but Now!”
The challenge I faced was, “What did I want to master for the future?”  I had spent years working for companies.  I loved the work, and had become really good at it.  But I knew that sometime in the future, I would be retired and off on my own.  I would have time to explore new things.  I would have the time to revel in and pursue my passions.  But, what were those passions? 
Being a creative and process oriented individual, I spent time figuring out a way to discover my deep-seated desires.  That is when I discovered the Lottery Game.
This is how I played the game.  In February of 2013, when my state lottery hit a value of $100 million, I bought a lottery ticket.  That night, with ticket in hand, I sat down and in a stream-of-consciousness, I wrote out the things I would do when I won the after-tax payout of $60 million dollars. 
Here’s my list:
  1. Go to the bank and get $100,000 in $50’s (2,000 bills).  Schedule a “House” meeting with Joanne (my wife) and throw all of the bills in the air and dance around, yelling, “we won the lottery!!” 
    1. Then sit down and have a family meeting to discuss next steps using the balance of this note.
  2. For our long-term security, put $20,000,000 into various annuities.
  3. For each of my three sisters and for Joanne’s two siblings, set up an annuity for each of them of $2,000,000 ($10 million)
Balance available - $30,000,000
  1. Plan a series of nice trips to various places with Joanne: 
    1. Beach resorts, swimming, working on my tan, and ongoing fitness (start with Broome, Western Australia)
    2. A season or two in Hawaii, and take ukulele lessons a couple of times a week and practice each day for an hour
    3. Go to writing seminars, photography workshops, ukulele festivals, and drawing classes
    4. Go visit family and friends
    5. Take nice long cruises, starting with a transatlantic trip
    6. Take a trip to Scotland
    7. Summer on the west coast of Ireland
    8. Winter in Antarctica
    9. Hike parts of the Appalachian Trail (a great way not to spend money)
    10. Finance a trip using airships (blimps)  
  2. Workout three times a week with a trainer
  3. Eat healthier and lose weight
  4. Have more fun dinner parties
  5. Do some thoughtful donations (e.g. Morris Arts, Harvard, Digamma, Boston Latin School)
  6. Schedule weekly household help
  7. Take more time to think, write, ponder, play the ukulele, laugh, and talk with learned people. 
Here’s where the magic of the Lottery Game happened.  I knew that if I won, I would be in shock and need direction.  If I didn’t win, I had a list of aspirational activities.  I did not win.  However, many of the things that I imagined doing with a bankroll of millions were still available to me.
Since playing the Lottery Game, while still working I’m nurturing my passions.  I’ve started playing my ukulele more and taking lessons.  I’m attending workshops and taking classes in photography, poetry writing, and drawing.  I’ve made a habit of working out daily, and I enjoy a healthy diet. I’ve taken the time to reconnect with old acquaintances and to develop new friends. 
Unlike the unfortunate golfer, I’m delighted that I’ve started down the road of the thoughtful mastery of passions I plan on doing upon retirement.  
I’ve shared the Lottery Game with others and each time someone makes the effort and takes the time to play, they are surprised and delighted with the results.  They have unearthed a passion to bring to the forefront and to focus upon. 
Maybe it’s time for me to buy another lottery ticket.  How about you?


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