Did you win the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot?
I doubt it. Because you’d probably not have much interest in today’s issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets if you had. Nor would I, if I won, in fact. I’m sure whomever won — apparently someone who bought a ticket in South Carolina — has other things occupying their attention today.
… And yet, this jackpot does have me thinking quite a bit about the whole idea of “getting rich quick.”
Now I should be clear: despite a greedy urge to do so, I didn’t even buy a ticket. I almost never gamble in games of chance, including the lottery.
I occasionally make an exception based on the poker concept of “pot odds.” As applied to the lottery, this means playing when the jackpot is big enough that you’d come out ahead if you bought every ticket.
Statistically, if you play enough when pot odds are in your favor, you’ll come out ahead. But even though this particular jackpot was more than enough, I just didn’t compel myself to get to a store to get a ticket.
I’m likely $2 richer today than I would’ve been if I had bought the ticket. So I’m okay with it.
This morning, while meditating, I started imagining what I’d do if I won…
Funny how our brains work.
Again, I didn’t even have a ticket. And yet I found my heart palpitating with the idea of how I’d manage the cash payday that’d be just short of $1 billion, had I played and won.
If you let yourself think about it, this reaction is pretty much unavoidable.
As much as we like to fancy ourselves as smart, rational individuals, we are still emotional beings.
And one of the most powerful ways to trigger a rush of excitement is to suspend disbelief for just a moment, and imagine windfall wealth.
Seriously: just the idea of getting rich quick will make your heart quicken.
It all happens against your better judgment, too. I was having all these feelings AFTER reading an article about someone whose life was ruined by winning a record lottery jackpot.
When you get easy money, such as the lottery, you get it disconnected from the way money typically works.
You see, money follows certain rules…
It moves predictably for certain reasons. Such as value creation. Build a business that delivers some form of value for its customers, and scale it, and a lot of money will move to you.
But money can also move UN-predictably for other reasons. Luck and games of chance being one of them. But the thing about unpredictability is that it requires a whole lot more effort to maintain that wealth than it takes to get it.
But most people who get fast, easy, and lucky money don’t realize that.
Most people who get fast money don’t realize that it will disappear as fast as it came.
And it doesn’t make them inherently better as a person to have that fast money.
In fact, it will probably amplify both their best and worst qualities.
Which is often how lottery winners end up ruining their lives.
They didn’t have a good relationship with money to begin with. They didn’t understand that most money takes work — both to get it, and to keep it. And so they treat their fast money with reckless abandon. And they lose it. And hurt a lot of people as they do so.
You’re better off getting rich slowly…
All the evidence, in investing, business, and personal finance suggests that the truest, most reliable way to wealth is getting rich slowly.
But that’s not sexy.
It’s not exciting.
It won’t make you vibrate — as your heart palpitates in excitement.
It will work, in the long run. But most people won’t do it. Most people won’t set aside 25% of their monthly income in an account they don’t plan to touch into old age, with the goal of making conservative returns and compounding that money.
And yet, that’s what most millionaires did.
Most millionaires earned a high income, yes. But you can also earn a high income and be broke in old age. Most millionaires earned a solid middle-class or higher income, and saved a big chunk of change on a regular basis, and invested conservatively for it to compound through time.
But let’s be honest — you don’t really want to hear this…
I’ve spent pretty much my entire direct response career in “wealth” markets. Mostly investing, but also business opportunity and career-oriented self-improvement.
In every case, it’s stimulating the greed glands with the promise of fast, easy money that brings in sales.
Ideally, if that’s the marketing pitch to get people in the door based on what they WANT, you have a product that tells them what they NEED.
But let’s keep it real…
A 2016 Gallup poll found HALF of Americans reported playing the lottery in the previous 12 months.
And before you get your knickers in a bunch and tell me, “yeah, but that’s clearly the financially-desperate lower-income half of Americans…”
The same poll found that only 40% of lower-income Americans played… While 53% of upper-income respondents had played the lottery in the past year.
Making a bit of money doesn’t make you immune to the easy money promise.
And in fact, many well-educated, high-income people are HORRIBLE with money. They make enough to cover their bills, but they spend it all and haven’t learned to accumulate it, much less grow what they’ve accumulated.
And then as the years pass them by, they slowly start to realize that they’ve somehow spent most of what they’ve earned.
They recognize their future earning potential is shrinking. And what they have just doesn’t seem like it will go that far.
And so as they approach their golden years, they actually become MORE risky in their bets, hoping for windfalls that will save them from their past mistakes.
… And yet, this get-rich-quick attitude fails to get them further ahead. In fact, it usually sets them back.
Here’s the thing: I’m NOT against getting rich quick…
In fact, I much prefer money coming in fast to money coming in slow.
Getting rich quick is a GOOD THING.
But if you don’t understand what it takes to get rich slow, getting rich quick won’t help you.
The appeal of fast and easy money is almost undeniable.
But most people who end up getting it AND KEEPING IT are the people whose actions to get rich slowly became more and more effective, until the flow of money into their coffers became fast and easy.
Slogging out the first few painful years of a copywriting career until you earn the big fees and write the big winners that bring in the big royalties can feel like getting rich slowly. But all it takes is one breakthrough for that path to turn into getting rich quick.
Building businesses that solve problems and create value can be a long and painful process full of failure that feels like getting rich slowly. But when you hit on a formula that scales and are able to hand off most of the business to your team, it can make you rich quick.
Putting off luxuries until tomorrow, maximizing savings, and investing conservatively for return-of-capital first over return-on-capital can be a long, slow road. Until decades down the road your investments are churning out more money than you’d ever want to spend.
Don’t take this as preaching in a “holier than thou” way…
I wrote this essay as much for myself as for you.
I wrote this for the part of me that’s regretting not sinking a big chunk of change into the lottery, and is wondering “what if?”
I wrote this for the part of me that has to be constantly reminded, “This business only works if you do the work.”
I wrote this for the part of me that looks at my savings and wants to blow it all.
I wrote this for the part of me that is always on the lookout for hot stock tips, and that wants to be more invested in growth stocks than I am right now.
I wrote this for all those parts of me that, left to their own devices, would make one horrible financial decision after another until I was broke and starting over.
It’s not easy to walk the narrow path. Especially in a society that is ignorant about and holds destructive ideas about wealth and money.
But in the long run, the narrow path is the ONLY path that will reliably get me where I want to go. Any other path would be wandering in the wilderness, hoping I get there.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,