10/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Lottery Question

And she never had dreams, so they never came true”

-J. Geils Band

As a structured settlement consultant,   I go
to mediations and settlement conferences with people who anticipate receiving
large sums of money.

I ask every person the same question.

“Forget about what is going on today.    If
you won the lottery, what would you spend the money on?”

The initial answers are usually vague, like “invest” or “put
money in the bank.”  

Then, I tell them that when I become a billionaire, I am
going to buy the Cincinnati Reds.

When I tell them about my lifelong desire to own the Reds,
they start talking about the things that interest them.

From a planning standpoint, the lottery question is a great
one.   Everyone has dreams and desires but usually keep
them hidden, back in the recesses of their minds.   The lottery question gets those dreams and
desires out in the open, on the front burner.

 Some of them have expensive aspirations (owning a NASCAR
team comes up frequently).  But, usually,
they want things like sending their children to a nice college, buying a particular
piece of property or helping their church.

 Once we start the conversation, the list gets longer and

 My goal is to get people to think long-term.  They need to clear their thinking of the rat
race of every day life.

 The lottery question makes that happen.

 You don’t find many Americans who really think long-term.  Many people go through life never developing
real goals or good habits.

 We need a lottery question to help guide the people in
Washington and Wall Street. 

 Those of us on Main
Street need it, too.

 Someone once said that American business people think
quarter to quarter, Japanese business people think decade to decade and Chinese
business people think century to century.

 We’ve watched short-term myopia destroy Wall Street.  We need to take a lesson from our friends in
the Far East.

 I’ve been asking the lottery question for more than a decade.  I might have gotten the basis for the idea
from the Toronto-based strategic coach, Dan Sullivan.

 Sullivan has influenced me greatly.  So many of his teachings are internalized in
my thinking that sometimes his ideas and my ideas get intertwined in my head.

 In preparation for an interview of Sullivan I’m going to
conduct this fall, his staff sent me a copy of his latest book, The Dan Sullivan Question:  Ask It and Transform Anyone’s Future. 

 The Dan Sullivan question is this:

  “If we were having
this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those
three years, what has to happen in your life, personally and professionally,
for you to feel happy with your progress?”

 It’s similar to the lottery question since it gets people to
project where they want to go and who they want to be.  Sullivan’s book explains how the concept can
be used by everyone in all kinds of situations. 

 He said that you want to be around people who have a dream
and you want to stay away from those who don’t.

 My father always said, “If you tell me who your friends are,
I’ll tell you who you are.”  Sullivan
takes that thinking to another level.

 You want to be hanging out with dreamers.  And you want to be a dreamer yourself.

 Long ago a college friend introduced me to the J Giles song,
“Angel in Blue,” and its sad lyric struck me even then.  My friend was a person who never seemed to
have any dreams or goals.  I’ve always
had bunches of them and I couldn’t understand a person who didn’t.

 I’ve never had a person not answer the lottery question.  I think everyone has some kind of dream or
goal, but it gets buried by the overwhelming burdens of everyday life.

 Maybe that is why the lottery question is so effective.  It takes people away the realities of their
current situations and puts them in fantasy world, where they can start

 I don’t play the lottery.  But I can see why so many do.  They want an easy way to make dreams realities. 

 I would prefer to earn my money through hard work and
ingenuity.  But if a one dollar ticket
allows me to purchase the Reds, I am going for it.

 If people take the time to ask themselves both the lottery
question and the Dan Sullivan question, it will allow them to focus on their
goals and objectives.

 Once they get focused on their dreams, they may actually come

 When I take over the Reds, I will cut you a deal on some season

 Don McNay, CLU, ChFC,
MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping injured people
and lottery winners deal with complex financial issues.