05/21/2013 09:54 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2013

The Powerball Paradox


My mom bought a Powerball ticket last week and my dad said he wanted his $2 back. She said she'd happily pay him back with her winnings. My dad's out the $2.

That's the problem. My dad says nobody wins the lottery. He calls it a tax on the stupid. I wouldn't go that far, but I see what he means. There are just so many people in the lottery that the chances of winning become incredibly small, like one in 175 million this time around.

Then there's this. Would you really want to win the lottery (yes), but what about that long list of winners who end up losing everything -- their happiness, family, even their lives -- because of their lucky lottery ticket?

Arthur Brooks, free market guru and familiar name thrown around my house, explains it like this: 

If not money, then what do people really crave? The answer is earned success, the ability to create value with your life or in the lives of others. It does not come from a lottery check or an inheritance. It doesn't even mean earning a lot of money, given all the blissfully happy social entrepreneurs I've met who are basically living on ramen noodles and tap water.

To earn your success is to define and pursue your happiness as you see fit. It's the freedom to be an individual and to delineate your life's "profit" however you want. For some, this profit is measured in money. But for many, profit is measured in making beautiful art, saving people's souls, or pulling kids out of poverty.

Earned success is the real jackpot. Somebody may need to clue in who ever bought that winning ticket at the Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida on all this. If it's just one lone winner, he or she is going to claim the largest jackpot in American history, a lump sum payment of $370 million.

Anyway, my dad says he already won the lottery when he married my mom and had my brother and me.

Peace Love Profits (& Powerballs),