The Lotto Ticket

Today as I was leaving work, my gas light turned on.  

I took a right out of my building instead of my usual left to go to the gas station near my office. 

All in all, as evenings where I’m leaving my office at 5:45 go, I was in a pretty good mood. I had decided on my next creative venture. I had registered the website domain on my lunch break. I was proud of myself for figuring out my next creative venture and I was ready to get started.

Standing at the pump, I felt a feeling creep from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers. I was tingly. I suddenly felt I could do anything and it would go my way. I was feeling lucky.

I smiled and thought, I should buy a lottery ticket.  

I’m weird about signs, y’all. I 100% believe that when you have the inclination of “I should buy a lottery ticket,” you’re in a limited window of luck where if you buy one right then and there, you’d get a winning one. (Think about it, most people don’t have the ability to buy a ticket exactly as you’re thinking about winning the lottery which is exactly why so few people actually win.)

To be honest, I rarely have the thought of needing to buy one, so when it came right as I was thinking about how lucky I was feeling, I was mind-blown. This was my window of time.  

I finished filling my car, stopping the pump at exactly $30 (another sign of luck!), locked my car and hustled inside the Racetrack.

I clutched my debit card in my hands as I turned right inside the gas station and faced the scratch off machine. That’s when I notice that the machine is cash only.  

No worries, I thought, I’ll grab a drink and get cash back. I find myself a soda and walk up to the counter. The luck feeling is still with me.

At the counter I pay for my drink and ask for cash back. “We don’t do that here.” The teller said, “But we have an ATM.”

I sigh, pay for my drink and walk over to the ATM. I have a momentary thought of “Is this worth it?” before I realized that voice of doubt was way smaller than my lucky feeling.  

I go to the ATM, I put in my debit card, accept the this-ATM-is-not-from-your-bank-so-you-gotta-pay-for-it fee and take out twenty bucks.  

I immediately sigh realizing I’ll have to go exchange that $20 for two 10s, but my luck continues when two $10 bills shoot out of the machine.  

I walk over to the scratch off machine. I buy a $10 card. I return to my car.  

Whenever you buy a scratch off ticket, you have that moment when it’s still fresh and new where your hopes are so high and also somehow so low. You know you’re likely to have just spent $10 on a useless piece of paper, but a part of you is already spending the winning millions.  

I grabbed a coin and started scratching. The game was like a crossword, with a puzzle on top I had to scratch off to if the words were completed underneath. At the top, there’s a box of letters and a prize box beside it.  

I start with that top box. Letter by letter I scratch off, revealing the matching letters below. All six boxes matched what was under the scratch off. I furiously scratch at the prize box. I had won $1000.

I try not to freak out and look down at the bottom of the card where three more crossword style puzzles sat untouched.

I scratched off word after word, only to find them all completed beneath the part I scratched off. $10. $100. $500. $5000. $50,000. I watched as my winnings tallied up and up with each scratch.  

I couldn’t believe it – I was holding my breath now! My lucky feeling was totally paying off.  

In my head, I was dreaming a million dreams. I felt the kind of relief super rich people feel every day. No more debt. No more guilt. I could do the things I always wanted!

My eyes went down to the last crossword. If all of these match, I’d have $2 Million Dollars.  

I scratched them off one by one. They matched. I literally screamed in my car. 

I was a millionaire. I had won the fucking lottery.

As I widely waved my card around, frantically scratching the entire surface to reveal my clear win, my coin skid across the pattern at the bottom of the card, revealing the letter T beneath it.

Curious, I scratched all along the bottom and revealed 12 other letters, and a tiny phrase along the bottom that read “Instructions on Back.”

Turning my winning lottery ticket over in my hands, I read the instructions I should have read before my frantic scratching. The instructions that told me that I hadn’t just won $2 Million dollars and that I had basically scratched a whole card making up my own rules. 

I was embarrassed, and frankly I was devastated.

In my mind, as I was winning the lottery, I thought of so many things. A huge family vacation to Hawaii, paying off our family debt, buying a bigger house, writing a fat check for my parents, sending my girls to college and, the one that was front and center and prominent – having the money I needed to get my next big beautiful idea off the ground.

Earlier in the day, I had sat down and realized all the expenses I had in getting my new creative project up and running. Registering a domain, hiring a graphic designer, coding a website – all of the basic things I needed to get up and running that cost money.

When I started the Ally Jean Blog five years ago, I paid for all those things, but did it over five years. If I wanted my new venture to hit the ground running, I needed that seed money up front. Holding that lottery ticket, I saw it all fall into place. There was nothing holding me back.

All that dreaming, all that hope was gone, and I was back at square one.

On the drive home, after my embarrassment had settled, I thought about all I went through to get that ticket. I felt so sure and lucky I was going to win that I took way more steps than I normally would have to get that ticket.

I bought a soda. I used an ATM. I felt lucky and stayed committed to it until I reached my result.

And then I thought back to my new business venture. In addition to drafting that start-up budget, I decided I would reach out to women I admire and see if they wanted to be a partner on this new project. I realized that would require pitching to them, and pitching could mean preparing myself for rejection – something that I don’t like one bit.

My fear of rejection is so high that when I thought I was coming into some sweet, sweet cash, my first thought was that I didn’t even have to worry about asking these women I admire, I could just hire someone with my newfound wealth and they couldn’t say no to me because I’d be the client and hooray! 

Friends, it’s amazing the amount of work we will do when we really want to take the easy way out.

I wanted to win the lottery so the process of preparing for my next venture would be quick and easy and painless. It wouldn’t involve me putting myself and my passion out there for people I care about to see and critique and, possibly reject. 

There is always an easy way. There is always someone who has more money or resources than you and is starting with one long stride ahead of you. But if you invest even half the energy you invest in trying to not do something, into actually doing that thing, you’d be getting over hurtles and pushing forward.

Imagine if instead of feeling lucky about winning the lottery, I felt lucky about contacting a potential business partner. Imagine, I was sitting at my desk, thinking about how I wanted to contact a friend of mine and ask for her help in working on a new website, and I’ve got a really good feeling.

I go to write an email, but the internet is down. No problem. I’m feeling lucky. I reach for my phone to text her, but my battery is dead. Not gonna get me down this way, I think, as I step up from my desk, walk to hers and ask if she wants to grab a coffee.

Putting yourself out there is the same thing as deciding to buy that lottery ticket. In the end, you know one of two things will happen: you either win or you don’t. You either get a yes or a no.

And do you think that no will stop you from trying again? Heck no.

Today I legitimately thought I won $2 MILLION dollars. When I found out I just didn’t know how to read apparently, I was so embarrassed. Mortified. How stupid was I for thinking I actually won a $10 scratch off ticket?

But after that initial rejection and hurt of losing, I still was dreaming about the lottery on my drive home. Maybe I’d try a different ticket or a cheaper one next time, but I’d still try. My belief that we have limited windows of luck didn’t go anywhere.

Maybe I’ll approach my friend with my website idea and she’ll say no. Maybe she’s got too much going on with other projects, or maybe she doesn’t want to work with me, or maybe it’s just not something she’s into.

Maybe after that no, I’ll be embarrassed, but if my vision is strong enough for what I want, then I’ll have the courage to try again. No matter how impossible winning the lottery seems, there are always winners. No matter how scary the rejection or how often it happens, there is someone who will say Yes.  

The hard way, the way that wades through rejection and hard questions and putting yourself out there, is the only way to get where you want to go.

Put yourself out there! Face that rejection! Buy that ticket girlfriend!  

And, uh, if you win. Can you lend ya girl five dollars?