MONEY

Why Lottery Dreams Are Good for You--and Your Business

"What would I do if I won?" is a healthy question to ask, if asked the right way.
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With the Mega Millions jackpot set to top $550 million for tomorrow night's drawing, you've probably given some thought to what you might do with the winnings. 

Done the right way, research shows this kind of thinking--daydreaming--can be healthy.

Why It's Healthy

Many studies have shown that letting your mind wander enhances creativity. A paper published in Psychological Science showed that after 12 minutes of letting the mind wander, subjects were able to come up with much stronger ideas about how to make use of common everyday items, like toothpicks and clothes hangers. 

This mirrors the story of Yitang Zhang, the mathematician who worked for years to solve one of math's oldest problems. He came up with the solution while hanging out in a friend's backyard before a concert last summer.

Meanwhile, other behavioral and psychological experts expressed similar feelings about daydreaming and its effects on creativity and problem solving. "People assumed that when your mind wandered it was empty," Kalina Christoff, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia, told the Wall Street Journal. "Mind wandering is a much more active state than we ever imagined, much more active than during reasoning with a complex problem."

So too could allowing yourself to consider all the possibilities that come with a big ol' budget be good for business.

Go Ahead--Play With the Numbers

Whether you're thinking of a new home, a life of travel, or making a bunch of sound investments, lottery dreams allow you to consider a fantasy budget.

You've probably already considered what potential windfalls that might come from striking a major licensing deal, or securing big-time venture capital, or finding your product in some of the world's leading stores.

The key to keeping your aspirations in check when answering the question "What would you do if you won the lottery?" is to emphasize the word "would" and recognize fantasy as fantasy. BudgetDr.com recommends paying for lottery tickets from your entertainment budget. The odds are so low that you should recognize that you're not actually paying for the chance to win money, you're paying for the chance to fantasize.

Let's keep the business metaphor going. Spending your time writing an email pitch to Mark Cuban should be considered similarly: You probably won't get a response, but you at least get the chance to consider how awesome it would be if he did--and how you'd use the venture capital you dream about, but that so few companies actually receive.

The metaphor breaks, however, in that the lottery is a pure luck play. Your pitch to high-level investors or potential business partners make for sound practice as your company is growing. And who knows--you might even get lucky.

Meanwhile, if a pool of your employees somehow pulls off the win, don't fret too much. Research from Gallup shows that more than two-thirds of employees would continue to work even if they won $10 million in the lottery, with 44 percent staying they'd stay at the same job. So if they like you well enough, they'll probably stick around.

Last updated: Dec 16, 2013




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