The following is an article written for FAST COMPANY
by DILF Creator + Host, Kevin Seldon.
Around the start of the new year, I was quarantining with my wife and 2-year-old son at the home of my in-laws. In an attempt to break the monotony of pandemic life, we had made the trek from our home in Los Angeles to Coon Rapids, Minn. for some quality time with my son’s Gaga and G-Pa. All in all, it was a pretty ordinary night. Our son had his pre-bedtime meltdown, exemplifying the full glory of the terrible twos in an attempt to avoid putting on his pajamas before passing out, and I then sat down with my wife and in-laws for our nightly game of 500 (a wonderfully addictive card game if you have yet to play it). As I waited for the cards to be dealt, my father-in-law paused to check his lotto numbers. This was a fairly common practice during our two-month stint, but that evening a question was posed that would transform our night (and our outlook) in a way that is still having ripples in our lives as I write this piece. An opportunity to reinstill some of the hope and optimism that the past year has sucked from so many homes around the world. A question that most of us have likely contemplated at one point or another in our lives: if you won the lottery, what would you do with all that money?
THE LOTTERY GAME
Suddenly, the room seemed to invigorate with the possibilities that lie before us. To sustain the positive momentum, I suggested we take the question a step further and implement three simple ground rules creating a game with the potential to shape the next few years, if not the rest, of our lives.
First, we settled on a $100 million net as the winning number to give a meaty enough amount to avoid getting into the minutiae of budgeting, while allowing each of us to think a bit bigger picture. Second, we agreed to answer one by one, providing one answer at a time to allow a moment of reflection between turns, while limiting our hypothetical purchases to five in order to raise the stakes. After all, I was inspired for the first time in months and wanted to encourage everyone to truly prioritize rather than blurt out flippant answers. The last rule, however, was a bit more complicated:
DREAM BIG . . . BUT BE REALISTIC.”
You see, before we formalized the game, my wife announced that she would take a year to travel. A completely reasonable desire, but then I reminded her that we have a 2-year-old son. Were we willing to leave him with someone else? Probably not, and though our winnings would allow us to hire someone to help out when needed, would we be okay with him going that long without any playdates with kids his own age? Are we okay with him having no stability in his life for an entire year? Lastly, how fun would those 2-year-old tantrums be all around the world?
Maybe your kids are older or maybe your child never has tantrums—all I’m saying is that it’s important to be honest with regards to the true realities of your life. For us, this would help to reveal a plan that we could hold onto if the opportunity actually arose. After some thought, my wife revised her first answer to creating a healthy $10 million travel fund for summer-long trips each year, where we would invite our closest friends and family to stay with us in a villa we rented. And although this would be a difficult feat without that lottery win, it did reveal a great idea for putting aside some funds every month for a travel account with the eventual goal of doing an annual summer trip with loved ones.
And if you are someone whose top five would include some major purchases (no judgement) then the real question is what you would do with your time once you own that fancy sailboat and all those purses and that new car? Do you simply drive around with all your things in tow? What if you were to use one of your top five to create a “fun” account to purchase all those items and then use your remaining four to figure out what other things you’d prioritize? Maybe as your second purchase, you could hire someone to teach you how to sail a sailboat?
Surprisingly, the more realistic we got, the more invigorated we became by the game. It seemed to open our minds to a fresh new way of envisioning our future. Think about: if your first priority would be to pay off debt, maybe it’s time to re-prioritize finances to put a little more towards debt. If one of your answers would be to use some funds to build your business, maybe it’s time for a business loan.
What if you decided you would immediately retire? What would you do with your time? The game seemed to provide an easy way to reassess new hobbies that could bring us more joy. With two recently retired and somewhat aimless parents, I secretly viewed this as research for activities in which my wife and I could dip our toes in preparation for retirement one day. It seems that once you eliminate the obstacle of money, it becomes much easier to access your true priorities.
Somehow, this simple question had spawned a game that revealed some exciting options for the day the world once again fully opens its doors–and even some activities to help pass the time until it does.
For my family, The Lottery Game has been an ideal opportunity to write a new chapter post-quarantine. To re-access where our priorities should lie once all the chaos settles in order to adjust our “life formula” for ultimate joy. As they say, this too shall pass . . . so why not take a moment to sit back and prepare for what you want your life to look like when it does.