How Winning the Lottery Led to Emotional Bankruptcy

by Donna Mikkin

woman

In 2007, my husband Ed and I won the New York state lottery for $34.5 million. One of my very first fears was that we would be judged. I would often tell myself people wouldn’t know me or my family for who we really are. The judging would be automatic after anyone heard what had happened to us. There’s another key word: “happened.” I didn’t plan this. If you asked me, my life was hijacked by the lottery. But I digress.

What I came to learn is all judging begins between our very own ears. We give the seed some thought, and then we let it grow. It starts with us.

Sometimes I find myself quite amusing, I actually crack myself up, there have been times when I’m a really good friend to myself. Other times, I know it’s best if I seek a second opinion. Be careful about what you say in that sweet little head of yours. Be kind. Before anything else in life, we need to keep our inner voice championing for our success. For those times that we can use a little pick-me-up, we need to find someone we can trust and confide in. Bounce some of that self-doubt out into a safe place. Remember to treat yourself like you would treat your oldest and dearest friend.

Most of us think that winning the lottery is the ultimate fulfillment. But I found that wasn’t the case. Most people look at winning the lottery as some magic pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow. If you win, your problems fix themselves that very hour. If you win, your brain becomes a worry-free zone. Along with those six winning numbers come peace, happiness and contentment.

I considered myself a happy person in February 2007. I had a husband, two kids, a dog, a mortgage, two car payments, credit card debt, a successful real estate business and an above-the-ground pool in a typical suburban neighborhood on Long Island. I was living the dream! When we won the lottery, my inner dialogue was manic. I became more concerned about how I was being judged and perceived, not realizing I was the one doing the judging in the first place.

Before we won, I based much of my happiness upon the next great thing I could get for my family. After all, the more we had the more successful we were, right? Wrong! The happiest moments of my life had not been purchased. They had been lived. At what point in my life did I start basing my worthiness on possessions? Where did I lose my way? When we first won, I remember this overwhelming feeling of guilt. How could I be any more worthy than my neighbor? Why had this windfall happened to me and not someone more deserving?

Ed would simply say, “I worked hard for my money, I took my hard-earned money and bought a lottery ticket. I had just as a good a chance to win as anyone else, and I did.” Slam dunk! It was that simple for him. My simple plan in life had backfired. I always looked at life as you get what you put in. I had no roadmap for it’s there, and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride! More than anything else, winning the lottery forced me to reflect on my life.

For Ed and myself, winning the lottery is a one-in-a-million experience. But it isn’t our only one. Not by a long shot. We can’t say that it outweighs its competition, because the truth is that is was one event among years of others. The value of a life isn’t determined by one thing. It’s determined by all things. The key to unlocking the wealth of our own experiences lies within each and every one of us.

The question we all need to be asking is: Where’s the gold that I can mine from my own experiences?


donnamikkinDonna Mikkin was a top-producing realtor in New York State ranking in the top 2 percent in sales. She was a Hall of Fame recipient with Re/Max coaching and training salespeople around the country. After winning the NYS lottery in 2007, she was surprised at how unhappy she had become. She shares some of those experiences in her new book, “One In A Million,” due to be released in the Spring of 2015. Never judge a book by its cover; you may think her book is about money, but that’s the last thing she really wants to talk about! Donna is now a keynote speaker addressing audiences of all sizes about the power they have to live the life they want. Follow Donna on Twitter @DonnaMikkin.