Visionary Pursuits

Vision or Luck?

When it comes down to it, what will pay off more in the longrun? Should you pursue a vision or play the lottery? Actually, we can come up with a very precise number using some mathematical formulas that businesses use to predict the value of various projects and investments.

For this example, let's say that your vision is to write a book. The average book author makes about $42,000 off of a book. This number includes a very small collection of books that sell millions of copies, though, which isn't really representative of most books. In analytical mathematics we call those outliers, and to be really accurate, we're going to toss them out. After all, selling millions of books is the GOAL, but to prove my point I want to be as 'realistic' as possible.

After eliminating the outliers, the average drops to about $25,000. Not enough to retire on, but certainly not an amount *I* would object to for writing about something for which I'm passionate. Since that's an average, the odds are 50/50 that you will meet this amount. Expressing the value of this option is really simple, then:
$25,000 *.5 = $12,500

The idea of writing a book is worth about $12,500 to the average person. Now let's look at the lottery.

There are lotteries in 40 states plus the multi-state ones, so I took the numbers from the large Powerball drawing. The odds of winning are about 1:135,145,920. (http://www.usamega.com/mega-millions-jackpot.asp) You can expect a payout after taxes of $9,000,004. Using the same math formula:
$9,000,004 * (1/135,145,920) = 7 cents

The comparison becomes pretty simple. You can either buy lottery tickets all of your life and make an average of 7 cents, or write that book you're passionate about and make $12,500. Which do you prefer?