My Lottery Opportunity Cost Doubt

Each time I to to enter a competition with a fee, I wonder if that fee couldn’t be put to better use in another “competition”, as in the lottery. That is, what might I be losing out on, or what economists call opportunity costs, in not having spent that money on lottery tickets that could really change my life if I won a jackpot or even secondary prize? After all, few competitions I enter would either change my life as much as a decent lottery prize. Nor would I have better odds of winning or placing well in those competitions, in many but not most cases, like the Boston Marathon. In some small races or other competitions, like writing, I have done well enough to merit some recognition. However, the prizes have always been essentially negligible. That is, there were some value to them, just not much value to me. Well, at least not material value. Moral value like confidence and social value like perception in the eyes of others, also known as bragging rights without the bragging, are another matter, though. Still, as “priceless” as they may be, I can’t help thinking what chances at winning a jackpot I would deprive myself of in putting money towards these competitions rather than to a lottery, for which I don’t often buy tickets. So what to do?

With “small” competitions, vaguely speaking, where neither prize value or notoriety would change my life much, it’d be easy to justify spending the entry fee on lottery tickets instead. While I may have a better chance to win or place in the small competition than to win lots of money in a lottery, I would want to go for the lottery tickets. The potential competition outcome, which is still a big assumption I would win or place, is an easy “economic substitute”, as economists would call it. That is, I can always find other such small competitions to enter and possibly place or win, especially after I might win some big money in a lottery! It’s no contest where I should be putting my money via this rationale. I’d have to find a totally different rationale to reasonably justify entering those small competitions, like “pay to play” or pay for the “experience”, like with arcade video games or seeing a movie.

With “big” competitions, where prize and/or notoriety would change my life significantly, or at least noticeably, like the Boston Marathon or respected national writing competition, my odds of winning those are actually worse than that of winning a 1 in 14 million odds jackpot like the Lotto 6/49 in Canada. There might only be 30 to 40 thousand runners in the Boston marathon, but the odds of the thousands who could beat me all faltering in the same year would be astronomical! Maybe 1 in a number with 14 million zeroes after it, as in 14 Googleplexes? I’d be far better off getting lottery tickets where I’d not only have much better odds of winning or getting some secondary prize, but that prize could also buy me into “history” some other ways like winning or placing in these major competitions might. It’s no contest where I should be putting my money via this rationale. I’d have to find a totally different rationale to reasonably justify entering those small competitions, like “pay to play” or pay for the “experience”, like with arcade video games or seeing a movie. Mind you, I could get a lot of lottery tickets for the entry fee to some of these competitions, like $240 US for me to run in the Boston marathon, after I would have qualified, of course. Here, then, even “pay to play” or pay for the “experience” fails me here!

With those trains of thought for the value of my money as competition entry fees, you might be surprised to know I’ve entered at least my fair share of competitions over the years. In fact, I’m surprised I’ve entered at least my fair share of competitions over the years. Some I was decent enough at to think I could win or place, and in a higher than average rate, I have. However, some I had no business going into other than foolish belief, and/or the curiosity to want to know what I could produce when pushed to my limits, like the Boston Marathon and the now defunct Three Day Novel Writing Contest. How I got myself to pay to enter those competitions cannot be explained logically. Rather, I analogize it to love, which is not logical, and which is the ultimate lottery, as I often remind myself like in the quotes shown that I had written for myself to live by over the years. Yes, it must have been “love”. For what? Hard to say, but I’ll take love for the “thrill” and/or “experience”.

My problem with entering contests now, though, as I prepare to motivate and test myself in my two year writing journey and committed to entering at least 12 competitions in 2021, is that I have this economic assessment for the value of entry fees staring back at me. I should either not be doing this writing competition thing, or be forever wondering what might have been if I had spent what should amount to at least several hundred dollars of lottery tickets! And how will I choose which competitions in which to enter as there will be far more than I could afford entering, at least not without causing financial devastation to savings? At what point would I stop? So what to do?

After having thought about this for several days, sometimes “inside the box” and sometimes “outside the box”, I’m happy to say I’ve come up with a solution! It’s a slightly perverse one that called upon one of my top life philosophies, AND not OR, designed to inspire me to ask myself for solutions that encompass both options rather than one or the other. Applying that philosophy perversely, instead of not entering these competitions and not having to wonder what might have been had I committed the entry fees to lottery tickets instead, I have resolved to do the “double opposite”. For every dollar I will spend on entry fees, I will spend an equal amount on lottery tickets! That is, I will enter competitions with entry fees and know what might have been had I spent that money on lottery tickets!

In doubling the money involved with every competition entry fee, it will definitely keep me from entering too many competitions, and be more critical of which ones I enter. I’m safe regarding potentially becoming a lottery addict in that I’m under no illusion that I can win any amount of money via the lottery any time soon, to be pouring oodles of money into competition fees just to justify spending oodles of money on lottery tickets. I’m just matching the entry fee total for lottery tickets to reduce the wondering of what could have been had I spent that entry fee money on lottery tickets. I will know what might have been, even though there would be more money that could have been spent towards lottery tickets in the entry fees I will be paying. That last bit is a bit “meta”, but it sufficiently satisfies my curiosity about my lottery opportunity cost doubt for me. It’s not my soundest logic by any means, so it must have been “love”. For what? Hard to say, but here, I’ll take it love for writing.

1245 words

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