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I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling…

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lottery winner.jpg

Never won a lottery. NOPE!

Never been to Vegas. Never been asked out by a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model.

So how do I know I’m one of the luckiest guys ever in human existence? Well, lots of reasons but near the top, a mere stone’s throw from the hoodoo peak?

I’ve never once been asked … or tempted… or coerced… to go to WAR.

Never had to defend my home or wife or children with a weapon, other than a flyswatter.

NOT. ONCE. EVER.

In the thousands of years of humanity insanity, how many men can say this? They could almost fit into a historic-timeline broom closet (if the closet was as big as Vancouver Island).

My Ontario childhood was idyllic – riding my banana seat bike with the high handlebars through sprinklers, playing with bugs in the cool grass beneath a huge leafy chestnut tree, licking the drips from orange and grape popsicles, slipping folded newspapers beneath my pant legs for shin protection on the backyard hockey rink my Mom stayed up late to make.

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Armed conflict was a hazy cloud in the rearview mirror… but the memory of recent European battles played a part in my juvenile play.

Yes, I played war with my little buddies. We’d fashion guns out of broken hockey sticks and broom handles to run and shoot and hide… Bang bang, you’re dead (… no I’m not, you missed me!).

GI Joe was a toy superhero.

But I never heard the heart-stopping pounding of exploding mortar shells, the sight of goose-stepping soldiers on my city’s streets, saw the tears of a classmate whose family had just received a telegram from the War Office.

In my earliest youth, war was entertainment.

I’ve watched TV, gone to movie theatres where I’ve munched popcorn, viewing countless masses slaughtered senselessly. Brave, heroic actors shooting pretend guns.

Much of this was what we label “entertainment”.

How is killing others entertainment?

Two of my favourite movies of all time are Schindler’s List and Platoon. Gruesome, vivid stories of World War II and Vietnam. 

Beautiful cinematography, powerful narratives, filled with intense scenes that show me the emotional terror and panic everyday people endured.

Both scared the shit out of me.

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That’s what “real” war movies should do.

War isn’t really John Wayne romantic. War is horror. War kills literally and figuratively (how many vets return home dead inside?).

These were horror movies far scarier than Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lecter and Chucky combined, because they were (reasonably) accurate portrayals of the misery and wretched fear we naturally feel when confronted with our blood and brains splattered, bowels hanging loose from a belly opened wide like a peeled orange. Screams of pain and cries for Mommy.

When I watch a real war movie, I don’t do it for two hours of fun leisure time like I usually do at the theatre.

I do it as a reminder of the harsh cruelty we are capable of inflicting on one another.

I do it as a time of internal reflection on what armed conflict does to children and families and towns and countries. Orphans and refugees.

I do it as a mental prompt of the efficiency of weaponry and how it shreds a fragile human body like a meat grinder.

I do it as a message to myself to vote for stolid politicians who have the mature judgment and intelligence to work towards peace. One of my most important jobs, to secure the future for the faces of the generations that will follow me, is to select wisely with foresight.

I’ve perhaps not been more aware of my lifetime good fortune than since I began tutoring a young Syrian man. Forced to flee with his family from his home and homeland, his life has suffered huge turmoil. And still he smiles. He’s a gentle man.

He did nothing to deserve the upheaval that came his way. He merely made the mistake of being born in a chaotic region of the world, whereas I made the unintended happy blunder of taking my first breath in a Shangri-la.

War has been his experience, no movie scenes needed for him to feel the terror.

My eyes are open but I have hope.

The peace dividend paid to me in my life has been the greatest ROI (Return on Investment) to which I never had to contribute a cent of my personal fortune.

Simply put, this peace dividend will only increase over time as education standards rise worldwide and women have more power and influence in the running of the world.

Shorter term blips of worry occur the same as they do in stock markets, but the long term trend is always promising.

It’s often said that children are our future. Yes, true. But my firm belief is that women are really our future. Decision-making by women is and will make this planet a safer place.

I don’t buy lottery tickets. No Victoria’s Secret model will ever ask me out. Yada yada yada…

I’m just a lucky guy who still harbours a peaceful easy feeling.

sunset bench

 

YOU Are Your Own Lottery Ticket

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spin bike sweat

Another slow-motion drip of salty sweat falls to the wood floor.

SPLAT!

It’s the small beginning of Lake Lawrence, building, evolving, as heaving, melting bodies revolve on a dozen or more immobile bicycles surrounding me.

During spin class, energetic Sergeant/Instructor Cara plays that bouncy Latino-sonic tune FIREBALL.

It’s a great ear worm song.

I want to stand on the bike pedals and do a gyrating dance, it’s that catchy.

Actually, when I look up, Cara IS doing a pole-dancer gyration on her pedals. No way am I imitating her booty moves.

My distractible mind plays trampoline Olympics with the fiery music and the word Fireball … soon it migrates along the road a bit further until it lands on the word POWERBALL.

POWERBALL – that monstrous American lottery where 3 people shared 1.5 BILLION dollars a few weeks back. 1.5 … BILLION … DOLLARS.

Enough to make 1500 individual millionaires. Numbers. I love ’em.

Powerball

When I was a kid, the only lottery available in Canada was called the Irish Sweepstakes.

At the time of the Sweepstake’s inception, lotteries were generally illegal in the UK, the USA and Canada. In the absence of other readily available lotteries, the Irish Sweeps became popular. Even though tickets were illegal outside Ireland, millions were sold outside the country.

I also remember what an IMMENSE deal it was in Hamilton, Ontario way back in 1971 when they held a lottery to raise money to put Astroturf on the Tiger Cat football field …

The big win? $100,000.

People went mad buying up tickets for the “huge” prize, almost like they were scarce Cabbage Patch dolls.

In today’s world, $100,000 is chump change. Let’s face it, even a “small” 1 million dollar loan is just TRUMP change.

trump change

Lotteries, games of chance, poker, bingo, roulette … Las Vegas, Reno, Monte Carlo, Macau.

Many, if not most of us, want an instantaneous heroin fix to our money concerns, worries. We love the thought of the possibilities, the dream, the unimaginable high.

And there are just enough stories of winners floating out there to keep lineups long, like Moscow bread lines of old, at ubiquitous ticket-selling booths.

Full disclosure. I have bought the occasional lottery ticket. Maybe one every couple of years.

Sometimes I’ll get a birthday or Christmas gift of a scratch-and-win ticket that I enjoy playing the money chase with.

In my workplace, maybe like yours, I used to pony up $10 every month or so for a group lottery purchase.

Can you imagine the disappointment of crawling out of bed one morning and discovering that every one of your colleagues is an overnight Bill Gates? I think I’d just climb some stairs and jump off a building from money-lover’s heartbreak.

But do I really want to walk the sidewalks knowing that my friends and neighbours cast sidelong glances at “Mr. Lucky Rich Bastard”… me, with the innocent, haughty look of easy wealth? A Prosperity Walk of Shame?

NOPE.

Buried under my slight gambler’s intrigue is a very down-to-earth sensible guy who wants to unearth and create his own fortune based on a virtuous self-discipline of saving, followed by a modicum of investing knowledge to take those hard-earned dollars and transform them through the magic of time and compounding.

I’m competitive, sure. I want to win, absolutely YES.  But I want to win on my own terms.

My game, my rules.

Whatever luck I encounter should be at the intersection of  Preparation and Opportunity Streets (actually, it was Roman philosopher Seneca that said “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity“, reminding us that we make our own luck.)

  • I want that inner glowing satisfaction of winning the middle-class self-made dream.
  • I want the well-deserved white hair and wrinkles of the man who took the fitness discipline of health, translated it into a saving self-discipline, and mixed it with a dollop of investing ingenuity.
  • I want to feel the little secret pleasure of fatigue and patience from years of setting aside a magical 10% of every paycheque.
  • I want to submerge myself in the gratification of watching the tiny speck of a single snowflake slowly roll forward, slowly, ever so slowly gaining momentum picking up stray flakes along its journey. Despite the occasional slip back upwards on the slope it once again grips the icy surface and pushes its way forward, growing larger and larger so that the initial snowflake is so deeply buried that it’s only a faint memory of a long gone era when I wore bell bottom jeans and a paisley shirt … EWWWW!

bell bottoms

It’s just like grunting and sweating in a spin class.

Each drop of sweat that lands on the gym floor is a minuscule down payment.

The muscles and fitness that come from a long period of effort and good behaviour.

That satisfying tricep ripple I spot in the mirror from long-term effort is the same glow emanating from a work ethic of building a tiny financial personal miracle.

FIREBALL is an energizing tune that gives me a bootylicious kick-start.

It’s got that pulsing beat … a big saxophone burst that inspires me in the gym and also in the world of building my money muscle.

Nobody listens to Pitbull singing FIREBALL while buying a lottery ticket.