My roommate yanked his office door open to my screams of delight in the living room. I was sitting on my couch, laptop appropriately in my lap, checking my email like I do every morning. “Are you okay?”

“Oh. My. G-”

“Dude, what?”

“I just got an email informing me that I won a $32,000,000 lottery! In Nigeria! I don’t even remember playing!”


I can’t really blame him for not dealing with my shenanigans. He was trying to work, while I was feigning excitement over a spam email. Like most people out there, I assume, I get at least a few of those stupid lottery or beneficiary emails a day, and that’s not counting the ones that are caught by my spam filter. It’s become a glazed-over task that I just do every morning - go through my emails and delete the ones that are definitely spam before reading and answering the ones that are not.

But someone has to be answering these emails, right? I mean, otherwise there would be no reason for the spammers to keep sending them. Of the millions of people they harass every day, at least a few must reply, duped by their scheme to steal your money.

It must be nice, I thought. It must be nice to, for a few days, believe that you *actually* won the Nigerian lottery.

And that’s when it hit me - I had already won it. I just had to claim my prize.

You see, there is no Nigerian lottery. What they’re actually selling you is hope. When they send you that email claiming that you’re a winner, there’s no actual money to be claimed. They’re sending you the hope that there is, so that you’ll give away your private information and they can use your identity or whatever their evil schemes may be. The hope is real, though. That’s why people are enticed to answer these emails that are too good to be true. Hope.

I think, sometimes, that’s why we fail in life - we don’t have enough hope. We go from job interview to job interview, getting our hopes crushed until one day, we don’t have any left. We get cynical about our careers and instead of truly believing that we can be happy in a job, we take whatever comes our way so we can pay the bills. We no longer want it.

You have to want it. No one is going to magically hand you the perfect job, just like no one is going to hand you a three bajillion dollar lottery prize, especially if you don’t play the lottery. I’ve met a lot of people who claim to want it, but the mistake they make is thinking that hope is passive.

Hope, true hope, is anything but passive.

If you really want your life to change, but don’t do anything about it, I question how much you actually want it. Having a happy life is back-breaking sweat for most of us, but if you put in the time, you’ll walk away with something much more valuable than a Nigerian lottery - a job you love, a career that’s going somewhere exciting, and a life that truly means something.

We teach our kids that they can be anything they want to be (i.e., anything they hope to be), but we don’t teach them how hard it is to make your dreams reality. We teach them to be passive, to believe in themselves, and we pat ourselves on the back for instilling wonderful life lessons into their tiny little heads. But this is where the so-called tiger moms get it right - so many parents never teach their children the second half of the lesson: You can be anything you want to be if you are willing to work hard for it. If you are a parent, I’m not suggesting that you are as strict as the tiger mom in the article I linked above, but teaching your kids passive hope isn’t doing them any favors.

So no, I didn’t actually win the Nigerian lottery. No one won the Nigerian lottery. But long before I got that email, I had hope, the kind of hope that makes me go after my career goals full-force. The prize is a thriving business and a life that I’m growing to love more each day. Isn’t it time you collected your prize too?

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  1. Kirsten Wright (Reply) on Monday 9, 2011

    I needed this today! I was really having a tough day with some projects - and to be reminded of hope really does help. (but, it really would be nice if the Nigerian lottery was real…)

    • Allison (Reply) on Monday 9, 2011

      I know right? I wouldn’t complain if all those spam emails were real! :-p

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