I am trying to become a better writer. My favourite writers combine education with storytelling. In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell makes the “10,000 hours to master a skill” idea a lot more memorable when he relates it to a story about The Beatles. Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics and Smartcuts are a few books that come to mind which combine fascinating topics with compelling storytelling.
Educating without storytelling is what textbooks and research papers focus on. There is plenty to learn, but it’s boring. Storytelling without education is what the media thrives on. You don’t learn anything, but it’s exciting.
People are captivated by media hype. Events that seem like a big deal in the moment soon become a lost, distant memory in a few weeks time. Let’s take a look at a topic that I must have heard and read about a hundred times in the media last week – the $1.5 billion dollar Powerball lottery.
The thought of becoming a billionaire overnight is exciting, isn’t it? Purchasing that $2 ticket gives us permission to dream. Imagine what life would be like with a billion dollars in the bank account. You could make any dream come true. That is a life-changing amount of money.
But the truth is, most people probably need a much smaller number than $1.5 billion to make their dreams come true. You want to travel the world? You want to buy a dream house? You want to retire early? All of these things could be done for so much less than $1.5 billion.
I’m pretty sure this was the largest lottery jackpot ever. And bigger = better. Billions sounds so much more appealing than millions. No matter how much money we accumulate, we will always want more.
Would $1.5 billion really change your life more than a “modest” lottery win of $1 million? What if they gave out 1500 prizes of $1 million dollars or 15,000 prizes of $100,000 or 150,000 prizes of $10,000? These would be life-changing sums of money for so many more people.
But one person winning $1.5 billion or a few people splitting the pot with hundreds of millions each is a much better story.
And that’s what this Powerball lottery was. A great story.