How Can a Stroke of Luck Ruin You?

· September 29, 2018

Every month, there is a national lottery in Spain as well as many smaller games like BonoLoto, Euromillions, and La Primitiva. In exchange for a few euros, you get a chance to win millions. At the beginning and the end of the year, there are more popular lotteries: the Christmas lottery and the 3 Kings lottery. Many people hope for a stroke of luck that can give them these sought-after prizes.

There are people who play the lottery their whole lives, waiting for a win that will never come. They passively trust their good luck and don’t believe there’s any other way to get rich. Now, what happens to those who do get unexpectedly lucky?

The brain and the lottery

Before you decide that winning the lottery is the only way to live a happy, worry-free life, take a moment to reflect on how the brain reacts to banal things. For example, don’t you wear the same thing all the time, despite having a closet full of clothes? Why do you always want a better car than the one you have? A bigger house? In so many aspects of your life, is what you have really not enough?

A woman dreaming of money.

The paradox here is that, if you won a million euros, a few days later you’d want more. It doesn’t matter that you don’t need them. As human beings, we always want more. We consume just to satisfy artificial needs created by society. 

We seek out the initial excitement that we feel when we manage to get something we didn’t have before. That’s true whether it’s better than we had or simply because it’s a symbol that we belong to a better social group or class. This kind of happiness is powerful but ephemeral. It makes us feel happy for getting what we so longed for.


These reactions and feelings come from the reward centers of the brain. The stimulus, the lottery, becomes something desirable when we add it to learned behavior and beliefs. Nevertheless, once you get what you want, what does the brain need to feel that way again? It needs to win the lottery or get more money.

“70% of people who get rich in a short period of time end up broke less than five years later.”

-Francisco Isidro-

A poisoned stroke of luck

In the headlines, people who win the lottery are always smiling. They can travel and satisfy their every whim without having to check their bank account. They look carefree and happy. These are our expectations. Consequently, the people who win try to imitate this model, or they feel bad because winning doesn’t give them the intense happiness that it promised.

Jose Manuel Calvo Vaz, a government employee in the town of Ourense, won 9 million euros in 2003 playing La Primitiva. After trying and failing to start several businesses, he spent all his money on luxury cars that he didn’t need and surrounded himself with people who were only interested in his money. After all of that, he ended up committing suicide.

Roger Griffiths won 2.3 million dollars in the National Lottery of the United Kingdom in 2005. After their stroke of luck, he and his wife left their jobs and dedicated themselves to a life of luxury. They thought that the money would last forever, but it eventually ran out. Their marriage ended as well. They had to sell everything they had to pay off their debts. Today, Roger lives in a small cabin in West Yorkshire.

“It was too much money for someone so young. Even if you tell yourself your life won’t change, it does, and not necessarily for the better. It nearly destroyed me. Fortunately, I am much stronger now.”

-Callie Rogers (won the lottery in 2003 at the age of 16)-

callie rogers winning the lottery

Money doesn’t buy happiness

We all want to get lucky. However, many people end up ruined or prisoners of an addiction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Becoming rich overnight radically changes your life, and not necessarily for the better. The reality is often very different.

A lot of money doesn’t guarantee happiness. What does guarantee happiness is intelligently knowing what to do with your luck. Because, after all, we all experience luck in our lives to some degree. Otherwise, your stroke of luck can turn into a prison sentence.