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What I Learned When I Won the $112 Million Lottery

Money changes things—fast.

When I found out I had won $112 million dollars in the California Mega Millions jackpot eight years ago, I wasn’t even watching the TV. The winning numbers had been announced a few days before, but my kids and I had forgotten to check. Then my father called and told me to look at my ticket. The random numbers aligned.

I felt elated, like I was floating.

When you win the lottery, you can either opt to go to the state lottery office or receive the check in the mail (you can also accept one lump sum or installments). My brother, father, and I decided to go collect the check, in one lump sum, in person. It was more exciting that way.

On the way to the state lottery office, I remember thinking that this money was coming at precisely the right time—and that I had willed it into my possession.

I’d generally played the lottery about two to three times a month, and friends and family always said, “Oh, you know, a lot of people try and win.” And I would always say, “Yeah, but I’m going to win.” I had been focusing on winning for so long that when I did finally win, it didn’t even feel random; it felt like I had made it happen.

When I did finally win, it didn’t even feel random; it felt like I had made it happen.

My trick? Whenever I bought my ticket, I would visualize winning. At first, I picked my own numbers. But then, as I would visualize the money as my own, I’d pick whatever quick, random numbers flashed into my head.

I even chose that exact number: $112 million. I decided that I would win that amount.

The first thing I did with my winnings was go house-hunting. I had been living in Hawthorne, California in a 1,100 square foot house raising my late brother’s five kids (at the time, they ranged in age from eight to 17 years old). I was working as an account executive with a computer technology firm; I sold specialized software training for computer techs and major corporate organizations. I was financially supporting the kids, myself, as well as helping my dad out here and there where I could. Money was tight but we were okay. I’ve always known how to work with what I’ve had.

When I asked the kids what they would like in our new house, they unanimously said, “a pool!” So I looked for a house with a pool. I found a 4,000 square foot home in the Pacific Palisades that was the house I had always imagined myself in. It wasn’t crazy decked out; no huge big backyard. But it felt very open. Nearly 10 years after winning, I’m still living in it and I still love it.

Next, I upgraded my car: I bought a used Mercedes-Benz R-class.

Then I set up a film production company—something else I always envisioned myself doing. A couple of the kids were getting into acting (I had paid for them to take acting courses prior to winning), and one of my daughters was getting a lot of work. I started going with her to different sets where she was filming and getting a good sense of the business.

I had taken a two-day business course at the Hollywood Film Institute with the founder, Dov Simens, about a year before I’d won. I remember being in the class and he asked everyone a question: How many of us had the money to make a film? Some of the class raised their hands. And then, how many of us intended to have the money to make a film? I raised my hand for that one.

You have to prepare yourself for wealth.

That’s why I think I’m an anomaly as a successful, stable lottery winner. I prepared and recruited people like financial advisors and lawyers (who I began researching before even winning) to help me get in the correct mindset of possessing this much money.

My financial situation has shifted since winning the lottery. I’ve had many losses: businesses that have gone south and people who have stolen from me. But I’ve learned to trust myself more than anything. My intuition has become my most valuable asset.

And yes, I still play the lottery once a week. After all, it’s only a couple of dollars.

Cynthia P. Stafford won the California Lottery in 2007. She is the CEO of Queen Nefertari Productions and serves on the Board of Directors of The Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles.

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When I won the lottery, I felt like I had made it happen.

How to win the lottery — yes, you read that correctly — by visualizing it

During that long, lonely summer between high school and college, I was completely devastated after getting dumped by my high-school sweetheart. (It turned out there was nothing sweet about him.) My older, wiser sister told me to get over him by fantasizing about my ideal guy. So I spent the summer eating and serving fro-yo at a TCBY, fantasizing from behind the counter that this Abercrombie & Fitch model was going to come in and sweep me off my feet. And lo, once I started college, I met a guy who met my A&F criteria: a hot pre-med football player, whom I dated for four years.

Ever since that summer, I’ve been a big believer in the power of visualization: you attract what you focus on. Los Angeles philanthropist and film producer Cynthia Stafford won the lottery thanks to visualization! Well, it was either visualization or just dumb luck — but she swears by visualization, and she won the lottery! You think visualization is hooey? Let me ask you this: have you won the lottery? Show of hands, please? That’s what I thought.

But Stafford wants you to know that you, too, can win the lottery. “Even if it seems that nothing is going your way, in regards to your goals, you are going to reach them,” she says. “Have strong beliefs. Everything you wish to have will happen.

A few years ago, Stafford was a single mother living in bullet-pocked East L.A., taking care of her brother’s five children after his death in a car accident. To find the strength, she says, she worked on herself, reading books about positive thinking by Divine Science minister Joseph Murphy. (Divine Science, which teaches that only God is in all things, and that evil is only real because people choose to believe in it, flourished during the Great Depression.)

Through Murphy’s teachings of self-healing and visualization, Stafford says, she set her mind on winning $112 million. (She chose that number because Murphy taught that your visualization needs to be as specific as possible.) She wrote the figure “$112 million” constantly, slept with the number under her pillow for weeks, meditated on it, and imagined how excited she would be once the money finally came into her life. After four months of obsessive focus — the first couple of weeks took considerable discipline, she says — she stopped and let go. “Once you’re in the flow of the energy,” she says, “it’s going to happen.”

In her post-lottery life, she’s a patron of the arts who donated $1 million in cash to the Geffen Playhouse. When David Geffen phoned her to thank her, Stafford told him she wanted to start a film studio. The billionaire co-founder (with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg) of DreamWorks — and possible savior of The New York Times, told her that starting a studio would take hundreds of millions of dollars. “Well, I’m going to do it differently,” she told him.

How to win the lottery — yes, you read that correctly — by visualizing it During that long, lonely summer between high school and college, I was completely devastated after getting dumped by my ]]>