“What if my wife would have listened to me and not bought us those lottery tickets?”
In 2013, I was working for Marathon Oil Company. To most, I seemed like an average working class person but no one knew that I had actually won the lottery. Even I didn’t know I had the winning numbers the night of the big Powerball!
It was spring in 2013. I was sitting in my office working on a project when one of the other Marathon employees was going around and collecting money for lottery tickets. He was putting together a pool of employees to go in on buying several lottery tickets so to increase the odds of a big win. The tickets were bought at random so if one of the tickets was a winner, the entire pool would split the winnings. My fellow employee asked if I would like to get into the pool. The lottery was going to draw the Power Ball numbers in a few days and he was getting more tickets with the money collected. The Power Ball was up to hundreds of millions of dollars.
I do not like the lottery. I think it’s a waste of time and money and does nothing good. I know what you’re going to say, “But it creates revenue for schools, roads, and other public works projects.” I get that but to me, I think money is better spent starting a business to create a tax base. I declined to participate in the office pool. Lottery was just not my thing even if for just one dollar for one ticket!
The night of the lottery drawing I had no idea it was even lottery night. I do not pay attention to pie-in-the-sky crap like that. I got home from the office and my wife told me we were going out to dinner with her whole family and watch the lottery drawing. Without me knowing it, she gave 2 dollars to her brothers to pick her up some lottery tickets that day before we went out. I wasn’t mad, I just thought the whole thing was silly and a fool’s errand to think in terms of luck, fate, and chance. I’m more of a “Build your fortunes with work and effort in the free markets of business” kind of guy.
At the time, I had not started my business yet but I was working on the planning part of exiting my job and going into fulltime business. I was working my side hustles ever so slowly during my time off and working my day job during the week. I was waiting and working toward that jump moment but, I was just not ready yet.
That night at the restaurant the whole family was eating great food and having lots of strong drinks. As the drinks flowed, we spent the evening laughing and regaling each other with inebriated big fortune stories of what we were going to do with our multimillion dollar winnings if we had the right numbers. It was actually a lot of fun to spend this time with the family and talk this way. I was starting to see the allure of the lottery even though I knew the chances of winning were zilch!
Then finally, the lottery numbers were being read on the TV in the bar. We all looked at our tickets and started comparing numbers. After the numbers were read, everyone just went back to drinking and having fun. No one had the right numbers. But there was a set of numbers on my ticket that told a different story! I just put the ticket back in my wallet and quietly enjoyed the rest of the evening.
Earlier while we were drinking and having fun waiting for the numbers to come in, my wife’s brother said he knew of a great business opportunity if someone was interested. “Now you’re talking my language” I said! I listened to everything he was saying about this business opportunity and I totally ignored the lottery talk for the rest of the night. As my brother-in-law told me about it, he gave me a phone number of a guy I needed to talk to. I wrote this guy’s number on the back of my lottery ticket.
I had to ensure my brother-in-law was not interested in the business. After all, he gave me the idea and the contact. I did not want to step on any toes here because once I’m driven to do something, I go fo it! He assured me he was not interested and gave me his blessing to pursue this business opportunity.
A few weeks later, I called this guy’s number and we set up a meeting at my house. Alias, I felt I had the winning lottery numbers written on the back of my lottery ticket. Within a few months, we started having the glimmer of what was to become a great new business. Bockman Group LLC was born, a premium level fence construction company.
The plan was that I would start the business and hire this guy as the manager. He would work the business full time, working for me, while I continued to work my day job and helped him on my time off. It seemed to be the perfect setup. I had a little money to start the business and the steady income to support my family while he had the expertise and the know-how to generate new business. An absolutely perfect situation!!!
Everything was going great and we were about to launch the business that fall. But as fate should have it, we were hit with some devastating news. On the morning of October 28, 2013 I was called in to my boss’s office to be told I was being laid off. The natural gas markets were dropping and my level of management was being eliminated. All those months of planning, working, and spending money we did not have to get this business up and going seemed to be a waste now.
I got home and called the guy we were going to hire and told him the news. Things were going to be different now and we had to make a new plan. Looking back now I can see that setbacks are actually setups. My wife looked at me that night and said,
“Just do it! You have this thing nearly started, your new job should be running this company you started. We’ve already spent all of our money and we cannot turn back now. You’ve always wanted to do this, so now go get it!”
She was right! Rather than looking for a new job, I needed to take full advantage of the job I had just created for myself – the business I had always wanted to do.
I was on the death ground now. Down on my knees at rock bottom with my back against the wall. No job, no income, no fallback plan, and no idea what I was doing! It was me against the world with a family to support, employees to pay, all with an untested business idea. I had cashed out my savings, my 401K, and my pension to start this thing. I sold off all my toys and completely stopped all my weekend outdoor activities of skiing, Jeep building, and mountain biking. This rag-tag business was going to have to work or we would not going to eat or be able to live.
There is something very scary and yet, invigorating, and exhilarating about being in that position. You have to literally experience it to understand it.
I worked every single day, 7 days a week for two and a half months missing out on my fun and my wife and kids. I had spend all of my savings and investments and I was losing precious time with my family. This was starting to look like the most expensive lottery ticket purchase in history!
As we built the business over the next few years, more than a few times I thought about quitting. We went broke more times than I can keep count. We seemed to fail and come up short constantly. The business world just kept testing my resolve to keep going. It felt like the Goddess Fortuna was saying, “How much of this shit can you take Dan?” I wanted to just scrap it all and get what we could out of it and move on. We were all on our own, out of the protected environment of a corporate job. That can be a very vulnerable feeling. But I had made a stand publicly that the lottery was a waste of time and I was going to show people how to really win at the lottery- the lottery of business!
Today here in 2021, our business has grown so much and we have become very successful. I am so glad I did not give up! A lot has happened in 8 years since we started. The guy we hired in the beginning turned out to be a flop and he went on to other things. We have been broke, we’ve been sued, and lost money on bad operations decisions. We have had great employees and some bad ones. We have had great customers and others who I thought were going to break my back. We worked relentlessly through a global pandemic and in fact, grew our business in 2020. We have also had millions of dollars in success and created even more in value for our customers. We live an amazing life because we never gave up.
Looking back on all of this, I can see that my hatred for the lottery has actually led me to untold fortunes in my new business. If it were not for lottery night with the family at that restaurant, who knows where we would be today. What if my wife would have listened to me and not bought us those lottery tickets?
I just cannot help but think it was all some grand plan that went exactly as it was supposed to. Getting the business idea going then losing my job, forcing me to go full time on my business was the perfect method for creating success. If I had not been laid off, I probably would have never left that job out of fear of failing at business. I would be just another average guy, scared to make a move on my dreams.
It turns out there was a winner of the lottery that night back in 2013. One man with a dream of a new business and a phone number written on the back of a losing lottery ticket!
Daniel J Bockman