Monthly Archives: September 2011

Writing about Our Pivotal Choices from Our Life Story Can Inspire Others, Like the $3.4 mIllion Lottery Winner Who Kept His Janitor Job and Gave Back to His Community

As a life story ghostwriter and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I often advise my clients and students to tell me the stories behind their most important life choices. Those choices, I remind them, can inspire others to make their own pivotal and often difficult choices – choices that sometimes call for them to veer off the expected, ordinary path to step onto the sacred ground of who they really are. In glancing through news stories on the Internet the other day, I came across the account of one life choice that took my breath away.

Tyrone Curry was a school custodian and track coach in the Seattle area five years ago when he won $3.4 million in the lottery. Like most folks who play the lottery regularly, he had been joking with friends and family for years about the big plans he had “when” he won it big. Perhaps you carry your own fantasies about what you would do if you won millions in the lottery: world travel, a new home, early retirement, etc. But as soon as he actually held that check with so many zeroes on it that his wife couldn’t understand the amount, he began making different plans, mapping out a pivotal life choice. Here’s a link that explains the whole story behind “The Real Jackpot”:

I’ll share the highlights about Mr. Curry’s life choice after winning $3.4 million in the lottery: First, he decided he would keep his job and vowed to keep living off the income from it. He also held onto his other positions as a seating host at Safeco Field, Seattle’s major league baseball stadium, and his role as an usher at a performing arts center. He still lives in the same modest home, though he did put in a new driveway. He gave some money to members of his extended family who really needed it. And he recently donated $40,000 to the high school where he works to help enable the construction of a new track because, with school budgets what they are these days, the compelling need for an upgraded modern surface was not being met. So Tyrone Curry decided to give something back.

As you might guess, Tyrone Curry was living by values taught to him early on. In his case, it was his mother who raised Tyrone and his eight siblings as a single mom in a home where a dinner on some nights might be biscuits and gravy.

“She taught us to work for what we got and to work with what we got,” he explained.

Do you know of any young people who could benefit from that message these days? I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Curry share more about his experience on NPR’s The Story:

I was struck by his humility, his determination after becoming a millionaire to remain the same Joe Citizen, to hang out with the same friends, and to keep his feet firmly on the ground except when, even as a 60-year-old, he couldn’t resist trying a few triple jumps when they recently got that new track installed.

He’s maintained one more habit from his pre-lotto winning days: he still plays the lottery. Again, he’s making big plans for when he wins another jackpot. His school also badly needs a tennis court, you see, so…

– Kevin Quirk, life story and memoir ghostwriter and author of “Your Life Is a Book And it’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story”