When William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million dollars in the Pennsylvania lottery, he had less than $3 in his checking account. It was life changing, but maybe not in the way you would think.

He got hit with lawsuits. Oh, and his brother tried to hire a hit man to try to get an inheritance. Within a year, Post was a million dollars in debt and went to jail for firing a weapon near a bill collector.

Did winning the lottery fix his life? “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare.” — Bud Post in Business Insider

One of my mentors, Lon Lee, once asked us this question:

Q: Why did Columbus take three ships?
A: In case the earth really was flat and the first two fell off.

It was meant for a laugh, but the underlying message hit all of us: always have multiple options — in business and in life. If you just place all your hopes in that one ship, you might not make it.

We’re all looking for the magic solution to our problems that will make things better. We’re just one thing away from a perfect life.

  • “If I just made more money…”
  • “If I just got my college degree…”
  • “If I could just meet the right person…”

You get the idea. Most of us pin our hopes on that one thing. If it just happens, we think our life will be so much better. Maybe it will. But betting everything on one roll of the dice is a sucker’s bet. You may hit it big (although the odds are stacked against you), but you are more likely to fail.

Sometimes you get lucky. You get that raise. Your get a new job. You find your soul mate. Lightning strikes and you hit the lottery. But that doesn’t solve your problems. Maybe it makes life easier, but for most people, you’re just on to your next issue. And even if you do make it happen, it may not lead to what you think it will. Just ask these 19 other lottery winners who ended up with nothing.

The three ships idea is really to always have a couple of things in the pipeline, so when one or two things don’t work out, you always have something else that might work. And never depend on just one thing to be the magic solution.

Sometimes it’s just as important to figure out what doesn’t work, as what does. That’s how we learn and grow. And when it doesn’t work — and it doesn’t always work — you have to let go of the frustration and regret and move onto the next thing. That’s three ships. Too many people never get past that regret phase and obsess over the things that don’t work at the expense of things that do. Of course if you fall off the earth in the only ship, I can understand the regret.

To paraphrase Lon, failing isn’t really failing.

It’s how we find out what doesn’t work so we can point ourselves at what does.

In conclusion, let’s hear from who else, but Michael Jordan — because everything needs a sports metaphor. The journey is where we find the heart to succeed.