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."
And it did. In May 2007, Stafford won $112 million in California's Mega Millions lottery.
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.