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.
And she did. With her new Queen Nefertari Productions, Stafford is adapting Don DeLillo's breakout novel White Noise, and an indie film, Polish Bar, is currently in development. At the time of our interview, she was checking her watch so she could look into buying a plane ticket for the Cannes Film Festival.
Stafford doesn't have an endless supply of good luck -- she invested poorly in a shaky web start-up, and her previous financial planner turned out to be a bad egg, she says. But that doesn't mean she's afraid of squandering her share of a $67 million cash pay-out she split with her brother and father, the way other lottery winners often seem to do. "The ones who blew it also said they were going to blow it," she says. "They said it before it happened. It's what you believe. They attracted that." She goes on: "We have two choices in life. We can choose to see the best situation in our lives, or bemoan why things are not working."
Right now Stafford believes she's going to sell her TV show, now in development, to a major network. It's going to be a reality-based series, she says, profiling the newly, suddenly rich, like young athletes, about managing their money.
And she says she's going to keep playing the lottery. "I definitely want to continue in that flow of energy," she says.