How I literally lost ONE MILLION DOLLARS

It all started with this.

I have always wanted to be on a game show. I remember as a teenager sitting on the phone listening to the busy tone for hours while I tried to call in to Regis Philbin’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”.

So when an e-mail appeared in my inbox saying that the new “Millionaire” was looking for contestants, I was ALL IN.

I gathered my students together and asked them to help me make an epic video that would land me a chance to get on the show. I sent it in.

It was an adventure.

And I LOVE adventures.

The very next day I got a phone call. A producer from the show wanted to interview me, ask me some questions, and see if I would be a good candidate.

The interview was amazing – the producer hailed from Indiana and we immediately hit it off. We had a fantastic Skype interview and I answered 90% of the questions correct – which means I had a fighting chance to get on the show. But it still wasn’t a guarantee.

A few weeks later I was riding in my very cool minivan when I received a call from Connecticut.

Could it be?

It was another representative from the show explaining that I had been placed in the “pool” of contestants. I was one step closer to “Millionaire”. The final call came just a couple days later. Was I available to come in June and be a guest on the show?

It was an adventure.

And I LOVE adventures.

It was an adventure just getting to Connecticut. That same summer I was riding my bike 500 miles across the state of Iowa in July, so luckily “Millionaire” fell right before that trip. I decided to drive to save a little gas, and my mom graciously agreed to be my lifeline. They require that lifelines be in attendance with all the contestants now, unlike the Regis era when they just called ’em up on the phone. Apparently technology allows for a lot more cheating nowadays.

Arriving at the studio was an adventure in and of itself. When I got there, a bunch of other contestants walked in with suitcases and changes of clothing.

Not Carrie.

Apparently I didn’t read the fine print (typical). Bring your change of clothing TO THE STUDIO. My sweet mama grabbed a cab and hightailed it back to the hotel to grab our clothes. She made it just in time for the “Millionaire” training. They walked us through all the pitfalls of answering questions on the show.

You see, the pressure of being in front of a studio audience can often be blinding. It’s as if you have this strange filter and you only see half or part of the question. When contestants are nervous they do weird things.

We also met with the lawyers who told us we couldn’t say A WORD about results until after the show aired. I totally get it – why would anyone want to see the show they already knew everything about? Ruins the suspense.

Next, we did a practice run. Experienced all the stuff that reminds you of “Millionaire”: the dimming lights, the ba-da-ba-da-bum, the low pulse of the waiting music while contestants think about their answers.

It was an adventure.

And I LOVE adventures.

All the contestants waited in an empty room. They took all phones, devices, television – anything we could use to study for the game (you can study for it?). Everyone could just be together, that’s it. No entertainment. There’s probably an entire blog post that could be written just about that.

I began settling in for my long winter’s nap. Who knew how long I would be waiting for my turn? You see, if a contestant does well, he or she keeps going. So it could be a lot of minutes before the next contestant, so on and so forth. In fact, you aren’t even guaranteed a chance on the show. You might just wait in a room for three days and never get your moment. It’s the luck of the draw, folks.

But in an awesome turn of events, I was chosen first. Super cool. Mom and I had hair and make-up done and were escorted down to the room right outside the studio.

This was it. The moment of truth.

Was all that useless trivia in my head finally going to pay off? Were years as a teacher going to help me? Were they going to ask me questions I actually KNEW?

millionaire questionOut of the gate, I did well. I answered the first three questions easily. I was having SO MUCH FUN!

It was an adventure!

And I LOVE adventures!

Then came question four.

The first words out of my mouth were, “My gut says it’s B.”

But they were right about the tunnel vision, the pressure, the concentrating on part of the question.

millionaire surpriseEpic fail.

On question four. That’s like, barely even starting.

It WAS answer B, but I talked myself out of it. I thought too hard. I answered too fast. I didn’t think. I could have nailed it.

But I didn’t.

I took the walk of shame out of the studio, signed some legal paperwork, and took my clothes out to the sidewalk. We called a cab and waited.

Why did I feel so stupid?

This was all about the adventure. I love adventures.

But in that moment I felt like a failure. I felt dumb. I felt like I let everyone down. I kept hearing the audience’s “Awwwwwwww” in my head. I was mad at myself for speaking too quickly.

The cab ride to the hotel was silent. My mom and Kayden were precious, encouraging me, telling me what a great job I did. But I was sitting in this ridiculous fog, trying to wrap my head around the choice I made.

All it took was one mistake to throw all the adventure to the wind.

And I was letting it happen.

In that moment I let myself forget the fun in the process, the journey with my students, the excitement of my family, the opportunity to be on television, to live life full, to experience the ADVENTURE!

I allowed it to defeat me.

I know it was just a game show. But I let that stupid mistake, if just for a minute, define me. I let it steal my joy.

Just minutes earlier I was laughing and seal clapping (I tend to clap like a seal when I’m really excited about stuff). I am typically the eternal optimist, the truth teller, the faith seeker.

Why was I letting such a superficial thing like answering a question incorrectly bother me so much?

One of my students, when watching the episode, said, “She always tells us to go with our guts!” She was referencing my comment about my gut – the one about B being the correct answer.

And then it hit me.

Every experience we have gives us an opportunity. We can choose to learn and grow from it, or we can choose to allow it to defeat us. My example is pretty silly, but the performer in me made it about success or failure. And it wasn’t about that AT ALL.

It was about the adventure.

And I LOVE adventures.

But it was about EVEN more than that. It was a reminder of what students face when they are struggling with high stakes testing. It was a reminder that our worth is not determined by what we do, but by Whose we are. It was a reminder that although the OUTCOME may not be what we think it should be, the journey gives us a lot to learn from if we’re willing.

I was able to perk back up on the way home – I had a lot of encouragement from friends and family. I always bounce back and back I bounced.  It was fun to add “Millionaire” to my big book of experiences. You see, I’m all about trying new things, DOING stuff instead of sitting around waiting for it to happen (Check out my list of stuff I’m doing in the year I turn 40).

My super cool friend Shari said that me being on “Millionaire” could be an encouragement to others – to actually DO THE THINGS they want to do – to see that if they really want to be on a game show they should actually try and be on a game show. Dreams are achievable if you’re willing to take the action to get there. She is a wise Jedi. She’s right.

I am so thankful I had the experience. I just want to inhale every possibility life has to offer. And if I epically fail? There’s something to be learned. And it’s COMPLETELY okay. Do you hear me? Those of you who made it all the way to the end of this post? It’s okay to fail. It’s the only way we learn. We aren’t gonna win everything. But it’s not always the outcome. It’s the journey.

It’s about the adventure.

And I LOVE adventures.

Now, when are those “Wheel of Fortune” auditions again?

Check out Carrie’s adventure on the Oprah Show!  Please subscribe if you’d like to get more of Carrie’s posts (they usually aren’t this long, I promise!)!  Want to write a list and get going on those adventures? Read THIS post!

Want to read my VIRAL post about the reasons you don’t need a boyfriend (or girlfriend) in high school?