Finding Your Big Win

By Eric Vogen


I was recently going through some special things from my past, housed in the 150-year-old wooden trunk that had belonged to my great-grandfather from Norway. My young daughter came into the room and started going through things with me. She quizzed me about my international coin and currency collection and each of my Boy Scout badges. Then, she picked up a wooden car from the box: “What’s this, Daddy?”

I replied, “This is my Pinewood Derby car from when I was your age. It was my first big win.”
She smiled and asked, “What’s a big win?”

“It’s a win which is special to you and has a public nature to it,” I replied. “It is memorable, even legendary, it usually involves a bit of fun and favor from the Lord, and it has some community or family involved.” I continued, “Anya, it’s important to find your first big win early in life,” and I went on to tell her the legend of my first big win—winning the Pinewood Derby in spectacular fashion!

The Pinewood Derby is a special father-son event in Cub Scouts where the scout makes a small wood car with his dad for a big race between other Cubs. The cars are run down a five-lane track, and multiple races are run to get down to one winner. The night of my big win, the race was at 7 pm and my dad wasn’t home until something like 6 pm. We should have had plenty of time to get to the Derby, but we hadn’t even started on the car!

Such circumstances were not out of the norm. My dad was notoriously late all of the time. The story goes that he was even late for his own funeral because somehow someone forgot the urn at my uncle’s house, delaying the service. With him in his usual form the night of the Derby, it seemed my hopes were dashed before it even began.

Unfazed, however, my dad stormed into the house, and we furiously got to work. We cut the wood into shape but cut too much wood off for the correct weight. To compensate, we attached a fishing weight, but the weight still was not right, so we had to add some washers to the bottom of it. After preparing the wheels, we then had to paint it. By this point, it was nearly time to leave the house. Maybe we could get there by 7 pm.

My car already looked a bit different, and when we spray painted it red, it wouldn’t dry. My dad put it in the oven to try to speed things up, but his plan didn’t work. I suggested putting on some decal racing stripes so we could hold it without getting paint on our hands. I put on white stripes and a big number “0” on the top of it. We thought it would be a zero, and as we rushed out the door, I had no expectation of the car winning—or even getting in the race.

Even though we got to the event a few minutes late and they were already starting to run the first legs, they allowed my car to get in the Derby. By this time the car was dry enough for the judge to put the car on the top of the track without getting too much paint on his hands. My dad and I watched as our red number “0” started its first race. It was neck-and-neck with all of the other cars, but then, near the bottom of the track, our car mysteriously sped away from the others, almost like it had been shot from a slingshot, to beat the other cars by a mile. Everyone watching was shocked as we had won the first run. And then the second and a few more.
We raced our way to the final, and by this point everyone was cheering for number “0,” which looked a bit odd and had obviously been thrown together at the last minute, but was loved for its baffling race-end brilliance. Sure enough, in the final, the “0” car sped away from the others and won by a mile.

I was so happy to have my first “big win”! I thought all things were possible. At ten, the world was now my oyster, and somehow I knew my life would benefit from a little luck once in a while.

I kept that number “0” car throughout the years to remind me of that moment. When I look at it now, though, I realize now that my success wasn’t just luck. The big triangle shaped fishing weight that my dad used was perfectly positioned to give the car its winning kick.


Shortly after my conversation with my daughter, I picked her up from school one afternoon, and she ran up to me and said, “Daddy, I had my first big win!” She was glowing and her smile spread far across her face. She was so excited to tell me the news of being awarded as the top reader in her entire school and why it was such a big win for her. I was thrilled to hear it.

Now my daughter each day is looking for big wins—and expecting them to happen. Just the other day, she completed a difficult water obstacle course. When she finished the goal she had set for herself, she came over to me in the water, and with a big grin said, “Daddy, I had another big win!”

We need those moments, those big wins, both early on and all throughout life. They bring confidence, fun, and hope to our lives. Remember your past ones, and believe for some more. If you can’t think of any, or haven’t had one in a while, consider asking each night, “What might a big win look like tomorrow?”

Some big wins might be profound and clearly be marked with God’s favor and power. Some might be in the simple things and a total surprise. Others might be a huge win-win where you do something amazing for someone else. And some, like the night of my first big win, might just come from finding that secret combination of the right weights and the perfect, sloppy, wet paint.



Eric Vogen, CFP™, MBA, creatively combines financial planning, investment management, and ministry to inspire people to grow a greater and more impactful life. He leads Vision Capital & Management, a registered investment advisor firm and can be reached for questions at [email protected]
Securities are offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services are offered through Vision Capital & Management, which is independent of FSC Securities Corporation. The views expressed are not necessarily the opinion of FSC Securities Corporation.


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