As I was perusing social media recently, I noticed an ad for a new smart phone app called The Lucky Cactus. Just download this app and all of your wildest dreams will come true, the advertisement promised.
Upon further inspection, I learned that the app costs $9.99, and essentially consists of a picture of a cactus. When you tap on the cactus, hearts and dollar signs fly across the screen and the little cactus promises good fortune will soon befall you.
That’s it. That’s all it does. It is a $10 app that does absolutely nothing. I couldn’t believe anyone could possibly fall for such an obvious ploy for money. But people online seemed to rave about it.
Intrigued, I hunted down The Lucky Cactus in the App Store. I expected to find dozens of negative reviews from people who downloaded the app in excitement, only to discover how completely functionless it is. To my amazement, the app has predominantly five-star reviews. I didn’t understand how this could be possible. How could one little useless plant wield so much power?
I decided to continue my investigation. When I began to read through the reviews, it all started to make sense.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of people downloaded this application, tapped the cactus and then waited expectantly for something good to happen to them.
Some people finally heard long-awaited positive news, others said they were given money unexpectedly. Several people reported that they avoided near-death experiences. Still others simply said they had a good day and they got to eat a favorite meal or do something they really enjoyed. All of them, without failing, attributed these good experiences on some level to the moment they tapped on the cactus.
But those things didn’t happen to them because of a cartoon cactus, no matter how cute it might be.
The common denominator in all of the posts was a sudden positive change in attitude. Those people were either suddenly equipped with the confidence they needed to achieve something, or they had a greater appreciation for the good moments in their day. They wanted to believe that they would have good luck, so they created it for themselves.
When I realized this, I was reminded of a similar situation found in the film “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.”
In the series, there is a special potion that skilled wizards can brew called Liquid Luck. The potion allows its drinker to be successful in every endeavor for a short period of time, and then it eventually wears off. So essentially, it functions the way The Lucky Cactus is supposed to.
Just before his friend Ron tries out for the Hogwarts Quidditch team, Harry pretends to pour a tiny vial of Liquid Luck into his drink. At the tryouts, Ron performs exceedingly better than expected and doesn’t miss a single goal. But viewers are privy to some information that Ron doesn’t suspect as he flies confidently through the air on his broomstick: Harry never added any of the Liquid Luck potion to Ron’s drink. Ron’s stellar performance is accredited entirely to his own abilities and confidence that he would succeed. He believed that he had luck on his side, so he created his own positive outcome.
If we let it, making this realization can be incredibly powerful. If we all lived in such a way that inspired the best in ourselves and others, we wouldn’t have to rely on luck. Having confidence in our abilities to succeed and finding the joy in every day are stepping stones to a lifestyle of fulfillment.
So in a way, that little cactus has a purpose after all: it’s a lesson.