4 Life Lessons I Learned From Being on Wheel of Fortune

My first memory of watching Wheel of Fortune was in my grandparent’s living room, curled up on an oversized green pillow. The payoff for sitting quietly through the news was the excitement of watching Wheel of Fortune and yelling out letters. Even as a child, I realized I had a knack for solving puzzles quicker than many adults in the room and on TV. 

Years passed, but the allure of Wheel of Fortune remained. In 2014, I saw that they would be holding in person auditions where I lived. I submitted an application along with a 60-second video for consideration. It was a long shot, but I went for it, and in 2015, I went from being a viewer to a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. 

While I didn’t walk away with the grand prize, I fulfilled my dream of saying, “Pat, I’d like to solve the puzzle,” ultimately solving three puzzles.

Even though my 15 minutes took place almost a decade ago, four life lessons have remained with me. 

Even if the odds aren’t in your favor, try anyway

Over a million people apply to be on Wheel of Fortune annually, and approximately 10,000 (1%) are selected for an audition. Of the 10,000 who audition, only around 600 are chosen to be on the game show.

The odds of being a contestant are .06%. Not that great. 

I could have been scared by the numbers, thinking why I should even bother trying. But instead I thought, why not me?

The only way to guarantee that you will not achieve something is by not trying. 

I won’t let statistics or other people’s experiences deter me from striving for my dreams. 

Rather than be discouraged by rejection, learn from it

The first time I auditioned for Wheel of Fortune, I did not make it onto the show. I was disappointed, but I was not defeated. 

Many would consider it a great life experience and leave it at that. But not me. Being that close to my dream made me want it even more, so I let rejection motivate me. 

In my second audition tape, I addressed the fact that I had previously auditioned. I’ll never know if it played a part in me being called in for another audition. Still, I knew I had nothing to be ashamed of, and perhaps my tenacity shone through. 

Walking into my second audition was a completely different experience than my first. I knew what to expect, I prepared more and I had a confidence that I didn’t have the first time around.

Subverting the way I look at rejection, seeing it as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than failure, has played a significant role in my trajectory both in my career and personal life. I’ve experienced and achieved more than I thought possible because I’ve embraced rejection as a stepping stone to success rather than a deterrent.

Don’t let fear determine your fate

There’s an experience that haunted me throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was the new kid in my 4th-grade class and wanted to prove my worth to my classmates. We had a quiz bowl-style competition. We were divided into teams and asked questions based on the readings we had to complete for homework. 

The premise was simple, a question was read and whoever raised their hand first answered, scoring points for their team if they were correct. I loved reading and had a great memory. I had no doubt I would know all the answers. And I did. But something held me back from raising my hand. 


Unfortunately, due to a traumatic childhood, I was in a constant state of fear. I was taught that speaking out of turn, having an opinion or making a mistake would lead to a negative outcome. 

Fear got the best of 9-year-old me for many more years, but I promised myself that fear would not determine the outcome when I stood in front of millions. 

Instead, I would take a chance, ring in, and be wrong rather than be paralyzed.

When I rang in on the first puzzle with only three letters turned, I proved to myself that fear would no longer rule me. 

To this day, I refuse to let fear have the ultimate say. 

Learn to enjoy life’s moments

So often, we rush through life to get to the next thing. We rarely stop and appreciate all that we have and all that we have accomplished. 

When I was backstage preparing to go on stage, it was as if time had slowed, and I was hyper-aware of my surroundings. Knowing I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, I wanted to soak in the moment. It made me realize how infrequently I do this in my everyday life. 

From family walks on a crisp fall day to enjoying a perfectly ripened peach to having lunch with a good friend, unforgettable moments surround us. We rarely have moments in the spotlight, but we experience moments of love, nature and joy daily. Those are the times when we need to pause and soak it all in.

I didn’t win the jackpot, become a celebrity or make the highlight reel of unforgettable game show moments, but being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined. 

These four lessons have stayed with me through the years and are the true prizes for being on the show. 

And the money didn’t hurt either!

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