Lebron James and Cliff Lee each left $30 million dollars on the table to sign with teams offering lower salaries. Granted, their current salaries of $90 & $120 million respectively, are nothing to sneeze at, but $30 million dollars is a lot of money for anyone, regardless of their financial situation, to pass up.
Why did they take less money and turn down the more lucrative deals? I believe that answer is quite simple: they chose to play in cities and for organizations that appealed to them the most. Their decisions were not only based on finances but on what would make them the happiest for the near and long term future of their families. For them, an additional $30 million dollars was the sacrifice they made for their happiness.
We don’t always see this behavior amongst athletes. Generally, professional players look to maximize their earnings even if it means sacrificing peace of mind. Jayson Werth, for example, accepted a $126 million dollar deal to play for the Washington Nationals, a team that, by all reports, is not a playoff contender. While Werth’s contract is astronomical, he may very well regret the decision he made. It will be more difficult for him to enjoy going to work every morning when playing for a losing team then when he was winning with the Philadelphia Phillies.
While Werth sacrificed bliss for financial wealth, LeBron & Lee made the opposite and, I believe, correct decisions. At the end of the day, all the money in the world will not appease Werth if he is unable to enjoy himself. In 7 years, when his contract expires, he may find happiness again. But is it worth all that money to be an unhappy player for 7 years? I’m not so sure.
Our professional lives are similar to the lives of athletes, just without the ridiculous salaries. Often times we look for employment in fields that are not enjoyable to us simply because we need the money. Sometimes we land a job that is both enjoyable and offers a great salary. Other times, however, we are forced to decide between the two- either job happiness or financial security. It’s certainly a less stressful choice to make when we are already bringing in $90 million dollars, but it’s never an easy decision to make.
Our Sages teach us that the definition of a rich person is not someone who has lots of money. “More money, more problems,” they profess. The true definition of a rich person, they claim, is someone who is happy with his lot. For Lee and Lebron I would venture to say that they are happy (especially LeBron, now that the Heat are winning games!) in their respective situations, and I wish them lots of success going forward.
When we are placed in a similar situation, I pray that we will make the best possible decision. Just remember that there is no better feeling in our professional lives than waking up every morning excited to go to work. It’s “Priceless.”