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I choose a rich life over a life of riches – why Messi should have too

rich life over a life of riches

Lionel Messi could be the real G.O.A.T. if he had chosen to play for FC Barcelona for free.

That’s a big statement to make and opens me up to rebukes of naivety, but let me make my case. For those who do not follow football, some background. Lionel Messi is the much-lauded Argentinian striker who has won just about every cup and award multiple times and is in a self-proclaimed race with Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo to be the GOAT of football, the Greatest Of All Time. Obviously, football skills and humility are not handed out in pairs by our maker. He joined FC Barcelona at the age of 13 and now, at age 34, shed many crocodile tears in front of the world press to announce that he was leaving for French club Paris Saint Germain. Being significantly in debt, FC Barcelona could not afford to keep him. Messi proclaimed through his tears: “I never imagined my farewell this way. I gave my all for this club, for this shirt, from the first day I arrived to the last.” He is estimated to have had US$1 billion in career earnings.

Let me now explain the business context for this before I return to Señor Messi with some unsolicited (and too late) advice. In the first Covid lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand last year, a lot of businesses were forced to stop trading, and this current nationwide lockdown is no different. Covid rebound and resurgence alike, the fact remains that a lot of business owners, including myself, had no income while we still had our expenses, and a lot of money was lost. As business owners, we decided before any hint of the wage subsidy, to continue to pay our staff and contractors. We started a pro-bono consulting program, and frequently checked in with our clients and partners, just like we are doing now.

The consequence was that we did not pay ourselves for months, but as we thought about our purpose – ‘To provide a stunning opportunity for a team of like-minded people to change the productivity performance of our clients’ – the goal of income became inconsequential, a rich life over a life of riches. We had an awesome lockdown last year, where we developed our Productivity Growth Wheel and materials, now successfully adopted by clients across New Zealand. Post covid the team and the business rebounded, and is now stronger than it ever was, fielding calls nationwide and from as far as North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia to deliver our services.

Productivity People truly is a stunning opportunity for a team of like-minded people, one where we find meaning, an opportunity to grow and learn every day, and to develop genuine connections with other people. This is a rich life we live, and we are so grateful for what has happened over the past couple of years, income loss set aside as a footnote.

So, if Lionel was authentic about his hurt of having to leave Barcelona, if he was genuine about his loyalty to the club that believed in him and gave him everything from an age of 13, and if he was prepared to contribute to a cause greater than just his bank balance, he could have opted to stay at the club, play for free. Give back to the club that has helped make him. Help turn around the current situation. Provide a face for meaning, love for the game, loyalty, be a role model who stands for something: a rich life over a life of riches.

No doubt his celebrity endorsements would have provided him with enough income to feed his family and some. He should have played for free, dazzled the world with his famous dribbles and kicks, and be award golden boots and balls aplenty until retirement. That truly would have made him the GOAT.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People

Photo credit: Al Jazeera