Earlier this month, the world shook when NBA star Lebron James decided to leave roughly $30 million of guaranteed money on the table and a proven Miami Heat squad to come back home to join his former hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers. First thing I thought was, what an amazing story. The prodigal son returns with the mission of bringing a championship, and even more important, hope, back to his home state.
However, I couldn’t help but feel shocked that someone would leave his beautiful and comfortable surroundings in Miami for the chance to venture back into the unknown. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. True greatness is usually found when people dare to risk it all to achieve it. History doesn’t reward you for staying on the safe side of life. Your name may be remembered, but ultimately your legacy might be forgotten.
In his essay Lebron went on to add to why he left for Miami the first time:
“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio”.
Lebron is very aware of his legacy. He claimed the ghosts that haunted him during those first eight years when he finally captured that elusive title in 2012. Even repeated in 2013. However, no matter how many more he actually won in Miami, none would ever compare to the incredible feat of lifting the professional championship drought in his home state, which hasn’t celebrated a title since 1964.
He’s aware of the powerfully positive effect he has on his city, which by Prof. Leroy’s account, could be upwards of $500 million in their local economy! He knows what’s at stake. Skeptics may think it’s a risky move given that there is no guarantee that his current team will make it to the finals every year like so many expected when he joined Wade & Bosh in Miami back in 2010, much less win a tittle without the veteran savvy of Pat Riley or his All-Star supporting cast. But what happens if he succeeds? What happens if he brings a trophy back to Northeast Ohio? Legendary status… he’ll be the most powerful figure in Ohio!
Money or Power?
This reminded me of an age-old debate we sometimes share among friends. If given the options, which one would you choose? Money or Power?
Now I’m not talking about power in the negative, dictatorship way like many seem to associate with thanks to one of my favorite TV Series, “House of Cards.” In the series, Frank Underwood is a calculating manipulative political genius who’s obsessed with obtaining the presidency, “the most powerful position in the free world.” He explains his affinity for power very eloquently by describing what he thinks Remy, his former protégé…
I’m talking about the power of impact. The power to change the world as currently constructed. The power to create something where previously there was nothing! The power to have a long-lasting impact in your community. In the series you see how someone can use power rather selfishly. He’s only focused on himself and what can he do to stay in that position. But what if he could use that power for the greater good? Could you imagine the possibilities?
Which brings me back to Lebron’s comeback story. In his essay he went on to add reasons for his comeback beyond his profession.
“I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get”.
Relating to the sentiment
Being from Puerto Rico, I can’t help but to relate to his sentiment.
They say numbers never lie and we can’t escape the facts. The number of departures from Puerto Ricans to the U.S. [mainland] from this past decade (2000-2010) marks the largest migration wave, at 450,000, since the 1950s with the average age coming in at 30. Since 2006 our economy has been stuck in a recession. Unemployment rate is at 13.8 percent. Our labor participation rate is one of the lowest in the world, with only 41.3 percent of working-age Puerto Ricans in jobs. Also, recently Moody, S&P and Fitch each downgraded our government’s credit rating to junk status due to their current fiscal position in which they currently have $73 billion in long-term debt.
With all these departures and economic problems I can never blame anyone for leaving Puerto Rico to find greener pastures. I’ve seen my closest childhood friends leave for better career opportunities, even if it wasn’t their preferred choice. However, I can’t think of a more exciting time to be part of the generation that leads the rebirth of our country.
Call me a homer, but I’m still a believer in Puerto Rico. As Mr. Nicolas Prouty, founder of the investment firm Putnam Bridge, stated in his keynote speech at Puerto Rico CIO & IT Leadership Conference “we have the human capital, tradition, track record, infrastructure, innovation capacity, civil society leadership, and export capacity to tackle our current dilemmas”. We need to start putting our political differences aside and begin working collaboratively in way that yields actual results.
Through my position as President of the ALPFA PR Chapter (Hispanic organization that focuses on developing Latino Business Leadership) I’ve met a new generation of brilliant and insightful leaders that are all interested in working together to dig PR out of its perpetual hole.
I’ve also enjoyed meeting students and answering questions about my profession, the economy and the general outlook of our island. Not to say that I would never consider a better career opportunity if given the option, but I’ve found a meaningful purpose in being able to share experiences, perspectives and valuable information with both students and young professionals that is critical when making tough career decisions.
Having the power to impact my community, to be an agent of change, an ambassador for the renaissance of my beautiful island means more to me than to be handsomely compensated some place else. Even if there is a general consensus that for the most part, anyone that stays in the island is bound to earn less money than it would in the US, would you rather earn more income and live comfortably away from home or if given the opportunity or would you take less money to stay and be part of a defining era? Contributing to the change we all want to see take place? What is more important? Money or the Power of impact?
There is no right or wrong answer to that question. We aren’t all wired the same way and everyone has different priorities depending on what stage in life they’re in. In life, we usually can’t have it all. But our lives will forever be defined by the choices we make. Even if you are forced to leave your home to follow your dream or you just have an offer you can’t refuse, don’t sweat it, embrace it! Enjoy it! Learn from it.
There are many places to travel, cultures to learn, people to meet, and skills to develop in order to gain a much broader perspective of life. You could argue that Lebron would never have become the player he is Today, or accomplished what he has accomplished if he had never left Cleveland. My hope strives in the possibility that people willing to learn from their experiences abroad will also be willing to bring change back to their home state.
Recruiters often ask me why would I vouch for people to leave, isn’t that part of the problem in Puerto Rico? I always answer: “I don’t vouch for them to leave, I vouch for them to have the choice. For them to have the opportunity to choose their own destiny.”
I’ve never felt that having a choice is a problem. Not having one is. Leaving where you’re from shouldn’t feel like your selling out if you are able to acquire new skills and experiences that can positively impact your community wherever your new address may to be. If you are fortunate enough to be able to choose to stay close to home you might as well involve yourself in initiatives that can bring change, influence people and give back to the place that saw you grow up.
And even if you do leave, ask yourself how can I still give back from afar? Whether it be setting up a foundation, traveling back to give lectures about your expertise or simply donating your time to people searching for answers, there are many ways to give back.
And if that’s not enough, just like Lebron did, you can always come back home!