A few weeks ago, there was a heated debate about athletics and salaries in the state of Georgia. The football coach from my alma mater, the University of Georgia, just received a raise after an incredible season this past fall. Kirby Smart is a public employee that works for a public university, and he just signed a $49 million contract—that’s $7 million a year for 7 years. The same day this contract was announced, Matt Ryan, the quarterback for my professional home team—the Atlanta Falcons—became the highest paid NFL player, receiving $30 million for one season.
I’d be willing to bet that many of you reading this have the same gut reaction that I did when I heard these numbers for the first time:
I can’t believe they make this much money.
That’s insane. What is wrong with our world?
It’s just sports! There are people doing real, meaningful work for almost nothing.
These are all thoughts that ran through my head, but after a moment, I realized that my way of thinking about this was all wrong. Do I believe that a football coach or football player is “worth” $30 million a year? Absolutely not. But is there a reasonable justification for them to make that amount of money? Absolutely.
Here’s why: What they do, their skill set, and what they bring to the table is unique.
I love educators. I am grateful for teachers. But, in our world, there are simply more people that can teach than throw a football accurately, make plays with precision, and physically do what Matt Ryan does.
I’m thankful for medical professionals, but more people can become successful doctors and nurses than national championship-winning football coaches.
Lawyers can be incredible problem-solvers, case-makers, and advocates, but more individuals can serve the justice system effectively than successfully compete as a professional athlete or elite college football coach.
I know this is not a popular opinion. Don’t get me wrong; there are numerous professions that are good and valuable, but what the market is paying for—whether we agree with it or not—is not the value of the work but the uniqueness of a person’s skills and offerings. With this in mind, here’s the challenge for me and for you:
What are you bringing to the world that only you can offer?
No, you and I will probably never get paid $30 million a year for what we do. But there is something more important here than money. We all have something unique, even remarkable, to bring to the table, and every day, we are in conversations and interactions where the world wants us to bring this thing to light.
It might be a something you do in your company that no one else in the organization can do.
It might be a unique way you serve your church week after week.
It might be a specific gift you use to serve your child’s school and make it a better place to learn.
It might be a distinct role that only you can play in your family.
Comparing ourselves to others can be frustrating. When other people receive more recognition, credit, or money for the things they do, we often get discouraged. But that’s not what matters. If we take the unique gifts God has given us and leverage them to give the world the best we have to offer, we become faithful stewards of the talents and abilities that he’s entrusted to us.
Our abilities might not earn us as much money or recognition as a professional athlete, but we should still focus on what we can do uniquely better than anyone else in order to positively impact our spheres of influence. If we focus more on that than how much money someone else is making, our world will be a better place.
So, let’s stop complaining and start contributing.