John Jaso is a former major league baseball player. Five years ago, he did something that not many pro athletes have done and for that matter, something not many people have done. At 34 years old and just ahead of signing a new contract for millions of dollars, he retired.
His story was chronicled in a New York Times article No More Spring Trainings written by David Gardner. An athlete retiring is not all that interesting or surprising but in Jaso’s case, the interesting part of the story involves his perspective, which led to retirement. Jaso said “Baseball set me up for life. I love it, and I respect it. But it was part of this culture of consumerism and overconsumption that began to weigh heavily on me. Even when I retired, people said: ‘You might be walking away from millions of dollars!’ But I’d already made millions of dollars. Why do we always have to have more, more, more.”
Most of us begin our careers with meaning and purpose as a dual objective alongside earning a living for the first time. But often, as we face the challenges of supporting our families, purchasing a home, saving for retirement, etc., priorities shift to a focus on earnings to support our growing financial needs. At the same time, we are bombarded by marketing and advertising that implies that we can be happier and more fulfilled if we purchase a bunch of stuff and constantly upgrade the quality of that stuff. If we are not careful, our sole objective may become to earn more so we can buy more.
Many studies reveal that the pursuit of money does not increase our chances of being happy. My experience has been that it often causes the opposite and I have seen many instances where people feel handcuffed by their job because they need the earnings to support the lifestyle. And that lifestyle is not bringing the joy that they had anticipated.
John Jaso’s perspective cut through all the noise and societal expectations which allowed him to determine what would bring him joy . . . and it wasn’t baseball. He now spends his time on his sailboat living a simple life. I’m not suggesting that we all find joy doing what John did, but it does make me think about whether many of us spend enough time defining what would bring us true joy and then build a path to get there.
Take care and stay safe.
The Wife of Bath: A Biography by Marion Turner
Ever since her triumphant debut in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath, arguably the first ordinary and recognisably real woman in English literature, has obsessed readers―from Shakespeare to James Joyce, Voltaire to Pasolini, Dryden to Zadie Smith. Few literary characters have led such colourful lives or matched her influence or capacity for reinvention in poetry, drama, fiction, and film. In The Wife of Bath, Marion Turner tells the fascinating story of where Chaucer’s favourite character came from, how she related to real medieval women, and where her many travels have taken her since the fourteenth century, from Falstaff and Molly Bloom to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.