The Surprising Story of the Wooden Plank

The surprising story of the wooden plank

A man is on stage with a wooden plank that lies on the ground. He shows the audience a crisp $100 bill.

“Who’s willing to walk across this plank for $100?”, he asks the crowd.

Nearly every hand goes up.

Next, his assistants move the plank so that it rests a few feet above the ground. He repeats the question, and again nearly every hand goes up.

Moving the plank

“Ok,” he says, “Now imagine that this plank is suspended between the roofs of two high rise buildings. Who’s willing to walk across the plank for $100?”

Not a single hand goes up.

What was a simple and completely doable task before — just walking across a plank for an easy hundred bucks — has morphed into something dangerously crazy. The risk is too great, and the reward too small.

So he ups the reward. Would you do it for $10,000? $100,000? $1,000,000? At a million, people begin to think about it, but still, no hands go up.

Changing the game

Then he changes the game. Think of someone you love very much — a child, your spouse, whoever. Imagine that they’re trapped on the high rise opposite you, and it’s on fire. The only way to save their life is to walk across that plank and rescue them. Do you do it?

This time, the hands shoot up.

What’s really changed?

So what’s really changed? It’s not about the plank or the money. It’s about the motivation behind what you’re willing to do. Motivation matters.

When you’re highly motivated, things that seemed crazy or even impossible before suddenly become doable. You find a way. You get it done, come hell or high water.

And that’s exactly how you get out of debt.

4 thoughts on “The Surprising Story of the Wooden Plank

    1. I actually heard it at some type of conference long ago; the story here is my experience of hearing it told. It’s really amazing how quickly your thinking can change based on your motivation.

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