Imagine that there is a piece of lumber at your feet, a board extending out across the floor some 15 feet or so. It is about a foot wide, plenty wide to be able to walk on the board from one end to the other.
Imagine that I’m there with you, and that I make you an offer: I lay a $20 bill at the far end of the board, and tell you that if you “walk the plank” from your end to the $20, it’s yours. No strings attached; no other conditions.
Would you do it?
Of course you would. That’s an easy $20!
Okay, now imagine that I move the board to span two tables; same board, now off the ground by about three feet, but most certainly strong enough to support your weight. I place another $20 bill on one side, and tell you it’s yours if you walk the plank again; no strings attached, no other conditions.
Would you do it? Maybe, maybe not.
Let’s say not. But what if I sweeten the pot and put another $20 on the far end of the board? Would you walk the plank now?
I thought so … an easy $40!
That’s the end of the easy money, because as soon as you pick up those two $20 bills, there’s a flash and in an instant you find yourself on a roof atop a tall building, in the downtown of a big city. You notice the very same board at your feet, but it now spans the gap between the building that you’re on top of and another building, where I’m at.
I place a wad of $20s on my end of the board. Probably at least a $1000.
Would you walk the plank now?
Of course not. Not worth the risk, right?
I add several more wads of $20s; there’s maybe $10,000 sitting there now …
A million dollars?
And with that last decline of yours, in a flash and an instant, you now see, at the other end of the board resting atop the adjacent building, your grandson, playing blissfully at the edge of the building, at the end of the board …
If you hesitate at all to walk that plank, it’s only a moment’s hesitation.
You will walk that plank to ensure his safety …
* * * * *
There is always a calculation of risk/reward in our decisions. Some are so obviously not worth it that we scarcely even recognize our process of decision making before we act. Some are so obviously worth it that it appears we simply react, without thinking…
And then there’s the murky middle where the calculation is considered before the action happens.
But there’s something else going on here in addition to risk/reward that is worth pondering.
We have a hierarchy of values.
Some things are clearly more important than other things.
And some things are very clearly worth walking the plank.