I love those quirky, national made-up holidays though I’m usually a day late for the best ones like “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day” or “National Flip Someone the Bird Day”. Monday was “National Clean Off Your Desk Day”, and I celebrated the holiday appropriately, by cleaning off my desk. That’s where I found my lost red paperclip.
Do you remember the story of the famous red paperclip? With bills to pay and no job, Kyle MacDonald had a red paperclip, and a dream of owning his own home. He wondered, what would happen if he traded that red paperclip for something bigger? So, he put an ad on Craigslist, offering to trade the simple office supply. A young lady in Vancouver responded to the ad and offered her fish pen in exchange for the red paperclip. Kyle traded the fish pen for a doorknob, and later, the doorknob for a camping stove. The next several trades included a camping stove for a generator and the generator for a neon sign. There was also an empty beer keg with an IOU to fill it with beer, an afternoon with Alice Cooper, and a KISS snow-globe. That’s when Corbin Bernson, actor and avid snow-globe collector got in on the trading frenzy, and by the 14th transaction, Kyle traded a movie role for a house in Kipling, Canada.
Kyle’s story fascinates me. I mean, who would ever think of trading a paperclip for a house? And if they did think of it, they probably dismissed the idea, thinking “that would never work”. Most people stop at conventional ideas without ever peeking outside the box, but not Kyle. He asked, “what if”, and took that first step, and then another, and another, each time reaching for something bigger and getting one step closer to his dream. And really, Kyle was just a regular guy, with an idea, that he was willing to try…
“If I hadn’t traded the red paperclip I’d just be a guy, sitting there at his desk holding a paperclip in his hand wondering what would happen if I did something with the paperclip. If you have a paperclip trade it away, you might only get a fish pen but it might be the start to an amazing journey.”
When your goals feel SO big that you can’t see the path from here to there, what would happen if you used Kyle’s concept? I have some BIG goals for 2021, and my red paperclip, when it’s not trapped under sticky notes and business cards, is my reminder to stay focused and to take small actionable steps. Every single day.
My red paperclip is in sight, as I write this, my reminder that amazing things are possible. Just take that next right step. You don’t have to have everything figured out all at once, or even know where each action will lead. Just take a step. My red paperclip won’t become famous, and it isn’t going anywhere. But it’s part of MY amazing journey, different from Kyle’s, so I’ll leave it right where it is.
Watch Kyle’s Ted Talk for his entertaining account of the infamous Red Paperclip story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s3bdVxuFBs&t=26s