This story is 16 years old, but I just learned about it tonight while trying to think of something to write for my blog.
I was feeling good because I received an email that announced Dan Pink had released his newest Pinkcast this week. If it was anything like his previous videos, the odds were quite high that I would be able to use it as the basis for a blog post since I’ve been doing so for a few years.
But the current video was on a topic I had already written about several years ago: the idea of a failure resume. Instead of creating the usual resume that focuses on one’s accomplishments, you should create a failure resume that, well, you get the idea. That was an easy post to put together, given my long list of failures.
I didn’t want to write a post about something I had already written about. Fortunately, while reading the background Dan provided in his email, he mentioned Stanford professor of practice Tina Seelig as the inspiration for his Pinkcast on a failure resume.
So I decided to check out Tina’s website, and while there, I discovered that she had written a book titled “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20“. I was able to read the first chapter online at Amazon, and that chapter mentioned the story of Kyle MacDonald who started with one red paper clip and through a series of trades, owned a house in less than a year.
I couldn’t resist learning more about such a story. As it turns out, Kyle had created a website where he kept track of every single trade and added a story to each one. It’s a fun story to read, but Wikipedia offers the following shortened outline of his trades:
- On July 14, 2005, he went to Vancouver and traded the paperclip for a fish-shaped pen.
- He then traded the pen the same day for a hand-sculpted doorknob from Seattle, Washington.
- On July 25, 2005, he travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts, with a friend to trade the doorknob for a Coleman camp stove (with fuel).
- On September 24, 2005, he went to California, and traded the camp stove for a Honda generator.
- On November 16, 2005, he traveled to Maspeth, Queens and traded the generator for an “instant party”: an empty keg, an IOU for filling the keg with the beer of the bearer’s choice, and a neon Budweiser sign. This was his second attempt to make the trade; his first resulted in the generator being temporarily confiscated by the New York City Fire Department.
- On December 8, 2005, he traded the “instant party” to Quebec comedian and radio personality Michel Barrette for a Ski-Doo snowmobile.
- Within a week of that, he traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia, scheduled for February 2006.
- On or about January 7, 2006, he traded the second spot on the Yahk trip for a box truck.
- On or about February 22, 2006, he traded the box truck for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario.
- On or about April 11, 2006, he traded the contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona.
- On or about April 26, 2006, he traded the year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper.
- On or about May 26, 2006, he traded the afternoon with Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe.
- On or about June 2, 2006, he traded the snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand.
- On or about July 5, 2006, he traded the movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
So there you go, from a red paper clip to a house in less than one year, no cash exchanged.
Now there were obviously some travel costs and other incidentals involved here, but that doesn’t take away from such an amazing story.
So my first thought was how could I do something similar.
I’ve been spending the past few minutes looking around my house to see what I could use as a starting point so that within a year I’d own a penthouse overlooking Central Park.
I thought I could start with the pencil I’ve been using to solve crossword puzzles, but then I realized I could probably skip a few steps if I started with something of a bit more value.
I wonder what a student would be willing to trade me for in exchange for the answer key to this semester’s final exam.
I know there are serious ethical issues involved, but come on, we’re talking a penthouse overlooking Central Park… 🙂
*image from One Red Paper Clip