The reality was, he owned nothing of substantial value. He owned one red paperclip but what he truly desired was to own a house. He had big dreams. How was he going to get from where he was to where he wanted to be?
On July 12, 2005, Kyle MacDonald initiated a trading game. He had a dream and he had bills to cover, he really needed a job, but instead … He placed an ad on Craigslist aiming to trade in his paperclip for something considerably better. He traded it for a ballpoint pen in the shape of a fish that started a sequence of bartering which captured the attention of thousands of people who followed his cross-continental trading travel. He continued trading and went from the pen, to a camping stove, to a power generator, to a neon sign, to a snowmobile, to a trip, to a snow globe.
On July 7, 2006, he completed his last trade for the house he always wanted to have. Then he threw a housewarming party, where he proposed to his girlfriend with a wedding ring made from the original red paperclip which was generously returned from his first trader.
Had I told you that it’s possible to get a house with a single red paperclip – you’d have assumed I had already lost my mind and come from another planet. You would have asserted that I was in la la land and completely unrealistic. However, the reality is this… those people who live with their eyes firmly planted on what is realistic keep themselves in a world of limited possibilities. Those people who keep their eyes firmly planted on the vision of their dreams create possibilities that are close to mystical in nature.
It looks like a big leap, however, to go from paperclip to homeowner. How do you connect such a wide gap? By trading up. That is what MacDonald did.
What if we could trade up our thoughts in the same way? What would happen? What if we could go from a feeling of hopelessness to a world of abundance in a few simple trades?
If we take a look at people who live stratospheric lives we find that the single greatest difference between them and everyone else is only the way they think. They are aware of the thoughts that they have that limit their possibilities and trade them up for thoughts of slightly higher value.
Our thoughts are the single most significant factor in achieving our dreams. Our thoughts become our beliefs, our beliefs lead to the expectations we have and our expectations drive the results we get. Just as MacDonald started with a simple paperclip and kept trading up, we can also trade up our thoughts to better thoughts and even better, greater ones until we reach our ultimate dreams.
Three key strategies to trade up to success:
1. MacDonald had a dream and a vision. He knew just what he wanted at the end of the trade, and he considered, maneuvered and orchestrated each trade to acquire maximum benefit. His trades sparked his interest in some way, they were instinctive and he could see a better picture within them. They made sense to him. You cannot figure out how to go about achieving your dreams till you have defined them. When you see your dream clearly, your thoughts and actions are aligned correctly, working in harmony to attain your vision.
2. Our unique experience. We are bestowed with a unique set of gifts and skills that are given only to us to assist us in navigating through journeys with our own brand of ingenuity. In MacDonald’s case, he was a jack of all trades with a restless nature. He actually did not want a conventional job; he is a geography enthusiast, a writer who drew upon circumstance, chance meetings and the quirky insignificant stuff of life as fuel for the stories on his blog, and wanderlust with a keen savvy for celebrity. He compiled each one of his gifts in his mission to trade up to a house, using in fact, the red paperclip that held together his resume. The red paperclip symbolically and factually saved him from conventional wisdom. Hmmmm. Follow your heart; do what you’re good at.
3. Live with passion. What did he really trade? From door knob to cube van, these items really had very little value. They had sentiment perhaps, or the cute factor, or made a glowing comment on society, or were kitsch so they were cool, arbitrary and extraordinary, fun and spontaneous, but mainly monetarily mediocre (except of course the house, and the snow globe which Corbin Benson desperately wanted to add to his collection).But they also had something very specific and altruistic about them. They were much more than objects; they were stories. They had a culture; they represented the journey, the dream, and they inspired, set fire to the imagination and generated excitement. The paperclip started a vibe; it was contagious, it became an obsession and a passion, and it became the stuff films are made of. One Paperclip is a book and a film produced by Dreamworks. Seems only fitting.
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