Have you heard the “One Red Paperclip” story? A few years back Kyle MacDonald had a crazy idea: He wanted to see if it was possible to trade one measly red paperclip for bigger and better items on Craigslist until he eventually traded for a house. He did it. In 14 trades no less. You can read the entire story here.
Along with the house, MacDonald also obtained massive amounts of media attention (including a spot on ABC’s 20/20), a book deal, and now several public speaking gigs.
You’re probably thinking that there’s little a red paperclip has to do with business, aside from keeping your important paperwork together, and you might be right. But MacDonald’s journey offers some interesting take-aways for small business owners.
Here’s what resonated with me:
The most important step is the first. In any challenge, or with any idea, the hardest and most important part of the process is always getting started. Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg would have never created their respective empires if they had never acted on their initial ideas. Even after getting his house, MacDonald still says that his favorite trade was the very first one where he traded away his red paperclip, because that is what got the ball rolling.
Have a very specific goal in mind. MacDonald began his CraigsList journey focused on eventually settling into his new home. He didn’t just want to trade for bigger and better things – he knew exactly what those trades should result in and how he was going to get there. Before you begin, always have a vision of where you want to end up.
Sometimes creative solutions are the best. MacDonald’s story would hardly be news if he had just picked up a couple of extra hours at work and saved for a year and then bought his house. It would have resulted in him reaching his goal, sure, but he would have never reaped some of the unexpected benefits that his creative solution has brought him. Try to ignore the most traveled path to accomplishing your goal, and examine the benefits of taking a different, more creative and maybe even a little bit crazy path. If nothing else, you’ll definitely get more attention.
What do you think about the red paperclip story?