The Red Paper Clip


The red paper clip from Canada just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Do you know the story? Kyle McDonald was tired of life as usual, and he wanted more. So he decided to achieve his dream of home ownership the old-fashioned way – by trading a paper clip for a house. Actually, there were a few steps in between. Here’s the story.

In July of 2005, Kyle McDonald began a series of 14 strategic transactions. He started in Vancouver, trading a red paper clip to someone for their fish-shaped pen. The same day, he traded the pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob from Seattle. On July 25, he travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts with a friend to trade the doorknob for a Coleman stove. On September 16, he traded the stove for a neon Budweiser sign. On December 8, he traded the sign to Quebec comedian and radio personality Michel Barrette for one Ski-doo snowmobile.

Within a week, he traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia. On January 7, 2006, he traded the second spot on the trip for a cube van. On February 22, he traded the cube van for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario. On April 11, he traded the recording contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix. On April 26, he traded the one year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper. On May 26, he traded the afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe. On June 2, he traded the snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand. And finally, on July 5, 2006, Kyle McDonald traded the movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

The 26-year-old took one year to complete his quest. He said, “It went from a hobby, where I played it on a whim, to the point where thousands of people were showing up on a website.” So what was the key to attaining his goal of a farmhouse? McDonald said simply, “Trade one paper clip for one fish pen.” That’s pretty clear. The story that garnered international media attention all came down to those eight words: “Trade one paper clip for one fish pen.”

Every great achievement begins with the fist step. When Jesus changed the life of a short tax collector named Zacchaeus, he didn’t say, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree, repent of all your sins, get baptized, follow me for a year, go to seminary, become a youth director, them move up to an associate pastor position, and then become a pastor, write a book, plant new churches, and raise millions of dollars for missionaries around the world.” Jesus said simply, “Come down.” That required one step. He didn’t offer Zack a five-year plan or even a five-day play. He just said to come down.

God has great plans for your life. Here’s where it begins. Take your paper clip, whatever that is. And give it over to God. The red paper clip represents what is small in your life, not what seems big. The important thing isn’t the size of your paper clip, but whose hands you place it in. Take that one first step. What will step two look like? Kyle McDonald didn’t know what step two would look like. He reflects back, ten years later, and says, “I would have never imagined Alice Cooper would be in the mix of getting a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan.” If Kyle had demanded to know the outcome and every step in advance, he’d still be living in a red paper clip today, instead of the farmhouse. Every great journey begins with a first step. So give your paper clip to God. I can’t tell you what the journey will look like. But like Kyle McDonald, in ten years, you will look back and be utterly amazed.


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