How to trade a paper clip for a house
In 2006, Kyle MacDonald traded a red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen. He then traded the pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob, the doorknob for a camp stove, the stove for a generator, the generator for a beer keg/beer sign, the beer keg/sign for a snowmobile, the snowmobile for a two-person vacation to British Columbia, the vacation for a truck, the truck for a recording contract, the recording contract for a year’s rent in Phoenix Arizona, the year’s rent for an afternoon with rockstar Alice Cooper, the afternoon with Cooper for a KISS snow globe, the snow globe for a role in a movie, and finally he traded the role in the movie for a two-story farmhouse. MacDonald started with a paperclip and ended up with a house.
It’s extremely unlikely that MacDonald would have ever been able to find a trading partner willing to accept an offer of a paper clip for a house. In hindsight, we see that it took a multitude of trades for MacDonald to even get to the point where he could offer a trade for a house. Our lives are very similar to this story, but many of us fail to make the connection. We falsely believe we are going to land our dream job the minute we graduate college without having to volunteer, take internships or work in the mail room. Some of us even expect to meet our prince/princess charming without having to kiss a few frogs along the way!
In a world where everyone seems to want instant gratification, it is important to know that the man or woman at the top of the mountain did not just fall there, but was only able to reach the pinnacle after years of making small “trades.” MacDonald traded one item for the next, slowly increasing the value of what he had to offer and eventually put himself in the position to where he could attempt to trade for a house. Professionals climb the corporate ladder by essentially “trading” in one job for the next, taking on more responsibility, differentiating their portfolios and boosting their resumes to the point where they are then qualified to apply for their dream position.
If you asked MacDonald, I bet he would say that even though some days he did not successfully complete a trade, in the long run, he was only able to acquire new items of increased value by completing the daily process of making calls, traveling to antique shows, checking the internet, etc. In the eyes of the world, he may have only made a handful of trades over a sustained period of time; however, MacDonald knew that each day he was trading away something: the gift of time. As the poet Heartsill Wilson once wrote, “What you do today is important because you are essentially trading a day of your life for it. When tomorrow arrives, today will be gone forever.”
Goal achievement is similar to reading a book. You most likely are not going to finish it today, but tomorrow you can pick it up right where you left off. However, many of us have countless unread books on the shelf (unfilled dreams) because we lack the daily discipline of actually opening the book and reading it (doing the necessary work to achieve them). Regardless if we read one chapter, one page or even one sentence per day, slowly but surely we will finish. Some days we may have more time to dedicate to reading, but if we don’t read at least something, we do not advance in the story.
Think of it another way. If you were in a multi-day race and were told that tomorrow’s starting line depended on how far you traveled today, wouldn’t you go at least part of the way? Of course you would! It would be foolish not to. I doubt you would just stand still and not take at least one step toward the finish line. However, how many times has the sun set in your own life without you having done something to obtain your goals?
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “Good things take time.” You can use what ever generic slogan you’d like; however, the message remains the same: what you do today matters and determines if and when you will achieve your goals. Books don’t read themselves, and races can only be finished if you put one foot in front of the other. No one ever called MacDonald out of the blue or knocked on his front door and said, “Hey I heard you have this awesome paper clip, would you like my fish shaped pen?” He was only successful in his efforts and is now “living it up” in his farmhouse because he was dedicated to making progress. Discipline is the key to achievement, and you will only get what it is you want in this life by being relentless in your pursuit of your goals.
Coach Nelson holds a doctorate in sport and performance psychology and currently serves as a high school football coach. He has worked for multiple professional sport franchises, a Fortune 100 Company, a division 1 athletic departments and has won numerous awards for his LEADership abilities.
His mission is to positively influence the world through Love, Effort, Attitude and Discipline (#LEAD). To learn more about the LEAD philosophy follow him on Twitter Levi Nelson or reach out via email at email@example.com He’d love to learn about or help you in your journey!