One Red Paperclip by Kyle Macdonald

January 29, 2008 at 9:31 pm (humor, memoir, nonfiction)

You don’t buy One Red Paperclip for the writing. Full of choppy prose, this book is definitely not great literature. No, you buy One Red Paperclip for the story.

Back in 2005 Macdonald decided to see if he could barter his way from one red paperclip up to a house. He started his own website and posted items for trade, fielded offers, and documented his progress. First he traded his paperclip for a pen that looked like a fish, further down the line he traded a recording contract for one year of free rent in Phoenix, and one year later he was finally able to trade one role in a Hollywood movie for a house in Saskatchewan.

I’m not giving anything away here. Around about the time Macdonald got his hands on the recording contract international media caught wind of his venture. He appeared on numerous television and radio programs and when he finally traded for the house the One Red Paperclip by Kyle Macdonaldnews was broadcast all across the world.

In fact, you really don’t even need to buy the book. The entire story can be read online on his original One Red Paperclip blog. But, being a hopeless bibliophile I take hard copy over digital almost any day of the week.

I really love enterprising bloggers who manage to come up with an idea so very fabulous it garners international attention, and ultimately changes their lives. People like Karyn Bosnak who asked strangers on the internet to help her pay off 20K in credit card debt on savekaryn.com, an experiment that not only helped her pay off the debt, but helped her land a book deal as well. And Angela Nissel whose site thebrokediaries.com chronicled her experiences as a young adult with no money. She too managed to land a book deal, and went on to write for the hit TV show “Scrubs,” eventually working her way up to consulting producer. I love that these ordinary people were able to change their lives by coming up with one awesome idea and sharing with with the world.

Ruth Limkin said it well in an article written for the Brisbane Courier Mail that is reprinted in Macdonald’s book:

Could the reason the red paperclip story has captivated so many people be that we resonate with daring greatly? We may have grown weary but we still want to lead significant lives. It’s here that our celebrated Western individualism has tripped us up. Thinking we have to go it alone and just be strong, we have forgotten one vital component. Macdonald could never have got that house without people who were willing to be part of his journey and cheer him on. Like Macdonald, each of us needs people who can be a source of strength and encouragement. Similarly, we have the privilege of being that for others.

Limkin hit it dead on. The reason Macdonald’s story is so appealing is because it champions both individualism and community.

Stories like Macdonald’s also counter the widespread belief that the internet isolates us from one another; that the more we interact with our keyboards and monitors the less we engage with people in real life. What such naysayers don’t seem to consider is that we don’t actually interact with our hardware. We interact with people who are just like us and the the computer is just a means to do so. It is a tool no different then a telephone. We can engage individuals over the internet with just as much authenticity as if they were sitting right next to us. And as Macdonald demonstrates, those connections can lead to real world friendships and alliances.

So check out One Red Paperclip either in print or online. One way or the other you are guarenteed a great story.

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