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By Kim Ades

RISMEDIA, July 7, 2008-The reality was, he owned nothing of substantial value. He owned one red paperclip, but what he really wanted 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?

kim_ades.jpgOn July 12, 2005, Kyle MacDonald initiated a trading game. He had a dream and he had bills to pay. He really needed a job, but instead he placed an ad on Craigslist hoping to trade in his paperclip for something better. He traded it for a ballpoint pen in the shape of a fish that initiated a chain of bartering that captured the imagination of thousands of people who followed his cross-continental trading trek. 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 made his last trade for the house he always intended 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 you could buy a house with a single red paperclip, you would have thought I had lost my mind. 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.
If we take a closer look at people who live stratospheric lives, we would discover that the single greatest difference between them and everyone else is simply 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 too can trade up our thoughts to better thoughts and even better, greater ones until we reach our ultimate dreams.

Three key ideas to trade up to success:

1. MacDonald had a dream and a vision. He knew exactly what he wanted at the end of the trade, and he contemplated, maneuvered and orchestrated each trade to achieve maximum benefit. His trades sparked his interest in some way; they were instinctual and he could see a bigger picture within them. They made sense to him. You can’t know how to go about achieving your dreams until you have defined your dream.

2. Our unique experience. We are bestowed with a unique set of gifts and abilities that are available only to us to help us navigate through journeys with our own brand of ingenuity. In MacDonald’s case, he was a jack of all trades with a restless nature. He really didn’t want a conventional job; he’s a geography buff, a writer who drew upon circumstance, chance meetings and the quirky, irrelevant 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 quest 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. Follow your heart; do what you’re good at.

3. Live with passion. What did he really trade? From doorknob 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, but mostly monetarily mediocre (except of course the house, and the snow globe, which Corbin Benson desperately wanted to add to his collection). But they have something very specific and altruistic about them. They are more than objects; they are stories. The paperclip started a vibe; it was contagious; it became an obsession and a passion, and it became the stuff films are made of-literally. One Paperclip is a book and a film produced by Dreamworks. Seems only fitting.

Kim Ades, MBA, President of Opening Doors and Frame of Mind Coaching, is one of the industry’s foremost experts on performance and success in real estate sales.

For more information, please visit Ades can be reached at