What if you could trade a paperclip for a house? | Kyle MacDonald | TEDxVienna

Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Cristina Bufi-Pöcksteiner My name is Kyle,
I’m the red paperclip guy. But before I get started on that story, I want to draw attention
to this slide behind me. On the beginning
of every TED video out there, the whatever it’s called,
the screenshot that precedes the video, [where] everyone’s standing like this … all of them. So, demand more from TED,
post comments online poking fun at this, we need better screenshots
for these videos. We can make a better world of TED
with better screenshots. Onto the paperclip though. This is this kind of crazy idea
I had when I was – Y’know, about 10 years ago,
I was looking down at my desk, and I saw a red paperclip sitting there. And I said, “Y’know what, I remember
this game called ‘Bigger and Better’ where you start with something small,
trade it for something bigger, and then you repeat. I wonder what would happen if I took
this red paperclip and tried to trade it?” I posted a picture of that red paperclip
on a website called “craigslist.” Two girls named Ronnie and Karina
responded and said, “Hey, that’s pretty cool! We’d like to trade with you.
We got a pen shaped like a fish.” (Laughter) I was really excited, this was a cool pen. This was bigger and better
than a red paperclip. “How far can I go with this idea? Anybody want a pen shaped like a fish?” “Absolutely, my name is Annie, and I’ve got a doorknob
with a crazy face on it.” (Laughter) Two trades in, I’ve already
gone way up from a paperclip, and I was thinking, “How far can I go with this? Maybe I can keep going until one day
I owned a house or something from this.” Shawn says, “Come down to my place, I’ll cook your burgers, and I’ll trade you my camping stove
for that doorknob, because I need it to fix the knob
on my stovetop espresso maker. (Laughter) We’re moving liabilities into assets;
we’re creating value. We’re improving each other’s lives,
albeit on a small scale. But the Sergeant, David J,
of the US Marine Corps, he said, “I’ve been looking for
that exact model of camping stove. I’ve got extra generators,
would you like an electric generator?” To me this was a dream come true:
an electric generator. Finally, my teenage dreams of being able
to create power were realizing. (Laughter) Unfortunately, most people on the internet
didn’t suffer from a blackout, they didn’t need power. So, my trading in
for bigger and better things that I thought had value turned into a liability. It took me several weeks
to be able to trade this. But I actually found another person
just recently out of his teenage years who did want to create power
with this generator. His name was Martin,
and he was in New York City. He says, “Look, I’ve got
an empty beer keg, I’ll trade you an IOU
to fill the keg with beer and a neon with “Budweiser” sign. What do you say?” So I met up with him. We made the trade, and here’s us
showing all parts of the trade work. (Laughter) I rebranded the mishmash
of IOU beer keg and neon “Budweiser” sign, and called it an instant party. Does anybody out there want to party? “My name is Michel Brett, I’m a famous radio and TV personality
in the province of Quebec, and I want to make a trade with you.” “Absolutely Michel,
what do you have to trade?” “I’ll trade you my worst snowmobile.” I was intrigued just by the idea
of somebody’s worst snowmobile. It implied that he not only
had more than one snowmobile, but he was kind of cheeky
and willing to prove to me that, you know, I’ve got better ones,
but I’ll trade you my worst. I was really happy to trade with him. He was a great guy,
and it was a pretty nice snowmobile. Seeing how it was
the middle of winter in Canada, and it was very cold, and a snowmobile at that time of year
had more value than in the summer, a snowmobile magazine
called “SnoRiders West” called me up and said, “Hey, we would like to offer you
two trips for two to the Canadian Rockies in exchange for that snowmobile. It’ll probably give our magazine
some publicity, and who doesn’t want to go
to the Rockies at this time of year?” I said, “Yes, alright, what’s the catch?” They said, “The catch is
you can come to the Rockies; you can’t come to the town of Yahk
in British Columbia.” I said, “Alright, I got to find
a loophole around this.” So we decided to kind of blackmail
a national news organization. It’s a really long story,
but what ended up happening was I got on TV wearing the logo
for the shirt I was wearing. It was called Cintas, the uniform company. It was just sort of an inside joke: my cousin’s husband
had given me this shirt … an even longer story
to explain the whole thing. However, the head honcho of that company saw me on TV
with his corporate uniform on, and said, “Wait a second,
this is a huge liability to me, but it’s also an opportunity.” And we met up one night. He says, “I’d like to make
you a trade. What d’you say?” And I’m like: “I think that’s
the perfect way we can work together without selling our souls
to the corporate ownership devil.” He said, “Great, let’s meet up.” So we met up. He offered this van
for the trip for two to the Rockies, I drove the van to the Rockies;
he flew because the trip included that. And I wound up
with this giant, huge machine, much bigger than a paperclip, arguably better, worst fuel mileage, but to transport a lot better
things than just that. So, I said, “Does anybody
out there want to trade?” And I realized bigger and better
was just really getting bigger, but how could it get better,
what was the opportunity here? And I realized that I’ve been offered
a recording contract, a piece of paper, a promise, an opportunity to someone
who is good at music. “Does anybody want
to be a recording artist?” So I traded the van for the recording
contract with Brandon. He used it to drive around in his band, which was currently traveling around
in a 1988 Volkswagen Jetta. Moving up to the van
really helped him out. I took the recording contract. “Does anybody want
to be a recording artist?” It turns out pretty much
everyone in the world wants to record music. (Laughter) I was offered my soul from a soul singer, a pinkie finger. Someone actually offered me
their virginity, which is – (Laughter) I don’t know what the legalities, or – Needless to say, I said no, because Jody said to me, “Look, I’ve got a half a duplex
in Phoenix, Arizona. Half of it’s unrented. I’ll trade a year free rent
in my duplex for that. What do you say?” I said yes. I went down there. We made the trade
in front of the white picket fence. Very Americana. Now I had a year free rent. Her next door –
one of her tenants actually – Her next-door neighbor, Lesley,
found out about this. She says, “I want that free rent.” She offered me up
an afternoon with her boss. At first I was like this sort of sucks,
like oo-er-hoo … (Laughter) because I didn’t know who her boss was. She stood up – “I’ll bring him out.” I’m, “This is weird.” She brings out her boss’s head. Her boss was Alice Cooper because she worked
at Alice Cooper’s town in Phoenix as the manager of the restaurant. I was like, “An afternoon
with Alice Cooper, that’s pretty amazing,
what’s it’s going to be worth?” His tour manager called me up and says, “We’re on tour in Fargo, North Dakota. Come up, experience an afternoon
with Alice Cooper, see what it’s like.” And then after our afternoon
this happened live on stage. (Video starts) (Cheering) (Applause) (Video ends) Alice is a really nice guy –
this picture displays how nice he is. (Laughter) “Look, it’s great you’re doing this. You’ll find an Italian billionaire
who’s a big Alice Cooper fan. He’ll probably have several mansions.
He’d easily trade you one of them. Promise me one thing?” “What’s that?” Promise you won’t trade
an afternoon with me for a weekend with the Rolling Stones
or a night with KISS. (Laughter) I said, “Alright, I’ll try.” The phone rang, and it was Mark. Mark says, “I’m an amateur photographer
with a lot of KISS memorabilia. Are you be interested in any of that?” This is hard. I really wanted
to trade with him. “What do you have?” He says, “Well, I’ve got this,
I’ve got that, KISS posters, KISS guitars,
a KISS snow globe.” When he said KISS snow globe,
I immediately said, “Yes, and only the snow globe.” So, met up with Mark,
traded the afternoon with Alice Cooper, a priceless opportunity
for a KISS snow globe. And the whole world
kind of sort of like oo-oo-oo – and I was like this is great,
it lights up, changes colors. (Laughter) Here’s some of the various
online responses from the video. This is the worst trade
that I’ve ever heard of, bar none. (Laughter) This is possibly the dumbest decision
I’ve ever seen anyone make … ever. (Laughter) Except for the people on Jerry Springer. (Applause) Other people were much
more eloquent in their delivery. (Laughter) And this was the only time
during the entire project where I had another trade lined up. Every other trade
had come along serendipitously, and it’d just been this
amazing experience. However, two months previous to all this,
this guy had called me up and said, “Hey, my name is Corbin Bernsen,
I’m a huge Hollywood actor. I’m making a movie and I’d like to offer a paid, speaking,
credited role in a Hollywood film. Are you interested in trading for that?” I had just done
the recording contract trade, and was like, “Yes, absolutely,
this sounds perfect.” He hung up the phone, and I’m, “Corbin Bernsen,
who is this guy?” It turns out he is very well known,
he’s been in many major movies, and he also, according to Wikipedia, has the world’s largest
snow globe collection, over 6,500 snow globes. (Laughter) Since it was Wikipedia I knew it was true, (Laughter) and I just sort of kept it
in the back of my head. When Mark said he had a KISS snow globe,
I was like,”This is perfect.” Called Corbin: “Do you want
the KISS snow globe?” “Send a picture.” Sent one. Corbin called back,
“Not only do I want it, I need it.” (Laughter) While these comments
were coming in like dumbasses, etc, I had no backup plan, and luckily for the project
and for Corbin, he didn’t get hit by a bus
and he was still alive, and we made a trade. He showed us into his snow-globe lair
of over 6,000 snow globes, which looks kind of like this. (Laughter) Following this, the Economic Development Officer
of the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan, a fellow named Bert Roth,
called me up and said, “We see that you’ve been
doing this project. Our town has a couple
extra houses that we own. Would there be a potential that maybe we could trade
one of these houses for something you have?” I say, “I have a role in the movie.” He’s like, “That’d be perfect: What we were thinking is having
a huge house warming party, a huge celebration, inviting everyone
in the world to come to Kipling. We could offer an opportunity: we’ll call it ‘Kipling Idol.’ We’ll have live auditions
for the movie role, here, right in town.” I said, “That’s absolutely perfect, Bert.
What you need to do to make this happen?” He’s,”Well, we need
town council approval.” I say, “Alright, if you can get it,
that’d be great.” He called me back two weeks later: “I did it, I got town council approval,
we can make the trade.” Turns out town council approval was getting two people
to put their hand in the air. But, full credit to Bert,
he made it happen. And we traveled to Kipling,
and there we are. That’s how you trade
a paperclip for a house. And that’s the house. (Applause) The best part about
this whole project is fun, making the trades for things. Easier to tell the story with the objects,
but it was the people behind it. In Kipling, apparently, Mounties
sign the deeds to traded houses. We had a huge house warming party, over 3,500 people
came to the town of Kipling, a town of under 1,000 people, for an entire weekend. There were live auditions on stage, 500 to 600 people in the crowd
including the volunteer fire department, in a capacity 300-person building. So, yeah, they let it slide,
but it was an amazing experience. Corbin Bernsen went out on stage,
the next day in town, and said, “Here’s the winner
of the movie role. Written on his back
was the name Nolan Hubbard. Nolan Hubbard had just graduated
from high school, was making minimum wage
at The Bottle Depot. Two months after this picture was taken, he was down in Los Angeles
working on a film with Corbin. An amazingly talented person who, without this opportunity
to make a film, might have not had that chance. And it was all about the people saying, “Yes, let’s build something,
let’s do something together, let’s collaborate,
let’s see what happens.” That was what one red paperclip
was all about. There, at this house warming party
in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Karina had the original red paperclip
around her neck in a picture frame. And people were saying to me like, “Wow, you traded with a paperclip,
but don’t you wish you had it back now?” (Laughter) That’s got to be worth a lot of money.
That’s got to be – It’s really famous. And I said to them that day
what I still say today: “It wasn’t about the paperclip, it’s not about having it,
or selling it for what it’s worth. If I hadn’t traded away
that red paperclip, I’d just be a guy sitting there at a desk
holding a paperclip in his hand, wondering what would happen
if I did something with the paperclip.” So … if you have a paperclip,
trade it away. You might only get a fish pen, but it might be the single step
that leads to an amazing journey. And, for me, that journey
will be off this red circle. So, I wish you the best. (Applause) (Cheering)

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100 thoughts on “What if you could trade a paperclip for a house? | Kyle MacDonald | TEDxVienna

  1. after this story came out, the paperclip has became so much fame that the 2 girls put it on Ebay and sold it for $50 000. This house is worth $10000 at max…

  2. I bought a bottle of vodka for 15 eur and decided to play world of tanks instead of drinking with university budies. Around the midnight someone learned that i have a bottle of decent vodka in dormatory and offered me 20 eur for it. Im the man with extra 5 eur!

  3. I’m so utterly confused by this, and I can’t figure out if Kyle is oblivious or deceitful. Here it goes…
    1) Was that even Kyle’s paper clip? If he took it from the office, that’s technically theft.
    2) The girls that traded the fish pen clearly weren’t interested in the paper clip. Did Kyle leave out a part of that story, maybe?
    3) Why was Kyle not allowed to go to Yahk?
    4) Why did Kyle go to Yahk?
    5) What does any of this have to do with Cintas?
    6) Did Kyle just openly endorse blackmailing as a valid trading strategy?
    7) Did Kyle get two afternoons with Alice Cooper? He seems to have spent one of them, but then traded the other one for a snow globe.
    8) Was the whole thing about publicity? Charity? 🤔

  4. Here's a paper clip and thanks for the kiss snow globe instead of the guitar and thanks to the Hollywood actor and the house

    Like bruh I can only trade a paper clip for a different one

  5. We played this game once as well en would Just knock on Doors to trade.. Two groups started off with a pen and 1 of the groups ended with an inflateable castle with rubber swords.. In a few hours.. You can make serious money out of this game xD

  6. Now cash in the transport cost plus travels and its not free anymore. Really, really, really cheap, but it aint free

  7. The only thing you can learn from this is the value of things that together are worth more than the sum of all parts.
    The paperclip wasn't traded. It was publicity, it was comedy, it was irony.

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