The Impossible Trader – Kyle MacDonald

He posted a picture of the red paper clip on Craigslist and got a response from two girls named Ronnie and Karina. They offered him a fish-shaped pen in exchange. Seems like a small upgrade, right? But Kyle wasn't stopping there. He was on a mission.

Share This Post

I hope you had a great week and here I am with another impossible story for you.

Imagine this: You are walking in your home and your feet touch something. You see a tiny, small paper clip. Usually, what would you do? You pick it up and throw it into the dustbin or completely ignore it and move on. But, what if this one was red? You would not have cared until today but maybe you will, after hearing today’s impossible story.

How big can be the potential of a small red paper clip? silly question, you think? Even I did until someone showed me the hidden potential of a red paper clip by trading it eventually for something so big and crazy that I yelled “thats impossible”.

Enter Kyle MacDonald.

On July 14, 2005, Kyle, A Canadian blogger, sat at his desk, staring at a lonely red paper clip he just found. Instead of tossing it aside like most would have done, he harboured a wild idea.

He remembered a childhood game called “Bigger and Better,” where you trade up from something small to something bigger. He became keen to see what he can trade that paper clip for. The idea was not to sell it for money but to get something bigger and better.

So, he posted a picture of the red paper clip on Craigslist, a popular website, and got a response from two girls named Ronnie and Karina. They offered him a unique fish-shaped pen in exchange. Great! Kyle saw a small upgrade. Inspired by the result, Kyle decided to continue playing this game as long as he could.

With a clear mission, Kyle started looking for someone to trade his “fish pen” for something bigger and better. He got someone the same day to trade the pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob. A few days later, Kyle travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts to trade the doorknob for a camping stove. Months later he got a Generator for the camping stove, a huge upgrade.

It was like a real-life game of bartering, with Kyle, the master player, waiting for the perfect trade. Kyle continued this experiment for an year, trading a total of 14 times and producing awe-inspiring results.

Who would have thought a simple red paper clip could lead to such incredible, impossible opportunities? No one! See the list of trades yourself to believe it.

List of all trades done by Kyle :

Jul 14, 2005: Traded red paper clip for a fish-shaped pen.
Jul 14, 2005: Traded fish-shaped pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob.
Jul 25, 2005: Traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts, and traded doorknob for a Coleman camp stove (with fuel).
Sep 24, 2005: Traded camp stove for a Honda generator in California.
July 14, 2005: Traveled to Maspeth, Queens, and traded generator for an “instant party” (empty keg, IOU for beer, neon Budweiser sign).
Dec 8, 2005: Traded “instant party” to Quebec comedian Michel Barrette for a Ski-Doo snowmobile.
Dec 15 2005: Traded snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia, scheduled for February 2006.
Jan 7, 2006: Traded second spot on Yahk trip for a box truck.
Feb 22, 2006: Traded box truck for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario.
Apr 11, 2006: Traded recording contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona.
Apr 26, 2006: Traded year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper.
May 26, 2006: Traded afternoon with Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe.
Jun 2, 2006: Traded snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand.
Jul 5, 2006: Traded movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

How’s that for turning the Impossible into possible?

Kyle’s journey wasn’t just about trading objects; it was about the people he met along the way and the incredible experiences he had. From meeting celebrities like Alice Cooper to making a real difference in someone’s life by offering them a chance to star in a movie, Kyle’s story is nothing short of remarkable.

The 3 Incredible Lessons

So, There are so many takeaways from Kyle’s one-of-a-kind project. However, here are my 3 favourites for you.

1. People are Generous:  We humans are seen as the most selfish beings on earth. While there is merit to that argument, it is also true that we can be extremely generous. Whatever your mission be, if you want to tap into the generosity of humanity, the easiest way to create a project which is bigger, cooler and unique and invite people to be part of it like how Kyle did. People will fall head over heels to be part of it and perform the most generous acts that you may never have witnessed before.

2. Find Your Perfect Buyer: All of us are trading something. Entrepreneurs trade their products for money, employees trade their time for money. A trade happens when both parties feel they won the better end of the deal i.e. when both feel it was a win-win. Kyle demonstrated an extreme version of it where what seemed like an impossible trade became possible because Kyle waited for that perfect buyer who wanted what Kyle had. If you want the perfect buyer, patience is the key.

3. Building connections matter: The biggest takeaway from this story is that you can make magic happen by bringing people together to collaborate on an inspiring project. All it needs is for you to break out of our busy routine and reach out to people building connections out of curiosity and generosity. Who knows you can find your own version of the “red paperclip” project waiting for you.

Well, that’s it. If you want to know the details of the story, here is Kyle’s TED talk.

Join Our Impossible Gang

Submit your email to get the most real, inspiring Impossible stories right in your inbox every week.

More To Explore

Impossible Stories

Impossible Spirit – Srikanth Bolla

Meet Srikanth Bolla, a name that’s synonymous with resilience and determination. Born visually impaired in Seetharamapuram, Machilipatnam, Srikanth faced hurdles right from the start. But did he let that stop him? Not for a second.


Trust Triangle Framework

This is more than just persuasion; it’s a revolution in communication. It’s about forging authentic connections, inspiring meaningful engagement, and ultimately, driving tangible results. In today’s competitive landscape, brands can no longer afford to rely on outdated tactics.

Share Your Thoughts About this Article?

Drop us a line at [email protected]