What did you use to find people to trade?
craigslist.  Barter section.

Did you use eBay for the trades?
Not once.

Did you write a book about this whole thing?
Yes, you can read all about it here

How did you afford all the travel?
I happened to be traveling somewhat for various reasons (family, work contracts, etc) so whenever I went to a new city  I'd post my current item up for trade in the barter section of the local craigslist.  For the entire project I only paid for two flights out-of-pocket.  

What is your profession?
Whatever it takes.

What are you doing now?
Launching projects, writing, public speaking, traveling....all sorts of stuff.  All of my other projects and new action is going down at redpaperclip.com

I'm doing my own trading up project, can you promote it?
The short answer is no.  I get thousands of requests for this sort of thing and simply can't help promote them all.  I hope you understand, and I wish you the best of luck!

I'm heavily in debt and (a) want you to help me get out of debt  or (b) am going to copy your trading idea to pay down those debts.
Please see the answer below.

I want to do the same thing, trading up, but I'm having trouble finding people to trade with.
Despite how easy it may seem, it's incredibly hard to make trading up work.  The short answer is that trading up is honestly not an efficient way to build up equity or pay down debt.  That being said, trading with people can be a very fun activity, and I highly encourage anyone who's looking to meet new people and swap stuff to make trades!  For all my hottest trading tips, please see the Copy Cats are Cool Cats page.   Feel free to steal the trading up idea, after all, I stole the idea myself!

What was the idea behind One Red Paperclip? 
I stole the idea from a game called bigger and better I heard about as a teenager. The idea of bigger and better was to start with a small object and knock on people's doors, asking them if they had something bigger and better to trade for the object. After a series of successful up trades, kids would wind up with something way bigger than they initially started with. Equal parts freestyle scavenger hunt and trick or treat. As the suburban legend has it, a guy in Vancouver started with an old shoe and came home with a car from a single night of playing the game. I never really played the game as a kid, but the idea revisited me when I was 25 years old, and I decided I wanted to get in on some of that action. I looked down on my desk and the first thing I saw was a red paperclip. I picked it up, posted about it in the barter section of craigslist and the fun began.

Do you still have/live in the house?
See the last two Q and As on this page.

Did you and Dom eventually get married?
Yep.  Dom's super awesome.  She has a healthy cooking school in Montreal called L'Armoire du Haut.  Check it out.

You speak of relative value a number of times in the documentation of the adventure. Do we talk about relative value enough in our world or are we too distracted by more, better, faster? 
I'm really not the kind of guy who says what we should or shouldn't do. I figure people will just do or think whatever they want. But answer avoidance aside, I think it's really interesting to think how different folks value different things. There's always questions like, "If you had a million dollars and you were dying of dehydration in the desert, would you spend it all on a single glass of water?", but situations like this pretty much never happen. Some people devote vast portions of their lives to earn money to purchase expensive vehicles, while others don't have a driver's license and just take the bus. These are often personal choices. The variety of our desires and actions are absolutely fascinating. You can spend $5000 on a home entertainment system and watch the travel channel. Or you can spend the five grand on actual travel. Some people would never think of living one way or the other, and some people can't imagine doing both. I'm especially fascinated by art valuations and things like the market for diamonds which derive their value entirely from an ambiguous, false value. 

This was a playful project, but also a really self-serving one…you set out to trade up to a house! When did you know it was about something bigger than yourself?
Right from the start really. I'd still be a guy sitting in his apartment with a red paperclip on his desk if other people didn't want to get involved. An idea is rarely a reality without collaboration. As I made trades and heard people's stories it became clear everyone had something interesting to say. When the project got some attention in the mainstream media and the trade offers became more elaborate and for things money could literally not buy, the reasons for people to trade balloon into things like the value of the publicity. The publicity allowed me to shine the light on the hopes and dreams of certain individuals, which was an awesome power to wield. It's not often we get to wield the power to change lives. If you ever swap your way into a position where you can make a significant positive impact in a person's life, don't waste the chance. 

Most people in the developed world are obsessed with ‘things’, are you too or did this experience change you with regards to consumption? 
There's probably a psychological term that sums this up succinctly, but here's my take on it: After people have satisfied their basic survival needs (food, water, shelter, clothing) they begin to manifest their primitive instinct to survive in myriad other ways. We're like squirrels running around grabbing nuts and stashing them all over the place for a looming lean season. This phenomenon is well understood by product developers, marketers, art gallery owners, jewelry and the owner of the local dollar store. It also opens the door to secondary industries who teach people to restrict their intake. Weight Watchers and the public storage facility owe their existence to people's desire too over consume. These businesses actually have an in-built interest for the general public to continue overconsume, which is a pretty interesting concept. Without a disease you can't really make money on selling a cure. Caffeine-induced off-the-top-of-my-head theories aside, as a kid I was a pack rat of the highest order, but as I began to travel more, I shed my hoarder ways almost entirely. I don't really collect anything of value, usually just silly little keepsakes or mementos. Pictures ripped out of newspapers share space with the "valuable" stuff around our place. I constantly go through periods of accumulation and garage-sale. It's definitely a cyclical thing. Every six months I just straight up get rid of stuff in cleansing binge. It's just stuff. The only stuff I do tend to covet are tools like a bike or laptop or a set of screwdrivers. Useful devices to help make things happen. All the value is in their ability to perform, not the object itself. The best thing about these items is if they get broken, you can just get another one, or if you need the cash, you can sell tools pretty easy. I'm the type of guy to immediately liquidate objects that don't have a use in my life. Coveting objects is a slippery slope to complete disengagement from the realities of the world. You're going to die someday. Do you really get value out of that thing? Trade it away and have an interesting experience.

One doesn’t set out on an adventure like this without knowing they are going to learn something. What did you learn about people that you didn’t anticipate? 
I learned that when you have a goal, especially a crazy one, people who dig it will step forward and help make it happen. The audience and the way forward emerge as you stand up and start to do something. People want to see things happen. Especially when they can be a part of the journey. 

So often when we get to the other side of an adventure, we remember the good, were there any dark moments along the way? 
Yeah, at one point I pulled a fast one and duped people into thinking I traded an afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS Snowglobe ... with no planned following trade. People totally freaked out and sent all this hate mail. They said they'd lost their faith in humanity and the whole project was a total sham. Some went as far as saying how I'd ruined their lives. It was pretty interesting to watch. I sat there with a knowing smirk on my face and after a week pulled the ace from my sleeve and announced I'd traded the snowglobe for a paid speaking role in a Hollywood film. People were pretty stoked about that. I'd totally pulled a fast one and done the best thing ever. Ha ha ha. Back from the brink! When I landed at the airport in Montreal I walked outside felling all king shit. My girlfriend Dominique pulled up to the curb and I realized it was May 30th. Her birthday was May 29. I'd totally forgot her birthday. Needless to say she was less than stoked. It's May 29 every year. Please feel free to remind me. 

Could you imagine one red paperclip being repurposed to create good for a major cause? 
Absolutely, and it has many times over. Many radio stations and organizations with built-in captive audiences have help "red paperclip" trade ups, then auction off the final trade item for charity. A radio station in Vancouver traded up to a motorcycle in three weeks and raised more than $15,000 from its eventual sale. Awesome stuff. I highly encourage people to steal the red paperclip idea to create good. 

We hear the rights to movie have been sold about One Red Paperclip, who would you like to play you? 
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hollywood announcer voice: "He can lift the entire earth upon his shoulders, but can he trade a red paperclip for a house?" Guaranteed Blockbuster. 

What do you have in the works? Do you wan to create another One Red Papeclip 2 or is your work done in the internet sensation department? 
I'm always starting new stuff on and off the web.  My new proejcts and idea are all over at redpaperclip.com.  Will any of these catch on and be huge? Or will they fizzle out in a forgotten blur of wasted effort? Only time will tell. The only way to find out is to try. The best projects are the ones that spiral out of control in ways nobody expects. 

You gave the house back. What was the moment you realized it was the right thing to do like? 
After I traded up to the house, Dominique and I moved to Kipling and lived in the house. Great town. Awesome people. We made many friends. Our experience living there was in many ways like being in the Truman show. People would show up at the house and take pictures and say hi. Everyone knew who we were. We were pretty big in Kipling. Over time the conversation shifted away from the story of making the trades to questions like, "What's the house like?", "Do you love the house?" That's when I realized to me it wasn't really about the house. It was about the idea. Trading. Meeting people. Making things happen. I wanted more of that. There was a lot of talk and expectation that I was going to trade the house for something amazing. A few years after living in Kipling off and on I posted the house up for "trade" and the offers started rolling in. Most people wanted to fence off the yard and live in the house. There was a feeling around town that the house should be some sort of living museum. This all seemed like a lot of organizing and responsibility, so at one point I woke up one morning and offered the house to town. Totally free. The town has since turned the house into a cafe and tourist attraction. When you drive into Kipling there's official Saskatchewan tourism signs that announce the Red Paperclip House, one of Kiplings' largest tourist attractions, the other being the world's largest red paperclip. I'm very proud to have helped contribute to the existence of a large paperclip and tourist attraction in a remote Canadian town. As a footnote to this answer, there's this: A funny things happen when you cleanse yourself of objects and obligations, the future becomes less clear and you're forced to create a new reality. In many ways, having no clue what you're doing is one of the most powerful skills a person can ever possess. 

Do you have days when you think…’I should have kept the damn house’? 
Nope. When you climb to the top of Everest you look around for a bit, take a few pictures, plant a flag in the snow, then climb back down and find your next mountain to climb. Everyone who's still at the top of Everest is dead.

No comments: