On March 6 of this year (2018), my first major book, Willpower Doesn't Work, was published. 

For the launch of the book, we decided to employ some unique marketing strategies that have been extremely effective. One such strategy has turned the launch of this book into a community of nearly 10,000 people who have not only purchased and read the book but have been seeking to deeply apply the concepts in the book for the past 5+ months.

The strategy I'm talking about is creating an incentive-based competition. The company, XPRIZE, is famous for solving the world's grand challenges through incentive-prize competitions.

Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network, the #1 entrepreneurial mastermind in the world, has also done competitions for the past 20 years and has given away fancy cars including Hummers, Jaguars, and many others. After reading Willpower Doesn't Work a few months before the book was released, Joe recommended we turn the launch into a competition. He even offered his own Tesla as the competition for the grand-prize winner of the contest.

To be completely honest, I was a little taken aback. I knew Joe Polish was considered one of the most generous and connected people in business, but now he was offering to give me his car.

"Why?" I asked him.

"Because I want to help you get this book into more people's hands, and I've seen how contests can give people a reason to show up differently," Joe responded.

Reluctantly, and humbly, I accepted his offer. Over the past 5 months, we have been running this contest and learning through trial and error. Joe was very generous with me, knowing that I had never run a contest before. He created a team around me to ensure I'd succeed. Namely, he linked me with one of his partners, Tim Paulson, who has been running contests with Joe for the past 20 years. Tim's help and encouragement got me through the hardest times, and especially made the whole experience fun! 

Next week at the October Genius Network "25K" meeting, we will be announcing the winner of this contest. In all, we had over 10,000 people engage in this contest in some form or fashion and currently have around that number of people in a highly active Facebook group.

In this post, I want to share just a few of the lessons I've learned from this incredible experience:

1. Don't Just Launch A Product, Build A Community

"The secret to change and growth is not willpower, but positive community." -- Neil Strauss

A lot of people launch books and products. But this contest did something far beyond just selling books to people. We built a community and had people actively engaging in a group effort to help each other change their lives.

Not only did people have a reason to buy the book, but they were incentivized to read it. But there's more, they couldn't just read the book to win the contest. In order to win the contest, they had to use the concepts of the book to transform their lives.

So, when the book came out, we didn't have to wonder if people were reading and experiencing the book. We had a thriving community of people discussing the ideas from the book and how they were using it. 

Interestingly, with 10,000 people talking about the ideas from your own book, you get a lot of feedback. I learned from a large sample which of the ideas really worked and which didn't. It was a huge scientific lab for my favorite ideas. It forced me to think even deeper about my ideas and how to make them more useful and relevant to bigger audiences. 

Even more, though, it's very difficult to change your life through willpower. Especially addictions. According to addiction expert, Arnold M. Washton, Ph.D., "Many people think that what the addict needs is willpower, but nothing could be further from the truth."

Willpower is trying to fight a silent battle. It's trying to do something by yourself that you can't do on your own. Joe Polish has said, "A person is as sick as their secrets." 

Changing your life requires a positive community. A place where you can get help and support. In psychology, there is a concept known as The Pygmalion Effect, which shows that as people, we either rise or fall to the expectations of those around us. Hence, Jim Rohn has said, "You are the product of the 5 people you spend the most time with."

2. What You Measure Improves

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates"--Thomas Monson

One of the coolest components of running a contest is that people who engage in the contest are required to measure their progress. 

Science shows that when you actually measure your progress, you can improve it. Hence the saying, if you can't measure it then you can't control it. 

In order to win the contest, people had to focus on one key area of their life. They had to track their progress and report their progress in order to win the contest. Specifically for this contest, they were required to submit a 500-word essay by a specific date detailing the transformations they had made in their lives.

3. People Need To Believe They Have A Chance

If people don't believe they can win, then they won't compete. Therefore, if you're running a contest, make it feel do-able for all parties. For example, you may want to break up your demographics so that people who are competing to make the most money are competing against others who are similar to them. 

Or, you can just shift how people are rating, for example, by judging people based on the percentage of improvement they make, rather than a specific number.

But if you can create a contest model that's simple, and that feels doable, then people will be transformed by the experience because they will believe they have a shot. 

4. Almost Always, The Finalists Didn't Believe They Were Gonna Win 

In almost all of Joe's prior contests, the person who ended up winning didn't actually think they were going to win when they submitted their contest submission. 

According to Wayne Gretzky, "You miss every shot you don't take."

This is a lesson for everyone, but especially for people thinking about engaging in an incentive competition. You have nothing to lose by trying. You never know!

5. The Prize Needs To Move People To Action

According to the Expectancy Theory (one of the top theories of motivation in psychology), three things must be in place for a person to have extreme and uncommon levels of motivation:

  • You must believe the reward (the 'WHY') of a particular goal is important, meaningful, and compelling.
  • You must believe that you know how (clear strategies/plans/people) to achieve your goal.
  • You must believe that you can execute the plans, strategies, and pivoting involved in achieving the goal.

In order for motivation to happen, the reward at the end of the tunnel must be meaningful. So, if you're going to run a contest, make it EPIC! Make it fun.

6. Immediately, You have Tons Of Powerful Testimonials

Contests are brilliant for another reason. Through the process, you immediately have tons of testimonials you can use for the rest of your business life.

Through this Willpower Tesla Contest, I've gotten hundreds and hundreds of amazing testimonials of how my book has transformed people's lives. Not only that but now my book isn't just a book, it's associated with a huge contest that changed tons of lives and grew exposure to our businesses.

Other Important Lessons I Personally Learned

There's other stuff I learned from this contest. For example, Joe Polish has been a mentor of mine for several years, long before I joined Genius Network. I've been listening to his ILoveMarketing Podcast for years.

One of the concepts Joe often talks about is, "Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker."

There is a reason he is considered by many to be the #1 most connected man in business. He knows how to create win-win relationships with people, he really cares about people, and he's extremely generous. He actually has formula he has created to help people learn how to connect in the same way he does called his "Magic Rapport Formula." The principles of his formula are:

  • Focus on how you will help them reduce their suffering
  • Invest time, money, and energy on relationships
  • Be the type of person they would always answer the phone for
  • Be useful, grateful, and valuable
  • Treat others how you would love to be treated
  • Avoid formalities, be fun and memorable, not boring
  • Appreciate people
  • Give value on the spot
  • Get as close to in-person as you can

I've watched first-hand how Joe embodies these principles. Through this contest, I've learned to live many of them myself. And I can attest that in life and business, life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.

But here's the thing: you have to be proactive and creative about how you give. You can't just wait or ask someone how you can help them. Instead, you just have to get right to work and then present to them what you've done for them.

Transformational Relationships

At the basic level, there are two types of relationships, transactional ones and transformational ones. 

Transactional relationships are economic and functional. They're based on the exchange of money, goods, or services. They serve a very clear point. And when that point no longer makes sense or has been fulfilled, the relationship ends.

Transactional relationships are important. They're how you got the groceries in your fridge, the place you live, the clothes you wear, and most of the things you enjoy in your life.

However, when it comes to creating the deepest and most important connections, transactional mentalities won't work.

The problem is, most people are transactional in their relationships. By very nature, transactional relationships are about getting the most you possibly can in exchange for as little as possible on your part. They're all about you, and what you can get. Not about what you can give.

And all though it seems brutally obvious -- this isn't how you develop powerful relationships with anyone. Let alone relationships with key collaborators or mentors who can take you to "the next level" and help you grow 100X or more.

Transformational relationships, on the hand, can start out as transactions. But they go far far beyond the exchange of money, goods, or services. By very nature, transformational relationships are about giving the most you possibly can in attempts of helping others. They're about advancing other people's goals in a synergistic and win-win way -- because clearly, you could do far more together than alone- Per Helen Keller.

This contest showed me that you can create transformational relationships in many ways. I turned my book launch into a transformational relationship with my readers. Joe created a transformational relationship with me by giving me his Telsa (extremely giving), and then he allowed me to give back to him by fully receiving his gift and learning from it. 

Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, has said that the best relationships have 3 components:

  • Giving
  • Gratitude
  • Growth

That is the essence of transformational relationships. And that, by far, is the greatest thing I've learned through this experience. I'm no longer the same person I was 5-6 months ago. I've gone through so much. 

According to the British philosopher, Alain de Botton "Anyone who isn't embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn't learning enough." 

This experience stretched me, and I couldn't have done it without the mentorship and generosity of Joe. Moreover, this whole contest allowed me to really engage my WHY for writing this book, and engaging more deeply with my reading and caring about the results they got in their lives. 


I hope this article has been helpful for you, and provided ideas about how you could potentially run your own contests.

I would like to end with a few testimonials from the contest which I will anonymize . I'm only providing these testimonials to show you that contests are not only powerful, but smart for business:

"Ben's book is an inspiring collection of years of education, research, and life experience where he created desired, and impressive, change in his life. It includes the steps I have been able to apply in my own journey. I am not only increasing in health, but am finding a new appreciation for my life, my family, and the limitless opportunities that I had lost the energy to even think about before! If there are things you choose to change or improve in your life, the insight in "Willpower Doesn't Work" will give you the steps to do it in a way that works best for you. For less than the cost of a cab ride or a cheap steak dinner you will find the power and tools in this book to change not only the rest of your life, but to cause ripple effects that can last through generations.

"Because of Willpower Doesn't Work, my life has radically improved in a variety of ways. I've gone from broke to rich, from ineffective to effective, and my relationships have transformed. I'm happier and more influential, and I've begun supporting causes that I believe in. Because of Benjamin Hardy, life is forever better. Keep writing, Ben, and thank you for sharing your wisdom."

"This essay is only the beginning - word count won't allow improvement reports about body mass, self-image congruence, mood, clothing closet, family relationships, chess rating, business advancements, finances and the countless other areas this book has positively impacted my life. I am a new person. Thank you!"

Call To Action

Alright, now go do your own contest!

Published on: Sep 29, 2018
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