4 Hour MacBook Pro

3 Reasons why I won MackBook Pro as the First Prize in an International Contest just by spending 4 Hours.

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Last year, I spent 4 hours on a lazy Sunday morning to enter into an international (copywriting or marketing) contest without hoping much. For a guy from the stone age who had not won anything all his life, hope was indeed a luxury. How on earth I manage to win a MacBook Pro was indeed a miracle, the first prize, in a fiercely contested competition.

It took some time to sink in, and even though I wanted to share this achievement, I wanted to make sense of all this. I wanted to see if there were any lessons that I could draw from this experience that may help others. I did not get much for nearly 6 months and luckily, last Saturday, I got up to meet a new idea and this post is a result of that.

In this post, I am going to share 3 big lessons that I have learned for myself. Two of them are generic lessons while the third is a marketing lesson but a lesson that all of us need. Below is the summary of 3 lessons none of which may seem unique on their own. You may have seen some variations of these lessons somewhere in some form. What makes them highly unique are the varied contexts from my life for which each of the 3 lessons apply.  Hence, I start each lesson with a context before deriving the lesson for you.

Here are the lessons

  1.  Everyday is an opportunity, Use them – We are good at somethings and we are not so good at others. There are cases where we want to be good at something but our past stops us even from trying. In this lesson, I give an example of how I almost bailed out of the contest by looking at the past “data” and how this lesson has changed things for me.
  2. Identify the Untold Rules, Break Them – Even though I chose to participate, I was well on my way to be just another contestant with no real chance of winning had I followed my first instincts. Sometimes, instincts come laden with rules that do not exist or do not apply. In this lesson, I show case how I identified 2 critical untold rules and how I went about breaking them which put me in the path towards winning a prize though not the first prize yet.
  3. No Product is a Person, Make them – This was a contest organised by Elementor, a product-based company. They, like any product-based company have a huge challenge in promoting their product. In this lesson, I was able to raise my empathy to a new level to flip a marketing concept and develop my award-winning entry.
This is the summary for you. If this sounds interesting, grab a cup of coffee or a hot beverage and join me in this journey of insight, inspiration, and growth. You can download the PDF version of this post by clicking here.

How It All Started?

Last year, I started working on my personal branding programme with a clear focus to help 9-5 professionals like you to grab your next big yet deserving opportunity. As a part of my coaching, I advocate professionals (freelancers, consultants, and coaches) to build their own website and not depend solely on social media which are meant mainly for marketing and not branding. Why? Branding is all about positioning yourself distinctly to the competition while marketing is about increasing your reach.

OK. This was easier said than done. Building and managing a website is a huge project even for a competent techie let alone for a non-tech-savvy professional. So, I had to break this big two-fold problem. The first was for the professionals to easily build a simple yet professional website and, second was for them to have the ability and confidence to manage it without having to depend on anyone. However, for this to work, I had to empower professionals with easy tools and knowledge. This is when I found the tool called Elementor – a page building tool which enables non-tech individuals to build amazing looking pages and websites by editing them like a word document.

I was using the tool already but when I realised the game-changing nature of the product, I decided to upgrade to the Agency version so that I can give it free to every client of mine. At the time of this upgrade, they were running a contest as a part of their 3rd year anniversary. The contest was simple – each person who upgraded had the opportunity to wish the product creatively on its birthday. The chosen winners will get a range of products from iPhone, Sony TV but the big one was the 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

The 3 reasons which contributed to this win were also 3 big lessons that I learned for myself. I explain these lessons by setting the context before I dive into the lesson. I hope you will find it valuable.  

Lesson 1

Everyday is an opportunity to evolve,
Use them!

When I saw this opportunity flash in front of my eyes, It did not seem like one. Why? well, I had never won a contest of significance in the nearly 4 decades of existence on this planet. You don’t need a data scientist to conclude based on this “data” that I lack the confidence, creativity or the capability. A competent analyst might easily conclude that my chances of winning a contest is remote even in my apartment complex, let alone in an international contest participated by thousands of copywriters and marketers.

The analysis was right – my past was against me, my inertia had the momentum and I had little confidence of a win. However, at that moment, I still had a choice. I had a choice to make an effort to change my situation. At that moment, it was truly upon me to let the opportunity pass as I had become habituated to or choose a completely different path altogether. In this opportunity in particular, I had nothing really to lose apart from the time and a possible nth heartbreak of knowing I have not won anything.

99.9% of the days I would have gone with the “past data” and let it pass, but on that day I choose to jump in and give it a go and the rest, as they say, is history. I invested just 4 hours and the reward was unparalleled. The return of the confidence, the immense recognition within the elementor community, and holding the FREE MackBook Pro with an inspiring backstory was the icing on the cake.

Hence, on hindsight, it doesn’t make sense to analyse someone’s potential to improve or evolve looking at his/her past history. However, this is what we consistently do to ourselves, our siblings, and to our children as parents and teachers. Evolution, the unmistakable truth of this planet just requires three ingredients – inspiration, effort, and time. When, where, and how these three come together in each of our lives vary drastically. Hence, each of us evolve at different pace at different points in time. While some young prodigies become CEOs even before their teens, there are those who start entrepreneurship in their 60s and still be successful at it.

Each day is an opportunity to conform to our past or to explore a new path to rewrite it.

My biggest lesson here is for us to create opportunities to evolve, grow or improve in the area that we are interested in and aim to choose a new path everyday. We may fail multiple times but each failure will teach us different lessons & take us closer to the goal. It seems I was lucky here but the fact is for those who persist, the luck cannot escape them. 

This new approach need not be limited to big goals of life but even the tiny ones. For example, I have managed to unearth 5 different routes to my son’s school which is quite handy in traffic jam prone Bengaluru. I did lose my way and found dead-ends in this process but I did not let those stop my geographical evolution each day.

Lesson 2

Identify the unstated hidden rules,
Break them!

I love human psychology. I love it so much that I spent a decade of my life building and evolving my theory on the fundamental drivers of human beings. It is now competing with Maslow’s theory & bunch of others to help us make sense of why we do what we do. The only publication I had submitted my manuscript to rejected it and while it may not mean much in terms of recognition and acceptability, it does feel good for google to rate my article explaining the theory as high as Maslow’s for a specific search term

One of the most important realisations during this analysis phase has been that the human mind is great at pattern recognition and identifying the related rules that matter. This enables us to focus on what is truly essential and help us focus only on the essentials to achieve the most important goals to be accomplished.

This ability of the mind is indeed a blessing. However, it does come with a cost – a compulsive drive to create rules in order to save time makes the mind to create rules that do not even apply. The 9 dots challenge illustrates this point clearly. I had a similar problem with this contest that I was participating in. I spent the first hour trying to write a typical anniversary wish that we usually send out to someone. So everything I wrote turned out to be extremely boring & uninspiring. What followed was a surge or creativity which allowed me to break two rules one after another.

UNTOLD RULE #1

The anniversary wishes must be central to your message.
No, Not Required.

My first realisation was that I did not have to follow the same pattern of using standard anniversary wishes that we all use. As long as I can string together something appreciating their work, that should do. So, I decided to write a poem. I also chose to ignore anniversary as the broader theme and hence helped increase my options.

Excited with the approach, I searched online for a poem based on love instead of anniversary and found something I could work with. An hour later, I got something together which was not a poetic brilliance but a poem which did the job. 

So, here goes the poem.

Oh! My Elementor

With no coding skills, I had almost lost all my hope,
But seeing you I felt, I found the longest rope…

The fear of creating a mobile responsive site had made me sigh,
But with you around, my dreams were ready to fly high

You have made the whole creation process a treat & full of joy,
feels like I am building my favourite lego toy…

Looking back, you were the one who made me independent & strong,
when the whole world was saying I was so wrong,

Truth be told, today, you have made my website stand tall,
I have no doubt, without you my business would surely fall…

I don’t know how would my life be without you,
so here is this poem, my small way to pay my due.

UNTOLD RULE #2

I had to write within the text box they had given.
No, Not Required.

The poem came out better than expected. However, I felt that for an international contest with the best copywriters & marketers participating, this may not be enough. Moments later, I identified the biggest untold rule that I could break. For the contest, the Elementor team had created a page with a text box for us to enter our anniversary wishes. My “Eureka” moment told me to think outside the text box they provided.

Most given advice by the Box

I realised that the Elementor tool was a page builder and hence, why not build a page using it for them and share the link in the text box? One, this creates a huge differentiation as most would stick to writing with the box given to them. Second, I could express my appreciation in powerful ways not possible in a text box. 

It sounded unfair to others but I was not breaking any rule. I checked the terms and conditions twice to make sure of this. Within 2 hours of starting this “project”, I had reached from “I can’t do this” to “I am onto something here”. If I can develop an impressive enough page, then I have a big chance as they may not be able to disqualify it. This is also the main purpose of personal branding – once you create a compelling perspective of yourself and show it to your prospects, you would have positioned yourself instantly & your odds of winning the next opportunity increases tremendously.

But why did Elementor not think of asking its customers to build pages using the tool instead of writing in a text box? I am sure not many would have thought about this (as it so turned out to be). Maybe luck wanted me to win the prize? Well, not so soon, there was another twist in the tale.

Lesson 3

No product is a person,
Make them!

I have been working as a freelance digital marketing coach from 2018 & one of the big realisation was that in this capitalistic world, most buying has become an emotional decision. This naturally makes us buy from brands we emotionally connect with. This is why marketing savvy brands no longer talk about the features of the product but rather sell you a positive emotion associated with their product. Coke selling happiness, Apple selling status & Nike selling what’s possible are some of the most compelling examples. This is done to establish an emotional connect with their audience and make them buy. In summary, brands try to humanise the product & their impact by filling emotions into their marketing campaign in order to increase their return on investment. 

However, it is extremely hard to make a non-living entity to connect with their audience at an emotional level. Our default behaviour is to look at a product’s utility, their features as compared to its competition, and make a choice based on that. Hence, for the brands this is like swimming against the tide. No wonder they have a huge marketing budget to build that much needed emotional connection.

Humanising Elementor

Elementor is a product & should have the same problem. So, I thought why not humanise the product & showcase appreciation for it? I further evolved the idea by appreciating Elementor not from us but rather by humanising other related elements of its ecosystem? Bingo! Once I got the theme nailed down, I spent the next two hours building, editing and fine-tuning the page to clarify the message & magnify the impact. What resulted at the end gave the confidence that I may in fact win this contest. 

However, this was a global contest with many participating and underestimating them would only increase the odds of disappointment. I cut down my excitement and went about completing the page. As I had already had the poem written down, I added two lines at the end along with the link to the page as below and hit the submit button. 

To my one and only Page Builder, Happy birthday.
https://harishmarnad.com/hbdelementor/

Below is the snapshot of the page I sent through. The link to the actual page is at the bottom of this article.

Prize Winning Page

The big reason I won the MacBook Pro

Even though I submitted my application successfully, I resubmitted a few more times to make sure that I do not lose out on a prize due to “technical error”. Elementor evaluation team were so impressed with my entry that they shared it with their Facebook community even when the contest was still open. “Preposterous” I would have thought had I seen it but I didn’t & I reckon most other contestants too. The MacBook had my name on it. Few weeks later, I got the email about me winning the prize and got the laptop a few months after.

Conclusion & Action

If you liked any of the lessons,
Share Them!

There you have it. Three big lessons from my 4 hour of investment resulting in the best prize I have ever won in 39 years. If you are here and liked what you read, do consider sharing it with 2 of your best pals letting them know as to why you liked this. Here is a summary of lessons once again.

  1. Everyday is an opportunity, Use them – Each morning when you wake up, it is a brand new opportunity to change something you always wanted to but haven’t been so far. While your past may be against you and your inertia may be on a roll, you can change it all by taking that first step forward. Continue to be curious and try a new path everyday. 
  2. Identify the Untold Rules, Break Them – The amazing mind that we have tend to create patterns and rules from familiar situations from the past. This conforms us to being ordinary and never challenges the status quo. If we bring in a sense of awareness towards everything we do and have the drive to question each action before we undertake them. This would enable us to lead the way to others, even if it is in a small way. 
  3. No Product is a Person, Make them – In the capitalistic world, buying is an emotional decision and hence it is critical for you to emotionally connect with your audience to sell them your product or service. As an individual working as a professional, freelancer, consultant, service based entrepreneur or a coach you can use principles of personal branding to market yourself emotionally. However, if you are selling a physical or digital product, it becomes harder as the product takes the centerstage. In this case, it is critical for you to focus on bringing the emotional value of the product rather than its real value i.e. features and benefits.

Well, that’s the summary for you. Before you leave, here is the question I am curious to find out from you:

What untold rule that you will be breaking in your life today? Let me know in the comments below.

PS: If you are keen to apply human psychology & personal branding concepts to your own career to get promotion or get your next job, here is my 60-minute “Make your Next Job Find You” mini-training session. You can get hold of it by clicking here.

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