Here’s a powerful strategy for earning true fans.

Tell a compelling story with your life or business, then invite your audience to play a role in it.

We all yearn to be part of something bigger, something fun, something meaningful. Yet so few of us ever break free of the humdrum routines of everyday existence. That's where the opportunity lies.

As a creator, when you embark on an exciting journey, and give your people the opportunity to play a part—however small—it’s an immense act of generosity. You’re not only giving people the kick of novelty, but a deeper sense of purpose and belonging.

I’m guessing this all sounds vague and theoretical. So let’s take a trip to example town.

My friend Stew Fortier is trading a grain of rice for a mountain.

No, that’s not some weird metaphor, or a bad attempt post-modern poetry.

Stew is literally attempting trade his way up from a single grain of rice to a mountain. The experiment is called Rice Mountain, and it’s all about leveraging the power of the internet, and tapping into the goodwill of random people.

So far, he’s traded his way from one measly grain of rice, to a collection of books, to a handmade coffee table, to an entire palette of premium sparkling tea. Crazy right?

Stew’s still a ways off from his mountain. But the progress is real. And it’s exciting to watch this story unfold in real time.

But that’s just the tip of the (r)iceberg of what makes this such a compelling strategy.

There are three things I’d like to point your attention towards.

  1. Rice Mountain is novel and fun. In a world drowning in mediocre lookalike content, Rice Mountain stands out on its merits. It’s bold and attention grabbing and fun. That, in and of itself, is an act of generosity.
  2. Rice Mountain is an epic story. If Stew manages to pull this off, it’ll be incredible. It’ll be written about for years to come. And like all great stories, it comes with built-in tension, as we don’t know if our hero will prevail. This tension gives us even more reason to participate ourselves.
  3. Rice Mountain is explicitly a shared journey. In every update Stew sends out over email or twitter, he asks people to join him, and help make the next trade possible. If you help, he says, you’ll invited to the opening party up on Rice Mountain.

And it’s for this last reason that I’m writing about Stew and Rice Mountain. When I stumbled on this story, I found it so compelling that I immediately wanted to take part. And seeing Stew calling for people to take part sent me scrambling around my apartment, looking for things I could trade.

Here’s the series of Slack messages we exchanged that night.

That’s right. I was willing to trade away a guitar worth $2K, for a coffee table that I don’t even need, all because I wanted so badly to take part in the Rice Mountain story.

Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s all laughably irrational. Yet I would still make this trade again in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, my offer wasn’t quite big enough for Stew to pull the trigger. He ended up going with a palette of premium tea (you can’t make this stuff up) worth over $4K instead.

But I still played a part in the story, and secured my spot at the opening night party on Rice Mountain. And I’m still following along and spreading the word as much as I can. We’re in this together now, and I'm a true fan.

Whether Stew gets his mountain or not, he gave us all something meaningful. A story worth taking part in.