Jobs, Grants, and Everything Else

This is a blog post about jobs, work, getting grants, writing books, watching movies, the state of the Maker culture, and everything Elon Musk is doing nowadays. It started with a conversation I had last night with my wife’s cousin’s husband about these things. This is a summary of that conversation and of my current interests and this blog in general.

How to Be Happy at Work

Erich Stauffer Jobs, Grants, and Everything ElseHappiness at your job comes from being really good at what you do. Being really good requires deliberate practice to rise above the performance plateau that most people reach at their jobs. Once you’re really good you’ll be able to look back at all the good work you’ve done, all of the people you’ve helped, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

Ultimately, you are in control of your own emotions. No one else can make you feel a certain way. You always have a choice of how you react to external factors. The hard part is changing the habits that cause these reactions, but if you can replace the action within the habit, you’re one step closer to managing your own actions.

How to Apply for a Government Grant

Anyone can apply for a government grant, but for most people the process is too long, complicated, and shrouded in mystery, so this is brief introduction to the grant application process. First you’ll need an EIN (employer identification number) from your state’s IRS and a DUNS number from Dunn and Bradstreet. Once you have these, you can start applying for government grants.

How to Travel the Glory Trail Across America

There is a path across America that strings together some of the most scenic parts of the western United States. If you’re starting in Indiana, you first go to Chicago, then Madison, Wisconsin, through Minnesota, across South Dakota into Mount Rushmore. From there you continue heading west to Yellowstone in Wyoming and up through Montana and Idaho into Seattle, Washington. From there you head south through Portland, Oregon to Sacremento, San Francisco, and Los Angelas, California. After driving through Las Vegas you finally reach the Grand Canyon in Arizona. At that point you can either choose to go back through Denver, Colorado and Kansas City, Missouri or keep south through New Mexico and Texas. I recently did the first leg of this trail in a tw0-day trip, but expect to spend at least two weeks to do the whole thing.

One recommendation my wife’s cousin’s husband had was to buy a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass that gets your vehicle into any national park for one annual fee. You don’t have to buy it in advance, just make sure you buy it at the first park you come to so you can take full advantage of the price benefits. One other tip is to rent a vehicle for this trip rather than to use your own vehicle. It will cost you between $30 and $50 a day depending on the vehicle and any current specials, but considering the amount of miles you’ll be traveling, the wear on your vehicle, and the amount of things that could go wrong along the way, it makes sense to rent a vehicle that you can swap out if something happens rather than face a big repair bill on your own vehicle while in a remote location.

How to Write, Publish, and Sell a Book Online

You may have heard that books are the new business cards or that it’s a great way to make passive income on the side and it’s both of those, but just knowing that doesn’t make it happen. You still have to do the work. If you’re not used to writing, you might consider starting a blog and writing a few blog posts first. Once you have several blog posts written you could consider rolling these up into a chapter or even a short ebook or white paper. This is called repurposing content and is just one of the ways to get started writing a book.

The easiest way to write a book is to start writing it in secret – don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. You may not know what to write at first, so just start writing about anything and the clarity will come later. Sometimes I find it helps if I start out pretending I’m writing a letter to someone I know. However, you eventually want to let people know about the book if you intend to sell it. While it’s best to finish the book first, there can be some advantages to letting people know you’re about to publish a book.

Imagine if when you were half-way through writing the book that you put up a landing page that let people sign up to get notified about the book when it comes out. In the meantime you start blogging about the book and asking for more email sign-ups. By the time you’re ready to publish the book you’ve got a list of people ready to buy and you’ve established authority and trust from a series of blog posts that are similar to the future book’s material. This is exactly what Nathan Barry did with his iPhone book.

Alternatively you could do the more traditional approach and publish your paper book on Amazon using Createspace or on Kindle using Kindle Direct Publishing, but each of these models has two stark differences to Nathan Barry’s model. First, when a customer purchases a book from Amazon that customer belongs to Amazon, not you. You have no idea who that customer is and you can never contact them unless they contact you first. Second, Amazon takes at least a 15% commission, compared to 5% from your own credit card processing company.

How to Find Good Movies on Netflix

I subscribe to Netflix and have used it to watch everything from Glee to 10 Items or Less, but every since Starz left the movie selection has been left wanting. However, last weekend I watched Primer and this weekend I plan on watching Expendables 2. I knew Primer was good because I’d watched it before once, but since I didn’t understand it the first time I watched it again. I still didn’t fully understand it until I read this blog post explaining Primer. That movie is so hard to explain that when you start typing “what happened in…”, Google autocomplete displays “what happened in Primer” first above the next highest, “what happened in Benghazi”.

Why Expendables 2? While I had reluctantly seen Expendables 1, my wife’s cousin’s husband reminded me that this movie is really a parody of itself and just a over-the-top 80’s action movie complete with all of the 80’s action movie stars. When I say complete I mean Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Seriously? Anyone from the 8-bit generation who grew up watching Saturday-morning cartoons will appreciate this movie even if you don’t like action movies. With a giant wink and a nod, Expendables 2 guarantees a Primer-like trip back to a time when guns were bigger and times were simpler.

To help you find better movies, Netflix has invested heavily in algorithms that help you find movies you might like but this doesn’t always work when one account is used for a whole family. In fact I know it doesn’t work because I don’t actually want to watch My Little Pony despite Netflix’s constant insistence that I do. Thankfully they’ve recently came out with profiles that allow each family member to have their own likes and dislikes. It was with this method that I was able to see Primer after answering a series of questions like, “Do you like mind-bending movies?” I can say with confidence that I was happy to deselect all horror films and children’s films so that I could focus on what I like.

How to Build Anything

We live in an amazing time where we are only limited by our own imaginations and willingness to make things happen. Strictly speaking, we have the Internet which gives us access to more information than we could ever consume, hardware that is both cheap, powerful, and extensible, programming platforms that let us use hardware however we like, credit card processing and ecommerce tools that let us sell anything we could possible choose to make, and a world-wide audience plugged in and ready to be marketed to on Google and Facebook. There is literally nothing stopping you from taking an idea to market with the right amount of dedication and effort.

My greatest fear is that 10 years from now my son or daughter is going to ask me why I didn’t do more with this time I had back then. They will have seen evidence of those who did take advantage of these tools and built something great, something sustainable, or something life changing. In 10 years we will have our next Facebook, our next Google, and our next Microsoft. They will be born out of Arduino boards, iPhone apps, and 3D printing technologies. But by then someone will already have done it and by then it will be too late. The time to act is now – be that person in your child’s past that built that thing that you can look back on with fondness and see how you helped people.

How Elon Musk Builds Things

Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors builds things using Physics’ first principles, which as Musk explains it, “boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy.” One of his latest projects is the Grasshopper  which is a test rocket that can take off and land vertically, allowing the rocket to be re-used on this planet or others. The other project is called Hyperloop, which is a new form of city-to-city mass transit that involves using tubes and cartridges instead of rails and trains to carry people and property quickly between cities. Elon Musk children will look back 10 years from now and know their dad helped make our world a better place. If you like Elon Musk, you might also like Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square.

Comment (1)

  • Jason| February 17, 2014

    I’m now adding “Plan for a Glory Trail trip in 2015” to my 2014 annual plan as a result of your post. Thanks for the inspiration from this post and your end of year recap.

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