Tactically Awesome with Army Veteran, Book Publisher and Space Force Member Erik Shaw
Erik Shaw didn’t know much about the publishing industry but he did recognize a bad deal when he saw one – and the book deals he saw his fellow veterans getting were not good. So being the kind of person who loves a challenge and believes solving a problem is a worthwhile mission, Erik teamed up with a business savvy partner to create Tactical 16 Publishing Company.
The partnership was a perfect blend of Erik’s adventurous nature and his partner’s more practical one. Without Erik’s sense of adventure, they would not have accepted an invitation to appear on FOX when the company was still mostly an idea instead of a business. And without that practical nature of his partner, they would not have been able to meet the demand generated by that appearance.
Erik poured himself into his company with everything he had. For two years he worked relentlessly with his partner to build Tactical 16 into everything they’d promised it was on that FOX interview. It’s something he’s proud of and which authors have benefitted from as well. But success does not come easily or without adversity.
It doesn’t matter how many people you help, says Erik. “It’s the one person you can’t help that wants to destroy everything you’ve accomplished.”
Writing is easy. Writing well is not, and writing a book that appeals to readers is a whole other arena. Then there is the commitment it takes to publish and market a book.That process is where most authors – even excellent ones- fall into the abyss of obscurity. It is not a path for the fainthearted.
Occasionally it fell upon Erik to let an aspiring author down as gently but as clearly as possible. Every now and then one of these woe-stricken writers would take the rejection personally. When one of the disgruntled individuals launched a personal attack on Erik, it was the push Erik needed to step away from the long hours and never-ending demands in order to make up for lost time with his family.
Today, Tactical 16 is the proud publisher of a wide range of books. It offers services from editing to formatting to cover design and publishing – but it does so largely without Erik. He remains as a consultant and supporter but he’s moved into the next chapter of his own life.
The concept of a military branch dedicated entirely to space was first discussed in the Clinton administration. When President Trump officially created that branch, Erik was pulled into service through the government job he’d been working even as he ran Tactical 16.
“There’s a lot of stuff happening in space,” says Erik. From a national security standpoint, the work being done by the Space Force is essential. The need for an asset like the Space Force isn’t new, says Erik. It was just a matter of finding a way to fund it, and President Trump did that.
His work with the Space Force is purpose-driven and time-consuming. It could be the sole focus of his professional path like one full time job is for most Americans, but Erik is among the segment of American society that isn’t fully satisfied if he’s not also creating something of his own.
Network building comes naturally to Erik. It’s second nature for him to put himself in places where he meets people of interest. One such meeting led to a friendship that also introduced Erik to a community of professional athletes. As he got to know more and more of these athletes, Erik began to hear them talk about their own interests in sharing their stories of what it took them to get to where they are, and how others could apply their lessons learned.
Just when Erik began working with some of those athletes to help them write and publish their books, politics entered every court and field of professional sports.
Representing or advising professional athletes in a time that half the country is shunning them is not without challenges, admits Erik.
The athletes he works with know where Erik stands on the issues. He knows where the athletes stand- or kneel- on the issues as well. There’s a mutual respect between them, though, that allows them to work together regardless of their approach to those issues. “I don;t always agree with the way they handle it,” says Erik, “but this is America.” He makes it clear to the athletes he works with that it;s up to them to decide what message they choose to send out. “Do what you can afford to do,” is a piece of advice he offers them. There’s a good chance they will lose money for taking controversial public stances on politics, but that’s their decision to make and one he does not interfere with.
“When you’re talking to a 21 year-old kid that just signed a 35 million dollar contract, it’s a different world for them,” he says, “the real world hasn’t hit them yet.”
So Erik offers advice when he’s asked and lets the athletes take it from there. “The world can hit you pretty quick,” he advises them, “and it could hit you in the wallet.”
It’s an interesting arena to play in, he admits, and he misses the days when politics had nothing to do with sports. But he loves working with the athletes to help them share their stories, whether they connect with his former company or choose another. He loves serving as their guide through an industry that chews unsuspecting authors up and spits them out.
The COVID crisis has shifted so many parts of society, says Erik. He’s seeing leaders emerging and leaders crumbling. He’s seen inspirational solutions to overwhelming problems and he’s made it a point to surround himself with those emerging leaders and problem solvers.
Who you surround yourself with matters, he says. In the military, he surrounded himself with others who answered a call to serve. When he struggled with PTSD, he learned to surround himself with people to support and guide him. Writing and helping others share their stories is therapeutic to the authors and to him.
He’s still writing his story. He’s got some ideas on what he’ll fill the pages of his own life; “I’ve always chased that dream,” he says. Whatever that dream may be. He’s seen people with more levels of education or more money or more advantages get stuck within their own unhappiness or limiting beliefs. Meantime, he’s putting a smile on his face and forging ahead. That’s the American Dream, he says.