Story by: ALICIA HOPKINS
“I thought there was a story worth telling,” says Bryan Luftglass as he discusses his career and the birth of his book Expansion: How Natural Gas Fuels are Reshaping Transportation in America. Luftglass has lived a fascinating life. He has experienced the best of both worlds, spending much of his childhood in suburban California near the ocean and in rural Connecticut. Luftglass attended Colgate University, a private liberal arts college in New York, where he received a good general education, but specialized in geology. He later attended graduate school at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, where he specialized in “not specializing”. He tried to keep his studies as broad as possible, learning about physics, biology, chemistry, oceanography, and climate. He especially enjoyed studying coastal lagoons, which is how he received the nickname of “Bryan Lagoon”.
In his professional career he has spent about 10 years in the natural gas fuels business. He has over 20 years of experience as a business consultant and is also an author. Luftglass is currently trying to help start up 3 businesses: one that involves a new solar energy technology, one that involves recycling antifreeze, and one that would build on a social media/e-commerce concept he developed. In his spare time, he also does a bit of business consulting in green chemistry, environmental technologies, and fuels and energy. Currently Luftglass resides in Solitude, Utah, where he takes full advantage of having the majestic Utah mountain ranges in his backyard by hiking, skiing with his friends, biking, and teaching ski lessons part-time to beginners.
Luftglass’s love for the environment was planted as a young child. He reminisces, “I loved spending time in the woods in Connecticut and at the beach and tide pools and in the mountains in California. When I was a teenager, widespread environmental consciousness was coming into being and I attended a big event during the first-ever Earth Day. I also had a teacher in 9th grade who started a student club called ‘Protect Your Environment’ that I joined.”
Luftglass decided to put his knowledge and passion for the environment to use by writing a book. “I spent about 10 years in the ‘natural gas fuels’ business and thought that it was an important area that didn’t get a lot of attention, unlike electric vehicles, which was a popular topic because of champions like Elon Musk,” he says. He realized by working in the natural gas fuels business and in others, that important changes don’t just happen, but they do so because of the actions of individuals who are willing to take chances. He wanted to tell the stories of risk takers through the lens of the natural gas fuels business.
To a great degree, his whole career has involved writing in order to communicate concepts. “I just figured I had this book in me and wanted to get it out,” says Luftglass. He wanted to write a book that was very personality-driven and he had originally planned to frame it around a few key individuals, writing about each of them in great depth. He used the books of Michael Lewis as a template. However, he faced a couple of challenges. The first was that writing in the detail he originally planned to about these key individuals would possibly disclose too many personal details about them. He worried it would be professionally damaging for everyone involved. He also didn’t want to expose himself to the threat of lawsuits, which is why he kept discussions about individuals at a superficial level.
Luftglass wrote most of the book during the winter and spring of 2014. Most days he would go skiing in the morning, then ditch his friends and hunker down to write. He had originally planned to write a book that was at least 60,000 words and to write 1,000 words per day. However, only about 500 words would come out on most days and he didn’t want to push it. When he felt he had the book he wanted, it was only about 36,000 words. However, he was pleased with the final product.
Along with being an author, Luftglass is also a successful business consultant. He came to be successful by building up his credibility over many years of working in various areas of business. He says, “It has been very important to whatever success I’ve had to have a handful of people who know me well and are willing to hire me over and over or to refer me to their acquaintances.” According to Luftglass, it is very hard to free-lance in most businesses. He postulates, “It’s probably important to have a few clients who value you deeply rather than try to cast a broad net out to many prospective clients. Obviously, know your stuff and if you don’t know it, then be prepared to learn it fast!” He believes when you’re beginning your career and want to build up your own credibility or self-brand, the most important thing is to know yourself deeply, including your strengths and limitations. Luftglass advises to “be scrupulous and humble, and focus, focus, focus on what you can do better than others. Be prepared to give away a lot of free thinking, but balance that by not letting yourself get taken advantage of.”