Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

Posts by goldsteinadmin

From Nothing: Reflections from the Road

By on Oct 7, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

One of the rare joys of being a writer is getting to talk about your work. One of the even rarer joys is getting to talk about the same work more than once because it is being published in a new format. From Nothing, my third novel published by The Story Plant, allows me that joy with the paperback release on October 7, 2019. It’s two generous bites of the apple, separated by over a year of contemplation, during which I got to hear from readers on how this story impacted their lives. It’s a privilege to reflect on how I intended the troubled journey of Victor Selo to stir emotion, and how that was played back to me by my cherished readers. Perhaps an appropriate context for this is leaning on some of the lyrics I borrowed for inspiration and attempting to tie them back to many of the comments shared with me at readings, in reviews, and in letters sent my way. Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream … That’s The Beatles, and they are everywhere in this tale. Probably the first thing people discover about Victor is that he is anything but relaxed. Life events just don’t afford him that luxury. Yet readers clearly made the connection between the invisible forks in the road chosen by Victor and the intense downstream consequences or results of their own unpredictable resolutions to unseeable moments of fate. I found that I am not alone in boiling down my life to five or six key choices that I wasn’t necessarily aware were determinations of my ultimate twists and turns until decades after those quiet tests were unmasked. I have found great moments of connection in hearing readers see the fickle outcomes of their paths in the eyes of a character who is a stranger to their circumstances while a mirror for the task of connecting their own dots. We are stardust, we are golden … That’s Joni Mitchell, celebrated forever by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It has been hard to escape this refrain with all the milestone anniversary hoopla around Woodstock, but readers seemed to understand that nostalgia wasn’t a theme I wanted to explore. My devotion...

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Opinions That Matter

By on Sep 19, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Be cautious with the advice you seek. Be more cautious with the advice you offer. I enjoy and appreciate seeking business input from all kinds of people on all kinds of topics, but lately, I’m noticing that much of what people offer is too off the cuff. I usually know a problematic opinion is coming my way when I spend several minutes framing the complexity of a souring issue, and the assessment I receive is preceded by this phrase: “Why don’t you just…” That warning prelude is often followed by a very simple response in a sentence or fragment encompassing very few words. Some examples of confounding suggestions: “Why don’t you just reduce your overhead?” “Why don’t you just hire someone else?” “Why don’t you just find a new supplier?” “Why don’t you just change the value proposition to your customer?” “Why don’t you just worry less about your brand?” All of these phrases were spoken in earnest, in a neutral tone without any particular agenda or adversarial intention. I said my thing and they said theirs. There’s another warning sign that preceded these suggestions—the words were delivered quite quickly, the “Why” being initiated almost instantly on the period ending my lead-in sentence. There is a word to describe this kind of give and take. It would best be described as “conversation.” It could also be described as “bar talk.” There’s nothing wrong with conversation or bar talk, as long as we realize that’s what it is. Banter is entertainment, not problem-solving. Words that pass the time are not thoughtful solutions. In matters of consequence, I find chit-chat troubling traveling in both directions. The easiest response to a “Why don’t you just…” suggestion is probably the obvious: “Uh, yeah, we thought about that and ruled it out… months ago.” A less polite response might be: “Buddy, can you take this discussion a bit more seriously?” If you are in a bar in the midst of bar talk with someone who has been drinking a few hours, be careful in selecting that response, or at least judicious in the tone you use to convey it. The lack of thoughtfulness in idea-sharing may come down to a matter of confidence and...

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Are Americans Happy?

By on Aug 16, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Uber drivers can surprise you. They can shake up your thinking. They can get you to pause and reflect differently on the day. A recent early-morning haul with an Uber driver to what I knew would be a long and unpleasant meeting did just that for me. The driver was an Ethiopian immigrant who had been in the United States for about a decade. He and his wife had come here for a better life. His two children were born here. At first he was quiet, presuming I didn’t want any conversation at this hour. When the freeway traffic slowed our progress, I started to draw him out a bit. I was glad I did. His basic sense was that America was filled with unlimited opportunities for anyone who wanted to work hard and apply themselves. The ability to make money here—legally and with relatively few logistical obstacles—was virtually unlimited. He actually loved being an Uber driver the past five years. He had control over his time, could spend time with his family, and while the income he earned was modest by American standards, he felt good about the quality of life it allowed him compared with his earlier years in Ethiopia, where money and opportunity were scarce. What he didn’t understand was why so few Americans he met were happy. To the contrary, he found most of the Americans he encountered unhappy. The people who rode in his car, no matter how well dressed or where they were going, largely seemed unhappy. The people he saw shopping in WalMart, with all the abundant product offerings on the shelf at such low prices, seemed mostly unhappy. When he took his children to school, which was free, most of the children and parents he encountered seemed unhappy. He wondered why. While he wouldn’t trade his life in America for any chance at a permanent return to Ethiopia, he shared that in his younger years, whenever he walked down the road, he would smile broadly and wave hello to everyone he passed, known to him or not. He said he tried that when he initially came to this country, but people looked at him like he was mentally unbalanced, so he...

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Paul

By on Jul 24, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

I keep thinking I’m going to run out of things to write about The Beatles. I keep proving that notion wrong, at least to myself. I recently enjoyed the final night of Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up Tour. He played to about 50,000 fans at a sold-out Dodger Stadium, where I last saw him five years ago. In fact, I included the setlist of that previous concert in the appendix of my second book, Endless Encores. My key observation then was that Paul was as committed to his new music as he was to his historic catalog. That is what has allowed him not only to stay in the game for six decades, but to remain at the top of his own game—that constant hunger for reinvention. That is what has made him not just an artist, but a legend. I had a new observation this time, partly about us, and partly about much more than us. We are aging through time. These songs are becoming a constant. Our memories are a snapshot in time. These songs bridge those snapshots. We are temporal, driving the arcs of our lives. These songs are a continuum. We will not be here forever. These songs could be. These songs are ours to enjoy, but they don’t belong to us. They don’t even belong to Paul or The Beatles. They belong to the world. These songs are universal. They bring us together. They make us happy. They make us remember. We connect the dots of our life’s timelines from song to song, and in the moment of a single song played back at various points throughout those long and winding roads. I remember first listening to “Sgt. Pepper” as a child and it takes me back to the record store where I bought the album. I remember first listening to “Band on the Run” as an adolescent and I am back in the hallways of school. I remember first listening to “Here Today” and I am transported to that sad December day when I was in college and John was murdered. Each song fixes a moment in time that is never erased. Sometimes these moments get back-burnered for a while, but then the associated...

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A Gathering of Nothingburgers

By on Jun 24, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Shortly before my latest college reunion, one of my classmates wrote on our class Facebook page that she partially dreaded attending the milestone gathering out of fear it might cause her to feel she was somehow a nothingburger. Imagine that! Anyone else feel this way? Perhaps a truer question might be: Who hasn’t compared themselves to others and come up short? The real question is why at our age would it matter at all. Were I to enunciate the personal and career accomplishments of this particular individual, I can assure you of all the descriptors I might be able to call upon to describe her, the term nothingburger would miss the target by at least a solar orbit. Yet that doesn’t matter. She felt it, and following her enunciation, several dozen others shared the same sentiments. When I tell you these are highly accomplished people, I am not strictly speaking to their landmark achievements. I am speaking to their voices. I am speaking to their self-reflection. I am speaking to their commitment to family, friends, and strangers. I am speaking to their character. Someone on that Facebook thread also suggested that most of the truly important and successful people in our class don’t bother to come to our reunions. I guess that would put us into a debate of what constitutes importance and success. For me, this argument would quickly devolve into the equivalent of a left-leaning politico trying to convince a right-wing politico of their unfounded opinions, and vice versa. I don’t want to debate the definitions of importance or success, nor do I wish to admit by virtue of traveling to see some of the most interesting people ever to grace my life that I am somehow in a lower echelon of life progress. Let’s just say I am convinced that plenty of the most important and successful people in our class attended our reunion, and the ones who couldn’t make it or missed out will have an easy opportunity to correct this choice in slightly less than five years. So what exactly happened at this gathering of nothingburgers? There isn’t time or space in a single blog post to recap the full play-by-play of events, but...

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