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


Unfit: A Memo

By on Dec 9, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

TO: DJT, POTUS FROM: Ken Goldstein, Author & Businessperson RE: The Trump Legacy SUMMARY ASSESSMENT: You were unfit to hold the title of the executive office you won in election. You were unfit to issue executive orders empty of study and laden with self-interest. You were unfit to appoint cabinet officials whose job it is to challenge your opinions. You were unfit to seek loyalty from the subordinates you bullied. You were unfit to be seen as a role model by children in homes and classrooms. You were unfit to talk of family values, ethical mandates, or moral imperatives. You were unfit to order military action or report on its efficacy. You were unfit to lay a wreath at Arlington. You were unfit to represent our nation in state visits or international forums. You were unfit to offer comment on science, health, or climate change. You were unfit to speak of business norms or effective negotiation. You were unfit to hold authority in the age of “Me Too” reform. You were unfit to broadly attack our free press as perpetrators of fake news. You were unfit to demand intellectual credibility when you lied consistently without regret. You were unfit to be taken seriously as anything other than a threat to world stability and security. You were unfit to embrace the gravitas of the immense power you commanded and the lack of humility you celebrated. CORRECTIVE ACTION: We will heal while you are mired for the rest of your years in shame. We will recommit to values that embrace compassion and empathy. We will again celebrate learning and understanding, particularly in matters of science and empirical knowledge. We will rejoin the community of nations in saving our planet. We will address income inequality. We will recommit to healthcare justice. We will acknowledge the safe haven of asylum and treat immigrants with dignity and kindness. We will welcome the stranger. We will not viciously insult distinguished participants in our democracy whose views reflect diversity of thought or background. We will not embrace humiliation as a strategy to undermine those with whom we may disagree. We will appreciate journalism and distinguish facts from dangerous manipulation. We will reject the cynicism of pattern...

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The Study of Philosophy

By on Nov 4, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

With all of the ways one could spend four years in college, why would anyone study philosophy? It’s impractical. It’s largely self-serving. Given the vast syllabus of reading necessary to be even modestly well versed in both Eastern and Western thought, there is terribly little material one can cover in such a short amount of time. It makes no sense to absorb oneself in such an esoteric endeavor with such thin coverage and so little quantifiable value. It’s an expensive way to squander time, and even harder to explain to those helping pay for it. Yet I did it, albeit about three and a half decades ago. Truth be told, I still spend unreasonable amounts of time delving into such curious texts as Kierkegaard’s Either/Or and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Why? Why Then and Why Now are two different things. Let me try to begin with a justification, and then tell you how it has helped me to be better in business, better in service, better in life. Philosophy is mostly about reading literature, but not the fun stuff. It’s mostly non-fiction, and it’s mostly argued opinion, if not conjecture. There is some history and an occasional parable, but mostly it’s very dense expository in translation. Occasionally you get to drill into something quirky and theatrical like Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, but that’s a tangent, not core curriculum. I mostly focused on the Western canon, so that means works originally composed in Latin, Greek, German, French, and Russian. The translations are often as head-scratching as the source texts. From the middle ages to the Renaissance in Western philosophy, there is little differentiation between theology and philosophy, so if you don’t want to read about God, this is probably not going to be your thing. You can reject faith later as is often the tradition in modern existentialism, but you have to read a lot about it to reject it comprehensively. Faith is a subject of mainstream devotion and much conflict in our culture. It’s worth learning about it, regardless of what you choose to believe. The tension in philosophy between quantifying the physical world and attempting to explain metaphysics is persistent and unresolved. Logical argument as a discipline embraces mathematics until...

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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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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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