It’s a good thing everyone’s so narcissistic and self-obsessed these day; it’s so much easier for me to blend in and appear normal.
If you’re wondering what brought that up, I was checking out some of the negative reviews of my book. One reviewer called it, “A paean to himself.” I had to look it up; it means “A work that praises or honors its subject. Another wrote, “Wow. This should have been titled, ‘The Real Ego of Steve Tobak.’” Pithy, right?
Thankfully these were few and far between. If they were prevalent I’m not sure my fragile ego could take it. JK. Actually I have pretty thick skin. Besides, it’s important to get honest feedback on your work, good and bad. It’s surprising how “on the money” most of it was, except for one guy who’s clearly a raving socialist.
One of the gripes I did find perplexing, however, is that the book has a preponderance of anecdotal stories, most of which come from my own personal experience. Well, duh. What more can I offer than genuine experience working with real entrepreneurs and executives in the real business world? What’s more valuable than first-person experience from a guy who was actually in the boardroom?
Here’s the thing. English may be my first language but writing is not my first career. I haven’t been at it for very long and it’s definitely a work in progress. And while I continue to grow as a writer (one can only hope), my value proposition has always been observations, insights, and entertainment from real world experience. My experience.
Speaking of which, there’s a particularly instructive and perhaps endearing untold story about how I ended up spending my days in a lounge chair with a computer on my lap.
To say I’ve been an avid reader my entire life is like saying Warren Buffet likes to invest or Bill Gates likes to code. It’s sort of my thing.
From the moment I could read, my folks indulged me with an endless stream of How and Why Wonder Books to feed my insatiable curiosity and keep me from driving them nuts with perplexing questions like “Why is the sky is blue?” and “Where did the dinosaurs go?”
After that came countless science and science fiction books. Week after week, I’d walk out of the library with stack after stack, as many as I could carry, and spend all my time devouring them when I wasn’t at school or playing with friends.
Over the decades I’ve graduated from one genre and author to the next: From Robert Ludlum and John Grisham to Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. From Plato and Tolstoy to Vonnegut and Crichton. From Stephen King and Clive Barker to J.D. Salinger and Ayn Rand. From Bradbury and Asimov to Heinlein and Herbert. From Mark Helprin and Michael Chabon to Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson.
Together with music, books became my escape from the angst and anxiety of growing up, the chaos of a dysfunctional family, the turbulence and violence of the streets of New York, and later on, the stresses of climbing the corporate ladder and carrying the responsibility of a senior executive.
Over the years, books became my sanctuary. They kept me sane. And in a very real sense, they were my salvation.
In retrospect, it’s apparent that I’ve somehow managed to romanticize – no, probably fetishize is a better word – the writing profession. And while I was not the slightest bit aware of that, looking back on it, I can’t really understand how I might have missed it.
And when I finally quit the corporate world after 23 years in the high-tech industry, a seed began to sprout. A dozen years later, here we are. If you’re wondering what’s next, join the club. I’m sort of wondering the same thing. But I do have two or three book projects in mind; we’ll have to see which one germinates.
I said this would be instructive for a reason. Like me, you may have a passion growing inside you, whether you’re aware of it or not. Don’t be impetuous; timing is important with this sort of thing. Writing, for example, is not a lucrative profession. And it helps to have experience to draw from, even if some don’t get why that’s relevant as opposed to egotistical.
The point is, had I put the cart ahead of the horse, I’d probably be just another starving writer. Good thing I didn’t. Everything happens for a reason and in good time.