I’ve met a lot of writers who write with the expectation that one day their labor will pay off. While the thought of future success is often a great short-term motivator, you’re likely to eventually be disappointed.
I wrote Crosley because I didn’t want the lives of my great uncle and my grandfather to go undocumented. My desire to pay tribute to the family I’m immensely proud of was enough motivation for me to write. I never imagined the book would become a bestseller.
I was, and continue to be, surprised by the number of readers who care enough to read about my family and learn from them.
Success isn’t typical. If you’ve got a story to tell, and gumption enough to actually write it, that has to be motivation enough. The finished product is your reward, anything that comes of it is just a bonus.
I wrote Crosley and Coral Castle to give my readers insight into people from the past who I thought were extraordinary. These books tell the stories of Ed Leedskalnin and the Crosley brothers through meticulously gathered research and facts.
After learning so much about these three men, I decided I wanted them to be a part of my next book.
Cincinnatus also features Ed and the Crosley brothers, but this time in a work of fiction. The versions of Ed Leedskalnin, Powel Crosley, Jr. and Lewis Crosley that appear in Cincinnatus are characters, but I crafted them from what I’d learned about their actual personalities. The interactions they have with each other in the book are purely fictional, but I wrote their encounters imagining how the men would actually react.
Writing the true account of these men’s lives gave me the insight and inspiration to write them into their next adventure. Crosley and Coral Castle tell the stories of the Crosley brothers and Ed Leedskalnin as they really lived, but Cincinnatus allows them to live on in a new story.
Recognition usually doesn’t come quickly for positive accomplishments. While celebrity goings on are plastered on the front of magazines and webpages, the good deeds of the average person mostly go unnoticed.
I admire those who aren’t fueled by acknowledgment.
Although the Crosley brothers eventually attained notoriety, they worked humbly for many years preceding their fame. Thousands of people now know of Coral Castle and Ed Leedskalnin, but Ed died before his creation got much attention outside of Homestead, Florida.
If these men relied on encouragement, Coral Castle and the Crosley brothers’ business empire wouldn’t exist.
Lots of people work hard for recognition. Few can work hard without it.
When the Crosley brothers were young, they watched their father lose his wealth in the Panic of 1893. Their home and their possessions were auctioned off, and the Crosley family moved north.
Powel Crosley, Sr. eventually regained his former financial status, but Powel, Jr. was still raised to work for everything he wanted.
Like his father taught him, Powel, Jr. worked hard through setbacks and losses, discouragement and failure. When this determination eventually paid off in wealth, Powel, Jr. had no qualms about rewarding himself and his loved ones.
Pinecroft was Powel’s dream house. At 13,300 square feet, every inch of the house was built to his specifications. Although the mansion was built in the style of an old English country house, it featured some lavish modern additions.
The property features a landing strip for airplanes, an enormous garage, an Olympic style swimming pool, a short golf course, tennis courts (flooded in the winter to make an ice-rink) and a man-made lake. The list goes on and on.
Powel eventually downsized his life, selling off yachts and vacation homes around the country. Even when his lifestyle settled down, Powel never parted with Pinecroft. He lived there until he died.
Pinecroft still stands today.
Find pictures of modern-day Pinecroft here.
Wealth, power and notoriety are all fleeting.
At the height of his success, Powel Crosley owned multiple mansions, the Cincinnati Reds and a business empire. He was featured in news reports and radio broadcasts around the country.
Roughly 40 years after Powel’s death, few people recognize his name.
I wrote Crosley in part to try and change that.
From the time Powel began to garner the attention of the media, he worked to craft the public persona of a powerful businessman. Crosley isn’t the story Powel would have told. The book contains many of the failures and flaws he omitted.
The success of Crosley surprised me, but I think it would have surprised Powel Crosley even more. The same stories he tried so hard to hide, are now the very thing keeping his legacy alive.
When the Crosley brothers began to get famous, the national press ran story after story informing the public of their innovations.
In 1924, Powel Crosley had his picture taken, his life story recorded and his words broadcast to the nation. Unfortunately, not everything printed and quoted was accurate.
In this case, it wasn’t the journalists who were embellishing stories and editing the truth. It was Powel.
With great success comes pressure to be great. Powel wanted complete control over the image he presented to his customers and his investors. He censored parts of his life he saw as failures, even though those moments said the most about his character.
Instead of showing his determination through his flaws, he tried to craft an image of a flawless businessman. In his desire to create a powerful image, he alienated himself from the market he was serving. He moved farther away from the everyday, flawed people who purchased his products.
Powel Crosley is known for his business empire, his inventions and his wealth, but I admire him for the one thing he chose to hide- his determination.
Long-term dedication is hard.
It’s easy to be committed to something at first. No task seems too daunting when you’re fueled by the excitement of starting something new. But after awhile, that newness wears off and you’re left with work. Hard, tiring, uninspiring work.
This is when most people give up.
The local people of Homestead, Florida thought Ed Leedskalnin was a little crazy to dedicate his life to building Coral Castle. The Crosley brothers failed over and over before they finally achieved success.
Ed, Powel and Lewis never gave up.
The Crosley brothers were just as committed to their dream during failures as they were at the height of their success. Ed kept Coral Castle going even though it didn’t attract his lost love like he’d hoped. All three men were committed to turning their ambitions into reality.
Dedication isn’t easy, it isn’t fun and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.
That’s what makes it admirable.
In April of 1906, Powel Crosley, Jr. failed out of engineering school.
He used $10,000 in investment money loaned to him by his father and his father’s friends, and started The Marathon Motor Car Company. One year later, Powel’s new company became a casualty in the Panic of 1907. The stock market crashed and the investment money was gone.
Powel went from president of his own company to cleaning cars in another man’s dealership. Even if he had to start back at the bottom, Powel was determined to work in an environment where he could be a part of the growing auto industry.
In 1911, Powel went to every man he knew in the car industry, hoping to secure a spot in the first ever Indianapolis 500. With no one willing to back him, Powel watched the race from the stands.
When Powel first met his wife Gwendolyn, he promised her she would one day have a Rolls Royce and a fur coat. With an infant son to support and more than a few failures so far, 25 year old Powel Crosley was under pressure to make something happen.
Still, he refused to abandon the ideas he’d been working on since he was a child.
It didn’t get easier, but Powel’s dogged perseverance kept him pushing through disappointments right up to his eventual success.
Even after he established a business empire, Powel worked just as hard as he had when he was 20.
After so many years of starting at the bottom, he knew what it took to stay at the top.
Growing up watching his father labor over hot tobacco fields, Powel Crosley read the Cincinnati Gazette and dreamed of life in the Ohio metropolis.
He read about Civil War industries like foundries and munitions plants. He read about gaslights and libraries, restaurants and bookstores.
Powel Crosley imagined all of these things he had never seen, and became determined to grow with the urban frontier.
At that time, education beyond a basic understanding of reading, writing and math was considered unnecessary for a farmer’s child. Helping in the field and on the farm was more important than spending time reading books.
Powel Crosley didn’t stop learning.
He was one of the first students to attend Springboro’s new high school, finally leaving his hometown to become a teacher. At 21, he was principal of the Clarksville, Ohio school district.
Eventually, Powel Crosley would have two sons-Powel Crosley, Jr., and Lewis Crosley.
Powel Crosley, Sr. imparted to his two sons the most important thing he had learned in a life dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge-
You never, ever quit.
Judging by the history books, the Crosley brothers listened to their father.
In August of 1899, Powel Crosley had an idea for a car.
At thirteen, gathering materials to build a prototype wasn’t going to be easy. His father was skeptical and offered no assistance to his son. (Although he did promise a ten dollar reward if the car could run a block.)
Powel enlisted the help and savings of his younger brother, Lewis. The pair roamed around Cincinnati, OH to gather the parts Powel had designed.
After a few weeks of hard work and false starts, Lewis drove their newly invented vehicle down the block. The rest is history.
The Crosley brothers didn’t stop at a good idea. They didn’t let doubt, lack of money or the frustration of trial and error convince them to give up.
If you have a good idea, and you’re lucky enough to know it’s a good idea, don’t hesitate, don’t procrastinate and don’t quit.
If the Crosley brothers had given up all those years ago you’d probably be reading about someone else right now.
Good ideas are everywhere, but what good are they if you never act on them?