• Michael Edmondson

How often are you honest with yourself?


Today is November 23 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How often are you so honest with yourself?”

People who navigate the chaos have a tendency to be extremely honest with themselves.

Doing so, however, often requires courage. If you are honest with yourself it usually requires you to have some level of comfort with who are you.

Two such examples of people who were honest with themselves are baseball player Stan Musial and historian Robert Caro.

One such example comes from baseball legend Stan Musial,

Towards the end of his career, Musial, one of the greatest baseball players ever, had his worst season as a professional, hitting seventy-six points below his career average.

Musial then went to the general manager of his team and asked for a twenty-per-cent pay cut from his salary of a hundred thousand dollars.

When prompted as to why he did that Musial simply responded: “There wasn’t anything noble about it. I had a lousy year. I didn’t deserve the money. The Cardinals have been generous to me the past few years, so I thought I’d be kind to them."

Would you have been as honest with yourself as Musial?

Another example of being honest with yourself comes from the field of history and award winning author Robert Caro.

In the early 1960s Robert Caro worked as an investigative reporter with the Long Island newspaper Newsday for six years.

One of the articles he wrote was a long series about why a proposed bridge across Long Island Sound from Rye to Oyster Bay, championed by Robert Moses, would have been inadvisable, requiring piers so large it would disrupt tidal flows in the sound, among other problems.

Caro believed that his work had influenced even the state's powerful governor Nelson Rockefeller to reconsider the idea, until he saw the state's Assembly vote overwhelmingly to pass a preliminary measure for the bridge. Years later, Caro would reflect back on that moment when he first recognized the power of Robert Moses:

"That was one of the transformational moments of my life.”I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself: ''Everything you've been doing is baloney. You've been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here's a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don't have the slightest idea how he got it.''"

Caro spent the academic year of 1965–1966 as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. During a class on urban planning and land use, the experience of watching Moses returned to him.

"They were talking one day about highways and where they got built...and here were these mathematical formulas about traffic density and population density and so on, and all of a sudden I said to myself: "This is completely wrong. This isn't why highways get built. Highways get built because Robert Moses wants them built there. If you don't find out and explain to people where Robert Moses gets his power, then everything else you do is going to be dishonest."

He found that despite Moses' illustrious career, no biography had been written and decided to undertake the task himself. He expected it would take nine months to complete, but instead it took him seven years until 1974.

During those years he ran out of money and despaired of ever finishing it. Ina, his wife and research assistant, sold the family home on Long Island and moved the Caros to an apartment in the Bronx where she had taken a teaching job, so that her husband could continue.

In 1974, sever years after starting his research into Robert Moses, Caro published The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

Caro's final manuscript ran to about 1,050,000 words. Editor Robert Gottlieb told him that the maximum possible length of a trade book was about 700,000 words, or 1,280 pages. When Caro asked about splitting the book into two volumes, Gottlieb replied that he "might get people interested in Robert Moses once. I could never get them interested in him twice."

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1974, as well as the Francis Parkman Prize awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best "exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist."

Being honest with himself led Caro to spend seven years writing an award winning book about one of the most powerful figures in recent American history.

#StanMusial #baseball #honesty #selfawareness #RobertMoses #RobertCaro #historian #author

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