Happy No-Drama Thanksgiving!

Awakening on a holiday is a special feeling, with the anticipation of seeing family and friends. The smell of baked goods is in the air from last night, and soon the smell of turkey, gravy, and all of our favorite dishes will permeate the air. What permeates the air matters. What is in the air at your Thanksgiving gathering? Will it be harmony or strife? Joy or anger? During the Civil War, families were divided by their beliefs in what was or was not right. Brothers fought brothers. Some families lost all of their sons to the war. Tough Holidays Though I have fond memories, Thanksgiving in our house was occasionally unpleasant. Someone would speak up and criticize the ideals of others, and the joy-filled gathering we’d all looked forward to would be turned into a day we could not wait to be over. Because we were together, sometimes after not seeing one another for months, it became the time for people to express their passionate ideals and to be critical of others with whom they disagreed. Rarely did it end well. Someone would throw a fit, walk out early, or act out in anger. Blowing My Cool How did


Become as Big as Possible

I feel so blessed to stare out my window this morning and see the brilliance of color splashed on the trees in the back of the property, the distant gray-blue hills, and the twinkle of light kissing the slightly moving leaves. Sleepily I shuffle across the porch, hot coffee in hand, shoeless, and my ears are treated to the sounds of Sunday morning as I open the door. A distant lawnmower from a neighbor, the faraway harmony of a train horn, and the sounds of notes coming from tiny beaks. But how do tiny beaks become big birds? How do we as mere mortals become mega-mortals, or giants? How does one become the top in one’s field? How do people become wealthy or highly accomplished? There is no easy answer, but I can share some clues. It starts with work ethic. No one I’ve ever met that at the top had it easy. Outworking everyone else is the starting point. You have to be willing to do everything, and work harder than anyone you know, and have the ability to sustain a high level of work for decades, even after your success begins. Next on the list is passion, desire,


Finding Yourself Through Others

In the distance, as I sit on this old porch, I can hear the hum of a train whistle, a million miles away. It is barely audible, yet there is something so soothing about that sound. Somehow it brings me back to a better time, a time when I was a kid, and we would actually take locomotives to Chicago. In fact, trains became a part of my life in many ways. We always had a train set around the Christmas tree (still do), and my best friend was a “railfan” who had his entire basement filled with a giant train town, with multiple tracks. We would put our puffy striped train hats on and play with his trains for hours. Once we had our driver’s licenses, we would drive to intersections at certain times to watch trains pass, and we would walk tracks just to be closer to the train world. Clackity-Clack One day, my friend Charlie called and said, “Let’s go, we’re going up to the train in Angola,” which was about an hour north of us. He had been part of a team that found an old train in Tennessee and managed to ship it to Indiana,


Overcoming Your Self-Talk

Cool breezes and the sounds of distant birds flow through my open windows as I awaken, looking out the window at the orange sun splashing the twisted oaks. Late October here is what I always refer to as “California Weather,” meaning darned near perfect. Early Sunday mornings are a gift, as few are on the roads and the quiet is refreshing. All I hear is the sputter of a small airplane overhead. I love airplanes. I suppose it goes back to when I was a small child. My mom would take us to Baer Field to watch airplanes land or take off, usually when my dad was traveling. We always went to the airport to see him off. Dad became a pilot at 14 and would take us kids to airports to hang out with his pilot friends, so I have a special feeling when I go to small airports. Up in the Sky All Alone Following in my dad’s footsteps, I learned to fly and did my first solos at age 19, but I had a mild mishap on landing one time. I was coming in for a landing when the wind shifted direction by 180 degrees and started


The Secret to All Success

As I sit on the red cushions of the old wicker couch on this long Texas porch, the heat of the cushions feels great on my travel-weary back. My sleepy eyes are squinting at the intensity of the morning light, which is casting a yellow glow on the side of my art studio in the back of the property. The dogs keep jumping up on my lap, then leaping off to chase squirrels. I’m happy to be home after four months away in the Adirondacks. Life of Regret Recently I had a discussion with a friend who has lived a life of regret. In fact, he was sad and pathetic because every time we meet, he tells me about all the things he could have done but was too afraid to do. He was tremendously talented, but his fear of failure destroyed his life. Instead of using his amazing talents in Hollywood, he locked himself in his house for 30 years after he did not get a job he felt he deserved. Stuck in the Mud We all have experiences we regret, and many of us struggle with clinical depression, but every time I talked with my friend over many



Little ThingsIf I listen closely, I can hear an orchestra of a million small raindrops falling on the leaves of the deep green forest behind me. A small drizzle makes a huge impact when multiplied.These forests are rejuvenated with tens of thousands of massive trees, reaching into the sky, too high for me to reach and certainly to climb, yet our ancestors here had cleared these forests just a hundred years before.Small seeds falling in big winds replanted over a million bare acres of beauty, now preserved forever wild in this Adirondack park. Little Can Be BigWhether seedlings, small winds, or tiny droplets, small things can make a big difference. A giant ship in a hurricane-force wind among huge waves can change course to a new direction with a captain's slight touch on a small wheel controlling the rudder. A small board can lift a large load with a fulcrum in the right place. A large load is lifted by a small pulley system. Huge forest fires are started by small sparks.Where in your life have small things made a big impact?For me, small words motivated massive action, resulting in a lifetime career. When I asked my 14-year-old self what I


What Would You REALLY Do?

I feel like I’m inside a cloud. It's dark, gray, chilly, and I can see very little definition in the clouds in the sky. Drizzle taps lightly on the roof in a slow, repetitive pattern, and the lake is calm other than an occasional ripple from the loons, who are packing their bags in preparation for their southern journey. Hot lemon and sage tea fills my old metal camping cup as I snuggle with the dogs and an old green-and-red-striped Pendleton blanket. I hope sunshine and warmth return for just a few more weeks before my artists’ retreat here in the Adirondacks and our return to Texas. Flashbacks have frequented my frontal cortex because of the huge number of old photos I found when emptying my dad’s place, which is now officially someone else’s summer home. I had forgotten how much I forgot, including a picture of me at the FBI. A Visit to the FBI As a kid about 12 or 13, I wanted nothing more than to become an FBI agent, which was glorified by the TV show called The FBI with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. My friend Randy and I started our own FBI club (there were just


Clinging to Memories

One of the most devastating moments of my life was when my grandparents’ house was sold. If I’d had the money at the time, I would have bought it to keep it in the family. But of course, with time and perspective, keeping the house would have served no purpose; it was not needed and it might even have become a burden, dealing with renters, or with repairs if left empty. Clinging to the house was purely wanting to cling to the memories of times in the house with my grandparents. On My Knees About 11 years ago, my dad announced to us that he was going to be selling his lake home. I had fallen in love with the lake and tried to spend all summer there when possible. My kids have spent every summer of their lives in that house. Therefore it was my hope to keep the house in the family for generations to come. I can remember even praying that I could make enough money and find a way to keep it so he did not have to sell. But he was never really very serious about selling it, or he would have put a price


Being Ready for the Unexpected

My eyes opened this morning to a new scene — at least, new since June. Twisted oaks, high grasses, all being baked in the hot Texas sun, unlike the most squishy moss-covered grass in the Adirondacks. My tender toes burn as I hit the deck outside and hop rapidly to my old brown wicker couch. A bead of sweat hits my forehead and rolls down my nose like a rogue rollercoaster. I’m simply not used to summer in Texas. The cool Adirondacks have spoiled me.  I came here to host my Pastel Live conference, which ended last night, and today, as soon as we can get on the road, I’ll drive my daughter to her second year of college and the first “in-person” year she will have. Laurie and I thought we were empty-nesters last fall when school began, but alas, Zoom classes are easier from home than from a 10” x 10” cinder block dorm room, and the food is better. I’ll return to the Adirondacks for summer and fall tomorrow and we’ll try this empty nest thing one more time. Tragedy Between segments at my event, I’ve been glued to my screens, watching in horror as we all


Conquering Anxiety and Fear

Tossing and turning from the sweltering heat and the bright sun blasting a furnace of light through the windows, I hop out of my otherwise coży bed, make my way to the coffeemaker in the kitchen, and head to the dock to sip my wakeup juice. Alas, it’s so hot, I slip my bare legs into the water to cool the lower half of my body. When I’m done writing this (assuming I don’t drop my tablet into the drink), I’ll take a swim. Though this has been the rainiest I can remember in three decades of summer life in the Adirondacks, the few warm summer days have been glorious and made up for the rain. Spare time has found me flat-out on the dock absorbing the sun’s rays, painting in my little wooden electric boat (though never enough), and sitting with a few visiting friends. And like all summers, all good things will come to an end.  This week I’ll slip away, head to Austin to host my newest online art conference, and then make my way back for a few more glorious weeks. When I return my kids will be off to college, though they are understandably anxious


Pull the Trigger

Pine cones and little rocks stick in my bare feet as I make my way down to the old wooden dock at the water's edge. Reflected pine trees and blue sky are so mirror-like that if I took a photo and turned it upside down, you would swear you were looking at the real thing. In the distance I hear the sputter of an old outboard motor on a small metal fishing boat, and I can see the glow of a red hat about a half mile from the dock.  The 100-year-old wooden Adirondack chair, which has been baking in the morning light, warms my back as I lie against it. Today is the perfect lake day, calling me to some kayaking into the grassy bogs. I’m in my happy place, and if it were not for that evil snow and 30 below weather, I’d be here year round. I’m on a quest to find a winter equal to this lake paradise where we plant ourselves each summer. Sweet Times I feel blessed to be able to be here and to pick and choose most of my living circumstances. As every summer ends and we’re set to return home, we


The Storm of Life

The old green hammock sways gently between two old-growth white pine trees, a puddle of water and reddish pine needles in its middle. As I exit the house, the wet ground cover of deep green moss squishes like a thick carpet under my feet. In the combination of smoke from fires in the west and moisture from last night's storm, the distant trees are a mustard bluish gray. The deep red geraniums in the flower boxes along the dock are worn and leggy from swimming in too much water. This is the second-rainiest summer I can remember. The few sunny days are like Christmas presents. We look forward to them and cherish them as special days to get out for a warm, sun-drenched canoe ride. Needles on My Face My attitude about rain may be unique around here. Family members and locals have been complaining about all the rain. Though I can appreciate the desire for sunshine, I love the rain. Living essentially on an island and commuting by boat for groceries and packages, we’ve learned to accept it for what it is and plow forward. Just yesterday raindrops were hitting my face like needles as I sped across, trying


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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