25 02, 2018

Being Deliberate

2018-03-16T06:25:00+00:00

Nestled in my art studio this morning, my bare feet wrapped under a blanket, which covers me keeping the chill off. The whir of a small space heater trying to play its part. Chilled raindrops slowly and methodically pinging on the metal roof above me.

Looking at my blessings each day, my daily exercise of finding three things to be grateful for, I recall the days when painting occurred in a back bedroom with the paint smelling up the whole house, which eventually pushed me into a small corner of the garage. Countless hours were spent there bundled up in the winters and in t-shirts and shorts in the summers since there was no climate control. Yet my passion to paint overcame any inconvenience. And frankly, I know even those conditions were a luxury compared to most.

A Dream Art Studio

The dream of one day having a studio of my own, with ample space for my friends to visit and paint models on Wednesday nights, came true about seven years ago when we moved to this very spot. The little 16×20 brown clapboard cabin sits behind the house overlooking the winding oaks and distant purple hills; its porch has a fireplace to warm me on days when I move my easel there.

A Room of Memories

The tall ceiling comes to a peak, making the small space feel bigger, and every square inch of wall space is covered with framed plein air studies I’ve painted on my art retreats and fine art trips all over the world. Within view … a lighthouse and colorful trees painted on fall color week, a nocturne (night) painting done in Bruggen, a waterfall done in the Adirondacks in one of the same spots many Hudson River School painters painted, a Native American painted in Santa Fe, and a rock scene painted with my friend Joe McGurl.These and hundreds of paintings are my lifetime memories of trips, painting with friends, painting models, and living the plein air lifestyle. Unlike tens of thousands of photos, which may someday be lost on discarded hard drives, paintings are much harder to throw away. One can only hope they find good homes with my kids, grandkids, and their grandkids.

A Family Celebration

Speaking of kids, last week I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks as I searched old photos of my children at different ages so I could could post some old pictures on Facebook in celebration of their sixteenth. I had no idea the impact this momentous celebration would have on my heart; it was a sobering moment realizing that with driver’s licenses we will begin the separation process, soon to be followed by college, then the rest of life.

When I think about how little time they have in their nest, I started thinking about what lessons they still need to learn. One can only hope our own behavior and actions have left them with the tools they need for a quality life.

A Different Kind of To-Do List

I decided to make a list of traits I hope my children will adopt that will serve them well, so I can think about ways I might help them develop some of these important traits before they fly. Though the list is personal, the thing that led me to this is that lessons cannot just be random. We need to be deliberate. Though much of parenting is accidental, which is why our bad traits are also absorbed and become part of our legacy, we need to put ourselves in a position where they can observe these lessons in action.

Making a Point

An example: I recently picked out a pair of sunglasses when we were all in a store buying some things together. I handed the glasses to my wife to add to the the items she was purchasing. Because her hands were full she put them in her purse fully intending to pay for them, only to discover when we returned home that she had not paid for them. Though a return to the store was inconvenient, and though I could have phoned them to give my credit card, I piled the family into the car, made the drive, and together we went in to pay for them. The clerk was amazed and said “this never happens,” and then let us know how much they appreciated our honesty. Having the kids hear those words was important.

What They Don’t Know Can Help Them

My kids would rather sit on their screens, texting their friends, than go out on an adventure. Visits to museums are met with whining, yet usually the kids are grateful at the end of the experience. They don’t know what they don’t know; therefore it’s easier to let them stay home. But then, that isn’t good parenting.

What is on your list for your kids, grown or young, or grandkids, or nieces and nephews?  What lessons do they need to learn?

What things do they need to be exposed to in order to open their minds? What things do you need to drag them to, that they don’t want to do, that they might enjoy?

What traits have given you an advantage, which need to be instilled in your kids? What traits have hurt you along the way, which you can help them avoid?

Breaking Bread Plays a Powerful Role

When I was a child, we sat for dinner as a family every night, starting with a prayer of gratitude. Later in years, we gather as a family on Sunday nights for dinner. Everyone is welcome. I’ve come to realize that dinner is about sharing stories of our day, our lessons, and also a chance to listen. It’s something we don’t do enough of anymore. Busy lives and homework tend to lead to random meals. Yet in spite of how difficult it is to gather as a family, this is the glue that holds families together, helps them hear the stories of the past, the lessons of our day or week, and that gives us a chance to reconnect on a deeper level, and maybe help each one feel heard.

Life’s Lessons

These phases of life, monumental birthdays, play an important role reminding us of our own role, our own purpose, what we are grateful for, and what we have yet to accomplish. Though it was a week of celebration, it was also a stark reminder that time travel exists and that it’s moving fast, and though parenting lasts forever and lessons continue, we have much to get done.

What will you do this week to impart lessons to friends, family, and others, which are important for them to hear or experience?

It’s my hope that your week will be richly blessed and that new lessons are learned that we can pass to others to make them better, stronger, more resilient, and have more open and caring hearts.

Eric Rhoads

Being Deliberate 2018-03-16T06:25:00+00:00
18 02, 2018

Which Kind of Arrows Do You Shoot?

2018-02-13T13:20:08+00:00

I’m shivering — my flesh has goosebumps. Frost and shiny reflections of ice on my porch take me outside long enough to grab a couple of fallen trees for the fire to warm my skin.

Nestled away in their cozy covers, the family sleeps while I sit in my favorite recliner, one my wife found along the road. We took it down to its solid bones, adding new muscles and a fresh skin.

Snap, crackle, and pop accompany the flames, the only sounds present other than the tapping of little doggy paws on the wooden floor of this old stone Texas ranch house as Tucker, our new 11-year-old rescue, paces awaiting breakfast.

Touching Memories

Wrapped in history — an Afghan blanket knitted by my grandmother “Mema” and given to me on my 17th birthday, keeps me warm emotionally and physically. Knowing her delicate and frail hands infused each strand of yarn with her love makes me tear up when I think about how much she is missed and how much she touched my life with important lessons.

Thinking back, there are those who are in our lives, and those who touch our lives. There is a difference. Someone can be in your life for a great length of time and not leave their mark, while a brief encounter with someone else can have a profound effect.

Some impact is premeditated, some is accidental (though I’m convinced there are no real accidents).

Angel Drops

Looking through a microscope at my own history, I can point to brief moments where an impact was made by the angels dropped into the winding country road of life. Looking back, I can see moments where someone briefly appeared, dropped off a lesson at the exact right time, then departed.

I can also see times when someone kept putting the same message into my life, over and over until the timing was right for me to hear it. As I say in my Art Marketing Boot Camp, it is repetition that sells products. The same is true for lessons, especially when there are teenagers involved.

Grandmother Calling

When we were kids living at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, our phone (Kenmore 7463) would ring and Mema would say, “I just wanted you to know that Billy Graham is on TV right now on Channel 15.” She must have done it a hundred times, and though I rolled my eyes because I thought I had better things to do, she never stopped … and I miss those calls today. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the repetition helped me understand the importance of what she was trying to tell me.

At the fire I’m tending, the flames are now reduced to embers and will soon burn out. We all need to fan embers to bring new flames and new passions. It is that repetition of messages that brings out the flames. But sometimes a fire starts with only a brief spark.

These angels may have a specific lesson to give, but mostly they help others discover what is inside of themselves, and help them see things in themselves that they couldn’t see before. These angels offer encouragement, build confidence, and help us become better.

Any Life Left?

Actor Will Smith has a viral video that asks, “Are the people around you contributing to your life, making you feel better about yourself, or are they sucking the life out of you?” He asks, “With whom are you spending your time?”

Rarely do we know the impact of our words, whether they are encouraging, hopeful, sharing ideas — or snuffing out the flames.

Random Meeting

Years ago, I was visiting a radio convention and I was stopped by a man I didn’t recognize. He introduced himself, told me that we had worked together very briefly, and that I had said one thing to him in passing that had encouraged him to go out and buy his own radio station. He told me he had never considered it or believed he could do it, but my words of encouragement gave him the confidence, and today he is a station owner with several radio stations. He told me I had changed his life, yet I had not even remembered saying it.

Did you ever say something to someone and then wonder where those words came from? Something just came out of your mouth, unplanned? You just blurted it out?

Unpredictable Words

I’m convinced that we are vessels, placed in circumstances at certain times when angels are needed, and that those words that fall into our brains, unpremeditated, are placed on our lips to help people in need of those words at those times.

It probably sounds crazy. I get that. Yet the more years I’m alive, the more things I experience that I cannot begin to understand, and sometimes I believe we are the angels, or perhaps they are speaking through us.

I also think those words that come to us can be from a positive source — or a negative source. It’s like the little devil on the left shoulder and the angel on the right shoulder. Both enter our heads, and we have to have enough discernment to ask ourselves, “Are my words going to be used for good or evil?”

Sometimes our messengers help us see a bad situation that we would rather not see, rather not face. Yet negative messages, no matter how helpful, are rarely received well. This is where relationships end, especially with those who want to avoid those who snuff out their flames. It’s a delicate balance.

A Painful Letter

Several years ago, I felt the need to write a letter to a family member because I saw things going on that he did not see. They were, in my opinion, so harmful to him, and I loved him so much, that I felt he needed to know, even at the risk of losing my relationship with him, to save him from such deep pain and the coming train wreck. After I hit the send button, I knew there was no turning back. The result was not what I had expected. He did take the action recommended, but he has not spoken to me since, and years have now passed. I miss him terribly, and I’m not convinced it was worth the sacrifice of not having him in my life. Now I wonder if it would have been better for him to face the train wreck and learn the harder lesson on his own, without my pointing it out.

A well-meaning push to help someone avoid pain may seem like a good thing to do, yet pain and adversity are often what others need. Adversity is what results in growth and turning points. I had not considered that, and only hope that time will eventually heal the wounds.

Words can cut like powerful swords and create deep wounds, or they can be be like glowing bricks that build greatness in others.

Which words will you use?

What do you see in others that they do not see in themselves, and how can you help them see it?

E-Words

I’m convinced more than ever that the only kinds of words that flow from our lips should be words of love and encouragement. Yes, there are times when discipline or correction is needed, and times when someone needs to be pushed off the tracks before the train of adversity crushes them, yet it all has to be done with love and care.

I’ve also discovered that the only words that penetrate the shield of the human brain are positive words, and they sometimes have to be used to help someone discover something in themselves.

Cutting Words

Families and relationships only break because of negative words that have come from our lips, negative actions, usually in a moment of deep passion or anger. Those words never leave us and become our story. Though we all should learn the magic of forgiveness, our egos get in our way.

Words linger inside our spirits. Words bounce around inside our heads for a lifetime, and each time they bounce, they either make us feel better or feel worse. Over time the impact of those words reverberating builds us up or tears us down. I carried words that I found hurtful with me for decades, and I did not heal till I shed them and forgave the speaker of those words.

The words “I’m truly deeply sorry that I’ve hurt you, and I beg your forgiveness” can repair decades of hurt, even though they are the hardest words for us to say.

Valentine’s Day Massacre

As I write this, words I’ve spoken that have caused damage come to mind, words where forgiveness is needed. What about you? As you read this, are you realizing words that you’ve spoken that cut down others like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Are there words where you were cut down, words you allowed to hurt you? Can you forgive and move on, or make a call and try to heal the wound?

Are You Reflecting?

I’ve also realized that certain people have only negative bullets loaded in their verbal arsenal, and no matter how much we crave their love, crave for them to change, they will not. Often avoidance is best, yet sometimes it’s not possible. We cannot change others, only ourselves. Yet you can make a decision right now. Are you going to spend the rest of your life as a reflector or a deflector? When negative arrows are shot at you, do you reflect them and shoot negative arrows back? Do you let those negative arrows penetrate you? Or do you approach them with love, and simply deflect them so they don’t rule your life?

The only arrows we should carry in our quiver should be golden arrows, and when people shoot dark, negative words, we should not pick them up and put them in our own quiver.

Hurt Me, I’ll Hurt You Back

Human nature, our reptilian brain, wants to hurt others when they hurt us. It’s built into our DNA, but to evolve to a higher level, we must resist the urge to return pain. We simply need to tell ourselves that they must really be hurting, must have deep anger because someone hurt them along the way, and pray that they one day evolve to a loving and giving spirit.

It’s so natural. I can have a family member scold me or yell at me and allow it to ruin my day, and push those negative boulders downhill to others, which in turn ruins their day and makes them push the pain along even further. Eventually those boulders will build, and grow, and create damage of epic proportions, impacting hundreds of others.

Crushing Others with Your Bad Day

Or, when I’m wounded, I can stop that boulder, take a few minutes to understand what I might have done to create that anger, and not push that boulder any further. Sometimes I have to take a walk, or go out into the wilderness and let out a primal scream to stop pushing. But if I push it forward, I’m hurting others even though I’m really just trying to heal my own pain.

That’s why our words matter.

Are you pushing along negative boulders that will roll down the mountain and crush others along the way? Or are you pushing out warm sunlight that encourages and warms the soul?

How do people feel when they leave your presence?

Today, let’s practice. After all, small steps lead to big actions. So, ask yourself…

  • Who in my life needs to know I believe in them? Who can I encourage?
  • Who needs to see something in themselves that I see and they don’t see, something that will help them soar?
  • Who have I wounded who needs my sincere apology?
  • Who do I need to forgive so I can let go of the negatives inside myself?
  • Who shoots only negative arrows? Who do I need to avoid?
  • Who is there who shoots negative arrows and I can’t avoid them — but I can decide to return only positive arrows?
  • What wounds from the past am I clinging to that I need to let go of, that are getting in the way of my progress?
  • Who can I turn to that I know is always encouraging, and how can I spend more time receiving their encouragement?
  • Who desperately needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

If you think about what you’re grateful for every day, then think about three people a day you can reach out to and tell them how much you appreciate them, how much they mean to you. Or leave them with some words of encouragement. Your own life will change for the better. Before long the negative clouds will disappear from over your head and you’ll be flooded in warm sunlight.

This week, my plan is to put only positive arrows in my word quiver, even in negative circumstances. My goal is to find a way to deal with those negative circumstances with positive words. It will be harder, but it will make a massive difference in outcomes.

If you’ve read this little Sunday Coffee note this far, I am grateful for your time. I want you to know that I believe in you. Even though we may not know one another, I want you to know that your big, impossible dreams are not impossible, and that giant walls of adversity can be overcome. Even if for some reason they cannot because it’s too late, know that the words you use to change the outlook of others will change your own outlook and make the unbearable more bearable.

Imagine how your life would change if you made just one change in the type of words you use.

Warmly,

Eric Rhoads

EricRhoads.com

 

PS: If you received this because someone else has sent it to you, I do this every Sunday morning, and it can come to your inbox directly if you subscribe in the sidebar. Mark it as “important.” If ever you cannot find it, it might have ended up in a spam or promotions folder. Simply take it out and mark it as “not spam.” That will help make sure you’re seeing it. I also post it on my Facebook page each week. I hope you’ll follow me there. It’s a good place to see more pictures of our new dog, Tucker, pictures of our insanely crazy life, and a chance to interact a little more. And of course, I welcome your comments below. And I’m always flattered when people pass this along to others because they felt they might enjoy it.

Which Kind of Arrows Do You Shoot? 2018-02-13T13:20:08+00:00
11 02, 2018

When Moments Matter

2018-02-09T14:06:03+00:00

This soft Sunday morning on the back porch sees a deep and thick fog covering intense backlight from the rising sun, creating a tunnel like those in a movie scene where they “walk into the light.” Color is absent; the yard is reduced to shades of gray. Distant gnarled and twisted oak branches are silhouetted and are lighter in the distance, darker and bigger as they come close. This morning would be a good painter’s lesson on perspective, atmosphere, and values (the scale of light to dark).

The morning is nearly silent, sound dampened by dense fog. Birds gossip in stereo. The old swing hangs still and low to the ground, as if waiting for its next rider.

I’m wringing my my hands from the chill, but my mug radiates heat to warm my fingers between keyboard strokes.

Like every Sunday morning, when I try to sit quietly and give honor to my past week, today I reflect on a difficult but important moment, something over which I scoured my brain for new lessons on life. As good as these lessons were, they were hard.

A Difficult Week

Last week I mentioned that I was heading to Portland to visit my friend who had had a stroke that left him unable to speak, unable to move anything but his eyes, and those only up and down.

Upon leaving I told my wife that I was dreading this trip because I knew it would be painful for my friend and for me, yet I was looking forward to being there for him, because that’s what friends do.

Stressed About What to Say

For the entire plane ride, I ruminated about different scenarios in my mind. What do I say? How do I say it? I can’t ask questions, I can only monologue. Do I give him encouragement? Is it false hope, or can he possibly recover?

Upon arrival I was greeted by one of my other close friends, Jackson, who drove down to Portland from Seattle to support me and to be there for our friend Sean. We discussed all the approaches we might take and finally decided none of that mattered, that the only thing that mattered was showing up, being there for a friend, and his knowing we loved him enough to make the trip. All we could do was let him know we supported him, we loved him, and we believed in his ability to fight the biggest fight of his life.

A Gold Nugget Moment

My time with Sean was brief, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, because he becomes exhausted easily, and because he had to be prepared for another surgery that afternoon. And though what I said would be too personal to share here, I feel that was among the most important 20 minutes of my life, and the two days of travel for 20 minutes with him and his wife was well worth the time and the money.

What Would You Do?

I learned a lot on this trip. A lot about my friend, a lot about strokes, a lot about his wife, a lot about what happens to people in this situation, and a lot about myself. This experience made me turn inward and ask myself what I might do if I were totally lucid but trapped inside a body that couldn’t move or communicate. Ultimately, no matter how hard I try, I can’t answer that question. Though I think I would have the will and the fight to continue, it’s really impossible to know.

A Flood of Appreciation

What I do know, however, is that I felt a flood of appreciation for each breath I take, for each step, for the warmth of the sun on my face as I was walking over to the hospital, and even appreciation for every ache and pain, every word I can utter, because I know my friend cannot experience any of that.

I also realized that life boils down to brief moments.

As I take inventory of the best, most memorable times in my life, it’s not decades or years or even special months or weeks. It’s a collection of brief moments.

Celebration of Memories

I’ve had so many wonderful moments I can celebrate. The moment I realized I was in love with my wife. The moment we married. The moment our triplets were born. The moment we celebrated their first birthday. The moment we put them in preschool. And so many more.

Moments, I realized, don’t usually happen randomly. Though there are random and memorable moments, some of the best come from an orchestrated effort.

For instance, the effort to go visit my friend, which will remain among the most special moments of my life. The effort of my good buddy Jackson, who spent the two days with me catching up on our lives, our families. And laughing and joking like old friends do, which is something our friend, lying in a hospital bed, would encourage and appreciate.

I can’t begin to document all the special moments. Many are forgotten, but they come up again through reminders as I talk with an old friend or my wife.

What I Should Have Done

My regret, however, is not taking the time to create new special moments with my good friend, whom I had not seen in person for over three years and talked to only occasionally. In hindsight, I wish I had made the effort to get on a plane and spend a weekend with him while he was well and strong. I had considered it, but did nothing about it because of all the usual excuses, like time or expense.

Though I’m not one to look back with too many regrets, I have decided that I need more moments with those who are important in my life … my wife, my kids, my special friends.

I’m also in a state of heightened awareness that one moment could bring you or me down. Therefore the gift my friend unknowingly gave me is a harsh reminder that I cannot wait to get more important things done and make the most of life.

Embracing What We Have

I need to use the gift of time and health for the things that will hopefully change the worlds where my passions lie.

I realized that though I’m active, and busy, and doing a lot, I’m simply not doing enough. I don’t want to look back, trapped in a body unable to speak, or six feet under, knowing that important things that required my special skills did not get done.

In Search of Understanding

I sometimes wonder how people like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk accomplish so many things and change the world so much. They have special gifts, incredible vision, and ideas beyond what others could even think of. They believed in their ideas and their passion and executed their visions and were driven to make the impossible happen. I wonder how they got so much done, and I’m going to start to study people like this to understand how I can do more.

I’m not here today to be morbid. I sit here on the porch in celebration that my own problems are small, that my own aches don’t matter, that I’m still blessed to breathe, move, and live. I’m grateful for that gift, and not one moment can be wasted.

Each of us, including you, possesses a special gift.

Discovering Your Passion

It took me decades to discover a passion for art and to realize that my primary goal in life is to help others discover and embrace painting, sculpting, or any form of art-making, or even collecting or appreciation.

Don’t Wait for Answers

Though I teach artists how to market, how to set goals, and how to plan, all of which are important, I also have to say that random events have always led me to the things I need to be doing. The key is action. One can’t sit around and wait for answers, because they don’t come from waiting, they come from action — any action that then leads you to something you never knew you would discover.

Accidental Magic

My entry into radio was not premeditated, but accidental, at a time I did not know what I wanted to do. The same is true for my entry into painting, and later creating art magazines, art retreats, and conventions. Even my art marketing classes started as an accident. But they all happened because I was taking actions that led me to discovery of these things.

A Deeper Purpose

This week in Portland, my friend said he had discovered Sunday Coffee and asked me why I did it, why I bothered to take the time, since it wasn’t really about art and was not about promoting my business. I paused, hesitated, and said, “I think it’s about helping others think about things they might not have thought about, and discover things inside themselves that they don’t realize are there, and hopefully help them believe in themselves so they can make their own lives as good as they can be.”

Pick Just One Thing

If you had just one thing you needed to get done, needed to accomplish, and you had to get it done now, so you knew it would get done before your unexpected last breath, what would that one thing be? What are the baby steps you can take to make that thing happen?

What is your special gift? You may not know what it is, but those close to you can tell you things about yourself and your special gifts that you probably don’t realize you have. And then, how can you use that gift to change the world around you?

An Agreement Together

Let’s make an agreement. Let’s not waste one more minute on things that don’t provide moments, memories, or good value to ourselves and those around us. You and I both know that it could have been your good friend instead of mine, or it could be us. Our time may be long or short, but since we don’t know, let’s make each tick of the clock one tick closer to greatness.

Here is some great wisdom from the movie trailer for 15:17 to Paris.

Once you discover who you really are, you begin to discover you have been given authority over your life
But you can only do that through the struggle of life
Most people are born to struggle
Most people go through life avoiding pain
When you’re working on a dream, at some time a transition takes place
You learn how to leap higher
You start challenging yourself to dig deeper
Something in you that you never activated lies dormant in there
Don’t try taking shortcuts
Do what you know is right
You’ve been chosen for this great work

 

Respectfully,

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: I know this is a tough ask. Especially since you don’t know my friend. While I was in Portland, I learned that he had used up all his comp time and is no longer getting paid by his employer. That is not evil or unexpected, it just is what it is.

Secondly, his stroke came the very day he and his wife closed on a new house. Now they can’t make the house payments, and all of their small savings is going to hospital bills. And they need to be able to afford to make their small house payments.

 

His wife is an artist who has been trying to launch her own art career but now finds herself with bills that will burn all of their savings, and it’s looking like she will have to find a way to care for her husband in facilities, probably for the rest of his life. Insurance can’t cover everything.

 

If you would find it in your heart to give just a couple of dollars, together we could help an artist and her husband get through some of their massive expenses. No pressure from me. And don’t put yourself out; I don’t want to take food off your table. I know every dollar is precious. But if you can afford a couple of bucks, anything will help: https://www.gofundme.com/share/similar-campaigns/sean-demory-stroke-medical-expenses

 

PPS: Early valentines day greetings to everyone! Have a great day! It’s gonna be a big day for us because we always get about 200 registrations that day since its our last day for early bird price on the Plein Air Convention. So wish us luck with the mad rush 🙂

When Moments Matter 2018-02-09T14:06:03+00:00
4 02, 2018

The Recipe for a Great Life At Work and Beyond Work

2018-02-02T13:14:20+00:00

A warm orange glow dances across the blades of grass and lights up the trunks of my oak trees on this crisp morning. The warming sun and my hot coffee have removed the chill here on the back porch. I’m wondering if spring has begun or if it’s only a teaser before the cold Arctic blasts return. I’m hopeful it will be an early spring, not uncommon here in Austin, and a great time to paint fields of blue and orange when the Texas bluebonnet season arrives.

Most of my mornings start out thinking about three things I’m grateful for. Today it’s breathing in the fresh air, the ability to walk through the yard, and the gift of saying “I love you” to my wife and kids. Sadly, as I ponder last week, these gifts are reinforced.

A Cryptic Text

I knew something was wrong when I received a text from one of my closest friends that read, “Eric, it’s Jen please call me. I’m using Sean’s phone.”

The grim voice on the other side told me that Sean had suffered a massive brain-stem stroke, was on a respirator, and was paralyzed completely, only able to move his eyes.

One of my dearest friends, Sean has worked for me three times. I gave him his first job at age 19, when I was just 22, and we’ve been close since 1978. Sean loved his job in radio and always resisted the idea of someday retiring. I remember him telling me that to him, retirement would be like death, because it would keep him from what he loved doing.

Now, Sean is facing the biggest challenge of his life. I’ll be on an airplane to visit with him this week. But his stroke serves as a reminder that everything can change in a split second, and that when you and I look back, we want to make sure, if we are able, that we are doing what we love every second of our lives.

Please Let Me Work!

A few years ago I met Rick, an artist who had owned a giant business, and who had sold it for a large amount of money. After selling it, he told me, “I can never spend all this money, and every day I wake up bored and wishing I was still running my business because I loved being there with my employees and my clients. I’ve realized that is more valuable than money. I may be rich, but I would rather be going to work every day.” Though Rick is thankful he discovered painting, he misses running the business he built, his true passion.

A Giant Smile on My Dead Face

Though I have never really considered retirement or even slowing down, Rick’s situation reinforced my decision to work forever. I cannot imagine taking my active brain and giving it no outlet for my ideas. I too would be bored, so I decided that my goal is to be carried out from my desk, at a very, very old age, with a big smile on my face because I was doing what I loved. Or maybe it will be in my studio, or painting plein air, which I always find time to to do.

So Why Do I Think Retirement Is a Bad Idea?

Giving up eight hours a day, five days a week, for 40 or more years is a giant sacrifice. My belief is that those 80,000 hours should used only doing something you love, or on a mission you are so driven to accomplish that it never seems like work. The very idea of just showing up, burning 80,000 hours doing something you despise, seems very wrong.

I know many people do it. Some feel trapped because of financial pressures or because they feel they can’t find anything else. Some make the best of it, others show up every day hating their work and looking forward to the day they retire.

Of course, there are also people who don’t have a choice, who have to retire due to age restrictions in the company or industry they work in. Or maybe health conditions force them out, like the surgeon whose hands can no longer operate, or the construction worker whose body can no longer lift heavy materials.

The Reality of Work

I discovered the hard way that boredom, the lack of excitement and energy, is what drives the desire to escape. I’m a living example. When my business celebrated 20 years, I realized I had repeated one year of experience 20 times. I was bored out of my mind. (Thankfully, I had painting to keep me challenged.)

But when I made a conscious effort to reinvent myself, something magical happened. The boredom went away and I was again excited about every day, because once again I was doing what I loved. Though reinvention took me two or three very hard and intense years, now my to-do list of things I hope will change the world could keep me excited for the next 30 years or more.

No More Golf, Please!

Retiring friends tell me all the things they look forward to doing, things like sleeping in and more golf or tennis. Yet I usually get a call at the one-year mark. “I’m thinking about going back to work. I’ve never been so bored. Got anything?” Most tell me they wish they had never retired.

Chained to Their Jobs

Most of the people I know have worked in jobs they’ve never loved and been so reliant on the income that they were unwilling to take chances and find what they do love. Though paid well, with great benefits, they spent a good part of their lives looking forward to retirement. It’s why I tell my kids to find something you love, and make your interests or your hobby your work. “If you are unhappy more than 51 percent of the time, you’re in the wrong job, and it’s better if you’re not unhappy more than 5 percent of the time.”

I’d Rather Just Paint

Just yesterday a friend told me he was trying to decide it he would stay with his company for another five years. When I asked what he wanted to do, he told me, “I could probably muster up the strength for another five, but it would be hard. I’d rather be painting.” I told him he had answered his own question. But his reluctance was the money … could he survive? It seems that is always what handcuffs us to our jobs.

A good way to bring clarity is to ask, “If you got hit by a bus today, would you be happy that you’ve done what you want to do?” The answer is usually no. And if it is, maybe it’s time to pursue your dream.

What Is Worse Than Retirement?

During Christmas week I encountered a friend who had been retired about five years. When I asked what he was doing with his time, he said, “Other than investing, absolutely nothing. I have no hobbies, I don’t play golf. I tend to read a lot and think about when I was a somebody.” When I asked him if he was happy, he said, “I wish I was still working. I should never have retired.”

I’m not anti-retirement, I just hate to see great minds go to waste by sitting around. People were not put on earth to be unproductive and to let their brains atrophy. We all need a purpose, and if we can find a mission or a project or something we can get excited about and it requires retiring to do so, I’m all for it.

Now if you’re the person who wants to sit and rock for the rest of your life, I’m not judging, more power to you. I’m simply saying it’s not right for me.

An Untapped Resource

The world has missed a huge opportunity by putting people out to pasture when they reach retirement age. Though some have health or memory issues, most are vibrant, healthy, and have a lot of life left in them. Best of all, their mature brains are very wise and capable of doing great things. It saddens me that our culture seems to think someone over 65 is of little value anymore, when in fact this is where you find the best work ethic and the most experience. I’d like to see the world embrace this untapped resource.

No E-Mails, Please 🙂

So before you send me an e-mail to tell me about how busy and productive you are and that you are living your dream, you are, well, the point. Living the dream is what this little missive is all about. If you’re retired and your brain is engaged and you’re doing what you love, then retirement is what it should be.

Being Curious

As a young man of about 12 I remember wondering what I would do for the rest of my life. Though I had a lot of interests, none struck me as a lifetime role. I was very concerned that I had not figured it out, and the pressure seemed to be mounting, even at that age. But then, because I was curious, I found radio, got on the air, and ended up as a DJ in some big cities, which led me to station ownership and beyond. Of course, that was my first career and I’ve had many since, each of which I loved, and each of which had its time in my life.

The one critical factor is never waking up and dreading work. Yes, I’ve had a lot of those days, but the majority have not been a chore. That is the ultimate measuring stick.

I’ve had to turn to God on a regular basis to find out what’s next, to find a purpose bigger than myself — which is why I’m on this path to help people discover painting. But I have always found it.

Being Stuck

At 17 I was working at Challenge-Cook Brothers, a cement truck factory. I had to be there at 5 a.m., the factory was loud and hot, and the work was back-breaking. My co-workers, most of whom were in their 50s, used to talk about how much they hated their jobs, how much they could not wait to retire. It was one of the first important lessons for me. I too was complaining to myself, but I decided instead to seek ways to make the work fun and challenging, which resulted in inventing some new processes to save the company time and money. It was also a lesson in knowing I did not want to be doing this for the next 30 years of my life.

Being Trapped

Amazingly, most of the people I worked with were smart people who felt trapped. Trapped by house payments, trapped by families to support, and we talked about dreams they had been afraid to pursue because they might lose everything. Though I had not been in their shoes, it was an eye-opener: most would never know if they could have succeeded because they did not try.

The Message to the Rest of Us

My dear friend’s tragedy led me to think about never wasting another day and trying to survive, and to stay as healthy as possible so it might not happen to me. And though I seem to get a lot done, it’s a reminder that big dreams are yet to be accomplished, more people need to be helped through my work, and we should never waste a single second because that second might be our last.

Make Your Kids and Grandkids Read This

One day you’re 17 and you have dreams. Then suddenly, it seems like overnight, you’re married, then having kids, then your kids are going to college, then your career is nearing its end, and often, too often, there is much to do and it seems the time left is short. My grandmother used to tell me this, and I never believed her, until it happened to me.

Life is never long enough. Never ever spend a day doing what you don’t love. Yes, of course you have to do your taxes, go to school and learn, but once you’re in the world, you are responsible for your life. How you burn those 80,000 hours determines if you look back and say it was worthwhile or a waste. Don’t let anyone force their dreams on you. Don’t pursue anything unless it’s your dream. And if you don’t yet know your dream, be curious, try everything, and you might stumble into your life’s work. But if you don’t try different things and instead just wait and hope, you might end up forced into a dead end job that traps you.

Choose big dreams and chance them. You are perfectly capable, no special advantage required. Sweat overcomes advantage. I know kids with rich parents who never did a thing with their lives, and poor kids who became billionaires because they worked harder than everyone else.

It’s not about money. Money is only a tool; it helps, but it’s not happiness. Again, I know unhappy billionaires. Life is about rich experiences, making great memories, and changing the world with your ideas. Yes, YOUR ideas. There is no substitute for hard work. Smart is nice, but smart without application isn’t smart at all.

Find a Passion

I’m driven to write this today because I keep running into miserable people who are bored and feel trapped. Action and curiosity will work to your benefit. If you have time, try something new, go to an event you know nothing about, volunteer, find something to get excited about. If your body moves and your brain works, you still have a gift to contribute.

That’s why I love painting, and especially plein air painting. It’s an engaged community, you can make loads of friends, you can be outdoors with others, you can travel the area or the world, and you can be creative. It truly is the new golf. Best of all, you have something to challenge you (it’s not easy, but anyone can learn it), and if you want, you can make some extra money or even a great living once you get good at it.

Be productive. Be happy. Do what excites you. You won’t regret it.

What about you? Are you bored? Are you spending your time doing what you love? If not, why not? Don’t wait even one more day.

The Recipe for a Great Life At Work and Beyond Work 2018-02-02T13:14:20+00:00