18 03, 2018

Emotional Spring Cleaning


Today’s brilliant cobalt blue sky is filled with big, puffy clouds, dark on the bottom and rim-lit with yellow sunrise light. Tiny feather-like light green leaves are showing up on the bare branches, and blossoms of pink and white are filling my favorite tree. Birds are chirping out “Spring is in the air!” and I’m finally able to get back to my porch without a blanket or sweater. Soon bluebonnets will fill nearby farmers’ fields, seducing me and my easel.

Seasons are a good guide for living, since they reflect the cycle of life. Spring is a time to be grateful after the hardships of winter. Gratitude guides my life.

What if we followed the seasons in our lives and our work? Spring is a time for new life, reinvention. Summer is a time to enjoy that reinvention. Fall is a time when the old starts to fade, yet it fades with glory and the most beauty, and winter is a time of death … out with the old, so the new can begin.

My mom used to make us do spring cleaning. It’s a time to open the windows, freshen the old stale air of home, clean out our accumulation of stuff, and throw out or give away what we no longer use.

A Fresh Start

Maybe spring is a time to clean out more than our homes, and to think about what’s working and what in our lives needs to be removed to make for a fresh start.

I like to do an annual personal inventory, and spring is a great time to do it. It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re truly happy. Are you doing what you love, or are you stuck in a rut?

Tough Questions

Spring cleaning takes on a new meaning when you make a point to ask yourself these questions…

Am I truly happy? If not, why not? What is getting in the way of my joy? Can I eliminate those things, those people, from my life?

Who am I around who exhausts me, who hurts me, who is not respectful, who does not bring me joy?

What am I not doing that I want to be doing?

Emotional spring cleaning is a great way to change your life. Usually it’s one or two big things that are bringing you down.


“But Eric, I can’t make changes!” you may say. Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you hate, stuck with family who is abusive, with a spouse or partner who brings you down. Maybe you’re caring for an elderly or ill person who needs you.

Yes, life has responsibilities, and we can’t always abandon them. But too often, people stay in place far too long, tell themselves it’s not possible to make a change, wait till their emotional dam bursts, and then do it anyway.

Looking Back

Often, once people escape the ties that bind them — in a healthy way —  I hear them say, “I should have done this years ago. I wasted so much time.”

Looking Inward

I’ve also found that the problems with people and things that bug me the most are usually more about me than them. If I can cut them some slack, not get so worked up, stop letting little things bother me, or try to be a little more understanding of the situation, I find that I am much happier living with things. Attitude is everything. Sometimes that little change can even make the unbearable seem wonderful again.

My pastor says the easy thing to do is walk away — but also that doing it can destroy lives. The hard thing to do is be forgiving, be accepting, be loving, and understand that you’re part of the problem. That changes everything.

What Can You Change?

There are things you can change. You just have to be willing. Jobs, for instance, can be changed. We often feel bound to jobs because we’ve invested so much time, education, and experience, but if a job isn’t working for you anymore, it’s time to move on. It won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable, and you might even walk away from some secure income. So what?

Which is better? Work another two decades and be unhappy every day, or have less and do what you love?

The question that cuts to the heart of things…

Your doctor has given you 90 days to live.

What will you do with those 90 days?

Perhaps those are the things you should be doing every day.

Are you ready for some emotional spring cleaning?

Are there changes you need to make? Things you need to shed? Things you need to do?

Today is a good day to ponder those changes. Look outwardly and look inward.

Eric Rhoads


You’ve probably seen this, but it might be helpful to read it again:


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore AD 1692
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Emotional Spring Cleaning 2018-03-14T09:05:28+00:00
11 03, 2018

Listening to the Voices In Your Head


The small sound of pellets of rain has turned into a roar, louder and louder as the rain hits the tin roof in my art studio, where I sit this morning.

Sage-colored leaves frame the light grayish-purple mountain in the distance, under a grayish-yellow ochre sky. Streaks of light suddenly hit the ground, lighting up patches that seem to glow.

Drips pour down the edges of the porch overhang, creating a sheet of water. Wet ground covered in oak leaves and sap green patches of grass lead up to the distant World Famous Artist’s Cabin in the distance. Its dark brown logs are shimmering from the water.

The cabin, which sits among the woods on the back of our rural property outside of Austin, Texas, also has a tin roof, and a porch with two rockers and a porch swing.

Every two weeks or so, almost year-round, the World Famous Artist’s Cabin is occupied by world famous artists (which is how it got its name). These are people we invite for the creation of art instruction videos, and they are so important to us that we just would not feel right putting them up in a hotel when we could share our home and get to know them better.

Driven with Passion

Sometimes in your life, an idea comes to you that has to be done. It’s usually inconvenient, usually a lot of extra work, and often it’s a shiny object that has nothing to do with your plans or your goals.

John Singer Sargent

For me, it was finding a way to change art instruction videos forever. It happened when I was trying to learn more about the techniques of John Singer Sargent, only to learn he never wrote much about painting and the only documentation comes from one of his students. I remember thinking, “If only there had been technology that allowed us to understand how Sargent painted. And even more important, if only we could have deeply probed his brain, to understand what was in his mind.” (Speaking of Sargent, I recently interviewed his grand-nephew and the world’s leading Sargent expert, Richard Ormond.)

The Perfect Position

That’s when I decided I was in the perfect position to do something that went deeper than the typical art instruction videos that had been around. That’s when I decided I needed to capture and document artists in depth, at the highest possible quality. Because, as I often ask myself, “If not me, then who?

The Artist Legacy

It has turned out to be one of the best parts of my life because I’m interacting with the world’s top artists on the deepest possible level and documenting their technique and their mindset at the moment, helping them leave a legacy that nothing else can provide and a distribution that is unparalleled, something they could never do themselves with any amount of advertising.

Passing the Vault of Lessons

Most artists I approach are somewhat shy, somewhat introverted, and not at all comfortable with the idea of being on camera, yet when I help them understand that they have spent a lifetime figuring things out and that their lessons and mindset will disappear with them, they realize this isn’t at all about the money, it’s about the responsibility of sharing their life lessons. Six hundred years ago, it would be about a master training an apprentice so that apprentice could carry on his knowledge and techniques and then pass it down through the generations. Yet today we can amplify that to the world, and not just to one at a time, making this more powerful than an appearance, a demo, a workshop, or almost anything an artist can do.

There are points in each of our lives where we have to think about these two things…

First, what is it that may be inconvenient and not in your plan, but you must do it because it needs to be done and you’re the only one with the vision and capability to do it?

Second, what is it that you possess, because of your unique life experiences, that no one else in the world possesses? What do you have a responsibility to share with the world?

Resisting the Voices

I spent a lot of years resisting these issues, often telling myself someday and never getting them done. Then the window closed, and I regret not doing them. It’s my belief that God calls out, keeps something in our minds repeatedly, and then closes the door if we don’t listen. Maybe it’s passed to someone else, maybe not, but I’ve learned I need to listen to these things that suddenly appear in my brain.

Shiny Objects

My team tends to call them “Eric’s shiny objects” and even Success Magazine called me the Shiny Object King. Yet, when something is laid on my heart and I feel a responsibility to do it, I’m trying to listen. That may be why I’ve got so much going on, but if you notice, this is all about helping others live their dreams. It’s my goal to be a vessel.

Learning to Listen

You too are a vessel, whether or not you know it or believe it. There is a responsibility you are being given, words ringing in your head that you must listen to. People often mock those who say God speaks to them. I can’t really explain it, but there is a voice in my head. Maybe it’s my conscience, maybe it’s just me talking to myself, but it seems to be random, and not a fit to the rest of my voices. I’m trying to listen because my time left to get things done is unpredictable and I feel a responsibility to spread the passions I possess, to help the world…

  • discover painting
  • help artists market their work
  • document the great artists of our generation before their time runs out
  • help others discover something about themselves they did not know was within them.

Finding My Gifts

I once took a class on discovering the gifts we have been given and using those gifts to serve others. Among others who thought they had no gifts, it was an eye-opener to see them discover the gifts they had, and to watch them implement those gifts to help others.

Finding Your Gifts

You too have gifts for the world. If you’ve not discovered them yet, you will. It took me a lot of years. Start by making sure you have quiet time, meditation or prayer time, and make sure it’s not you doing all the talking. Just listen. You don’t have to hear voices. Just be still and think about whatever comes into your mind. It is there you’ll discover an untapped world of deep personal satisfaction, and it’s there you’ll discover your gifts, the things you need to do for others, and the things you must share.

No Platforms

This little thing I call Sunday Coffee is one of the ways I try to share. I also write columns in my magazines, I speak at our conferences, and I teach on my videos. Keep in mind, none of these platforms existed until that voice in my head suggested I create them. I did not know how, I did not have the money, and in some cases I was not sure I even wanted to do them, and yet some turned out to allow me to amplify ways to helps others live their dreams.

Your platforms may be something entirely different. It might be teaching locally, it might be speaking or writing or blogging or something no one has ever thought about.

Recently the voices told me that I needed to get my first art marketing book out in time for the April Plein Air Convention, just a month from now. This was just about five weeks ago, and I will have written it, gotten it edited, proofed, laid out, cover designed, and printed, and have it at the convention. It was a major hassle with all the other things going on, 30 weeks a year of travel, and a business to run, but I felt I needed to listen and do it in spite of how inconvenient it might be, because my voices tell me people need more help with marketing their art.

After my healthy friend Sean had his stroke, I intend to waste no time, knowing any of us could expire at any moment.

Pondering Purpose and Responsibility

I hope today you’ll find a quiet spot and simply listen, and ponder what role you play.

What do you possess that is unique to you?

Where do you have special understanding? Something where no one else has your perspective?

What do you need to share that will make your struggles worthwhile, knowing you’ve helped others avoid them?

What are the voices telling you that you’ve done nothing about?

What passions do you have that you want others to discover?

What is in your mind that seems so big, so overwhelming, that you think someone else should be doing it instead of you? And how can you take a baby step today to begin the process of making it happen?

How You Change the World

You have things deep inside you that truly will change the world. Though you may catch yourself telling yourself that isn’t true, that you don’t have anything special, I don’t believe it and neither should you. The natural defense mechanism in our brains tell us this to protect us, but it’s not protection at all.

If you get into your quiet place and listen, you’ll discover those voices, and if there is nothing there, start asking to understand your purposes, your unique gifts.

You have unbelievable gifts within you, things you don’t even know you have, that have been molded by the experiences in your life. Adversity may have been painful but it’s where many of our gifts come from.

Embrace adversity. Believe that those gifts are there.

Keep listening. The answers will come.


Eric Rhoads


PS: I just returned from an amazing trip to Cuba, which I wrote about here. The best part wasn’t Cuba, it was getting to know some folks deeply from having meals together and painting together for a week. I’ll be doing my summer painters’ retreat again in June in the Adirondacks.

The last few weeks I was honored to share the World Famous Artist’s Cabin with artists Lori McNee, and again with Bill Davidson, Nancie King Mertz, and Thomas Jefferson Kitts. I feel so blessed to be able to get acquainted with these greats.

An update: My buddy Sean is still “locked in” to his body, totally aware, but unable to move or speak. I’m praying that his body will recover and give him ability to communicate and have mobility. Thanks to those of you who donated to help him and his wife survive financially. We’ve got a good start, but their medical bills are so steep that they still need help should you feel willing.

Listening to the Voices In Your Head 2018-03-07T11:53:02+00:00
4 03, 2018

The Impossible Dream


Dark, billowing clouds are dancing overhead and the muted orange sun is streaming rays out over the Atlantic Ocean. Balmy air is met with a quiet breeze as palm fronds playfully move about, swaying from side to side. Cathedral bells ring out and echo off the old historic buildings.

I hear distant music in the streets, the soundtrack of Cuba. I’m up earlier than normal this morning and instead of the usual porch in the backyard, I’m on the upper deck on top of a hotel in Havana.

Last night over dinner one of the painters here with me told me she had once lived in New Orleans, which prompted me to tell her this story.

My Chance to Own a Radio Station

When I was a young man, about 23, I learned of an FM radio license possibly available in a small town outside New Orleans. This was very rare because it was believed that all the radio licenses that could be granted by the FCC were gone. Was it too good to be true?

The process to apply for a license required visiting the community and meeting with 150 or so community leaders and citizens to ascertain their needs, so you could prove to the FCC that you were able to meet those needs.

Doors Slammed in My Face

Upon arrival in this small Louisiana town, we found everyone to be very unfriendly. No one would talk to us. People would slam doors in our faces. But why?

Meet the Boss Man

Finally, we sat down in the city hall of this tiny town, and it was like a movie set. It was sweltering hot, and the clapboard building had wicker chairs and a slow-spinning ceiling fan. The leader of the town kept us waiting for four hours, and after he found that didn’t discourage my partner and me, we entered his office. It was like a scene out of the old TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. This man was dressed like Boss Hogg … white suit, white hat, giant cigar, a half-empty fifth of Jack Daniel’s, and he had his cowboy boots up on the desk when we entered. He did not stand to greet us or shake our hands.

In the deepest Louisiana accent, he said, “I understand you boys want that radio frequency down in these parts.”

“Yes, sir,” I said respectfully.

“There have probably been 200 people down here trying to get that license, but there is something you need to understand. I control things around here. I control all the land and the permits where you would need to build your tower. And I happen to own the one local radio station here. So you boys won’t get a permit to get a picket fence, let alone a tower.”

“But sir, we intend to serve the community, and we won’t impact your radio station. The reason the FCC wants another station here is so there are other people offering service.”

Alligators Await You, Boy

“You think I don’t know that, boy?” he said heatedly. “You boys better be gettin’ out of my town lickety-split. If we catch you talking to any of the people in our town, our officers might just pull you over, find a bag of cocaine under your car seat, and put you in jail. No one comes out of our jail, and the only way out is through the alligators.”

The meeting ended, and not well.

Naively, we continued to try and meet with people, but more doors were slammed in our faces. Now we understood why.

This Isn’t a Movie

By chance we landed at the office of a local attorney who had spent his career trying to bring this man and his brother down because they were so crooked. When we told him what happened, he told us, “Boys, this ain’t the movies. This won’t end well. People who get arrested in this town really do end up with the alligators. I don’t recommend you stay.”

This of course did not stop us; we were determined to get that station. But soon we noticed a squad car following us and we got spooked, so we got in our rental car and drove to our motel in New Orleans, about 30 miles away. This was around two o’clock in the afternoon, and that squad car followed us all the way there and parked right outside our room.

I was more frightened than I’d ever been in my life.

Escape in the Night

Once it got to be bedtime, we turned the lights out, but we stayed awake and alert, and finally that squad car left at two in the morning. If his job was to make a point and scare us, it worked. Once he left, we grabbed our bags, got in our rental car, and went to the airport, where we slept safely until our flight the next morning.

The following morning I phoned our FCC attorney and told him the story. He said, “That’s unfortunate, Eric, but the FCC won’t give you that license unless you have about 200 ascertainment interviews, and even then it’s a long shot. You simply weren’t meant to get this license, and this explains why such a rare license is available. It looks like no one will get that license.”

Then I said something the attorney did not expect.

A Bold Idea

“Let’s go to the FCC with a sworn affidavit from me, telling them about the situation, telling them our lives were threatened, and telling them we can’t build a station tower in that town because they won’t give us a permit. Maybe they would make an exception and move the city of license and not make us do ascertainments?”

He told me the FCC had never done anything like that in their history and that I would be wasting my time.

Just Do It

Though I was young, very insecure, and respected this man tremendously, I told him I would write it up and get it notarized, and I asked if he would present it to the FCC and request a special hearing. Reluctantly, he said he would do it, but it would cost me a lot of money, and he repeated that it wouldn’t work and would be a giant waste of time.

Months passed, and one day I received a call: The FCC had granted me the license.

Following Your Gut

If I had listened to the advice of my attorney, the course of my life would have changed significantly. Because I had a gut feeling, because I did not allow his advice to sway me, because I believed in my own ability to write a convincing argument, I ended up building a station, putting it on the air with one of the best signals covering New Orleans, and eventually selling it at a nice profit. Though a couple of hundred had tried, I prevailed.

Winston Churchill was known for saying, “Never, never, never give up.”

Fool, This Can’t Be Done

I have a lot of crazy ideas, and it is not unusual for people around me to tell me why it’s a bad idea, why it’s not possible, why it won’t work, why we will lose money. Often I’ll assign a project that is seen as folly, or even impossible, and I get the response that it simply can’t be done.

My radar goes up when I hear the words “It’s not possible. It cannot be done,” and I am driven to find a way, and almost every time I’ll work on it until I’ve proven that it can be done.

Most people stop at the first no, or the second no, or sometimes the third. I believe that every project has a large number of “nos” until you get to a “yes,” and the more “nos” there are, the more it’s worth doing.

Consider “NO” as Progress

My friend and former sales trainer Pam Lontos used to demonstrate this principle by stuffing $100 worth of $1 bills into her sleeves and clothes. She’d have a salesperson come up and talk with her, and every time she said no, they would pick a dollar bill from her. She said no many times, and they ended up with a dollar for each one. The point being that you have to be ready to keep asking, no matter how many “no” answers you get.

What are the times when you did not accept “no” that turned out well?

What are the times you regret accepting a negative answer?

People Who Try to Kill Ideas

I’ve discovered that pack mentality tends to default to the negative, not the possibilities. I’ve discovered that when a lot of people tell me something is a bad idea, I realize what a good idea it is after all. I’ve also found that the more negatives there are in the media about something, the more likely it is to happen. Remember how everyone said Jeff Bezos could not succeed with Amazon? He is now the richest man in the world.

This isn’t about money, or about business, it’s about a way to consider living life. It’s about believing in your instincts and following your own vision, your own dream, no matter how many people tell you it’s a bad idea. It might be about your art, your dreams, your goals, a better life.

Giving Up on Dreams

I’ve met dreamers who failed but are glad they tried. I’ve met dreamers who never tried and regret not trying. I’ve been both. I never followed my dream of becoming a Hollywood film actor, and though I’ve never given up, I’ve never really tried because I lacked self-confidence and told myself the odds were against me. I wasn’t following my own advice, so I’ve not given up on this dream, or on some others I’ve told myself were not possible.

Impossible Becomes Possible

Almost everything that is in your head is possible, or will become possible. (No, I can’t wish myself to become 7 feet tall.) When I went into the Internet radio space, I was told by every technology person I interviewed that what I wanted to do was not possible — that physics would not support it. The guy I hired told me it was impossible but he would figure out a way to do it, and he did.

Everything starts with your belief systems. Though we always need to listen to others, we also need to keep in mind that our vision is different from theirs. You can see things others can’t envision.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you…

  • It’s impossible
  • It costs too much
  • It can’t be done
  • Physics won’t support it
  • No one has ever done it
  • You’re too old
  • You’re too young
  • You don’t have the right education
  • You’re not good enough
  • If Edison couldn’t do it, why do you think you could?

The voices inside your head are put there so you can change the world. So you can do the impossible.

Your Special Mission

You have been given a purpose, a belief, and though few can see it or understand it, you have special abilities to see what they cannot. Don’t let others discourage you, don’t let others stop you, don’t take no for an answer, ever. The world will change, and what is physically impossible today may not be tomorrow.

Seeing Beyond Others

The great people of our times like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, as well as the greats of the past, were all told what they wanted to do was impossible. Yet they were driven to prove their ideas could happen, and they worked tirelessly to find answers and solutions. They never took no for an answer. Sometimes they are seen as arrogant or tough, which is probably only from frustration when others tell them no and cannot see the world they envision.

Life is richer when you follow the voices in your head and never accept no for an answer.

In what areas of your life do you need to plow forward in spite of negative comments or discouragement?

What Are Your Voices Saying?

If you tell yourself, “But I’m different, I truly can’t do this,” you are underestimating your own abilities. You have things inside you that will come out at the right time, when you need them, and you’ll surprise even yourself.

Use this week to dream, and to move forward on your dream because you know in your heart your ideas, your vision, CAN be done. Oh, you’ll still have self-doubt. When you catch yourself doubting, kick it out of your head and tell yourself, “That’s unlike me. Of course I can do this.”

You will find a way.


Eric Rhoads

PS: I was told it would be impossible to take a group of 100 artists to Cuba to paint. I was told both governments would never allow it, yet it happened, two years ago. Then I was told it could not be repeated. But right now I’m in Cuba with a group of painters, and today we’ll be painting all over Havana. Wish us luck. Internet is spotty, but watch my Facebook page for photos and video this week, or once I get back.

The Impossible Dream 2018-02-26T12:56:13+00:00