30 09, 2018

Embrace the Seasons

2018-09-25T13:37:39+00:00

Gray-blue is the color of the distant mountain, almost obscured by the light sage green scrub oaks at the edge of our country property on the outskirts of the Texas capital.

Baby raindrops lightly kiss the shiny tin roof above my head, making an ever-so-slight random pattern of sound, breaking the silence of this moist gray cloud-covered morning.

Packets of moisture shine on the dark green leaves of ivy that crawl like erratic, busy little ants in all directions on the rails of the deck.

Hints of red infiltrate the otherwise green leaves like old age creeps into our bodies, indicating fall is here, followed by the end of the season and the beginning of winter and a new year.

In Celebration of Fall

Fall is my most celebrated season, the biggest Thanksgiving feast for the eyes. It’s when our color shines the most, when we’ve graduated to a time when our wisdom is strong though our leaves may one day fall.

Vivid Contrast

The contrast of seasons is demonstrated in my own household, where the spring greens of youth dominate our home as three 16-year-olds awkwardly seek independence and want adulthood too soon, just as my generation wish they could keep their vast wisdom but take on the bright greens of spring once again.

Wanting to Be Older

The hairs barely visible on my chin and the hint of a mustache never got shaved when I was a youth wanting to look older, and now, in the fall season, my sags and wrinkles make me want to look younger. When we’re young, we want to let go of youth, and when we age, we want to return to it.

The Life of Trees

I can’t imagine the fall leaves, in their stunning beauty, looking back at spring and wishing they were green. Instead they shine brilliantly in celebration, and we humans drive long distances to marvel at their color. They don’t stop shining because of the fear that they will one day become brown and crisp, and will soon leave their branches to dissolve into the ground and enrich the soil. Instead they embrace their role, their season, their purpose, as part of a cycle that endlessly repeats.

Be the Tree

Focus not on the season or the season to follow. In youth, spend not your time wishing you were older. In old age, focus not on wishing you were young. Just be the tree … the seedling absorbing the nourishment of light and water and growing out of the soil, or the thin growing sapling, feeling tall and on your way to being a master, or the giant mighty oak crowning the top of a hill, confidently spreading twisted and gnarled branches that reach out like vast open arms to embrace the sun, providing a safe place for birds to nest, a place where young energetic squirrels playfully jump across the wide and secure branches. Acorns fall from your tree and soon peek out of the soil below, and the seed creates a forest.

Live the Questions

“Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Natural Flow

Joy is found in the discoveries and in the pursuit. The flow of water is too rapid and vast to overcome; let it flow over you like a rock in a raging river. Embrace each time, each season, each moment, whether you’re young wishing to be older, or old and wishing you were not suffering the aches of age.

The Purpose of Seasons

You were planted by elders before you. Your season — your tiny sprout peeking through the soil — was nourished by the fallen leaves before you, feeding your growth, your shiny green buds of spring leaves, your dark end-of-summer leaves, your coming fall leaves, your brilliant reds and yellows, your delicate brown, crunchy leaves, and even your escape from the tree as you float to the ground and into the soil. It is a season with a purpose.

You’ve been given the gift of life. Embrace it as it is.

Feel the Breeze

Your circumstances have been created for you for a reason. Change what needs to be changed, embrace what cannot be changed, but feel the breeze on your skin in every adventure, every moment. Like it or not, you’ve been given a purpose, and the questions you live will provide a clear direction.

Live it fully, embrace what is. Don’t ask why. The answer is in the season. Instead ask for guidance so you can make the best of the season you’ve been given.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: We all provide gifts to one another, and sometimes we don’t know the great value of the gifts we’ve been given. Gifts of difficult trials, gifts of opportunity, gifts that don’t seem like gifts at the time. Recently when I was talking artist Joe Paquet into presenting at the coming Plein Air Convention this April in San Francisco, he gave me the gift of the Rilke book, which is a bouquet of words every artist should read. Only a few pages in, its impact is mind-boggling. Thank you, Joe.

This week I’m so excited I could jump up and down with glee as I check the box for another bucket list painting spot. On Friday we begin Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, where we’ll paint the rich color of aging aspens, and the snow-capped mountain peaks in front of lakes filled with turquoise blue-green glacial waters. I feel blessed to be able to go for a week, and to welcome the new friends I’ll make and amazing artists I’ll discover. These events are a gift to me. A week of painting not only makes me a better painter because I’m painting two or three canvases a day, it enriches my soul to be in the beauty of God’s great creation, and it reduces my stress to lose myself in piles of paint. Though doing something for oneself seems selfish, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not selfish at all because it enhances our mental health, improves our outlook, and makes us happier and able to be better at our other responsibilities. Still, my absence from the family is hard for me and for them. I want to thank my wife for her patience and understanding, encouragement, and the increased work she takes on. She is a true blessing to me and our family.

Embrace the Seasons 2018-09-25T13:37:39+00:00
23 09, 2018

The Need to Reconnect

2018-09-20T07:52:30+00:00

My hot cup of coffee feels good in my hands. I close my eyes and feel the first sip rapidly warming my body. It’s not something I think about normally, but I missed it, because I had taken a break during recent medical tests.

Moisture in the air on the back porch is so thick this morning it might as well be raining, as it has been for the past couple of weeks. Yet the sky is clear, the sun is bright, and it almost feels as though the rain may be over. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hope from a bright sunny day, which somehow makes the rain more tolerable when it comes back. Little rays of hope are all it takes.

For me a little ray of hope is a day when I’m feeling normal again after a few weeks of not feeling great. I had a great night’s sleep, awoke with my normal energy, and feel like today is the day I’m supposed to conquer the world. Not that the world needs to be conquered.

A Bad Day

Though I’m having a good start to my day, there are others this morning who don’t want to roll out of bed to face what today may bring. This morning I’m thinking about the 30-year bride of my friend Sean, whom I mentioned after he had a stroke, six months ago. He passed away last week. Her days for the past six months have been about being brave for him, giving him a ray of hope, being at his side, dealing with doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, and trying to cope with the financial issues all of it brings. (His GoFundMe page is still up if you want to help her.) Now she has to deal with her grief, and perhaps feelings of guilt about a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering, and the fear of how she will survive without him. There is a line in the movie Unbroken saying that marriage is like two trees that grow side by side and get intertwined over the years. Those of us who are the other trees in the forests of their lives need to step in and do what we can to fill the unfillable void.

My Own Space

When my friend of 40 years passed, I went out to my little art studio back behind our old Texas ranch house, my equivalent of a man cave. Instead of a big screen TV and football memorabilia and beer signs, I’m surrounded by the things I love … paintings friends have sent me, paintings of places I’ve been around the world, and my art books. I sit in the old rocking chair — it belonged to my wife’s grandmother — and just rock and think. I was wondering how I should react to his death.

Though that seems like an odd question, I think we get to a point in our lives where we can control our reactions to some extent. I’m not talking about stuffing our emotions, but making good out of a bad situation.

Funerals Can Be Fun?

Though I think my friend would appreciate that his friends are saddened by his passing, knowing his gleeful personality, I think he’d rather I found something funny in it. You know, put the FUN back in FUNeral. He would be cutting up, making jokes, and being filled with life about his own passing because he was that kind of guy. And in it all, he would find some depth and meaning, some next steps. I simply don’t think he would want to see us wailing about him uncontrollably, which is why I shed some quiet tears to myself, and had a lot of smiles remembering where the tree branches of our lives intersected. How can I make the best of a bad situation?

I came to a few conclusions, the first being that I need to do more things with my family, my kids, so that they have memories. It’s too easy to let them sit reading their phones or playing video games, but those are not meaningful memories like a hike together, or something fun. And with college two years out, there is no time like the present to schedule memories.

Get My Own House in Order

Seeing what my friend went through because of a stroke was also a reminder to clean my own house. There is more I can do to lose weight, to get exercise daily, to control my diet, to manage my attitude and reduce my stress. My recent illness was not only a surprise, but a wakeup call that maybe I’m not a superhero after all, and maybe I’m just trying to do too much. It’s something I don’t want to admit, especially because I’ve had a vegan diet for the past 13 years and thought that would keep the wolves away.

The day before Sean died, I was having a discussion with my wife about whether I should get on an airplane to go see him, since it had been several months. She appropriately reminded me that though the thought was good, I just had my own health scare, and getting on an airplane and adding one extra trip might not be in my best interest. And as I was still pondering it, he passed away. The good that came out of that is realizing that I need more time with the friends I cherish, not just visiting them in hospitals, but having fun with them while they are filled with life. So I plan to do that, somehow, without adding more trips.

Same Time Next Year

Each year I hold a big radio conference at the Harvard Club in New York, and each year one of my closest friends, Jackson, flies into town. We room together at the National Arts Club, and we spend two or three days catching up over breakfast and dinner, sitting up late nights, laughing. We’ve done it for probably 10 years, and it’s a way to take advantage of a trip I’m doing anyway, to spend time with a friend. And it sure beats being in another hotel room alone at night.

Roomies

When I did my recent painting trip to Cuba, my old friend Mitch roomed with me, and it was like two schoolmates telling jokes till two in the morning, laughing a lot, and reconnecting. And in a couple of weeks I’ll be rooming with Rick Wilson, a painter from my home state of Indiana. I suspect we’ll sit up playing guitars till the wee hours. I cherish those moments and regret that I never did anything like that with Sean while he was full of life. Though we were both busy, there was no excuse. We could have found a way. So my plan is to do this with my best buddies in places I’m already going, whenever possible. Not adding extra days of travel, but making good use of the time I’m there.

What about you?

Who are you not reconnecting with that you need in your life?

What excuses are you making for not spending time with them?

What can you do to take advantage of something you’re doing anyway, where they can be woven into the fabric?

What needs to be done to make more memories with your kids, grandkids, parents, and friends?

What’s stopping you?

Moments like these force us to think about things that need to change in our own lives.

It also makes us realize what we need to do for ourselves. I always say that you have to give yourself oxygen before helping others, because without it, you can’t help others as well. What do you need for yourself that you keep thinking about doing, but you find all the reasons you can’t? What old stories are holding you back?

There is a mountain you must climb. It may be Everest. There will be a time you can no longer climb it and can only dream about what could have been. Don’t look back in regret. Focus on today because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Don’t just exist, fight to create memories and live dreams. It’s worth fighting for.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week I told you why I was unable to go to Africa. They are sending me photos and messages, which I’m reposting on my Facebook page. It’s a missed bucket list opportunity. I want to publicly thank everyone on that trip who was expecting me to be with them, and thank them for being so gracious and understanding. I don’t like to disappoint, and this is the first time I’ve been unable to attend one of my own trips.

 

The Need to Reconnect 2018-09-20T07:52:30+00:00
16 09, 2018

A Life-Changing One-Word Substitute

2018-09-14T08:12:44+00:00

Brilliant sunsets, scenes of the African bush, and experiences with elephants and lions should be part of my Sunday Coffee this morning, as I was due to leave from New York to meet up with my Publisher’s Invitational trip to South Africa.

A Childhood Dream

I was about to live a dream I’ve had since leafing through issues of National Geographic as a child, about to go on a game drive. (I just learned the word safari is no longer considered correct because it has connotations of a time of oppression and the killing of beautiful animals.) About to see animals in their natural habitat, not a zoo. I’d get to paint Africa and create painted jewels for my necklace of memories, and spend time with old and new friends who came along.

Packed and Ready

I spent months getting ready for Africa, studying which lenses I should get for my camera to capture distant game, what kinds of paint I should take along — knowing I might not get my normal solvent through the airlines — and what I should take to accommodate the weight restrictions on luggage. I spent my spare time last week picking up some adventure clothes, and packing my painting gear, clothes, and cameras.

A Last-Minute Change of Plans

I think I mentioned that I had not been feeling well the week before, and as a precaution, I scheduled a visit to my doctor to find out why. Knowing I had very little time, he got me in to see a specialist, who put me through a battery of tests to be done in time for my trip. When we met for the results, he told me he was not confident that I would feel better and he felt I needed even more tests, and he wanted to give me some meds that had to be monitored for a week or so to make sure I did not have a bad reaction.

Then, the words I feared. “I’m afraid, Eric, I’m going to recommend you not go to Africa and that you spend the next couple of weeks getting better so you can go on the rest of your trips.”

(I’ll be going to our Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, Banff, and Lake Louise, and then to Rome and Florence for our Italian Art Trip, then our FACE convention, and then our Radio Forecast conference.)

A Week of Crashing

In the midst of getting packed, having two kids home sick with a virus, and having a deal I had been working on for three years suddenly fall apart, plus trying to get our new soundstage video studio fully decorated and operational before leaving (including getting a floor laid), plus my normal workload and trying to get things done so I could be gone, and then the doctor putting an end to my going on the trip, I was stressed, disappointed, and feeling pretty blue.

Why is this happening to me?

Because I was not feeling well, because I was not sleeping well, because a major deal had fallen through, and because I had to cancel going on my trip, my first reaction was “Why is this happening TO me?” Though it’s unlike me to be negative, it’s easy to get that way when you’re not feeling well.

Once I got some rest and was feeling better, I realized that something wasn’t happening to me, it was happening for me.

What We Want May Not Be Right

Think about this for a second. People always say things like, “If God loves me, why would he let this happen to me?” Yet how many times in our lives has our not getting the things we hoped for ended up leading us to better things? Just because we think something will be good for us does not mean it will be.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be more trusting that all things are being done for me — even the things that don’t go my way, even the things that happen that I don’t understand.

I’ve also learned to pay attention when doors close and stop trying to force them back open.

And sometimes doors keep getting opened that I ignore, and I need to be trusting and go through them.

No, Not One More Thing

For instance, this week, in the midst of all this chaos, I kept seeing a peek of light through a door that has kept opening for me for years. I had resisted it, not because it was not inviting, but because I kept telling myself an old story and had a thousand reasons I should not pursue it. When I stopped to think about it while all this other stuff was going on, I realized it was something I wanted, that I needed, and that I was resisting because of fear and because of being worried about what others would think. I was also so busy, so stressed, that I almost walked away from it because I could not handle one more thing.

A Different View

When you trust that doors will open and close FOR you, when you trust that things happen FOR you and not TO you, it opens your eyes to a different way of looking at life. So I held my breath, held my nose, and jumped through this open door that was about to close forever. And I trust that it was the right thing, and that if it is not, the door will eventually close.

Changing one little word, from TO to FOR, impacts the way we process everything. Suddenly you’re not the victim, you’re the beneficiary.

Remarkably, you see the world differently.

  • What am I supposed to learn?
  • Why do I have to go through this?
  • Why do I or others have to suffer?
  • What am I supposed to see that I’m not seeing?
  • Am I being self-centered instead of selfless?

Though I know what I want, what I want isn’t as important as the grand plan for my life.

The Gift of DNA

Like it or not, the DNA you were given at the moment of conception is the same DNA that determines how your body responds over time. Some believe that same DNA carries a divine plan for your life. If that is true, shouldn’t we embrace it rather than fight it?

A Talk with My Girlfriend’s Dad

When I was about 17, I was dating a girl who I thought at the time was the love of my life. I dated her on and off till I was about 20. With the girl came a great family, who I adored, and one day her dad sat down with me for a talk. He said, “I’ve noticed something about you — would it be OK if I pointed it out? You’re an amazing young man, you’re bright, you’re intelligent, you’ve got lots of ideas, and you’ve got a promising future. But my daughter has told me you’ve become very negative. You’ve got to manage your self-talk. You’ve got to look at life as the glass half-full, not half-empty. And if you don’t turn this negativity around, your life isn’t going to go well. You’re going to look for problems, you’re going to hurt your success, you’re going to hurt your health, and you’re going to die young and unhappy.”

Wow. Did he just say that?

He went on to coach me about how to change my mindset.

Nothing New

Now, it was nothing I had not heard before. In fact, my own father had coached us on this very thing repeatedly, but because my girlfriend’s dad had seen it and wanted to point it out, he changed my life — because I was not even aware I was doing it. My self-image was that I was a positive person, but my actions didn’t reflect that. His talk made such an impact in my life, I dedicated my first book to him.

Manifesting Action

About a year ago my wife attended an event called Date with Destiny, put on by Tony Robbins. During the event he gave several days of training about how to get your life together, how to think, and how to manifest things in your life. Though she went through the process, I’m not sure she believed any of it. Yet yesterday she said to me, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve been manifesting my goals every day by seeing myself in them. Do you know that every single goal I set for myself has come true this year?”

Being Negative About Being Positive

Negative people say that positive thinking doesn’t work, that it’s all nonsense. They will come up with excuses for why good things happen to others, things like “they had advantages” or “their family had money” or “they had a better education.” I know people who had every advantage in the world who had crummy lives, and I know people who had no advantages, who had horrific upbringings and experiences, who are living amazing lives.

Magic Mindsets

Mindset is everything. I’ve seen it manifested in my life, and when it gets out of tune, I see bad things happen. It is why I have to constantly remind myself, check myself, and get away from negativity. It is why we need sleep, we need something to distract us from our stress, we need laughter and fun, and time away, and whatever else recharges our batteries, because sometimes we have to go for long stretches of time dealing with difficult things.

Today, I’d like you to consider how you’re processing this message. What are you finding wrong with it? Why?

I’d also like you to consider the times in your life when closed doors resulted in good things.

And what would happen, if just this week, for one week, you looked at what was happening FOR you instead of TO you?

A Big Negative Snowball

Last week things were happening TO me. I was not feeling well, things I’d been working on were falling apart, I was grumpy, I was making others around me unhappy, I felt as though everything was crashing down on me, and I was not able to go on my own trip to Africa. It was very out of character for me, but things started to snowball. Yet the minute I caught myself, I embraced the closed doors and realized it was all FOR me. As my attitude changed, the negatives became positive.

Self-Correction

I don’t know if this is a vibe I was putting out, a change in the universe, or God getting my attention, or what, but the moment I changed my attitude back, even though a lot of things were crashing down, everything corrected itself. And some of the biggest and best things I have been working on for years, months, or weeks suddenly came together, when three days earlier it had been clear they were all not going to happen.

Attention Needed, Please

I also realized one other thing. I spend more time in prayer when things are not going well, and I need to spend more time in prayer when things are going well. It’s almost as though God is saying, “I’ll do what it takes to get his attention and get him into prayer.” By the way, all my prayers were answered. All prayers are always answered. Though it may not be the answer I want, they are all answered, and I have to trust more that I can’t always see things clearly and what I want today may not be what I need today.

I hope you have a great week, and I hope you’ll consider FOR instead of TO.

Eric

 

PS: This past week we remembered the anniversary of 9/11. I was due to be in the South Tower on the morning of September 11. My RadioCentral team was on a fundraising tour, and we were to meet at the towers at 8:30 for breakfast, then wait in the lobby of the SEC while one of our members, Mark, had a meeting there. Then we were going across the street to meet with the Wall Street Journal people who were going to invest. Then that night, we had a flight to Minneapolis to meet with Ginny Morris of Hubbard Broadcasting the following morning. But at the last minute on the Friday before we left, Ginny called and asked to reschedule the meeting for a week later. We would either have to do two trips or cancel the one trip and reschedule everything for a week later. We decided to reschedule and not go to New York.

The man Mark was meeting with died that fateful morning, and we would have been in the waiting room of his office at that time.

I have to admit I was miffed when Ginny called, because I was eager to meet with her and because we had to change our plans. Yet that call to reschedule saved my life and the lives of five of my team members. This is a great example of something that happened for me when I was thinking it happened to me. Since then I’ve learned to accept closed doors.

Though I was pretty frustrated that I could not attend my own trip to Africa, my tests revealed the need to be on some meds, and who knows what would have happened if I’d gotten ill in the middle of nowhere? I have to assume this happened for me. And the good news is I’ll be feeling 1000 percent by my upcoming trip to Banff and Lake Louise and won’t have to disappoint the people going on that trip. I’m so grateful I’ve been placed in a role that allows me to help people live their dreams with trips like that one. If painting in exotic places sounds fun, we probably have a couple of seats left for the Canada trip, and if you love art but don’t paint (or do), there are two seats left for the Italy trip.

A Life-Changing One-Word Substitute 2018-09-14T08:12:44+00:00
9 09, 2018

A Tale of Two Mindsets

2018-09-06T08:05:06+00:00

Quiet things seem loud in the early morning as everyone sleeps. The creaking of the door as it opens, the slam of the screen door as it closes. Yet I make my way to my special spot in the corner of the old porch on the back of my Texas ranch house.

My neighbors’ cows are scratching their backs on the fence this morning, their tan and brown coats shimmering from the early sun and their long horns catching the light.

The heat is more intense than a sauna, which I suppose is good training for my upcoming trip to Africa. But it will be spring there, so it may not be this hot.

About last week: When Sunday Coffee failed to appear in your mailbox, some of you wrote, wondering where it was. First, all is well, nothing is wrong. I just needed a break. I had flown to Florida and spent the entire week in the long meetings where we plan our year, work on our budgets, and try to dream up new ways to help people discover and live their dreams.

When I travel, I try to make the most of each day so I don’t sit idle in my hotel room (have no fear, I always have paints if I need them). So one night I had a meeting I needed to do in person, one night I visited my 92-year-old mom and my brother, and one night I met with two dear old friends.

Mom’s Cooking

Mom’s dinner was the highlight for a couple of reasons, the first being I just don’t get to see her enough and it’s a red letter day when I do. I am so pleased she is able to live on her own, in her own home. Though I offered to take her and my brother to dinner, she insisted on making it. There is no cooking like Mom’s cooking, and it’s a chance to eat old comfort foods I rarely eat anymore, and a chance to catch up. I thought she was doing great. And it was the first time in years I’ve been with my mom around my birthday, so this was even more special, since it was on the eve of that event.

A Working Birthday

The next morning, on my birthday, my team, which I am so honored and proud to have, had balloons and vegan cupcakes waiting. Of course they then treated me to another day of meetings, and then I drove a couple of hours to a distant airport, boarded a flight, and arrived home about 11 that night.

Forgiveness, Please

I have to admit that hardly anything ever takes the wind out of my sails, but during the week I had not slept well, had picked up a touch of a stomach virus, and I arrived home feeling exhausted — and I awoke exhausted the next day, when I had a schedule full of appointments, and a list of important chores and family things to get done for the weekend. And so on Sunday morning, when I normally awaken early for the quiet and to write, I slept and slept, waking late, just in time to rush to get to church. So please forgive me for missing a Sunday.

From all of this, I picked up a few lessons, one of which is that you can power through something if you need to, no matter how bad you feel. Though I would not say my knife was the sharpest in the drawer during the last couple of days of meetings, when you get involved, you tend to forget about not feeling well.

Second, nothing new: If you don’t sleep well, everything gets out of whack fast. Though we all try hard, sometimes we can’t control what is spinning in our minds or causing us not to sleep.

Grumpy and Out of Character

Third, attitude is everything. It holds us together. I noticed the worse I felt, the worse my attitude became, and I got grumpy and even had a brief moment of poor judgment and lashed out at my team during a meeting over something minor. I later apologized, but I know that you can put a lot of chips in an emotional bank account, and one moment of negativity can wipe out your account with others.

I try to be a great boss (I hate that word) and treat my team with respect, but when a leader fails to lead and becomes a dictator, a team suddenly stops being a team and instead becomes a bunch of people in a job they want to leave. I try to avoid going there, ever. But I’m human, though I should have taken a deep breath instead and not said a word.

An Abusive Boss

I suppose if there was a silver lining to acting that way, is that it got attention because it was so unusual from me. I’ve worked in the past for bosses who yelled all the time, scolded all the time, and after a while it all blends together. It doesn’t stand out as anything different, so their message gets ignored. I once worked for an abusive boss who also threw things — which is how you knew he was really mad. The yelling was so normal that you just assumed he was an unhappy guy whose only way of dealing with things was yelling. Eventually his wife left him because he physically abused her. Sad.

A Reunion of Old Friends

After my first day of meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting with two men I’ve known for probably 30 or more years. One used to work for me, and we’ve remained good friends since he left to start his own business. The other, who used to be a competitor, is someone I always liked. I see the one on occasion at radio industry events, and the other I have not seen in 20 years, so it was a special but alarming treat. Both men are exactly the same age, 71.

A Physical Change

Though I had seen photos on Facebook, when I arrived I was shocked to see one old friend as an old man. When I last saw him, he was vibrant and full of life. Sadly, he looked like death warmed over. He was moving slowly, he kept forgetting things mid-sentence, and though his old personality shone through, his language was defeatist and negative. He had been in the hospital two weeks before, in a coma for two days, almost died, and was talking as if these were his final days. Though we had a great time talking about old times, I was sad and disturbed to see my friend deteriorating.

The Polar Opposite

When the other friend arrived, he was exactly as I remembered him from 20 years before. He had a sparkle in his eye, a big smile on his face, and a spring in his step. He was upbeat, fun to be around, and looked 50 — he was all positive. He talked about all the things he was doing, all the people he was seeing, about some of the projects he was doing to bring in income, and what he was thinking of doing next.

Keep in mind that both of these men used to be the most fun, upbeat, happy-to-be-around people, always filled with jokes, laughter, and with the momentum of a freight train. People wanted to be around them, which is why both had such successful careers.

Yet at this dinner, one was beaten down and running out of life, while the other was upbeat and full of life.

Why Were These Men So Different?

One of the reasons I could not sleep that night is because I was so disturbed by my time with them. Why is it that one was thriving and the other was dying? The thought of losing an old friend was daunting. What could I do to help? What was the difference between the two, who had started out the same, yet one ended up beaten and bruised.

It’s Not About What Happens

It first crossed my mind that life had just beaten one of them down. His business had failed 15 years ago because the market changed, his wife had left him, and his grown child had ended up doing drugs and has spent a life in and out of rehab. This man had served his country in Vietnam, was dealing with PTSD issues that came up later in life, and was on lifetime disability, meaning he could not get a job and make money without losing the security of those benefits.

But as I started thinking about it, the other had also been beaten down. He lost his wife, the love of his life, just two years ago, and he lost his first wife 17 years before. Yet today he is upbeat, vibrant, and even dating a younger woman.

So why the difference?

First, I have to say we cannot always control our health or the things that happen to us. But we can control how we accept or perceive them, and we can take actions toward prevention with diet, attitude, and exercise.

Deep Emotional Dive

But over the years I could see the one friend fall into a deep emotional dive. He just never recovered after his wife left him. He was continually frustrated and beaten down with the problems with his child, and when his business died, he just decided to stop and live the rest of his life on his savings. When he received government disability and an inheritance, he could survive the rest of his life without work.

My perception is that he had no mission in life. He had a lot of time, but was not using it for a bigger purpose. Which may be what contributed to his downward spiral.

I’m not here to judge anyone. I don’t have that right, and we don’t know what someone has gone through until we have walked in their shoes. Nor do I know how I would react if I lost the love of my life and my kids turned to drugs. All I can do is love him, and if he asks, offer my thoughts or opinions.

My Advice, If Asked, Would Be…

If he did ask, I’d probably suggest that being alone with your thoughts all day isn’t a great idea, and that he needs to find a bigger purpose, perhaps volunteer work for some cause, to use the great skills he developed over his life. I’d also recommend something that gets him around people, where he can feel he is contributing to help others, and maybe even a hobby (can you guess which one I would recommend?) where he can do something that challenges him, and be in nature and around other people. Being in a cave is the worst thing you can do when you’re down and depressed.

Be On Guard

I can tell that when I’m not feeling well, my mind starts to go into a downward spiral, and it would be a lot easier to stay in bed. Yet I know if I don’t pull myself up, force myself into getting out there no matter what, I could easily slip into a funk that would get worse with each passing day. I know that when I skip yoga or going to the gym or even talking a walk, my brain stops functioning normally. I don’t feel as good, my outlook isn’t as good, and I start allowing negatives to creep into my life. If I’m not social, and if I have no mission or purpose, things worsen. If you wonder why I stay so busy, it’s because it keeps me healthy, happy, and engaged. We have to be on guard constantly so we don’t get pulled down.

What Is Your Story?

I’ve talked in the past about the stories we tell ourselves, and that sometimes we have to let go of a story and create a new story so the old story no longer controls us. You and I, and everyone we know, has a story, and has had some horrible things happen in their lives. Some absorb it and spiral down, while others get tired of repeating their old story and allowing it to hold them back.

Why Drive Matters

I turned 64 this week. Yet I still feel like I’m 15. I have more ideas than I can execute, and I’m committed to working and not retiring. In fact, I’ll be announcing a major project that will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career, which should keep me busy for decades to come. I’m involved and engaged in the radio and art communities, where I love the people. I travel about 30-plus weeks a year and I’m always out doing something, whether it’s leading a paint group to Africa, which will happen next week, leading a paint group to Canada in early October (join us), leading a group of art collectors and artists on a behind-the-scenes art tour in Italy later in October, leading a convention of figurative artists in November, and meeting the leaders of the radio industry in an event the following week at the Harvard Club in New York.

The Battle in Your Brain

I’m not saying any of this to say, “Hey, look at me.” That’s not really in my DNA anymore, to be insecure and brag. I’m saying it because age is a battle with your mind. We’ve all been so conditioned that 65 is where we hang it up to relax and enjoy life that it’s a signal to some that the work life is over and the fun is just beginning. Yet I’ve always operated on the idea that it had all better be fun because you never know if you’ll even make it to 65. Sadly, I’ve had lots of friends along the way who passed far too young. What matters is that their lives were rich and full and fun during the time they had.

Watch Your Words

I’ve talked about this before, but seeing evidence in a side-by-side comparison has really made me take notice. Though some are blessed with good health and good genes, it’s the mindset that contributes to the outcome, and there are studies to support that. Therefore I’m constantly pushing things out of my head, telling myself it’s not like me to think that. And my prayers are often about pushing things out of my head that should not be there. I intentionally never refer to getting old, because I don’t believe I am. Yet I have friends who started saying they were getting old at 45 — and ended up dying young. Coincidence? Hard to really know. But words matter, and there are certain things I never say to myself, like “I’m getting old,” “I’m dying,” “This is killing me.”

So what about you?

It doesn’t matter your age. What stories are you telling yourself that give a message to your subconscious mind? The longer I live, the more I see evidence that the subconscious mind is responding to the messages we implant there.

Are the repetitive thoughts and stories you tell yourself hurting you or telling your body to shut down? Though some will read this, laugh, and say it’s utter nonsense, it’s what I believe to be true.

What, At My Age?

Recently when I was approached about this major project (sorry, you’ll need to wait a year to find out), the first thought that came to mind was, “Should I be starting something like this at my age?” As I caught myself, I pushed it out of my head and told myself, “Of course I should. I’ve never been more ready, my mind has never been sharper, and it’s the perfect time.”

Our brain’s subconscious mechanisms default to negatives to protect us. Our conscious mind is the only thing that can overcome these negative defaults.

You Choose What Wins

Will and attitude win. I’ve watched it over decades of my young life. You and I have a choice, no matter what our circumstances. If you choose life, choose to make the best of your current circumstances, no matter how dire they may seem. Choose to be an example of how to live, or even how to die.

You may find fault in this idea, and I honor you and your thoughts. This works for me. And one day someone may say, “It didn’t work for him after all.” But I’m not going to live a story that the government decides for me because they think 65 is when I should stop. You and I should not live the stories others set for us. We should live the stories we set for ourselves.

Don’t Accept Bad Advice

The choice is life or death, living or dying, thriving or existing, active or inactive. We don’t have to accept our circumstances; we can try like mad to change them. A year ago I was in agony, in so much pain I could barely stand. My doctor told me I needed to live with it and accept it. I went to a different doctor. I worked hard for a year experimenting with different solutions, and I’ve been pain-free for the past three or four months. Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up.” I say never, ever believe something just because someone else believes it.

Not Giving Power to the Wrong Thoughts

Today is a good day to have a chat with yourself about what you believe and how you want to change your story. I can tell you that if you repeat your new story enough, your old story will fade. Don’t give it power over you. You get to choose how you perceive your situation. You get to choose how you can change it or what you believe about it. You deserve the best. You still have time to change the world, to make an impact or impression on others, and to make the remaining days or years the best they can be. It lies within you. Wake it up.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: You can interact with coffee in the comments section of CoffeeWithEric.com (just scroll to the end of any post and join the conversation). That’s also where you can point others to sign up (or you can of course forward these to them). I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you place them there, others can see them too. Or you can respond privately. I try to respond to every single e-mail.

A Tale of Two Mindsets 2018-09-06T08:05:06+00:00