25 11, 2018

When Stealing Is Acceptable

2018-11-20T15:04:37-04:00

I’m bundled up with three layers … a flannel shirt, an old gray hoodie sweatshirt, and my puffy down coat, which has paint on the pocket.

This morning I went behind the studio to gather some kindling, and I set it alight in the fireplace on the porch of my art studio. Crackling flames whirl around, and my chair is as close to the heat as possible so I can snuggle in.

Too Cold, Too Soon

I stubbornly refuse to admit it’s too cold to be out on the porch to write this morning; I hate to let go of spring and summer and being outside among my oaks, with my field of little yellow flowers (which just disappeared because of the cold) and my distant view of the purple-gray mountain.

The wind is howling, “Get inside, you fool!” and the smoke is swirling out of the chimney back to the porch, treating me to the soothing smell of burning wood.

Famous Artists

The view from the studio porch is different from the back porch where I normally write, where I can see the mountain, the trees, the neighbors’ longhorns, and the little log home we call the Artists’ Cabin, where some of the best artists in the world have stayed during their visits for filming instructional videos. The guest book is filled with sketches and notes, and the cabin is filled with little paintings they’ve left behind. I feel like I’m living the dream.

Influences That Matter

When I interview artists on my Plein Air Podcast, I often try to understand the influences that contributed to their turning to art. I hear stories of visits to artists who were friends of parents, of visits to art museums and shows, and it’s my hope that one day my kids will look back and realize the people they met are today’s equivalent of a Wyeth, a Rockwell, a Bonheur, a Sargent, a Morisot.

The first artist to stay in the cabin was Katie Whipple, visiting with another artist friend during her first year of art school, and she is now becoming well known as an important painter. Next week California artist Karl Dempwolf will become the most recent. The cabin is home to over 30 artists a year, which keeps things pretty entertaining around here.

Thinking About My Opus

Earlier this morning I was cuddled up in my wife’s grandmother’s old rocking chair, inside my studio by the massive collection of art books. It reminds me of a lofty goal of one day creating a modern version of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, a book that chronicled the lives of artists in his time. Today, there are so many important artists developing, and this is such a special time in the world of art and the two major art movements we’re involved with — the contemporary realism movement and the plein air movement. But with all the other projects, how will I possibly ever get it done?

The Richard Schmid Method

Things get done by discipline and extreme focus. I remember asking Richard Schmid to come to one of my events, and his answer was very telling. “My number one priority is to get several books of my work published before I can do anything else. I need to stay focused.” And focused he is, producing beautiful books, including a wonderful revision of his opus Alla Prima II.

I often encounter people who have a major dream they want to pursue, but then I hear, “I’m going to get to it someday,” or “I’m gonna write when I have more time. I’m too busy now.”

Sound familiar?

Your Biggest Dream

Sometimes we’re so busy achieving our goals and paying our bills that we don’t achieve the big dreams we’ve always wanted to do. You know … the magnum opus … the book, the giant multi-figure painting, the thing you can do to change the world.

In fact, I just had this discussion with a friend, who told me that life was just too busy … running the kids everywhere, managing a house, getting up early and staying up late, weekends consumed with activities like soccer games and birthday parties.

I Refuse to Insult

I wasn’t about to tell her that she could find the time if she really wanted to. Frankly, raising a family and being insanely busy in a job isn’t easy for anyone. I would not want to insult her by suggesting she could find more time. In fact, if there were a Mom’s Hall of Fame, she would be in it.

So what do you do if you have something you absolutely have to get done in your life, knowing that there is simply no time?

Well, honestly, there really are only two roads you can take. Put the goal off and hope you can one day get to it, or find a way to steal the time.

I wrote my recent marketing book in the car as we spent a week driving with the kids on spring break last year. It needed to get done, and that was the only time I could find.

Early Morning

My friend Roy Williams says the way to write a book is to get up one hour earlier each day. Get out of bed and start writing before getting ready for work. Set a timer, and stop at one hour. He does this seven days a week, which gives him 365 hours a year for writing, which is equal to nine 40-hour weeks. He has written several New York Times bestselling books this way without disrupting his busy life.

Of course, you may not have the ability to get up a full hour earlier every day or stay up an hour later.

But could you find 15 minutes twice a day?

How to Write a Bestseller

My friend Mark Ford told me about a guy named Andre Dubus III, the author of House of Sand and Fog, who wrote his book while he was teaching full-time at a couple of different schools  and working a construction job to make ends meet, while he and his wife were raising three young children. Since he did not feel he could get up an hour earlier, he tried a different approach.

Don’t Call the Police

According to Mark, “Each morning, he started his commute 20 minutes early  — 17 minutes, to be exact. And each night, he came home 17 minutes late.
“At first, he pulled into an apartment complex parking lot and wrote in the car. But after 10 days, someone called the police to check on him.
“Fortunately, he knew the officer. Dubus relocated to a nearby cemetery. It was quiet, usually empty of people, especially at 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“Every morning and every night, 17 minutes at a time, writing in pencil in a notebook. In summer, sweating with the car windows down, in winter, with the heat on until he got a carbon monoxide headache and had to stop. All the way to the end of the book.”

The book became a bestseller in 2000.

Stealing Is OK

My guess is that all of us could find 15 or 20 minutes a couple of times a day if we want the goal badly enough. Maybe we steal time by avoiding social media, cutting phone calls or conversations a little shorter, or getting up earlier. If there is time for lunch, why not use that time to focus on that big dream goal every day?

I talk a lot about goals, but the key to any goal is to break it into little pieces so it does not overwhelm you. They say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Being Exact

Define the goal and the pieces exactly. For instance, for a giant painting, it might be “order the stretcher bars and canvas by Monday,” “have the canvas stretched by a week from Monday,” “gesso the canvas by Wednesday,” and “sketch composition by the following Monday.” Rather than an exact time deadline, “by Monday” is good enough.

Begin Right Now

The other problem is that we’re always saying “someday” or “when I retire” or “when it’s not so busy.”

Excuses

My friend Mark says, “When someone tells me they will start a new project next year or in a month or a week or even tomorrow, I’m pretty confident they will never do it. When it comes to initiating new projects, inertia is the enemy.“

I put every idea into a digital bucket and ask myself, “Is it for this year or the future?” If it’s next year, it stays in the bucket till I set my goals for next year. If it’s this year, I set a date, write out the steps, and start working on it immediately in small pieces.

“Someday” is the kiss of death for a project. So today is the day. Do something about it today, get the goal defined today, get the steps defined, and then work on it a little every day, even if it’s just a couple of times, 20 minutes at a time.

Also, never give yourself an excuse to skip your scheduled time. Do it religiously.

I don’t live in your world. I don’t know the stresses of your life, the circumstances, or the insanity of survival. It might be best to do something “someday.” Only you can make that choice.

You Have Much to Offer

But your big dreams are too important to not get done. You have too much value to share with the world by achieving your big dream goal. Time passes too quickly, and unforeseen circumstances can end our time suddenly. Your voice needs to be heard — your ideas, your dreams, your influence.

No one else can do this for you. Chances are, time will never be easily available and circumstances will always get in the way. If it’s important, can you find a way to steal moments to devote to your dream?

Today, not tomorrow, is always the answer to getting something done. I have no doubt you can do it, it’s just a matter of stealing some time.

Eric Rhoads

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you didn’t get trampled trying to get a great deal in a big store somewhere. In case you did not see my Thanksgiving message, it’s here.

I’ve enjoyed the Thanksgiving break and the chance to declutter during our staycation. Guess it’s time to start a little Christmas shopping and get my annual planning done for next year. Now is the time.

When Stealing Is Acceptable2018-11-20T15:04:37-04:00
22 11, 2018

My Disruptive Thanksgiving Temper Tantrum and Why I Was Called a Spoiled Child

2018-11-16T16:35:06-04:00

Tiny baby trees planted in 1957, when we moved in, are now thick, towering giants outside a little brown three-bedroom clapboard house at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was a small Midwestern town where you knew all your neighbors’ business, where people brought you hot pie and homemade ice cream and would drop in unexpectedly for a Sunday visit.

Raising a Mountain Lion

We raised chickens in the two-car garage of that little house, once raised an orphaned mountain lion, and gave a home to a beautiful collie and a little black Lab named Pepper. The garage was where I painted my first car, a 1947 Chevy, and we conducted science experiments there with our kit of chemicals (which was dangerous then and would be illegal today). At that house we climbed up the old pull-down ladder to hang out in the attic, with an extension cord up the stairs to power my mom’s old RCA record player. I’d sit up there for hours pretending to be a radio DJ. (I’m kind of hoping now there was no asbestos around.)

At this little house, my brothers and I blew up mom’s flower beds with firecrackers and a remote control while Mom had a group of women over for coffee.

We held muscular dystrophy fundraising carnivals in the little square backyard, playing games and selling hot dogs. My brother Dennis and his friend crashed one of the carnivals in a raid, squirting all the kids with mustard and ketchup.

My Time Capsule

I planted a time capsule in that little yard over 50 years ago. I got the idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and came home to gather all the cool things I had from that year. I buried it in the flower beds by the back fence. (I apologize to whoever lives there if someone shows up with a metal detector. I promise there isn’t that much gold in it.) What would be in your time capsule?

Slick Floors

The little house was modern for its time and was a model home for the new neighborhood, “Woodhurst,” made by a progressive local builder. The house had a see-through two-way fireplace between the living and family rooms, a modern kitchen, and pigskin leather floor tiles, which were great for sliding in our socks like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

Learning Art and Travel

The hallway to the three bedrooms had a hand-painted mural of a harbor scene, with old high-masted ships with brown sails — probably a painting of someplace like Italy. That mural may be why I fell in love with painting. A bookshelf underneath was where we kept the Collier’s Encyclopedia and shelves of National Geographic magazines, and I’d spend hours sitting on the floor reading and dreaming of someday traveling the world.

Cover Your Ears

We had a Hammond B3 organ in the living room, where I’d play horrific loud funeral music to annoy my parents so they would sell it and buy a piano, which I desperately wanted to learn. This may have been the first of many passive-aggressive traits I developed.

Making Movies

We made silent movies in that living room, with its modern ’50s gold couch and my dad’s chair, beside which he kept his “hi-fi.” I shot the first movie with my first Kodak movie camera, and in it my older brother wore a smoking jacket and smoked a pipe. My parents were mortified. That was my first failed attempt at becoming a media mogul.

Of course there are memories of Christmas, when I got my first painting easel, my first record (“Get Off of My Cloud” by the Stones), my first album (Help by the Beatles), and my gold Schwinn bicycle.

Art on TV

The family room had a little black-and-white TV where we would watch Bonanza on Sunday nights before bed, and I’d watch Jon Gnagy and Norman Rockwell on The Famous Artist School TV programs teaching us to paint. We watched Bozo, The Monkees, and Dark Shadows after school. It’s the place we saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and where we watched endless days of Walter Cronkite coverage when Kennedy was shot.

My Crazy Neighbor Lady

We had a basketball hoop on the garage, and a cranky neighbor lady who used to take naps during the day would call my mom and complain that we were playing basketball at 3 in the afternoon after school. She called every day of my childhood, and she would still be calling if we hadn’t moved. There simply was no safe time to play ball because it seemed like she was always sleeping, and her bedroom was right beside the driveway with the basketball hoop. Like typical troublemaking boys, my neighbor Stu and I would sneak out whenever possible and bounce the ball just to see how long it would take the phone to ring. (Of course, in Indiana, the basketball is the state bird.)

We moved into that house when I was about 3, and I consider it my childhood home. I cherish the wonderful childhood my parents created for my brothers and me.

And this little house is where we would have Thanksgiving every year.

My Tantrum

We usually had a pretty normal 1960s Norman Rockwell kind of Thanksgiving. But one year during dinner, I piled my plate high with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with a lake of gravy, ham with pineapple, sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows, green beans in mushroom soup with fried onions on top, a side of cranberry sauce, and two kinds of pie … pumpkin and cherry (my all-time favorite). Then I stood up, yelled something at my family, cousins, aunts, uncles, and all … and I slammed that full plate of food on the floor. Then I ran off crying.

Glass shattered and scattered, faster than a flock of goats being chased by a wolf. Food was spread over a 10-mile radius around the tiny dining room filled with card tables and “kids’ tables.” Food was on the walls, gravy was dripping down the the sliding glass door beside the table, and the cream-colored curtains were now decorated with red cranberries, cherry pie, and sweet potatoes. Funniest of all, marshmallow was dripping from my grandfather’s glasses and splatters were on the faces of pretty much everyone.

I honestly can’t remember why I did it, but I remember my aunt muttering something like, “Your kids are spoiled and something needs to be done about it right this minute.”

The fact was, I had a horrific temper as a kid. That is, until the day I slammed my ukulele into the door of my room and broke it into matchsticks. When my parents refused to buy me another, I realized rapidly that it was time to grow up and stop destroying my own stuff.

Little Apple Turkeys

I loved Thanksgiving because I got to help my mom. I’d put out decorations like little apples made into turkeys with a fan on the back, little legs, and gobbler head on the front. I’d make a horn of plenty, flowing out with colorful gourds, and I’d always open the family Bible and light a candle by it.

Seeing cousins was always a treat, and we would get sent outside to play in the snow, build snow forts, and have snowball fights — until someone ran into the house crying after an ice ball to the forehead.

Thanksgiving SHOUTING!

And almost every Thanksgiving, someone would say something that made someone else mad. Someone would go storming off angry or hurt, doors might slam, tears might fall, and people would silently stare into the eyes of others in discomfort, with that “What just happened?” kind of look.

Like all families, we had moments when we felt like we needed some space, some separation, or wished that someone hadn’t said something that got everyone into a tizzy.

Not So Perfect After All

If you and I had been present at the perfect American Thanksgiving Norman Rockwell painted in that masterpiece, we too would have watched the perfect moment pass, only to find plates of food flying, tears, angry moments, arguments, moments of insane laughter, great joy, and all the moments we can look back on and cherish or regret.

This, my friend, is family, and it is a golden gift.

You may have conflicts, you may have tough moments, someone may drink too much or say the wrong thing. But family is made up of real moments, of an environment so safe you can say what needs to be said, be who you are, and still be embraced.

No Perfection Required

You were not placed in a family for a Norman Rockwell-perfect Thanksgiving, you were placed there, in your family, for a specific purpose. The words that come from our mouths may cut or comfort, but each has a purpose, and everyone who utters their opinion about a politician or a social issue deeply cares about that issue. You may disagree just as deeply. But please realize each has reasons they formed their beliefs.

You can argue, you can disagree, you can get ugly or inappropriate, but before doing any of those things, know deeply that you have history with and love for the people surrounding you today.

Embrace the Reason You Came

You travel across town or across the world to be there, then leave wondering why you came home. I get it, but you came for a reason, and that’s because being with family is a great gift. And though you may have less-than-perfect moments, just remember that life growing up was also filled with conflicts, discussions, arguments, differing opinions, and joy-filled moments as well.

Trust that the people you are there with today are the people you admire and love. You don’t have to agree with them, nor do they need to agree with you. But each deserves your love, your respect, and for you to at least listen and try to see their viewpoint.

Or, as my dad likes to say, “Let it go in one ear and out the other.” Translation: Listen, but don’t let it get you riled up.

Listen Respectfully

Our world is filled with uncivil discourse. Friends start to hate friends because they don’t agree on political or social issues. But family is special. Don’t let it destroy family. Don’t let disagreement disrupt family time. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and life would be dull if everyone agreed about everything.

Make a truce. Agree to disagree and don’t bring it up. Find a way to rekindle old memories, and try to embrace the tradition of Thanksgiving and the meaning of gratitude.

Enjoying the Moment

Be grateful for those you love, those who share your table, and embrace their presence. Play a game, sing some songs, watch the game, but be there for one another, because you went to a lot of effort to be together. And be present. Let’s not make the Rockwell Thanksgiving into one where everyone is looking at their phones and not talking.

The Last Thanksgiving

There are people at your Thanksgiving table today who may not ever be there again. Fill the table with joy, with love, with laughter, with memories, and with respect. It will make it the best Thanksgiving ever, and then you can look back and this will be a day you’ll remember fondly forever. This is a day for love, for healing, for old and new memories. Be thankful.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Depending on when you read this, you may still have time to make a difference to someone who is alone for Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s serving in a homeless shelter, or taking a plate of food to someone on the streets, or maybe it’s inviting friends with no family, or people you work with.

I’m grateful for the gift you’ve given me, and I give thanks for you. You inspire me to share my thoughts, my stories, and my memories with thousands and thousands of people. You’ve graciously invited me to your home each Sunday morning, and you’ve been good enough to share your thoughts and memories with me.

And to my artist friends, for those who don’t want to watch the big game, it’s a good time to see if anyone wants to learn painting or sculpting. Could be fun. Or maybe you just make a craft together. Life is all about creating memories. For those of you with no artist around to help, you could try my free lessons online. The family that paints together cleans up together.

If you feel like it, I’d love you to read this out loud and share Sunday Coffee with others. I can always use a new friend (I can’t get enough). They can subscribe at www.coffeewitheric.com.

For kicks, I’ve prepared a few questions to start a table discussion at your house. Here’s wishing you luck.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

What is the one thing you never wanted Mom and Dad to know that you feel comfortable talking about now?

What family member had the most impact on your life, and why?

Which family members contributed to making who you are, and what did they do that helped mold you?

Who do you really miss, and why?

What is your most fond family memory from when you were growing up?

What was the one question you never asked your parents but you’ve been dying to know?

What are you really grateful for?

What’s the one thing you want to do with the rest of your life that everyone at the table might not know?

What are some of the things you want to check off your bucket list?

What’s the best book you ever read and the best movie you ever saw, and why?

Do you remember a time when you laughed uncontrollably? What was happening?

 

 

What are your memories about Thanksgiving?

 

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be richly blessed this year.

My Disruptive Thanksgiving Temper Tantrum and Why I Was Called a Spoiled Child2018-11-16T16:35:06-04:00
18 11, 2018

Tears of Joy

2018-11-17T20:47:43-04:00

Goosebumps show their little faces on my hands, arms and bare feet this morning as I sit in the chilly air trying to stay warm with sips of hot java. My knarly oaks are like a Bernini sculpture, twisted, and intertwined, looking as if there is movement, yet there is the stillness of a chunk of marble.

There is also no movement in the faded red hammock, that hangs on the porch of my log cabin art studio by the fireplace, which typically sways with the slightest breeze. Unusual quietness, the exact opposite of a New York City street, offers peace and solace as if it had known I had returned from the Big Apple in need of quiet time.

The warm comforting harmony of a distant train horn performs a sonnet in the distance as two baby deer and their mom are eating breakfast at my backyard buffet, popping their heads up at the sound of my fingers hitting the keyboards.

If my heart had a face there would be a big beaming smile on it, filled with gratitude. I’m finally home after a marathon of travel and events for artists and radio friends.

Tears of Joy

Nothing is quite as fulfilling as having someone approach me with tears welled up in their eye and tell me that we’ve changed their life. I must have heard it dozens of times in the past few weeks from people who took a risk, stepped out of their comfort zone, ignored the inner voices trying to protect them from making mistakes, who attended one of our events and discovered something about themselves. I heard it on our art trip to Italy, I heard it when we ended up painting unexpected snow in Banff and Lake Louise. I heard it from one lady who attended our Africa trip, I heard from several people who tried my free art lessons online and I heard it dozens of times at our FACE conference two weeks ago. I even heard it at my radio conference in NYC this past week. They all make everything worthwhile and put a big beaming smile on my face.

Yet as we approach Thanksgiving, it’s not all smiles. There are people who are hurting at this moment, who can’t gather in their homes this week because their homes have been lost.

Numb to Disaster

Too often we become numb to the news. Disasters in places we have never been, impacting people we don’t know. Yet, the recent hurricane in Florida and the fires in California hit very close to home because I know so many people impacted including people who are close friends and readers.

This morning, if you’re secure in your home, cozy and comfortable, I’d ask that you simply take a moment and realize just how blessed you are and how so many others are suffering. We must not forget them and we must help them in any way possible.

My dear friends, Carolyn and Chris, let me know that they lost their entire home and everything in it during the fires in Malibu. When we were at the Plein Air Convention last year I remember him telling me that it was just a matter of time before they lost their home in a fire. Now their family home and family heirlooms are lost, including a great grandmother’s rare, irreplaceable Steinway piano, their grandfather’s grandfather clock, every photo, every memory of raising their kids, every homework project saved for years, every painting they ever made, and those they had collected, every stitch of clothing other than what was on their backs at the time of evacuation.

Yet another friend, Jeremy, one of the most important artists in America, had just moved into a new dream house. Firefighters saved it, but he lost his guest house. And my friend, Robert, watched all the homes around him burn while his home was spared.

My friend, Lynn, told me during FACE  that she lost her home in the recent hurricane. She also lost her studio, all of her paintings, her collection of paintings, and literally everything she ever owned. The only possession that was found was her FACE apron from last year’s Figurative Art Convention.

Last year another friend lost her Santa Rosa home and all its contents in the fire. She was not only an artist, but a major art collector, and her lifetime of collecting and the paintings she had done disappeared instantly with the fire. The only possession she has is a letter we asked her to write to herself about her dreams and goals at the prior year’s Plein Air Convention. It arrived two days after the fire.

These people have been through a living hell, which is beyond imagination. Yet each has shared stories of the heroes around them who risked their own lives to alert neighbors in houses when all lines of communication were down. These fires happened suddenly and spread fast and most everyone was surprised and had no time to grab anything.

The amazing part has been their resilience in the face of incredible loss, their spirit, which they have not allowed to be broken, and their gratuity that their lives and those of their families have been spared.

My friends, Chris and Carolyn, looked at it as a blessing. “We’ve been tied down by this big house and all this stuff. We’ve wanted to move on to do other things, but we were clinging to our comfort and now we feel free.” She also said that the tragedy was bringing estranged family members back together and that the sacrifice was worth it. They plan to live their dream of living in another country.

My friend, Lynn, told me she would rebuild in the same place, and though she loved her home, there were things about it she always wanted to change, and that this was her opportunity.

And my other friend used the opportunity to pursue the dream of owning her own art gallery and living in a different community.

From the ashes, a Phoenix arises. Each is embracing what happened for them and not looking at it as something that happened to them. None are saying “why me?” Instead, they are trusting the plan for their lives.

Sadly, many families lost their lives and will be attending funerals instead of Thanksgiving celebrations. People are still missing, feared to be gone forever. Therefore, the rest of us have so much to be grateful for.

I’ve learned many lessons from the horrible tragedies my friends have experienced.

Declutter

First, stuff isn’t important. Sometimes we work our whole lives to accumulate stuff. Most of us cling to stuff, buy more stuff, and some of us, like me, tend to hoard stuff we have not touched, used or looked at in decades. I think of my own overstuffed office and garage. I’ll feel more free by purging, giving what I don’t need to others who do need it. Plus, I don’t want to leave that chore to my kids to sort through after I’ve graduated out of this world into the next. It’s not fair to them. So I plan to take a couple days over the holiday break to declutter.

Focus on Quality

Second, there is some good stuff, that if lost, would be a tragedy. Things that are passed down for generations, things that were handcrafted or made by special craftspeople. We should enjoy and appreciate those things while we have it knowing someday it can be gone. For me it’s the guitar I made with my own hands, which I hope to see passed down for generations, the paintings I’ve made, my kids’ school projects and crafts, a couple childhood toys that bring back memories and some things my parents and grandparents gave me. Rather than clutter with lots of stuff, I’d rather have less, and have it be good stuff.

Document

Third, those of us who collect or create art have a responsibility to photograph and catalog our art so it can still be seen by the future world. The artwork we own or created may be of little value today but may be of big value in the future as the artists become known. Through my decades of life in and around art, I’ve seen far too many collections destroyed by fire and storms and there are no records of paintings made by brilliant artists to be shared in future books. I’ve photographed my entire collection in high resolution so it can be published in future books and placed it all in a software platform where I can document it, comment on it, and have a “back up” off-site on the cloud.

Insure

Fourth, no one is every properly insured, especially their art. We buy random things and before we know it years pass and there is no record. There are companies that can do special riders for art. Of course, it may not have been worth anything when you bought it and may have become valuable over time, which means current appraisals should be done from time to time.

Scan

Fifth, scan all your old photos and slides, and paper memories, and backup all your computers on the cloud so there is an off-site record.

Plan

Sixth, what are the three most cherished things you would grab when running out of a fire? What is your exact fire or storm or escape plan? Decide now. You won’t have time to think when given one minute to get out. It might be a good idea to have a packed bag with three days of clothes, some cash, insurance records, passports, etc., that you can grab when there is only one minute to get out of the house. I have red dots on things in my garage if I had time to grab things.

More Important than Stuff

Though all of these emergency actions are good to do, the most important action is to heal your old wounds and to spend more time with the people you love. This is a reminder that any of us can be gone in a flash and that we need to look past our anger, our stories, our past issues, and embrace people for what and who they are. Enjoy each moment together as if it’s your last. Go out of your way to make memories, to visit one another, and take the time, which you won’t have when it runs out. And don’t waste a single moment doing what you don’t love. Spend more moments being around people you do love.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about healing wounds? Do it now.

Do This Now

Who is the first person you think of who you would regret not seeing one last time? Pick up the phone now and arrange it. Seriously, right now. For a few years, I’ve meant to visit my friend Sean, but I always had an excuse, and now that he’s gone I wish I could visit. I have others I’ve been too busy to see that I’d regret not seeing.

Though these fires are horrific, the ashes provide moments of clarity, moments of gratefulness and a much needed fresh start for some. Though reaching out to these people I did not know what to say or how they would respond, but I’m encouraged by their strength, their resolve, and their gratefulness. I’m not sure I’d be as strong.

Let’s keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes we do things not knowing we’re being insensitive. I wrote an email this past week about living in Paradise and how I got fired from my own company. Little did I know that when it came out a town named Paradise would be burning. It was pointed out by a very caring reader, so for those I offended, I beg your forgiveness.

My travel whirlwind is almost over for the year. Just one more trip to San Francisco to pick which of the hundreds of amazing landscape painting spots we will use for our Plein Air Convention attendees so we can all paint together, then a stop in Salt Lake City for a memorial service to honor my friend Sean, who passed recently.

There is some exciting news. Last week we announced our new Podcast Business Journal, which launches tomorrow. Each week I do the PleinAir Podcast and l love podcasting. It has brought me almost a half million listens. So we’re going to help the thousands of podcasters learn how to turn it into a profitable business.

And because I have Thanksgiving off, look for a special Sunday Coffee on Thursday.

And please consider giving to the Red Cross to help out victims in the recent storms and fires.

Tears of Joy2018-11-17T20:47:43-04:00
11 11, 2018

Breaking the Chains that Bind You

2018-11-07T09:09:17-04:00

Pools of water reflect the sky and the railings on the porch after last night’s massive storm, which I thought I had dreamed in the middle of the night. Cool, crisp air and a slight breeze swaying the tops of my twisted oaks signal cold mornings to come, when I may have to build a fire in the porch fireplace. This morning my thick, fuzzy old navy blue cotton robe makes me cozy, though my hands are a bit chilled. Just four weeks ago, my freezing hands were bundled in two layers of gloves as I stood in the snow painting while giant snowflakes landed on my canvas, so today is easy in comparison. And, once again, it’s good to be home on my own porch, knowing the family is here with me, all nestled in their warm beds. Like Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Yellow Brick Road lately. I wonder what the writer had in mind when he created this metaphor for life with twists, turns, and challenges along the way, hoping to get to Oz — only to find out Oz was unable to provide what had been imagined and that what we have at home isn’t so bad after all.

Have you ever set a goal, achieved it, and found out it wasn’t really what you wanted after all? I have.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on goal-setting, but sometimes we strive for goals that don’t make us happy when we get there. That’s why it’s important to understand Oz before you get there.

“Ah, The Good Life” May Not Be So Good

Frequently I hear stories of businesspeople chasing the good life that’s promoted by advertisers, products, and marketing, all trying to make us think what they offer will solve our problems and make us happy. Just a few weeks ago I met a man who worked like a dog to get massive wealth. He had the jet, several Ferraris, houses in many places, and he was traveling the world whenever he could. He told me he became arrogant, dismissive of others who did not have what he had. He said he became a complete jerk and as a result, he lost his wife and his kids. Soon he had another wife and more kids and lost them, too.

He was richer than most people could ever be, yet he became very lonely. Then he lost his Midas touch, his business fell on hard times, and he lost everything and had to rebuild from scratch. He quickly learned his friends only liked him for his money and were not there for him when he lost it.

I think sometimes we chase things because we think we’re supposed to, or because society expects certain things of us. Most of this disease is driven by comparing ourselves to others and caring too much what other people think.

Not Such a Hotshot After All

I made a lot of money early in my career. Not enough money to buy a jet or multiple houses, but enough to buy a really nice car and have a little money in the bank. I was pretty full of myself and I wanted more, and it came so easily for me, I thought I had the Midas touch. But in reality, I got lucky. And once I lost all my money, lost my fancy cars, and destroyed my marriage, I got a much-needed dose of humility pretty fast.

I kept trying, and came close to making a fortune another time with a company I started, and raised money to start, but I screwed that up too, and lost again. For years I blamed circumstances like 9/11, blamed my board of directors, but I didn’t blame myself. Yet I was the problem.

Being Stuck in My Past

It turns out I was stuck in my stories. In fact, I clinged to blaming others for my failure for almost two decades, until finally I had a revelation that I was the problem. I had to accept the blame for all those employees losing their jobs because I didn’t have my act together. That was a hard pill to swallow.

The Art of Reframing

In the process called reframing, I learned that we can take the painful moments in our lives and ask ourselves, “Though it was extremely painful, is there possibly anything good that came out of it?” Then I write that thing down and keep asking myself what other good came out of it. I’ll do this until I’ve come up with six, or 10, good things.

Suddenly, once I’ve gone through this process, I’ll realize that my pain is gone, and that I’m looking at the good that was done for me instead of the bad that was done to me. By reframing the story, I am able to let go of the pain.

How I Killed Two Decades

We all hate and want to avoid pain. Yet we try so hard to avoid it, we actually cause more pain because we let fear of it hold us back. For instance, I stopped taking risks. I was so hurt by taking a risk and losing my company that I avoided risk completely. And for 20 years my company was stagnant, not growing and not providing the kind of growth my family and my team deserved.

Waking up to my pain, reframing it by finding the good and the lessons, is what broke those chains and set me free to take risks again, and the result has really changed my life.

The Worst Horrors Relieved

Reframing takes away your chains. I’ve heard stories that are more horrific than I could imagine. People who have experienced child abuse, or rape, or terrifying fires, or other terrible events. They understandably live in fear, yet that fear has made some of them afraid to really live. I’ve watched people snap out of those situations in less than a half hour when coached by someone in reframing — and when those chains go away, life changes.

Pity Is Our Comfort Zone

We fall so in love with our own stories and our own pity, our love of blaming circumstances or other people who have hurt us, that we get stuck and don’t live our lives. We get stuck in traditions, we get stuck in religions, we get stuck in things our families require, we get stuck in the way we think we should be, and we get stuck in comparison to others.

They say the biggest cause of depression today is spending an hour or more a day on Facebook because we’re watching our friends and their wonderful lives. We get caught up in their travel, their events, their happiness, and we compare ourselves to them.

Don’t Should on Me!

We get stuck in “shoulding” on others. You should be like me. You should vote the way I vote. You should believe what I believe. You should … fill in the blank. This shoulding causes anger, resentment, and depression. If we can stop trying to put others in our box, stop shoulding on them, we can live freely, and care less about what they think.

Certainly, though I offer my ideas here on Sunday mornings, I don’t intend to “should” on you. I share what works for me, but I want you to find what works for you.

The Yellow Brick Road is filled with challenges. Life is never easy, but it does not have to be awful. There are those who frame everything with a positive outlook in spite of going through some terrible stuff, and others who frame it badly. You get to pick.

Know Why You’re Going

I do think it’s worth considering what Oz looks like for you so you can design your life to fit what you really want. I think it’s worth considering that what we think we want may not really be what we want. It might be a good idea to find someone who has what you want and find out from them if it’s truly worth it. Look at Anthony Bourdain, who seemed to have a cool life of fame, travel, and money, yet he pulled the plug for some reason. Maybe once he got what he worked for, it wasn’t what he expected. Why not find people who are living the same dream you want to live and study them, talk to them, get them to level with you about the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Don’t Wait for Others to Fix You

You may also ask yourself about the biggest pain in your life and see if you can reframe that pain to break your own chains. If it can work for me, it can work for you. I keep finding things that are holding me back because I’m clinging to something old. I had to learn that no one else can change things for you, only you can change them. If you’re expecting someone to be a certain way to free you up, it won’t happen. I learned from many years of therapy that all the things I complain about start with me, my perception, my story, and my chains.

I truly want you to live fully. Chains are no way to live, and most people don’t realize they are living in chains until they reframe their pain, and suddenly one little breakthrough opens their life and gives them rich experiences they were missing.

Have you defined Oz and made sure it’s something you really want?
Have you defined the steps to get there and exactly what it will look like when you arrive?
Have you found your pain points and reframed them?
Are you comparing yourself to others?

In the ‘60s they used to say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Make today count.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week we held our FACE event (Figurative Art Convention & Expo). I thought it was a great experience and one that enriched the lives of those who attended. I want to thank everyone who attended. You enriched my life.

This week, another adventure. My same time, next year time with an old friend while I do my Radio Forecast conference in New York. I always love seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Last, Thanksgiving is coming. I have friends who avoid reconnecting with family because of the pain. Sometimes distance is healthy, but sometimes just a little reframing will make you want to go again.

Breaking the Chains that Bind You2018-11-07T09:09:17-04:00
4 11, 2018

Art From the Ashes

2018-11-03T11:17:01-04:00

“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

If you live in Austin, Texas, where I am this morning, the past few weeks have been made up of those howling winds and driving rain, flooding, and a water-boil order. This morning, November’s first Sunday, is chilly, but not cold as frozen iron.

Fortunately, the rain and two weeks of boiling water occurred while Laurie and I were on the Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine Italian Art Trip, hosting about 42 guests who accompanied us to see the art treasures of Italy. I’m jet-lagged and a little groggy still, but so invigorated from miles of the best art in the world.

It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and I have to admit the highlight, among many, was one private hour inside the Sistine Chapel just for our group, which is simply unheard of. I may be the only person who’s ever held a Facebook Live broadcast from inside the Sistine Chapel (you can find it on my Facebook page), until I was scolded and shut down by the guard. It was such a wonderful experience to be there with just our small group, without sharing the room with a noisy 5,000 others, shoulder-to-shoulder and unable to see anything.

Tears welled up in my eyes at the overwhelming experience, not only because I was pleased I could make that happen for my guests — a privilege typically offered only to presidents and ambassadors — but because of what the room represented to me. 

Here I was in a giant room, where one of the great artists of all time spent several years creating one of the world’s great masterpieces. To know that one man, and a couple of assistants, could accomplish such a feat in just nine years. I am in awe of Michelangelo’s ability as an artist, and the nearly impossible task of filling the ceiling and one end wall of a 12,000-square-foot room, and with such perfection. Keeping in mind that he was a sculptor, not a painter, when the Pope appointed him for the task. And it was not just painting, it required a fresh second layer of plaster and the ability to do fresco painting, a very special and difficult technique. He essentially learned as he did it, which shows what a genius he was. Though legend has him working while lying on his back, Michelangelo did the entire painting standing on scaffolding. Most of the great artists I know today, some of whom are tremendous at figure painting, could not complete a fraction of that room in a lifetime.

Michelangelo’s influence was felt in every city we visited throughout Italy — not only his sculpture, but his exterior and interior designs, such as one of the most amazing staircases I’ve ever seen, still in use today. It was humbling to walk on it, knowing he designed it and walked on the same steps hundreds of years before. 

Of course we also had a private time scheduled for Da Vinci’s Last Supper, and we had a private dinner inside an amazing palace filled with the works of history’s best painters to entertain our gazes as we dined. 

And we visited the massive home of a prince, who greeted us and told us about his family’s amazing collection of art. We had numerous experiences like this, too many to mention here; it’s something we will cover in an upcoming article.

The biggest surprise for me was a visit in our post-trip to Pompeii, the ruins preserved by volcanic ash at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Having seen photos in National Geographic as a child, I assumed we would see just a room or two, but what we saw was a city, acres and acres of homes, and there are more acres still under ash to be explored for generations to come.

The art found in Pompeii was exquisite, not at all primitive but highly sophisticated, with form, perspective, and shadow, and all of it made possibly 500-600 years before the time of Christ. Yet this was unknown because the city was buried and its art unseen — and “early” art that came hundreds of years later was primitive, flat, and lifeless. It was not until the Renaissance that the techniques of perspective, form, and shadow were reinvented. The Romans were doing it hundreds of years before, but no one was aware because that artwork was underground and undiscovered until 1549, and the art objects were not revealed till 1748.

An estimated 11,000 people in Pompeii died in less than three minutes from the heat of the volcanic eruption five miles away, and then the city was pounded with pumice stones and ash. Just a few short years before, the same city had been destroyed by a major earthquake and then partially rebuilt. Being there was sobering yet enlightening, and seeing the art, now housed in the Naples Museum, was an unexpected pleasure. 

We know of life in Pompeii because of the art left behind — the mosaics, the architecture, the sculpture, the glass, the jewelry, and the writings by a witness to the volcano from across the bay. It was art that was archaeological evidence of life. From it, we know how the Pompeiians lived, we know what they worshiped, we know their myths and legends, and we see the faces of their people. 

Art left behind not only told the story of Pompeii, it told the story of Rome, of Florence, and of life throughout Italy. For me, this reinforces the importance of what we do for those of us who create art in various forms.

Though I’ve traveled the world, this trip had a profound impact on me. In a way, it put me in my place, taking away my smugness about how good we are at things today as it was so clearly demonstrated that life was rich with experiences, art, and quality of life thousands of years ago. It truly is ashes to ashes, but the art remains to tell future generations about the world.

The stories of life, of wars, of famine, of successes and riches, of political rulers and failures, demonstrate that life is an endless cycle that will go on well past each of us. A reminder that life needs to be lived, and experienced richly, and not a moment wasted. And a reminder that we need to embrace those things that will tell the future world what our world was like. Our writings, our art, our architecture, and our stories — a contribution each of us can offer.

Looking over thousands of years of history, we see the evidence that we are each a brief blip, yet what we choose to do with that blip can have an impact for thousands of years, just as many of the things we saw were carried forward for us all to enjoy today. Those who produced the best stood head and shoulders above others, making a statement that striving to be the best holds great value. Whether it is the works of Bernini, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or those who created the treasures of Pompeii, art lives on.

One of the guests on the trip said that part of the key to life is “to finish well.” Those who devoted their lives to their craft, striving to be better, finished well, as evidenced by millions of tourists who come to see their works in person.

A trip like this offers a fresh perspective on the world, in a land out of our comfort zone, looking at life today and life in the past. It’s made me rethink my own purpose, my own art, and what each of us might do to leave something behind that could be recovered from the ashes to astonish others.

Comfort may be cozy, but our minds can do more when they encounter discomfort, and examples of brilliance made by mere mortals of the past. Having the world may not be possible, but seeking discomfort in our own world will make us all stronger, better, and maybe a tad bit more interesting. 

How can you get out of your comfort zone? It may be as simple as a visit to a gallery or an art exhibition or a museum you’ve not visited before, or learning a language, or finding a book outside what you’d normally read. While most seek comfort and security, it’s the discomfort that fosters growth and an invigorating life.

Eric

PS: Thank you for a much-needed break. I asked my team to deliver some past writings during my absence so I could take time away, disconnected from the news, from social media, and from e-mail and work. Disconnecting was a gift. No election news, no Facebook rants, no stress of work, just a week of living in a fantasy world of art, history, and amazing beauty.

The week before Italy I left my comfort zone and painted in the snow in the Banff and Lake Louise area of Canada, and hosted 74 painters who did the same. We had a blast. Most of us had never painted in the snow — we hadn’t planned to, but we ran into a 100-year early storm. It made it better, made it more fun, brought us all closer, and took us out of our comfort zone. I feared snow, and now I am a snow painter, as are all who came with me. You can see the story here.

Tomorrow I venture out to Miami to host our Figurative Art Convention & Expo. We have a few hundred people coming, and it’s going to be amazing to see the world’s top figurative and portrait artists teaching in one place. Perhaps you’ll attend, to get out of your comfort zone. Then the following week, we have our big annual Radio Forecast conference at the Harvard Club in New York. 

Let me leave you with this. I cannot remember when our world has ever been more polarized. I’ve never seen friends have such division over political discourse. 

I never talk politics. My views are my own and not ever shared with anyone. I keep more friends that way. And I’m careful not to judge others because they have a different view than mine.

You have the privilege of voting, and it’s something we should all honor with our presence. I’d like to believe that every vote matters, and I’d like to encourage you to vote. 

Art From the Ashes2018-11-03T11:17:01-04:00