9 12, 2018

Bumper Cars and Pinball


Country life is pretty amazing, especially when there is a convenience store at the end of the road where I can get a carton of milk in less than four minutes, including checkout. Having my eyes enriched with the greens, grays, and blues of nature each morning is a blessing.

Unusually, I heard the whinny of a horse this morning, and wondered where it came from because I thought my neighbor with the 40 acres sold his horses when his daughter went off to college.

As I write, squirrels sneak up to the porch for a feast of birdseed spilled from the feeders, and birds are surrounding the feeder and the porch, storing up for winter. Sometimes I sit out here and think about what’s coming this week, or I just lose myself in my memories.

Shiny Memories

Memories came flooding back to me as I interviewed artist Tim Horn recently for an upcoming podcast because he has become known for the amazing shiny Airstream trailers he paints. I told him we had an Airstream trailer growing up, but there was more to it than that. I’ve got to get one of his amazing Airstream paintings in my collection. I’d park it right in front of my face to remember my childhood.

Not Just a Trailer, but a Movement

Airstream wasn’t just a product, it was a movement, and we found ourselves growing up inside that movement, where Airstream owners would get together and caravan across the country together, or gather in rallies — large fields filled with shiny silver pill-shaped trailers, hundreds or sometimes thousands of them. There were local rallies, state and regional rallies, and national rallies. And the Airstreams were meticulously parked in a fan shape, making for some amazing photos from on high.

A Cult of Campers

I’m not sure who started first, my parents or my grandparents, but they both had Airstreams and we would be at these rallies together. I was too young to know just what went on among this cult of owners, though I recall some horseshoe games, and my grandmother winning blue ribbons in  the bake-off each year for her incredible German chocolate cake. My grandfather was head of the parking committee, getting those trailers lined up properly during these events.

Family Vacations

Though I didn’t like it at the time, I recall those weekends when my brother and I had to keep that trailer shiny, rubbing compound in hand. Our vacations were often the five of us piled in our Oldsmobile Bonneville, trailer in tow, heading out to places like Colorado or the Grand Canyon. And in summers, we used to camp in a wooded trailer park on Sandusky Bay in Ohio, across the water from Cedar Point, an amazing amusement park with a spectacular roller coaster.

Becoming Men

Eventually we got a little OMC boat that had a tri-hull design. I got my love of design from my dad, who always wanted things that were practical, efficient, and well-designed. This little boat was a beauty, and we would spend our days in the boat fishing, visiting neighboring islands in Lake Erie, and even visiting Canada. But if I’d had my way, we would have visited that roller coaster every weekend. I remember one day when my dad was taking a Power Squadron course in a competition, and he and my brothers and I were out all day in a massive storm, with big waves and heavy rain. It may have been the day me and my brothers became men.

Random Bounce

Aside from the roller coaster, my favorite things at the amusement park were the bumper cars and the arcade, which was filled with pinball machines. What was fun about both was the adventure of unknown, random direction. No matter how hard you tried to drive straight or shoot the ball straight, they would bounce into things and go in other directions. That was the fun of it.

Though Forrest Gump would say life is like a box of chocolates, I think it’s more like a pinball machine or a bumper car. We head off in a very specific direction and continually get thrown off course and start heading another way. Or we set off not really knowing where we’re going, and we get jostled around a lot and end up somewhere we didn’t expect when the timer runs out.

Accidental Magic

I have to admit that there is some wonderful random beauty seeing in life as pinball, and it keeps things interesting and exciting. No matter how many plans you make, things never really end up exactly the way you planned them. Sometimes the best things in life are accidental and need to be embraced for what they are.

I hear friends concerned about their kids bouncing from job to job, not knowing what they want to do — yet bouncing can help them discover things that are better than anything they might find following a plan.

Split-Second Decisions with Long-Term Benefits

As a kid I loved listening to the radio, but I never envisioned myself being on the radio until a random event I got pulled into introduced me to a kid named Charlie Willer, who had to leave the event to do his radio show. Though we had been working on a community project to break up ice dams on the river that were causing problems, I dropped everything to go along and see inside a radio station. It was a split-second decision, one I almost didn’t make, and yet that one decision introduced me to a career in radio — in which I celebrate 50 years this year (I was 14).

Imagine a 50-year career, based on a split-second decision I made because I was curious.

In spite of all the vision work, goal-setting, and planning I’ve done in my life (and these are still critically important), most of the best things that have happened to me were because I bounced off one bumper car into another.

I’m guessing that management gurus like Peter Drucker would be horrified at the idea of bumper cars and pinball.

A Set of Three Words

Thinking back to random, accidental things that occurred, I realize that there are three other critical elements: Curiosity, Movement, and Capture.

Curiosity: If you ever finding yourself thinking “I wonder…” take action! Go find out.

Movement: I’ve often talked about a boat that is adrift at sea, that just floats where the winds and currents take it. It could be lucky, or it could end up crashing on the rocks. Yet that same boat on course, with engines running, will still encounter interesting things along the way.

Capture: Continually ask “How can I apply this to me, my life, my business, my career?” and then do something about it. Lots of us are exposed to the same things and may find we have the same interests, but we must move toward those things and seek ways to capture them in our lives. That’s why one person will get results and another will simply whine about why something wasn’t right for them.

Have you ever stopped to think about the bumper cars and pinballs in your life?

What things in your life are a result of your Curiosity, Movement, and Capture?

I’m guessing if you think about it, many things will be present.

Not Bounceable

I have a dear friend in Florida who sold his business 10 years ago for a lot of money, and has been bored ever since. He is miserable. My advice to him is to get back out in the world, but he keeps jumping into the things he did in the past, then gets frustrated that they are not happening for him because those ships have sailed. Yet I keep suggesting that if he were to put himself out there, do things outside his comfort zone, attend events unrelated to anything he is interested in, go outside the parameters he has placed on his own identity, he will discover new things that will excite him.

Comfort No More

That’s the very reason I attend three or more events a year that are outside my own comfort zone. It’s the reason, when traveling, if there is a conference going on for another industry, I’ll slip in and listen to the sessions. In fact, doing that years ago resulted in an idea that became a successful conference for my radio company.

Your Next Big Bounce

Millions of baby boomers will be retiring every day for the next 20 years. Many will be fine, but others will be bored and wishing they hadn’t retired. But what a wonderful opportunity to play pinball and bumper cars! Picking random things outside your comfort zone to attend or try might result in something to keep you engaged and enthusiastic for the coming decades. (And don’t start telling yourself you’re too old).

Curiosity, Movement, and Capturing the things you discover that you find interesting is one of the great secrets of people who live engaging and interesting lives. (Success Magazine once did an article on my being the “shiny object king,” which relates to my CMC (Curiosity, Motion, Capture).

Don’t Lock Yourself Up

Many off us get locked into “I’m supposed to do X,” whatever “X” is. Many of us tell ourselves “I’m an (insert career title here)” and limit ourselves. Yet a trip to the amusement park may be just what we need.

I have great confidence in you, that a little random and accidental bouncing may help you discover the next great thing in your life.

Start bouncing.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Yesterday, while en route somewhere, we randomly bounced into a no-kill shelter and adopted two amazing elderly dogs who had been turned in by an older owner who could no longer care for them and wanted to keep them together. Our family is pretty excited about our new members. Next I’ll have to have artist Johanne Mangi do one of her amazing dog portraits.

Believe it or not, I’ve not started my Christmas shopping yet, I guess because I’ve busily been finding gifts for artists for our customers. We are making the kids each pay for half of their first car, so my guess is we’ll be doing a lot of car shopping in lieu of Christmas shopping this year as they get their licenses. Brady was the first to get his license (his beaming smile is on my beaming Facebook page, which may be out of “friend” slots, but you can always follow my Instagram too).

I’m unsure if I’ll get up on Christmas morning to write, but just in case, check your e-mail. Have a great day.

Bumper Cars and Pinball 2018-12-06T10:51:18+00:00
2 12, 2018

Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest


The loud cackle of a colorful and exotic Amazon-like bird startled me out of my euphoric dream state on what was planned to be a no-alarm morning — like a military bugler pressing his horn against my ears, playing reveille and saying, “Get up, soldier!” I jumped up out of a dead sleep, only to see darkness out the window, giving me permission to nestle back into my thick warm featherbed covers. But alas, once I was awake, my mind was spinning faster than one of those wobbly toy tops we used to get at Christmas when we were kids.

So here I sit, in a dark little corner of my long wooden back porch with the light of my screen painting my face in a blue glow, barely able to make out the keys. Bundled for warmth, I’m treating my footsies to the the thick fake-fur socks I bought for snow painting in Canada.

It seems impossible that today is the start of December. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah (Happy Hanukkah this week!), Christmas and New Year’s seem to go by faster than firecrackers popping on Independence Day.

Spinning and Spinning

Thanksgiving week was a blessing. A staycation, no travel and just time with the family, sleeping in every morning and suddenly realizing how exhausted I have actually been. When you’re spinning on the merry-go-round, you simply have to find your balance and keep going until it winds down, but once you stop, you’re a little dizzy and you don’t want to get back on for a while. What a blessing it’s been not to wake up in a hotel room or have to catch another airplane. Though I love to travel, I needed a break and plan to stay home till Christmas, though that required canceling some trips.


Brady, one of our 16-year-old triplets, got his driver’s licence this past week, and his first car. We gave high fives at the driving test, and when he was handed his license, his smile was beaming. He could not wait to have that moment of freedom we all remember so well — his first time out driving alone. And as he pulled away, tears streamed down my cheeks, knowing this is the first of many clues that our little birds will soon fly away. The other two are right behind him.

This moment, though long expected, has been harder than I thought. My mind is racing with questions about how we’ve done as parents, whether the kids are ready for freedom, and what critical lessons we need to impart before our nest is empty.

A parent’s work is never done, and to this day I learn life lessons by observing my own parents, who are in their early 90s but still manage to surprise me with great advice. They have also done a great job of luring us with “worms” to get us back to their nests on a regular basis. Soon, we too will have to find ways to make the kids want to visit, to spend holidays and summers with us whenever possible.

The speed with which children grow up was predicted to us by everyone who has been through it, but you never really realize it until you’ve experienced it.

A New Kind of Box

Over the years we’ve kept memory boxes of special moments, with papers from school, art projects, and other things the kids will want. But now, I need to start working on lesson boxes. How can I impart wisdom and lessons? Though I’m hopeful my kids will someday want to look through my life’s work, the magazines I’ve produced, hundreds of editorials, the marketing courses, the marketing book, even my radio history book, those things are merely a blip in the grand tour we call life.

Repetition Forever

Comedian Jack Benny, prior to his death, arranged for a single red rose to be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. What if we could create one lesson a day, or a week, and have those lessons e-mailed to our kids every day for the rest of their lives?

My new goal is to give my kids a lesson a week for the rest of my life. Something simple, something small, probably something said in passing when we’re together, not packaged as a lesson. But something deliberate.

The Rhoads Walk

We are formed by those who surround us. My grandmother used to say I had the “Rhoads walk,” and walked just like my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father. I once asked a doctor if it was hereditary based on bone structure, and he said it was learned. We learn from observation.


Our kids learn from our good and bad traits, the way we interact with our spouses or parents, the time we spend or don’t spend with them, and that will probably be exactly how they treat their own parents and spouses. They learn how we interact with others, the time we spend helping others, our work habits, our focus, the time spent with our kids, and they tend to mimic our moments of anger, of joy, or our interaction with our Maker.

I became two people … my artist mom and my entrepreneur dad. It was never planned, it was based on what I absorbed from their behavior. I embrace it.

My offspring have absorbed a lot, some not so good and some, hopefully, good. But there is still time, and that time does not end when they leave the nest. It never ends while you’re alive, and may never end at all as lessons pop up over time in situations when we call on our brains and experience for solutions.

Still, to make sure certain things of value that have been learned are passed along, it’s important to be deliberate and start planting important lessons. Now I just need to start making my list.

What would be in your life lessons list?

If you could get your kids to remember only three things, what are the most important things you would want them to remember for the rest of their lives?

What are the best things you want them to discover and the lessons to help them discover them?

What are the things you can help them avoid?

What traits don’t you want them repeating?

What traits have served you well?

Do you have others who need your lessons? How will you pass them on? Is it time for you to write that book you’ve been talking about for years? Why wait? Sure, we think there is plenty of time, but if it’s really important, how about starting today? It all starts with a first action.

Being Purposeful

I’m guessing the lessons I learned have been passed down for generations, getting better with each one. And in there were probably some things that someone had to learn to change. Yet when we think about our role, we live on through our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and hopefully forever in the family lineage. Someone in your past was deliberate and purposeful in the lessons they offered, others passed on what they knew only by accident.

Which will you do?

I’d love your feedback in the comments below or in e-mail. I’m starting to work on my list and would love to hear about yours.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Everywhere I go people are sharing their stories about Sunday Coffee and what it’s meant to them. Most have told me they’ve shared it with others. If there is a particular Sunday when you find something you think has value for others, I’d appreciate your sharing it. Just forward it with a link to subscribe (www.coffeewitheric.com).

Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest 2018-11-30T13:29:22+00:00