30 12, 2018

12 Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever


As I’m snuggled in with a blanket draped over my lap, the chill outside prevents my normal porch visit. Instead, the sun gleams in and the ornaments of the Christmas tree sparkle with light, while a perfectly focused shadow of the tree is projected on the side wall by the sun’s powerful rays.

Like a wedding that is planned all year and over with a quick “I do,” Christmas is over. It seems as though we spend weeks, and sometimes months, in anticipation and preparation, then packages are ripped rapidly open and Christmas too is over, and we’re moments away from the hope of a new year.

Looking Backward

With the beginning of a fresh 12-month cycle, we evaluate the last cycle and ask ourselves what worked, what failed, and what needs to change. We set new resolutions — but we later forget them, and we repeat our same routines yet another year.

Finding Yourself

Here I sit with a list of questions I should have addressed weeks ago, yet life, work, and Christmas got in the way. But a couple of days to think them through will set the tone for my coming year. It’s not really fair to myself to spend just two days planning the next 365, but something, I suppose, is better than nothing.

What should I celebrate?

Looking over a year that has been as much a blur as scenery out the window of a bullet train, I ask myself what worked, what I am most proud of, what accomplishments I should celebrate.

What should I not repeat?

That high-speed view requires that I devote even more time to my mistakes. What went wrong? Why? If I had to do it all over again, would I still want to do it? And if so, what would I do differently the next time around?

What do I regret?

Regret is an emotion reflecting something I’m not feeling good about. How did I treat others that was not the best of me? What behavior or attitude do I feel badly about? What opportunity did I take that I should have avoided? What opportunity did I pass up?

What should I have been doing?

There are also things I should have done that I did not. For instance, I should have gotten more exercise, but I allowed some excuses to get in my way. What was I too lazy to do that would have made things better for my family, or for my surroundings?

What did I mean to do that I never got to?

This is a giant one for me — projects or actions that have been put off yet one more year. They loom over me, causing stress every time I think of them. These are not necessarily high-priority, but they do eat away at my energy, knowing they need to be done. It might be a great idea I need to consider at work, or something at home, kind of like that loose banister knob on the stairs in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Where do I want to go that I’ve never been before?

Though this sounds like, and could be, a travel question, it’s really a question about pushing ourselves into a new experience, a new world, about doing or trying something new.

What have I always wanted to do that I’ve never done?

Will this be the year? Which dream did I, or you, cast off with some poor excuse for not pursuing it?

What’s my updated bucket list?

What are the places and experiences I want to get to before I die?

What do I keep talking about but never doing?

Talk is cheap. Excuses get in the way.

What do others need of me that I need to make sure happens? It’s not all about me, and that’s a good thing. How can I be there better than last year? It what ways do I need to make sure I show up?

Who do I need to spend more time with?

There are people I love who I want to be around more, even though they may be far away. If not now, when?

What superpower or gift do I need to share with the world?

I have gifts I need to share — and so do you. You know things others don’t. You possess superpowers in some areas. Will you share that? Don’t tell yourself others don’t want or need to hear from you. I used to have a lady contact me often and tell me about her troubled life. She could not keep a job, she was miserable, her life was filled with problems. She suffered depression and was even feeling suicidal. She asked me what she should do, and I told her she should become a life coach and a public speaker. She laughed and said, “No, seriously.” And I said I was dead serious. All she needed was for someone to believe in her. She took immediate action, got a chance to speak in front of a small group, then another, then another, and now she is speaking in front of big crowds and telling her story. I’m sure the book will come. Her life changed in one second when someone told her they believed in her and held her feet to the fire to go out and do something tomorrow. Had she not done it at that moment, she might have slipped back into her old life. I didn’t do that, she did it. That’s what we all need to do. The instant you decide you need to do something, take action that second before doubt demons keep you from your dream.

Questions Are the Way to Find Answers

The better the question, the better the answer. Ask yourself a question and give an answer, then deepen it with another question based on that answer, and then another one. Ask yourself “How else might I accomplish that? What else would make that even better?”

How might I _____, so that I can ______?
How did things get this way?
Why do things stay this way?
How can I improve things?
What are the possible reasons I’m noticing this gap (a symptom of an issue)?
What isn’t happening that if I did it, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What is happening that if it stopped happening, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What don’t I see?
How much money would I have right now if I could unwind any three financial decisions I have ever made?

“What sabotages our dreams and causes most of our problems is our excessive optimism and emotional belief in magic pills, secret formulas, and financial tooth fairies.” —  Keith Cunningham, The Road Less Stupid (which contains these and other great questions)

Most of us, myself included, spend more time thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner that we spend thinking about our lives, our problems, and solutions to our problems.

A Powerful Tool

What if, before New Year’s, you locked yourself in a quiet room — no phone, no computer, no music, no distractions — and you made a list of every dream, of every problem, of everything you want to accomplish? If you just started writing down everything that comes to mind? Don’t judge, put everything down, and keep asking more questions about each.

If you did this for an hour or two, you’d be spending more time on your plans than 99.999 percent of the world, and if you do it a few more times, not only now, but a couple of times a month, you will see things change and worlds open to you.

Keep It Visible

If you and I looked at our list of goals, actions, and dreams once a day or even once a week, it would be more top-of-mind and not forgotten, so we wouldn’t get to next New Year’s Eve with the same list of unrealized dreams.

Manifest with a Plan

There is a mistaken belief in our culture that if you dream something, or manifest it, it will come. Though I’m very much a believer in this, the missing element is typically a plan, some action items, and making sure what you want is continually on your radar.

If Not Now, Never?

If it’s important to you, you’ll do it. And if not now, when? You may think conditions are not right and that things one day will be better, but that’s rarely true.

Roadblocks to Dreams

Don’t let excuses keep you from your dreams. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too busy, too sick, too healthy, too reliant on others, too consumed with other responsibilities. Don’t wait on others to solve your problems, or you’ll wait a lifetime with no results. You are the only one responsible for you.

Poof, You’re Gone

You and I could be gone one second from now. Each breath is an opportunity to not waste the rest of our breaths and live the dreams we were placed on this earth to accomplish. Our dreams are not just random ideas that came into our heads, they are gifts we need to embrace and on which we need to take action.

Ask questions.
Make plans.
Take action.
Measure action.
Make new plans.
Keep taking action.
Live the joy of knowing your dreams became a reality.

Yes, it actually can be a happy new year.


Eric Rhoads

PS: One of my action items, based on encouragement from many of my readers, is to help others find these Sunday messages. Maybe, if one day this gains some steam and gets some national recognition or notoriety, it could change more lives, maybe become a book or a few, and do what I was put on this earth to do.

If you, and each person who opens these e-mails, would do just three things, it would help tremendously. Because if I’m going to continue doing this, I need to do it right and amplify.

  1. Forward this e-mail with a note about why you find it meaningful (assuming you do) to three or more people.
  2. If you happen to know an influencer … someone in media, a blogger, a TV or radio person, a celebrity, a change agent, a book publisher, or anyone who, if they wrote about it, would bring in more readers, it could make a huge difference. Again, send a personal note.
  3. If you would copy the website link to this today and put it out on social media for others to discover it, I’d appreciate it.

My number one goal for 2019 is “Amplify to Cause Change.”

I want to say that I’m so grateful. I hear from a lot of folks every week by e-mail, in the comments below, and in person. It’s gratifying to hear your stories and how, on occasion, a thought helped you in some way. I truly, sincerely, and graciously wish you a year of abundance, of joy, and of great depth.

12 Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever2018-12-28T09:01:59-05:00
23 12, 2018

Two Opposite Perspectives on Life


Sage-colored oak trees in the distance glow with dew as the sun glistens off their leaves. The mountain in view creates a stunning silhouette and cantaloupe color fills the sky as an Indian yellow sunrise peeks through the leaves with intense color. What were massive beds of little yellow flowers just weeks ago have turned into toasty, oxide-colored weeds.

The old studio porch is glowing, with the orange sunrise light flooding its dark wooden shiplap boards as the sun projects shadows of the twisted trees on the walls. Even the festive strings of lights that edge the porch are glowing from the sun, though the lights are not even plugged in.

Mornings, and sunrises, are magical in every way, and though there is no snow here and it’s a cool 50 degrees, the air is still filled with the magic of Christmas. And somehow we managed to get the Christmas tree and decorations up and even got the lights up on the front of this old house, just in time to celebrate the special day that comes this time of year.

Christmas Insanity

The word “tender” comes to mind for the holiday season. In spite of the pressure to perform miracles selecting the perfect gift, and perhaps pushing ourselves deeper into debt, come Christmas Eve there will come a calm, truly a silent night, and a time when, if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll fill that special night with tender moments and memories with our families or special friends.

A Final Farewell

Tender is on my mind because of a phone call I just had to make to a dear friend whose Christmases for the past three years have been spent wondering if each would be the last Christmas for her husband and best friend. My call was prompted by getting word that this will indeed be their last Christmas together. Her description of their last year together is “tender, not bitter.” Though they have fought his illness for three years, she tells me this process of dying is one of the cycles of life, and that they have enjoyed each cycle together and are determined to embrace this final cycle with dignity, grace, and abundance of love.

Intense Anger

Tender is also on my mind as I think of an old friend who has filled his heart with anger. It began like gasoline poured on a small spark, then spread like a forest fire in high winds, leaving destruction for miles in every direction as he destroyed ancient-growth friendships because of his obsession with politics. Everyone else abandoned him much sooner than I, but I hung in there, knowing the gentle, tender man he once was. Yet even I finally had to distance myself because it’s too painful to listen to the vitriol and watch his self-destruction.

Life in Contrast

The contrast of these two events is painful. In one case a couple is facing the most difficult possible time of their lives, yet they have found the peace and even joy in it, not allowing it to destroy their final weeks or months together. The other is allowing the media to manipulate him and add daily fuel to the obsession that is killing him from the inside out, as he carries so much unnecessary anger and drives his family and friends away. One family is facing their pain with dignity, the other with anger and disgust.

The Paradox of Friendship

Why is it that we can invest decades into friendships and look back on those years fondly, believing the friendship can outlive anything, only to find out that it can turn into contempt because of disagreement in one small part of our lives? What happened to trusting people for who they are and have always shown themselves to be? Yet they — or we — allow a disagreement over politics to bring it all to an end.

The Prescription for Sanity

This political anger is changing our behavior and increasing our blood pressure, and too many of us are allowing it to disrupt our lives, our relationships, and our day-to-day behavior. One woman told me she is not going to our Plein Air Convention this year because she is so upset over the recent midterm elections — she just isn’t going to go. Yet getting away from all that to be around people who love what she loves, and finding a much-needed painting distraction, is just the prescription she needs to bring some peace to her heart. As people ruminate over the horrible things they think are happening (no matter which side they support), they are putting life on hold out of fear that something even worse is about to come.

“Never talk money, religion, or politics,” my folks used to say as they were putting us through life boot camp. “It’s a good way to lose friends, and no one is going to change their mind anyway.”

A Crumbling Foundation

I remember hearing stories about families divided during the Civil War, brother fighting and killing brother, over their beliefs and ideals. Have we come to that again? Your beliefs, your ideals, whatever they may be, are worth fighting for, worth disagreement, but are they worth killing friendships over? Change what you can change, use your best efforts to make the change you wish to see happen, but don’t allow it to rip the very foundation from under your feet. Your family and your friendships, in my opinion, should be protected like your most precious possessions, because when we too face those final moments in our lives, we won’t be obsessing over politics, we’ll be wishing we could see all those people we love, just one last time. And if we’ve driven a wedge between us and our family and friends, they won’t be there. Our friendships and our families are our foundation, and if a foundation cracks, the house falls.

Use Time Wisely

My wife always reminds me that our final words won’t be “I wish I had spent more time working.” Alive and well, I am wishing I could spend more time with my wife, my kids, and my friends now, and trying to figure out how to get off the road and travel less. The recent loss of Sean, a lifelong friend, was a reminder that you cannot reconnect enough. And now that all three kids are driving and will be off to college in short order, it’s a reminder that we can’t look back, all we can do is focus on now.

I once wrote about battling troops who played football on the front lines of World War I. It was Christmas Eve, and out of respect, they put their anger aside to play football together, gifting themselves with a couple of hours of joy before they returned to killing one another.

I propose a truce. Not just a Christmas truce, but a lifelong truce.

A Rule Worth Following

Going back to my mom and dad’s advice about not talking politics, when I hold my events in the Adirondacks and Fall Color Week, we have a no-politics rule. We’re there to escape, play, and have fun, not to fuel anger and disagreement. The rule is that we simply don’t talk about it, and try to avoid looking at the news on phones or other media.

Escaping Pollution

This past fall one person brought up something political from the news to me mid-week, and it truly spoiled my joy for a couple of hours. And though I said this in a loving way, I suggested that I’d happily refund his money if he was going to pollute the atmosphere for me and the group at a time when we’re all trying to get away from all the political angst. I intend to recommend the “no politics truce” at the Plein Air Convention and the Figurative Art Convention as well because we’re there to celebrate our commonalities and the painting that gives us joy. We all need escapes.

What if you were to suggest this rule at family and friendship gatherings? Chances are everyone knows that there would only be disagreement and debate over politics, and it typically results in bad feelings, anger, and sometimes the end of friendships.

Keeping Certain Things Private

Honestly, we should not make it our concern what each other’s politics are. We should not want to know how others voted. We should not want to know who they support and who they hate. Political discourse used to be more civilized, but it’s become toxic, and that is why we should all make a truce to remove that from our dialogue with friends and family. Meanwhile, the media loves keeping us on the edge of our seats and fueling our anger so we go back for more. Resist it.

Our obsession with politics is hurting us all.

No More Poison

Last summer I disconnected entirely. No television, no radio, no news websites, and I asked my wife not to tell me about things she was reading. I was filled with joy; all that poison was not polluting my system. I enjoyed it so much that I try to go to my studio instead of turning on the news. I get to change things when I vote, and unless I run for office, which I would never do, there isn’t much else I can do. So why get worked up?

Extracting politics from my life may be putting my head in the sand a bit, but I’ll learn about everything important one way or the other. And doing so has brought me peace and tranquility. It’s not controlling my life, and the media is no longer pushing my buttons.

You have every right to be concerned with politics, of course, and I respect that. But is it truly worth the loss of friendships and family?

Are you feeling defeated, angry, or frustrated with politics?

Is it serving you or hurting you?

Perhaps it’s time for you to consider a truce. And there is no better time than now.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When we next talk, Christmas will have passed. Please accept my deepest and most sincere wishes for a wonderful Christmas. I intend to take some time off, so if I don’t show up next week, you’ll know why. Frankly, I won’t know what I plan to do till the day comes.

Two Opposite Perspectives on Life2018-12-20T15:00:49-05:00
16 12, 2018

Strangers Among Us


Quietly sneaking out of bed, I tiptoe out past the dog crate where our two new small rescue dogs sleep, hoping not to wake them or their adopted mom. Softly closing the door, I think the dogs are still sleeping, only to hear the door open and a sleepy mumble, “Please take them out.” Walking from the cozy warmth of the indoors to the stark chill of a winter morning, they wander through the tall grasses and around the trunks of the gnarly oaks, then briskly head back to the heat.

Peace Interrupted

My best Sunday mornings involve quiet, undisturbed moments on the porch or a dock as the family sleeps. Now, a new era involves a couple of tiny dogs the size of couch pillows walking across my keyboard in search of a cuddle. Silence and peace are interrupted by an occasional love nudge or a growl at something seen out the living room window. At least I can see my porch and my little slice of heaven from where I sit. It’s just too cold to be outside writing, and gloves make me hit two keys at a time.

Looming To-Do List

Brightly and with bold confidence, the morning sun streaks a beam of light across the porch, ending on the Christmas tree leaning against the house, waiting to be brought inside. My to-do list stares me in the face — boxes of ornaments and yard decorations that should have been addressed right after Thanksgiving. If I get my chores done, I’ll have the tree up before it’s time to take it down.

A Walk Through the Woods

Last Sunday we managed to drag the triplets away from their busy lives, piling all five of us into Mom’s car, a rarity these days, off on our annual tree-seeking tradition. For us, a walk through the snow-covered woods, saw in hand, and dragging a tree down a country road is replaced by  pointing to a tree and pulling out a credit card. Not terribly romantic, but a tradition the kids love just the same.

The ritual of carrying boxes from the attic, decorating the house, and then tearing it all down again is worth the effort as we pull out ornaments, handmade by the kids as toddlers, that stimulate conversations about childhood. It’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas, especially when the kids bring up their own memories. In spite of being hormone-overloaded teens, there is a brief moment when they think we gave them happy memories.

Decorative Memories

Silly objects that sit around our house will be remembered forever, just as I recall the little white plastic church with the light inside whose doors would open as its music box played “Silent Night,” filling my grandmother’s 1940s living room. One memory stimulates others — odd things we remember, like serving Hillbilly bread at the dinner table, and important memories like reading a devotion and a passage from the Bible at every meal. As I kid I could not wait for it to end, yet today I appreciate faithful dedication, and maybe I absorbed a thing or two.

Family Prayers

Marathon prayers longer than War and Peace came from the hearts of my grandparents, as they made sure to ask for a blessing for every person they ever met in their lives. It’s in the grandparents’ manual, I suppose, because it continues with my own father’s epic prayers. Yet each prayer contains these words we will all remember for the rest of our lives: “Change all of our plans according to your plans, we do and say, and all of our actions according to your will, not our own.” Pretty good advice.

My own kids react the same way we did as kids, just wanting to dig into the meal. I remember an old family friend who used to say, “Don’t ever eat unblessed food.” But we would open our eyes and sneak an occasional green bean. My kids do the same.

Strangers at the Table

Christmas was that time when people we rarely saw would come out of the woodwork. Like aunts and uncles, they were always at holiday meals. One man who was always there, a fellow named Raymond, who was single his whole life and lived alone in a little white house down the road, had served in the Merchant Marine with my dad. I never heard much more about the story of why we adopted him into our family. I’m guessing when I ask my parents they’ll say, “That’s just what you do when people are alone. You include them in family.”

Adopting Families

I don’t know if it was the times, or just something our family did, but people were always living with my grandparents. One woman, Della, was like a third grandmother to us. She was there from the time we were born until she died when we were in our early 20s. I’m guessing she lived with my grandparents for over 30 years. She had lived a few doors down, across the street in a tiny little Craftsman kit house, and was left penniless when her husband and all her kids were killed in an auto accident. That’s when she became part of our family.

Am I That Selfish?

I had not thought about these adopted adult “orphans” in years, and I don’t know if it is what people did back then, perhaps rooted in the Great Depression when people needed help, but I don’t see it today. And I sometimes wonder if I’m too selfish to do something like that myself. I can’t imagine how disruptive it is to a family to take in a widow and let her stay the rest of her life. I’d do it for a week or two, maybe a little more, to help someone get settled. It makes me realize just what special people I had in my life who would put the needs of others before their own comfort. I wish I was less selfish.

Awaiting Your Call

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent some Christmases alone because of circumstances such as not being able to afford to travel home to the family. Being alone for Christmas is not fun. No one should spend Christmas alone, especially people who are suffering with tragedy in their lives, where the simple gesture of an invitation to a meal and to hang out with a family may be the best gift they get all year.

Displaced Families

A few weeks ago I wrote about friends whose lives have been disrupted by hurricanes and fires, losing everything. Maybe you and I can share a little of what we have with them, even if it’s just for a day or a weekend or Christmas. Let’s not assume they have an invitation. There are so many displaced people in those communities that there are not enough hotel rooms or housing to take care of them all.

Is there someone in your life who would enjoy an invitation to Christmas dinner?

Is there someone who, if you stop and think about it, is lonely because of a recent change in their life? Maybe they just moved to your town, or maybe they are recently widowed or divorced. Maybe they are just in need of some friendship.

Imagine the impact you and I could have if each of the 100,000 people who read this would invite just one person for Christmas dinner. That one gesture could change everything for that person. It may seem small to us, but it is major to them.

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, now is the time to be planning who you will invite.

Charities will tell you that Christmas is the biggest giving season, but what if we found a way to hold on to that Christmas feeling year round? Maybe asking someone to move in for the rest of their life would be a bit of a stretch for most of us, but let’s not ignore our Christmas invitees the rest of the year.

As we get close to the big day, and as the stress of giving “things” tends to keep us going from store to store, let’s not forget the difference we can make in the lives of others with a little slice of our time.

Eric Rhoads

Strangers Among Us2018-12-13T08:34:46-05:00
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 Pinball2018-12-06T10:51:18-05:00
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 Nest2018-11-30T13:29:22-05:00