27 01, 2019

The Call You Never Want to Receive


Awakening before sunrise, the darkness and quiet surrounding me, no sound other than the slow and steady breathing of my wife, sleeping beside me. Quietly I tiptoe into the bathroom, carefully closing the door so you can’t hear so much as the sound of the latch. There is a chill in the air, raising goosebumps on my skin, which are immediately soothed by the comfort of a hot shower. Then, making my way to the closet, I put on my most comfortable jeans and a dress shirt, then sneak out to the kitchen, brew my coffee, grab my suitcase as it rolls behind me to the car, and then again to the airport shuttle bus, through security, and on to the gate.

The Smell of Jet Fuel

My much anticipated break from business travel is over, and as I stand on the jet bridge behind others, I smell the jet fuel and hear the sounds of an airport. Making my way to my seat, I notice no one looks anyone in the eye. They are each in their own world, off to their next adventure.

I’ll Answer Later

My adventure led me last week to San Francisco, to do some prep work for our upcoming artist convention in April. Just as I started the engine of my rental car in the parking garage, my vibrating phone got my attention. If I answer now, I’ll be off schedule, I’m thinking, so I’ll call later. But a premonition I’d had about my mother while I was on the airplane made me glance at the phone, and the word “Mom” was on the screen. So I turned the car off to answer.

My brother is on the phone, sounding panicked — something’s wrong with Mom, she’s fumbling and appears disoriented. “Hang up and call 911 right now.” Click.

Call 911 Now!

The story sounded too familiar. Two years ago my wife had noticed the same fumbling and disorientation in a family friend she was visiting, and her instantly calling 911 ended up saving the woman’s life. A brain tumor was discovered and immediate surgery was needed. And after losing my friend Sean to a stroke, my mind was reeling. After waiting a few minutes to give my brother time to call, I tried and tried to get through but got only a busy signal. That went on for a few hours. All I could think was that 911 told him not to hang up the phone and he left it off the hook.

Feeling Helpless

Panicked, I phoned family members in the area, not entirely sure 911 had been called, and needing feet on the ground immediately to step in and help. Feeling helpless — there was no one else I could call, no information coming in, and yet I had to drive to meetings in San Francisco and try to keep my cool.

Unable to Concentrate

Arriving at the De Young Museum to explore some possibilities and painting locations, I see my colleagues Tom and Ali and a traffic/parking consultant who is helping us determine the best times to visit our chosen locations. I alert them to the fact we might be interrupted at any time, and we go about our business. But my mind isn’t on work, which suddenly seems meaningless. I can’t focus, I can’t concentrate, and I’m wondering how I’m going to get from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale in a split second.

Hiding Tears

Of course, my mind is thinking the worst. It’s not going to be good news, knowing my wonderful mom is 92, frail, and dealing with some other health issues. If it’s a stroke, this could be the end. Tears well up in my eyes, and I turn around to wipe them, trying not to let others notice I’m tearing up.

My Worst Fears Confirmed

While we’re discussing parking, my phone rings in mid-sentence. It’s my brother, saying Mom has had a stroke, the MRI shows a giant clot in her brain, and she is in surgery now. “Say your prayers,” he says, and I utter them quietly after he hangs up.

Now that my fears are confirmed, I flash back to New Year’s week, when we were together. Every goodbye brings the thought that maybe this is the last time we see one another. Perhaps this time it may be true. I keep praying quietly to myself while trying to stay engaged in the meeting.

Beauty and Fear at the Same Moment

We drive through Lands End, right by the Legion of Honor art museum, where the giant cedar trees line a view of the ocean, with a distant view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is one of the most beautiful spots I could ever imagine painting in my life, and I painted there many times when I lived in San Francisco. Here I am again, trying to enjoy the view and determine if it’s a painting spot for the convention. Again, the phone rings.

An Unexpected Surprise

My brother tells me Mom is out of surgery, that they went in through her veins and pulled the clot out, and he hands the phone to Mom. And though she’s groggy, she starts talking to me as if nothing happened. She doesn’t remember a thing, and, typical grandma fashion, she is asking me about my son, who had just had a minor surgery. We talk, we hang up. All is well.

Act Fast, Don’t Wait

As it turns out, there is about a two-hour window for stroke victims, and, thanks to my brother being there at the right time, taking swift action, and EMS getting her to the right hospital when the surgeon who does this procedure happened to be there (he lives 30 minutes away), they got the clot out before it had done any noticeable damage.

My mom had just experienced a miracle. Miracle of medicine, miracle of timing, miracle of the right hospital that happens to do this procedure, and miracle of prayer.

It’s amazing to me how in a single instant, the mind compresses to focus on what’s important, and pushes out all the little things that don’t matter.

Annoying Parents

As a parent, my kids roll their eyes at me, sometimes think I’m stupid, give me grief for things that bother them, and there are moments when I can feel their disgust. And I have to admit that as an adult child of aging parents, I’m often frustrated by their decisions, and it’s easy to be critical, to get upset, and to be bothered or annoyed.

Yet a single phone call in a split second pushed all of that aside and distilled what is truly important.

Estrangement Why?

I can understand estrangement in some cases because parents or family members have done horrific things, making avoidance the best policy. Yet estrangement because of differing opinions, anger over the way you were raised, anger over little things that become amplified and become big things over years of repetition is hard for me to understand.

Doing the Best We Can

As a parent, I do what I know and I try to do the best that I can. Yet I tell my kids to save their money for therapy, because I’m sure something will bug them when they are adults. The fact that I dragged them to art museums, or made them do their homework, or made them get jobs when their friends didn’t have to work.

Instant Clarity

And in spite of all the things my brothers and I could find wrong with our own parents and their decisions at the time they were raising us, all those rolled eyes and moments of annoyance disappear when that phone call comes in. I know in my heart they did the best they knew how to do, and though we all may think other families are perfect, my guess is that few are.

Move On

I suppose my point in all of this is to just say that I’m grateful I could talk to my mom one more time when I thought I never would, and that I don’t know how many more hours, days, weeks, years, or decades I’ll have my parents and my family members. I need to move on beyond the wounds, be forgiving, accept them for who they are, and give them as much time and attention as I can. Whatever the issues: Move on, get over it.

The Last Thing I See

When I’m on my own deathbed, I don’t need my big screen TV or my favorite painting or some physical object. I need the hands of my family touching my hands, and I want their faces to be the last thing I see before seeing the face of God.

My friend Skip once told me, “I’d give up my entire bank account, my home, my car, and everything I own just to have one more half hour with my mom or dad. You’re lucky to have them. Make sure you spend time with them while you can.”

I Wish…

I’ve been to too many funerals where sobbing family members have uttered the words “I wish I’d … spent more time, talked to them more, listened more, visited more.”

Today is the day to reach out … touch base … visit … hug … listen … because tomorrow you may get a call.

Get It Done Today

It’s also a reminder to us all that we may, in an unexpected instant, become the victim of a health problem. Not only do we need to connect with those we love, we need to boldly not allow anything to get in the way of our joy, and do the things we want to do, even if there is some fear attached. Someday may never come, so do those things today. Take some risks to enrich your life, and don’t let anything get in the way. Tomorrow may not come.

Eric Rhoads

PS: My friend Tony Bennett made a San Francisco song famous, and, though the city is getting some negative publicity and facing some challenges — some of which I saw — it remains a magical place. I left my heart there, too. I lived there for 10 years, and visiting recently filled my heart with memories of why I love that place so much. It may be one of the most amazing places an artist can visit, and I’d live there again, even now. I’ll return in April for our Plein Air Convention and am excited to do so, because it will be a magical event in a magical place. By the way, the De Young Museum will have a Monet: The Late Years exhibition while we are there, and it’s sure to sell out. So if you’re going, and want to see it, as I do, order your tickets early.

The Call You Never Want to Receive2019-01-25T19:37:17-05:00
20 01, 2019

How to Convince Anyone to Do Anything


Days before my 10-year wedding anniversary, I was sweating bullets about what kind of gift I could buy that would be more special than anything. I found myself flipping through catalogs, driving to the mall, and going into random stores, but nothing I found seemed special enough to celebrate a decade of marriage.

Zero Art Knowledge

At the time I was deep into my career as a radio trade magazine publisher, and I knew nothing about art. As I was walking down the street, I wandered by an art gallery. Frankly, I’m not sure I had ever been inside one, and as I glanced in the window, I saw a lot of beautiful paintings and some elegant old furniture, none of which I could relate to. But, because I was desperate to find something, I went in.


A Bit Snooty?

A well-dressed woman approached me, and looked me up and down with what I felt was a sense of disapproval. After all, I was probably wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and probably a lot younger than her typical customer.  

Without her lips even moving, she said, “May I be of service to you, sir?” Probably thinking I was there to steal something.

“Um, just looking,” which of course did not get her to walk away. It was clear I was around millions of dollars’ worth of stuff, and she was going to shadow me.

“Are you here for a specific purpose? Do you need to decorate a home, perhaps purchase a gift?”

I was totally intimidated, did not feel welcome, but said, “Well, I’m looking for a 10th-anniversary gift for my wife, but I don’t know anything about art. I was just walking down the street and decided to wander in.”

“Very good, sir, but I should probably make you aware, these are rare antique paintings and furniture, and, well, I don’t mean to be rude, but they are quite expensive. Is it possible that you might be looking in the wrong place?”


Sizing Me Up

Clearly, I did not belong, or so she thought, but little did she know I had just sold a business and could probably have afforded anything in the store. So I simply said, “I don’t think that will be an issue. Can you show me some things?”

I don’t think she believed me for a minute, but there was no one else in the store, so she played along, showed me some paintings, asked what my wife liked, and then pointed me to some really beautiful paintings that were, to my mind, very expensive.


Industry Jargon

I liked the paintings very much, but then she started spewing a bunch of gobbledygook I did not understand. She talked about the era of art the paintings were from, talked about the movement the artist had been part of, and threw out technical jargon that totally turned me off. This went on for about 10 minutes, and as my eyes glazed over, I decided I needed to get away.

Politely I told her that I did not understand a thing she had just said, and that it all seemed very important, but it did not matter to me.


Catching Me Off-Guard

Then she did something that totally caught me off-guard. She said, “The things I just told you may not matter to you now, but as you get to know more about art, they will be meaningful, because you will have paintings that are among the best of the best. You see, one of these paintings will not only be the perfect anniversary gift — it will make your wife cry when she sees it — there is a strong chance that it could put your kids through college 10 or 20 years down the road, or build quite a nice nest egg for when you decide to retire. And if you ever decide you don’t want it, bring it here, and I will always pay you what you paid me for it.”

She had me with “this will make your wife cry,” and it didn’t hurt to know that something I was buying might be worth money in the future, and that if I got into a pinch, I could get my money back. She was good.

I ended up buying one of the paintings, and it made my wife cry. And in fact, I later learned that the artist was very important, and that painting should be a nice nest egg for my ex-wife in her future.


This dealer helped me grasp the advantage.

The ability to help others grasp the advantage is one trait that all successful people possess.

All too often we speak in abstract terms that mean something to us but mean nothing to others. Yet all of us have to convince others of things in our lives from time to time.


Steve Jobs Could Sell Anything

One day Steve Jobs walked up to the top engineer at Apple and told him, “We need to make the boot-up time on the Mac 10 seconds faster.” The engineer told him it was not technically possible.

Then Jobs said, “Let me ask you this. If someone’s life depended on it, could you do it?”

The engineer said, “I guess I would have to find a way.”

Jobs then said, “10 seconds times the millions of users that use our products is equivalent to 72 years wasted. That’s someone’s life.”

The engineer not only figured out how to cut 10 seconds, he cut 20, because Steve had made him relate to the challenge in a different way to grasp the importance of that 10 seconds.


Guilty as Charged

Most trial lawyers will stand in front of a jury and say, “The plaintiff is sick. His employer is responsible, and they need to pay up.”

Trial lawyer Gerry Spence will stand in front of a jury and say, “Ol’ Bill over there got up at sunrise every day of his life for the past 40 years. He loved his job, he was devoted to his company, and he needed that job to support his six kids, who he put through college on his low salary, sacrificing what he and his wife wanted so they didn’t have to work in the coal mines. His back would hurt from shoveling coal, and he would breathe that awful black coal dust every day for 40 years. He was coughing and hacking while he worked, his skin was covered with coal dust, and the dust was always getting in his eyes. There was no fresh air to breathe, and workers were not allowed to wear masks. Now that he has cancer, his company is unwilling to pay for his care. Does that sound right to you?”

Gerry Spence helps the jury grasp the situation.


What if you and I spent more time helping people grasp the problem, the situation, the need?

We all get caught up in our own worlds. My doctor will use terms I can’t understand, and he loses me every time — until he sees my eyes glaze over and puts it into terms I can understand.


Speak in Actions, not Abstractions

Instead of industry jargon and terms others don’t understand, try to make a movie play in their heads. See your own movie, and describe what you see while weaving a story they can relate to.


Like Pac-Man

It’s also helpful to use things people already know to help them relate to what you’re trying to tell them. “There are these little creatures inside your bloodstream that are like Pac-Man, eating up everything in their path” is a lot more effective than talking about antibodies.


The Woodstock of…

It’s why I say the Plein Air Convention & Expo is like the Woodstock of plein air painting. People instantly grasp that it’s a giant, fun gathering with all the top artists, and a rare and special moment in history.


Oh, I Get It Now

Helping others grasp the right perspective is something few people do, but something that all successful people tend to do, knowingly or not. Doing so will help you in every part of your life … whether it’s convincing your kids of something, trying to sell your husband or wife on an idea, communicating with others, writing, or even selling something.

Translate everything to a story others can relate to. Find things that matter to the listener. Doing so will make a huge difference in everything you do.

Can you think of a time where you have failed to communicate with someone?

Is there something important you need to accomplish that you’ve been unable to convince others about?

Can you find an example of something else people already understand that could help others relate to it?

Help others grasp your perspective. It will do you a world of good.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Friday night late, I got back from San Francisco, where we spent some time exploring the places we’re going to paint in Wine Country and around San Francisco for the April Plein Air Convention. I’m really excited. We also decided to create a new indoor painting arena, so people who don’t want to go out of the hotel the whole week can stay inside and have a plein air-like experience with moving clouds, light, and sound, when others go out to paint. (Ironic, isn’t it? Indoor plein air painting!) It will be like looking out the window, and painting the outdoors from indoors.

How to Convince Anyone to Do Anything2019-01-16T17:02:10-05:00
13 01, 2019

Roadblocks That Get in the Way of Your Dreams


I did a double take this morning as I glanced out the window. Our backyard looked like the scene of a horror movie, with twisted and gnarled oak silhouettes against the purple-white fog. This was the just the solitude I needed after returning from a holiday away to a to-do list the size of Texas.

I’m focused this morning on my year — not so much the planning, because that’s been done for a while, but my intentions, my beliefs in what I can really accomplish. I’m driven to help people find painting because I know how much it changed my heart, brought out my creative side, and made my life so rich. I want others to experience that soul-enriching feeling so they too can have the heart of an artist, even those who don’t believe they can do it.

Amplify Your Efforts

As I was thinking about how to appropriately amplify my efforts to draw others to the gift of painting, I had to admit that if it’s truly my life’s mission, I cannot allow anything to get in the way. I must drive it with smarter thinking, more time, more passion, fresh ideas, the willingness to do whatever it takes, and relentless, nonstop efforts.

This is how we all must approach our passions. When roadblocks get in the way, we have to find a way around, over, or under them. And if we’re unwilling, if we allow something to stop us, then our passion and drive aren’t strong enough.

Trading Your Life

We have to ask ourselves what we’re trading our life for. If I’m trading my life to help people discover and develop their passion for art, then life is too important to waste on petty little time-wasting things that don’t bring me closer to the goal. We each have to have a burning desire that is fueled into an all-consuming obsession.

But desire isn’t enough. If it were, we would all have endless money, perfect abs, and look like fashion models.

One of the problems with goal-setting is that we can’t just wish our way to our goals. Though mindset is crucial, mindset alone also is not enough.

A Glass Ceiling

A few years ago I realized I was not hitting my goals. It was as if I had a glass ceiling I could never get beyond, and though I had big dreams, I kept failing. Year after year, I set goals and missed them, and after two decades of doing that, I told myself I had reached my limit. I was unable to get beyond it, and I started to give up and accept my place in life.

Have you ever been there? Thinking you could accomplish something, but after getting beaten down time and again, finally accepting that it was never going to happen?

Though I thought I wanted to be successful, being successful beyond a certain limit triggered fears inside of me, and those fears held me back. And honestly, I had no idea it was happening.

If you and I were to be totally, painfully honest with ourselves, we would often discover that we’re continually missing out on our biggest dreams because we are subconsciously embracing the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others have told us.

Sometimes they are well-meaning, well-intentioned lies like …

  • “People are starving in China. Make sure you clean your plate.”
  • “We’re not cut out to be doctors or lawyers. We work with our hands.”
  • “Rich people are nasty and mean.”
  • “You’re not smart enough.”
  • “You have to retire at 65.”
  • “It takes talent to be a great artist.”
  • “You can’t make a living as an artist — artists starve.”
  • “Only losers do that.”
  • “You’re not good with money.”
  • “You’ll never be as good and successful as I am.”
  • “God doesn’t want you to be rich.”
  • “Men who drive fancy sports cars are compensating for their lack of manhood.”
  • “A woman’s place is in the home.”
  • “You should never be showy.”
  • “You’re big-boned.”
  • “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re a bad student.”
  • “God’s going to strike you down for doing that.”
  • “Seven out out of 10 doctors smoke Lucky Strikes.”

If You Repeat Something Enough, You’ll Eventually Believe It

Our beliefs are created by repetition, by hearing something over and over again. Repetition of messages from our parents, our family and friends, our clergy, our subconscious mind, our bosses and co-workers and the media. We repeat our fears — often fears of success.

We and others have unintentionally programmed us to believe what we can and cannot do, what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and unacceptable, what’s possible and not possible, and this programming tends to get in the way of our goals. Worst of all, we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Changing Your Behavior

The first step in overcoming the lies we keep telling ourselves is to find out what they are. Start by listening to your thoughts and asking yourself, “Is that really true? Or is it a lie I’ve been told and have been repeating?” You have to challenge everything you catch yourself saying.

What’s Whispering in Your Ear?

You can learn about yourself and your limitations by discovering the little voices inside that have been holding you back. Do it by reading books, by attending events like Tony Robbins talks, by taking online courses and webinars, by seeing a therapist or a hypnotist, or trying EMDR therapy or neuro-linguistic programming. You will be amazed at how many things could be keeping you from your dreams. Once you’ve discovered your limits, you can reprogram your brain to overcome these roadblocks.

What are the things you’ve believed your whole life that may be holding you back?
What thoughts are keeping you from your dreams?
What’s buried deep in your subconscious that hurts you?
What do you find painful to talk about?

If you can devote 2019 to discovering what’s inside, you’ll make your dreams a reality.

I believe in you — I know you are capable of anything you desire.

Eric Rhoads

Roadblocks That Get in the Way of Your Dreams2019-01-13T12:21:18-05:00