24 02, 2019

Unexpected Impact

2019-02-24T11:12:31-04:00

Early signs of spring give hope that a long winter will soon melt away. Bluebonnets have begun to spring up and will soon paint fields of blue carpet in the rolling hills surrounding us — motivation to stock up on shades of blues and purples and throw my backpack of painting gear in the back of my old Honda Element, the best painting car ever made.

 

A Sea of Blue

In a moment of brilliance, the First Lady of Texas, Lady Bird Johnson, was driven to beautify the state by arranging for free packets of seeds to be handed out at the license bureau, and encouraging Texans to scatter the seeds along the highways. Later, when she became First Lady of the United States, she fought to beautify highways by removing billboards, and her initiative stands to this day, as billboards are permitted only close to exits, and are not allowed on certain roads at all. She was in a position to make a difference. Yet you don’t have to be the First Lady, or hold a prominent position, to make a difference.

 

All Dressed in Green

Dressed up in my green Boy Scout uniform, with my red sash of merit badges, I asked my mom to drive me to the Glenbrook shopping mall. When she asked why, I said, “I have to meet with the people there for a project I came up with.” “Do you have an appointment?” she asked. Making an appointment hadn’t crossed my mind, but we went anyway, I talked my way in to see the manager of the mall, and I suggested a big idea. I told him I had recently received my fingerprinting merit badge, and that I got a fingerprinting set for Christmas. And when I was meeting with the local police to get my badge, one of the officers mentioned that they didn’t have any fingerprinting records for kids, which made things more difficult in certain investigations.

So I wanted to set up a fingerprinting booth at the mall, fingerprint kids, and give the prints to the local police department. They agreed, and I did it for several weekends in a row, fingerprinting hundreds of kids. Though this was probably a couple of decades before fingerprinting kids caught on, it was an idea that would help, and it needed to be done. I’ll never really know if it ever helped the police department, or if that seed of an idea somehow spread because one cop told another. Yet what matters is that something was tried.

Though I like to think big and find ways to make helpful ideas spread wide and fast, what matters is helping a single individual in need, because that one person might become the seed that spreads.

 

A Change in Attitude

A few years ago I felt as though there was something missing in my business life. I realized that I was building a business for myself and for my family, but it somehow felt empty. So I declared that I would take at least 10 percent of the company profits and give it to my employees, and I’d take at least 10 percent of profits and give it to a charity. Because I’ve always been bothered by homelessness, and because much of my business is based on plein air (outdoor) painting, it made sense to do something for the homeless outdoors. Though I rarely talk openly about this, we give to an organization that helps people get back on their feet, provides meals daily in several cities across the U.S., and builds villages to help rehabilitate people in their own tiny houses. Each year since we’ve started doing it, we’ve provided enough to fund a new tiny house. We’re not a big company, so our impact is small, yet if it helps one person, it’s worth it.

 

Accidental Magic

Last year at the Plein Air Convention, we announced our initiative called the PleinAir Force Veterans Squad, and, upon my call for help, 200 people rose who said they were willing to teach painting in their towns to help veterans with PTSD. In the last year I’ve watched reports coming in from those teaching, sending photos of groups of veterans painting with smiles on their faces over their accomplishments. And I’ve watched people who are teaching enriching lives because they are helping. I’m thankful to Dennis Yost, a veteran and painter who is heading up this initiative, and people like Roger Rossi, a painter who is over 80 and who is teaching veterans each week in New York as part of an initiative he created for the Salmagundi Club.

 

Where Seldom Is Heard…

The spirit of giving does not have to be about charity work, church work, or helping people with a visible need. It can also manifest itself in other ways. Sometimes giving is about encouragement and helping others believe in themselves. And sometimes we never know the impact. A few years ago I got a call from a man I’d known briefly 30 years before. He worked for me as a weekend disc jockey back then, and when he called he reminded me that he’d asked me for some advice on how to be more successful as a disc jockey, and I told him that maybe he should aim higher, and he should try to become a station owner so he would have financial freedom. At the time that was a wall so high he never believed he could climb it, but because someone believed in him, that made him believe he could do it. His call was to thank me for the encouragement and to let me know he went out and found a way and now owns many radio stations.

 

Deep Cuts

Of course, the opposite is true, too. Our words can cut like a hot knife in butter and can stick in people’s minds for decades. Small things said in a moment of frustration or anger can destroy confidence. Though no one should let that happen to themselves, sadly, it happens too frequently.

 

Cutting Words

Words stick. They ring in your head. When I was probably 14, I told my aunt I was interested in radio and she told me, “You don’t want to do that. Radio people are sleazy.” That little phrase is with me to this day, and I almost let it change my direction, but instead I used it as motivation. “I’ll show her,” I thought. Not only did I build a career in radio that continues to this day, 50 years later, I soon realized she was right; there were a lot of sleazy business practices, especially by salespeople, back in the ’50s and ’60s. So I made it my career goal to help raise the level of professionalism in radio by starting a radio industry publication that trained managers and salespeople. I think it’s had a big impact.

 

On the Lookout

In every situation in our lives, our minds have to be scanning, looking for opportunities to help others, looking for opportunities to encourage others, and looking for people who need a break. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Let’s help veterans or homeless people,” I encountered something that triggered it and responded with action at that moment. Opportunities come in a split second, and we’re only able to grab them if we’re watching for them and willing to just say “what the heck” and jump in.

 

Problems? No Problem.

The other important thing I discovered is that we’re never fully ready. We have our own challenges and problems. We can’t let those get in our way. Some of the most giving people I know are people who go feed homeless people after their chemo treatments. Giving and helping is self-healing.

Giving comes in a lot of ways. Two very generous women funded about 10 scholarships so young students could attend my Figurative Art Convention & Expo, coming this November (FACE). Then, at the last convention, Casey Baugh donated half the proceeds of a painting of his that we auctioned to the scholarship fund. In another instance, a woman from the North had some friends who had always wanted to attend the Plein Air Convention & Expo but didn’t have the means, so she funded tickets for three of her friends. That may change the lives of those students or the people now attending PACE.

 

Side Benefits

We don’t have to have money to give. We just need big, open hearts. And there is a side benefit. Giving fuels growth. It’s something I never understood, but when you give, much is given back to you, which of course allows you to give more. Giving can be about time, about encouragement, about advice, about listening, or, yes, about money. I missed a lot of years of giving and can tell you that it was the one missing element in my life that makes me feel better about myself.

Who needs your encouragement or help?

How can you step up and give a little?

“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).


Enjoy your day. It’s almost spring, and seeds need to be planted.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: You’ve probably heard me talk about my love for art and painting, and for outdoor painting, which is called “plein air.” Art historian Jean Stern of the Irvine Museum at the University of California says the plein air movement is the largest art movement in history. It’s my goal to help people find painting and experience the plein air lifestyle, which is about being creative, being outdoors, and traveling the world. And it’s very social; we all make a lot of friends and go painting together. If that sounds appealing to you, I’d encourage you to experience it firsthand at the Plein Air Convention this April in San Francisco. We even have a pre-convention Basics Course for new painters that helps you feel comfortable being there and teaches you what you need to know to start, and you have coaches who work with you the entire week. But if you can’t come or don’t have interest, maybe you would consider funding a scholarship so I can bring in some young people and art teachers so this movement has a future. If that’s of interest, drop me a note, or use this link to donate any amount of money to help fund a scholarship.

Donate to a Scholarship

PPS: Today I’m driving to San Antonio to a giant conference of art materials makers — people who make paint, easels, panels, etc. I will probably do a live broadcast from there on Facebook. I‘ve been once before, and it’s a sight to see. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, that’s where you’ll find my broadcast if it’s of interest to you. I’m there to work on a huge project that will bring plein air painting to more people. I’ll tell you more at the convention.

Unexpected Impact2019-02-24T11:12:31-04:00
17 02, 2019

The Opposite of Pain and Problems

2019-02-14T17:12:17-04:00

Massive flocks of black birds descend to our trees as a massive sleet storm blows through overhead. I’m guessing it must hurt if you’re a bird because they are swarming like scared rats and running into the tin roof of this farmhouse, as if they are possessed. The sound of fluttering wings and crackling squeaks is almost defining. I feel like I’m living in the movie The Birds. I’m told it’s a migration. Maybe they are coming north in anticipation of spring.

These crazy birds remind me of how we all tend to act when hit with a sudden, urgent issue. We run around in all directions, moving just to avoid pain, but accomplishing nothing.

 

Panic Mode

The other night at an art opening I encountered an old friend who was in panic mode over a custody issue that had cropped up earlier that week. Her panic was because she did not want to lose custody of her son to her ex. She told me she came to the opening to get away from the problem, but instead she brought the problem to everyone who would listen. People listened patiently for a minute or two, but I watched as they found excuses to slip away to enjoy their evening.

I sat with her, listened, and asked, “What good can possibly come out of all of this?” Of course, she could see no good.

When we’re in panic mode, we can’t see anything clearly. She kept asking, “Why is this happening to me?” Frankly, it was not the time to talk to her about how it was happening for her. She just needed a listener.

 

I’ve Lost Control

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I’ve been so stressed, so consumed that I cannot think, cannot reason, and find myself useless for days. I look back on all the wasted days worrying about problems that seemed big at the time, but rarely were. I wish I had all those days back. But since that’s not possible, the only thing I can do is prevent myself from wasting time consumed in stress.

 

Putting It on Hold

If you allow yourself to become consumed, you actually make things worse because you can’t think clearly. You become singularly focused; you are panicked and emotional. Your brain is in fight or flight mode. So you have to prevent getting locked into panic. So the first thing I like to ask myself is, “How urgent is this, really? Is swift action required, or do I have a month or two?” Somehow, when I buy myself some time, it seems to take the urgency away from my angst. If it’s truly urgent, I move into urgent mode. Otherwise, I have time to think and tell myself I don’t need to react.

 

Talk Me Down

If I can’t pull myself out of panic, I ask myself, “Who can talk me down?” I have a couple of friends who are always honest with me, who have great perspective, and in times like these I need to talk to someone. And I need to do it fast, because it isn’t something I should be telling everyone at a party.

 

Escape

I also try to give myself distance and distraction. A therapist might call it running away from a problem, and that is exactly what it is. So I’ll cancel all my meetings and just go for a long walk, maybe take a drive, or even take a small trip. There is nothing like a hotel room with a view to give you time to think. It’s important when thinking to go through a series of thinking time questions. What am I not seeing that I should be seeing?

Next, I try to step out of the situation to see the problem from an outsider’s perspective. Usually what I realize is that it’s not nearly as big a problem as I’ve made it out to be.

 

What Could Possibly Be Good About This?

Most important is to see how this problem could be a good thing. Maybe it’s a lesson, maybe it’s a signal of a bigger problem. I’ve been worked up about deals being delayed or not closing, and that ended up dying, only to later find out there were massive problems we would have encountered had the deal happened. I’ve learned to pay attention both when doors open and when doors close. In the past I’d chase closed doors, sometimes to my detriment. Today when doors close, I rarely try to open them.

 

How Can I Benefit?

Instead of asking WHY is this happening, how about asking HOW? How can this problem or obstacle benefit me? How can it help me in ways I’m not considering? Can I write down 10 ways this is a GOOD thing? I’ve found so many times that problems happen for a reason.

 

Opposing Forces

If you look back on your life, there is a gift with every problem or every roadblock. It’s hard to see it at the time, but even horrific events like a death bring families together that otherwise may never have gathered. For instance, my uncle’s passing was so sad, yet spending three days with my cousins, whom I had not seen in years, was a gift. In some Eastern cultures, this would be called the yin and the yang.

Another great word is WHAT. What help is this problem providing — help I didn’t even know I needed?

As hard as it is to see things when you’re in panic mode, try to see how the problem is offering you benefits that may help you in other ways and can make you better.

Did you ever mourn a lost relationship, only to find the love of your life, whom you would never have found if you hadn’t been dumped?  How about losing the best job ever, only to find one even better that you never would have found if you had not been fired?

If you and I can learn to see problems, roadblocks, or obstacles in a more balanced way, that perspective can become a part of the way we process all problems. The answers may not be evident at the moment of panic, but just knowing something good will come of it is somehow helpful.

 

The Law of Nature

Our natural human tendency is to avoid pain at all costs, yet everything we do, and every relationship we have, won’t always meet our perception of perfect or ideal. Everything we do will come with or attract problems and challenges. It’s the Law of Nature.Yet somehow we’ve been sold this idea that everything can be perfect.

Without pain, without problems, we would not experience change, we would not develop to a higher level or experience personal growth. Pain and problems help us find our true selves.

 

In the book The Values Factor, author John DeMartini writes…

“Without voids, without difficulties, without pains and challenges, we would never go on to achieve the greatness of which we are truly capable. And yet, if we are less mature or possibly unawake, we want that ease without the hardship; we want that pleasure without the pain.”

 

Just Make It Easy, Please

He continues, “We like the idea of learning what comes easily and resist the idea of struggling to achieve knowledge. In our careers, we wish for achievement without setback, an unbroken story of triumph, with no bankruptcies, lost jobs, or even periods of uncertainty. Financially speaking, we want money without effort, and when we look at our social circles, we want to be surrounded by admirers only — people who think we are wonderful, not people who doubt, question, or reject us. And physically, we expect — or at least we want — what we think of as ‘perfect’ health, not to mention a flawless appearance and endless reserves of energy, without disease, blemishes, or fatigue.”

It takes a mindshift to embrace pain, to distance yourself from problems and look inside them for benefits, but doing so is one of the most freeing gifts you can give yourself.

Ultimately, our emotions control us or we control them. We get to decide.

If you’re in pain today, or if you’re experiencing a problem or a challenge, I don’t take it lightly, and I’m sorry for your pain. Is there something good within it? Can you grow from it? Can you leverage this pain to somehow make you greater? Dig deep.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m not suggesting that I don’t have stressful days. We all do. When I’m stressed, I’ll go out to my little art studio in the back of the property and start working on a painting. No matter how keyed up I am, the act of painting uses a different part of the brain, and within minutes I can’t think about my woes or my stress. Painting is a gift. As I’ve mentioned, I’m driven to help others find it because it offers so many positive benefits. But I can just hear some of you now… “I don’t have the talent.” “I did not get the art gene.” “I’m a klutz.” That was me. Actually, we all think that art is a natural talent, but it’s really a learned skill, and pretty much anyone can do it. It takes time and lots of practice to get really good at it, but you are having fun even when you’re learning. I’d encourage you to find an art lesson locally and stick with it past the first few frustrating weeks. You can also go to a paint party — it’s rare to find one that actually teaches quality painting, but they are out there if you look enough. Or you can go online, lots of sources there. Though there are better painters than me, I put together some free paint lessons online, which makes painting and even drawing really simple. I start by removing the color, and though color is fun, if you can learn the simple process of of the foundation, color will come much easier. It’s like the notes on the piano. If you can learn just one small scale, you can eventually play the whole piano. So I created this thing I call Paint By Note. If you’re snowed in or taking a day off tomorrow and you want to try it, check out my free lessons online at www.paintbynote.com. Thousands have taken them, and people are always sending me pictures of their progress. I love seeing it. I hope you’ll send yours.

The Opposite of Pain and Problems2019-02-14T17:12:17-04:00
10 02, 2019

How To Get Unstuck

2019-02-07T14:08:43-04:00

Light shimmers on the wood plank floor of this old porch, glistening from last night’s rain. A hint of moisture in the barely cool air isn’t enough for a sweater. I’m feeling like a prisoner released after a stint behind the bars of winter. Freedom is mine; I can once again return to my porch without bundles of winter clothes and freezing fingers on my keyboard. I’ve never been a fan of winters — even mild ones.

 

Barriers in the Snow

Winter always meant barriers. For our friends who dared not leave home during the recent polar vortex, their barrier was cold. When I was in Sun Valley, Idaho, recently to paint on TV for an upcoming national TV show, I sucked it up, layered my limbs, and stood outside in the snow painting. My host, Lori McNee, and I drove around seeking the perfect spot for them to film us, but the barrier of unplowed roads limited our options.

 

Things Seem Overwhelming

Barriers are not only a problem in winter snow. They can be a challenge in life, in our careers, keeping our goals and big plans from happening. Too often when we see barriers, we allow them to slow us down or stop us. The truth is that we could have parked the car on the road and walked in with snowshoes, even though the walk to the ideal spot may have been a couple of miles. We opted not to do so out of respect for the camera crew, who would have been forced to haul equipment. Yet most barriers offer options: We could have hiked in, or we could have found someone to plow the road, taken a four-wheel drive vehicle, or patiently waited for the snow to melt.

 

Making Extra Effort

Barriers are often about inconvenience, about what we’re willing to go through. My old photography instructor Fred Picker told our class that the best photographs often come from the biggest barriers, because few people are willing to make the long hike, get up before the sun, bear the cold or heat, or patiently await the perfect moment. He has a famous photo of Easter Island with white horses running through the fields by the giant stone heads, dark clouds with a ray of light streaking down to light the horses. He could never have planned it, but he set up a shot and waited for hours, hoping something would happen. He got one split second to capture that image — because he had overcome the barrier of inconvenience.

Barriers are often what make us stuck. When we see them, our natural instinct is to turn away, rather than using thinking time to find alternatives. And sometimes alternatives may seem overwhelming, but they may require only a fractional effort.

 

Suddenly Unstuck

If your car is stuck in the snow, you can have five strong guys on the back end pushing while you try to drive, but the wheels smoke and spin and you dig deeper into the snow. Yet if you take a quarter-inch-thick piece of cardboard and wedge it under the wheels, traction is possible and their push moves the car out in just a moment.

If you’re in a boat and you’ve run aground, you’re not going anywhere. Yet if you can get the boat just a quarter-inch off the bottom, the boat is unstuck. The tide comes in just one quarter-inch, and you’re free.

 

No More Starving Artists

You may or may not know that I’m driven to help artists overcome this silly notion that artists just have to starve, so every morning at my Plein Air Convention I do about an hour and a half of marketing training. Frequently artists tell me, “I don’t know what to do,” because it’s all very overwhelming at first, and I tell them, “You don’t need to do it all, you just need a small step or two to get your boat a quarter-inch off the bottom. Once you’re unstuck, everything else is easier.”

 

Where Are You Stuck?

I spent 20 years stuck. I was busy, I was making an income, I had lots of activity, but when I looked back, I realized my wheels were spinning and I needed to do something different. A small piece of cardboard — which was my attending a Dave Ramsey event for entrepreneurs — gave me a couple of small ideas that became my quarter-inch of cardboard.

Sometimes we are so close to something, and we try so hard, we can’t see the problem. Or the problem seems so big, so overwhelming, that we’re not realizing that all we need is to pull up the anchor, or wait for the tide, or get a sheet of cardboard.

 

Unstuck After Two Decades

I got unstuck with a tiny sheet of cardboard, which was the act of attending something new. I fought the idea when my wife suggested it, because I was arrogant and thought I could come up with the answers on my own. People have told me hundreds of times that their life changed after attending the Plein Air Convention … sometimes for the marketing sessions, but also for the painting help. But I didn’t change their lives, I just provided the cardboard. They had just gotten to the point where they decided that maybe they don’t have all the answers.

 

Repeating Bad Solutions

Our biggest mistake is that we do more of the same in order to get the car unstuck from the snow. We hit the gas harder while the wheels spin faster, smoke more, and wear down the rubber and fill the air with exhaust, and we make no progress. The result is that we wear ourselves down, we get frustrated and depressed, and we feel like we’re helplessly stuck in a snowdrift in the middle of the night, fearing we will be stranded and freeze to death. We get so frightened that we finally start praying that some help will come along. Sometimes it does, sometimes not. So we start looking around for something to give us traction. We try dirt, we try sticks, we try logs, and any of them can work.

 

A Split-Second Difference

I discovered that all that spinning my wheels in life prepared me and made me smarter and gave me a little momentum, though I was stuck. Just like being in a car stuck in the snow, once you gun it on a piece of cardboard with some muscle pushing on the car, the car takes off, and you have to keep going full speed until you’re back to a stable place. You slide and wobble at that speed, but then you’re unstuck and free.

You’re the same. All your efforts to this point were not wasted. Once the cardboard gets you out of the rut, you’ll be driving fast, and your goals will come faster because you have readied yourself in other ways.

 

Acknowledge Where You Are

First, we have to acknowledge when we are stuck. When I’m stuck in a car, I don’t want to acknowledge it till I’ve spun my wheels in deeper. Once we acknowledge that, rather than being overwhelmed, we just have to find a quarter inch of something to give us traction. It requires thought, and some outside ideas are usually helpful. But seeing that we’re stuck is hard to do, and harder to admit.

 

A Bag of Tricks

A wise mentor once told me that when you have a problem, your tendency is to think about the problem and grab the first answer. Instead, he said, “Keep writing until you have 30, or 50, different answers. Don’t stop to judge them, just write down as many solutions as you can think of. Then before you judge, ask the question a few different ways and write down 30 more answers for each question, because the answers come from the right questions.”

Barriers can be overwhelming. Sometimes they are health barriers, people barriers, money barriers, family barriers, or things you are telling yourself are true that simply may not be.

 

Next Steps? Who Cares?

No matter what you’re facing, just remember you need a quarter-inch of cardboard, or to get a quarter-inch of water between the ground and the boat. Once you get free, the next steps will be easier. And you don’t even need to know what the next steps are yet. Just solve the quarter-inch problem and don’t sweat about what comes next.

I believe that you have a quarter-inch getting in the way of your big dreams. I believe you can figure it out. Rather than ruminating about a big problem, stop it. Just focus on one small problem, the one that will get you unstuck.

Let’s have a great quarter-inch day!

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’d like to give you an example of something that seemed like a big problem to me. I was hearing from a lot of people who were concerned about going to San Francisco for our Plein Air Convention because they were concerned about traffic and parking, and in some cases safety. It seemed like a big problem to overcome, but with the quarter-inch hiring of a traffic and parking consultant, we found ways to make sure our painting locations were properly selected to overcome that. A quarter-inch solution of creating an indoor painting arena where we project giant-screen video of the places we are painting gave us an optional approach for the people who want to stay put in the hotel and not drive, park, or feel unsafe. And a quarter-inch bus solution will also deal with those who want to go to the locations but not drive. By doing this, the boat was no longer stuck for those people.

How To Get Unstuck2019-02-07T14:08:43-04:00
3 02, 2019

Are Your Blind Spots Preventing Your Happiness?

2019-02-03T00:09:28-04:00
If the view from my back porch were a movie, at this moment you would gasp over the beauty. Fog is filling the air, and the bright sunrise is blasting through the fog, making it glow in orange pink. Streaks of light are being cast from the shadows of the old, gnarly oak trees.
If there were a soundtrack at this moment, the crescendo of the sun shining through the trees would be the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Chills run down my spine as I take this scene in from my old red Adirondack chair with coffee cup balanced on the arm. These are the moments we live for.
When we bought this rural property years ago, I pictured myself sitting here, looking out over acres of trees and cattle and being inspired, just like I am this morning. It’s a time to reflect on my week, on life, and on others.

As you and I go through our daily lives, it’s hard to put ourselves in the place of others, and it’s hard sometimes to relate to the problems others may be having. Recently a friend told me a story about having dinner with some friends, one of whom is a famous billionaire business leader. Their discussion led to how they stay healthy when they are on the road, because they all travel, eat out a lot when traveling, and find it challenging to find time for exercise.

A Billionaire Perspective

Suddenly the billionaire chimed in and said he sends his personal chef to the locations he is traveling to a day before he arrives, which gives the chef time to shop and prep for his meals. He talked about how it eliminated his bad eating on the road.

But then he said something awkward: “Do you know the problem with having a personal chef? You only eat what they know how to cook.” They all had a laugh about it. But there is truth to it for all of us.

We only eat what we know how to cook.

 

Stuck in a Kiosk

At a meeting last week a bright entrepreneur was sharing some of his ideas about growing his business. Because his dad had worked in kiosks in shopping malls, that’s where this man launched his business. As we were discussing his ideas, it became clear that he had blind spots. Most of his ideas for growth had to do with selling out of kiosks. Bigger kiosks. More kiosks in more places. New kiosk designs. No matter what he brought up, he related it back to kiosks. Though my friends and I kept throwing fresh ideas, he kept coming back to how to do them in kiosks. Kiosks were his blind spot. He could not see beyond them.

We happily live in our little worlds in the arena of life. We can see what others can’t see, but we don’t know what we can’t see ourselves. We all have filters that color our approach to life, and those filters create blind spots.

 

I’m a Magazine Guy

I’m very guilty of this. The filters that color my blind spots tend to be my areas of comfort. For instance, I think in terms of magazines, of events, of videos, of books, and in art and radio because of decades of experience in those areas. If you were to throw a challenge to me, chances are I’d try to solve that problem by proposing a magazine, an event, a video, a book, or some kind of an art solution.

How many generations of cops or firefighters carry on in the tradition of their parents and grandparents? It may be about carrying on a passion, but it may also be their blind spot. It’s what they know — it’s their comfort zone.

 

My Bias Solves All Problems. Not.

Professionals have blind spots too. My chiropractor thinks all things can be solved with chiropractic. My dentist points out how dental health impacts the whole body. Some lawyers want to solve everything with litigation. Teachers often think all problems can be solved with education. Athletes solve problems with exercise. We default to what we know.

What are your blind spots?

I am not suggesting blind spots are bad in themselves. I’m really good at putting things into my blind spots and helping people in my areas of expertise.

 

Trapped in Core Beliefs

Most of us will spend our lives trapped in our own core beliefs, yet if we can find ways to go outside those beliefs, we are no longer trapped and we can find more success in areas we never knew existed.

 

What Einstein Says

To get unstuck, you have to get out from under your core beliefs. All too often our solutions are natural things we apply to problems time and again. Yet it becomes like Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results.

 

There Is Wisdom in Multiple Counselors

Though this seems simple, it took me decades to figure out. We all need a personal board of advisors who will tell us the truth from their perspective. The more experience the board has in differing areas, the more you’ll get new perspectives. I have people I call to help critique my paintings, and I have people I call to bounce ideas off of who I know will tell me when my idea is stupid.

 

I’m All Ears

My life changed when I surrounded myself with the perspectives of others and put on my listening hat. An artist I interviewed recently told me that she had been approaching painting the same way for decades and assumed it was the way things had to be done, yet after seeing several approaches at my convention, she changed to a new way and had breakthroughs in her work. It’s the idea of fresh perspectives.

 

Hey, Look at Me

We all like to think that we hung the moon and we’ve got all the answers. I used to think that, but thankfully I matured to understand that the more I know, the more I don’t know. To get beyond ourselves, our mental limits, and our blind spots, the best medicine is a fresh perspective. It’s why we need new friends, new advisors, and new approaches to problems. It’s why I attend conventions, and conventions outside my expertise — because I want different perspectives.

 

What Don’t You See?

My goal is not just to see what you and I both see. I want to see what you see that I don’t see.

I also want to see what both of us don’t see. I want to know my blind spots. The only thing you and I can’t see is the future — yet there are people who seem able to, and I try to spend more time with them.

What do I not see that I should see?

What do others see that I don’t see?
What have others been trying to tell me that I’ve failed to listen to?

Where do I continually make the same mistakes over and over because I’m making the same decisions?

Who else has the same kind of problems in a different field of interest?

In what ways am I bored and wish I could see or try something new?

 

Talk to Strangers

One of my favorite things is to strike up a conversation with someone who does something different from me. Though we find common ground, I also ask myself: What if I applied their blind spots to my problem or my situation? Their blind spots might be just what I needed to hear, which is why we all need variety in those we surround ourselves with.

We all have great abilities in our area of bias. It can be a real benefit and tool to others, and we can’t be good at everything. But we can also grow by moving into new fields for new insights.

We all tend to come up with answers to our questions way too fast. We tend to lean into our own bias, but if we apply thought, ask lots of questions, and don’t just grab whatever we think of first, we will create more choices, and that will help us break out of our blind spots.

Eric Rhoads

PS: What happens when you combine your bias with practice? We have been led to believe that practice makes perfect, but that’s a big fat stinking lie. Practice makes permanence. We’ve also been led to believe that there is good in trial and error. Wrong. If you want to DO better, you have got to GET better. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. If, for instance, you wanted to learn painting, you could practice bad brushstrokes for 50 years, or you could keep trying different things, but if you really wanted to get better, you would find the people who best do what you want to learn and go spend time watching them. Suddenly the light will go on and the barrier to your problem will be gone. You may not be able to define the problem, but you might be able to know that someone out there is doing what you want to do, and doing it better. Go find them, and your life will change.

Are Your Blind Spots Preventing Your Happiness?2019-02-03T00:09:28-04:00