31 03, 2019

Doing Your Soul Work

2019-03-28T17:34:16-04:00

Brilliant spring greens lightly cover the recently bare twisted oaks. Buds of fuzzy pussywillows signal spring’s arrival. Blankets of deep-blue bluebonnets and orange “Indian paintbrushes” cover miles of roadways and farms, bringing rich, vibrant hues to the otherwise dusty sage colors here. A soft warm breeze moves through the treetops like ballerinas quietly tiptoeing the moves of Swan Lake. I’m like a prisoner freed from the shackles — spring has released me from the indoors and the heated air as I return to my special place, the old long porch looking out over the vast distant hills and tall grasses.

 

What Is Soul Work?

Being here, keyboard at my fingertips, is my soul work. I learned the term from artist Liz Haywood-Sullivan during a recent conversation about a company that had become soulless, abandoned its roots, and is facing its demise as a result. The company had failed to understand its role in the soul work of others, and instead chased the path of money without purpose.

The term, which I’d not heard before, perfectly described my life, my path, where I had come from, and where I’ve ended up. Perhaps it explains your path as well.

Liz pointed out that soul work is the thing we eventually get to that enriches our souls. We spend our young lives chasing dreams, building lives and families, earning necessary dollars, and then we often find ourselves trapped on a treadmill that sucks the joy from the marrow of our bones. Trapped by financial obligations, debts, family responsibilities, and jobs we once loved that no longer give us fulfillment.

 

The Signal in Our Heads

Then, at the magical and necessary moment, a little bell goes off in our heads, signaling that “there’s more to life than this,” at which time many begin to pursue the things that enrich their souls. It may be writing, crafting, sewing, gardening, painting, woodworking, photography, or any of dozens of other things.

It’s a rare bird who chases their soul work at a young age and sticks with it in spite of the chains of obligation. We call these people “artists.” And, at whatever point we decide our souls are ready, we too can become artists. It’s a special badge few ever get to wear, but many wish they could.

 

What is your soul work? Have you arrived there yet?

You would think watching the demise of a competitor would bring celebration, but as I pointed out to my team, it could have been us. We are all one bad decision away from ruin. And as someone who runs a business — which is part of my soul work — I can tell you that every day brings a challenge in which greed, easy money, heartless decisions, small lies, and ethical lapses can, for a moment, be seductive. Yet once one crosses the line, the line has been crossed forever. That line will move from a mild lapse of judgment toward a series of soulless decisions, and that leads to self-destruction. Small lies become big lies, small ethical lapses become criminal offenses, and heartless decisions destroy lives.

 

Never Cross the Line

Knowing where to draw the line at all times, and being strong enough to resist crossing it, is the mark of someone who keeps their soul intact. Like those cartoons with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the calls of each draw you in, and if you’re not on guard at all times, a seemingly harmless decision can be like removing a small support pillar, and can eventually bring the entire building down.

 

One Decision Too Many

Too often companies start out doing well-meaning things, maintaining ethics and purpose and brilliant vision, but then, because of a need for speed, or a need to get bigger, will make that one line-crossing decision that removes that first pillar. Most companies don’t intend to be evil, but some become that when they cross the line, just as humans can cross over with a small, seemingly minor decision that ultimately destroys their reputation.

 

It’s Only a Tool

I used to think that making money was a purpose, but I’ve since changed my mind and believe that money is merely a tool for a greater purpose. And when that greater purpose is lost, the money stockpiled is like a carpenter buying up a cache of tools and never building anything. It serves no purpose.

 

Disappearing Concern

When companies lack true purpose (that goes beyond the mindless “We care about you” hype they try to sell their customers), their soul disappears. Those who are truly passionate about purpose, truly being of service, and having big, meaningful goals that are world-changing or life-changing for others — those companies demonstrate their true soul.

 

The Artist’s Tool

In a couple of weeks I’ll be providing three mornings of art marketing training for the attendees of my plein air artists’ convention in San Francisco. I have to continually remind myself, and the attendees, that they are soul workers, and that the drive to sell artwork is about providing them the tools to live their dreams so they can continue their soul work without compromise. For some it’s just adding an extra thousand dollars a month to help with retirement or school, while others require more. It’s not about getting rich, it’s about living rich … a rich, fulfilling life, not a life of accumulation with no purpose attached. If, however, the goal is to accumulate in order to build a new major museum (one of my goals), or to underwrite homeless housing (something we do), or even to stockpile some money to send your grandbabies to college or help them get a start in life, then by all means, that accumulation serves a purpose. But by watching friends, I’ve come to realize that accumulation for its own sake often leads to more chains and more responsibilities.

 

Pick What You Love

Soul work does not have to wait until you’ve worked a career and are ready to move on. Doing what you love is soul work; that’s why I encourage my kids to pick careers that they love. Their dad gets to be around art and artists all day long, which is truly a blessing. I get to write, make art, and create ideas that help others. We all need to find our soul work.

 

What about you? Have you found your soul work?

Are you doing what you truly love, or are you shackled to something you once loved, or never loved?

If a meteor hit the earth tomorrow, would you be OK with that? Or should you start building a plan to do what you love now? It’s never too late. Escape won’t be easy, but you can make a plan. (I once made a product for seniors about how to start an art business and succeed quickly.)

 

Building a Blueprint

Responsibility should never be thrown to the wind for soul work, because your soul won’t feel good about your decision to stop being responsible for the needs of your family. (We call that being a deadbeat.) Yet you can build a three- or five-year plan to transition out of anything into something else. Maybe it won’t be as financially fruitful, yet if you’re driving to a job dreading even one more day, it’s time to find your soul work. You may think you have plenty of time, and maybe you do. But then again, maybe not.

 

What was the first thing you thought of when I talked about your soul work?

Are you doing it now? If not, make a plan, and follow it religiously until you get there.

You won’t regret it.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: The first quarter of the year always passes in the blink of the eye. It’s hard to believe today is the last day of March already. It’s almost like it’s Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and boom, it’s summer. All year I look forward to my big painters’ event, which is in April this year, and we’ll all be there in just about three weeks. Hard to believe. But exciting! Soon it will really be summer, and I’ll be entertaining painters in the Adirondacks. It seems like time is speeding up. Make good use of your time. Do things to recharge, to rejuvenate, and find your soul work.

Doing Your Soul Work2019-03-28T17:34:16-04:00
17 03, 2019

Mining for Gold

2019-03-28T17:35:22-04:00

Distant layers of rolling hills are barely visible this foggy morning, each layer lighter and bluer than the one before. A lone light on a hill in the distance shines brightly against the gray background, making me think that me and the person in that house are the only people awake this early. If I knew Morse code, I’d blink a good morning message. Everyone else is sleeping, and though I enjoy my alone time, I’d love to have a chat with someone over coffee about now. The sleep has left my eyes, and I’m caffeine-infused and ready for action.

 

In Search of Sunshine

Stillness surrounds this morning, and the calls of birds are heard from the limbs above, telegraphing from tree to tree. The shiny wet ground is covered with rotting leaves left over from fall. Small green sprouts are pushing their way out of the soil in search of sunshine to nourish them, and will soon reveal a blanket of wildflower colors. Brilliant bright green buds are peeking out at the very tops of the otherwise bare-limbed trees. And nearby, fields of bluebonnets have carpeted the hills in purples and blues. I look forward to the two weeks each year that bluebonnets blanket this state. Perhaps today I’ll drag my easel out along with some extra tubes of blue and purple.

 

Blankets of Gray

Growing up in Indiana, where snow drifted to six or eight feet, early signs of spring were as welcome as a long-lost relative coming home after years away. We embraced spring with a giant hug, and though it was still cold, we would take a blanket out to the park to bask in the sun because we couldn’t wait for the warmth to come. Anything other than a gray day was a welcome sight. I tend to be a fair-weather painter, though rain and snow are two of my favorite things to paint.

 

An Army of Painters

Soon, as winter fades, an army of plein air painters will emerge to capture the beauty of the season. In just a few weeks, several hundred of us will gather for spring training in San Francisco so we’re tuned up for the season. If you see a painter along the side of the road, toot your horn happily to celebrate their presence. If you hear of a plein air event, make a point of visiting to learn more. But be careful — we’re finding lots of people who go to events to watch end up as painters. You might come away with a new passion.

 

Early Decisions That Stick

Passion is a funny thing. At age 14 I fell in love with radio broadcasting and made a decision to become a broadcaster at that age. This year I celebrate 50 years in the radio industry. I’m no longer on the air (though I do a plein air podcast), but my passion remains strong to this day.

One day as I held one of my babies and looked up at a full moon, his first words, as he pointed upward, were “moon stars and the sky.” As a toddler he wanted to become a scuba diver/astronaut, and to this day his passion is to go into space and be one of the people to colonize Mars. And though I would miss him desperately, I don’t want to rain on his dream. Instead I want to encourage it as my parents encouraged my dreams. As a child I dreamed of being an artist, a businessman, and a radio guy. That’s the life I live today.

The more I talk to people, the more I realize that more often than not, people are doing things they dreamed of as children. It’s usually motivated by something specific. For instance, I met a young doctor who pursued medicine because his dad died at an early age and he did not want anyone else to go through that pain.

 

Watch Your Words Carefully

Sadly, I’ve also encountered people whose dreams were discouraged as foolish, who chased what they were told to chase instead of what was in their hearts. Though we want what’s best for our kids, who are we to know that their dream isn’t right for them? I’ve probably met hundreds of artists who told me they took on other careers and were miserable until retirement, when they finally decided to chase their dream. Most were discouraged by their parents or family members because we have this incorrect belief that all artists starve. For the record, I can name dozens of millionaire artists, and a lot more who make a great living. Not that it’s all about money. Like anything else, there are those who strive and succeed and those who strive and fail, which is more about persistence and lifelong learning than it is luck. Most just give up too early, or don’t know what to do and don’t know how to find what to do, which is why I’m passionate about helping artists learn how to live their dreams.

What would happen if we all became encouragers? How would the world change if more people were doing what they loved instead of what they are “supposed to do”?

What would have happened to you if you had been encouraged more?

 

There Are No Limits

As a child I was continually told that there are no limits, that I could do anything I dreamed. The things I’ve not accomplished on my dream list are only because of the limits in my own head. And though I can’t will myself to be a 7-foot basketball player, there are examples of short players who beat the odds and broke records.

If you and I could each touch seven people this week with a random unexpected word of encouragement, we could have a massive impact.

And as these things go, when people GET encouraged, they tend to GIVE encouragement because they see how good it feels. This could snowball.

 

Mining for Gold

Be sincere. Look for something you see in someone and send them a note … tell them how much you appreciate them, how much they mean to you, and why you believe in them. Something I learned in IBM training decades ago is that after giving a compliment, it’s best to tell the person why what you’ve complimented means something to you.

If you and I did this once a day, every day for the rest of our lives, we would feel better, others would feel better, and we could impact a lot of lives.

 

Only Deposits

We all have emotional bank accounts. One compliment deposits 100 points. One negative comment withdraws 1,000 points. We may think we’re being practical and helping, but people who have more withdrawals than deposits have self-esteem problems and lack belief in themselves.

Hundreds of people have told me that one single word of encouragement has changed their lives. Sometimes all it took was for one person to believe in them when they didn’t believe in themselves.

What deposits will you make this week?

Have a great Sunday.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: Last week I was in an office-building restroom and there was a worker in there who was hunched over, miserable, and clearly hated his job. I noticed that he was ignored as people came through. I also noticed how good the restroom looked, so I walked up to him and said, “I just want you to know that every time I come in here, this restroom is the cleanest restroom in town, and it’s always perfect. I want you to know that there is nothing worse than heading to a meeting and having to deal with a dirty restroom, but when it’s clean, it makes you feel better about yourself. You may not hear this enough, but you are making a difference in people’s lives. Thank you.” Then I handed him an unexpected tip. He got a big smile on his face, a gleam in his eye — which teared up a bit — his posture straightened, and he thanked me. Everybody wants to have pride in their work. Let’s show some appreciation wherever we go this week.

 

Mining for Gold2019-03-28T17:35:22-04:00
10 03, 2019

The Pathways to Excellence

2019-03-08T13:47:25-04:00

An overnight cold front swept in, taking our beautiful spring warmth to a sudden chilly, rainy, gray day. As I stare out over the porch, which is too wet and cold for writing this morning, I see subtle movements and the silhouettes of deer moving through the backwoods. I counted five this morning and have counted as many as 12 on some days. Quiet and graceful, they move through the land, alert at all times and skittish at the slightest sound, always ready in a split second to make a life-saving run. When I walk through my woods, there are paths they’ve worn, paths they typically follow, generation after generation, following the direction of their elders.

 

Which Path?

We too have pathways. In the past I’ve talked about how we tend to follow the pathways of our elders and often adopt patterns that live on for generations. It’s a rare person who invents their own pathway because that requires deliberate thought. And though the road less traveled involves more roadblocks, rougher paths, and more pioneering, it can make for a life of excitement, while the roads frequently traveled can lead to sameness and following the masses. The pathways you choose for life can be a walk through the woods, a climb up a difficult mountain, a country road, or a superhighway. Thankfully, in this country, we get to choose. It’s not that way in many other cultures, where your job or even your spouse is chosen for you.

 

Paths Art a Part of Learning

  Sunday Coffee isn’t just for painters, but the subject slips into my words from time to time, though I try to offer thoughts that appeal to everyone. If you’ve been hanging around having coffee with me for a while, you know of my passion to teach people to paint because of the benefits we get: joy, confidence, distraction and stress reduction, creative use of our brains, new challenges, etc. Recently when I was talking about our veterans’ initiative, a psychiatric professional who reads this reinforced that there is hard evidence that art-making engages other parts of the brain and tends to give people great joy and the ability to cope with their issues.

 

It’s Not About Natural Talent

Sadly, culture has a misperception about painting and drawing, with people believing these are natural-born talents and that if they don’t have them, they never will. In fact, I used to believe that too. In third grade, the kid at the desk next to me could draw amazingly well, and I could not. Little did I know he had been practicing obsessively for years.

I find it odd that we don’t expect that of brain surgeons, lawyers, judges, architects, or even musicians. We know they have to apply a lifetime of study to master their professions, yet we don’t realize that also applies to artists. It’s this reason alone that millions who want to learn to paint or draw don’t do it. Almost daily, I encounter “I don’t have any talent. I can’t even draw a stick figure.” As a result, people never give it a shot.

Giving it a shot is an important starting point, but it isn’t enough. I’ve met too many people who tried painting or drawing and quit because they got discouraged too easily.

 

Express Yourself

I started painting at the side of my mom, a painter, as a child, but gave it up for decades until in my late 30s I bought some supplies and tried to make some paintings — which were a disaster. Being self-taught isn’t the best road because it slows progress, and my wife recognized my need for lessons and bought me one for my 40th birthday. The instructor told me to “throw the paint on the canvas with big, sweeping strokes and express yourself.” When I told him I wanted to learn to paint real things, he told me, “No one does that anymore.” So I quit, discouraged.

 

A Magic Cab

Thankfully, later on I was stuck in a cab, and the driver, an artist, told me about a guy in the training lineage of the great French painter Gérôme. I walked into the class on a Saturday morning, saw the amazing work on the easels of the class members, told myself I could not do that, and turned around and walked away. But the instructor, Jack Jackson, called me back, and talked me into staying by saying I could be doing work at that level in 18 months or less. He then got me started on a project right then, and told me what the steps would be.

 

Step One, Step Two

The magic he used to get me interested and keep me interested was that he immediately engaged me in a project, teaching me how to grid a painting for copying. He then told me the path he would take me on. He told me I could go as fast as I wanted but had to master each step before he would take me to the next. He told me I’d have moments where I wanted to give up and that those moments should be embraced, because that’s where the breakthroughs come from. So instead of telling me it would be easy, he told me it would not be easy, but that I could do it, because it was in small steps I could easily master.

 

A Learning Tool

Everyone teaching anything should be doing this. Whether you’re teaching art or photography, muic, or anything else, the student needs to know it won’t be easy, but that they can master small steps at their own speed, and they will make great progress faster than they can imagine as long as they don’t give up when they get discouraged.

How many things have you given up because you had no hope?
How many things could you be doing today if someone had helped you understand the path?

 

Awkward at First

My guitar teacher, Steve, did this with my first lesson. He told me I’d feel clumsy and awkward, and that he’d felt this way too, but I could learn to play like him. He then played something amazing. He told me the path, told me how to deal with my frustration, and sure enough, he was right. At the start of last summer I was struggling, and by the end of the summer the project we worked on was flowing like hot lava. He helped me keep my eye on the future and helped me manage my expectations and my frustration.

 

Passion Isn’t Enough

Some of us, myself included, allow frustration to get in the way and we give up. Some of us, myself included, persisted in some cases, in spite of that frustration, and gained results. Part of that is driven by our level of passion. Yet passion alone isn’t enough. We need a path, and we need constant encouragement.

 

10X Better

Whatever you and I want to learn in life, we should seek out the best of the best to teach us. The best are usually not a little better than others at their craft, but 10 times better. The best will demand more from us than those who are not the best. They will work us harder, challenge us more, expect more of us, and push us to perfection. I don’t want an easy path, I want the best path. I’m willing to put in the time and get through the frustration because I now understand that when you learn from the best, you become the best. It’s also how I choose my instructors for my events and videos. They don’t get invited in unless they possess great ability to give results to my customers.

How would things change if on day one of a class, an instructor laid out the path, the expectations, the frustrations, and the value of those frustrations?

Yes, it might turn off a few who are unwilling to put in the effort. Though unfortunate, the reality is that you don’t get much if you don’t put much in.

I can think of lots of friends who told me they started to draw or paint, or play music, or play sports, who would have stuck with it — if the path had been revealed.

Where can you reveal a path? Who that is under your guidance now needs to hear about the path before they opt out in frustration?

 

Path Revealed

I’m planning to reveal the path we take people on in our own business. Though I need to define it in detail, it’s basically that I’ll teach you, the very beginner,  how to draw, how to get to the next level of drawing, then the next. Then I’ll teach you about values, then shapes, then color, then edges, then how to paint. When you get here, you graduate to the next level. Then I’ll take you to a higher level, and then higher still, then once you’re at that level, I’ll teach you how to sell your art, how to build your career, starting with the simple things and then deepening your level of sophistication. I may even then take you into a personal coaching program to take you to the level of the most famous artists in the world.

 

Whatever that path ends up being, it will be a lot more detailed and clearer than what I’ve given here. The magic is that the student then will not have this overwhelming feeling of being at one level and seeing the high level and not believing they can master it. Yet if they know the steps, know what comes in between, and know we’re there with them when they get stuck or frustrated, they are more likely to stick with it.

 

Ponder Paths

Let’s ponder the idea of paths. And if your instructor does not provide you with the path, pass this on to them and ask, “Can you show me the path?” They all have it in their minds, in their curriculums. It’s just that most never share the path.

You and I can help a lot of people by revealing the path.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When I brought this idea of pathways to my team, we had a realization that we can start building the path of expectations into everything we do. For years we’ve been teaching beginning plein air painting at our convention Basics Course, but this year we redefined it with a path in mind and more steps to make progress happen for the attendees, and then we added in mentors who will stick with the people in that course for the whole week on the days we go out painting. We think it will make a big difference. Fingers crossed. We’ll find out in April.

PPS: I’d like to do something a little unusual and honor someone today. Life is full of surprises, challenges, and special moments. We have no control. About five years ago, I announced a new event called Fall Color Week, and we held the first one in Maine. We had about 60 or 100 people, and we all made a lot of very good friends who remain close to this day. Some of us stay in touch all year through our private Facebook page and others just show up year after year, and we connect as old friends, as though we have been together all along. We paint together for a week, all day every day, we have our meals together, and we sit up at night to laugh, sing, paint portraits, or just chat. There are no lessons; it’s just a painting retreat that I host.

 

Some people drop out for a year or two, other new people come in every year, but we all become close and most everyone returns. When we had our first event, it was attended by a lady from California, probably in her mid-50s, named Theresa (Terry) Poplawski. She was a joy to be around, always had a giant smile on her face, and was a magnet to others. In fact, she and one of the other women in the group, Carolyn Carradine, became best friends, figured out they lived close together, and became painting buddies throughout the year. They always returned to Fall Color Week, and the Plein Air Convention too. A couple of weeks ago Carolyn informed me that Terry, who’d thought she was in perfect health, returned from our Fall Color trip in Banff and Lake Louise only to discover she had stage 4 cancer. As it turned out, it was her last painting trip. She passed away just last week. It all happened very quickly. She found out in November, fought like crazy to beat it, and was gone in early March.

We all become very close in these groups. I’ve made some of my best friends at these events, as have others. It’s always sad if someone can’t return for any reason. We all get busy. Sometimes it’s a health issue, a wedding or a family issue, or a financial issue. It’s sad when anyone does not return. But losing a family member like this is tough for us all. Yet, If I learned anything from Terry, it was that she embraced life and opportunity. It was not always easy for her to get to our events, because she too had a family and a life to manage, but she made it a priority to also do something for herself. She probably told herself she had plenty of time to do these things and could have said, “I’ll do it one day,” but instead she rewarded herself, and the result was rich experiences and friendships that made the last five years of her life even more special. And she made the last five years very special for the rest of us in the group. I’ll always remember that big grin of joy.

I’m going to honor Terry by framing a photo I took of her, and having it be on the table during Fall Color Week at Ghost Ranch this September. She is part of the family, and it won’t be the same without her. Terry Poplawski, you enriched our lives. May your path be rich and may you rest deeply in peace.

The Pathways to Excellence2019-03-08T13:47:25-04:00
3 03, 2019

When It’s OK to Be Selfish

2019-02-27T15:49:55-04:00

Warm golden sunshine streams through the windows and splashes, glowing, on the wooden floor, bouncing its color-filled rays onto the walls, the furniture, and the old stone fireplace and inviting me outside. I think that finally I can return to my porch, yet the cold air instantly tightens my skin as I realize it’s spring, but early spring here, and I may have to wait a couple more weeks for the warmth of the porch.

 

This morning I sit, bundled up in my unheated art studio, knitted afghan over my lap, space heater cranking way up to remove the chill. I’m surrounded by tens of thousands of hours of art-making projects, mostly paintings I’ve done here or on location, en plein air, in spots around the world.

 

Paintings and even printed photographs will make their way to estate sales, Goodwill, maybe even the auction block, but hard drives of memories from our phones may disappear with us, never seen by our families. Yet surrounding me here are hundreds of model sessions, talking with my fellow painters and with models I’ve just met, learning about their lives, and in some cases their unusual hobbies or habits — things I sometimes hadn’t known existed. It’s why I embrace my weekly “life” group, where a few friends come to my studio every Wednesday night to paint and draw.

 

In his video legendary painter Max Ginsburg talks about the importance of drawing and painting from life, and talks about years and years of 5 a.m. sessions before class with his friends, which gave him the drawing skills he has today. After eight or nine years of doing this every Wednesday when I’m in town, it has sharpened my drawing and painting skills, though there is much to improve. But it has provided something more … a rich time with people who have become old friends. Discussions with paintings have resulted in new ideas, things I’ve been able to implement for artists, along with laughter, jokes, puns, serious dialogue, and thankfully, no politics (our one and only rule). It’s also provided a chance to get to know about the lives of fifty to a hundred models, who we often chat with while painting. It allows me a peek into worlds I’m otherwise not exposed to. One works for the state of Texas in the accounting department, another works at an art store, while another is a hook artist, inserting hooks into her skin and hanging from the ceiling at bars. That’s one for the books! Who knew?

 

The magic of Wednesdays for me is that I’m forcing myself to invest in myself. With a busy life of family, work, and travel, I’m mostly giving of myself to others, while this is when I am fed by time with friends, a chance to talk to others about everything but work, a chance to be exposed to new people and new things, and a time to laugh and have fun painting. For me this time is a non-negotiable. If at all possible, I try to avoid scheduling trips over Wednesday nights.

 

Non-negotiables are important in our lives. I don’t have many, but I have a few. For instance, being gone on weekends is non-negotiable. I want to be home with my family. Though there are a few exceptions where there is a weekend convention or a meeting scheduled by others that I must attend, if I’m in control, I’m home.

 

What are you doing for yourself that is non-negotiable?

 

What do you do that is just for you, that recharges your batteries, that gives you something to look forward to?

 

Maybe it’s something annually. Though I have my weekly painting group, I also have things I look forward to all year. For instance, since I don’t get to do as much plein air painting as I’d like to, I look forward to my week painting with others in the Adirondacks and again at some colorful location in the fall, during what I call the Publisher’s Invitational. And when I’m going through a tough patch, it’s nice to dream about an upcoming trip like our annual behind-the-scenes Fine Art Trip. I’ve learned the importance of not scheduling everything last-minute — though I do that sometimes, I like thinking about something for a full year in advance. It helps me get through stressful moments.

 

I was raised to be a giver. Always give to others before taking care of yourself. I’m happy I was gifted these principles through the examples of my parents and grandparents, but to be a giver, you need to fuel your own engine by giving something of importance to yourself on a regular basis. Because your batteries need to be recharged.

 

We all recharge differently. I get my energy from being around others, being social, and if I had my way I’d be out to dinner with friends every night of the week. I could do events like the Plein Air Convention all day every day, because I love interacting with people. I also recharge with time at the easel and time outside painting, because I love the outdoors. For others, those things would be a drain. For you, recharging may be alone time with a good book, a walk in the mountains, time playing music, time with friends. Whatever it is, it’s important to find it and then make sure you plug in and get recharged on a regular basis. Sometimes I go weeks without my batteries being charged, and I feel it.

 

For decades I burned the candle at both ends, years and years of trying to make a living, trying to get ahead, driving in early and home at midnight, years without the money or time for a vacation. Though I gained a lot of value from doing it all, I now realize I’d have been many times more effective if I had done things to recharge.

 

A few weeks ago I was chatting with an acquaintance. I asked him how he recharges. His answer was that he loves to work. But he has nothing else. That was me: I love to work, but once I found something else, it made a difference.

 

What about you? How do you recharge?

Are you giving it enough time?

 

We all have times and seasons when our recharge isn’t easy to find time for, or maybe we don’t have the “fun tickets” (what my sister-in-law calls money). But whenever possible, don’t forget to do something for just you. It’s not selfish; in fact, it’s selfish not to, because when you’re required to be there for others, they need the best of you.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: This week I had my eyes opened. For several years my wife and I have given a percentage of our profits to an organization called Mobile Loaves and Fishes, whose slogan is “Everyone eats every day.” In Austin and several other cities, they have dozens of food trucks, and volunteers drive food to areas with homeless people and hand out sandwiches, plus some key other essentials. The vision of its founder, Alan Graham, who I first met in my son’s Scout group, was to build a village of tiny houses to house homeless people to help them get on their feet, get their dignity back, and be able to live a decent life away from the streets.

 

We had never visited, so we took my son’s classmates on a field trip to tour this village. It was an experience beyond amazing, and I just want to give more. There are about 200 people living there independently, while being part of a community. It’s a village of tiny houses and RVs. They have shops on the property that people can work in — an auto repair shop, a forge and metal shop, a wood shop, a T-shirt screening shop. They also have a large art center to give people a chance to make ceramics, paintings, and other forms of art, and their art then goes into the little store on the property where visitors can buy the art and have 100 percent of the money go back to the homeless people. We met a formerly homeless man and woman who met at the property, got married, and now live there with the first child born on the property.

 

I have to admit, I tense up if a homeless person talks to me. I’m afraid. I don’t know if they are mentally unstable, on drugs, or just down on their luck. And frankly, I was a little uncomfortable about visiting. Yet after my visit, I want to go back, teach painting, and do what I can to help. I met and talked with a few residents, heard their stories. Everyone I met told stories of their lives, what they were like before and what they are like now. And I saw lots of big smiles.

 

Not only is this an example of how one person can make a difference, it’s a model that can work in every city in America as we deal with this homeless crisis. I’d encourage you to poke around on the organization’s website. Maybe you’re in a position to raise money or model something like this in your town, whether it’s food trucks or a village. I’m sure they would show you how or even do it for you. If nothing else, it’s a chance to see joy being created and lives being changed, which is good news.

 

PPS: A shout out to the Marble Falls, Texas, art association that invited me in to speak to their group recently. I was asked to come in and speak about marketing to the group of some amazing artists. Thanks, everyone, for hosting me. I’ll be judging the Marble Falls Plein Air Festival this coming April right before the convention, which is something I rarely get a chance to do these days. It’s an honor.

When It’s OK to Be Selfish2019-02-27T15:49:55-04:00