25 08, 2019

A Plan for Joy

2019-08-23T14:45:40-05:00

Signs of fall begin to show their faces; the distant mountains are glowing with a winter-like light. Color has not yet kissed the trees, though they have started to turn from brilliant to dull greens with a slight hint of decay.

Cracking Voices

Baby loons who have spent the summer at flight school are awkwardly soaring overhead as they excitedly shout, “I’m flying! Look at me, I’m flying!” in their immature, cracking loon voices. Their big trip to Florida is just around the corner. 

The sounds of silence have begun: fewer passing boats, fewer sounds of wakes hitting the shore, fewer sounds of glee from water skiing and tubing kids. Some will be back for a last hurrah for Labor Day. 

Senior Year

It’s weirdly silent around here, as my wife and two of the triplets have gone back for the start of senior year in high school. I’ll soon follow them after some meetings that will keep me here till Labor Day. 

Leaving here is the saddest part of our year, just as arriving is our happiest.

Over the past few years, when my family stayed at my dad’s place on the lake, we’ve known his “listed” camp could be sold at any moment, and each year when we left, we assumed it was our last. Now that we have our own place, it’s reassuring that we’ll be back, God willing. 

Leaving the Nest

Next season will be filled with the angst of our own little loons flying off, with three off to college at once and the start of their independence. Our hope is that this place will be a magnet to draw the kids and their eventual families back to us. I cherish each hour with these kids, even the toughest moments of their emotional or hormonal discord.

How will we write the next chapter? In what ways will it be written for us?

Mission Accomplished

When the kids were born I crafted a grand plan that took years of hard work to implement. The goal was to not travel, and to be with the family all summer at the lake so they could spend every summer of their new lives here. Mission accomplished. They came here at four months and have not missed a summer yet, with this their 17th. One hopes they’ll consider staying here, like people we’ve met on the lake who have lived every summer of their lives here. One man across the lake is finishing summer number 88, and many of his childhood friends, who also spent summers here, are still with him. The deep friendships my kids have made on this lake stand a chance to be lifelong as they spend the summers here throughout their lives.

Crafting the ability to work from here and avoid business travel for the summer months was a logistical nightmare. It was only made possible  because we made a plan and spent years laying out how to put ourselves in a position to make it work. 

Time for a New Plan

Now Laurie and I have to build a new plan for this next chapter with three kids of the same age in college at once, and what to do with our newfound time together. Retirement isn’t in my DNA, but taking more time for more fun stuff is. It’s time now to make the plan, which will have to be implemented by this time next year.

What’s your plan?

Are you like a pinball, bouncing from place to place randomly? Or do you have a roadmap with a destination, but still willing to make some random exits for adventure?

Wandering Aimlessly

Goals and plans were ingrained in me at a young age, though I admit it took me years to actually start using them. I spent a few years wandering aimlessly, trying to find myself, but once I knew what I wanted to pursue, I made a plan and lived it. 

Tremendous Courage

I watch my own kids and their friends. Some know exactly what they want, but most are still searching. Though they usually figure it out, it’s not always easy. For instance, a middle-aged neighbor who completed med school and most of his residency woke up realizing he didn’t like being a doctor. So after investing years, he had the courage to drop out. 

I once hired an editor who completed law school, worked in a firm, was making more money than she thought possible, and knew within a couple of years that law was not for her. Her dream was to become an editor. 

These kinds of decisions are not easy, so most of us tend to get stuck because of our reliance on the money we make, the commitment we made, or because it’s what our parents wanted for us. 

Define Success

Is your life a success if you awaken daily and hate your job? One man I met this week told me he loved retirement because he’d spent his life in a job he hated. What if he had never made it to retirement? 

Find out what you love, make a plan, then do what you love. And if you get tired of it, bored, or you don’t love it anymore, have the courage to move on, no matter how good the money is. The strings will only get more difficult to unwind. I have a friend who was making millions as an attorney, dropped out, and has struggled to survive living as an artist, and he is the happiest he has ever been. Money did not buy him happiness. 

Plan for joy. 

Life won’t always be joyful, and getting where you want to be won’t always be joy-filled or easy. Tough tasks are worthwhile when they ultimately lead you to a place of joy. I have no problem spending years laying the groundwork to get where I ultimately want to be, because I am focusing on implementing the roadmap for the future. 

Plans are needed at every new chapter. Have you made yours?

Eric Rhoads

PS: You might be thinking that having a plan sounds boring. Being spontaneous is also important. Though I love having a year or two to look forward to things like art trips, painting trips, or family vacations, it’s also fun to take an occasional left turn and make a spontaneous decision. If that’s you, our 10th-year Fine Art Trip is doing a pilgrimage to the land of Van Gogh, Cesanne, Picasso, and many other artists and art treasures in the South of France. It’s coming up in October, and there should still be a seat or two left unless they’ve sold since I last checked on Thursday. 

Since Labor Day is upon us, I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend. Take the time to do something special.

A Plan for Joy2019-08-23T14:45:40-05:00
18 08, 2019

A Walk in the Woods

2019-08-23T14:41:36-05:00

As I step into the rustic old metal boat from the rickety wooden dock at the edge of the shore, the boat rocks gently while the outboard engine turns over again and again until it finally starts. Carefully I back out, trying not to scar the sides of the boat on the long dock.

As I cruise quietly across the lake, the dark sky is lit by the full moon, I see distant mountains silhouetted against the greenish-blue sky and nearby islands with ragged pines standing proud. Sprinkling the sky like distant sequins, the stars brightly twinkle between moonlit clouds.

Perfection

The night is the most perfect I can remember. The lake is like glass, the temperature is perfect, there is not a bug in sight, and it makes me want to sleep under the stars — or at least sleep on the porch and hope the bears don’t pay a surprise visit.

Showered in Stars

My favorite times on the lake are nights like the one I experienced earlier this week. Stopping the boat, turning the engine off, and drifting in the middle of the lake while lying back watching meteor showers. It brings me closer to my Creator and closer to myself. It’s soul-enriching.

Rich Greens

When I was a child I would visit Camp Potawotami or Camp Big Island. That was my only exposure to the woods and lakes, and those were the places where I discovered the rich feel of bathing my eyes in the greens of the deep forest. But it was not until I arrived here in the Adirondacks in 1989 that I instantly felt the forest’s value.

Middle Earth

I honestly can’t explain the feeling of well-being I have when I’m here. I’ve traveled the world to some of its most beautiful spots, yet I’m drawn to deep forests, and here on our property, a few steps behind the old house, is a forest as deep as Middle Earth in The Hobbit. A daily walk through that forest, or a float on the water focusing on the stars or the trees, is my therapy. Visiting friends tell me my look of stress is gone, though I’m working the same hours behind my desk from here.

Unexpected Boost

The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” and have proven it enriches your health. Spending time with trees, without working out or jogging, but just in contemplation. Though you’re being flooded with massive amounts of oxygen, trees also emit oils to ward off insects and bacteria. These phytoncides have been found to boost our immune systems, lowering blood pressure and stress hormones, reducing depression, and increasing energy.

Too Quiet

Most of us live in cities, so instead of rich greens, we’re being bathed in high noise levels, concrete, and fumes. And when you’re surviving in that environment, it almost seems silly to think time in the woods is something we all need. In fact, when I first came here, I resisted. “It’s too quiet,” I would say. “There is nothing to do, you can’t get a TV signal, you can’t get what you need at the store, and there is no Internet.” I did not want to be here — until the signals of my noise and energy addiction were drowned out by walks in the woods. Now, within 24 hours, deep relaxation sets in.

A Cure for Insomnia

Last week I mentioned a visit from my friend Stu, who lives in a city and who watches TV to fall asleep. He was startled when I mentioned there was no Internet and no TV in his cabin, and he feared being unable to sleep. Yet when he left, he told me he’d had the best sleep of his life — and it was the quiet that made him sleep so well. I don’t think he had realized that his body was never resting because it was exposed to constant media stimulation, both sound and light. It’s why I refuse to watch so much as a movie here at the lake, it’s why I’m on a media hiatus, and it’s why last year I went two weeks without my phone. My goal is to maximize the effect of my surroundings so I can reset my brain and body for the rest of my year. 

What about you? Are you taking time to bathe in a forest?

I admit as I write those words that it sounds a little “woo woo,” and if you had said this to me years ago, I’d have thought you should be institutionalized. 

I don’t know what’s near you, but find some woods and spend some time there, away from the city sights and sounds. Don’t check your phone or e-mail. Don’t have an agenda or a project. Just contemplate and breathe.

If you’re resistant to the idea, that’s all the more reason to do it.  

“Keep close to nature’s heart … and break clear away once in a while, or climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir

“I went to the woods to see if I could live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods, and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” — George Washington Carver

“Seek out the woods and you’ll find yourself.” — Eric Rhoads

I encourage you to find a way, especially if you’re you’re too busy, too stressed, and find it totally inconvenient. You’ll find a gift you did not know you needed.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though escaping the woods and going into “town” isn’t high on my list, the reason I was on the boat under the stars is because I went to a reception to meet the artists at the Adirondack Plein Air event, which had brought about 50 painters into town. There are few greater joys for me than spending time meeting artists I don’t yet know or seeing old friends who have become dear. A shout-out to all the painters … you are bringing nature to the rest of the world, to those who maybe can’t take the time to walk in the woods or visit a place with a stunning landscape. Your work is meaningful.

At this event I met an amazing 30-year-old artist by the name of Mitchell Saler, who deserves a personal shout-out for all the fine work he has accomplished at such an early stage of life. He told me he has been painting for 10 years. He and his mom, who was with him, mentioned that they hope to go to Denver to the Plein Air Convention. They weren’t aware that we’ve already met last year’s attendance numbers and we will be out of seats soon. We’ve already sold out two hotels, and soon we’ll be out of seats. If you want to see what this plein air painting world is all about, the convention is a great place to experience it, and if you’re a beginner, there is a pre-convention workshop just for you.

A Walk in the Woods2019-08-23T14:41:36-05:00
11 08, 2019

A Red Letter Week

2019-08-06T18:39:48-05:00

Imagine, if you will. I’m sitting here in the screened-in porch, in an old white wicker chair with muted red cushions in a Native American pattern. The porch is octagon-shaped, and sits at the edge of the lake. Silhouettes of pine tree branches are in view, along with distant hills covered with trees and a few old stick and log boathouses that sit right on the lake. You can’t build them like that anymore, it’s not permitted.

Typing With Dog

My typing this morning is labored, with my iPad pushed out on to the edge of my knees and my hands reaching over the small gray dog resting on my lap. His name is Chewy, and he’s insistent on staying close to me this morning, probably because of the cold air out here. His brother Weasley is staring up at me with giant brown eyes, wondering why he’s not in my lap, too, but that simply isn’t possible while I’m typing. 

My grandmother used to say, “This is a red letter day,” but for me, this was a red letter week, one of the most special weeks of my life.

Breaking Ground

I grew up at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a fairly new middle class housing development called Woodhurst. New homes were going up all around us, and one day I saw a boy playing in the dirt that had been excavated for a new home. He was there visiting with his parents, so I rode up on my blue Stingray bike with the banana seat, did a couple wheelies to show off, then introduced myself. “I’m Rick, what’s your name?” His name was Stu.

Another Brother

Stu was one grade behind me but very close in age, and he moved in just a few months later. His dad had been killed in a car accident, and his mom had remarried a local allergist, so Stu was my new neighbor. He not only became my best friend, he became another son to my parents. Because he was Jewish, he would come over on Christmas morning to marvel at all the gifts, so there were always gifts under the tree for him. And every morning before we walked to school, he would drop in for breakfast because we served bacon, something he could not get in his own house.

Never Skipping a Beat

Stu and I were inseparable all through elementary school. He went on vacations with us, went to the lake with us, and was truly another brother. Though my folks moved out of the neighborhood, and though we stopped spending as much time together because we had different schools and different sets of friends, we always talked and stayed in touch, which we’ve now been doing for several decades. When I visit my hometown, which I moved away from at age 17, I always stay at his house, and it’s like we never skipped a beat. We always have plenty to talk about. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other very often.

A New Mission

Motivated by the recent passing of my mother, and the recent passing of a couple of good friends, I’ve made it my mission to reconnect more with people I want to spend more time with. Having our new lake place is a natural reason to invite guests, and this morning I’m up early to get this out so I can see Stu off after a few days together. 

Old friends are like old sweaters. They are something you want to keep forever no matter how old they get, they become even more special over time, and they make you feel even warmer when you’re close to them. 

Our five days together were just spectacular, and it was so important to me that I took the last half of the week off. I can work anytime, but I can’t see old friends all that often.

Though parting will be sad, there is simply no greater gift than spending time with those you truly love.

Memories Require a Plan

Quality of life does not just happen. Rarely are there random circumstances where memories are created. We have to work to make memories. Finding ways to get together with old, distant friends isn’t easy for either person, yet when we get the call or e-mail that they have moved on, we usually wish we had made more effort to talk or to see them in person. 

No excuse is good enough to prevent you from spending time with old friends.

I look back on the ones who have graduated from life and wish I had made more effort, spent more time, and been less busy. Over the years, even at young ages, so many have disappeared suddenly, unexpectedly. 

There is no time like now.

  • Who comes to mind that you really crave time with? 
  • Who do you really want to see, no matter how far away they may be?
  • What are the roadblocks preventing you from getting together?
  • Who do you need to pick up the phone and burn time with today, talking for no reason, no agenda, just to hear their voice and connect?
  • If your life were to end one month from today, who is on the list of people you’d want to see before you go?

An old friend I know called one time and said that he had terminal cancer, that he had six months, and his plan was to spend all his money visiting friends until he could travel no more. He said those were the most rewarding months of his entire life. 

Why wait?

Eric Rhoads

PS: According to statistics, we appear to be living in one of the most prosperous times in the history of our country. We all know good economies don’t last. It may or may not be impacting you in a positive way yet, but when we have opportunities, we need to grab them because we don’t know how things will look next year at this time or what our health will be like. I’m reminded of a woman who came to my Fall Color Week event each of the last four years and suddenly passed away just after the event this past year. Investing in rich memories for your life, rewarding yourself with some experiences, is something you’ll never regret. Some of the best friends I’ve made in my life have come as a result of our annual Fine Art Trip, which is a behind- the-scenes trip to view and experience art. This year we celebrate year 10 with a visit to the land of Van Gogh, Cezanne, and others. Provence in the South of France is most beautiful in the fall. This might be a good year to join us. You can learn more here.

We had a mad rush on seats last week for our Figurative Art Convention and now there are only 135 seats left, which will go fast between now and November. If you’ve dreamed of learning the figure or the portrait, this event is worth considering. It’s in Williamsburg, Virginia, this year, our one and only time there.

A Red Letter Week2019-08-06T18:39:48-05:00
4 08, 2019

Why Roadblocks Are a Blessing

2019-08-06T18:47:18-05:00

Golden sun is streaming into my eyes as it lights up the deep green, now golden color pines around the dock and illuminates the red Adirondcack chairs until they glow.

A shimmer of light skips across the almost mirror like surface of the lake, barely a visible wave, as the echo of loon calls bounces from shore to shore. 

The sound “plop” and a few rings in the water are from a fish that jumped as if to say “catch me if you can.”

Yesterday giant white sheets of Egyption cotton on 120 year old wooden boats danced across the lake, with the distant mountain framing a photo so beautiful it should be on the cover of a magazine. 

A Guest Who Never Left

The blessing of home ownership here on this lake was not an instant task. I came on to this lake over 30 years ago as a guest who never left, hoping one day to have the means and the rare opportunity of ownership here synchronized. 

Luck Has Nothing to Do With Anything

I used to look at those who had accomplished dreams in their lives as people who were lucky, or perhaps part of the lucky birth club. In hindsight I realize I finally accomplished a dream I set for myself 30 years earlier that finally came true. Not all things you hope for happen fast, which is why never giving up on dreams is critical. And accomplishing this required hundreds of steps, other goals and dreams that had to come true, including hundreds of failures and missteps.

Good things come to those who wait.  Though things don’t just happen by waiting. Every dream, goal requires massive action and movement toward the goal.

In the past I’ve discussed goals and dreams and the importance of manifesting what you want, but there is a critical part of that I’ve never mentioned, and is rarely ever mentioned.

Dreams often get crushed by roadblocks. 

Too often when roadblocks come we let go of our dreams because the things we were doing to accomplish that dream were ripped out from under us.

Dreams Destroyed

As a young guy I can remember the blood draining from my face, my knees going limp, my hands shaking and my eyes trying to hold back the tears when something I’d been working on for years was ripped out from under me. Suddenly I was faced with the reality that my dreams were not going to happen. It was a frightening moment and it was the first time it had ever happened to me. After all, before that life was good, things had gone well, and I never really had faced any adversity.

The Secret Ingredient

Our culture today tends to focus on goals, dreams and you can do anything you desire. Though there is much to that, we fail to acknowledge something that is one of the most important steps toward accomplishing dreams; The roadblock.

You see when I had that first major roadblock. I gave up. I got depressed. I stopped. It took me a lot of years to understand the value or roadblocks and the determination to find ways through them.

Crash and Burn

Imagine for a moment that you’re a runner going around a track at your high school. The first few times you run around the track you can’t make it all the way. You’re huffing and puffing, exhausted and sweating. Over time your lungs and muscles develop more and you can make it all the way around. Soon, with more practice you can make it around ten or twenty times. Then, just to throw you off, your coach throws in some barriers, some low hurdles you have to jump over. Because they are low, you can easily jump over them. But when she places tall hurdles you try to jump but you crash into the hurdle and fall. You try over and over unsuccessfully.

The Crowd Thins Out

You either become determined to find a way over that hurdle or you give up. As you and your classmates continue the majority give up and tell themselves they can’t do it. Others keep trying, having accidents. More drop out. Still others try, have more accidents. By now there are only three or four runners left. All eyes are on them. Everyone is rooting for them. Will they make it? Can they get over that barrier? Each keeps going, keeps trying. Then one makes it over and everyone watching cheers. You throw your hands up in the air because you conquered the barrier. It was one of the best feelings of your life.

We often look at barriers as the end of the road, yet it’s the barriers that make us stronger. 

Throwing Acid on Roadblocks

Each of us faces barriers in our lives. Most of those barriers we would rather not face, yet if we choose to give up and give in, we are defeated and see our dreams disappear. Those who keep trying may have unfortunate and difficult accidents, but if they keep it up they will find a way to get over it, around it, under it, or some way to the other side. Determination is like throwing acid on roadblocks.

No Trophies for Participation

Barriers make us stronger. Having every kid on the team get a trophy makes everyone weaker Self esteem isn’t built by having things handed to you, its built by overcoming obstacles and having the feeling of elation when you get past that barrier.

How to Get to the Top

Recently I came to the realization that the biggest winners are the ones who place barriers in their own way. Former Football star Bo Eason says that “if you want to be at the top of your game, your craft, your field, your business or industry, obstacles are the best thing you’ve got going in your favor.”

Obstacles Equal Progress

He talks about how he had a great life as a kid, wonderful summers, joyful memories, no stress. But when he decided he wanted to be the best safety in the world, everything changed. Now he had an obstacle to overcome, yet its an obstacle he had placed there himself by setting that goal. He could have continued to live a life without obstacles yet he would have never accomplished anything.

More Obstacles Equal Bigger Growth

Big dreams are tied to massive obstacles. Billionaires who started from nowhere don’t just get lucky, they work harder, they put more obstacles in their own way, and they are determined to find a way around them no matter what. 

If you want to be the best at anything you have to put more obstacles in your way and find a way to overcome them.

Big dreams have massive obstacles. They are the way to greatness.

When people see you declare big dreams, they will latch on to your vision and do what they can to help you. And to overcome barriers and live big dreams we need others to help us.

Napoleon said, “Small plans do not inflame the hearts of men.” 

Goethe said,  “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”

Daniel Hudson Burnham said,  Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

Roadblocks are the way to greatness. 

Are you embracing obstacles and roadblocks?

Are you dreaming big enough to put roadblocks in your way so you can overcome them?

Do your dreams inflame the hearts of others so they will want to be enlisted to your cause?

A life well-lived is rich with experiences, with the satisfaction of having overcome obstacles, and never coasting. Challenges will keep you growing, keep you energized, and keep you mentally stimulated and young.

Will you coast or will you lay obstacles in your path to pursue great dreams?

Eric Rhoads

PS: A Big Dream Gets New Obstacles

A couple of years ago I laid a giant obstacle in my patch with a dream to teach a million people to paint. In two years we’ve made great progress but probably have only reached 10% of that goal so far. But that’s about to change. A year ago, with this goal in mind, I laid two more giant obstacles in my path, and both will be announced within the next two or three months, maybe sooner. One will place this dream in front of about 20 million people several times and the other will put us in front of more than 100 million people worldwide. Both have had major setbacks, have fallen apart, and had to be reinvented. It’s been discouraging, frightening at times, and has required me to put a lot at risk. There were times I wanted to throw in the towel, and times I lost confidence and had to coach myself back to the self confidence to keep going. I can say with confidence now that both will happen. Stay tuned, you’ll be the first to know.

PPS #2 Two 10 Year Reunions

I’ve been to most of my high school reunions accept for the last, only because I lost my drivers license and could not travel. I love reunions when I reconnect with people I’ve known for a long time (nothing quite like friends you’ve had for years) but what I don’t like about them is its a single event and then it ends.

I’ll be conducting two reunions this year and next. Each are 10 years. But instead of a single event, both will be a week or longer and time to really spend proper time with people you love. The first one is the 10 year reunion of our annual Fine Art Connoisseur Fine Art Trip (and of course we’ll pull out all the stops). We’re going to the South of France, Provence, Nice and seeing art treasures from behind the scenes. Though it’s a reunion and a lot of people who have become close, new family members are welcomed. It’s coming up in October so I’ve gotta make my flights this week. 

The other 10 year reunion will be next June for my Adirondack Publisher’s Invitational paint camp. Its just a week of painting outdoors and making new friends and seeing old ones. Its a full week and more fun that almost anything I do. I’m inviting everyone who has ever been (plus anyone who has ever wanted to come) to celebrate 10 years with us. 

It’s important to have traditions and time with friends.

Why Roadblocks Are a Blessing2019-08-06T18:47:18-05:00