29 12, 2019

The Happiness Myth


Fierce winds are blowing, flags are flapping, palm branches are bending, and the boat is rocking back and forth beyond a gentle pace, yet not too uncomfortably. 

A thick layer of gray-blue clouds covers the big sky, and in the distance rows of condos are lined up on the beach like soup cans in the pantry. Boats of all kinds surround me, including mega yachts owned by celebrities, though we’ve had no celebrity sightings. We’re here in North Palm Beach, living through the holiday break in a marina, aboard a boat. 

Grateful for the Break

I’m feeling very grateful to be here in warm weather, even on a blustery and windy day, able to sit in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, having time in close quarters with our kids, being able to reconnect with other family, and getting extra time with each of them. As I said last week, I’m doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about life and happiness.

No doubt we all want to be happy, but too often we look to others or to things or events to make us happy. Let me give you some examples…

  • If I get that promotion and more money, I’ll be happier.
  • If I just get a new car, I’ll be happier.
  • If I just get a bigger house…
  • If I get better vacations…
  • If I get all this stress off my back…
  • If I meet someone new….
  • If I just get another degree…

In my striving for lifelong happiness by chasing things, changing circumstances, working to get better, I’ve realized nothing I do is going to make me happy.

Less Is More

Most people I know who make more money continue to live on the edge, have lots of debt, and are not any further ahead. Instead of putting more away when they get a new job or a raise, they just buy more stuff … better cars, bigger houses. Then they are in the same unhappy boat they were in before.

And most who achieve the things they want realize that those things don’t make them happy at all. (Oh, maybe there is a momentary thrill.)


I think back to a time I wanted a new car. I wanted that fancy blue convertible so badly I could taste it. So I bought it, and it was a thrill for the first couple of weeks, but after that, it was just transportation. It did not make me any happier, and I would argue it made me less happy because I had a bigger lease payment.


Today, I drive a 2002 Honda Element. I bought it because it was my ideal paint car … I didn’t have to worry about getting cadmium yellow paint on the leather seats of my Volvo (which happened). And every time I get the desire for something new and shiny, I think about how little I drive, how much I love my car, and how I have three kids going into college and I don’t need anything else to create financial pressure. 

I have an acquaintance who is a billionaire and drives a 12-year-old Buick because he is practical and doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone.

So if things, changes, events don’t make me happy, then how do I get happy?

Changes Alone Won’t Work

I’ve realized that if I’m not happy now, then changes won’t make me happy. What I’m focused on is living with joy, knowing that no matter how good or how bad things are, my joy is always present. Even when things are tough, when life throws difficult challenges, that joy remains in my heart. 

Joy itself should be the goal — not hoping some new thing will make you happy.

OK, then, how do I get joy?

Joy comes from gratitude. Being thankful for what you have, no matter how good or bad your circumstances are. Being thankful that you still have breath, that you still have life. 

Have you ever seen sad stories on Facebook or met people who are in terrible circumstances who make the best of them and are living with joy?

That’s what I strive to be.

Challenge Your Brain

Don’t get me wrong, we should want to be the best version of ourselves. We need to take ourselves to higher levels to challenge our brains, and we owe it to ourselves to strive for excellence, to play the game at the highest level. But if you’re doing it to find happiness, I don’t think you’ll find it there.

Being You

Joy also comes from being your own person, being who you truly are. I tell my kids that the minute you cross the line to doing something sleazy or dishonest or inappropriate, you live on the other side of that line. It may be a small thing, but the next time, you’ll rationalize a little wrongdoing again, and it will grow and grow until you’ve lost the trust of others, and you may end up in jail. They always say that once-innocent people end up in prison because they tell themselves, “It won’t matter, it’s just a dollar, no one will notice.”

Being your own person means living on your own terms, no matter what they are. If you’re not meeting your own terms, you’re crossing over the line against yourself.

Resolutions Are for Amateurs

In a couple of days we’ll celebrate the start of the year 2020. Instead of making a bunch of resolutions that will be broken, how about just living with gratitude and joy on your own terms? When you live like that, everything else will fall into place and you’ll be more successful in your life than you ever imagined. 

Find joy in each moment of each day. Be grateful for where you are and what you have. Forgive those around you no matter what, because not forgiving means living in chains binding you to your anger. Let go, and live on your terms.

What about you?

Are you chasing happiness? 

Do you find joy in today, in the now?

Are you grateful for where you are now?

Are you forgiving to others?

There is no better way to start 2020 than with joy in your heart.

Happy 2020 … see you next year.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Close your eyes for a moment and ask yourself this question: What is something I’ve always wanted to do, but have not done?

What comes to mind?

Now, listen to the judging in your head: “Oh, I could never do that.” There is usually some reason.

It seems to me if you have always wanted to do something, if it’s the first thing that comes to mind, you should find a way to do it in 2020. Roadblocks are only meant to keep the amateurs off the road. People who want things never listen to the voices in their head telling them what’s not possible. They never let the reasons things cannot be done get in the way. I believe in you. It’s your turn. Nothing is impossible.

Almost every time I’m outside painting, someone approaches me and says, “I wish I could do that, but I don’t have any talent. I can’t even draw a stick figure.” To me, that’s a cry for help, and I believe I can teach anyone to draw or paint. Anyone, even you. I put together a simple system for those people. It will teach you things most art teachers don’t teach, and I believe you will have success (unless you don’t try it). People who read my social media posts (follow me at ericrhoads on Facebook — though I have no room for more friends, according to them — and @ericrhoads on Instagram) say they wish they could travel the world painting like I do. The first step is learning to paint. The rest will come. I have a free lesson at www.paintbynote.com, a system I came up with to learn using the principle of musical notes. Try it. Don’t give up when you get frustrated — frustration is the signal that you’re about to have a breakthrough.

The Happiness Myth2019-12-27T12:42:44-05:00
22 12, 2019

’Twas Was the Sunday Before Christmas…


Often in the middle of the night, I’ll awaken, get up, and realize I’m in a strange place. Yet another hotel room in this road warrior life. Before mobile phones and smart watches, I’d sometimes roll over, call the front desk, and ask where I was. Hotel rooms blend together over time, and sometimes you simply forget where you were when you checked in the night before, especially on a tour of 10 cities in 20 days. 

This morning I immediately know I’m not home, but it’s no hotel room. Instead it’s our annual Christmas journey as a family, living aboard a houseboat in a marina in Florida. It’s a tradition we’ve followed every Christmas for years. 

Splash Splash

The water is splashing against the sides of the boat, ever gently rocking it, lulling us to sleep. Though quarters are tight, it brings family closer and away from our home distractions of homework, housework, studio work, and office work. It’s a break we all look forward to, but the best part, of course, is time with family, a treat we don’t have as often as we would like. It’s also a treat for our good friends who use our home back in Austin as their Christmas HQ while they visit family.

Memories Over Pain

Though Christmas is a busy time, I still love the anticipation, the joy, the magic, and the great feelings it can provide. For some, it brings up difficult memories, or it can bring sadness over loved ones no longer with us. And though missing them is hard, sometimes the joy of those holiday memories outweighs the pain. This is my first year without my mom. She was all about Christmas, and even last year, she had her tree beautifully decorated; though it was a much bigger chore in her mid-90s, she always looked forward to it. 

Have you stopped to think about your precious Christmas memories?

Christmas Magic

I love the wonder of not being able to sleep the night before, of wanting something so badly that I was nervous whether Santa would show up. I still remember that gold-colored Schwinn bike sitting unwrapped under the tree — it was so exciting. Another year it was an artist’s easel, which I suppose was a prediction of what was to come. 

Christmas Mission

This year for Christmas I have a special mission. Instead of my red hat, I’m putting on my Christmas ears. Rather than making things all about me and talking too much, I want to listen more carefully. When mom left us, there were unanswered questions about long-lost family members. This year my goal is to learn as much about my family as possible, try to find things I never knew about them, and of course try to document old family stories and history.

Will you be listening?

With Christmas comes anxiety for some, having to deal with difficult people, old family issues, and other pressures. But perhaps next week you can put all that aside, heal and forgive, and break the patterns that have plagued your relationships.

Don’t Carry Your Past

The reality is that no one on this earth is perfect. As parents, we make mistakes with our kids, though we all try to do the best we can. As siblings, there may be old rivalries we are clinging to from our childhood. Maybe we are stuck on something someone did 50 years ago. Let it go, if not for your relationship’s sake, for your own sanity. Harboring the negative causes internal festering that is hurting you physically and mentally without your realizing it. Be forgiving.

Make It Fun

Rather than dreading relationship issues or worrying about dealing with your weird aunt or with family members who have made bad choices, try to put it aside and make it fun. Do things as a family … play games, start the interesting conversations you never have, go for walks together, be playful by making snow angels or doing something else fun. Go out of your way, and if others remain sourpusses, ignore it and keep trying to draw them in.

How Many More Christmases?

My friend Richard Saul Wurman always talked about how many summers we each have left … and encouraged us to make every minute count. The same is true for Christmas. How many do you have left? Maybe a lot, maybe no more. We simply don’t know. 

For most, the magic of Christmas is the result of memories created by parents, grandparents, and friends. That magic does not have to be lost — each of us can play a role in bringing it back and making it special. Just have fun.

Oh, and no matter how passionate you are, and how differently someone thinks about politics, you can’t change their mind and they can’t change yours. Don’t even try. Our country is being divided by strong opinions. Leave them alone. Let Christmas be about common ground.

My Christmas Rule

Here is the Christmas Rule: At the beginning of gatherings, simply say, “No politics spoken here.” And if someone starts, “ding” your glass, and it will be a signal for everyone not to go there. 

I hope you make this holiday time special. Set a goal for yourself for something you want out of it … maybe, like me, it’s listening or learning, maybe it’s just having fun and creating memories, but be deliberate. Make it the best yet, and don’t take it for granted. What if it’s your last?

Merry Christmas.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of the great joys of my life has been sitting here each Sunday morning to write my thoughts to share. I started out intending to share thoughts with my kids, to prepare them for life, and a friend suggested I share it with others. I’m told we’re hitting about a quarter million people each week because many of you are forwarding it to friends. Thank you, I’m very grateful. If you like what you see most of the time, I appreciate your forwarding to others and suggesting they subscribe for free. We would hit a million readers this week if each reader found four people to send it to. That would be nice.

I love hearing your feedback in the comments section, and I try to read them all. It means a lot that you would take the time.

One point I want to make … I don’t want to tell anyone how to live, what to think, what to believe. One lady objected to my mentioning God, but that’s part of who I am. If it offends you, know that it’s not my intent, and I hope you can read past it and find some value anyway. My intent is not to push anything on anyone, just to stimulate thought or conversation. 

One more thought … I’ve found that success in my life and my year is all about being deliberate. If you have some quiet time, think about where you want to be a year from now, and make a plan. I have several stories about that at www.coffeewitheric.com, which is also where you can subscribe.

I’m grateful for you, and for your taking the time to open and read these stories. Thank you!

’Twas Was the Sunday Before Christmas…2019-12-18T12:34:47-05:00
15 12, 2019

Perspective and Pain


The old screen door slams behind me and the boards under my feet creak as I walk to the old wicker couch, whose basket weave also makes a sound as the weight of my body sinks into the red cushions. My cozy gray fleece jacket is all I need; the morning is pleasant enough to return to the porch. Beaming strongly into the yard, the orange-colored sun silhouettes a giant buck and his Christmas tree of antlers as he slowly grazes the smorgasbord of natural treats in my yard. The distant mountain is a light purple gray against the bright yellow-white sky.

Last week, I disappeared. I’m sorry I was not there for you. But I had a good reason. I am the father of teenagers, after all.

Sage Wisdom

Advice comes as needed, as I alluded to recently in Butterflies and Angels. One friend, Dr. Dave, swooped into my life last week, as if knowing I’d need his advice soon. I had been talking about a stressful week at work when he told me that our natural tendency when we’re going through stress or crisis is to sleep less, drop our routines, eat poorly, and not take good care of ourselves. Entrepreneurs like myself tend to put in longer hours to solve a crisis. His advice: Take care of yourself. This is when you need sleep, nutrition, and exercise more than ever because your immune system is being attacked by stress, and it needs to be strong. Plus, if you’re not rested, not eating well, and not exercising, you’re not thinking clearly.

Focused Energy

His advice came just in time to deal with another issue that was significant enough that I decided to drop everything I could in order to be there for my family. Though I try to give to others as much as possible, last week I had nothing more to give. I hope you’ll forgive me for not showing up in your mailbox. I don’t do it often. But I needed to preserve my energy, my resources, and my time. And I needed more time at the gym, working harder to make sure that the much-needed husband and father was showing up.

Deep Answers

I’ve also been reminded that when emotions run high, we tend to grab at the first answer we come up with. My friend and mentor, author Keith Cunningham, taught me to never resort to the first answers, but to take time to think and come up with 100 answers — and never use any of the first 20, which are typically reactive. That, too, was helpful.

Great Counselors

And times like these make our friendships that much more important because friends can offer non-emotional suggestions, solutions, and experience at a time when clarity isn’t present. Thank God for great friendships. To have someone to talk to, someone to listen, someone to offer perspective, ideas, and encouragement is so helpful. And when the world around you appears to be crashing down, they help point out that it’s not as bad as you think it might be. They help you see that the other side of it is right around the corner. Light always comes after the darkness.

Our other default thought in tough moments is often, “Why me? Why would God do this to me?” Thankfully I did not have that reaction this time, but I get it a lot. I think the answer is, “Why not me? What am I to learn? How am I to be made stronger?”

Parenting Pain

As I think about parenting, I think about the importance of pain. Keeping pain away from our children is not doing our kids any favors. Though I hate to watch my kids go through pain, sometimes seemingly unbearable pain, I know I made it through it. My parents protected me from some of it, but helped me get through much of the rest. It’s a reminder that blue steel is the strongest steel, because it has been forged, many times, through the hottest fires. 

Why Be Angry?

I’m not sure where the idea started that we should be mad at God when our lives don’t go the way we want them to go. I think that, being a loving dad, I’m helping my kids when I allow them to go through pain and suffering. I’m there to step in if it’s life-threatening, I’m there to turn to for advice, but they will be stronger if I don’t rescue them. I think it’s showing incredible love to watch your kid go through a horrible thing — and let them go through it. It’s not easy. It’s painful to watch. I also don’t think it’s loving to solve every problem for them so their expectation is that life will be perfect. Pain happens to be part of perfection. Perhaps this sounds harsh to some, but the best thing we can do for our kids is help them be stronger, help them look at pain as part of life, and give them coping skills. That way when they face difficult times, like the ones we’re going through, they have perspective, knowing that it’s part of the process.

Pain Reduction

I’ve cried a lot of tears through my life. I’ve lost a lot of loves and it devastated me at the time. I’ve lost friendships. I’ve lost jobs, businesses, partnerships, and I’ve been on the edge of bankruptcy. I’ve had tough things happen, lost loved ones, and remember moments where I didn’t think I could get through the pain. Yet today, it hurts less, and I’m more prepared, more experienced, know it’s part of a process, and I know there is a bright light on the other side of the dark moment. Perspective is a wonderful gift.

Molding Us

I don’t know your pain, but I know you have it. We all carry things with us that we’ve never fully been able to get over. And we should not get over them … it’s that pain that molds us into who we are, makes us better, makes us stronger, though it does not seem like it at the time. But don’t be mad at the world, or the universe, or God. Be happy that you’ll grow from everything that happens. That no matter how horrible something is, even death, there is growth and value, and light at the end of it all. Embrace what you cannot change. Change what you can. Make the best of a bad situation. Somehow, just thinking this gets us through. 

Great Lessons

Look back on your pain. Chances are you’ll find lessons, growth, and outcomes that were benefits. Things you never would have otherwise known. Just like when we feel we’re not accomplishing enough, we benefit from looking back to see how far we’ve actually come. Looking back on pain helps us see growth and strength we would not have had.

Having experienced the major loss of my mom this year, that horrific pain brought important lessons, growth, and even special moments that would not have occurred without it. I embrace what we went through.

Pain is growth, lessons, and forging strength. Handle it with dignity and the peace of knowing that though it seems dark, there is light around the corner.

Eric Rhoads

PS: In the midst of my pain, taking an escape moment, I decided to go Christmas shopping. It was very hard to get into the spirit with something looming over me. Yet there are people I love whom I want to give something special, not out of obligation, but because I want to honor them with a gift to show appreciation. It’s easy to fall into a Grinch attitude that you hate Christmas shopping and the pressure that comes with it. Instead, give of yourself, of your heart. Make something with your own hands if you can, at least as one gift. And think about the person and what really lights up their eyes — what do they get excited about? It’s not about the volume of gifts, it’s about showing you know them and are tuned in to them.

Other than her love, and our three amazing children, the greatest gift my wife ever gave me was an art lesson. It was great because she sensed that I needed to be creative, and she was right. That lesson 25 years ago resulted in a new career filled with painting, art, and creating a lot of things to help artists and collectors scratch their itch. Maybe an art lesson isn’t the gift for your special person, but if there is interest, I’ve listed some of the things we do that would make great gifts. I’ll explain each. But I don’t want Sunday Coffee to be a commercial environment, so please stop reading here if you have no interest.

Shop My Holiday Gift Recommendations >

Perspective and Pain2019-12-14T19:38:19-05:00