19 01, 2020

Free The Beast Inside You

2020-01-15T15:39:54-05:00

Deep, dark fog swallows the sky around me. A soft drizzle makes the twisting tree trunks blend into the distance. The distant mountain has dissolved into the sky, and the leaves shine with the color of sage while the bright red Adirondack chairs by the firepit stand out against the blurred background. It’s another chilly morning here in Austin on the long back porch under the metal roof, here at the old homestead. Well rested, I’m ready to conquer the fog and go exploring.

I’m always exploring. I’m curious. I’m trying to get to know other people and their stories. A fellow artist introduced himself, clearly and confidently, during the seminar I attended last week. Yet according to him, clarity and confidence were not always the case for him because he grew up with a severe stutter that never left him.

Like a Leper

In school, his fellow students treated him like a leper, leaving him with no friends just because he could not get a sentence out easily. His own parents treated him differently than his siblings, as though he were flawed mentally, when his only problem was the ability to get words out of his mouth. 

Dangerous Assignments

His hopes of growing out of the stutter never came true, and my new friend became an adult and was drafted to Vietnam, where he was in the infantry, on the front lines and in combat. He was treated as though he was expendable, always pushed into the most dangerous assignments. It was difficult for him to defend himself from his fellow soldiers because talking was so hard. 

Upon exiting Vietnam, a feat unto itself, he was faced with finding employment, but every job interview resulted in a no. No one wanted a stutterer. One day he applied for a job as a stockbroker, and that interview changed his life. The man interviewing him told him that to make a living, he would have to learn to overcome his stutter in order to make sales calls. The interviewer said he didn’t think he could overcome it, but was willing to let him try. 

Stuttering

His first and second and third sales calls went badly. People hung up before he could complete his introduction. He could not even make a reservation for dinner — how was he going to make a living on the phone?

Hearing the Bad Was Good

With the encouragement of his wife, he came to believe he could overcome the stutter, but he didn’t know how. Then one day a co-worker slammed him verbally, told him he had no business doing this job, that he was a complete loser who needed to get a job as a janitor somewhere. That did the trick. He got so mad, he became determined to overcome his stutter. And he did. It took all of his will power, but he got on the phone and got through that first call, and made a sale. Then another call, and another. Simply talking was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.

A Vast Change

Soon, he became so successful that he became the number one stockbroker in the firm, partly because he started a radio show about stocks and did that show for several years. Imagine a stutterer with a radio show. Yet no one knew.

His story got out, and one day he was invited to speak at a national convention for stutterers. Before he spoke, he saw people wearing T-shirts that read “A Stutterer and Proud.”

When he got up in front of all those people, he said, “I’m a stutterer and I’m not proud, and you should not be either.” He said, “I saw the shirts about being proud. Instead of being proud, you should get mad and overcome it. Don’t let yourself off the hook. If I could do it, you can do it. You need to hear the hard truth. You need to get mad enough to make a change in your life. You need to get so angry that you stand up to others and prove them wrong. Don’t accept it, change it.”

Silence

The room was dead silent. Then one single person began to applaud, and then another, until the room broke out in applause and a standing ovation. He told them what they did not want to hear, and didn’t tell them what everyone else had always said. They loved him.

This man made a life as a successful stockbroker against great odds. He did something everyone said was impossible, yet his mind overcame his affliction. His anger drove his resolve.

“My own parents did not believe in me,” he said, “but my wife believed, and my anger made me believe. Anyone can overcome anything if they don’t give themselves excuses and pity themselves. “

What about you?

What excuses are getting in your way?

Maybe you have no affliction, but you’re telling yourself a story and you’re allowing it to limit you.

I’m not a big fan of anger and I don’t like myself when I get angry, but sometimes enough is enough. There is a point at which anger results in getting sick enough of something that you’re willing to make a change. Sometimes you’ll put up with something for years till you just get sick enough of it that it’s like flicking a switch, and you can no longer accept the way things have been.

Do you need to get angry?

Are you putting up with something that is stealing your happiness or success?

Most of us spend our lives avoiding pain. I’m the king of avoiding conflict or pain. No one likes pain, inconvenience, or difficult times. I’m sure my friend had no idea how he was going to overcome stuttering, and knew it would be easier not to overcome it. But his anger drove him.

You may have disadvantages, you may have problems, you may have things in your head that are holding you back. Just know, you can overcome them. We’ve all seen stories of soldiers who lost limbs and are living amazing, adventurous lives, while others are telling themselves they have to live bad lives. I can’t relate to their mindset, but I can tell you that some can overcome almost anything by getting sick enough or angry enough. 

In reality, most of us don’t have severe problems, most of us are not confined to a bed or a chair, yet many of us are holding back on life because of something that is stuck in our heads that is causing a success roadblock. Yet your mind can get you through it. It requires mental toughness, determination, big dreams, and action. Every big success starts with one small step. You can do this. But taking action, that first step, makes up half of the goal.

You have a fresh year, and something inside of you that is dying to come out. Get angry. Scream loudly and let it out. The beast inside needs to be released so you can live the best possible life. Get angry and let it free.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m noticing a change. People around me are getting fed up. People are realizing that no matter which political party we identify with, we are all being manipulated and polarized. They have turned us all against one another, which gives them control. People are noticing, finally grasping it, and starting to refuse to play the game any longer. We all deserve our voice, our opinions, and though we may never change them, we need to be willing to respect the opinions of friends and others. People are so sick of it that they are cutting people out of their lives, not because they disagree, but because they are being baited with social media posts that polarize people. I for one am done with all of it. If you’re on my social media account posting ANY political content, pro or con, you’re unfriended. Not because I don’t love you, but because I’m sick of seeing friends being manipulated and friends polarizing others. Let’s make 2020 a return to civilized behavior. Social media has brought out the worst in many of us. Let’s all make a commitment to only bring out the best by lifting others up, not tearing them down.

Free The Beast Inside You2020-01-15T15:39:54-05:00
12 01, 2020

You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This

2020-01-10T14:46:14-05:00

Scratchy wool socks and a worn old sweatshirt don’t seem to be enough to warm my chilled body this morning. We had a temperature drop from our unseasonably warm winter last night as clouds billowed through the sky at the speed of a freight train bringing carloads of cold as its cargo. Yet tradition is a must, and unless it’s unbearably cold or hot, writing you from this long old covered porch overlooking the 40 acres behind me is my one superstition. Coffee and thoughts are always better here, in the secure comfort of my special spot on the squeaky wicker couch.

Walking Under Ladders

Superstitions are kind of weird to me. Yet, though I put my trust in God, I still think twice before walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella indoors. It seems powerfully odd to me that a well educated, perfectly intelligent being like you or me would think these old wives’ tales have some power to change our lives. 

Telling Your Fortune

I feel the same way about horoscopes. Things come true — not because some writer at a newspaper somewhere sees it in the stars, but because the power of suggestion makes things happen. A horoscope predicts nothing, yet they make us look for those things to happen. I refuse to read horoscopes, even for entertainment, because suggestion is so powerful. (Plus, I don’t need to meet a dark handsome stranger.)

Your Future Is Bright

Our minds are so powerful that carefully implanted suggestions can control us. Recently, I was reading a book about sales that revealed a technique called “future pacing,” where you make a suggestion early on about something that is going to occur in someone’s future, and then, later on in the process, it becomes their idea. I for one don’t want anything so badly that I have to manipulate someone into buying something with some subtle technique.

Credible Leaders

Suggestion happens in our lives, no matter how much we think we have control over ourselves. It starts with how strong the credibility is of the person suggesting something. If I trust someone, respect them, and think they have lots of answers, I’m more likely to listen to their suggestion and make it happen.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid™

Suggestion can be used for evil or for good. Though hypnotists say you cannot be controlled and won’t do anything you don’t want to do, I suppose I’d say that too if I were trying to make a group of people feel comfortable with what was about to happen to them. Of course we’ve seen historical examples of mass hypnosis, such as the tragedy of Jim Jones’s followers and their mass suicide. 

Walking on Fire

On the good side, someone implanting positive ideas, perhaps helping you overcome years of bad behavior, can be a benefit. Tony Robbins comes to mind. I was reluctant to attend one of his events because I didn’t want a dose of positive thinking alone. Convinced by a friend, I went anyway, and as a result overcame some things in my head that were controlling me. Now I recommend him. I’ve watched Robbins change people’s stories in about 10 minutes, unsticking them from stories that had controlled them all their lives.

Overcoming Bad Habits

We need suggestion. We need guidance. And usually we don’t know we need it. For instance, I just returned from a weeklong painting workshop with David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw, two amazing master painters. I knew they could teach me something, but I had no idea that they would implant new concepts into my brain that overcame years of bad habits. Interestingly enough, their teaching technique, which I was initially bothered by, turned out to be the best possible thing for me. They made me struggle before showing me how to fix things, so when the fix was revealed, I understood it more deeply. The result was a shift of thinking, helping me let go of things I thought I was doing right. And I fought it, I didn’t want to let go — yet with their leadership and suggestions, I embraced what I originally resisted.

There are four stages of awareness:

Unconscious Incompetence: This means you are unaware of your lack of skill and proficiency. For instance, maybe you’re a terrible driver and totally unaware of it.

Conscious Incompetence: You are aware of your lack of skill, yet still don’t become proficient. You know you’re a bad driver, but you keep being a bad driver.

Conscious Competence: You are able to use a skill, but it takes a lot of effort. You’re now a good driver, but you have to think about it at every step to make sure you’re driving well.

Unconscious Competence: Performing the skill becomes automatic. You’re now a good driver and you don’t have to think about it.

Many of us spend the better parts of our lives in a state of unconscious incompetence. We’re unaware of our shortcomings. Yet the goal is to become aware and make the necessary changes to go through the stages. First, find out you have a problem, then work to fix it. Practice it, even if it’s uncomfortable, and then master it.

In the workshop I went from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence. And if I keep practicing, maybe I’ll get to the level of taking the principles I learned into every painting I do until I can do it in my sleep.

Live Aware

Rather than living my life unaware of my shortcomings, I want to know I have them. I want to become aware, and then fix them to the point that they are no longer problems. This is why I am continually suggesting people push themselves out of their comfort zone to learn new things. The result is learning about yourself. It’s also why, in spite of being a fairly busy guy, I took a week out of my year and away from my business to improve, and it’s why I created things like the Plein Air Convention and the Figurative Art Convention so people can be exposed to things they don’t know. 

Have you ever heard someone boasting about something, and you’re internally shaking your head and thinking, “They have no idea how wrong they are.” That’s because you’re consciously competent and they are unconsciously incompetent.

That’s why suggestion is so powerful. We turn to others to give us guidance and direction, hoping they can offer something that will change our lives. Sometimes we turn to evil not knowing it’s evil, and sometimes we turn to something with the hope that it’s good.

The Power of Discomfort

The best thing we can do with our lives is to get uncomfortable, and to spend our lives staying uncomfortable. I was really intimidated the first time I went to Russia. I was afraid because of things I’d heard or seen in movies and on the news, yet I did it anyway, and it opened doors to a whole new understanding of art, the world, and so much more. It resulted in new lifelong friendships, and exposure to things I’d never otherwise have seen.

You don’t know what you don’t know. But you have to know there are so many things you don’t know that could be life-altering for you. The key is to try things that make you nervous, and things that take you out of your comfort zone. It’s amazingly freeing, and it will truly enrich your life.

Stop Being Stuck

We all get stuck, but we are unconsciously stuck. I’m stuck in areas where I don’t know I’m stuck. I go online and buy random courses I have no interest in and knew nothing about, and I watch them on the treadmill in the morning. I also listen to random podcasts, and I find myself learning things I didn’t know I needed to know.

Be random. Try new things.

Be adventurous. Try things that make you uncomfortable.

A life of adventure awaits those who embrace discomfort.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m putting myself way out of my comfort zone this year, working on projects I never believed could happen. I’m making my first trip to China, on a seven-city speaking tour, meeting with top artists, visiting top art schools, and doing a little painting along the way. I’m excited but also intimidated. Yet I’m sure I’ll be more worldly as a result, and I’ll meet some amazing new friends. 

In the interest of awareness, I should let you know that our May Plein Air Convention & Expo is the biggest and most popular ever. We’re almost out of seats already — I think when I last looked we had 125 seats left, which is not very many. (Last year at this time we had 300 seats left.) I met some people this week who said, “I want to go, but I don’t think I’m good enough.” Please know that we all embrace new painters because we were all new at one time. We have people who will work with you, and you can sign up for our pre-convention Basics Course, headed by Carrie Curran and several instructors who will walk you through everything you need to know to join the plein air movement. Get out of your comfort zone, put the ego aside, and do something for yourself.

You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This2020-01-10T14:46:14-05:00
5 01, 2020

How to Grow Wings

2020-01-02T11:26:04-05:00

It’s ironic. We spent two weeks to get sun and warmth, but instead got clouds and rain. Today, waking up in Austin, the sun is shining, the temperature is warm, and the glow of golden light greets my morning, putting a big smile on my face.

Last week during the storms, the rain, the dark clouds, and the high winds, everyone was hunkered down, staying inside as much as possible, trying to stay warm and dry. Yet as I looked at the sky from inside, I noticed some giant birds were taking advantage of the high thermal winds, frolicking about like surfers who had found high waves. 

Instead of hiding out in a tree, they were soaring more than ever, taking advantage of what the rest of us thought were bad conditions. I could have watched them for hours.

A Call for Help

Last week I received a message on social media from a man who said he’s been watching me for years. He runs a business and asked me for some time so I could offer him some advice. According to him, “I’m amazed at how much you get done and want to know how you do it.” I’ll tell him it’s about growing your wings.

A Mega Yacht

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to take a ride on a mega yacht owned by one of the wealthiest men in America. We got to know him because his yacht was docked across from the houseboat we were staying on, which he also owned. 

Know Thyself

It’s easy to be impressed in a situation like that. Riding on a multimillion-dollar yacht, hearing about his racehorses, his classic sports car collection, his dozens of businesses, some of which are household names, and his jets. It’s also easy to allow yourself to feel small and insignificant for not having accomplished that level of wealth. This man had unbelievable financial success, but did he have wings?

Chasing Wealth

When I was a young business guy, it was great wealth that I wanted. Our society has drilled that into our heads: Success is stuff. Lots of expensive stuff. And I spent years chasing stuff and finding there was never enough; someone else always had more. In comparison to this guy, I could maybe have afforded one chair on his boat. Nothing more. 

But that is a dead end game for me. Maybe some people are cut out for it, but it was not until I let go of it that I started to feel my body lift off the ground. It’s when I started to grow my wings. The more I let go, the more I lifted off. 

The Magic of Purpose

Wings grow from purpose. And when you grow wings, you begin to lift off. The more purpose you get, the more good you do, the more you reveal your true heart, the higher you will soar.

It’s like the more you give, the more you get. For instance, there is a principle called tithing, meaning giving a percentage of what you earn to do good things. It can also be a percentage of your time. And the more you give, the more you end up getting.

You see, wings are about letting go. We tend to cling tightly to things, to money, to what we have … yet the minute we start letting go of those things, we start to soar. 

You won’t find this in business books or books about success, yet it is one of the greatest principles of success. 

Purity of Heart

Of course, some try to game the system … meaning they give more just to get more. But that lacks purity of intention, and when it occurs, they will get some lift, but they won’t soar. When your heart is right, when you’re doing things for a grand purpose and making it all about others, your wings will take you to play in the winds overhead.

Chasing Generosity

Once I let go of the foolish idea of chasing wealth for the sake of wealth, and instead chased generosity and the idea that my life needs to be devoted to helping others, the skies opened up, the wings came out, and I’ve been able to soar to do more.

That should be a slogan … Soar to do more.

Goodbye, Self

When we let go of self, when we stop worrying about ourselves and start doing more for others, we’ll be dripping with reward. Your heart will be the happiest it’s ever been — but it can also lead to financial reward if your intent is pure.

Soar More

Last week I talked about happiness and never letting things or others define what makes you happy. But if you can engage others in your life in your bigger mission, you’ll soar more, and you’ll help them soar. For instance, my employees have a bigger purpose knowing that we take 10 percent of our company earnings every year to build a house for the homeless shelter in my town. We’ve built several now, and it changes lives. 

Getting Lift

True encouragement will also give you lift. Surround yourself with people who believe in you even when you have doubts about yourself — people who truly can be the wind beneath your wings. We all need that. We can fly without it, but it’s better when you can share it with others who believe in you.

When you grow wings, some will want to help you grow them bigger and help you soar higher, but others will want to cut them off or weigh you down. You have to be willing to embrace those who encourage you and ignore those who want to see you fall. 

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury

Don’t Wait for Perfection

People want to make things perfect before they take a leap, but perfection does not exist. Tiny efforts lead to bigger wings. Find something you can do that will use your dreams to help others, or just jump in and volunteer somewhere. It’s also one of the best ways to overcome depression. You get a rush of dopamine when helping others and when you stop being selfish.

I believe we all have wings, and they will come at the right time. But you can’t wait for them. They are waiting for you.

“Wings are freedom only when they are wide open in flight. On one’s back they are a heavy weight.” —- Marina Tsvetaeva

The Death of Self

If I could do just one thing for my kids to secure their future, it would be to help them understand that selfishness is the road to ruin. Selfish may get you great wealth, but if you want a fulfilling life, it’s about being selfless. The death of self is the beginning of life. It’s taken me decades to learn that and get my own wings.

It’s not about how much I can do, it’s that when I have wind under my wings, and I see that others are benefiting, I cannot do enough. You’ll also find that to be true.

Imagination 

Stop being self-focused or career-focused and instead use your imagination to discover how you can leverage your skills and career to help others. Then, and only then, will you truly get your wings.

I wish I had discovered this decades ago. Looking back, others tried to tell me, but I thought I knew better. Still, that resulted in me spending my life learning powerful lessons that made me ready to receive my wings when it was time. 

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”  — Muhammad Ali

What about you?

Have you grown your wings?

Are you focused on generosity?

Can you soar more?

When you have wings, all your aches and pains and problems become secondary. 

Go soar.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week, I received three different e-mails from people who said, “I feel like you wrote this especially for me.” This happens to Laurie and I a lot at church — we feel like the sermon was just for us to hear. Though these Coffees are just life lessons, not sermons, if you know someone you think would enjoy it, or maybe someone struggling to get some wind under their wings, maybe you could pass this along and they will subscribe for free. And if you’re not a subscriber, I hope you’ll consider it.

Today I’m getting on an airplane, but not for business for a change. I’m treating myself to a one-week workshop in painting from masters David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw in Scottsdale. One of my personal deliverables for 2020 is to be a better painter, which excites me, so I’m launching my year with this in mind. Yes, it’s selfish, but it will help me soar in other areas of my life. I’m also signed up to study with another artist later in the year.

How to Grow Wings2020-01-02T11:26:04-05:00