9 08, 2020

Moving Our Immovable Mind


My mind flashed to a scene in The Hobbit as I looked across the glassy lake, not a ripple in sight. The reflections of the tall, dark pines are perfectly in focus in the still water, and a layer of thick fog at the shoreline is making the lake and the trees blend together as though airbrushed. 

The bright golden morning sun is blinding me as it reflects off the lake, and, like clockwork, the fog is burning off before my eyes. 

There is a chill in the air leftover from the passing hurricane, which brought rain and a cold front. I can feel the goosebumps on my exposed legs as my warm red-checked flannel shirt cuddles my core and the hot coffee dribbles warmly into my system like water in a radiator.

Summer’s End

Every year for the last 18 years, August signals our last week or two here, knowing we are beholden to the schedules of schools back in Texas. With the idea of leaving come the thoughts of all the things I intended to do this summer but never got around to, the sadness of departing our favorite place on earth, and the end of something we look forward to each year. Though this year, we’ll return, once three colleges are visited and our kids planted for their next chapter. 

New Feelings

Laurie and I are experiencing anxiety we’ve never felt before, the idea that the little birds we nested are about to fly south to their own lives. I left at 17, never to live with my parents again. I tried to be independent and self-supporting, and I wish that for my kids as the way things should be. It’s still a medicine I hate taking, though I know it’s the right prescription. 


My wife and I have spent almost two decades getting these kids ready for this moment, and the hardest thing to communicate is the need to think for themselves, to use their brains, to not believe everything they hear or everything their friends are saying, and to not succumb to peer pressure.

It made me pause and wonder … am I following my own advice?

Am I able to be objective? 

The last four months have taught us that what we expect in life is no longer a guarantee. That freedom isn’t guaranteed, though we’ve been told our entire lives that we are free. Even toilet paper isn’t guaranteed.

It has helped us not to take things for granted, and yet our minds have changed about things we never imagined we would be willing to do.


Behavior has changed. People are seeing things come out in themselves they never would have guessed were there. Just doom scroll through social media and you’ll find people attacking people because they are mask-free. Social media has become a breeding ground for cowards who destroy people with vitriol, saying things they would never say to someone’s face. 

COVID times are challenging our previous standards. 

I’ve always been told it’s easy to treat people civilly as long as things are going well, but the real you comes out when you’re fighting for your survival.

What about you? How have you changed?

I’ve had to bite my tongue a couple of times when I’ve felt the need to speak up about someone not following “the rules.” But then I remember that I’ve not walked in their shoes, I don’t know their circumstances, maybe they are doing their best.

But can we find a way to remember that? 

Can we stop being critical because of our fear? Can we still allow a little grace?

Trusted Neighbors

My ex-mother-in-law, who lived in Germany during World War II, once told me that you really learn about your neighbors in the midst of tragedy. Some will step up and help, others will be selfish, others will turn on you or turn you in for a piece of bread. She once said, “You want to live in a place where you know the character of the community, because if things ever get bad again, you want to know you can rely on your neighbors.”

But how many of us even know our neighbors anymore? 

How many know we can trust our neighbors with our lives if we need their help? How many would share what little they have to help everyone survive? How would we respond if they need us?

I’d like to think I would respond well, but I won’t know until I face those moments. Hopefully we never will.

What we’re going through at this moment in time is hard. People are struggling, people are out of work, suicide rates are climbing, and yet, as I’ve said before, at least there aren’t bombs dropping on us or explosions destroying our cities. (My prayers go out to the people of Lebanon.) 

Yes, circumstances awaken us. Sometimes our minds change when we’re shocked into changing them.

You and I will look back on this date a year from now and realize how much has changed.

Our society will change, our belief systems will be tested, our civility will be challenged, the ways we work, learn, travel, communicate, and celebrate will change, and we will change our minds about things we never believed we would.

Adapting to change is the most important survival skill. 

Are you ready?

Ready or not, change is upon us. Try to keep an open mind. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Airplane seats and hotel rooms are no longer my weekly routine, and I’m thrilled about it. Never again do I want to spend that level of intensity “on the road,” and I may even end up doing fewer events because of it.

Change was brought on my business without even asking my permission. We don’t always get a say in things. Yet adapting to change is our only chance of survival.

I’m hopeful our virtual art convention that teaches realism — in painting and drawing the portrait, the figure, the landscape, flowers, still life, and more — will help us recover. More importantly, it will help you learn art (we have a Beginner’s Day), help you get to the next level, and expose you to some of the best artists teaching in the world. It will open your eyes and change your mind about a lot of things … especially your confidence in your own ability to paint or draw.

I hope you’ll join us October 20 for Realism Live Beginner’s Day, and October 21-24 for the Realism Live virtual convention. The reviews for our last convention confirmed that people made friends, felt the sense of community, and learned volumes. And if you can’t make the date, replays are available to all who sign up (but not to those who don’t). The price is increasing on August 30.

Sign up at RealismLive.com

Moving Our Immovable Mind2020-08-08T16:21:52-04:00
2 08, 2020

The Talk


For a brief moment, I thought I had woken up in the middle of the night, and was ready to put the old patched quilt over my head. But a quick glance at my watch confirmed it was time to get up. Looking out the wavy glass window of our 140-year-old cabin, the sky was dark, and the rain was blasting the roof like a thousand nails being dropped every second. 

Reluctantly, my bare feet slid into my old rubber Bean boots, and I rushed through the rain to the other cabin for my morning brew. I’m soaked but beaming, because my favorite time on the screened-in porch is during a thunderstorm, as the roof rattles like a freight train with every boom.

Big Change

The ticking clock reminds me that this is the last two weeks of normal life with our triplets, who go off to college soon. The family will leave our summer paradise, drive to their respective colleges, and return to a very quiet house. Friends told me they cried for weeks when their birds flew the nest, I’m sure we’ll be no different. Yet we’re excited about their new lives, their new adventures, and the next chapter for each of us. 

Time Flies

I can remember my Grandmother Luella telling me she had outlived all her friends, and that she felt like one day she was 30 and the next day she was 90. I probably rolled my eyes, but now, at this very lake where we discovered Laurie’s pregnancy, our stable home time for the last 18 years is about to change. Though our time with them will increase with longer holiday breaks due to the virus, things will never be the same once they’ve experienced more independence.

Gifts of COVID?

What a wonderful time to be alive. What gifts we’ve been given. Before the kids launch off to college, we’ve had almost five months of home time when they could barely leave the house. We’ve seen more of them this year than last year, when friends and cars took them away frequently. In spite of the virus, I feel so very blessed.

Historical Blessings

And in a strange sort of way, I feel blessed to be alive during one of the most monumental events in history. Yet I’m thankful it’s not a fraction of the death and destruction of the last major pandemic. Think about what we’re learning about ourselves and others during this time. Think about the stories that will be written about these times for all of history to absorb. And though I grieve for friends and family members who have suffered through loss or illness, I still think this could be the major reset our world needed. Everyone alive in the world today has been forced into rethinking their lives, something I spoke of recently.

So how can I look at such an event with a positive approach?

It’s all about our filters.

Last week I spoke on my noon daily broadcast (Facebook and YouTube) about the way we process things that happen to us.

Why is it that one person will think the sky is falling, but another will see a silver lining and opportunity?

Caveman Brain

Nature plays tricks on us. We were born with a brain that defaults to negative in order to protect ourselves. It’s called the reptilian brain — the part created to keep us alert and alive among predators in the cave days. It defaults to the negative, so the trick to life is overcoming nature. Finding a way to process every input with a positive spin.

Though some think some people are born more positive than others, I think it’s an intentional action we decide to take. I was heavily influenced by my dad, who was influenced by his mom, who was influenced by someone else. And I’m trying to influence others.

Mr. Negative

You see, I started out as a negative person, in spite of my influences. I was like the character in the Li’l Abner cartoon, with the gray cloud over my head. I could find negativity in ice cream and apple pie. I’m sure you know people like that. Maybe you’re like that.

A Kick in the Butt

One day I was visiting my high school sweetheart, a few years after college. We were not dating at that time but were still good friends. I went to visit her while she was visiting her folks, and her dad said he needed to have a “serious talk with me.”

Of course, I wondered. Was he going to encourage me to marry his daughter? What could it be?

“Eric,” he said, “you are the most negative person I know. And I don’t understand why. You have so much going for you, but if you don’t get control of your negative nature and stop it, you’re going to live an unhappy life and probably die young. I’ve seen it, and my daughter has seen it and asked me to talk to you about it.”


That got my attention. I’m sure my own parents had been trying to tell me, but I probably ignored them, as young people do.

Then it started dawning on me that I had lost a lot of friends. I realized they did not want to hang out with me. I had rationalized it as sarcasm, but it was flat-out negativity.

Thanks to his advice, some recommended books, a lot of seminars, and even some therapy, I became obsessively positive.

A New World Perspective

The most eye-opening part of being positive is that everything changed. Good things started happening, doors opened, my career soared, I made more money, my businesses started to blossom, and I had lots of friends who wanted to hang out with me.

I went from “Woe is me” to “Whoa!” I was on a wild ride and having a blast. Each day became a gift, and I became a different person. Though it did not happen overnight, it took that slap in the face to bring it to my attention.

Clogged Filter

Imagine for a moment a really dirty air conditioning filter. Years of caked-on dirt make it almost impossible for the air to get through. And the air that does get through is dirty air. Yet when you put a new filter in, the air becomes clean again.

My negativity was a dirty filter. In fact, I didn’t know it, but I was adding dirt all the time, because I was seeking negativity. I realized I felt better when others commiserated with me. I realized I took joy when others failed. What a sicko I had become.

No Idea Why

I don’t know why it happened — I grew up in a very upbeat, positive environment. I don’t know what triggered it. All I know is that I discovered it thanks to a caring friend, and I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to fuel my positivity.

Lurking Negativity

Though I remain very positive, I do slip from time to time, usually because I am spending time around negative influences. I’ve discovered that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. As a result, I had to remove some influences from my daily life.

I once told this to a negative friend, Chris, who told me it was all nonsense. At least I tried to help him, but he was too far gone and died young as a negative person. Others think this is over the top and doesn’t matter, but all I can say is that it works for me.

I’m not one who thinks I can dream my way into anything. I am one who believes I can dream something and then make it happen with hard work and action. Belief in oneself and one’s Maker is the key.

What about you?

What way are you looking at the world?

Are you stuck in your reptilian brain?

If you’re catching yourself saying, “Yeah, but Eric, you don’t understand, there is a reason…” you’re right. But that reason is in your head only. You can overcome it.

Pay close attention to your words. I have to avoid negative words and phrases. And when they show up, I show them the door. 

Pay attention to your influences. Where do you spend your time, and how are those people influencing your mindset?

Pay attention to what you’re pouring into your ears and eyes. Are you glued to negativity in politics, the news, social media?

We have to protect our brains from negative influences in order to keep our filters clean. I’ve had to purge things from my life that I loved but were not good for me. 

What about you?

Stopping negativity is probably as hard as an alcoholic giving up drinking. It’s ingrained in us. It’s all-consuming. In order to overcome it, we have to develop power habits. But you can change, and when you do, the world will feel like a better place. 

It’s still the same world, but your outlook will have changed entirely. 

Try it. You’ll like it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I went a little negative when this COVID thing started to destroy my business. But rather than relying on hope, I made a pivot in spite of all my events being canceled. I launched PleinAir Live, the world’s first virtual art conference, and it was a huge success. It helped save my business and helped me keep employees. Many of you attended — thank you! 

We’re launching a second virtual art conference called Realism Live, all about learning different forms of realism (landscape, portrait, figure, still life, flowers, etc). It will be held this October for four days, plus a beginner’s day for people who want to start learning art. It’s all online, so you don’t have to leave your home. I hope you’ll attend. We already have 600 people signed up. You can learn more at RealismLive.com.

PS2: Our big PleinAir Salon $15,000 art competition is coming to an end. Enter your best paintings before the end of the month.

PS3: Enter our Artists & Selfie Art Competition — entries due in late August. ArtistandSelfie.com

PS4: I’m on 
Facebook and YouTube daily at noon, seven days a week, with teaching, announcements, and daily art instruction videos. Join me. 

The Talk2020-07-30T09:46:35-04:00