30 08, 2020

The Magic for Success


Massive gray and yellow clouds are billowing, filling up the sky in every direction and racing at high speed to win the cloud race. The sound of thousands of acres of blowing trees is almost deafening. Trees are bent and there are whitecaps on the water sloshing up against the dock, which is too wet for comfort. The temperature has dropped and a chill fills the air, countered by burning logs in the ancient stone fireplace of this old Adirondack lodge. The scent is heavenly as the smoke swirls and dances to merge with the clouds once it escapes the old red brick chimney. This storm is fierce, but I cannot imagine being in Hurricane Laura. My heart goes out to everyone in its path and those who have had to battle destruction at its highest level.

Looking Back

With all three kids in college now, I’m thinking about them more than ever and second-guessing the things I should have done, should have taught them. I can see, for instance, that I let them off the hook, did not work them hard enough to develop great work ethics, and yes, they are a little entitled or spoiled. That certainly was not my intention, but I can say sometimes it is just a lot easier to buy things than argue about doing the chores to earn the money. Hopefully the lessons imparted will creep into their work ethic over time. 

I now have a new appreciation for my parents and grandparents. Realizing it’s more work to make kids work than to give them everything they need.

Entitled Kids

It’s been said at certain times that we’ve raised a generation of entitled kids who have not had to work, not had to earn their way, and who want things handed to them. I’m not sure if I believe it or not. Though there certainly is some recent evidence in behavior in certain areas, I don’t want to be one of those people who say, “Kids today aren’t like kids in our day.”

Though we are all born equal in the eyes of God, there are differences that exist in each person because of their upbringing, their parents (or lack of parents), the direction given by grandparents and other family members, and even physical differences. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a 7-foot basketball player.

I deeply believe that we can all make opportunities. We may be unlucky at birth, but we’ve all seen even people with no mobility or massive disadvantages become super successful. We’ve seen people grow up with nothing and become billionaires or successful writers, actors, professionals, or businesspeople. 

Though I can be “Mr. Positive” and believe we think our way to success, I now believe that the primary driver of success (which is defined by everyone differently) lies in a person’s self-confidence. Thinking is one thing. Believing is what’s important.


When I was a kid my dad would tell us, “You can become anything you can imagine,” and I’ve tried to share that with my own kids. But I can remember not completely believing it. Yet thankfully, my influences believed in me and encouraged me and focused on my positive traits and never even mentioned the negative ones. Eventually, I started believing it.

People who have lifted themselves from ashes to greatness either had their own self-confidence, no matter what their influences were, or they had influences offering constant encouragement. 

Repetition is the gateway to belief.

Something for Nothing

Recently, in the car with my son, I could see the scratchings of a lottery ticket, and without being critical, I told him I don’t play the lottery — not only because I don’t believe in gambling, but because I don’t want anything handed to me. Instead I want the satisfaction and pride of having accomplished it.

A Sad Life

Years ago my friend Marvin, a member of the lucky birth club, was playing golf with me and whining about being unhappy in his role as president of his father’s company. He was making a ton of money, had a prestigious job, and was unhappy. Why? Because it was handed to him; he did not earn it. Though he would tell you he worked his way up, everyone, including him, knew that his name is what put him in the job over other qualified people. 

When he asked me what he should do, I told him I had turned down a similar offer from my own father because I wanted to know I could do it for myself. I did not want success by being born into it. I suggested he quit his job and go build his own business or get a job working for someone else so he would have the pride of knowing he could do it, but he didn’t want to be without the money. Eventually he drove the business into the ground after his father passed away and ended up destitute, and he died a miserable man. The last time I spoke to him he told me, “I remember your advice and have always wished I’d had the courage to become my own man.”

Handing things to people is of no value. There is no self-worth and no pride of accomplishment tied to things unearned.

Nothing Left

We’re living in a time when people want our money, or our house, without doing the work we do for it. I’m hopeful that won’t be my own kids. Giving in to it will create generations of future entitled people until there is no one earning or working, and there will be nothing to share. Instead of accomplished people with the pride of having done something, we will have entitled people who have no self-esteem and no initiative.

Reinforcing Self-Worth

Fortunately, parenting is never over, and I have ample opportunities to reinforce the concept of self-worth, self-accomplishment, and the idea that something for nothing is of no value. Living a life of leisure, having no purpose, not bringing value for my time, is of no interest to me.

An Old Tale

The classic story is the woman or man who rises up from nothing, works their fingers to the bone, and makes a fortune so they can do nice things for their family. Then their kids get spoiled and entitled, don’t have the work ethic, and by the third generation the family money is lost. By the fourth generation they are poor again, and the cycle begins again. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.

A Billionaire’s Kids

I don’t know if it’s true, but a friend of Warren Buffett’s son once told me Buffett made it clear that he was leaving his children no money, and if they wanted money, they needed to make it on their own. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a brilliant idea. Sink or swim. Everyone needs to earn their own pride of accomplishment.

Tough Love

The greatest gift we can give our kids is belief in them, and helping them gain the confidence that they can do things on their own, without our help. It’s OK to nudge them along and help a little when we can, but it’s tough love that will help them have the pride of independent accomplishment. Though we will have to watch them mess up and suffer, and live through difficult times, every success on earth has had to go through that. The average billionaire goes bankrupt two times before making it.

Entitlement has destroyed family fortunes, destroyed cultures and countries, and kills initiative. On the other hand, encouragement, self-belief, and the pride of accomplishment, combined with struggle, is what makes a success. 

I’ve come to understand that success has nothing to do with money. It has to do with self-discipline, freedom, and knowing if I lost everything today, I could do it all again.

Are you feeling entitled?
Are you entitling others?
Are you instilling belief, self-confidence, in others?
Are you able to provide tough love?

At the time when we are struggling the most, we would not wish it on anyone, yet the trials and the fires make us who we are. 

Yes, anyone can do anything. It’s up to us to help them build that belief and sense of accomplishment.

Eric Rhoads

“I do NOT believe we are all born equal.

“Created equal in the eyes of God, yes, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidelines, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual’s development.

“But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world.

“Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life?

“Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose?

“Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?

“I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose, to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.”

— Hugh O’Brian, The Freedom to Choose

PS: There IS pride in accomplishing great things on your own. Though there ARE self-taught artists, we can all speed our learning with the influence of others teaching us. 

Last week I got a note from a man who watches me daily (noon ET on YouTube — search StreamlineArtVideo) who said this … “I know I want to learn to paint, I know I want to grow, and I know the approximate style, but I don’t know who to pick to study under.”
I’ll tell you what I told him.

I think workshops are a great idea, and videos are a great idea, but I’ve gone to workshops where I’ve flown across the country and spent a week with someone, only to discover they were not for me. Sometimes it was their teaching style, sometimes just a chemistry problem. That’s one of the reasons I’ve created a sampler of sorts. At Realism Live, you can study different subjects like portraits, figures, still life, flowers, landscapes, and more, and get a chance to learn from a couple of dozen top instructors. Not only will you get something out of each one, you’ll be able to select the ones you want to study with more. 

The price for Realism Live goes up $100 tonight at midnight Pacific. And it’s 100% refundable if you change your mind. Plus I offer a money-back guarantee: If you don’t love it by the end of the first day, let me know and we’ll give you your money back (though we will disconnect access). Realism Live is virtual … you participate from home on your screen. 

Check it out, and remember, the price goes up today! —RealismLive.com

The Magic for Success2020-08-27T14:23:59-04:00
23 08, 2020

Moving On


The scent of balsam fills my lungs as I take long, deep drawn-out breaths not just for the scent and the freshness, but for the medicinal effect on my state of mind. Adirondack pines reach their roots out to the edge of the water to drink its mineral-rich nectar, which invigorates its deep green needles to spread like open arms, welcoming us back in the Adirondack Mountains. The eerie call of the loons reminds us that they will soon congregate to make plans to fly south. Instinctively they know the cooling air and water will be their formal invitation to a winter in Florida. 

Soon, probably in a week or so, we’ll start to see the first indications of brilliant reds pop out for an early fall, with the rest of them a few weeks to follow. Rarely do we get a chance to see such brilliant fall color, when our mountain turns red and the reflections of color will dance in the water. Our forced summer returns for school have prevented our time here in this soon-to-come season of beauty. We’re looking forward to it, though deeply missing our newly appointed college students.


Roasting in record 106-degree temperatures for the remainder of the summer did not seem like an option, so Laurie and I returned to the lake as empty-nesters. After an exhausting 10 days back in Texas to pack and prep our babies for adulthood, we made three round trips to three colleges, putting in well over 1,000 miles driving and seeing parts of Texas and Arkansas we’ve never seen. We’re adjusting to the quiet, and occasionally break into tears for no apparent reason. It’s a new season, which we dread and look forward to.


This morning, like any other Sunday morning, it’s quiet, though the kids are not sleeping in and won’t be coming in for a late breakfast today. And it feels very empty.

A walk through the cabin is filled with mementos of times together as a family that triggers sadness, and then joy. Joy that we made it through the years of raising kids, sadness that it’s all suddenly over, and adjusting to the quiet. Suddenly there is pressure for both of us to “entertain” the other. It’s a strange place to be, an adjustment. If you’ve been there, you know. My friend Peggy told me she broke out crying at the grocery store because she only needed two chicken breasts instead of enough for the whole family. But we’ll adjust.

No Pressure!

I choose to look at this as a fresh start, a new season, a new opportunity. I realized that I was painting less because I wanted to spend time with the family when I would have been painting. And, if I want, I can apply myself more, and throw myself into my work to accomplish things I have not had time for almost two decades. Laurie feels suddenly creative again because the pressure of daily household management is gone. We’re looking forward to seeing how that is manifested.

Sometimes life throws us curveballs. I’m thankful we don’t have to adjust because of a disaster, a health issue, or worse. But in those times it also feels empty, because empty is simply the need to fill a void we have not anticipated filling. Yet as soon as it’s filled, the emptiness is reduced, never completely gone.


This new season has been a learning experience, and reinforcement that how we choose to process our new circumstances has a huge impact on how we react to them. Though empty, I’m encouraged, because I’ve convinced myself that I can’t cling to the status quo when it’s been taken away — therefore I can only adjust, or stay stuck in sadness.

I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve stayed stuck without knowing it, pining for the past that has moved on, wishing for something to go back the way it once was. I’ve wasted too much time wishing something had not changed, cried too many tears, and watered too many years. I’ve decided it’s no longer an option.

Have you been stuck?
Are you stuck now?
Are you clinging to something you wish had not changed?

Lick your wounds and make up your mind to not allow too many cobwebs to form before the next chapter begins. Take fast action because every day is precious, and being stuck, depressed, or bothered by change, isn’t healthy for too long.

We do it in lost relationships, the passing of loved ones, even in politics. Yet moving on is always the answer. Change what you can change, accept what you cannot, and take action toward the new chapter. 

Remember, our stories define us, and we can change our stories. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I know you throw hundred-dollar bills around like they don’t matter, but I like a bargain whenever possible. The new Realism Today online art conference promises to fill your life with painting and drawing joy. Chances are you’ll want to attend, so if so, August 30 is the date the price goes up $100. Why pay more if you don’t have to? Learn more at RealismLive.com.

This week I’m announcing more superstar artists who will be part of it (you can see me live daily on YouTube and Facebook at 12 noon Eastern, including today, which is day 151). Go to either and search streamlineartvideo to find my daily live broadcast.

Moving On2020-08-22T22:38:32-04:00
16 08, 2020

The Opposite of Dread


Fog covers the windows as I glance out at the porch. Condensation from the frigid air conditioning trying to keep up against oppressive heat has replaced the fog and cool mornings on the Adirondack lake.

Slamming my face as I walk out to the porch, the heat is like the blast of getting too close to a pizza oven, bearable for only a brief moment before my roasting occurs. Yet I make my way to the wicker couch to look out over the vast rough weeds, now brown as toast, and the twisting cedar trees, which thrive on the heat.

Briefly, I can feel the heat against my bare legs as I sit on the red cushions. It’s soothing in a way, like a heating pad on my sore muscles from being cramped inside an airplane.

A Fresh Start

Being back in Austin is comforting because it’s home, yet I always pine for my lakefront summers and wish they would never end. “Be careful what you wish for,” people would say, and today, the return home is followed by a week of driving our triplets off to three different colleges to plug them into a new life on campus, and the start of their independence from their caregivers. This is, after all, the week we’ve dreaded for 18 years, first seeming like it would never come, and then seeing it speed by too fast. 

Dread is a strong word. I’ve dreaded the empty house, the lack of chaos, the activities, the friends in and out, the birthday parties (how can we deal with birthdays at three colleges in three cities this February?), and the laugher, the lessons, the hurts, and the challenges of parenting.

The Goodness

Yet looking forward is the opposite of dread. Knowing I won’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. to make breakfast, won’t have to wait up for 11 p.m. curfews, won’t be needing to put up with as much testosterone-driven drama, and won’t have to find someone to take care of the kids if we want to slip away on an impromptu trip. 

Though I’m predicting tears, I’m also predicting celebration that we’ve accomplished our goal of raising three very fine humans and hopefully given them enough lessons to ground them for the rest of their lives. 

Looking back, I realize I’ve wasted far too much energy on dreading things in my future when I should have found a way to look forward to them, or at least be prepared to process them.

Dreading Death

As a child, and through much of my life, I dreaded the moment I’d lose my parents. I was always afraid I would lose my mom or my dad. It started when I was a child, then into my teens, young adulthood, and now even into the beginnings of my years of wisdom. (I don’t use the words “getting old” because I refuse to train my subconscious mind to respond.) I knew it would devastate me. Yet when my mom passed, it was enormously painful, but I was not disabled by my grief. Maybe it is because we had some time knowing her heart disease would eventually take her, or maybe because she lived to 93 and was not cheated out of life early, and did not suffer through years of treatments or the pain so many experience. And of course my belief in Heaven. My outlook allowed me to step back, look at the experience, and separate myself from my grief. Maybe being stoic, or toughing it out, was my way of dealing with it.

I can remember asking my dad about this years ago, when his mother or father passed, and seeing that he did not appear disabled with grief. And I can recall him telling me he had deep grief, but he was not going to let it destroy him. It’s when I realized we can have command over our emotions if we prepare ourselves.

Controlled Chaos

And, though I was deeply emotional when Brady, my son, had his heart attack last January 20, I remember thinking that I could not let that fear destroy my ability to think and make decisions, because I needed to be composed enough to help the family get through such a difficult patch. Maybe I was stoic, appearing unemotional, though I cried as well. Yet once I looked at myself, I was able to flick a switch to get through it without being disabled emotionally.

Maybe a therapist would tell me I was in denial or I was not in touch with my emotions, but I would say I was very much in touch with them and chose to not allow them to prevent me from making adult decisions. And though I was clearly under a dark cloud, I did not allow the rain.

What do you dread? 
How will you choose to deal with that dread?

I’ve had a lot of time to process what’s about to happen, and I would not miss it for the world. Passing the baton to our kids, giving them a new education and independence, is something I cherish. Though we will be sad with their absence, and will miss their being with us in person, they are a text away and in good hands. We have to turn this over to God because we can no longer control their every move.

Train the Brain

Though our minds control our physiology, we control our minds by training ourselves to look at things through a different lens and, when possible, reprocessing our thoughts to work for us rather than against us. Now the key, at least for me, is to ask myself WHY I dread something, and is there a way I can instead find a way to filter things to look forward to them?

My friend Stewart Slocknick did this with the news of his terminal cancer. Though he dreaded the idea of treatments, he told me he looked forward to getting beyond them and did not want to delay. He taught me how one dies with dignity and hope.

We cannot get back the hours we’ve lost to fretting, worry, and dread. All we can do is make adjustments to our filters for future events. It takes some getting used to, but now that I understand it, it sure makes tough patches a lot easier.

Fear not.
Dread not.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This week on my noon ET daily “broadcast” on YouTube and Facebook, I got into a discussion with an artist about the idea of natural talent versus learned skill. Our conclusion was that natural talent is more a result of tenacity and perseverance (working harder) than others, which makes us accomplish difficult tasks earlier than most, which is then perceived as natural talent. 

I find it fascinating that we think brain surgeons, lawyers, professionals of all kinds, need years of training — yet for some reason, we think artists are born with talent. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

If you happen to be one of those people who has stared at a painting or a drawing and always told yourself that you don’t have it in you, you’re telling yourself a lie. You have it in you, but you have to develop it and put in the time and instruction to bring it out. Painting as a hobby will bring a lifetime of joy and loads of emotional benefits. All you need to do is take action and apply yourself, just as you do in every other area of your life where you gain traction.

I’ve got a rare opportunity, worth taking some time off for … or at least allocating time to watch replays nights or weekends. It’s called Realism Live, and I’ve been gathering the top, cream-of-the-crop artists to teach for four days online. Plus there is a day for beginners with absolutely no knowledge or skill where we’ll hold your hand and teach you enough that you’ll feel like you made enough progress to continue your journey.

I can’t make you take action. Only you can do that. But I can point out that your mind is playing tricks on you if you think you can’t draw a stick figure. It’s true, you can’t — until we show you how. And keep showing you simple exercises to make the impossible possible to you.

You can come up with more excuses, but when are you going to have a chance like this? Plus you’ll be part of a community, you’ll have support and encouragement, and we’ll expose you to concepts that will change your life forever … because you’ll be taking the first steps to being an artist. Don’t tell yourself it’s not possible. Instead, be curious, and tell yourself it’s worth a try. You have nothing to lose … especially because if you attend Realism Live and, after the end of day one, you don’t think it brings you enough value, let us know. We’ll refund your money and disconnect you from the rest of the event. 

I encourage you to take this rare opportunity to join the world for this first online realism conference. Realism … teaching you how to paint real subjects (not abstract) like landscapes, people, faces, still life, flowers, and more. 

Sign up for only the Beginner’s Day for just $97, or the whole week for a little more. It’s still cheaper than getting on an airplane, buying a ticket to an event, and spending on meals and hotels. 

Early bird savings of $100 expires August 30. The price then increases $100 more. Sign up today at RealismLive.com.

The Opposite of Dread2020-08-11T13:48:11-04:00
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