25 04, 2021

Are You Doing What Matters Most?


Green Scottish pines sway outside the window of my hotel room in Jupiter, Florida. The needles are almost a foot long, rich in brilliant green and dull brown colors, with little cones sticking out at the ends of the fuzzy branches. A dark, gloomy sky looms overhead.

I left here last Sunday morning after a successful four-day online art event (PleinAir Live) with word that I needed to get to Florida because my father was entering the next and last phase of his life. I dreaded the trip and what I would face.

An RV Trip

Just two weeks ago, Laurie and I were here for a two-week stay that ended up being close to a month. I extended it because I had a feeling that it might be the last time I get with my dad. It was worth taking two more weeks away from work. 

The Best Month Ever

When we were here my dad was still himself, just a little slower than normal. Talking up a storm, giving me advice, getting us ready for his next chapter, and communicating clearly. Though his treatments dragged him down, he was strong and vital, just a little less so than normal. And we were encouraged that the treatments would work, his strength would return, and at 94, he could see a couple more years or more. He always saw himself living to be the oldest person alive.

Rapid Change

But things change fast. We found him in hospice care, confined to a bed, able to hear and respond, but with a weak and hard-to-understand voice. Such a change from this larger-than-force of nature with the big, booming voice. 

A Tough Week

We spent the week, in small moments between rest, talking to him, bringing in family members, and watching smiles come to his face with the joy family brought him. Each day is the same, though a little worse. Yet each day is a blessing. My goal is to be at his side when he graduates his time on earth and moves to his time in Heaven. Having been with my mom, I found it a beautiful experience, and I want him to know we are there. My eyes well up as I write about the inevitable.

Fearing No More

As a kid, as long ago as I can remember, I always feared that my dad would die. Probably because I had seen other kids’ dads die, and though I knew of our family longevity, I always feared it. I feared it the same at 12 as I did at 50. I loved my dad so much, I just could not imagine life without him, and how difficult it would be. Yet here I sit, at his bedside, and I’ve come to terms, knowing his peace and that he is merely changing his address. I cannot imagine believing there is nothing more, nothing better. And I always knew this because my parents and grandparents always talked about the ticket to Heaven — that it was simple, required no works, was not about being good or bad, it was simply about accepting the word of John:3:16.

Some of my readers will be offended. That’s not my intent. Some will consider me a simple-minded person who believes in fairy tales. I’m OK with that.

So what’s this got to do with you?

Life is short, then you die. If you’re lucky, you’ll die instantly. If you’re unlucky, you may die a long and painful death. In either case, the end result is the same.

Quick Deterioration

This reminds me that in an instant, you can go from a vibrant, viable, strong human to one facing the final moments, weak, frail and unable to fend for yourself, unable to control anything.

If you operate as if there is no tomorrow, and make today a day you can be proud of, that’s the best we can be. 

Act Fast

Do not delay that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. Three weeks ago my dad, who expected to recover, was talking about places he wanted to travel. He wanted to take an RV trip with us; he loved being in an RV. Today, that’s no longer possible. 

Someday is like smoke. It can drift away as a vapor, very quickly. Don’t live on somedays. Live on todays. 

Those dreams you have need to happen. If they are important to you, don’t wait. You’ll find a way. 

If you’re telling yourself you don’t have the time … you do have it, you just have to choose to take it. Do it before you truly don’t have any time left.

Take the trip. Build the dream business. Take up something you’ve told yourself you want to do. One day, it will be you, or me, lying on a bed waiting to catch the train out of life.

Not So Bad Anymore

I have my aches, my moments of aging, but suddenly I feel they are nothing. I have things to do, places to visit, and have to assume I have very little time to get them all done. Though we hope for the best, doing things now is important. And doing them with the people you love is critical. 

On the final breath, it’s not going to be about how many hours you worked. The money you made won’t matter. All that matters is who is there with you, who loves you so much they are willing to be at your side, for as long as it takes. 

Spend your time on love, developing friendships, helping others, and living your impossible dreams, or at least knowing you truly tried. And invest deeply in the gold that will be with you to the end, those you love.

Eric Rhoads

Are You Doing What Matters Most?2021-04-21T15:27:07-04:00
11 04, 2021

Traits to Change the World


The rustic boards under my feet squeak as I make my way across the porch to the little wicker couch with bright red cushions. The wicker also squeaks as I sit down and place my coffee on the table in front of me, which has a little glass arboretum with small cactuses growing inside. It’s a warm spring morning, and the birds entertain me while distant neighborhood chickens make sure we know they can sing too.

A big yawn fills my face as my arms stretch out. I stayed up till about 1 a.m. working in my man-cave studio. Sometimes I go there just for silence, other times to read. I read a great book the other night called Beyond Genius: The 12 Essential Traits of Today’s Renaissance Men by artist friend Scott Griffiths and his friend Eric Elfman.

The Renaissance

I was fascinated by the book because it profiled great Renaissance men in history like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton (yes, all men; they are coming out with another book on women), and great living Renaissance men like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria (who lives about a mile from me), and others. For the first time, someone had tried to categorize the traits that make these people special. Though it would not be fair to outline all the things they discovered, I thought a couple of the traits might be worthy of some discussion.

Impossible Dreams

Why is it that some people move mountains and do amazing things? How is it that some people can create great inventions, and make multiple inventions happen in their lifetimes? How is it a man like Elon Musk (who also is here in Austin now) can, at his still young age, reinvent online payments (Paypal), create one of the biggest and most disruptive electric car companies in the world (Tesla), put people in space privately (SpaceX), put a new internet up with hundreds of satellites across the world (Starlink), and plan to colonize Mars?

I’d love to be considered a Renaissance man, and maybe in some small way I am, but not in comparison to these greats. So what traits do they have that you and I can adopt?

No Silver Spoon

It’s not unusual for us to think people like this had something special … like rich parents and endless money … but that is not the case. In fact, most grew up poor, some grew up with awful parents, and John Paul lived in his car for six months when starting his business. And why is it that many people who grow up in wealthy families end up doing little or nothing with their lives? 

The Same Tools We Have at Our Fingertips

In these cases, each one of them was self-taught. Though some went to college, most did not, but each had an insatiable curiosity to learn, and they spent most of their time filling their brains with new ideas. A billionaire acquaintance of mine reads a minimum of two hours a day and two or three books a week while running multiple companies. It turns out that curiosity is a massive trait they all have in common. They spend their lives looking at possibilities. What is possible? How can I conquer the impossible? What does the world need to make it better? What is the status quo, and how can I challenge it?

Passion and Courage

Courage is another trait these men have in common. They did not let anyone tell them what is and is not possible. What if Elon Musk listened to the naysayers who told him that electric cars were not practical and had never been a big success? What if Steve Jobs had listened to the people who said, “MP3 players already exist — why would anyone buy one from you at twice the price?” These people had a vision and the courage to pursue it. And, unlike others, they never gave up. When you read their stories, you realize that in some cases, they persisted with an idea for 40 or more years, when most of us would have given up at year one.

The thing I’ve discovered about these people is that they have such clear vision that they know the world won’t change unless they do it. They know that the world will not be as good a place without their idea. Thus they are driven. 

What about you?

I know that every person reading this had an idea, sometime in their life, that they did not pursue, and they may regret that. Maybe it’s because it was too expensive, or too hard, or not even possible. I’ve given up on far too many ideas I had because of the roadblocks, yet someone else ended up doing them, proving what could not be done was possible. My list is fairly long. But I did not believe strongly enough, I gave up too early, or I simply saw my ideas would be coming, but I lacked the passion. It’s passion for a project that drives it home.

If You Are Breathing, There Is Still Time

I believe you and I still have time to see our ideas happen. Even if you’re on the downward slope of life. If you believe it, think clearly about it, you can find a way to do it, or get someone to do it, so you, too, can change the world in your own way.

Telling yourself you’re too young, too old, too fat, too thin, not well enough educated, don’t have enough money … these are mental roadblocks. Do the Renaissance people mentioned have these roadblocks in their heads? Absolutely. They just keep plowing through anyway.

Not convinced? I dare you.

Will it be easy? No.

Will you fail? You might. So what?

Will you succeed? You will if you never give up.

Let’s not live our lives talking about the one that got away, the dream that never happened. Let’s not live in regret that we did not try at all, or gave up too soon.

Get Uncomfortable 

You have it in you. Yes, you may have to overcome a lot of things others have told you that pollute your brain and limit your thinking. Yes, you will be uncomfortable. You may have to get up earlier and stay up later. You may have to give up mind-numbing game shows or video games. But you can do this. I have complete confidence in you.

Reach in … pull those dreams back out, and make it happen. I’m looking forward to seeing how you change the world.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Recently I heard from a woman who was stuck at home for years, wheelchair-bound, who told me she always had dreamed of attending one of my conventions, but her health got in the way. Last year she was able to attend for the first time because we came to her, with an online virtual conference called PleinAir Live (which saved my company). We even have a Beginner’s Day for those who have zero experience. 

We’re doing the second PleinAir Live, with a bigger global audience and amazing top painters, starting Wednesday. If “I’ve always wished I could paint but don’t have the talent” is the negative self-talk rolling around in your brain, take control of it and attend. Some say it’s life-changing. And since it’s guaranteed, if you spend the money and hate it, you can get your money back if you let us know after watching your first day. Take the bull by the horns and do what you don’t believe you can do. Can’t make the dates or take the time? Replays are available if you sign up this week. Again, we even have a day for brand new beginners with no experience. Then you can watch the event one hour at a time for as long as it takes, in your spare time. Guarantee it beats what most of us are watching on TV. Do this; you won’t regret it. I’ll be your host.

Traits to Change the World2021-04-21T15:23:41-04:00
4 04, 2021

How to Get X-Ray Vision


Colorful fields of flowers filled the roadside between Florida and Texas on the long drive home in our motorhome. We saw massive brilliant pink azalea bushes, fields of bright, glowing red flowers, roadsides filled with white flowering bushes, and, once we were in Texas, fields of iridescent indigo bluebonnets. The scents were heavenly. 

In Texas, families dress their kids in their Easter outfits and pose them among the bluebonnets. This week we’ve seen dozens of families along the road. It’s a lovely tradition. I fully expected to see some little bunnies hopping out of the bluebonnets.

In any case, happy Easter. He is risen. Today’s story is about a personal resurrection.

Hit a Wall

We returned home a week ago tomorrow. Our intended two-week vacation turned into a full month. It was the longest vacation I’ve taken in my career, and probably the most important one yet, providing me with some great lessons and perspective. After almost a year of continuous broadcasts twice a day, seven days a week, I had hit a wall. It was time. Severe burnout had occurred, but I was too driven and focused to see it. But thankfully, Tom in my office pointed out that I had become unusually grumpy and suggested a vacation. So we took our motorhome to Florida and stayed in a camping resort.

I discovered a few things about myself that I would never have known had Tom not suggested I take time off. Chances are you may see some things I discovered in yourself.

I discovered that I have X-ray vision. As silly as it sounds, after my vacation I can see through walls and around corners. 

As humans we have been given a great ability to see things others cannot see, and this x-ray vision comes from true peace and quiet time.

Why I Don’t Take Vacations

You see, I normally don’t take vacations. I’ve built my vacation time into my work … for instance, if I take a group of artists to Russia, it’s like a vacation even though I’m working. And because I do two artist retreats a year, and an international behind-the-scenes art trip for art lovers, it’s like vacation because I’m with friends, seeing beauty and art, and often painting. But I’ve just realized that being always “on” may not be as relaxing as I thought. Making sure everyone is happy and having a good time is something I love doing, but it’s not a true vacation, it’s just work in a different setting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining. I love it, of course. 

I discovered it took me a full two weeks to unwind fully, which involved staying off e-mail 100 percent and not watching the news or social media. One day, about a week into it, I made the mistake of checking a couple of e-mails, and one e-mail brought back enough stress that it took me three more days to lose it. Two weeks was not enough, and because I have a great team, I decided to stay two more … not to relax, but to take advantage of my new, relaxed state of mind. 

Round and Round

Sometimes you’re so busy that you’re on a merry-go round, making decisions on the fly, without much thought. And once your mind is filled with so much intensity, just trying to keep from falling off, you can’t think clearly. You lose creativity, and you operate on a to-do list instead of a dream plan. That’s where I found myself. People often comment, “I don’t know how you get so much done.” That’s how. Head down, focused, and spinning like a madman.

Out of Control

But if you keep the spinning up, as the speed increases, you eventually spin out of control. That’s where I was, but I was holding on so tight, continuing to show up on thousands of projects and decisions, and pretending to be Superman, I was about to spin off. I just did not know it … until my colleague pointed it out.

There is wisdom in multiple counselors — Proverbs 24:6


After two weeks of recuperation, I was rested enough to send the next two weeks in a relaxed state of mind, working on plans for my next few years. This was two weeks of reinvention, rejuvenation, and a form of resurrection. I read four books, trying to learn some things I needed to know for my new plan. I also took an online course. And I made about 60 pages of notes and plans. And though I needed another two weeks, it was not reasonable to stay away longer. Plus, after snownado in Texas, we have broken pipes, damaged floors, and removed drywall to tend with. 

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. — Baba Ram Dass

So what’s this got to do with X-ray vision? 

When you eliminate the noise, your brain perks up into a new state of awareness and allows you to perceive things you can’t see when you’re in a hyped-up, overstimulated state. When you’re calm and completely relaxed, avoiding stimuli, you start to see what others cannot see. 

The best cure for the body is a quiet mind. — Napoleon Bonaparte

It’s like X-ray vision. I can now see things I could not see a month ago. Things in myself, in my family, in my business, in my friendships, and in the world around me. I can see with such clarity that the future is more clear, intentions are more noticeable, and decisions are not routine, but thoughtful.

This is a result of eliminating all outside noise and input. Once it’s gone for enough time, your mind moves to a new level of awareness, almost as though you’re moving to a new dimension. I suspect it’s this kind of thing that allows one to get closer to God. Now I know why He says, “Be still.”

Be quiet, so that life may speak.— Leo Babouta

What amazes me is how much clarity and patience I have, and how I am seeing things in my work I was not seeing before. Now the trick is to keep some quiet, make the merry-go-round go slower, and find ways not to fall back into the traps that put me there in the first place.

I’ve never been one who imagined myself with a yogi, meditating on the top of a mountain in the wilderness, but for the first time I can understand, in my own small way. The power of silence, quiet, and resisting the addiction to stimulation can be life-changing.

Are you stressed or playing super mom or dad or grandparents, not realizing how much you need a break? 

Are you feeling like decisions are on autopilot?

Are things irritating? Are you feeling the stress?

Though I can’t guarantee x-ray vision, I can guarantee a fresh perspective. I did not think I could be away for a month. I was too self-important. In reality, everything went along fine without me.

What About You?

Can you find a way to get some quiet and some distance? If nothing else, can you escape your addiction to social media and the news? Now that I’ve returned, I can see just how controlling and manipulative these things can be. Surely that’s not what they’re meant for.

I encourage you to seek silence, seek space, seek time away. I was lucky to get a month off after 40-plus years, and a real vacation. (Note: Working in the garage during a week off and doing chores may be a change of scenery, but it’s unlikely to help you see through walls.)

I’ll admit it: I was addicted to the stimuli of the news and social media. I was addicted to being needed at work. I was addicted to the energy of work and family. And I found that slowing down was difficult. I found myself wanting to reach out for my phone to get a fix. But resisting was deeply healing.

Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. — Khaled Hosseini

Today, on this Easter, after a year of COVID, I wish you an escape, and a chance to take a mental break. You deserve it. Quiet can lead to your own personal resurrection and reinvention.

THANK YOU for giving me a break and a month off!

Eric Rhoads

PS: While in Florida I created a video to celebrate day 365. And I gave away $36,500 in prizes. You can see the video here.

I’d be honored if you follow me on Instagram (@ericrhoads) here and follow my YouTube channel here. It’s where you can see all my year of broadcasts.

If you’ve been reading, you’ll know COVID almost killed my business. Because we’re in the live event business, which dried up, we pivoted to doing virtual conferences. Our first was a huge success, and we’re doing it again, with all new people. Please check out PleinAirLive.com and sign up soon, joining the entire world.

I have a hunch that when we’re able, we’ll travel like crazy and attend things we’ve always wanted to attend. Some things I’ll be doing this year, if you care to join in….


Plein Air Live Virtual Online Art Conference. Participate from home. 

The Publisher’s Invitational Paint-Out in the Adirondacks. In person. A week of painting with friends, outdoors. It’s the 10-year anniversary of the event. All levels welcome. We’re there to have fun.


Pastel Live. Our newest virtual online conference.  Participate from home.


PaintRussia. A trip to paint in Russia and see historic museums and painting locations. Currently sold out; accepting a waiting list in case we can secure more seats.


Fall Color Week painters’ retreat. The first time we’ve done fall in the Adirondacks, and the first and only time at a new venue, a classic old camp that’s now a kids’ camp. This October.

The Fine Art Trip for art lovers or collectors. Seeing the museums of Vienna, Berlin, and going behind the scenes in the art world. 


FACE (Figurative Art Convention & Expo) in Williamsburg, Virginia.


Watercolor Live virtual online conference devoted to watercolor. 

As you can see, there are things to do for artists, art lovers, and those who want to discover how to become artists. Some are in person, others online. I’m eager to be your host for all these events … and then maybe I’ll need another month off 🙂

How to Get X-Ray Vision2021-04-02T12:46:33-04:00