30 05, 2021

Finding Greatness Inside


I jumped suddenly as my bare feet hit the hot wooden porch, spilling a touch of my coffee. I was lifting my feet up fast, on and off, making my way to the carpet under the couch so my feet could cool down on this hot Sunday morning. The sun is burning hot, the sky is warm, the air is muggy, and I’m ready to find a cooler spot to spend my summer. Though I love Texas, it takes a special breed to live in the about-100-degree temps that will soon make up every summer day. Hopefully, by next week I’ll be sitting on the lakefront screened porch, listening to the loons proclaim their territory.

My Texas friends think I’m a wimp for escaping the intense heat, which they say builds character and strength. But, like most, I’ve spent a lifetime building character.

Beyond Our Control

There is no doubt, though, that adversity, challenge, and difficult times make us all stronger. Nothing good would ever happen to us if every moment were smooth sailing. Many of us would not be where we are without being forced into circumstances beyond our control. And some of us, probably very few, intentionally put ourselves in uncomfortable situations so we can look forward to difficult challenges, knowing growth waits on the other side.

My Biggest Fears

My palms were sweating as I looked around the room in the Denny’s on the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. I was there because someone had suggested I join Toastmasters because I was so shy and unable to speak in public. This was, in my opinion at the time, putting myself in harm’s way. You know how people fear public speaking more than death? That was me.

Why Me?

At Toastmasters, we were each told to stand up, introduce ourselves, say something about what we did, talk for two minutes, and sit down. Not a hard task, but when I saw a hundred other people there, I froze up. It was, it seemed, the worst day of my life. Why did I put myself in this position? I seriously thought about going home, but I knew if I did not face up to the challenge, I’d never conquer this fear of speaking. 

When my turn came, I looked down at the floor, spoke so softly I was asked to speak up, and I was in and out of there in less than a minute. When I sat down, I realized my shirt was wet with sweat. 

The next time, a couple of weeks later, required a longer talk, and then longer again the next time. And each time got a little easier, and I was a little less fearful. 

How is it that I can speak today in front of audiences of thousands, that I can do crazy things on stage, be silly, have fun, and come across as the most confident person in the room? 

Driven by Passion

There was something very satisfying about beating my fears, but the need to beat them came from knowing that if I did not beat them, I’d never play the role I needed to play in my career. I knew speaking was a critical skill I would need, and it was my passion, my desire, and a sense of purpose that drove me to risk looking like a fool in front of others. 

What about you? Is there a fear you’ve conquered?

Or is there a fear you feel you need to conquer?

One of the most satisfying parts of my life is watching people overcome great fears because they know their dreams won’t be realized unless they do.

Putting yourself out there is not always about overcoming your fears. It can also mean forcing accountability.

Cortez famously burned his own ships as he invaded an island because he knew that his men might not try as hard if they had the option to retreat. 

Going Public

The way I burn the ships is to announce my intentions in public. The fear of embarrassment or looking bad usually results in my accomplishing my goal. That’s why I always recommend sharing your goals with others. Once you’ve stated them and others know, you’re more obligated.

All of this is rooted in overcoming discomfort. And discomfort is the entryway to massive success. So why do we shun discomfort instead of embracing it?

John F. Kennedy declared he was going to put a man on the moon. Quietly, he told his close confidants that he had no idea how he would get it done — after all, it was impossible. But he stated it into action by making himself accountable to the American people. His bold, audacious claim had to come true, and it empowered people to want to make it come true.

What Leaders Do

According to author Dan Sullivan, “Great leaders take risks with their reputations for the sake of moving ahead with a big, sometimes seemingly impossible, goal. Their vision and innovation spur them forward when they don’t yet have the capability to make these ambitions a reality.

Doing this takes courage. And being willing to go through periods of courage is essential to both entrepreneurship and leadership.”

He goes on to say,  “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s being afraid, acknowledging your fear, and pushing ahead toward your goal anyway, knowing that along the way, you’ll gain the necessary.”

Of course Roosevelt told us we have nothing to fear but fear itself. 

Sometimes we “jump in” and make a commitment because we know something needs to be done and there is no one else who will do it. Rising to the occasion is often the gutsy move, facing fear that turns us into leaders or people who accomplish great things.

Where do you need to just jump in?

What ships do you need to burn behind you?

What do you need to declare, exposing yourself to the world, in order to make something happen?

Becoming Extraordinary

Ordinary men and women become extraordinary by facing their fears and having the courage to step out and declare their big bold move. They may be shaking inside, but it’s their desire, their passion, and their need to accomplish something important that let them overcome the demons of fear. 

Sure, there are limitations and roadblocks. So what? 

When passion drives your courage and puts you face to face with your biggest fears, you take on a new level of strength and are able to overcome all obstacles.

There is something burning inside you. Something you always wanted to do, but you’ve been telling yourself a story about why it’s not possible. Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and face your fear. You’ll thank me later.

Eric Rhoads

PS: A little more than a year ago when the COVID lockdowns began, I was very afraid I could no longer feed my family or pay college tuition, and I feared having to ruin the lives of the wonderful people I employ. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, but I knew that facing my biggest fear yet would help me find the courage to get through all of this.

I watched cancellations for our live events come in at record speed, I watched advertising cancellations unlike any I’d seen before. I was convinced my business was at risk. Thankfully, our pivot to create a global online art conference saved us. Though it did not replace all the lost revenue, it kept us alive.

And it helped us discover a new tool for learning, one that allowed people to attend a conference they could never have attended in person. It changed the art world forever.

Things are not back to normal, and survival is still on our lips. Hopefully, our next virtual online conference, Pastel Live, will excite people about pastel painting, and make everyone better painters (and teach beginners too). It’s going to be a lot of fun, and tomorrow, Monday, is the deadline to get a seat before the big price increase. It’s got a 100% money-back guarantee … if you don’t love it, we refund your money. It’s how we do things.

If one of your fears is painting, face it … join us for Pastel Live.

Finding Greatness Inside2021-05-30T00:15:15-04:00
23 05, 2021

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality


Gnarly twisted oak trunks are bending over as if to pick up a lost leaf from the spring grass. Leaves are making a shuffling sound as they move violently and are pushed out of their comfort zone in the strong wind.

Dark, almost purple clouds, are billowing over the distant blue mountains like Indy race cars competing to get to the finish line.

My ears are filled with the whistling of winds coming from different directions … like a chorus of flutes.

I’m reminded of “In Like a Lion” as spring makes its way to the backyard of this tin-roofed Texas ranch house. I’m out on the back porch, coffee close at hand, and happen to look down the entire length of the porch. There’s another one at the front of the house. It, too, runs the entire length of our home. I never want to take these porches for granted.

Imagine This…

When I was about 30, I dreamt of owning a house with a big porch, a tin roof, and a view of a mountain.

Now, here I sit, many years later, living that dream.

Years ago, when I was first introduced to the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, I fantasized about living in the first house built there in the late 1800s. Today, we spend much of our time in the first house built on our little lake in 1840.

Imagination is a powerful thing. What we imagine somehow gets implanted in our minds and sometimes, without even remembering those implanted visuals, our mind makes them happen.

No Effort Required

Though I’m big on the idea of turning your dreams into a plan, setting goals, and following the plan, I’ve also come to see how our dreams really can come true. Sometimes no effort is required … things just fall into place.

I suppose the big difference is the speed at which things happen.


Dreaming is important to all of us. Imagining ourselves living our ideal life, in our ideal circumstance, and having our ideal career.

In reality, most of us do some form of dreaming and imagining.

Sometimes, when we don’t really believe in our own dreams, that’s when we find ourselves in places and circumstances we don’t want to be in. Too many times in my life, I’ve thought to myself “I’ll never be able to have that” — and I was right. I didn’t believe in my own dreams and they never happened. If you think you can’t, you can’t. 

Your Other Brain

The reality is that everything you dream about won’t come true.

But, what you think about constantly is what is most likely to happen. Advertising experts know that repetition sells products, but repetition is also the most influential controller of your brain.

Therefore, what you think about most, what you watch or read most, is often the outcome you get, whether or not it’s intended.

If you think about how much you hate your job, your brain is likely to make losing your job happen, usually through self-sabotage.

Oh, it’s not you. It’s your subconscious mind. If your brain is engaged in unhealthy fantasies, like having affairs with the pizza delivery guy, be careful! It’s likely to happen in some form or another. If you keep thinking “I just want to hit that jerk” … you might accidentally just find yourself doing it.

People frequently say things like, “I don’t know what made me do it, it just happened.” The answer often lies in what you’ve implanted into your subconscious, which controls much of your activity.

That Happened Fast

A couple years ago, someone recommended that I talk to a major TV network about doing a TV show. Though it sounded really exciting, my initial belief was “not me, it’s not going to happen.” He then scolded me with a reminder, “if you think you can’t, you can’t.”

So instead, I thought about what it would be like when it did happen. 

I focused on believing it would  happen and, one week later, I found myself in front of the right person, talking about a TV show!

Another time, someone suggested I be featured in Success magazine. I rejected the idea … not believing that it could happen for me. Again, scolded by my friend Lee, I decided to manifest it like she suggested. Boom. The following month I was featured in a story in Success magazine.

Has it ever happened to you?

Have you ever thought about something so much that it started happening in your life?

Have you ever manifested anything?

I don’t use prayer like Santa Claus. But I do lift up my ideas for direction and I know if they are part of the plan, they will happen.

To me, prayer is part of manifesting what you want. If it’s linked to a good purpose, it’s more likely to happen. We’ve always been told to be careful what we wish for (or pray for) because we often get it, even if it’s not what we really need.

Do you spend time dreaming about outcomes? I role-play meetings with myself while driving to meetings, and they often turn out as anticipated. 

I never used to believe any of this. I called it all “positive thinking BS” — but I’ve seen enough evidence now that I believe there is more to it than meets the eye.

And, as a result, I’ve formed a few little guidelines that I try to apply in my own life.

I’d like to offer these guidelines to you because I’ve discovered how very powerful they can be.

  1. Be careful what you put into your brain. Be careful about what you think about or obsess about. The old saying “garbage in garbage out” is true. Focus on good or focus on evil. You choose the outcome.
  2. The more vividly and more detailed you dream, and the more you do it, the more exact your dreams will come true.
  3. Though things can and do happen when you dream them, you stand a better chance if you’re being deliberate. In other words, consciously make an effort to keep them in your mind. Set goals. Make a plan and follow it. Don’t give up.
  4. Roadblocks to every dream are not outside factors, but inside your head. Clear the roadblocks, clear the indoctrination you’ve inherited from others, get the “I don’t deserve this” or “I’m not the kind of person who gets to have these things” out of your brain.
  5. When you have a valid world-changing purpose, it makes things happen faster. Find your purpose.
  6. Though some things happen on their own (good or bad, depending on what’s in your brain), they happen faster when you work on them. Remember, a boat floating with the engine off can drift anywhere. A boat with the engine running, propeller spinning, and rudder aimed at a compass setting always gets to its destination!

Imagine what your life would be like if every dream you had came true? If everything you had thought of had become a reality?

What would you do if you knew there were no limits — no age limits, no money limits, no conditions to get in your way?

What if you discovered that everyone is a dreamer, but only people who are willing to jump over roadblocks are the ones who get the prize? 

My guess is that inside of you, right now, is one burning desire you’ve dreamed about but did not believe you could do or have. Pull the trigger today. Don’t delay. Make it vivid, make a plan, and start action today, and every day, and you’ll change your life in 90 days.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Please follow me on Instagram

PS: The last thing my dad said to me before he died recently is that he wanted me to take Sunday Coffee to the next level, reach more people, and expand it worldwide. Would you help me do that? If you enjoy it, find value in it, share it with 10 friends. I want to make my dad proud. And the week he died, the first thing I did was reach out to a book agent. Fingers crossed.

Yes You Can Learn to Paint
Many of you know that I’m an artist. I was the guy who did not believe I could learn it. I was the guy who told myself special talent was a requirement. Today, I’m in three art galleries and I’m a proficient painter (we can all grow, and I work hard at growth).

I can teach anyone to paint. A good place to start is PaintByNote.com. It’s the foundation everyone should be given before they get confused … And it’s free!

Exciting in-person events with live, breathing people:
Tired of zoom calls and being alone. Want to be around actual people? Want to have some amazing experiences and make some great friends? Here are some art things I’m doing soon. Of course, we’ll all do what is required for safety. But, it’s TIME TO GET OUT!!

My Adirondack Artist Retreat
The 10-year anniversary of my annual artist retreat in the Adirondacks. We stay together, eat together, paint together, and sing and play together. It’s like summer camp for people who love to paint (amateurs to pros, all are equal). I have 10 seats left. PaintAdirondacks.com — come join the fun!

Pastel Live Global Art Conference
Our first Pastel Live event for people who want to thrive or learn in pastel painting. Not in person, virtual, but an amazing experience. PastelLive.com. Price goes up soon. Hundreds are already attending this global art conference. Don’t Miss It!

What people don’t know about Russia is that it has an extremely rich art history. Seeing the history in person, and painting in the places of the great Russian masters, is going to be amazing. This is my first Russia painting adventure. It’s been hard to organize and probably won’t happen again. I only have 3 seats left — come with us to Russia!. PaintRussia.com

My Fall Color Week Artist Retreat
My annual Fall Color painting week is taking place in late September/early October. This will be the very first Fall Color Week in the Adirondacks — the color and scenery is beyond breathtaking. We’re living in a classic old Adirondack camp right at the water’s edge. This will be the only time we do this because we go somewhere new each year. I’d love for you to be there to experience it with us. FallColorWeek.com

Fine Art Trip to Europe (Not Painting)
You don’t have to be a painter to attend. We go behind the scenes at the top museums, art studios and homes, plus other touring. It’s a small, intimate group and we have lots of fun together. We call it the Fine Art Trip and this year we’re going to Germany and Austria. Come with us, won’t you? FineArtTrip.com

Realism Live Global Art Conference
We’ll be doing another global art conference on Realism. Be watching because we’re announcing the world-class faculty lineup very soon. Find out more and get the best price by registering now RealismLive.com

If you’ve wanted to attend an art event “someday” — now is the time. We’ve all been locked up and alone for too long. Treat yourself … you deserve it! It’s time to get out and play! (safely, of course!) 

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality2021-05-22T09:56:52-04:00
16 05, 2021

The Magic Formula for Life


Spring birds, like a symphony of high notes, along with the bass notes of mourning doves, create a spring song like no other. Bright spring greens fill the trees and the ground below, accented by deeper green cedar pines. As I look down, I notice the boards on the deck of the old porch have peeling paint, a reminder of summer projects ahead. All around, spring is my favorite season… that is, until summer, then fall and winter. Thank God for the variety.

What I like best about spring is that it’s a season of hope, and it’s hope we all live for. It comes in different forms, but, unlike a magic lantern, Santa Claus, or possibly-unanswered prayers, our hope, in many cases, is in our own hands.

Stop and think about what you hope for.

There are clearly things we can hope for but can rarely affect personally, though we each need to do our part if we can clearly see the role we should play.

Two speakers at my father’s services recently, recalling memories of my dad, repeated his mantra, which is exactly the one I grew up with.

He would say…

“If you don’t think you can, you can’t.
If you think you can, you can and will.”

Though the negative among us will challenge these words, perhaps they might not challenge them if they lived them.

Loving the Transformation

I’m not against negative people. I try hard to love everyone, and the best part about negative people is watching the twinkle they get in their eye when they finally get it … try it … and succeed.

Dad would say, “No challenge is too big. You just have to expand the possibilities of your thinking.”

And when he’d suggest something big to me, I often caught myself telling him the reasons it wasn’t right for me, or how it was too big, something I could never possibly do.

He would then remind me that every big dream accomplished in the world started out in someone’s head. Often, with disbelief.

“Push those negatives out of your mind,” he would say. “We all get them, but the key is to push them away.”

A couple of years ago one of my mentors suggested I launch a national television show on a major network. My immediate reaction was, “I can’t do that. Why would they want me? There are people much more qualified.”

Watching the Magic Happen

His response, as if he had been talking to my dad: “You certainly can’t do it if you think that way. How about you take the weekend, rethink it, and figure out how you’ll do it.” Two weeks later I had a preliminary deal for a show, and after a few weeks of discussion, a firm deal. Ultimately I had to push out my insecurities, and the more I thought about it, the more I believed it, and the more I believed it, the more I made it happen.

My grandmother always used to say, “Once you set your mind on something, you’re halfway there.” Once I had set my mind on this big, seemingly impossible idea, I overcame my fears.

You see, your belief has to be stronger than your fear. We all have fear. It’s normal. But if you want something badly enough, you’ll push that old fear aside.

Digging Deeper

When I meet people, I usually start by asking, “What’s your story?” They usually say, “What do you want to know?” I then say, “You choose. What’s your big dream?”

Typically, they can’t answer that question, but as I probe further, they realize there is an unrealized dream buried deep inside. They have pushed it down because their belief had not overcome their fear.

We all have excuses. They are very convenient. You know … I don’t have what it takes, I don’t have the money, I don’t know how to do it, I don’t have the degree, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, I can’t be as successful as my dad or mom, I’m not smart enough … I don’t … I’m not … I can’t.

Stop it.

Just because you have not done something does not mean you can’t.

Do you really want to be at the end of your life, looking back at all the opportunities missed because you did not try? To me, the biggest crime is giving up on your dreams.

What is your big dream?

What are you going to do about it?

There is nothing like a funeral to make you realize how fast life travels. Seeing cousins with great-grandchildren has a way of making you realize how quickly time sprints by. For me, other than the sadness of the moment and our loss, it was a good kick in the behind to focus on the big dreams. Yes, there is still time.

At 94, Dad was working 15 hours a day and he had just started a new business. He talked of the things he was planning to get done over the next 20 or 30 years. He refused to place limits on himself. God had other plans, but he never had to look back over missed opportunities. He always went for it. You can too.

Make time now.

Don’t give up on dreams. Ever. Never ever.

You can turn dreams into reality. There is no excuse, no limitation, no age restriction. You can find a way.

Make your list. Then ask yourself what excuses you’ve been wallowing in. Now push them aside, and start thinking about the possibilities.

You can climb the mountain. You can live that dream. You can accomplish the impossible.

Eric Rhoads

PS: My friend used to tell me, “It’s easy for you to say because you grew up with a dad who has done incredible things.” Though it’s true that he helped me overcome my limited thinking, I can tell you stories of people who had every strike against them and overcame those circumstances. Excuses aid and abet the plot to hold you back. Do you really think God does not want you to be the best you can be? You were made for a purpose … but you need to push out the negatives, the excuses, and discover the magic that happens with an unlimited mind. Most of us spend more time watching television than thinking about our dreams and finding ways to make them happen. Imagine if you took that time to invest in yourself. Change would surely happen.

I’ve had a surreal experience this past couple of weeks. Thousands of people I don’t know personally have reached out with condolences. My e-mail, social media, and mailbox have been filled with very loving thoughts from so many. I feel surrounded by your love and concern. And though this has briefly knocked me off my game and required me to take a lot of time away from my normal broadcasts and interviews, I’ll be back soon because I have big mountains to climb. Thank you to everyone for everything you’ve done. It’s deeply meaningful to my family and me.

The Magic Formula for Life2021-05-15T15:44:41-04:00
9 05, 2021

Feel the Joy


Mourning doves coo like a soft flute from the windows of Mrs. Holland’s sixth-grade music class at my old brick elementary school. An orchestral arrangement of tweets seems to play mockingbird from all directions. And bright orange streaks of light kiss the tops of rogue bushes and twisted tree trunks. Tiny buds of future daffodils sneak out of the rich dirt, ready to reach for the sky and please the eye.

Going Home

I’ve not been in my hometown in early spring since I left there as a teen about to start my life elsewhere. Though I tend to make a brief appearance every couple of years, this weekend’s visit is a rarity. This homecoming is a grand sendoff for the man whose last name I bear, providing a chance to reconnect, possibly one last time, with cousins and family acquaintances who share our grief.

The silver lining in this dark cloud is making renewed acquaintances, hearing stories we’ve never heard, and seeing people we’ve not seen since “you were this high.”

Deep Freeze

While making arrangements, one of my dad’s lifelong buddies pointed out that we have been frozen in time. His son, now 42 with kids, is stuck in my mind as the 17-year-old I last saw. To him, I’m still 30, about the last time he saw me. We both experienced an unexpected jolt. How can this be?

Though the price paid for this experience was high, there is pure joy and a sense of security when reconnecting with the past.

New Discoveries

Why, we ask, have we not spent more time together over the years, discovering that we like one another and had more in common than we knew? Yet we know somewhere deep down inside that we may never again have this connection unless we are deliberate about it.

Death has a price, but so does life. There is a price for everything, and there is irony in the price. It’s as though I feel guilty having so much joy in seeing these people who have been frozen in time. Seeing faces I’ve not seen since high school, once shiny, hopeful teens and now weathered and tired senior citizens. Another jolt, for a brief moment, but a deep pleasure.

It’s Not Possible

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” and it holds true. We’re here today, gone tomorrow, and all the joy held here is fleeting as we return to our hectic lives, no longer intertwining like the yarn of a comfortable old sweater. Not only is there sadness at the burial, sorrow is also creeping in like an old, gnarly vine as we all figure out that this may be the last time we connect.

Why don’t we spend more time together? Why don’t we do anything? What stands in the way becomes the way. The only alternative to taking things deeper is to identify the obstacle, then chip away or solve it so you reach the desired outcome. Ultimately it boils down to whether we’re willing to pay the price. Is the reward worth the effort? In some cases, yes. In others, well, probably not.

I’d not wish this past few weeks on anyone, but the reward has been sweet just the same. The process of everything we’ve gone through as a family has been a gift, in spite of the price.

A Flood of Gratitude

Though I can dig deeply for things I wish I’d said or done, I feel grateful that I had a chance and took it. And my sensitive, tear-filled eyes, which have more tears to come, have also helped me see the sweet gifts of the process. Now, at least for these raw moments, and hopefully longer, I look at those I love, those I’ve not seen, and appreciate that I can smile and see a smile in return. Appreciation fills my broken heart, and it’s my hope that I can keep the appreciation at a higher level each and every day, never once taking anyone for granted.

Look around you. Look at those you love and ask, if they became dust tomorrow, would you have said what needs to be said, encouraged what needs encouragement, and made it clear, in a deeply meaningful way, that they are appreciated? If not, go now and do this, before breath escapes for the last time.

And reconnect with those you have not seen, and maybe have forgotten, and deeply enjoy those conversations and expressions. The world in which we live at the moment has been filled with scores of unpleasant and unexpected surprises, and that may continue into the future. Don’t look back in regret with good intentions but lacking actions. Reach out, embrace, and feel the joy.

Eric Rhoads

Feel the Joy2021-05-07T11:20:49-04:00
2 05, 2021

Bright Light on a Dark Day


Dark clouds are billowing over the distant green pastures. A rickety old fence manages to keep the longhorn cattle from walking into the dirt road, which only sees an occasional truck each day. It’s the middle of nowhere, and I’m here in the camper for a much-needed break to simply relax for the weekend. I might slip out and paint the fields of bluebonnets.

Following our big online artist convention, PleinAir Live, which was an intense four days after even more intense days and months of advance preparation, I was exhausted. But instead of sleeping in the following day, or sitting on the back porch, or playing in my art studio, I had to face something I’d rather not face. Boarding an airplane, Laurie, the kids, and I flew to Florida, knowing we would be spending the next few days saying goodbye to my dad and being at his bedside.

Big Changes in One Month

When we left there a month ago after spending almost four weeks taking care of Dad, who was up and in good spirits and alert, we returned to find him shutting down. He was barely able to talk, and, though we were only able to make out a word or two, we just wanted him to know we were there at his side as he made passage to a new and better place.

Hospice said it would be about five days normally, but Dad had been working 15-hour days up till then. They said, “The ones who work are still working in their heads, and take more time to give up.” He lasted till 8:39 on the ninth day.

Circling Vultures

The hand of death can be swift or slow, but its grasp is strong and makes no exceptions. Rarely do we admit it looms, hovering above like vultures awaiting their kill. They circle for as long as it takes.

Some, whose greatness seems limitless and whose vulnerability to death seems almost impossible, these larger-than-life characters, fall just like the rest of us, perhaps the only difference being the disbelief among others that they could ever go.

Such was the case with my father, the man who stood above others, not in stature or importance (because those things were not his God). Not only was he the man with that magical eye twinkle and beaming smile who befriended everyone he met, he was the one who was truly interested, whether you were the head of a government or the restroom attendant. All were equal in his eyes. Each person had a story, and he was curious to learn it, and make a new friend. Like a high-powered magnet, he drew others to him.

Strong Foundation

Though driven to excellence and being as great as God intended him to be, he too possessed flaws and imperfections. He had regrets, but made sure he used them as lessons to prevent future mistakes. He too was seduced by shiny objects, but his family was his foundation, and he gave to them deeply. Every encounter had a story attached to a lesson he felt we should learn, but they were never lectures. Mistakes were ours to make, yet he was never critical. Instead he may have helped us find our own correction, but he never told us what to do, never yelled or raised his voice that I can remember, and never would be critical or negative about others. Never a word of gossip, not even so much as giving in to the temptation to pile on when someone else said something negative. Instead he would suggest that we should never be critical because we’ve never walked in someone else’s shoes.

Family Tradition

Adventure was his muse, challenge was his seductress, and God was his guide. His family prayer, with us or strangers over each meal, was “Change our plans according to your plans for us.” Prayers were never short, and often as long as the meal itself. We were each mentioned, whether we were present or not, because he was calling on the Almighty for protection; he understood that our control and protection had earthly limits.

His number one goal for each of his family and friends was that they find “the ticket to heaven” referred to in John 3:16. He never preached, but the way he lived drew others to ask, at which time he would share. Countless stories of conversion or salvation were like notches on a gunslinger’s belt. Not because he believed one could earn their way to heaven by good works, but because he deeply wanted what he believed was best for others. He was an example of someone who loved everyone he met, and they felt it.

Staying Home to Go Home

The greatest gift we could give him was to hold to our lifelong promise that he would never be placed in a nursing home or die in a hospital. He was home, and thus lived his full life on his own terms. One of the greatest gifts I had was a daily visit for almost a month, when Laurie and I came to help with his care and where we would chat late into the evening every day while he was still able. Though he had an occasional bad day or two where chats were limited due to exhaustion from treatments, it was time I’ll never regret.

Your Terms Only

Dad’s other big mission was trying to convince anyone who would listen to live life on their own terms, not at the whim of others. That freedom, he would say, comes from starting your own business. His message got through to me, and it’s a message I share because he was right. It’s not easy, sometimes downright frightening, often at the control of outside influences like regulations or customers, but always in your own hands to decide direction.

A Giant Inheritance

The inheritance my dad left me was his voice in my head influencing my decisions like a compass pointing me the right direction. Baskets of memories he went out of his way to make. For instance, at the end of each summer, everyone would get a one-on-one boat ride with Grandpa to impart advice and reconnect one more time. The memories are flooding me and always will, and now I must carry these traditions forward.

Massive Encouragement

Not one week went by that I did not get a call or a text with a long comment on Sunday Coffee. Always encouraging, and expanding on the ideas I’d discuss. One of the last things he said to me, before he could talk no more, was that he loved the last Sunday Coffee. Then he said, as he often did, “Spread your wings. You have a gift to help others. This isn’t just about art; you can help the world. Think big, not small. Expand your reach. The world needs you.”

Sunday Coffee has been rooted in lessons from my life, many of which were passed to me from my father.


Though writing this is cathartic for me, it’s important to share these lessons, because we each have an opportunity to make a mark on others with encouragement, belief in them, and giving them the confidence they need. I’ve had that since the day I was born, and I’ll miss it. But I got enough to get me through a lifetime. Now it’s my turn to make sure I’m providing that for those I love.

You and I walk on this earth for a brief moment in history. I don’t think we’re placed here accidentally so we can just watch TV and become couch potatoes. Though there is a time for that, this is a fresh reminder that time travels fast, and we need to leave that mark in some way, with each person we touch, each day we’re on earth. Remembering that today might be our last.

What about you?

Who have you encouraged lately?
Who have you shown that you believe in them?
Who have you helped see the greatness inside that they don’t see for themselves?

Life has a purpose. Sometimes we go through years without understanding that purpose, and sometimes others see it when we don’t. My dad saw things in me that I did not see, and he boosted me with confidence and encouragement.

Today, as I celebrate the life of my father, and I celebrate his entry to God’s next realm, I’m filled with joy because his absence makes me see just how fortunate I was to be born to the parents I was given.

Time is short, and there is much work to do to touch more lives and encourage more people. Thank you for allowing me to share this deeply personal moment of my life with you.

Eric Rhoads

PS: We all have everything we need inside ourselves to accomplish any impossible dream. But if you and I can help people see it before they see it themselves, we can impact their lives in a big way. What if each of us started today? Nothing critical. Only encouragement of others, and showing belief in them. (And no self-criticism either.) It would be like rocket fuel to make this world that much better.

I have received thousands of notes, e-mails, social media comments, and things in the mail. You’ve really warmed my heart with your outreach. Thank you. It means so much to me, knowing others are there for me.

Bright Light on a Dark Day2021-05-07T11:14:38-04:00