22 08, 2021

Being Ready for the Unexpected


My eyes opened this morning to a new scene — at least, new since June. Twisted oaks, high grasses, all being baked in the hot Texas sun, unlike the most squishy moss-covered grass in the Adirondacks. My tender toes burn as I hit the deck outside and hop rapidly to my old brown wicker couch. A bead of sweat hits my forehead and rolls down my nose like a rogue rollercoaster. I’m simply not used to summer in Texas. The cool Adirondacks have spoiled me. 

I came here to host my Pastel Live conference, which ended last night, and today, as soon as we can get on the road, I’ll drive my daughter to her second year of college and the first “in-person” year she will have. Laurie and I thought we were empty-nesters last fall when school began, but alas, Zoom classes are easier from home than from a 10” x 10” cinder block dorm room, and the food is better. I’ll return to the Adirondacks for summer and fall tomorrow and we’ll try this empty nest thing one more time.


Between segments at my event, I’ve been glued to my screens, watching in horror as we all see a helpless situation we cannot control. I’m so used to being able to control things or help in some way, yet I’ve been racking my brain with no solutions.

But I ask myself, what if I were there? What if I were in that situation? What would I do?

How would I protect my family?

How would I escape? 

I also ask myself, could that happen here?

What Would You Do?

Growing up Rhoads, my dad would always ask us questions like that. What would you do? He trained us for contingencies and always told us the unexpected often happens, and things you don’t think can happen, do happen.

Do or Die

I can remember talking to my father-in-law, who was a German soldier in WWII, who told me that the atrocities that happened surprised them all because, as he said, things like that don’t happen here. Suddenly he found himself forced to be in an army that supported things he did not support, things he did not want to be a part of. And he watched men in his line who were insubordinate be shot on the spot. He could not believe his eyes.

Those living in the Land of the Free have not seen a war on our soil since the Civil War. We’ve been blessed. But just because it has never occurred will not prevent it from happening. Which is why I have to ask my preparation questions. What would I do if..?

Though I usually preach positive thinking, some will say my contingency thinking is negative. Perhaps, but it’s better to have some ideas, some plans as a backup.

Watching the news, we’re seeing disaster because they underestimated the situation and did not have enough contingency plans.

What about you?

Contingencies relate to every part of your life. What would you do…

  • If you lost your job?
  • If the banks crashed and there was no access to your money, and ATMs did not work?
  • If there were unexpected food shortages or stores were closed?
  • If the power went out for a couple of months?
  • If city water plants were shut down for a month?
  • If there was no cell phone service for days, weeks, or months?
  • If the Internet no longer existed?
  • If GPS stopped working?
  • If another country attacked our homeland?
  • What if my house burned? 
  • What if someone broke in while we were sleeping?
  • What if my house flooded?

As I ponder these things, I wonder if I could even drive somewhere to get away. I have not had a paper map in a decade, and I would not be able to access the addresses of my friends and family because my phone has died, Google doesn’t work, and online maps are no longer available.

My kids have probably never had a map in their hands. 

Am I telling you this because I’m expecting something? Absolutely not. But history tells us that the unexpected happens and that sane people can become crazy fast.

Blown Away

And contingencies don’t have to be about the things mentioned; they can relate to anything in your life. Let me give you an example. One year, when I was living in Florida, I got stuck in the middle of a hurricane on the turnpike. It was a dangerous and scary situation. I thought I was going to die. So after I survived, I told myself, “Never again.” When future hurricanes were coming, I’d leave town two days before everyone else did. Sometimes they hit and I escaped, sometimes they missed and I had a nice weekend in a hotel somewhere. For those of you in New York and Boston and along the East Coast, there is a storm that might be headed your way. Are you ready? Have you thought about the contingencies?

I recall a storm that knocked power and water out for three weeks. You could survive with a contingency plan.

Last year during “Snownado” in Texas, we were snowed into an area that had no plows, no power, no water. In hindsight, we saw it coming on radar. We should have taken a vacation to Florida.

The last thing you want to do is have an unexpected disaster and to do what everyone else does. By thinking of every possible solution years in advance, you’ll know exactly what to do the second it happens while others are trying to figure out solutions.

As a parent, I feel an obligation to play out scenarios in my mind. I may never tell my kids about them, but in some cases I’ll be ready, have solutions, and be prepared. In other situations, I’ll be blindsided.

More Than One Solution

In any case, it’s worth a discussion. What are five things you could do if any of those situations actually happened? The worst thing you can do is say, “That will never happen,” because when you say it, BOOM, it will happen!

Cognitive Dissonance

Most will stare with their jaws dropped in disbelief, which is valuable time lost. There are stories of people who predicted the Holocaust and were mocked as crazy conspiracy theorists, but they escaped and survived. The rest had cognitive dissonance. They just refused to believe this would ever happen among people they trusted. 

Rumors and Clues

My dad once told me of meeting a cab driver who had been a wealthy farmer in a country where they were hearing rumors that farms would be taken over. She urged her husband to take a family vacation, just in case. He told her she was nuts: “It won’t happen here.” They took out the cash they could, took a vacation to another country, and while they were gone all the farmers, including their friends, were killed. They had to survive on their vacation money until they could get jobs. They were the lucky ones who paid attention to the clues because, as my dad said, “There are always clues.” He once said, “Always consider that the opposite of what you’re being told will happen. What then?”

Am I trying to scare you? Of course not. But I care, and I want the best for you, and if you think things through, this little note could save your life someday. Of course, I hope it never comes to that, but being prepared is never a bad idea. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Speaking of being prepared, hundreds and hundreds of people are now prepared to do pastel painting because of our online Pastel Live conference, which we just completed. The next one is Realism Live, which will prepare you for all kinds of painting. Check it out.

My Fall Color Week artist retreat is going to happen in late September in the Adirondacks. It will be a week of fun, painting, and meeting new friends, no matter what level of painter you are. Come join us.

Also join us on our Fine Art Trip to Germany and Austria this fall, and my Russian Painting Trip in September. At the moment, it looks like both will happen.

Being Ready for the Unexpected2021-08-21T21:24:13-04:00
15 08, 2021

Conquering Anxiety and Fear


Tossing and turning from the sweltering heat and the bright sun blasting a furnace of light through the windows, I hop out of my otherwise coży bed, make my way to the coffeemaker in the kitchen, and head to the dock to sip my wakeup juice. Alas, it’s so hot, I slip my bare legs into the water to cool the lower half of my body. When I’m done writing this (assuming I don’t drop my tablet into the drink), I’ll take a swim.

Though this has been the rainiest I can remember in three decades of summer life in the Adirondacks, the few warm summer days have been glorious and made up for the rain. Spare time has found me flat-out on the dock absorbing the sun’s rays, painting in my little wooden electric boat (though never enough), and sitting with a few visiting friends. And like all summers, all good things will come to an end. 

This week I’ll slip away, head to Austin to host my newest online art conference, and then make my way back for a few more glorious weeks. When I return my kids will be off to college, though they are understandably anxious because of the uncertainty in the world.

What about you?

Are you finding yourself anxious about the uncertainty of the world? 

Is fear entering your mind more than ever?

Yeah, me too. 

A wise man (my dad) once told me years ago a trick he used when he could not sleep because of worry.

“Get up, write down everything you find yourself worrying about, and then go through the list. Is there anything I can change tonight at 2 a.m.? If not, tell yourself you can’t impact it tonight, and that you need rest to deal with the issues well during daylight.”

I have used this for years and it’s very effective.

But what about worry in the daytime?

I find myself dealing with worry or anxiety by asking myself these questions…

What’s the worst that can happen?

Is there anything I can do to change the outcome, and if so, what specifically can I do?

Sometimes asking ourselves simple questions gives us very clear answers.

The worst that can happen is that I’ll die and my family will have to get along without me.

What can I do about that?

In that case my anxiety stems from being ready to die. Though we are never ready, for me it’s about my faith and my belief that I’m ready from that perspective. And, as far as my family goes, I have to make sure I’ve got my affairs in order, my will written or updated, and hopefully enough savings or investments or insurance to get my wife and kids through it.

Knowing these things are handled would give me great peace of mind. The things unsettled give me anxiety, and motivation to get them done so the anxiety stops. 

What about you?

What’s the worst that can happen?

What do you need to do to make sure you are prepared for the worst?

What things remain that are causing anxiety?

The other thing I have to ask myself is, what can I change? 

Can I change the pandemic or the government response? In my case, no. So rather than getting worked up about it, I ask myself, what can I change related to that issue? Then I need to do those things.

The simple act of these questions, changing what I can, and stopping stressing about what I cannot change, has given me tremendous peace. Therefore these things don’t bug me like they bug others.

Make Up Your Mind!

Mindset also plays a critical role. I’ve told myself I refuse to allow this to ruin my life, my relationships, or my mental or physical health.

Would I regret spending the last year of my life in a twisted, worried anxiety state? Would I rather be calm and living the highest quality I can under the circumstances?

Being Mentally Ready

My gut tells me things are going to get worse before they get better. My instincts tell me that with all the things going on in the world (fires, floods, protests, riots, etc.) that it’s not just the pandemic I could be worrying about. But my mindset is very calm, and I won’t move into fight-or-flight stress until it has a direct impact. Even then, being calm in the midst of a storm will serve you and me well.

Do we want to deal with any of it? Of course not. But we all deal with the cards we’re dealt. Until then, we can be ready for the worst, prepared in any area we can control. After that, we can either go down the road of stress and anxiety or the road of peace. 

Which road will you choose?

If this were your last month on earth, how would you want to live it? How do you want to interact with your family? What example do you want to share with them?

Choose wisely.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Is it possible for you to find things that give you peace and offer you a chance to be creative? Many of my friends are bound up in work-related stress. Recently I asked one of my friends, “How do you get away from it? What hobbies do you have?” His answer was that he could not get away and he had none.

When I recommended he take up painting, he said, “Sounds fun, but I don’t have what it takes. I was not born with an art gene.”

I’m spending my life helping people understand that there is no art gene required, and that if you can follow a mac-and-cheese recipe on a box, I can teach you the process of painting. Many don’t believe me, and others don’t believe me — but try, and are happily pleased they listened.

Some types of art are harder to learn than others. But when we were kids, most of us played with crayons. What if I could introduce you to adult crayons? Something you can use to create beauty, based on what you were familiar with as a kid?

Pastel is very sophisticated and very beautiful, but we work it like crayons. I have a Beginner’s Cay this Wednesday teaching pastel before my 3-day Pastel Live online event. Just taking the Beginner’s Day could change your life and help you lose your stress. And if you’re thinking that it’s not worth the risk, I offer a full money back guarantee. If you watch the first day and don’t think it’s for you, you get all your money back and you get the day you watched for free. 

I hope you’ll check it out. The price increase is tonight at midnight. PastelLive.com.

Conquering Anxiety and Fear2021-08-13T14:32:23-04:00
8 08, 2021

Pull the Trigger


Pine cones and little rocks stick in my bare feet as I make my way down to the old wooden dock at the water’s edge. Reflected pine trees and blue sky are so mirror-like that if I took a photo and turned it upside down, you would swear you were looking at the real thing. In the distance I hear the sputter of an old outboard motor on a small metal fishing boat, and I can see the glow of a red hat about a half mile from the dock. 

The 100-year-old wooden Adirondack chair, which has been baking in the morning light, warms my back as I lie against it. Today is the perfect lake day, calling me to some kayaking into the grassy bogs. I’m in my happy place, and if it were not for that evil snow and 30 below weather, I’d be here year round. I’m on a quest to find a winter equal to this lake paradise where we plant ourselves each summer.

Sweet Times

I feel blessed to be able to be here and to pick and choose most of my living circumstances. As every summer ends and we’re set to return home, we say farewell and wish we were going home to something equally beautiful. But then, vacations would be less sweet if we were on vacation year round. There is value in having things to look forward to. In fact, I think you have to be deliberate about it.

Blindfolded at an Airport

Decades ago, when I was too busy to take a vacation, my wife begged me for just five days off so we could go somewhere special. As an anniversary surprise, I was blindfolded at the airport gate only to find out we had boarded the Concorde to London, which was a great way to save time on a short vacation. And though I loved the vacation and the experience, I would have loved it more having a year, or at least a few months, to look forward to it.

Looking Ahead

Making plans in advance was never my best skill set, but I’ve learned that looking forward to things can get you through a lot of tough times. I’ll tell myself, “Just a few more weeks and I’ll be in Russia painting,” or, “I can’t wait to see my friends at my fall painting retreat,” or, “I can’t wait till the kids have spring break so we can take a trip somewhere together.”

Making Myself Better

Planning my future, sometimes two or more years in advance, has turned out to be a powerful way to make sure I’m living life to the fullest. I used to tell myself I didn’t have the time, and now that I take the time, I’ve realized that time away makes me better at home and work. 

New Realities

Most of us have seen a recent shift in our priorities. Suddenly that two-hour daily commute is no longer appealing. Working in an office and wearing “dressy” clothes is less appealing than working from home, being more productive, and wearing your favorite T-shirt and yoga pants. And it turns out that pent-up demand for travel is something many have discovered. A busy buddy told me, “I’ve spent half my life putting off travel because I felt I needed to be at work all the time. But that’s about to change. I don’t want to wake up unable to see the world, and COVID made me rethink my priorities.”

If you’re telling yourself you don’t have the time or the money to do the things you always wanted to do, what you may really be saying is that you have not made it enough of a priority.

Finding a Way

At age 19, when my parents offered me a chance to meet them in Europe for my first visit there, I didn’t have time or money, but with a few months’ notice I took on extra gigs on nights and weekends, I accumulated as much vacation time as possible, and I scheduled it months in advance to make it happen. And I stopped buying $5 cups of coffee and eating lunch out. In other words, I found a way. And I suspect most of us can find a way if we work on it enough in advance.

I’ve had too many conversations with friends about their unrealized dreams, watched them delay their dreams, and then later gotten the call that they’ve passed away, moved to a nursing facility, or they are battling some dreadful disease. These past two years, the possibility has been more of a reality.

So I ask you…

What dream are you delaying?

What do you want to get done in your life that has not been started?

If you could only pick one thing, what would it be?

What’s your plan?

Putting things off may be practical, and going now may not be possible. But if you don’t make the commitment, don’t pull the trigger, you may never get it done.


A woman approached me at my Adirondack painting event this past spring. She said, “I’ve been trying to come for 10 years, but my husband got ill and I needed to be there to take care of him. This is the first time I could get here.”

I was so proud of her for doing the right thing, but then going for her dream the moment she could.

We had a couple come on one of our fine art trips to Europe. They told me, “We’ve been intending to come for years, but we just never got around to it. We’ll be back again next year.” But that year, one of them passed. I’m thankful they came.

An artist once wanted to come with me on my second trip to Cuba. He told me, “I can’t afford it, so I’ll go next time.” Thankfully, he found a creative way to raise the money, and it turns out there was no next time.

I’m not suggesting travel … but I am suggesting that there are things you want to do that you need to get started on now. Don’t let anything get in the way. Pull the trigger now.

Your dreams are important to you, and you need to find a way to live them. 

Take action now. 

You can always find a way.

Eric Rhoads

PS: A few years ago a lady saw me painting and said what people always say …  “I can’t even draw a stick figure. I wasn’t born with the gift of painting.” 

Of course, I said what I always say … “You can do this, you can learn. It’s not about natural talent, it’s about following a process and practice.” 

She took my free Paint By Note course online, and sent me images of her progress. Now, just about three years later, she is doing a great job and painting beautiful pictures.

I think it’s important to fight with the assumptions in our own minds. Why am I telling myself this? Is what I’m telling myself actually true?

You can do what you can set your mind to, but the key is setting your mind, and overcoming the things in your mind that are blocking you. 

If you find yourself saying…

“I could never…”

“I can’t…”

“I don’t have what it takes…”

“I don’t have the talent…

Your brain is lying to you because of something you absorbed from your parents, your friends, your kids, or your environment. This is a time to challenge all of your assumptions. Even if you tried before and failed. You can do this … whatever “this” is 

I’ve got hundreds of people who signed up for my Pastel Live virtual conference in a couple of weeks who have never before painted in pastel, but want to learn. I have others who have never painted in their lives but took the leap and told themselves they could do it. Pastel may be the easiest way to learn to paint because it is much like what we used as kids (though more sophisticated). If you’ve resisted learning to paint because of oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, or other mediums… this is your best shot at producing beautiful artwork. I highly recommend our Beginner’s Day (which is 100% guaranteed or your money back). I’m guaranteeing I can make you an artist, even if your brain is telling you it’s not possible. Take the shot. It could change your life forever.

Pull the Trigger2021-08-06T15:45:28-04:00
1 08, 2021

The Storm of Life


The old green hammock sways gently between two old-growth white pine trees, a puddle of water and reddish pine needles in its middle. As I exit the house, the wet ground cover of deep green moss squishes like a thick carpet under my feet. In the combination of smoke from fires in the west and moisture from last night’s storm, the distant trees are a mustard bluish gray. The deep red geraniums in the flower boxes along the dock are worn and leggy from swimming in too much water.

This is the second-rainiest summer I can remember. The few sunny days are like Christmas presents. We look forward to them and cherish them as special days to get out for a warm, sun-drenched canoe ride.

Needles on My Face

My attitude about rain may be unique around here. Family members and locals have been complaining about all the rain. Though I can appreciate the desire for sunshine, I love the rain. Living essentially on an island and commuting by boat for groceries and packages, we’ve learned to accept it for what it is and plow forward. Just yesterday raindrops were hitting my face like needles as I sped across, trying to beat a giant storm and bolts of lightning.

Rain slows me down. The lack of light makes me want to chill, relax more, read a book. And my favorite sound is rain on the roof above. 

The Dreaded Nighttime Call

Life also has rain and storms. Late one night this week my phone rang, with my cousin’s name popping up. “Oh, no,” I thought. Knowing my aunt has been hospitalized and in rough shape, I assumed she had passed. But instead, it was my cousin Tim, who passed away at a young 60 years old. We were all devastated. It’s never easy when we see someone’s life cut short early.

A storm hit my family hard in the last couple of years, first losing my mom, then my dad, then my uncle, now my cousin. Sometimes it seems hard to take, and we start asking why: “Why me? Why now?” When we should be asking, “Why not me? Why not now?”

Rain and storms hit us all, personally and professionally. Just when things seem perfect, suddenly there is an unexpected event. And sometimes they come in clusters.

Clearing Trees

Yet storms clear out the forests, bringing down the weak trees and branches, and the rain nourishes the land, lending a hand to nature’s new growth. Last week I weathered a massive storm — the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t stand up, and trees were going down around me. The power went down and didn’t come up for a couple of days. But soon rescue workers were on the way, cutting the overgrown trees that had fallen on power lines. Soon, things were better.

Between you and me, we know of storms and rain hitting friends around the world, or around the block. Suddenly discovered illnesses, often life-threatening. Sudden passings, sudden financial issues or business challenges, and at the moment, floods and fires impacting lives.

No matter how prepared, it’s never enough. Yet ultimately, it’s how we process the storm. Last week with my kids, I had to be the voice of calm to help alleviate fears. And when it was over, I played the role of cheerleader, pointing out the positive benefits. 

A Moment of Decision

A doctor friend once told me, “When I tell someone they have cancer, I can tell within five minutes whether they have a chance of beating it. They are all kicked in the stomach at first, but given a few minutes to process it, the ones who tell me they will beat it usually do. Attitude makes a huge difference.”

If there was a positive in losing my parents, it was connecting with their friends on a new level, or reconnecting with a long-lost family I’d not seen in 30 years and now staying in touch with them.

A Learned Skill

I don’t think any of us are naturally tuned to think positively, but those who do it have trained their brains to immediately look for the bright side. When they get punched, they get back up and keep going, and they look for a lesson or a benefit from being punched.

These are unusual times. None of us are looking forward to returning to lockdowns or masking, but some will be required. It seems like a time when a lot of things are changing, and it makes me wonder what lies ahead. But rather than dwelling on the negative, seek the lighter side and the reasons to embrace the cards we are dealt. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Always seek the light, the humor, and the benefits inside any storm. Storms strengthen us and renew us. Embrace them.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Today is a red letter day as I celebrate the people I work with. Laura Iserman celebrates a decade with my company today, Dean Pickering celebrates six years, and Kelly Powers celebrates three. I cherish the people I work with, and love it when we see them grow with us over the years. Thank you to each of you for sticking with me!

It won’t be long until our Pastel Live online art conference featuring some of the world’s finest pastel painters. I’m excited about expanding my horizons by learning pastel painting. There is still room for you this August.

My sold-out trip to Russia is no longer sold out due to some circumstances in people’s lives. I have a few slots open, and we still plan to go in mid-September (we won’t go if it turns out not to be safe, of course). It’s a lifetime chance to paint in an amazing place with the right guides at your side.

It won’t be long till the auction of my dad’s amazing property in the Adirondacks. I’m told there have been some celebrities looking. If you know someone seeking something rare and special, pass it on.

We just launched a new video showing how to paint watercolors from photographs with Michael Holter. I’m pretty excited about it.

My daily show is back, renamed Art School Live, with guests at noon (Eastern) every weekday. Join us one day.

Are you on Instagram? I am. Follow me @ericrhoads and I’ll follow you back.

The Storm of Life2021-07-29T16:15:36-04:00