My hands were burning as they hit the steering wheel yesterday afternoon after the car had been baking in the 110-degree Texas heat. The ground is dry, and the grass caramel-colored as if slightly scorched. The car is like a visit to a sauna until the air conditioning cools it down. Even the nights are in the upper 90s.
When we moved to Texas, we did so knowing our summers would be spent in the high-altitude cool summers of the Adirondacks. Though it was always hot when we returned to get the kids into school, we never endured the entire summer, and the heat usually ends by late September. But this week I had the pleasure of waking up in the Texas heat because I came back to host my online Pastel Live event.
A Moment of Silence for Maui
I rarely comment on current events, but like you, I’m devastated to hear of the tragedy in Maui, one of the biggest tragedies in our country’s history. And like you, I’m feeling helpless, wishing there was more I could do to help. We’re working with a few art initiatives to help raise money, but somehow it does not seem sufficient.
Threats of Fire
A couple of weeks ago I received an alert on my phone about record Texas heat and the high risk of wildfires. After seeing a local town wiped out by fire, I take fire very seriously. So I contacted some folks I know in Austin who might be able to step in if we have any warning or notice of fire.
Making a Plan Before It’s Needed
My dad trained us to understand that if you have to think under pressure and don’t already have a plan, things won’t go as well in the heat of drama and emotion. But if you try to anticipate every situation, perhaps you can recover, or reduce the negative impact. Of course, no one in Maui could anticipate a fire, which is rare, or anticipate that warning sirens were not operating or that the water system would fail, or that people would not be able to escape some neighborhoods.
What Can You Anticipate?
The first thing crossing my mind isn’t the stuff we can replace, it’s the stuff we can’t. Things with emotional meaning — in my case, an extensive art collection, a collection of portraits other artists have done of me, and piles of paintings that are my life’s work. What would I do if it was all lost?
I created a list of everything that had meaning, then prioritized that list, and handed out instructions. If there is a fire, if there is time, get these items out to safety first. If there is still more time, add these things on the list.
My friends in the Malibu fire had five minutes’ notice. They lost everything. That’s the most likely scenario. In that case, you would at least want records of everything — photos, and things stored off site on a server somewhere. I have most of my paintings and collection documented, but the list has not been updated in five years. I would at least want to be able to remember those things or have evidence for insurance.
Five Minutes to Leave
Of course, fire isn’t the only thing to anticipate. My late mother-in-law lived in Germany during WWII and was given five minutes to leave the family home as it was taken over by the Nazis. What would you grab if you had almost no time and it was only what you could carry? The first thing that comes to my mind, other than important papers, are old photos. But I have boxes full I could not carry. I have family members who have a bugout bag by the door, with some clothes, some papers, and a few important things in case they have to go on a moment’s notice. That’s probably a good idea.
A Big Project
Before my dad died, his goal was to digitize every photo he ever took, along with his family historical photos. We can find them all on an online photo site, preserved, hopefully forever. This is a reminder that I need to do that too.
Yesterday I was asked to participate in a project that will take a few months to be ready, to raise money for the victims in Maui. Yet my fear is that we all have short memories, and after things are out of the news cycle, people become numb to the media coverage and we tend to forget. That’s why it’s important to think about your actions, and your life, now.
What do you need to do to prepare to leave on a moment’s notice?
What will you regret not having, or not having created a digital copy of?
What needs to be documented?
What is your evacuation plan (if you have a little time)? What should you consider going wrong that maybe you could not easily anticipate?
Most important, of course, is your life and your family. Don’t go into a burning fire and risk your life to save an old photo. It’s not worth the risk. But having a plan in advance is a great idea.
PS: The horrors of Maui are beyond awful. Families need help, and if you have something extra, this is the time to step up and find a charity that will help.
PS 2: Last night we ended Pastel Live. It was well attended, and life-changing for most (myself included). Thank you to everyone who attended! Our next event online is Realism Live in November.
PS 3: Moments from now, I will board an airplane and head back to the Adirondacks for some cooler air.
PS 4: My March Japan Cherry Blossom painting trip has sold out, but we created a waitlist in case someone drops out (which just happened). Get on the waitlist, just in case. PleinAirJapan.com
PS5: My Fine Art Trip in October promises to be spectacular, doing the art of Stockholm and Madrid. We do have four seats open still, and you should consider joining us. FineArtTrip.com
What If the Worst Happens?2023-08-18T16:44:33-04:00
When something is taken away, or about to go away, we want it more.
After living at the lake since early June, I have to leave the cool weather, high altitude, and beautiful green forests for the excessive temperatures of Texas. I’m clinging to every last moment, sitting here on the dock and filling my lungs with air so pure it cannot be described.
I close my eyes and listen to the lapping of water against the dock, the wings of eagles as they swoop overhead (yes, you can actually hear them because it’s so quiet here), and the frantic call of the loons to warn their families about the winged threat overhead.
What’s new becomes routine, barely noticed, until the threat of disappearance.
The Threat of Loss
This week our little dog Chewy had to “go under” for a necessary but minimal procedure, yet we were warned that there was a slight chance he might not come out of the anesthesia. Though he already gets lots of attention, the night before we were all treating him like we might never see him again. The fear of loss made us pay attention to how meaningful he is to us. He recovered, and he will get more attention than usual for a few days, till we get used to him being back again.
Sometimes the fear of loss slaps us in the face to get our attention. I can remember difficult relationship moments when the fear of loss was enough to change my behavior. Even though I may have been told time and time again, I had not paid attention until it was almost too late. And sometimes, it was too late.
What or who do we take for granted that is always there?
What are the signals others have been sending that we’ve ignored?
In what ways do we need to change now, so the threat of loss does not occur?
I pay a lot of attention to my kids, but knowing they are off to college in a week has made me step up and spend more time with them this week. Why have I not done this the whole time?
We’re told to count our blessings. But what if we were told to ask ourselves if there is any risk of losing our blessings? How would we behave differently?
Chainsaw to the Chest
Last week I received a call from one of my dearest and closest friends, who shared that he was going in for major open heart surgery. Of course I told him I loved him. But as far as showing my appreciation in every call through the year, I had not. What if instead of a call of a pending surgery, I instead received a call that he had moved on to a better place? Would I have regrets?
Since the great lockdown over the past three years, I’ve increased my mentions of appreciation, because we’ve all lost people we love and appreciate, and none of us know who or what is next.
Sometimes I intend to call someone but don’t get around to it, then find I’ve lost my opportunity. I don’t want that ever to be the case again.
What if you and I started to ramp up our level of appreciation for those around us? What if we went out of our way to spend more meaningful time?
What if we ignored less and listened with more intention?
Thankfully I get to return to the lake after my time away this week and get a few more glorious weeks there. But that could change, which is why I’m in full appreciation mode today.
Let’s increase our appreciation, starting today.
PS: I just read about an interesting study about appreciation. Two groups of kids were given a task. Afterward, Group One was given “Intelligent” praise, about how smart they are. Group Two was given “Effort” praise, for the amount of effort they gave the task.
On the next task, Group One did worse than before, and Group Two did better. Scientists say praise for effort is more effective than praise for being smart, because being smart makes kids assume they don’t have to put in as much effort.
PS 2: Tomorrow I fly most of the day, returning to Austin for a week of hosting my online art event called Pastel Live. Tuesday is rehearsal day, and Wednesday is our Essential Techniques Day, followed by three more days of the world’s finest pastel artists teaching their craft. It’s a brilliant way to take your first step as an artist, or to grow by trying something new and different. Oh, and the price will more than double after midnight tonight. PastelLive.com
Dark bags of vaporized water float overhead, ready to dump storms upon us. The sky is purple-gray, but the morning sun is hitting one particular billowing cloud with intense orange light, as if to offer hope that the looming storm will pass.
After two months of solitude on this lake, the August season is upon us, and activity has increased tenfold. Most of the summer residents come only for August, then hibernate the rest of the year. When that happens, it will be silent once more as we enter the season of color.
Though I love to see lake friends and the joy on the faces of kids as they learn to sail or water-ski, the silence is special.
We spend the entire year looking forward to our time here, yet it passes so rapidly, and my list of summer activities doesn’t yet have everything checked off.
I’ve painted my boat several times. Check.
I’ve done evening sunset cruises in our old wooden speedboat most nights. Check.
I’ve visited the Adirondack Museum and seen their glorious new art wing. Check.
I’ve gone to the farmer’s market most Saturdays. Check.
I’ve used a fair amount of time for my woodworking hobby. Check.
I’ve yet to revisit my favorite painting spots, swim in the lake, water-ski or hike the woods or climb the mountain. So much to do, so little time.
Fridays off, not so much. Of course, work requires eight- to 10-hour days, and though I intended to take Fridays off all summer, I’ve yet to take one. I guess I’m still a bit obsessed with working. But then again, there is much to do to create special experiences for others.
I wish I had worked more. There is a saying that “No one says on their deathbed that they wished they had worked more.”
And there is no doubt that I do have regrets about working when I could have spent more family time. Yet there is a giant difference between working and working with a purpose. When working with a purpose to create things that change lives, it’s not work.
I do have regrets, and perhaps those regrets can be a lesson for someone younger who has a big future ahead of them. And they are reminders to me of what I need to focus more upon.
Some of my career-related regrets:
I wish I had wasted less time.
Time is our most valuable asset. We don’t know how much we get, and we don’t get more. I wasted too much of it. My best advice: Prioritize only the projects that matter, and put them in your calendar and get them done no matter what.
I wish I had taken swift action on everything. I missed tons of opportunities because I dragged my feet. Sometimes doors closed and I missed out. When you have passion for something you believe in, get it done. It does not have to be perfect, just get it done as fast as possible. Fix it later.
I wish I had embraced pain and understood that pain is good, because with pain and discomfort comes growth.
More pain, more growth. More resistance to discomfort, less growth.
I wish I had been more open to learning from others more experienced. The best things I’ve discovered are mentoring and mastermind groups. I was so full of myself, thinking I had all the answers, that I missed out on a lot of great help that I only discovered once I had the courage and money to join.
I wish I had let go of my ego more. When you serve your ego, you’re not serving your customers — it’s all about you. When it’s all about them, you put your ego aside. Ego-driven decisions typically don’t go well.
I wish I had discovered painting sooner. All work and no play makes us dull. Painting (and hobbies) helps us lose our stress and get away from our work, and that helps us see the world more clearly.
I wish I had started sooner so my connections would be deeper. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t tell yourself you need to be of a certain age, or have a certain degree. Go for it now. I started in radio at 14, and as a result I have deep connections there that go back more than five decades. I can call anyone I’ve known that long and ask things I couldn’t ask of someone else. (Or I can ask, but deep connections pay bigger dividends.)
I wish I had started exercising sooner. “No time,” I told myself. But the benefit is clear thinking, more energy, and a better attitude.
I wish I had learned to stand and work earlier.
I stand all day. I don’t sit. Sitting is the new smoking. I got my first stand-up desk in 1995. It increases energy and efficiency.
I wish I had slept more. Sleep 8 hours no matter what. Go to bed early if necessary. Research supports this. You’re better with sleep. Eighty percent better with eight hours versus seven hours.
I wish I had focused more on quality and less on quantity. If you are going to do something, do it well, with excellence. Don’t just deliver — do it well. Quality matters every time. Your reputation is tied to your quality.
I wish I had networked more with people who change lives. Life-changing people think differently, and they get you changing lives. I wish I had focused less on me and my needs and more on others and their needs. It took me decades to understand that great things only happen when you’re solving problems and making life better for others.
I’m sure I could come up with dozens more, but enough for today.
The most important thing you can tell your offspring or those you are trying to help is to be action-driven. Act fast, never assume that an opportunity will last, and do it now. Avoid thinking that conditions are not right. Avoid thinking, “I’m not good enough” — or young enough, old enough, rich enough, poor enough. You are what you are, and there is no reason you cannot reach the pinnacle of success you can imagine. No one can get in your way other than you. You can always go over, under, or around roadblocks. Life is filled with them. They don’t stop you, they simply force you to seek new solutions.
Your feelings will get hurt if you let them. Don’t let them. Hurt feelings or hurt pride or embarrassment are just your ego in the way. Things won’t be perfect. Do it anyway.
PS: You are a unique human with incredible ability, even if you tell yourself that’s not the case. The reality is that you can master anything in a short period of time, if you study it intensely. And the more you work at it, the better you’ll be. But remember, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. The way to get perfect practice is to get great mentors and do everything they say.
In a couple of weeks, I’m offering you a chance to get perfect practice by gathering the finest pastel artists on earth. Some from other countries, most from the U.S.
In the last three years I have personally helped MILLIONS of people to learn to paint. These are people who had no belief in themselves. They believed they did not have what it takes. And we taught them anyway. They listened, they did what we said, and now they are living the dream of being able to paint.
This is how I change lives. I’d like to change yours. If you’re telling yourself these lies that you can’t do it, give me four days and see if I’m right. If I’m wrong, you can get your money back. Watch Pastel Live for one day, and if at the end of that day you have not been transformed, I’ll refund your money — which isn’t much, really. It’s about the cost of a meal out for four.
Sign up now. You won’t regret it. And if you do, you’ll still have learned something new about yourself and what you can do.