24 09, 2023

Your Family Motto


Each remaining day here at this Adirondack lake is precious. Now that the “summer that never was” (all rain, all the time) has passed and peeks of fall color are starting to reveal themselves around the lake, I’m melancholy that our time here will soon be over. Yet I’m grateful for each call of the loons, the sound of eagle wings whooshing overhead, the splash of water against the dock, and the rumble of old wooden boats. 

My choices are endless. Should I go out in my own wooden boat to do some plein air painting today? Shall I take a walk in the vast forest behind our little camp, go into my woodshop to work on a project, paddle about in a canoe, or just sit on the dock in an Adirondack chair and stare endlessly at the water? 

My First Love

I first fell deeply in love with nature when I became a Boy Scout. Troop 57 would meet at the local Lutheran church across from the McDonald’s every Friday night. After Scout meetings, I walked across the street to make burgers and fries — my first actual job, working there at age 11, making $2 an hour. My mom would drop me at Scouts and then pick me up after work. Though I loved Scout meetings, and some of the dear friendships I made there are active to this day, I cherished those special weekends when our troop would go to a Camporee or set up in a nearby woods. It’s where I learned to whittle, make knots, shoot a bow and arrow, and how to survive with sticks and plants. But Scouting taught me so much more than survival skills.

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty … and to obey the Scout Law.”

I still remember memorizing that, and that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. It was reinforced at every meeting, every campout, and in every interaction with the other Scouts. It became more than a motto, it became my life. 

If I were asked to define the motto for my life today, these are the words I’d use. But if I were to ask my kids, I wonder what they would say.

A Well Thought-Out Idea

This past week I received an e-mail from Richard Wilson, an acquaintance in the financial world. He and his wife had come up with a family motto, and his daughter recited it on video. “Healthy, clean, brave, kind, responsible, and respectful,” she said. Short enough for a child to remember, big enough to have an impact. Richard pointed out that we often have company values, so why don’t we have family values, like Scouts, that we get our kids to memorize and that we post inside our homes? I thought it was an idea worth sharing.

What would your family values be?

The act of memorization in Scouts was helpful because I began to notice opportunities to use those values. I think the same would be true for our kids. But values are more than a line we memorize. Our kids will see what we really value by our behavior.

A Kick in the Teeth

Case in point, my daughter and I drove into town together last week. I overheard her telling her mom that she learned a lot more about me in that couple of hours than she had known before. When asked why that was, my daughter said, “Because Dad was driving and was not on his phone.” It was a kick-in-the-teeth reality moment. I’d not been talking to my daughter and engaging her in conversation and talking about life moments and important lessons because I was always on my phone. It was an important reminder to put my phone down and be more engaged.

What Would Your Family Say?

If I were to ask your family what your values are, what would they tell me?

My daughter would probably say “phone” as a high value, yet I would say “time with family” is a value. My actions speak louder than any motto.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Our behavior is the true signal of our values. If you’re saying family values are about giving and being generous but you’re not actually demonstrating those values, it won’t stick. If honesty or integrity is a value and your kids see you telling a little white lie, they’ll soon model your bad behavior, not what you pretend to be. If you say you care about your family but you sacrifice time “for their good” by working all the time, how will they remember you?

I’ll Learn Something

Sometimes mottos are shared through different methods. For decades my dad’s prayer at every meal was: “Help us to change our plans according to your plans for us.” It was a way of sharing what he felt was important. It might be communicated through a family prayer, through a routine each night over dinner, or through some other creative endeavor. But if we are not deliberate about the messages and lessons we want to be absorbed, our kids will absorb what they see online.

I’ve thought lots about my values, but never stopped to think about what family values I want to communicate. I’m going to give it some thought and start communicating them — even though my kids are young adults, it’s never too late. And some of the most important lessons learned came from grandparents and aunts and uncles.

What about you?

Is it time to define your family values? Should you create a motto, or a few words that best represent how you want your family to be?

Today might be a good day to start having that discussion.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of my values is quality of life. After a near-death experience, I made a commitment to spend more time with my family, but also to do the things I want to do now, not on a “someday” that may never come. From that moment on I laid out a design for my life, a plan. What am I not willing to do? What will I not compromise? What do I want my life to look like?

One of the things this prompted was the start of two artist retreats a year, because I wanted to spend two different weeks painting all week, and painting with friends. This time next week I’ll be with a group of 100 artists at my sold-out Fall Color Week artists’ retreat here in the Adirondacks.

Another goal from that moment is to spend more time on exotic travel, seeing the world, seeing the great art of the world, and having rich experiences with others with a common interest. As a result I started an annual Fine Art Trip. In October we will hold our 11th, this time in Stockholm and Madrid, where we go behind the scenes at art museums and have rich art experiences. There is room for two more if you’re an adventurous last-minute traveler.

In March I’ll lead a group of artists to tour and paint the cherry blossom season in Japan. PleinAir Japan is sold out, but I think we’ll be able to accommodate one or two more people. 

People often tell me I have a blessed life. I agree. But not much of it is accidental. We need to be deliberate about what we want out of life and build things into our lives. There is never a good time, it’s never convenient, we can never really afford the investment or time away. But I have friends who always talked about the things they were going to do, but they never got to do them before time ran out. They always had an excuse. Make a plan and be deliberate.

In November I’ll get home just in time to host our international art training experience, Realism Live online. It’s a brilliant way to speed up your art-making education.

I’ll do my best to stay in touch and I’ll be continually posting on my Instagram (@ereicrhoads) if you’re curious. 

Oh, and this week, at 2pm ET Wednesday, I’m holding a free webinar with two top European artists called 12 Steps to REVOLUTIONIZE Your Art.
If you wish to join, sign up here today.

Your Family Motto2023-09-23T15:50:42-04:00
17 09, 2023

Finding Your Gift


A gentle rain drizzles upon the lake. There’s a foggy silhouette of pine trees in the distance, getting bluer and whiter the farther away they become. Close up, majestic pines surround my screen in the octagon-shaped lakefront porch, with dark lace-like branches and needles obscuring the view. Just the way I like it, nestled in and safe like a warm blanket, while the sound of droplets landing on the water tickles my ears. 

Visitors tell us our little porch is very special because it darts right out to the edge of the lake. Inside, the ornate woodwork on the peaked ceiling is something builders tell me could not be replaced today because there are few craftspeople who would know how. The diamond-paned windows were handmade, along with the house and porch, in 1894.

Doing It By Hand

I try to imagine building this house at a time when there were no power tools, sourcing logs from this boat-access-only property and carving them into a masterpiece. The house was built by some young man who was trained by his father, a master woodworker who was trained by his father. A chain of training over generations. 

Why, then, is there no one who can do what they did today? 

The modern world offers other distractions. People have more choices than to continue a family tradition of woodworking. And parents often want something different for their kids, to let them avoid the hard labor on cold and icy days or up on a roof in intense heat. Instead, their children become college-educated and chase their own passions. 

The Cycle of Life

Perhaps in the past, one generation and then the next knew hard work was part of the requirement for survival. But at some point, that changed. Each generation now tends to look ahead and hope to prevent their kids from having the hard life or difficult upbringing they had to endure. Soon, we got softer and softer, to the point where our kids didn’t experience the harsh discipline of our parents. Another generation later, there is less and less discipline, less and less carrying on of family gifts, and soon the kids are cowering in corners, not wanting to work because they believe they should be taken care of and their feelings never wounded. 

Then, once everyone is soft, the cycle perhaps reverses and kids don’t want to be lazy like their parents, so they return to the land to live off the grid, to grow their own food, build their own homes, and even refuse to use modern power tools. Suddenly what was uncool becomes romanticized. And in another 25 years, their offspring will have the skills I can’t find today, 

But I digress. 

“Do What I Did”

I’ve heard many stories of parents trying to discourage their misguided kids from pursuing a passion. Doctors want their kids to be doctors, yet the kids don’t want to repeat their parents’ life of late-night hospital calls and Thanksgiving dinners disrupted to deliver babies. They often don’t see the passion Mom or Dad found in medicine; they see only the hard stuff. 

Multi-Generational Gifts

On the other hand, in my lifetime I’ve encountered many people with multi-generational gifts. Imagine how good you can be when you learn something from your mom or dad, who learned from your grandparents and great-grandparents. The gift is perfected as each becomes better than the teacher. 

Still, so many of us look at what Mom or Dad do, and we don’t want to follow in their footsteps.

Not Sexy

That was me. My dad wanted my brothers and me to carry on in his metals business, but none of us had any interest. The more he pushed, the more we went in the opposite direction. He provided well for us, but what he did wasn’t sexy in our eyes. For me, it wasn’t as appealing as the lure of something I was interested in.

In hindsight, I did follow my father’s and grandfather’s path. Both came up with business ideas and built them. I have zero fear of starting businesses because I watched my dad start so many. I just applied the gifts he passed on to my own passions. 

How about you? What did you experience, or what are you experiencing now?

Being You

When my kids’ friends were at our house, I’d ask them what they wanted to do with their lives. One kid told me his parents were insisting he become a doctor like they are, but he wanted to become an entrepreneur. Another doesn’t want to become an engineer like his father and is only going to engineering school because his parents won’t cover college otherwise. He has a different passion and is miserable living his father’s dream instead of his own. Perhaps the parents know best, knowing that once their kids get the education and maturity they will find that they love having the same career. 

I tell them all: Follow your passion. You don’t have to do what your parents want you to do. But don’t ignore what they are offering, because they know things about it that you don’t. At least consider it. But ultimately, this is your life, not theirs.

Stuck in Chains

I also tell these young people never to stay in a career because they were forced into it. Once I interviewed a young lady and asked why she would leave a high-paying job as a lawyer for a much lower-paying editor’s job. She told me her third-generation-lawyer parents insisted she be the fourth generation. They pushed her through law school. Upon graduation she discovered she was miserable in her job and could not identify with being a lawyer. After giving it a couple of years, she became intensely depressed because she was not following her passion. So I hired her because she had the courage to follow her own path.

God has given us each a passion and a gift. It’s our responsibility to listen to our hearts and follow that passion, then develop our gifts to become the best we can be. 

Passion Isn’t Forever

But passions last a lifetime for some and a season for others. I’ve always had a passion for being an entrepreneur. I told myself I would never work on something I don’t love. My rule is that if I wake up and hate going to work more than 50 percent of the time, it’s time for a change. If I lose my passion, or become more passionate about something else, I’ll move on. 

Everyone has a gift. If you have not found it yet, you will. Others may point out your gifts because sometimes you don’t see them yourself. So listen carefully when someone offers encouragement or tells you that you seem to be really good at something. 

What do you love?

What are you really good at that you can’t get enough of?

What do you think about night and day?

If it’s good, if it’s ethical, explore it.

If you are desperately trying to find it but aren’t sure what it is, try a lot of things, including things that seem uninteresting. Volunteer, work in different jobs, take courses online even though you might tell yourself you don’t have what it takes.

You CANNOT Do This

When I first considered the thought of learning to paint, my critical mind told me I could not even draw a circle. I rejected the idea that I could someday become an artist and be proud to show my art to others. I foolishly believed that talent was a requirement. Yet I never believed good doctors or nurses were born with medical knowledge. They had to learn it, knowing it would be hard. Once I realized I did not need talent, I only needed to be taught, I started learning. It was hard. But it was always fun, and I’m happy and passionate about doing it. 

Whatever you discover that you’re passionate about…

You have what it takes. 

You can really do anything you can envision. 

You simply have to find what you love, find someone who can teach you, and override the negative voices in your head. 

Being Seasonal

There are also seasonal gifts. If you have a lifetime of experience, you can put it to use in new ways, teaching others, helping them find their gifts, or discovering entirely new things. I believe no one should live at any time without pursuing a gift and passion. I’ve never been a fan of retirement. Perhaps one day it will appeal to me, but the key to any retirement is to find something to be passionate about. Being sedentary is not a viable option. If you’re breathing, you have a purpose.

I once asked a man what he was passionate about. He told me he hated his job and could not wait to retire. I asked what his hobbies were. He had none. “What will you do when you retire?” I asked. He had no idea, but he hated work so much that he just wanted out.

Don’t let that be you.

Don’t let that be your loved ones.

Don’t waste a single day more as a slave to a job you hate. Or at least know that when you get off work each day, you’re looking forward to your passion. 

A life well lived is a life filled with passion. Find your gifts and live them.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week at a dinner party I showed a painting I had just finished to the woman sitting beside me. She stared, and she talked about it for a long time. Her compliments were gushing, not the typical polite words. Then she said, “I’ve gone to a paint-and-sip several times, but my paintings are awful. I know I could never do something like this.” Of course I went into my speech about how anyone can do it, all they have to do is find the right teacher, the right technique, and find time to practice. Yet I could not convince her. She was stuck on the idea that she could never do it. I promised her a lesson to prove to her that she could.

If it’s painting you don’t believe you can learn, take my free online course at www.paintbynote.com. I believe I can teach anyone to paint. Then get my video The Easiest Way in the World to Learn Painting if you want to go to a higher level. You can do this.

Or attend Realism Live this November. It’s all online, features 25+ top masters teaching, and it’s a game-changer. 

Finding Your Gift2023-09-16T15:02:16-04:00
10 09, 2023

What Are You Not Hearing?


I’m chuckling to myself as I sit here baking in the summer sun. This summer we had record rain and cool temperatures, with exactly five total “sunny warm lake days.” Now that all the lake residents are gone, summer has finally arrived. The best is about to come as fall color begins to peek out of the green forests. I’m getting ready for a glorious fall. Soon I’ll experience color so vibrant it makes my eyes hurt and the crunch of leaves under my feet, the smells of apple cider and fields of pumpkins. Fall is my favorite time here in the Adirondacks.

Fresh Eyes

I love seeing things through the eyes of others, especially fresh eyes. This week I’ve had an artist visiting from Australia (Colley Whisson) who had no previous knowledge of the area, its beauty, and its unique architecture. I loved the wonder in his eyes seeing the area for the first time, as he often points out things I no longer notice. 

Things Leap Out

Any time we can walk in the perspective of others, we see things we can change or correct, and it helps us appreciate what we have. If I have a guest, I notice that I need to paint a door, fix a hinge, clean a spot on a rug that I don’t see when I look at these things every day. And all too often we take things, and people, for granted, because we’re used to them. When they are gone, we experience regrets for not enjoying our time with them to the fullest.

Sudden Fear

Last night the phone rang with a call from a family member who never calls, who is the partner of another family member. In the second before taking the call, our minds jumped to awful conclusions. Is someone sick or worse? We sunk in our seats in fear, only to find out the call was a followup on something completely unrelated. We were relieved. Then the thought crossed my mind that maybe we should be in contact more, see one another more. 

What can you and I do to live more fully, to appreciate those we love more, and to make sure we are giving them our time and attention while we can?

My dad used to remind us not to be critical of someone because “you’ve never walked in their moccasins.” What can we be doing to be more sensitive to the needs and issues others are facing, without being told? What can we do to step up and help others in these moments?

What are others trying to tell us that we’re not hearing?

Not Hearing

Recently I experienced something very personal with a family member who did not know how to share feelings, so we had no idea this person was hurting. I read the situation as weakness, immaturity, when in fact, I could not have been more wrong. Thankfully, it was discovered, so I could pay proper attention to the needs of the person. 

Now that I know … how did I not see it? 

I’m not one to live in regret; I’m one who lives with the consequences of my actions. But I do regret not being more attentive at times, not hearing when I thought I was listening, and ignoring the gnawing feeling that I needed to spend more time with someone, telling myself, “I’ll do it some other time,” only to discover later that time had run out.

Dumped and Depressed

I flash back to younger days when I had been dumped by the woman I loved, who had fallen in love with another man. I went to work every day, I saw people in social situations, but I was screaming on the inside, hoping someone would see something and ask, and give me someone to talk to. Yet no one did. I spilled a lot of tears and never experienced such heartache. I had to deal with it all alone, and it took me a long time. And I avoided relationships for years because I did not want to suffer like that ever again. It made me feel in control to avoid future pain. 

How would things have changed if someone had listened a little more carefully, looked in my eyes to see that I wasn’t fine when I said everything was OK? 

Someone in your life needs you right now, but there is a chance you’re not hearing them. Maybe they are in too much pain to ask for help, or too embarrassed. Someone needs you to see through their eyes. Maybe they’ve even said something, but you sloughed it off as whining or neediness. 

If the eyes are the window to the soul, how much are we paying attention? What are we missing that someone is hoping we’ll ask about? What do we fear from asking questions that show we deeply care? 

We can’t walk in the shoes of others, we can’t feel what they are feeling, but we can be there for them. Let’s you and I spend this week listening more carefully. Listen with your heart and your eyes. Don’t be in a hurry. Doing so may make a major difference in someone’s life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes I feel like I need to duck every time someone sends an e-mail. Like you, I get more e-mail than I want and I become numb to it. It’s a pattern of “click and delete,” and doing it over and over.

This week I was about to delete another e-mail from someone whose name I did not recognize, assuming it was spam. But it was from a reader who shared some personal things about how Sunday Coffee has helped. This makes it all worthwhile. I can’t share details, but everyone loves to hear about the meaning they have provided. Be sure to go out of your way to share with others what they mean to you. Make a habit of doing it daily. 

It’s gonna be a busy fall. I have a big online webinar coming up soon (watch for it), then Fall Color Week (sold out), then the Fine Art Trip behind the scenes in Stockholm and Madrid (there are still a couple of seats), and then Realism Live, our online art conference with top masters. And our Japan painting trip in March is getting closer. Though it’s sold out, we’ve been working on getting more seats and we think we can probably squeeze a couple more in, so get on the waiting list. 

Live life. Don’t buy fear. Treat yourself to great things. You deserve it. 

What Are You Not Hearing?2023-09-08T18:05:39-04:00
3 09, 2023

Worried About Worry


As I walk out of my cozy waterfront cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks, the old screen door slams behind me. It’s a sound that brings back memories from childhood. Entering the kitchen, the smell of coffee brewing seduces me to pour a cup of my own. I then walk across the creaky wooden floors to the old screened-in octagon-shaped porch overlooking the water and plop myself down in the same wicker chair as generations before me. 

There is little as soothing as the water, the movement of pine forests swaying in the distance, and the occasional canoe passing by. It’s where I sit in the mornings to follow my morning routine, and where we sit in the evenings to catch up on one another’s day. 

Farewell to Summer

Summer, here on the lake, ends tomorrow, when most residents return home. Overnight, things will get silent and a boat will be a rare sight for the few remaining stragglers who stay on to experience the fall colors, which are beyond spectacular. Our final event will be a gathering of lake residents to hand out sailing trophies and say farewell till next year. 


People post about all the things they are doing, the places they are experiencing or visiting, often making us wish our life was like theirs. But it’s a game, not reality. Other than an occasional family or pet death, social media provides only a glimpse, just the things we want people to know. Few offer a look at the harder aspects of life, and experts say depression is often driven by the perfection that others appear to be living.  

Each day offers something that can throw us off our game, rock our world, and create disappointment and fears. How we manage those things determines our level of happiness. If we allow worry and fear to consume us, we make life harder. 

Wise Words

Emerson said this: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

Look back just one year. What consumed you? Is that problem still consuming you? It could be, if it’s fighting a long-term illness. But are you still worried about the things you were obsessed with then? Did the worst happen? Did you survive it? Or was it less terrible than you anticipated?

The World Is Falling Apart

Recently I was talking to a person who is seriously uptight about the world today and how things are so much worse than they should be, thinking that our country is falling apart. Though I can certainly understand the perspective based on some things in the media, I recently ran across an e-mail from the same person 10 years ago, saying the same things. None of the things he mentioned as being the end of the world actually happened. I reminded him of this and his response was, “It’s different this time.” I realized he might be looking for problems.

Feeding the Worry Beast

Where we spend our time impacts our state of mind. If I watch the news or spend too much time on some kinds of social media, I can easily get worked up. So I bury my head in the sand and don’t ever watch news on TV. And I’ve deleted most of my negative friends who use social media to get others worked up. I consider it a form of protection, to keep my head in a good place. And if I can’t change things, why worry?

I’ve found that if you stay in the present, and acknowledge your feelings without judgment, you can become resilient against worry. And if something is bothering me more than normal, I know my tendency is to overthink it. By staying in the present, I tend not to get absorbed by “what if?” scenarios.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The other day someone was sharing some worry with me, and I started fact-checking: “Is this true?” We all tend to tell ourselves stories. Ask yourself how true your concerns are and if there is evidence to back them up. We tend to start with the thing that is happening and move on to “If x continues, y will happen.” But that’s rarely the case, so be careful about projecting. 

I like to ask, “Will this matter next week? Or in six months, or six years?” In most cases, I find myself putting off my worries.  

Big Reasons to Worry

I’m not entirely worry-free. There have been moments I thought I would lose my business and go bankrupt. And I ruminated on the “what if?” scenarios, curled up into a fetal position with worry, and became useless. My nerves were raw. The non-emotional side of me told myself that I would make the problem bigger if I lay in bed worrying, and that action and clear thinking were what I needed. So I went to my studio, painted for an hour, my stress melted, and then I was able to snap back to being more normal. I also find that if I’m stressed, a workout will shift me from worry to confidence. 

You Need Eight No Matter What

The worst thing is losing sleep, lying in bed and worrying, because sleep is what we need to operate optimally. So I’ll get up, make a list of everything on my mind, then go down the list one at a time and say, “Can I do anything about this tonight, right now?” If I can’t, I skip over it, or if I can, I’ll fire off an e-mail or whatever I can do. This gives me peace and allows me to sleep.

A Life of Waste

I look back on the days when I used to worry and realize that I caused myself unnecessary stress, probably knocking years off my life. And none of it was necessary. 

I’m not sure if it’s time and perspective that reduce my worry, but my attitude today is that I turn all my worry over to God and know that whatever happens, we will get through it. Over time, most things I could worry about, I realized I’ve faced. As a kid I’d worry that I’d lose my dad, yet all of that was wasted energy. I had my dad till he was 94. Though I never looked forward to losing Dad and Mom, I got through it. I’ve watched my son almost not survive multiple cardiac arrests, probably the worst moment of my life. I was seriously bothered, worried, but calmly got through it. I’ve lost employees I never thought we could survive without, but we survived. I’ve had businesses fail. I’ve lost my biggest accounts. I’ve lost love. I even crashed an airplane. In the end, I’ve realized we can get through anything. So why worry?

Are you worried now?

Is there anything you can change now?
Any action you should take to change the outcome?

If not, turn it over to God and give yourself the peace you deserve. You’ll get through it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The other day I went to a cocktail party where I met multiple strangers. When introduced to one, she said, “I love your Sunday Coffee.” This was a person I would never expect to have been exposed to it, which shows the power of forwarding things that you think will speak to others. I don’t know where this stranger got it, but thank you, whoever you are. I stopped keeping track of numbers of subscribers years ago because I don’t want to get hung up on performing for growth. I don’t ever want to be influenced by my ego (which isn’t easy). But it warms my heart to know that something meant enough to you that you decided to share it. 

PS 2: In just under a month I’ll be gathering with 100 artists at my Fall Color Week painters retreat in the Adirondacks. I’ll then drive back to Texas (dogs can’t fly) and then head out for three weeks in Europe, leading our annual art lovers’ trip in Stockholm and Madrid and then taking a week off to play. (There are still a couple of seats at www.finearttrip.com.) Then I return just in time for one of our biggest and most successful online art training events, Realism Live, where we teach all subjects and styles. It’s a must for anyone who wants to paint real things (not abstract). Hope to see you there (www.realismlive.com). 

PS 3: Thanks for all the birthday greetings on social media (@ericrhoads). And I hope you enjoy what’s left of Labor Day Weekend. A final thought. Time travel is real. It seems like just yesterday we were in a new year. You can still crush your 2023 4th quarter if you push hard now. Sometimes you can make 50% or more sales for Christmas. Start planning now, and start working on your 2023 plan so you have ample time to build and implement it.

Worried About Worry2023-09-02T12:14:30-04:00