18 02, 2024

The Cure for Selfishness


Cake everywhere! 

It was in their hair, in their ears, and all over their clothes. 

Laurie and I decided to celebrate the first birthday of our triplets, Grace, Brady, and Berkeley, by laying a plastic sheet on the floor and letting the kids dig into a birthday cake. It was a giant mess as they grabbed handfuls and stuffed cake into their mouths. It was their first real exposure to sugar, so they got very wired very fast. Afterward, the bathtub had a ring of grease that took lots of scrubbing to clean up. Though it was really a bad idea, it was a lot of fun to watch and made for great photos (I’ll post some on my social media).

This past Friday, our little babies turned 22. So Laurie and I flew from Florida to Austin to celebrate with them. This time the cake went on a plate and had 22 candles. 

Now that our kids are working and/or in college, we don’t get to see much of them and each moment is precious, which is why we went to the trouble to fly in for the special day. Once they have their own lives and families, it will be more difficult to gather them. 

No Kids, Please!

When I first got married at age 25, not much older than they are now, I did not want kids. Instead I wanted to be free to travel the world and do what I wanted. But time changed my desire to have children, once I stopped believing every day was about me. And though it has been the hardest work my wife and I have ever done (harder for her than for me), it has been the most rewarding.

Good and Bad All at Once?

How is it that one thing can be two opposite emotions at once?  Parenting is both horrible and joyful, at the same time.

Horrible moments like when all five of us got the flu, and we had to figure out a way to care for three sick kids and ourselves when we could barely lift our heads off our pillows. Or when doctors misdiagnosed them with a deadly disease and were about to put them through three years of drug “cocktails” to save them. When we insisted they be tested again, the doctors humored us, but discovered they were wrong. We’ve had horrible moments like numerous trips to the hospital, calls to doctors, calls to EMS, dealing with school bullies, difficult teachers, and some tough school years. 

We’ve also had some expensive moments, like three sets of Big Wheels, then three trikes, then three of the next size of trike, then three small bikes, then three bigger bikes, and then bigger and bigger and then scooters and wagons and every other imaginable contraption until we got to cars. Then it was three college tuitions at once. We’re still writing those checks.

Or frustrating moments like having all of our tools disappear, or finding moldy candy bars stuffed in the deep recesses of their disgusting closets. Or having to repeat ourselves 50 times and still having them forget to do things.

Not Good for Landfills

The years have been a blur. We don’t remember a lot of it. Triplets kept us very busy. We once calculated that we used over 16,000 diapers. We did three science fair projects a year for several years. Then there was homework, band, after-school activities, and so much more. It was exhausting. And we only had three the same age. I can’t imagine what it’s like for families with four or more kids, all different ages. 

Even Bad Days Are Joy-Filled

Yet the last 22 years have been filled with joy. It’s been the most incredible experience of my life, more incredible than traveling the world and meeting important people. I would not trade anything for the joy and pain of parenting. We would both do it all again, including the sleepless nights, the tears and fears, because the joy outweighs any challenge we could face. And we’re realizing that parenting never stops, it just changes. We have a lot of new things to look forward to in the future. 

The best cure for selfishness is to have kids. I was really selfish, but kids took all of that away.

The best way to learn to love is to have kids. There is no love like the love of your children, and there is no way to explain it to someone, but once they have kids, they always agree. 

The purpose of Sunday Coffee has been to express my thoughts, my ideas and ideals, and to share moments about life that might serve my kids well in the future, if and when they ever decide to start reading these. So today I dedicate this missive to my children in honor of their birthday. 

Being Selfless

For those who don’t have kids, don’t care to have kids, could not have kids … joy is found by serving others. I think that’s why parenting is such a wonderful experience — because it’s selfless. Seek places and people you can serve and you’ll have a very fulfilling, enriched life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: We had a massive number of people sign up for our Plein Air Convention before our Valentine’s Day price increase. Thanks to all who plan to join us. 

There is still room for our online event called PleinAir Live, coming in March. It’s a great way to experience plein air and learn all about the lifestyle and the process while staying home.

The Cure for Selfishness2024-02-18T08:13:21-05:00
11 02, 2024

Are You a Dream Weaver?


Coming to a dead stop in her flight across the sky, an eagle dives straight down to the water and scores a sizable fish with her massive golden talons. She has no fear. She does not think about what might happen if she fails, if she hits the water wrong and crashes. She is focused on her sole purpose. Getting food. 

“Do the thing you fear to do, and keep on doing it. That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —  Dale Carnegie

Some of us are born with no fear. 

That’s not me. I have fear of a lot of things. But I never have feared starting a business, even from a young age when I made lemonade stands and sold candles, and over decades of business startups.

The Gift of Youth

When you’re young and naive, you don’t fear life as much. You have not yet seen the repercussions of doing doughnuts in the parking lot, racing down the highway at top speeds, or daring to dart in front of a speeding train just before it hits the crossing.

I did all those things. I was strong, confident, and I could never die. 

Sadly, others did die. I had four classmates in high school who were driving drunk and were hit by a train. Three of the four died.

And as we grow older and wiser, we have more stories to tell of others whose reckless pursuits did not go well. That helps us mature.

When we start up a business for the first time, we have never experienced the difficult days — the decades of experience that make us exercise caution and play the “what if?” game.

At a young age, we have nothing to lose. Even if we lost our life savings, how much could it be? And we know we can easily make it back again.

No Pressure

It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have no spouse or partner, no kids, no mortgage, and no pressure. Once you have those things to consider, reckless pursuits are dampened by fear of loss. 

The joy of parenting includes watching my kids make reckless decisions, like jumping out of airplanes, even though I begged one of them not to do it — a dear friend urged me not to let my kids do it after the painful loss of a child. 

I, too, was an adrenaline junkie until I got married and had kids. 

A New Chapter

A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons lost his job. I was not unhappy about it because he was never happy in that job, did not love the way he perceived he was being treated, and he was making almost no money. But of course we worried that he needed to get something else quickly so he could pay his rent. Plus, he is like me and can’t work for others. He rejects authority, as I do.

So he and his friend decided to start a tree service. He put out the word and got a customer to pay them a couple thousand bucks for a project the first day.

Beaming with Pride

For the first time in a long time, I saw pride of accomplishment in his face, and he was determined to get other customers by making flyers, knocking on doors, and making posts on Nextdoor.com and Facebook Marketplace. 

He has no fear.

Proud Papa

You can imagine how proud I am of my kid when he is launching his own business and got his first customer, and for the first time in his life, generated money from his own brain, his own labor, not getting his money from a job or a parent, but from a customer. 

What Experience Tells Me

Of course, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “This could be tough.” It may have been beginner’s luck to get a customer, and the others might not come as easily. And of course, it was not long till he was discouraged because other customers were not jumping in the boat like the first one had. 

Yet he continued doing all the right things to market and promote his business. And he’s learning just how hard it is, but still he has no fear. He is confident he will figure it out, and so am I. And once he has had a taste of business success, he’ll never have a job working for anyone else again. 

The Power of Encouragement

I knew this would not be easy, and my first temptation was to talk to him about all the things he was not thinking about … like insurance and taxes and safety and 900 other things business owners have to think about. I could have told him all those things, but I bit my tongue. Instead I told him I had confidence in him, that I knew he would figure it out, and that he is doing all the right things, and that I was proud of him.

The Power of Discouragement

People are fragile. If someone they love and respect tells them that they don’t believe in them, or gets overly negative about everything that could go wrong, they will often stop and never try again. I’ve seen it far too many times in life. When people stop trying, they always wonder what could have been.

A Discouraging Word

When I was about 11 and told my aunt I wanted to get into radio, she told me it was a bad idea, that radio people were poor-quality people, that it was not a good industry to be a part of and I should pick something else. Instead of swaying me, it made me determined to prove her wrong. “One day I’ll be successful and show her,” I said to myself. I was passionate, I had found what I loved, and nothing was going to get in my way. And ultimately, my dream came true. I got into radio at 14, had my own show, worked on top radio stations, and even ended up as an owner of radio stations and radio-industry magazines and conferences. But what if I had listened to my aunt? I would have missed a lifetime of wonderful experiences and friends. 

You Can’t Make a Living as an Artist

I can share countless stories of people whose parents told them to pursue something other than art, because they “couldn’t possibly make a living.” I have stories of people who allowed their parents to influence them and spent an unhappy life in some other industry before coming back to art and finding their joy. I also have stories of people who proved their parents wrong and became successful and made more money than they ever imagined (even though it was never about money).

Don’t Squash Dreams

Be a dream weaver, not a dream destroyer.

If I had known all the difficult things I would face in business startups, I probably would have backed out. Getting your teeth kicked in is part of the growth process, and though it still happens on a regular basis, it hurts less every time, and the benefits outweigh the difficult stuff.

Encourage people. Build them up. No matter how much you see that they might be in for a tough year or two, let them find out for themselves. Though your instinct is to protect them, we have to let them experience the tough stuff too. We grow from adversity.

What I Discovered

Most of the people in my life are dream destroyers. I’ve launched 20 or 30 businesses or business products over the decades that I was told would never work, were likely to fail, were stupid ideas that no one would buy. I even did research that told me something would fail, did it anyway, and had huge success. It’s important to understand that someone with passion or an idea has a vision others can’t see. So no matter how much you don’t understand it, or even if you think it’s already being done elsewhere, give them all the positives and none of the negatives unless they ask. Even then, be thoughtful about not destroying or discouraging them. 

Besides that, nothing ever ends up the way you envision it. A good entrepreneur will pivot with the needs of the market. 

Stories of Success

The world is littered with failures, but it’s built on successes. Every startup person will tell you they had more discouragement than encouragement, and that sometimes it was one person believing in them, and offering ideas or help, who made the difference between success and failure. You can move mountains when you know others believe in you.

What dreams did you not pursue?

Did someone discourage you? Did you do it anyway or did you listen to them? Do you have regrets?

Don’t do it to others. Build them up. Give them encouragement. Help them see even bigger visions. With your encouragement, they might change the world.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Over two decades ago, I started PleinAir Magazine. But I almost didn’t because so many people told me it would fail. I ran it for two years and it did fail, and then they said, “Told you so.” But I believed so deeply in it that I found a way to bring it back, and started the Plein Air Convention. Again, people told me not to do it. Yet it’s been wildly successful. Thank goodness I did not listen.

The 11th annual convention is taking place in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this coming May.

A few years ago several people cornered me and said, “You always do your conventions in the West. Why not bring it east?”  I told them that the majority of attendees come from the West and that our fear is that if we hold it in the East, those people may not come. And if they don’t, we would have a financial disaster that could kill the convention.

Their response was, “We’ll make sure every plein air painter from the East comes, so it won’t matter if people don’t come from the West.”

So I took a chance, booked a facility, and we’re holding our first convention east of the Mississippi. Will it work?

So far, the West is winning.

What I mean is that there are more registrants from the West (in other words, they are coming anyway), but the East is not doing its part. Don’t get me wrong, we have hundreds of people coming from the East. But unless we can see more participation from the East, it could impact future decisions about coming back that way. 

So the challenge is on. Who will win?

If you’re a plein air painter in the East, the driving time to the convention from most of the U.S. is less than a day. This is your opportunity to prove the East has just as many plein air painters as the West. 

If you’re thinking … “I’ll do it another year,” please know we may never be this close to you again. We have four pre-convention workshops: one with Joseph Paquet, one with Indian artist Amit Kapoor, one with pastel artist Aaron Schuerr, and our Essential Techniques Day for beginners, which is a great way to learn the whole plein air thing.

If you don’t know anyone, come anyway. You’ll make friends.

Oh, and the price goes up on Valentine’s Day. So sign up today. www.pleinairconvention.com

If you’re thinking, “I’ll attend the online version of the Plein Air Convention,” we are NOT doing that this year. But if you can’t come to PACE, you can still attend PleinAir Live, coming up in March. This has top masters teaching plein air, but it is not the online version of the convention.

Are You a Dream Weaver?2024-02-10T19:26:25-05:00
4 02, 2024

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?


The rumble of rockets soaring through the air and the sight of giant balls of fire in the sky never seem to lose their excitement here on the Space Coast of Florida, where I’m spending much of the winter. They say a big one will make your teeth chatter, something I’ve yet to experience, but a massive rumble and sonic boom are felt with each launch, just 11 miles from my dock. With two or three rockets going up a week, we set our alarms, even in the middle of the night, to experience each launch. So far there have been 10 this year that we’ve been able to view from our dock.

The Rockets’ Red Glare

When friends come to visit, we love watching their jaws drop in amazement when we visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The size and scope of these machines is mind-boggling, as is the tech behind them, and it takes thousands of people to make them fly. Clearly Elon Musk and his team possess something special, doing things others have been unable to accomplish, like landing a spaceship (which we had the pleasure of watching this week) or reusing ships that previously would have become space trash. Of course, later this year NASA’s Artemis mission will take man to the moon again. 

One Small Step

When I was a kid, I watched the moon landing from the National Boy Scout Jamboree at the national park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I was a reporter for a local Indiana news outlet and won a prize as the most ambitious scout reporter there. I thought by now we would be living on the moon. But at the moment, the closest I can get is to do my own moonshot.

Have you considered your moonshot?

Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis has famously coined the term “moonshot,” meaning the big thing you do in your life that seems impossible to achieve. 

I’ve always thought that if you’re going to live a life, live it with gusto, try to do things that significantly change the world, and live boldly in pursuit of big ideas that seem impossible.

What does YOUR moonshot look like?

Tap into your big dreams, the things you always thought you would do. Then ask yourself, “What about that frightens me? What feels unobtainable?” Then ask yourself, “What else could I do to make it even more spectacular?”

Break It Into Chunks

They always say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. If you take your giant goal and break it down into small, easier-to-obtain chunks and manageable objectives, it’s easier to track your progress and not be overwhelmed. Sometimes moonshot ideas are so big we can’t do it alone. Who else could you work with who shares a similar vision? Collaboration is a great way to get things done more quickly. 

Expect Things to Turn Out Differently

Whatever you set out to do, it won’t end up exactly the way you envision it. So keep an open mind, and don’t be so set in your ways that you miss better ways of accomplishing your goal. You have to be willing to experiment, and to adapt when you hit obstacles. Expect and embrace obstacles as growth.

Be a Risk-Taker

Not everyone can go to the moon. Only those who are willing to take the risks get the giant rewards.  And stay committed — never give up. I have a moonshot project I’ve been working on for five years. I keep getting kicked in the teeth and discouraged, and I am not letting go. I will find a way. You can too.

Your moonshot does not have to be about space. It’s about ideas so big they seem impossible, ideas that change your world and hopefully the world around you.

What big idea do you want to pursue?

What’s stopping you?

I want to remind you of something I said last week: My father started a company at 70, another at 80, and another at 90. All were moonshots for him. He never told himself he was too old. You’re never too old or too young. Dream big, and execute.


Eric Rhoads

PS: In spite of Covid being over, our online events designed for Covid times are still getting massive worldwide audiences and continue to be strong. My next one is about landscape and plein air painting, called PleinAir Live, and it’s coming in March. I’ll see you there.

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?2024-02-03T13:48:26-05:00