17 03, 2024

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships


The sound of strong winds blowing is kinda eerie, like something out of a horror movie. Winds are causing a slight bend in the poetic palm trees, and the water is splashing against the dock as whitecaps fill the choppy water in our view. A morning walk on the dock felt like hurricane force against my wet jacket. Spring really is roaring in like a lion. 

I can remember spring days growing up. We would go out in short sleeves at the first sign of warmth, even though it was still very cold. But we didn’t care, because we were so tired of the frigid temps. The first sunny day was an invitation to pretend it was summer. I was always ready for winter to end — but of course it would get cold again and often snow as late as May or June. 

Last week, when I was in Austin, the bluebonnets were already thick and lining the roadways with a carpet of blue, while orange “Indian paintbrushes” were adding color against the blue. Pink trees were in full blossom, and bright green buds were already coming out.

Seasons have always been a metaphor for life. Spring is a fresh start. 

The cycle starts with spring … new birth.

Then summer … life.

Fall is aging.

Winter is decay and death.

The leaves fall and rot, and fertilize the soil. And the cycle of life begins again.

What Needs to Be Flushed Out?

Though we only get one chance at the cycle, what in your life needs to be flushed out with winter? 

What needs to be reinvigorated and rebirthed with spring?

Have you ever looked back on the mistakes you’ve made in your life and wished you had a second chance? 

Is there still time?

I think about relationships I’ve botched that could still be salvaged. Things may have gone bad because of a heated moment or an out-of-control rant. I’ve given up on people from my past because of their behavior in these moments — or perhaps my own, if I’m willing to admit it. 

But what if you were to be forgiving of a bad moment and give that person a second chance? What if you were to ask forgiveness, to offer some grace? 

Am I holding onto a grudge because of my pride or ego?

Am I thinking, “They need to apologize to me. They wronged me, I didn’t wrong them.”

What if you did do them wrong, but you’re not willing to admit it?

I can think of a few times when I felt I clearly was right and others were wrong, but I’ve realized I was really the problem. It can take a big person to admit that.

Thinking back to some great relationships that ended, do I miss them, or am I being indignant because they made a mistake? 

Is it possible you were the problem?

Is it possible they have changed?

Is it possible you were both having a bad day?

People change, people mature, people grow.

Is it time to plant a new seed?

Who are the first people who come to mind when you think about relationships gone sour?

Who do you feel is being unreasonable with you? Who feels you are being unreasonable with them?

I have a few people I’ve written out of my life who I loved and missed, but who had disappointed me. My ego got in the way of continuing the relationship because I perceived they’d hurt me in some way.

Are you willing to heal wounds, forgive them? Or just try to repair the relationship, not expecting an apology?

It’s spring. Let’s bring new life to old relationships that were once good.

Families should never be divided, no matter what. Families are all we have.

Friendships don’t have to end, and can become stronger by adding a little humility and grace. 

Let go of your pride. Relationships are more important than being right.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Later this week, I’ll be seeing spring from a whole new perspective as we make our way to Japan to experience the cherry blossom season. We’ll be hosting a group of plein air painters to tour and paint Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for almost two weeks. As a result, the next couple of weeks will be “Best of Sunday Coffee.” But if you wish to follow my trip, I’ll be posting on Instagram (@ericrhoads)  and  on Facebook at /ericrhoads.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships2024-03-16T16:01:51-04:00
10 03, 2024

If I Were King of the World


Gray-blue silhouettes of mountains and trees fill my vast view, as fog accumulates like piles of snow, cresting layer after layer of mountains against the pink sky in the distance. The morning is silent, and the mighty scrub oaks are completely still, paused like a dancer at rest once the winds of music stop. 

Being in this empty Texas house alone for a week is a gift. Not because I don’t miss my wife and family, I do, but because silence truly is golden.

I’d returned to Austin a week ago to host my most recent virtual learning event for artists, leaving my wife and daughter to go off on their own for spring break, providing another gift … Mommy-daughter time. 

Pumped Up

I’m feeling invigorated, not only from the high of having helped tens of thousands learn to paint and gain new confidence in themselves, but from thinking time alone with no clanging pots and pans, no barking dogs or barking newscasters. 

How did I choose to fill my free evenings after long, exhausting days?

Play Like No One Is Watching

I played my guitar and sang out loud at the top of my voice, as if no one was watching, because no one was. I then played my grand piano as loudly as I wanted, without fear of disturbing others who couldn’t escape it.

I took an online course on a marketing topic to sharpen my skills so I can offer fresh marketing ideas for artists when teaching at my convention. Then I did the planning homework required.

I read through a few bound editions of The Studio art magazine, published in the 19th century, from my collection of every issue ever produced. 

I painted in my studio, finishing a giant birch tree painting that may be one of the best I’ve ever done, and then debating whether to keep it in my family collection or send it off to one of my galleries. 

I wasted Super Tuesday evening watching the news like a horse race where I already knew which horse would win.

But the best part was thinking time, which is otherwise hard to come by because of my calendar, which tends to move me every few minutes like a chess piece in the game of business. 

Thinking allows me to see into the future, to play out what happens next, to think about where I am versus where I want to be, and how to fill the gap. 

When I Become King

If I were king of the world, I’d require thinking vacations for every person on earth, away from their work and busy work, away from their chores and obligations, and cast into a quiet spot uninterrupted for a week once a year, with no partying, no sleeping in, no going out. Isolated, alone, nothing to fill the time, no internet or media available. Complete disconnection, not filling even an hour a day doom scrolling or e-mail trolling.

It would not matter if they were retired, working, or just starting out. Most of us spend less time thinking about our future and our quality of life than we do on social media every day. 

Within a year of my new world of thinkers, the world would become a better place. People would be happier because they’d be focused on happiness first, which would make them kinder and less self-centered. Their work would be more fulfilling, because they would abandon what doesn’t make them happy in exchange for something that does. And they would be less likely to make money-centric decisions, because money is what people think will buy them happiness, but once you have it, you just want more. 

King Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes (which is filled with incredible practical life and business advice) and said the more you get, the more you want, but it never brings happiness because happiness isn’t defined by things. 

How much time are you spending on yourself, planning your life?

How much time are you wasting on social media?

This week I learned I can place a limit on my social media use on my phone, after realizing I wasted four hours scrolling the other day when I could have been productive. So now I have a 15-minute limit.

What if, for today only, for just one hour, you go somewhere quiet. No media, no phone, no music. Just a quiet spot. And ask yourself…

Am I as happy as I could be? If not, what would change that?

What have I not yet done that I’ve always wanted to do?

Start asking a lot of questions. Make a list of questions before you head to that quiet space, and then don’t just rely on the first three answers you get. Dig deep for 10 answers. Don’t operate on autopilot, use your brain.

If you do it right, that one hour will make you want to spend more time, until you figure it out. It might take a lot of time.

We are creatures of habit. We often run like robots acting out a computer program. But how much original thought do we have when it comes to the quality of our life experience?

Life is like a rocket. A massive amount of thrust pushes you into the air at 4,000 miles an hour. The flight is short, then it’s over. Time escapes like air from the Titanic. Then time runs out.

Ask yourself, if I died tomorrow, what are the things I’ve been meaning to get around to doing that I never got done?

Why have you not done them? Chances are it’s time, money, or fear. 

Why are those things still on your list? Do you really want them, or are you clinging to something from your past you THOUGHT you wanted to do but no longer really want? Of course, if these things are still important to you, why wait one more day? 

Life Is Over Fast

Sometimes life seems meaningless. It’s here and gone. What you do with it might not matter to anyone but you and your family. Why bother at all? I think we were given this rocket ride, and our responsibility is to spend that time creating experiences. 

What is your main purpose in life?

Will you feel OK if you never check that box?

In business I learned an important lesson the hard way. Do your homework up front. Study and be prepared. Yet in life we just kinda show up and don’t really prepare for it, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do … living well, living with purpose.

I used to spend more time reading the instructions to put an Ikea table together than I spent on my life, and the result wasn’t very good. No one taught us this important lesson, to think about and implement a life plan. Yeah, maybe we went to college to become a professional something, but how is that working out for you? 

Are you living your dream, or working to help someone else live theirs?

Give it some thought.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Giant thanks to all the people who joined me from 20 countries and 48 states this week. I love serving you. I’ll see you all next year or at the next event, which is our Plein Air Convention.

PS2: Soon I’ll be blasting off for Japan. I probably will run some repeats while I’m gone, but I’ll be posting pictures. If you do not already follow me on Instagram, please do @ericrhoads.

If I Were King of the World2024-03-10T08:50:49-04:00
3 03, 2024

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!


Each morning, as the sun blasts through our east-facing window, I’m treated to a colorful sunrise over the water, with the silhouettes of palm trees. It’s better than any alarm; it tends to get me up a little earlier than normal, and boosts my dopamine immediately. 

Upon waking, I walk out to the deck of our bedroom just to take in the beauty of the morning, marveling over the sun sparkling on the water, the warm breeze, the foggy blue distant islands, and the warm air kissing my skin. I’m feeling inspired. 

The Hunt for Inspiration

One of the reasons I travel so much is because I’m always on the hunt for beauty and inspiration. To me there is nothing quite as wonderful as getting out of my comfort zone, walking on cobblestone streets, changing foreign money, eating local and regional foods, and being unable to understand the language fully. It’s not only a vacation, it’s a mental break and a chance to feel invigorated. 

Last October, after our annual fall Fine Art Trip, I was totally inspired. Though this is a collectors’ trip, visiting lots of museums behind the scenes, artist studios, and collector homes, in my free time I always sneak away to paint en plein air, even if it’s after dinner and late at night under the streetlights. 

Inspired by Artwork

It’s hard to imagine this because so few in the world have ever experienced it, but I’ve been in the Prado, one of the most important and busiest museums in the world, having it all to myself and my small group, and no one else in the building. 

I can walk up to important paintings with no crowds and no pressure to move, and study them in depth. In one case, after seeing every painting in the museum, I kept returning to this one painting, over and over again. It captivated me, and I kept seeing more depth in it as I studied it. And after taking dozens of close-up photos, I’ll return home and try to copy parts of it as a learning experience. 

I gain tremendous inspiration from gazing at endless artworks by the world’s great masters in top museums. 

The Gift of Travel

I feel extremely blessed that I get to travel as much as I do. In just a couple of weeks, I’m leading a group to paint cherry blossoms in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan. Then in May I’ll be painting at the Plein Air Convention in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in June at my painters’ retreat in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, where I’ll spend my summer. Then I’ll host another Fine Art Trip in Europe (to be announced soon), and my Fall Color Week retreat in Monterey and Carmel this year. 

Gasping for Air

An important lesson was bestowed upon me by living the life of an entrepreneur, never able to come up for air, spending months on end working from sunrise till midnight, and then experiencing levels of burnout, depression, and lost relationships. Something had to change.

Sometimes it takes a kick in the teeth to stop bad behavior and reinvent yourself. The new me, I told myself, was not going to work weekends again, was going to travel to Europe at least once a year, and travel to paint with friends. 

The life of a workaholic is a dead end street, no matter what the books tell you. Life isn’t about working, it’s about living. Work becomes about providing enough fun tickets to live the life you dream of. It took me a couple of decades to shed my bad habits, my bad moods, and my work addiction to start living life.

Are You a Living Zombie?

Sometimes we feel like the walking dead … commuting to work, putting in the required hours or late nights, being workaholics, involved in endless projects and mind-numbing meetings that seem like Groundhog Day.

Are You  Burning Out?

Burnout and being stuck happens across all jobs and industries. It seems like we’re working hard to support our families, yet our families wish they could see us more, even if it means having less. It’s a trap too many of us fall into, convincing ourselves we’re “doing it for the family.” One friend recently said his wife told him, “If you think you’re doing this for the family, think again. If this continues, there will be no family for you to come home to.” 

So how do we break out?

Start with what you hate. While most people tell you to focus on goals, goals are of no value if you have to do things that make you miserable. Make a list of the non-negotiables, then start building a plan to unwind all the things you no longer want to do.

Instead of goals, make your dream list. “If I had all the money and time in the world, and no restrictions, what would I do?”

Do that. 

Even if it takes 10 years to figure out how. If you don’t do it, you’ll continue to burn out. But if you have a plan and know you’re working your way to freedom from the things you hate and toward the things you love, you’ll have hope. Hope with an action plan removes burnout.

Near Death

A near-death experience gave me instant clarity, from which I made my list, set my dreams in motion, and found a way to do them.

Be There

Science has a lot of recent research that says when you imagine yourself IN something, you find a way to become it. If you constantly tell yourself you’re miserable … you’re IN misery. If your brain is living your dream, it will find a way.

I could not afford to go to Europe once a year. My brain found a way once I started making that part of who I am.

BE where you want to be. Don’t tell yourself, “Someday I’m gonna.” Tell yourself you are there. 

Sometimes being delusional is the best thing to motivate your brain to find a way to climb out of a bad hole.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Tonight I’ll board a big bird and fly home to Austin, where I’ll be hosting PleinAir Live all week. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year because I see so many lives transformed. You are joining me, right? Be a DO IT NOW person, and you’ll move closer to your dreams.  

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!2024-03-02T14:39:48-05:00