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How, Exactly, Do You See Yourself?

Tiny little bright green buds are peeking their heads out on the bare branches of the giant trees around me, trying to find out if it’s safe to come out for an early spring — mild temperatures are signaling the beginning of spring here in Texas. The old screen door makes a creaky sound amplified by rusty springs, the door slams behind me, and I’m finally back on the long porch that goes the distance of this old Texas farmhouse. Sadly, my neighbor moved and took his cattle, but the view is pretty terrific just the same. 

Spring in the Air

Growing up in the Midwest with cold, snowy winters, spring was always a welcome sight. Spring fever would have us out without coats on a sunny day, even though it was still 30 degrees. We simply could not wait for the arrival of spring. And, like the feeling of a first love, spring is about seeing things through fresh eyes and having something new to look forward to. And about the time we get used to it, we’re looking forward to summer, then fall, and even winter. We’re a fickle bunch, we humans.

When we lived in Florida, we could still get a sense of the seasons because some months were hotter or cooler or rainier, but for the most part we missed the seasons, and would often try to visit other places where we could experience them more deeply.

Seasons of Life

I’m amazed at the perfection of life as it compares to seasons, though we really never know if we’re going to be one of the trees that turns red early or one that stays more colorful while the other trees are bare. Each season is a blessing, and, like the seasons of nature, we need to look forward to and embrace each season of our lives, because each brings new experiences worth embracing. And just like the mud in spring thaw or early swarms of summer mosquitoes, there are parts of a season that may not be to our liking, but challenges always come with the good.

I once met a doctor at a cocktail party who specializes in severe, life-altering diseases. I’ve never forgotten what he told me. “The minute I tell a patient of their cancer, I can pretty much tell if they have a chance of survival by how they react. Though no one ever welcomes the news, if they are challenged and tell themselves they intend to beat it, they have a chance. But the ones who absorb it and look at it as if life is over — they rarely survive.” He told me people who changed their attitude after a few days of processing the bad news usually made it through.

How Do YOU See You?

From time to time someone will ask me for advice about life or business or success, and I always start the discussion with the critical importance of what we place in our minds. Science even supports it. How we see ourselves impacts how our life turns out. If we blame others, if things are always someone else’s fault, things never seem to go as well. If, however, we accept responsibility for how things go, and we align our attitude to our desires, they’ll go much better.

How you see yourself matters most. Experts tell me you need to actually see yourself in the exact role you want to be in. Instead of “I’m gonna” it should be “I am.” After a lifetime of daydreaming, the things I dreamed came true. The things I was a little unsure about did not.

Labels and Boxes

Our society hands us labels and boxes. Earlier today I read a story where the headline said “Elderly Woman” …  and when I read the story, the woman was 50. Clearly the story was written by someone very young. I for one look back on 50 and remember how young I was. And I don’t look at myself as old. In fact, I scold friends who use those terms because I believe they trigger something in your head to make your life start to wind down.

My dad, who turned 94 on Inauguration Day, sometimes scolds me for mentioning his age because to him, age is not relevant. I can remember that when he turned 70, I thought he was old, and silly for starting a new business when everyone else was retired. But alas, when I called him for his birthday, he was talking about yet another business he was going to work on for the next 20-plus years. And, mark my words, he will do it. By the way, he started something new about 10 years ago, works 15-hour days, and it’s thriving. 

Good Genes?

You may say he is lucky to have good genes, but I guess that doesn’t explain other family members with the same or similar genes who checked out early. Maybe luck plays a role, but I suspect it’s the brain that makes that luck happen. A friend told us at 55 that he was preparing for death and winding down because he was getting old. My prediction that he would be dead in five years came true. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but my acquaintance John Kluge, who was at one time the richest man in the world, told me he did not really start making his success till he was over 70. “My friends all gave up and retired. I kept pitching and became a billionaire.”

A Year to Live

Clearly there are circumstances beyond our control. There can be bad luck, but how you play the cards you are dealt matters. My friend Glen tells me his wife was given a year to live and he was determined to help her beat that, so he quit his job, became a student of healing, and she is alive and healthy 16 years later. He refused to accept the status quo. He refused to accept what they were told. He sought and found alternatives.

You can be young and in spring and tell yourself you’re too old to do something, or you can be in winter and tell yourself you’ve got decades left. And, if you manage your thinking, accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives, you can make it happen.

Remember, whatever you think … you’re right.

Where is your head?

What lies are you buying that don’t have to be true?

What are you telling yourself is about to happen?

What are you telling yourself that will happen?

If we were taught how to push out the negatives, focus on the positives, and see ourselves in the places we want to be, our world would be a different place.

You and I can’t change the minds of others, we can only change our own minds. And perhaps, when others see what’s possible, they too will change. 

It starts with you.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Next week is a big one! We are conducting the world’s largest art conference, called Watercolor Live. Join us, it’s a lot of fun. We have over 38 countries attending and at this point almost 1,700 people. We even have a Beginner’s Day. Check it out at WatercolorLive.com. (Price increase is tonight at midnight. You can save $300.)
By |2021-01-22T16:00:02-05:00January 24th, 2021|Weekly Sunday Coffee|32 Comments

The Opposite of Dread

Fog covers the windows as I glance out at the porch. Condensation from the frigid air conditioning trying to keep up against oppressive heat has replaced the fog and cool mornings on the Adirondack lake.

Slamming my face as I walk out to the porch, the heat is like the blast of getting too close to a pizza oven, bearable for only a brief moment before my roasting occurs. Yet I make my way to the wicker couch to look out over the vast rough weeds, now brown as toast, and the twisting cedar trees, which thrive on the heat.

Briefly, I can feel the heat against my bare legs as I sit on the red cushions. It’s soothing in a way, like a heating pad on my sore muscles from being cramped inside an airplane.

A Fresh Start

Being back in Austin is comforting because it’s home, yet I always pine for my lakefront summers and wish they would never end. “Be careful what you wish for,” people would say, and today, the return home is followed by a week of driving our triplets off to three different colleges to plug them into a new life on campus, and the start of their independence from their caregivers. This is, after all, the week we’ve dreaded for 18 years, first seeming like it would never come, and then seeing it speed by too fast. 

Dread is a strong word. I’ve dreaded the empty house, the lack of chaos, the activities, the friends in and out, the birthday parties (how can we deal with birthdays at three colleges in three cities this February?), and the laugher, the lessons, the hurts, and the challenges of parenting.

The Goodness

Yet looking forward is the opposite of dread. Knowing I won’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. to make breakfast, won’t have to wait up for 11 p.m. curfews, won’t be needing to put up with as much testosterone-driven drama, and won’t have to find someone to take care of the kids if we want to slip away on an impromptu trip. 

Though I’m predicting tears, I’m also predicting celebration that we’ve accomplished our goal of raising three very fine humans and hopefully given them enough lessons to ground them for the rest of their lives. 

Looking back, I realize I’ve wasted far too much energy on dreading things in my future when I should have found a way to look forward to them, or at least be prepared to process them.

Dreading Death

As a child, and through much of my life, I dreaded the moment I’d lose my parents. I was always afraid I would lose my mom or my dad. It started when I was a child, then into my teens, young adulthood, and now even into the beginnings of my years of wisdom. (I don’t use the words “getting old” because I refuse to train my subconscious mind to respond.) I knew it would devastate me. Yet when my mom passed, it was enormously painful, but I was not disabled by my grief. Maybe it is because we had some time knowing her heart disease would eventually take her, or maybe because she lived to 93 and was not cheated out of life early, and did not suffer through years of treatments or the pain so many experience. And of course my belief in Heaven. My outlook allowed me to step back, look at the experience, and separate myself from my grief. Maybe being stoic, or toughing it out, was my way of dealing with it.

I can remember asking my dad about this years ago, when his mother or father passed, and seeing that he did not appear disabled with grief. And I can recall him telling me he had deep grief, but he was not going to let it destroy him. It’s when I realized we can have command over our emotions if we prepare ourselves.

Controlled Chaos

And, though I was deeply emotional when Brady, my son, had his heart attack last January 20, I remember thinking that I could not let that fear destroy my ability to think and make decisions, because I needed to be composed enough to help the family get through such a difficult patch. Maybe I was stoic, appearing unemotional, though I cried as well. Yet once I looked at myself, I was able to flick a switch to get through it without being disabled emotionally.

Maybe a therapist would tell me I was in denial or I was not in touch with my emotions, but I would say I was very much in touch with them and chose to not allow them to prevent me from making adult decisions. And though I was clearly under a dark cloud, I did not allow the rain.

What do you dread? 
How will you choose to deal with that dread?


I’ve had a lot of time to process what’s about to happen, and I would not miss it for the world. Passing the baton to our kids, giving them a new education and independence, is something I cherish. Though we will be sad with their absence, and will miss their being with us in person, they are a text away and in good hands. We have to turn this over to God because we can no longer control their every move.

Train the Brain

Though our minds control our physiology, we control our minds by training ourselves to look at things through a different lens and, when possible, reprocessing our thoughts to work for us rather than against us. Now the key, at least for me, is to ask myself WHY I dread something, and is there a way I can instead find a way to filter things to look forward to them?

My friend Stewart Slocknick did this with the news of his terminal cancer. Though he dreaded the idea of treatments, he told me he looked forward to getting beyond them and did not want to delay. He taught me how one dies with dignity and hope.

We cannot get back the hours we’ve lost to fretting, worry, and dread. All we can do is make adjustments to our filters for future events. It takes some getting used to, but now that I understand it, it sure makes tough patches a lot easier.

Fear not.
Dread not.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This week on my noon ET daily “broadcast” on YouTube and Facebook, I got into a discussion with an artist about the idea of natural talent versus learned skill. Our conclusion was that natural talent is more a result of tenacity and perseverance (working harder) than others, which makes us accomplish difficult tasks earlier than most, which is then perceived as natural talent. 

I find it fascinating that we think brain surgeons, lawyers, professionals of all kinds, need years of training — yet for some reason, we think artists are born with talent. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

If you happen to be one of those people who has stared at a painting or a drawing and always told yourself that you don’t have it in you, you’re telling yourself a lie. You have it in you, but you have to develop it and put in the time and instruction to bring it out. Painting as a hobby will bring a lifetime of joy and loads of emotional benefits. All you need to do is take action and apply yourself, just as you do in every other area of your life where you gain traction.

I’ve got a rare opportunity, worth taking some time off for … or at least allocating time to watch replays nights or weekends. It’s called Realism Live, and I’ve been gathering the top, cream-of-the-crop artists to teach for four days online. Plus there is a day for beginners with absolutely no knowledge or skill where we’ll hold your hand and teach you enough that you’ll feel like you made enough progress to continue your journey.

I can’t make you take action. Only you can do that. But I can point out that your mind is playing tricks on you if you think you can’t draw a stick figure. It’s true, you can’t — until we show you how. And keep showing you simple exercises to make the impossible possible to you.

You can come up with more excuses, but when are you going to have a chance like this? Plus you’ll be part of a community, you’ll have support and encouragement, and we’ll expose you to concepts that will change your life forever … because you’ll be taking the first steps to being an artist. Don’t tell yourself it’s not possible. Instead, be curious, and tell yourself it’s worth a try. You have nothing to lose … especially because if you attend Realism Live and, after the end of day one, you don’t think it brings you enough value, let us know. We’ll refund your money and disconnect you from the rest of the event. 

I encourage you to take this rare opportunity to join the world for this first online realism conference. Realism … teaching you how to paint real subjects (not abstract) like landscapes, people, faces, still life, flowers, and more. 

Sign up for only the Beginner’s Day for just $97, or the whole week for a little more. It’s still cheaper than getting on an airplane, buying a ticket to an event, and spending on meals and hotels. 

Early bird savings of $100 expires August 30. The price then increases $100 more. Sign up today at RealismLive.com.

By |2020-08-11T13:48:11-04:00August 16th, 2020|Weekly Sunday Coffee|16 Comments

A Tale of Two Mindsets

Quiet things seem loud in the early morning as everyone sleeps. The creaking of the door as it opens, the slam of the screen door as it closes. Yet I make my way to my special spot in the corner of the old porch on the back of my Texas ranch house.

My neighbors’ cows are scratching their backs on the fence this morning, their tan and brown coats shimmering from the early sun and their long horns catching the light.

The heat is more intense than a sauna, which I suppose is good training for my upcoming trip to Africa. But it will be spring there, so it may not be this hot.

About last week: When Sunday Coffee failed to appear in your mailbox, some of you wrote, wondering where it was. First, all is well, nothing is wrong. I just needed a break. I had flown to Florida and spent the entire week in the long meetings where we plan our year, work on our budgets, and try to dream up new ways to help people discover and live their dreams.

When I travel, I try to make the most of each day so I don’t sit idle in my hotel room (have no fear, I always have paints if I need them). So one night I had a meeting I needed to do in person, one night I visited my 92-year-old mom and my brother, and one night I met with two dear old friends.

Mom’s Cooking

Mom’s dinner was the highlight for a couple of reasons, the first being I just don’t get to see her enough and it’s a red letter day when I do. I am so pleased she is able to live on her own, in her own home. Though I offered to take her and my brother to dinner, she insisted on making it. There is no cooking like Mom’s cooking, and it’s a chance to eat old comfort foods I rarely eat anymore, and a chance to catch up. I thought she was doing great. And it was the first time in years I’ve been with my mom around my birthday, so this was even more special, since it was on the eve of that event.

A Working Birthday

The next morning, on my birthday, my team, which I am so honored and proud to have, had balloons and vegan cupcakes waiting. Of course they then treated me to another day of meetings, and then I drove a couple of hours to a distant airport, boarded a flight, and arrived home about 11 that night.

Forgiveness, Please

I have to admit that hardly anything ever takes the wind out of my sails, but during the week I had not slept well, had picked up a touch of a stomach virus, and I arrived home feeling exhausted — and I awoke exhausted the next day, when I had a schedule full of appointments, and a list of important chores and family things to get done for the weekend. And so on Sunday morning, when I normally awaken early for the quiet and to write, I slept and slept, waking late, just in time to rush to get to church. So please forgive me for missing a Sunday.

From all of this, I picked up a few lessons, one of which is that you can power through something if you need to, no matter how bad you feel. Though I would not say my knife was the sharpest in the drawer during the last couple of days of meetings, when you get involved, you tend to forget about not feeling well.

Second, nothing new: If you don’t sleep well, everything gets out of whack fast. Though we all try hard, sometimes we can’t control what is spinning in our minds or causing us not to sleep.

Grumpy and Out of Character

Third, attitude is everything. It holds us together. I noticed the worse I felt, the worse my attitude became, and I got grumpy and even had a brief moment of poor judgment and lashed out at my team during a meeting over something minor. I later apologized, but I know that you can put a lot of chips in an emotional bank account, and one moment of negativity can wipe out your account with others.

I try to be a great boss (I hate that word) and treat my team with respect, but when a leader fails to lead and becomes a dictator, a team suddenly stops being a team and instead becomes a bunch of people in a job they want to leave. I try to avoid going there, ever. But I’m human, though I should have taken a deep breath instead and not said a word.

An Abusive Boss

I suppose if there was a silver lining to acting that way, is that it got attention because it was so unusual from me. I’ve worked in the past for bosses who yelled all the time, scolded all the time, and after a while it all blends together. It doesn’t stand out as anything different, so their message gets ignored. I once worked for an abusive boss who also threw things — which is how you knew he was really mad. The yelling was so normal that you just assumed he was an unhappy guy whose only way of dealing with things was yelling. Eventually his wife left him because he physically abused her. Sad.

A Reunion of Old Friends

After my first day of meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting with two men I’ve known for probably 30 or more years. One used to work for me, and we’ve remained good friends since he left to start his own business. The other, who used to be a competitor, is someone I always liked. I see the one on occasion at radio industry events, and the other I have not seen in 20 years, so it was a special but alarming treat. Both men are exactly the same age, 71.

A Physical Change

Though I had seen photos on Facebook, when I arrived I was shocked to see one old friend as an old man. When I last saw him, he was vibrant and full of life. Sadly, he looked like death warmed over. He was moving slowly, he kept forgetting things mid-sentence, and though his old personality shone through, his language was defeatist and negative. He had been in the hospital two weeks before, in a coma for two days, almost died, and was talking as if these were his final days. Though we had a great time talking about old times, I was sad and disturbed to see my friend deteriorating.

The Polar Opposite

When the other friend arrived, he was exactly as I remembered him from 20 years before. He had a sparkle in his eye, a big smile on his face, and a spring in his step. He was upbeat, fun to be around, and looked 50 — he was all positive. He talked about all the things he was doing, all the people he was seeing, about some of the projects he was doing to bring in income, and what he was thinking of doing next.

Keep in mind that both of these men used to be the most fun, upbeat, happy-to-be-around people, always filled with jokes, laughter, and with the momentum of a freight train. People wanted to be around them, which is why both had such successful careers.

Yet at this dinner, one was beaten down and running out of life, while the other was upbeat and full of life.

Why Were These Men So Different?

One of the reasons I could not sleep that night is because I was so disturbed by my time with them. Why is it that one was thriving and the other was dying? The thought of losing an old friend was daunting. What could I do to help? What was the difference between the two, who had started out the same, yet one ended up beaten and bruised.

It’s Not About What Happens

It first crossed my mind that life had just beaten one of them down. His business had failed 15 years ago because the market changed, his wife had left him, and his grown child had ended up doing drugs and has spent a life in and out of rehab. This man had served his country in Vietnam, was dealing with PTSD issues that came up later in life, and was on lifetime disability, meaning he could not get a job and make money without losing the security of those benefits.

But as I started thinking about it, the other had also been beaten down. He lost his wife, the love of his life, just two years ago, and he lost his first wife 17 years before. Yet today he is upbeat, vibrant, and even dating a younger woman.

So why the difference?

First, I have to say we cannot always control our health or the things that happen to us. But we can control how we accept or perceive them, and we can take actions toward prevention with diet, attitude, and exercise.

Deep Emotional Dive

But over the years I could see the one friend fall into a deep emotional dive. He just never recovered after his wife left him. He was continually frustrated and beaten down with the problems with his child, and when his business died, he just decided to stop and live the rest of his life on his savings. When he received government disability and an inheritance, he could survive the rest of his life without work.

My perception is that he had no mission in life. He had a lot of time, but was not using it for a bigger purpose. Which may be what contributed to his downward spiral.

I’m not here to judge anyone. I don’t have that right, and we don’t know what someone has gone through until we have walked in their shoes. Nor do I know how I would react if I lost the love of my life and my kids turned to drugs. All I can do is love him, and if he asks, offer my thoughts or opinions.

My Advice, If Asked, Would Be…

If he did ask, I’d probably suggest that being alone with your thoughts all day isn’t a great idea, and that he needs to find a bigger purpose, perhaps volunteer work for some cause, to use the great skills he developed over his life. I’d also recommend something that gets him around people, where he can feel he is contributing to help others, and maybe even a hobby (can you guess which one I would recommend?) where he can do something that challenges him, and be in nature and around other people. Being in a cave is the worst thing you can do when you’re down and depressed.

Be On Guard

I can tell that when I’m not feeling well, my mind starts to go into a downward spiral, and it would be a lot easier to stay in bed. Yet I know if I don’t pull myself up, force myself into getting out there no matter what, I could easily slip into a funk that would get worse with each passing day. I know that when I skip yoga or going to the gym or even talking a walk, my brain stops functioning normally. I don’t feel as good, my outlook isn’t as good, and I start allowing negatives to creep into my life. If I’m not social, and if I have no mission or purpose, things worsen. If you wonder why I stay so busy, it’s because it keeps me healthy, happy, and engaged. We have to be on guard constantly so we don’t get pulled down.

What Is Your Story?

I’ve talked in the past about the stories we tell ourselves, and that sometimes we have to let go of a story and create a new story so the old story no longer controls us. You and I, and everyone we know, has a story, and has had some horrible things happen in their lives. Some absorb it and spiral down, while others get tired of repeating their old story and allowing it to hold them back.

Why Drive Matters

I turned 64 this week. Yet I still feel like I’m 15. I have more ideas than I can execute, and I’m committed to working and not retiring. In fact, I’ll be announcing a major project that will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career, which should keep me busy for decades to come. I’m involved and engaged in the radio and art communities, where I love the people. I travel about 30-plus weeks a year and I’m always out doing something, whether it’s leading a paint group to Africa, which will happen next week, leading a paint group to Canada in early October (join us), leading a group of art collectors and artists on a behind-the-scenes art tour in Italy later in October, leading a convention of figurative artists in November, and meeting the leaders of the radio industry in an event the following week at the Harvard Club in New York.

The Battle in Your Brain

I’m not saying any of this to say, “Hey, look at me.” That’s not really in my DNA anymore, to be insecure and brag. I’m saying it because age is a battle with your mind. We’ve all been so conditioned that 65 is where we hang it up to relax and enjoy life that it’s a signal to some that the work life is over and the fun is just beginning. Yet I’ve always operated on the idea that it had all better be fun because you never know if you’ll even make it to 65. Sadly, I’ve had lots of friends along the way who passed far too young. What matters is that their lives were rich and full and fun during the time they had.

Watch Your Words

I’ve talked about this before, but seeing evidence in a side-by-side comparison has really made me take notice. Though some are blessed with good health and good genes, it’s the mindset that contributes to the outcome, and there are studies to support that. Therefore I’m constantly pushing things out of my head, telling myself it’s not like me to think that. And my prayers are often about pushing things out of my head that should not be there. I intentionally never refer to getting old, because I don’t believe I am. Yet I have friends who started saying they were getting old at 45 — and ended up dying young. Coincidence? Hard to really know. But words matter, and there are certain things I never say to myself, like “I’m getting old,” “I’m dying,” “This is killing me.”

So what about you?

It doesn’t matter your age. What stories are you telling yourself that give a message to your subconscious mind? The longer I live, the more I see evidence that the subconscious mind is responding to the messages we implant there.

Are the repetitive thoughts and stories you tell yourself hurting you or telling your body to shut down? Though some will read this, laugh, and say it’s utter nonsense, it’s what I believe to be true.

What, At My Age?

Recently when I was approached about this major project (sorry, you’ll need to wait a year to find out), the first thought that came to mind was, “Should I be starting something like this at my age?” As I caught myself, I pushed it out of my head and told myself, “Of course I should. I’ve never been more ready, my mind has never been sharper, and it’s the perfect time.”

Our brain’s subconscious mechanisms default to negatives to protect us. Our conscious mind is the only thing that can overcome these negative defaults.

You Choose What Wins

Will and attitude win. I’ve watched it over decades of my young life. You and I have a choice, no matter what our circumstances. If you choose life, choose to make the best of your current circumstances, no matter how dire they may seem. Choose to be an example of how to live, or even how to die.

You may find fault in this idea, and I honor you and your thoughts. This works for me. And one day someone may say, “It didn’t work for him after all.” But I’m not going to live a story that the government decides for me because they think 65 is when I should stop. You and I should not live the stories others set for us. We should live the stories we set for ourselves.

Don’t Accept Bad Advice

The choice is life or death, living or dying, thriving or existing, active or inactive. We don’t have to accept our circumstances; we can try like mad to change them. A year ago I was in agony, in so much pain I could barely stand. My doctor told me I needed to live with it and accept it. I went to a different doctor. I worked hard for a year experimenting with different solutions, and I’ve been pain-free for the past three or four months. Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up.” I say never, ever believe something just because someone else believes it.

Not Giving Power to the Wrong Thoughts

Today is a good day to have a chat with yourself about what you believe and how you want to change your story. I can tell you that if you repeat your new story enough, your old story will fade. Don’t give it power over you. You get to choose how you perceive your situation. You get to choose how you can change it or what you believe about it. You deserve the best. You still have time to change the world, to make an impact or impression on others, and to make the remaining days or years the best they can be. It lies within you. Wake it up.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: You can interact with coffee in the comments section of CoffeeWithEric.com (just scroll to the end of any post and join the conversation). That’s also where you can point others to sign up (or you can of course forward these to them). I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you place them there, others can see them too. Or you can respond privately. I try to respond to every single e-mail.

By |2018-09-06T08:05:06-04:00September 9th, 2018|Weekly Sunday Coffee|53 Comments

Are You Killing Yourself Unknowingly?

I feel like one of the luckiest men alive.

I knew and spent time with my grandparents as an adult and had all four for many years into adulthood. Three out of four lived into their mid-90s, which is a strong indicator of good genes.

I’m also blessed to have both of my parents, and they remain active, mentally alert, and very engaged. In fact, my dad flew out to the Plein Air Convention by himself and hung out with us for a couple of days before he went on a photo expedition. He wanted to see what his kid does for a living and be supportive. I’ve got a great dad and mom who support me.

Of course I tell my triplets, age 15, that I fully intend to be in their lives for many decades to come because I want to know their great-grandchildren…

Which brings me to something I spoke about on stage at the Plein Air Convention. It’s about aging.

Time Is Running Out…

I often tell the story of a relative who in his late 50s started talking about how he was “getting old” and needed to start the process of planning, because he would not be around long.

Perhaps he was half-joking, but I remember telling my wife, “He’s right. If he keeps talking about getting old, he won’t last long.”

As it turned out, he passed away soon after.

You see, our subconscious mind has triggers; they trigger our bodies to react to what we’re telling the brain. Our body is getting one of two signals: the signal to live or the signal to die.

The body takes those signals and produces what it needs to live, or to begin the process of deterioration. There are “signals” that impact life … our thinking, our level of exercise, our diets, our social lives, and our mental engagement.

I don’t even like to utter or type the words “I’m getting old” because I’m very protective about not putting this thought into my head to trigger negative action in my subconscious mind. If I do, it’s only as an example, and then I make a conscious effort to tell myself, “That’s unlike me to think that way.”

Though you and I don’t know when our end will come, I think it’s important to manage our thoughts and feed the right triggers, so that no matter our chronological age, we don’t trigger ourselves into a dying mode.

You Have to Train Your Brain

Instead of saying those words when I have a cranky back or a pain, I don’t utter anything age-related. Instead, I simply tell myself, “I need to fix the problem.” I then work very hard at not accepting physical limitations. After all, they may be age-related, but are usually caused by the lack of something else, usually proper diet or proper exercise.

Two years ago I popped a disc in my back when doing a stretch at the gym. It was painful, and it slowed me down. I refused surgery and kept going to professionals until I found some who told me there were other ways to address the issue. As a result, I went through a lot of chiropractic, rolfing, acupuncture, a little yoga, and even some new forms of deep tissue work, along with stretches and exercises to build scar tissue.

The problem is 100 percent solved, the disc is back in place, and the back is stable. Had I accepted the diagnosis of surgery first, or one doctor telling me, “It’s just part of getting old, you’ll need to learn to live with it,” I would not be where I am today.

There I go, talking about my health…

Have you noticed that often this is the topic when older people gather? My dad said, “I need to find younger friends, because the older ones only want to talk about their health.”

You Become What You Think About

What you talk about, what you spend your time on, is what feeds your mind. I try to avoid talking about my health, and I try to change the subject when friends start sharing their aches.

Frequently I scold people for using “getting old” kinds of phrases. The other day I scolded a nationally known speaker who teaches positive thinking. He did not even realize he was doing it.

In Art Marketing Boot Camp at the recent Plein Air Convention, I did a segment on building “the ultimate retirement” business as an artist because I hear from so many people who want to ramp up their art careers fast after they retire from their lifelong career. Many ask if there is time.

My answer is that you should assume you have unlimited amounts of time. The key is being engaged mentally, socially, and physically. Don’t place limits on yourself about how much time you have left. Assume you have a lot, because you can hold a paintbrush till your last breath.

Five Will Get You Fifty

Five years ago I read an article that said if you can live just 10 more years, there is a strong chance you could live 50 more years. The reality is that technology is rapidly changing. In fact, some billionaires are working on 3D-printing human tissue into new hearts and say they will eventually be able to 3D-print a full human body with perfect health.

They also say they have transferred a brain from one mouse to another, so a mouse who has learned a maze can have that information moved to the other mouse — without surgery. What they are saying is, if they can combine brain-transfer tech with 3D body printing, you could, in theory, live as long as you want to. Perhaps you’ll find it controversial, but I think it just might help me know my great-great-great-grandchildren and play volleyball with them.

I’m Not Insensitive

Look, I know there are true and real issues, like illness and injuries, that many of you face. I was approached by a woman at the convention who was living through horrific chemo treatments and was not yet out of the woods. I don’t in any way mean to make light of the situations you or your family or friends may be going through.

But I also don’t entirely trust traditional MDs. I’ve read about a lot of new technology in use today for various issues that my own doctor is not even aware of. Though there is a lot of untrue stuff selling hope on the Internet, there is also a chance to research and find legit solutions. New things take time to be adopted, and many MDs want to be cautious and make sure the science supports it.

Boundless Energy

People ask me where my energy comes from, because I tend to walk fast, get up early and stay up late, and manage to crush through a lot of work and some very long convention or painting event days at things like my Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks or Fall Color Week or my Russian Art Tour.

Frankly, I used to fall asleep in my chair after dinner every night and I lacked energy. Switching to a vegan diet, eliminating all grains from my life, and juicing greens every morning have a lot to do with my energy. I also see a nutritionist every year to adjust my supplements. Oh, I still see my MD, and I make sure I get my key vitals and heart checked frequently. Plus I’m at the gym an hour every weekday, doing weights and cardio. But I don’t want you to think for a second that I’m pushing this on you. Everyone has to find what works for them.

So Much to Do, So Little Time

I may be proven wrong in all of this, but at least I’m fooling myself into thinking I can play a role in extending my life. After all, there is much to be done, and I’ll need a lot of time to do everything I want to do.

Many of you reading this are of an age where you need to reconsider your thought patterns and the behavior that supports your energy level and health. Chances are a lot of things your MD says cannot be reversed can be reversed.

Others are a long way from it, but it’s best to understand it now so that you’ll be ready when you do face it.

Hello … You’re Dead

I’m big on watching what I put into my mind. My friend Kaye and I were on the phone one day and she was telling me about caring for a friend of ours who is dying of cancer. She said, “I’m not sure how much longer I can take this. I work a full day in my company and then I work hours on his care. This is killing me. “

I stopped her and said, “Kaye, for your own benefit, please don’t use the words, ‘This is killing me.’ Your subconscious will pick up on that.’

She then scolded me for telling her about this positive-thinking BS.

Kaye died the next day.

Do not feed your mind things that trigger dying. Feed your mind to trigger life … long, healthy life.

It may sound like positive-thinking BS, but there is a lot of recent evidence to support it.

Most importantly, ask yourself what you believe and what you’re telling yourself and if it’s supporting what you need to get done before your time comes.

A friend of mine asks himself every year, “What am I doing that is not supporting my ability to live a strong, healthy, long life?” Whatever he comes up with, he quits.

He quit smoking.
He quit eating meat.
He quit eating dairy.
He quit sitting around and started taking walks.
He quit gluten.

Forgive me if I’m preaching. I only want the best for you.

Your mission for this week?

  • Maybe ask yourself what you’re doing that does not support your longevity.
  • Catch yourself. Every time you make an OPR (Old Person’s Reference), set off a mental buzzer and say, “That’s unlike me to think that.” And please stop uttering words like, “I’m getting old,” or “I’m old.” Old is a relative term, and with the new technology today, you might not even be halfway there.
  • Be careful about other mind-altering words, like, “I can’t take this anymore. This is killing me.”

Have a great week. Thanks for sharing coffee with me this morning.

By |2017-11-17T15:56:53-05:00May 14th, 2017|Weekly Sunday Coffee|608 Comments

Are Your Pipes Bursting?

Birds are tweeting after a week of agony from coming this far north a little too early. Piles of melting snow and ice remain after our rare arctic blast this past week, which has been one for the record books here in Austin. We were fortunate and never lost power, and even then, with the furnace trying to keep up, it was cold in the house and we had frozen and burst pipes. But hope is showing its face with some warming sun this morning. 

It’s been a difficult week, where 4 million were without power for three or more days, freezing in their own homes, and it will be a big loss for insurance companies and a gain for plumbers who will come in from every state. We’ve put in our request because of those burst pipes. 

This week is a reminder of the old Scout motto … be prepared. A last-minute trip to the grocery found the shelves bare, and the city issued a boil-water order to those of us who still had water after those burst pipes. Thankfully, we had what we needed.

Be Prepared

Some of us will forget it all three days into the sunshine, but others, like me, will take some actions now to be ready for the next time. Freezing inside a home for a week can be avoided, and maybe some pipes can be insulated and a backup generator installed. It seems frivolous, but it won’t feel that way when it’s needed. 

I regret not anticipating this storm and being more prepared, but I was also thinking about regrets in life and work.

If I look back on my life to date, I don’t have a lot of regrets. But I’ve thought of a few. And most of them have to do with poor communication. 

Fights, Arguments, and Stubbornness

Looking back, I see that if I had taken the time to listen, and been less anxious to react, I could have saved a lot of wasted energy in arguments, fights, or just being stubborn. Almost all of the things that occurred were prompted because I was quick to judge.

Count to 10

As a child I was coached, “Count to 10 before you react.” It was great advice. As an adult, a counselor once said, “Just say, ‘This isn’t a good time. I need a little time to process this and I’ll get back to you in an hour,’ or ‘tomorrow.’” What great advice … but you do have to come back and deal with it. 

Kids are a great test of our patience, and our instant reactions are often hasty and overblown. “Let’s talk about this tonight” is a great way to let the anger subside, the emotions reduce, and the steam bleed out of the old pressure cooker.

Think about your own life and the ugly “That’s not like me” reactions.

And think about intent … and how much you care for the person. Is the reaction worth the pain it will cause? Do we really need to teach a lesson or make a point?

Exploding Pressure

Pipes freeze and the water expands, exerting pressure on the pipes. If you can’t relieve the pressure, you have broken pipes and you’re without water for days. Just like relationships. You get angry, you freeze up or overreact, and the relationship is damaged. Sometimes it’s a small, easily repairable crack, other times the pipes are broken in multiple places and healing is difficult. And sometimes we get stubborn, and we distance ourselves.

We’re Not Talking

I remember a sad moment when an acquaintance told me he had been estranged from his father and had not spoken to him for 18 years. I asked what his father had done that had been so horrible, and as he started to tell me, he realized that, whatever it was, it wasn’t so bad after all. The emotion had gone away, but the stubbornness had not. I suggested maybe he should reconnect with his dad. But he said, “I’m not over it yet.” I think he was in love with the idea of being right. Three weeks later his dad had passed, and he seriously regretted his decision. The moment someone dies, much of the baggage goes away, but then we can’t go back to resolve things.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

I think people like that think they are punishing a parent or a friend by not seeing them, but the punishment is a self-inflicted wound too. When we have unresolved anger, it comes out in other ways, impacting our kids, our families, our work, and our health. It’s not good for anyone and accomplishes nothing.

I am always curious when I hear of people estranged over anger, and rarely does the crime equal the punishment. Yes, there are crimes that do require distance to avoid pain or abuse, but disagreements or hurt feelings do not seem to me to be reasons for not speaking. 

I had a distant family member who was not speaking to her dad and mom because she was convinced by her husband that she had been wronged by being expected to help raise her younger siblings. Once the husband was gone, the healing began, and she reconnected and had a few good years with her parents. 

I have a buddy whose daughter isn’t speaking to him, does not show up for family events, and only calls when she needs money, which of course he gives her in hopes it will heal things. She is angry over the way she was raised. He and his wife are not sure what that means. It breaks his heart. What she may not realize is that the estrangement is probably disrupting her life and relationships more than she knows.

Overreacting

Sadly, I have dissolved business relationships in anger over an e-mail when I should have picked up the phone. And sometimes I’ve picked up the phone too soon and said something I regretted. Just this week I almost destroyed a relationship by overreacting to an e-mail from someone, but once we talked, I realized I had misread intent. 

So my best advice…

  1. Don’t hit send in anger. Count to 10 … or 1,000 if necessary.
  2. Don’t pick up the phone in anger.
  3. Find out the INTENT before reacting.
  4. Wait till all the emotion has dissipated, and then do your best to address it head on, with a listening ear.
  5. Check your mood. Are you reacting badly to something because something else has irritated you?
  6. Give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume they have bad intentions. 
  7. Take a breath and ask yourself, “Will my reaction make things better or worse?”
  8. Listen before reacting.
  9. Apologize as soon as you realize you acted badly.
  10. There is rarely a good reason to disconnect from someone in anger. Almost all things can be healed. Estrangements are bad for everyone, but worst for you.
  11. There is no shame in seeking professional help, especially if you keep getting stuck.

I was not raised in a perfect household. I never heard my parents argue. Ever. I’m not sure that was a good thing, but I’m guessing it was a rule my parents implemented. What might have been better is to hear that arguing is part of life, and finding a resolution to arguments is a lesson we all need. I did not get that, therefore I overreacted unfairly to criticism until I learned. 

Solid Advice

But I was also raised to put myself in someone else’s shoes before I judge them, and to turn the other cheek and not seek revenge when someone wrongs me. Both have served me well.

There would be no disagreements, no wars, no major issues, if we would just talk without reacting. We would not puff up and allow our egos to become offended and need to prove our dominance.

What can you do to improve your communication?

What can you do to heal wounds?

Where do you need to listen without reacting or responding?

Who do you need to call today?

Don’t be like the frozen and cracked pipes. Relieve the pressure before it builds. Never go to bed angry. Face it, no matter how hard it is. And if something bothers you, get it off your chest in a loving way. If not, it will always come out, but only after building up to the point of explosion.

If we all worked on these issues, we would all be happier. It starts with me.

Eric Rhoads

P.S. This past Tuesday our triplets turned 19. Our daughter was home, but the boys were stuck at school with the storm. It was the first time in their history they were not together as one and at home with the family on their birthday. I’m very proud of all three and think they handled it well.

We desperately wanted to give Grace a cake, but we did not have all the supplies, so I went out in the snow-covered streets, made my way to the only open place in town (7-Eleven), which took me about 45 minutes to get to, only to find out they did not have most of what we needed. But I made it back alive, and Laurie managed to scratch together a birthday cake with no icing. It worked out, we celebrated, and the goal was accomplished. It was a red-letter day.

Last week was tough because we had to cancel our big artists’ convention (the Plein Air Convention) due to the pandemic. We determined it was just not practical to try to do it by May. And since this is our primary income for the year, we announced an alternative … PleinAir Live, our virtual art conference, to be held a second time, with all new speakers, this April. You’ll learn a lot and grow even if you don’t see yourself as an outdoor painter. I hope you’ll explore it.

We also had such a success with Watercolor Live, we’re doing it again. Though we don’t have our faculty together yet, we’ll make it world class. And signing up now is the lowest overall price. We already have 800 people signed up. We’re excited, thank you. 

We hope these things will help us get through the pandemic until we can return to normal, and we’ll probably keep these events alive even after that for the people who can’t leave home to attend things in person.

By |2021-02-18T10:56:23-05:00February 21st, 2021|Weekly Sunday Coffee|44 Comments

Suspending Belief

A blanket of quiet has covered the sky, which is dropping flakes of white powder softly on the ground. The branches are sagging with the extra weight, and the creaking tree limbs are decorated in white lace. Our yard has become a magical winter wonderland.

Last Sunday was such a day, when this normally temperate part of Texas was coated in snow. Soon after I wrote to you, we started out with rain, which was quickly transformed to little balls of sleet, and then the sky opened up with sheets of snow. Three inches rapidly accumulated, and I did what any self-respecting child would do. I started a snowball fight with the kids upon arrival at the church parking lot, and when I got home, I went painting in the snow. How fun!!

When it snows here, once every two or three years, it takes us by surprise. It’s simply something we don’t expect. Writers often talk about “suspending disbelief” when watching or reading a work of fiction. But sometimes we have to suspend what we’ve believed and accept what is. 

Life can be filled with moments of suspended belief.

Words I Did Not Expect

As a child, I never heard my parents swear. And if someone would have told me they sometimes did, I would never have believed them. It was something we did not do. Yet one day, when I was about 13, we were on our little boat docked at Lake Erie. My dad was on the floor with the engine all torn apart, trying to get it to work again. Suddenly, I see him struggling with getting a nut off, trying to turn the wrench with all his weight behind it. Crack! The wrench slipped, pinched his fingers, and he shouted “Dammit!”

I was mortified. 

I had heard other kids say their parents swore, but mine never did, and I had just witnessed it. I did not know how to handle it. I can remember being very uncomfortable. I never said a word to anyone about it, as if I was holding a big dirty secret. And for the record, I don’t think I ever heard him swear again. Ever. All I could do was accept what I did not want to believe. 

There’s a Name for It

The term is “cognitive dissonance” — when we hold one belief and suddenly have evidence that our belief was wrong. It’s a conflict between what we hold on to and what we now know. And people often try to minimize those feelings of conflict, refusing to recognize them and even avoiding new information. In my case, I was embarrassed, ashamed, and feeling a little guilty.

Have you ever experienced it?

Jolted in Disbelief

One time I was sitting in my office when my trusted colleague, who ran accounting, came in and sat down. “I need to talk to you,” he said. He went on to tell me that in his former job, he did something he thought was legal that turned out not to be. He told me he was giving his two-week notice because he was heading to prison for a year. 

At that moment, my beliefs were suspended. I had known this guy for a couple of years. He was straight as an arrow, a nice man, and totally trustworthy. He was an integral part of my team. Suddenly, I had to deal with what he told me, and I could not believe it. Of all things, the man running my accounting was going to jail for something he did at another company. How could it be? Did he steal from me? How could I be so blind? At first I thought it was a prank. I really struggled with it and felt betrayed and confused.

Have you ever thought one thing about a person, only to find out something unbelievable?

Beyond Belief

When living in Salt Lake, our offices shared the floor with two other businesses and we got very acquainted with our neighbors. One day the police came in and dragged one of our neighbors out. This nice, quiet, friendly guy, it turns out, had been kidnapping and killing children and burying them in his yard. We were all horrified because our own kids had been around from time to time. He was one of the people we said hello to every day. He came to our parties. Again, I had to suspend my own beliefs. I was sure the police had to be wrong, and the court would find out it was someone else. But the evidence was strong, and he was convicted.

Letting Go

One of the most difficult things any of us can face is needing to let go of our beliefs when they are no longer right. Human nature is to hold on to and defend them, and when someone brings us absolute proof that we were wrong, we often continue to fight for what we believe, or, at least, we struggle with accepting the change. We want proof. And when we see proof we were wrong, we are often skeptical (which is generally a good thing). Maybe we think someone made it up, edited it, Photoshopped it, etc.

Suspending belief is like a roller coaster ride. It can be difficult, or it can be a fun show to watch and experience and one of the best parts about our personal growth. 

Life has been filled with surprises where I’ve had to adjust my belief systems. People were often not what or who they said they were. Technology that wasn’t possible became possible. People I believed to be solid turned out to be disturbing. 

Getting Uncomfortable

If you ever want to have an uncomfortable day, write down everything you believe and don’t believe in your life. What you believe about the people you believe in. And don’t forget the people or things you don’t believe in.

Then ask yourself, in each case, why you believe what you do. “What was my original source? Is my belief still valid?” (Something like a simple online search might reveal new science.)

It’s also good to ask yourself, “Do I believe it because I want it to be true?

Chicken or Egg

For me, eggs are a great example. I don’t eat them, because my lifelong belief is that they are filled with fat and cholesterol. But that has been disproven. Turns out eggs are a good fat we need, and though they do have cholesterol, it’s not dangerous in moderation. Yet I still tend to cling to that past belief because I held it so long. It’s intellectually foolish but emotionally comforting.

Evidence

Just because you think something is true isn’t evidence enough. Maybe it even used to be true, but no longer is. Maybe the voices we’ve trusted to tell us the truth (teachers, preachers, parents, friends, books, TV, radio, social media, celebrities) just keep saying things, either because they still believe them and never bothered to find out for themselves, or they are holding on to old information that has changed.

Thinking Ahead

Five years ago my dad said to me, “What would happen if you could never hold any in-person events again? Could your business withstand it?” I told him that could never happen. Yet with COVID, it did. I had to suspend my beliefs and adopt new ones to survive.

What about you? What are you believing? 

Are your beliefs serving you, or would different beliefs serve you better?

How have 2020 and early 2021 changed your beliefs?

What are you clinging to because you want to believe it?

What do you believe that is no longer true?

Try, if you can, to suspend your beliefs about everything. 

Don’t accept the word of anyone else. Question every expert.

And if you find you’ve been believing something that is wrong, don’t beat up on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.

Find out for yourself. Be curious. It will serve you well.

Eric Rhoads

PS: As strange as this may sound, I was never a big believer in watercolor. I suppose because it’s something we all did when we were kids. But then I saw the watercolor work of John Singer Sargent, I had to suspend my beliefs. In the past few years, I’ve been taking some watercolors with me in my carry-on bag so I can paint on business trips if I have time to kill. But, I’ve failed miserably. I was believing I simply could not do it.
But, once I started putting together our virtual watercolor conference, Watercolor Live, I’ve committed to getting good for those times when watercolor is my best option. I’m excited because, for the first time in history, we’ve put the world’s finest on our virtual stage to teach. It’s pretty special and I’m excited.
If you want to try watercolor, we have a beginners’ day. Or you can stay for all four days. And if you don’t love it by the end of your first day, you can get a full refund. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you sign up this week before Inauguration Day, you can save $300. Visit WatercolorLive.com.
By |2021-01-15T16:24:29-05:00January 17th, 2021|Weekly Sunday Coffee|27 Comments