Branches dipped in ice decorate this heavily treed rural property like a winter wonderland Christmas card. Tall, crystalized weeds shine like thousands of sequins on a New Year’s Eve dress. Like dancing lace, crystals reflect the dim gray light.
Sheets of ice transform my deck into a skating rink, and there are thunderous cracks as overloaded branches fall to the ground, wreaking havoc, destroying dozens of trees, and turning my yard into a war zone of fallen wooden soldiers. This freak winter ice storm will soon pass, but weeks will be needed to remove the splintered wood and thousands of downed branches.
Frozen in Time
Sometimes we, like the branches, become frozen in time, the crystals of stability and success holding us back. Then suddenly, the crack, as the weight breaks off our branches, leaving us exposed and broken.
Nature is a beautiful thing.
Stability and predictability are cozy, comfortable, and easy, but there is deep value in being broken, though we fear the unknown.
Never in our prayers for needs to be met, for life to be stable and easy, do we think about what comes next.
Rarely do we pray for discomfort, conflict, pain, or change. Yet these are the jewels of a rich life.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2)
The unbearable pain of a breakup, though it may feel unending, often leads to the true love of your life.
The failure of a job or a business forces a sudden left turn, taking us down a better road.
Change is usually forced upon us. Rarely do we initiate it, break what isn’t broken, or give up on something that’s producing income.
But boredom is the mother of reinvention.
A friend, a successful surgeon, tells me he once loved his job, but after decades of repeating the same routine daily, he wants to drop out and become a full-time artist. But he believes it’s irresponsible to give up his healthy income for something less secure and still unproven.
Then one of three things happens … his time runs out, and his dreams are never realized.
His job suddenly ends, and he is forced to make a decision.
Or he breaks what’s broken and reinvents, and possibly ends up happier.
Another friend, also a surgeon, said, “Enough. I’m going for it.” Not clinging to his degrees, his time invested, and his massive income, he said, “I’m not guaranteed to make it to retirement. I’m doing it now.”
It took guts, but I’ve never seen anyone happier or more fulfilled. My other friend whines about being trapped, but it’s self-imprisonment.
Breaking What’s Not Broken
My friend John, a radio station owner in my hometown, had the number one-rated station in town. But his gut said changes were needed, so he changed format and became bigger than before with the change. Had he been wrong, he would have destroyed his income.
Another friend hasn’t changed a thing in two decades but wonders why things are not as good as they used to be.
The bumpy road, where you cannot see over the next hill, versus the well-paved highway. Which is for you?
Stability and security has its perks, as does venturing into the unknown. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad. Safety is a good choice, but those who skydive say they never felt so alive.
Jumping out of a plane or diving off the sides of buildings isn’t in my DNA. There is risk of life, or there is risk of discomfort. Risk of death versus risk to steady income.
A Visit from Phil
Earlier last week we speculated about whether some all-knowing animal would stick his head out of a hole, declaring whether winter would continue. I’m not big on superstitions. Why stay in your hole when you could enjoy the winter? And what if, thinking he had plenty of time left, he never came out of the hole again?
If I were to ask you… “If there was one thing you’ve always wanted to do in your life but never got done, what would it be?” The first thing that comes to mind might be worth revealing to yourself and exploring.
Time for Your Closeup, Mr. Rhoads
For me, I had a childhood dream of being a film actor. I told myself I’d start a business so I’d not have to wait tables between gigs. And I never pursued it, other than beating out 150 people for one of three roles in a student film in San Francisco.
Acting is on my list, but I’ve done nothing about it. Why?
I tell myself if it was really still important to me, I’d be working toward it. But if I ask my subconscious, “If there was a reason I’ve never pursued film acting, what would it be?” the answer I get is that I fear I won’t succeed and that I’ll embarrass myself. How silly is that? So I make excuses about not having the time, or that my odds of making it happen are impossible. Yet I don’t even need to quit my job or wait tables. The risk is actually low. So why not go for it? And what if the risk were higher?
What About the 5%?
I find myself living Groundhog Day. I love 95% of the things I do, but there are Sundays when I don’t feel like writing. There are days when I tell my wife I don’t feel like getting on an airplane and that I don’t care if I ever see another hotel room in my life after hundreds of hotel nights. I battle with “I don’t want to do this again, but if I don’t, I won’t have the income.”
The Shiny Object Guy
I think boredom and repetition are the reason I’ve started so many businesses and products. Success magazine called me the “king of shiny objects,” and I don’t think it was a compliment. Yet it’s served me well. It would probably be better for my business to focus deeply on one thing rather than doing dozens of things. But how fun would that be?
There are four groups of people in my world, plus one God. There is me, my family, customers, and my employees. If I serve just one of the five, I’m out of balance. Yet if I’m not happy, my family, customers, and employees will never be properly served. If I’m in a job I do not treasure most days, who am I serving well? Probably no one.
Risk produces fear, and fear tells you to be cautious. Caution isn’t a formula for a life of adventure and satisfaction. It’s great for some, but not great for most.
What is your Groundhog Day?
Where are you rolling your eyes and repeating something you’d rather not repeat?
What do you need to break that isn’t broken?
The ultimate clarifying question … what if you die today?
What did you miss doing?
What did you want to stop doing?
What are you wasting your days doing?
What do you really want to do?
What’s holding you back?
Chances are you’re being held back by uncertainty, by fear, by strings, by fear of loss, by fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, or fear of the unknown.
Exciting, isn’t it?
Happy belated Groundhog Day.
PS: There was a guy who held events I always wanted to attend. They were expensive and took a big time commitment, so I always told myself, “I’ll do it someday.”
Then the unexpected happened. Rumors of his death circulated, and it turned out he had gone into hospice to die. He was there for more than a year, but instead of dying, he rebounded and came out. And after another year of recovery, he decided to start working again. But he also decided to never do the event again. All he did was consulting, which was even more expensive. `
So I waited and waited and kept telling myself, “One day I’ll do it, but I don’t have the time or money.” I realized I was doing what I’d done before. So finally I did it, and I’m glad I did. Then I asked myself, “Why did I wait? This was so worth it.”
Groundhog Day not only impacts your day-to-day, the attitude permeates everything. What are you not getting around to doing that you’ve always wanted to do?
A woman came up to me at my early-summer retreat in the Adirondacks. She said, “I’ve been wanting to come for 10 years, and I finally made it.” When I asked why she did not come sooner, she said, “There was no good reason. I just told myself I did not have time or money.” Then she said, “Then my husband died. That got my attention, and I decided I could be next and I’d better get this done.”
My team has created a tremendous number of events. They won’t last forever, or I won’t last forever, or you won’t last forever. Others also create cool things. Whatever it is you’ve been putting off, do it now. Today.
My next online event teaches about the plein air (outdoor painting) lifestyle, teaches the techniques of the great living landscape masters, and does not require travel. You can do it from home. It’s coming up in March. www.pleinairlive.com
My in-person convention in Denver does require leaving home, and it’s worth it when you find yourself outside painting with 1,000 other painters and learning from 80 top masters on five stages, and a huge Expo Hall. Don’t put it off. www.pleinairconvention.com
And my next retreat is coming up in June in the amazing Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. I can only take 100 people and I usually sell out early. We paint for a week, we provide all your meals and lodging for one price, and it’s so much fun. www.paintadirondacks.com
This summer, in August, my online conference for pastel will be loads of fun and it’s a chance to learn about something new — or if you are into pastel, it’s a chance to get stronger and learn from top pastel masters. www.pastellive.com
Fall Color Week is about painting brilliant fall color in an incredible landscape. This year it’s returning to the Adirondacks, and we’re staying in a great classic old camp for the last time. It’s another artist retreat I do. www.fallcolorweek.com
In November, it’s Realism Live, where you learn online all about painting portraits and figures, still life and landscape, in different styles from top masters. www.realismlive.com
Yes, it’s Groundhog Day. I love doing these, but at some point, even I will move on to do something else. Take advantage of them while they are available.