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.
If you are sure that is what God wants you to do, don’t be afraid to change course. Commit to loving your Creator with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, with all your MIND, and with all your STRENGTH. Go where he wants you to go – then leave the rest in his hands. You don’t have to make the sun come up in the morning. He can be trusted to help you provide for those he has left in your care. What is the real legacy you want to leave for them? Isn’t it that you loved God, and that he made you able to love them even as much as you loved yourself? (Yeah, God wants you to love yourself, too!) nv
Love your commentary and sage advice. There is much to art and I salute you for bringing the Lord into the equation through Rhods’ Sunday Coffee.
Like many of your followers, I have not taken advantage of your activities. Prior to attending Watercolor Live 23 I just hit the delete button on your email promos. I decided to attend WCL23 to refresh my approaches and to garner what I could to improve or pass along various skills. I teach
WC and drawing through the Folsom, CA Community Center which is operated by the city.
Thank you. I did sign up for WCL24. I plan on taking Plein Air Live 23 and perhaps the Pastel Live 24 and maybe even Realism 23.
Eric – Every time you get up in front of our groups at conventions and the “Live” events, you are doing a little bit of acting. I seem to remember a guy in a robe with a teddy bear. . . lol! For me, jobs and lack of money made it hard to go attend the events. Then I jumped in for Plein Air Live 2 years ago. I loved it and did it again last year, and added the Pastel Live. They are so fun, and I have met many friends from around the world and learned so much to further my art. This year I’m taking a trip to Alaska to finish my bucket list of visiting all 50 states! After this, my plan is to go to a plein air event or competition and/or travel internationally at least once per year, as long as I can afford it! I am working extra jobs now towards that goal, but it is jobs I love, so it’s an enjoyable day.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Eric! For once again bringing an eye-opening, straight to the heart Sunday Coffee! This Sunday May very well become, “Soul Searching Sunday” for many. – it certainly is for me. I appreciate your time and consideration of others to share your experiences and insight – wisdom. Thank you ever so much!
So well stated, all of it.
I pray for energy to attend 2 of these
Thank you for the invigorating message today.
I have been to 4 national conferences and loved everyone and everything
You must carry on Eric
I first met you many years ago in old Lyme ,ct. and you placed a note book on a table and said, if anyone wants a magazine on plein air painting sign up and I was the first to say yes
Thank you so much Eric for this wakeup call. I’m definitely in that category of needing to break what’s not broken. I have a very good-paying high level IT job with a very strong company and the comfort/lifestyle is my ball in chain or as I like to call it golden cage. After losing my daughter to suicide last year, my world has turned upside down and I ask myself what am I doing with my life?! As you mention we don’t have unlimited time and it can be taken at any moment. The reality however is that finances keep us in a world where we keep telling ourselves, oh I just need a couple more years to pay this off or that. Comes down to planning the great leap and having a strategy for multiple revenue streams besides the art till your art career gets some wind under it’s wings.
Thank you for your wisdom, insight and knowledge that you share so generously to your audience. I appreciate and look forward to your weekly posts.
I am a breast cancer survivor. After that life changing event, I now live much more in the moment and hardly ever hold back with what I desire to do most.
Have a great coming week Eric! …And I hope to see you on Facebook at a new Art School Live this coming week.
Certainly a thought provoking read! Life is beautiful and hard and short! I am coming to Denver in May with my very best friend- yes we’ve both been putting it off for too long. She is an accomplished artist, I am a beginner, but the time is right and we are thrilled to have made the commitment to our friendship and art!
See you soon!
Good Stuff Eric.
You are a giver and a doer. Don’t listen to people saying you follow shiny objects. Verbage like that is from the mouths of arrogance. You have ideas, wonderful ideas and they have reached many many people, helped them, moved them, provided for them and advanced them. Not many people can say that. Arrogant self centered minds certainly can not. I discovered you during the pandemic and you have taken this little old groundhog by the hand and gently nudged the fear out of her. I appreciate all that you have done for me, what I have observed what you have done for the entire art community and it is incredible and generous and needed. YOU and your chosen team have done this. Everybody gets something out of everything and I’m sure your efforts have rewarded your needs as well. Bravo! Balance for everyone is key in life. Create and maintain yours as well. The art world needs you, but keep your own balance as well.
Eric, you have no idea how much your words blessed me this morning, thank you so much!
I live in rural SC and I have long admired the many ways you keep art alive. I have purchased several videos (most of which I’ve never unwrapped. I do have many family obligations but I would say procrastination and fear are at the top of the list.
My forever desire is to be a children’s book author and illustrator. To write stories that forever change their view of God’s world we share.
Thank you so so much for inspiring me to take the necessary steps to publish my stories and the courage to illustrate them. I wanted to be the next Beatrice Potter but you have inspired me to realize Beth Grant is good enough.
God bless you and keep you,