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15 04, 2018

The Hard Things in Life


An adobe fireplace is warming me on this chilly morning as I sit in my room, smelling burning mesquite wood, hearing the crackling embers, and staring sleepy-eyed at the brown adobe walls, the dark, carved wooden doors, and photos of Native Americans in ceremonial clothing.

Quietly swinging open the doors to my balcony, I wrap a colorful Native American blanket over my cold shoulders as the brisk air slams my formerly cozy face.

As I sit with my hot, steaming coffee, distant purple mountains are barely visible through the clouds, yet a brilliant peek of reddish orange slips through a gap and suddenly splashes rays across the vast landscape. A chorus of “Hallelujah” would be appropriate to punctuate the moment.

Squinting from the bright sun that now warms my face, I’m treated to a light show of oranges, reds, greens, blues, and purples. It’s no wonder New Mexico is home to thousands of artists.

I’m in Buffalo Thunder, a massive adobe resort built on Pojoaque tribal land just outside Santa Fe for our annual convention of outdoor (plein air) painters.

Vast Desert Land

As I stare out over the vast desert before me, I’m picturing the sea that once covered this land. Perhaps those distant blue mountain peaks were small islands standing out in the sea.


I’m picturing a small green rowboat on the ocean, with one person sitting in it, drifting, no oars in the water. The waves rock the boat, and it could stay at sea for weeks, or capsize, or maybe it will be pushed to a beach at one of the islands or the mainland.

If that boat somehow managed to stay on the water for millions of years, today it would be sitting on the ocean floor, which is now a desert. The only movement would be the blowing tumbleweeds around it.

Stages of Life

I realized these images that came to mind represent momentary stages of our life, just as there have been stages for this land.

An ocean can be vast, yet we drift on top of it, wondering what direction to take, not understanding the opportunity surrounding us. Though the effort of rowing in a vast sea would seem endless and pointless, especially against the moving surf, it is motion and direction that matter.

Sun Beating Down on Us

There are also times we’re sitting in that same boat, but the ocean has become a desert. The sun is beating ruthlessly down on us, there is no shade, no water, yet we continue to sit in the boat out of fear of what might happen if we step out.

We know instinctively that if we sit there too long we will die of exposure, yet we sit, in hopes someone will come along and rescue us — when the mere act of stepping out of the boat could save us. Though we may not know the direction to go, our chances of survival may increase by our mere movement. There may be a river flowing just over the next hill.

Why Rowing Matters

A wise mentor once called me out for being a boat adrift on the ocean — no rudder, no movement, no direction, just hoping something would come along.

“A boat adrift may drift forever, or it may crash on the rocks. A boat in motion will at least take you to a different place with more momentum than a drift, and you may discover a new opportunity. You need to start rowing.”

Fear of Failure

I’ve found myself frozen with fear, like that person unwilling to step out of the boat. There were times so bad, so frightening, that it was easier to curl up into a fetal position and cry out in fear. In those times others would try to get me up, get me in motion, and try to make me face my fears. But I did not want to move.

What May Matter Most

Though it’s taken me decades of my life to discover, it is motion that matters most. Motion is the solution to the drift in a vast ocean, and it’s the way out of the desert.

The Power of Fear

I’ve also realized that fear is necessary to create motion. It’s a natural incentive, if you allow it to motivate you. The fear of dying adrift at sea or stuck in the sand has to be so great that movement happens.

Wise Parenting

When I’m talking to my kids about getting jobs so they can buy cars, I often hear, “But I don’t know what I want to do, Dad.” My reply: “You don’t have to decide the course of the rest of your life, you just need to do something, keep trying different things, and eventually you’ll discover something you’re passionate about.”

Overwhelming Decisions

I remember the pressure of being 12 and thinking I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I had no idea, and it was daunting to think about, yet movement in one area accidentally led me to discover my passion for radio, where I got my first job. That has been a 49-year love affair.

And it was getting in motion that accidentally led me to painting, which has been a 23-year love affair. I would never have predicted that either. Nor would I have guessed that my passions would lead me to create magazines, conferences, etc., in both of these areas.

What about you?

If you happen to be feeling a little adrift or stuck in a desert surrounded by concerns, or maybe purely afraid, just know that pain is part of the process — though it’s not comfortable or fun, and we sometimes wonder “Why did this happen to me?”

Why me?

Sometimes we’re facing things no one should ever have to face, things that are beyond devastating. Keep in mind that this pain, this fear, this uncertainty, will lead you to what’s next, and chances are it will be better than anything you could dream up on your own. The answer to “Why?” is that there are lessons to be learned and opportunities ahead.

One Struggle

When I started my company, I didn’t make enough money to take a paycheck for seven years. My wife and I struggled to make our house payments, we did not have much to live on, and it was not fun saying no to our family needs. It seemed like it would never end. It was the desert. There were times when I was curled up in a ball, not wanting to face work. At one time I owed the IRS $250,000 because I had made a mistake and accumulated years of interest on a small debt. I did not see a way out; there was no money to pay it.

Escaping My Fear

I was devastated, depressed, frightened, and thought it would never end. I spent several days hiding in bed, until one day I awoke, dragged myself in, and started to take action. My fear turned into ideas, which turned to motivation, which turned to working harder than I ever knew I was capable of. I did not file for bankruptcy; I paid off every cent owed, even though it took me 10 years. And I learned important lessons to keep that from happening again. After I would rather have curled up and cried than face it.

Helping Others Through It

If someone you know is facing something right now, they cannot see beyond their current woes. Though you want to lessen their pain and help them, you also need to help them know that this will pass, and they will look back on it as a bump in the road, even if at the moment it feels like a massive, endless roadblock. They don’t need a lecture, they don’t need your pressure, they just need to know that with pain comes healing and resolution. There truly is light coming around the dark earth.

The Giant Weight

Though pain and fear are worse than almost anything, and trying to move may feel like you’re carrying a giant weight on your shoulders that is dragging you to the ground, it’s motion that will pull you through. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” — James 1:2

Motion always wins.

The Apple Falls

In 1692 Isaac Newton developed his Laws of Motion, and they not only apply to science, they apply to life.

“An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it. An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it. An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. If it is at rest, it continues in a state of rest. If an object is moving, it continues to move without turning or changing its speed. Changes in motion must be imposed against the tendency of an object to retain its state of motion.”  — WIkipedia

One Small Step for Man

“To those who are struggling to discern their passion in life, my suggestion is to pick just one good that you’d like to bring into the world and take a step toward it — whether donating your time, your talents, or your financial resources. Choose one, any one, and get started in some small way … you’d never make that discovery without taking a first step. Any step. Because it’s easier to find a vision or identify a passion if you are actively engaged in searching for it.” — Joshua Becker

A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.

“In every regard, a body in motion stays in motion. For every change or discovery we desire to see in ourselves, it begins always with putting ourselves in motion toward it. And then building on the momentum we started.”

Motion will pull you out of a drifting sea or a burning desert.

Is there an area in which you feel stuck, discouraged, frightened? Are you facing something devastating, overwhelming, even life-threatening?

A Way Out of Darkness

Is there one tiny step you can take to create movement? That one step may be tremendously difficult, it may be the hardest thing you ever do, yet if you can take it, there will soon be a second, and a third, then a walk, then a run, and soon, you’ll be out of the darkness.

I certainly don’t ever want to make light of anything you or your family may be facing. I’ve not walked in your shoes. It’s my wish today that perhaps those reading this who are feeling overwhelmed and stuck will consider movement. And I hope you’ll share your story privately with me, and I’ll get in motion by keeping you in my prayers.

Eric Rhoads

The Hard Things in Life2018-04-12T10:19:17+00:00
5 05, 2017

Four Words to Live By


This morning as I sit here on the back porch, I’m watching a mama sparrow bringing food to her babies in a nest tucked into the rafters of our porch. The little birds are learning to fly. I’m watching them hop from the nest to the blades of our ceiling fan and then on to the branches of the stately oaks in the back yard. As they jump, they first fall before they engage their wings, which then propel them to the next branch. If they forget to use their wings, which they do from time to time, they hit the ground, then shake it off, hop to a branch, and start over. Birds learn like we all learn. Trial and error.

Young Sparrows Floundering

Watching these young sparrows, I think back to my own jumping from the nest, forgetting to use my wings, and crashing to the ground. My mistakes were often catastrophic, and there were times when I didn’t think I could get up again and shake it off. Yet, once the feeling of being stunned by failure faded, I found new energy somewhere deep inside and got the guts to try flying once again.

Decades to Learn Important Lessons

Unlike sparrows, we humans often take decades to learn important lessons. For me, it took that long to learn the most important principle of business and life, which completely changed how I do everything. It involves four little words, which, if sought out, will transform you.

What if I told you that four words could make a difference in your life, your career, and how you approach the ways you offer your product or service? What if I told you that it’s something you’ve probably heard, but ignored?

Looking back, I’d also heard this. It seemed too easy, and it never really gelled for decades. But since I started doing it, I’ve seen my life completely changed.

A Rude Awakening

It started exactly five years ago, when my radio magazine, Radio Ink, celebrated its 20th anniversary. It was bittersweet. I loved that we had survived 20 years, but looking back, I had not achieved what I had wanted to achieve. I had not hit my goals. I felt as though I had only gotten one year of experience — 20 times.

I was faced with a decision. Keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing and risk the next 20 years being equally unproductive, or make some changes in my life and my approach.
The easy thing would have been to remain comfortable and not mess with the status quo. But I knew in my heart that something had to change. I was not someone who wanted to “coast.”

Misplaced Arrogance

My wife suggested I attend a Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership course she had heard about on the radio. My first reaction: “What can they teach me? After all, I’ve been a CEO for more than two decades.” Then I realized how arrogant that statement was. So I attended.

At the event I learned a lot of new things, and I was reminded of some core principles I had forgotten.

A Spirit of Generosity

But the most important thing I took home was when Dave Ramsey said, “Operate your business with a spirit of generosity. Don’t be the kind of business that only takes. Instead, find out how generous you can be, and live it with everything you do.”

When I made this switch in my head and communicated it to my team, everything started to change.

Additionally, over the last five years I’ve attended probably a dozen or more training events, and I’ve joined two different mastermind groups with other business owners where we share information. The common theme among them all? Everything you do should be about changing the world and making people’s lives better.

Changing Lives

So we started making everything we do about changing lives and making lives better. It gave us a much bigger mission and something we could all get excited about.

We also picked a charity and started giving a part of our profits to that charity every year, which helped us have a common purpose beyond what we were doing for our readers, advertisers, and clients. I’m not one who wants to flaunt charitable giving to enhance our corporate image, but I will say that our giving has helped a lot of people less fortunate than ourselves.

Our entire focus has been on giving generously.

Recently, at the Plein Air Convention in San Diego, I encountered hundreds of people who told us that we’ve changed their lives because of the things we’ve done to help people discover painting, help them learn to be better painters, and help them market their paintings.

When you hear the words “You’ve changed my life,” you know your mission is on the right road.

Those are the four words to live by … and live for.

Living to Hear “You Changed My Life”

I live to hear those words, and I strive to make everything I do change lives, whether it’s education through our magazines, or opportunity through our painting retreats, or helping people discover painting and refine their skills through our videos or conventions.

If everything you do can impact others in a positive way and they tell you, “You’ve changed my life,” you’ve done more than create a business or an enterprise or an ideal life. You’ve had an impact that can be lasting.

The principle works. When you put the needs of others first, and you generously live to serve others, you will hear these golden words that are a sign that you’re on the right path.

Thanks for sharing coffee with me this morning. Your mission for this week? Stop and think about what you do that can change lives. Stop and think about the feedback you’ve received and the moments people have said, “You changed my life.”

Healing Paintings

My friend Charles H. White once told me of a woman who bought a painting of his to look at all day from bed while she was dealing with chemo treatments. She told him that his painting got her through it, gave her hope, and helped her see a better tomorrow.

Your paintings, too, can change lives, whether brightening a day or transporting the viewer to a special place or memory. Or you can teach others to do it. After all, learning to paint reduces stress and allows us to forget the rough spots in our lives for the hours we’re at the easel.

I hope you have a great Sunday and a fabulous week. Remember to try making everything about others this week.

Four Words to Live By2017-11-21T10:10:50+00:00