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17 09, 2023

Finding Your Gift


A gentle rain drizzles upon the lake. There’s a foggy silhouette of pine trees in the distance, getting bluer and whiter the farther away they become. Close up, majestic pines surround my screen in the octagon-shaped lakefront porch, with dark lace-like branches and needles obscuring the view. Just the way I like it, nestled in and safe like a warm blanket, while the sound of droplets landing on the water tickles my ears. 

Visitors tell us our little porch is very special because it darts right out to the edge of the lake. Inside, the ornate woodwork on the peaked ceiling is something builders tell me could not be replaced today because there are few craftspeople who would know how. The diamond-paned windows were handmade, along with the house and porch, in 1894.

Doing It By Hand

I try to imagine building this house at a time when there were no power tools, sourcing logs from this boat-access-only property and carving them into a masterpiece. The house was built by some young man who was trained by his father, a master woodworker who was trained by his father. A chain of training over generations. 

Why, then, is there no one who can do what they did today? 

The modern world offers other distractions. People have more choices than to continue a family tradition of woodworking. And parents often want something different for their kids, to let them avoid the hard labor on cold and icy days or up on a roof in intense heat. Instead, their children become college-educated and chase their own passions. 

The Cycle of Life

Perhaps in the past, one generation and then the next knew hard work was part of the requirement for survival. But at some point, that changed. Each generation now tends to look ahead and hope to prevent their kids from having the hard life or difficult upbringing they had to endure. Soon, we got softer and softer, to the point where our kids didn’t experience the harsh discipline of our parents. Another generation later, there is less and less discipline, less and less carrying on of family gifts, and soon the kids are cowering in corners, not wanting to work because they believe they should be taken care of and their feelings never wounded. 

Then, once everyone is soft, the cycle perhaps reverses and kids don’t want to be lazy like their parents, so they return to the land to live off the grid, to grow their own food, build their own homes, and even refuse to use modern power tools. Suddenly what was uncool becomes romanticized. And in another 25 years, their offspring will have the skills I can’t find today, 

But I digress. 

“Do What I Did”

I’ve heard many stories of parents trying to discourage their misguided kids from pursuing a passion. Doctors want their kids to be doctors, yet the kids don’t want to repeat their parents’ life of late-night hospital calls and Thanksgiving dinners disrupted to deliver babies. They often don’t see the passion Mom or Dad found in medicine; they see only the hard stuff. 

Multi-Generational Gifts

On the other hand, in my lifetime I’ve encountered many people with multi-generational gifts. Imagine how good you can be when you learn something from your mom or dad, who learned from your grandparents and great-grandparents. The gift is perfected as each becomes better than the teacher. 

Still, so many of us look at what Mom or Dad do, and we don’t want to follow in their footsteps.

Not Sexy

That was me. My dad wanted my brothers and me to carry on in his metals business, but none of us had any interest. The more he pushed, the more we went in the opposite direction. He provided well for us, but what he did wasn’t sexy in our eyes. For me, it wasn’t as appealing as the lure of something I was interested in.

In hindsight, I did follow my father’s and grandfather’s path. Both came up with business ideas and built them. I have zero fear of starting businesses because I watched my dad start so many. I just applied the gifts he passed on to my own passions. 

How about you? What did you experience, or what are you experiencing now?

Being You

When my kids’ friends were at our house, I’d ask them what they wanted to do with their lives. One kid told me his parents were insisting he become a doctor like they are, but he wanted to become an entrepreneur. Another doesn’t want to become an engineer like his father and is only going to engineering school because his parents won’t cover college otherwise. He has a different passion and is miserable living his father’s dream instead of his own. Perhaps the parents know best, knowing that once their kids get the education and maturity they will find that they love having the same career. 

I tell them all: Follow your passion. You don’t have to do what your parents want you to do. But don’t ignore what they are offering, because they know things about it that you don’t. At least consider it. But ultimately, this is your life, not theirs.

Stuck in Chains

I also tell these young people never to stay in a career because they were forced into it. Once I interviewed a young lady and asked why she would leave a high-paying job as a lawyer for a much lower-paying editor’s job. She told me her third-generation-lawyer parents insisted she be the fourth generation. They pushed her through law school. Upon graduation she discovered she was miserable in her job and could not identify with being a lawyer. After giving it a couple of years, she became intensely depressed because she was not following her passion. So I hired her because she had the courage to follow her own path.

God has given us each a passion and a gift. It’s our responsibility to listen to our hearts and follow that passion, then develop our gifts to become the best we can be. 

Passion Isn’t Forever

But passions last a lifetime for some and a season for others. I’ve always had a passion for being an entrepreneur. I told myself I would never work on something I don’t love. My rule is that if I wake up and hate going to work more than 50 percent of the time, it’s time for a change. If I lose my passion, or become more passionate about something else, I’ll move on. 

Everyone has a gift. If you have not found it yet, you will. Others may point out your gifts because sometimes you don’t see them yourself. So listen carefully when someone offers encouragement or tells you that you seem to be really good at something. 

What do you love?

What are you really good at that you can’t get enough of?

What do you think about night and day?

If it’s good, if it’s ethical, explore it.

If you are desperately trying to find it but aren’t sure what it is, try a lot of things, including things that seem uninteresting. Volunteer, work in different jobs, take courses online even though you might tell yourself you don’t have what it takes.

You CANNOT Do This

When I first considered the thought of learning to paint, my critical mind told me I could not even draw a circle. I rejected the idea that I could someday become an artist and be proud to show my art to others. I foolishly believed that talent was a requirement. Yet I never believed good doctors or nurses were born with medical knowledge. They had to learn it, knowing it would be hard. Once I realized I did not need talent, I only needed to be taught, I started learning. It was hard. But it was always fun, and I’m happy and passionate about doing it. 

Whatever you discover that you’re passionate about…

You have what it takes. 

You can really do anything you can envision. 

You simply have to find what you love, find someone who can teach you, and override the negative voices in your head. 

Being Seasonal

There are also seasonal gifts. If you have a lifetime of experience, you can put it to use in new ways, teaching others, helping them find their gifts, or discovering entirely new things. I believe no one should live at any time without pursuing a gift and passion. I’ve never been a fan of retirement. Perhaps one day it will appeal to me, but the key to any retirement is to find something to be passionate about. Being sedentary is not a viable option. If you’re breathing, you have a purpose.

I once asked a man what he was passionate about. He told me he hated his job and could not wait to retire. I asked what his hobbies were. He had none. “What will you do when you retire?” I asked. He had no idea, but he hated work so much that he just wanted out.

Don’t let that be you.

Don’t let that be your loved ones.

Don’t waste a single day more as a slave to a job you hate. Or at least know that when you get off work each day, you’re looking forward to your passion. 

A life well lived is a life filled with passion. Find your gifts and live them.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week at a dinner party I showed a painting I had just finished to the woman sitting beside me. She stared, and she talked about it for a long time. Her compliments were gushing, not the typical polite words. Then she said, “I’ve gone to a paint-and-sip several times, but my paintings are awful. I know I could never do something like this.” Of course I went into my speech about how anyone can do it, all they have to do is find the right teacher, the right technique, and find time to practice. Yet I could not convince her. She was stuck on the idea that she could never do it. I promised her a lesson to prove to her that she could.

If it’s painting you don’t believe you can learn, take my free online course at www.paintbynote.com. I believe I can teach anyone to paint. Then get my video The Easiest Way in the World to Learn Painting if you want to go to a higher level. You can do this.

Or attend Realism Live this November. It’s all online, features 25+ top masters teaching, and it’s a game-changer. 

Finding Your Gift2023-09-16T15:02:16-04:00
10 09, 2023

What Are You Not Hearing?


I’m chuckling to myself as I sit here baking in the summer sun. This summer we had record rain and cool temperatures, with exactly five total “sunny warm lake days.” Now that all the lake residents are gone, summer has finally arrived. The best is about to come as fall color begins to peek out of the green forests. I’m getting ready for a glorious fall. Soon I’ll experience color so vibrant it makes my eyes hurt and the crunch of leaves under my feet, the smells of apple cider and fields of pumpkins. Fall is my favorite time here in the Adirondacks.

Fresh Eyes

I love seeing things through the eyes of others, especially fresh eyes. This week I’ve had an artist visiting from Australia (Colley Whisson) who had no previous knowledge of the area, its beauty, and its unique architecture. I loved the wonder in his eyes seeing the area for the first time, as he often points out things I no longer notice. 

Things Leap Out

Any time we can walk in the perspective of others, we see things we can change or correct, and it helps us appreciate what we have. If I have a guest, I notice that I need to paint a door, fix a hinge, clean a spot on a rug that I don’t see when I look at these things every day. And all too often we take things, and people, for granted, because we’re used to them. When they are gone, we experience regrets for not enjoying our time with them to the fullest.

Sudden Fear

Last night the phone rang with a call from a family member who never calls, who is the partner of another family member. In the second before taking the call, our minds jumped to awful conclusions. Is someone sick or worse? We sunk in our seats in fear, only to find out the call was a followup on something completely unrelated. We were relieved. Then the thought crossed my mind that maybe we should be in contact more, see one another more. 

What can you and I do to live more fully, to appreciate those we love more, and to make sure we are giving them our time and attention while we can?

My dad used to remind us not to be critical of someone because “you’ve never walked in their moccasins.” What can we be doing to be more sensitive to the needs and issues others are facing, without being told? What can we do to step up and help others in these moments?

What are others trying to tell us that we’re not hearing?

Not Hearing

Recently I experienced something very personal with a family member who did not know how to share feelings, so we had no idea this person was hurting. I read the situation as weakness, immaturity, when in fact, I could not have been more wrong. Thankfully, it was discovered, so I could pay proper attention to the needs of the person. 

Now that I know … how did I not see it? 

I’m not one to live in regret; I’m one who lives with the consequences of my actions. But I do regret not being more attentive at times, not hearing when I thought I was listening, and ignoring the gnawing feeling that I needed to spend more time with someone, telling myself, “I’ll do it some other time,” only to discover later that time had run out.

Dumped and Depressed

I flash back to younger days when I had been dumped by the woman I loved, who had fallen in love with another man. I went to work every day, I saw people in social situations, but I was screaming on the inside, hoping someone would see something and ask, and give me someone to talk to. Yet no one did. I spilled a lot of tears and never experienced such heartache. I had to deal with it all alone, and it took me a long time. And I avoided relationships for years because I did not want to suffer like that ever again. It made me feel in control to avoid future pain. 

How would things have changed if someone had listened a little more carefully, looked in my eyes to see that I wasn’t fine when I said everything was OK? 

Someone in your life needs you right now, but there is a chance you’re not hearing them. Maybe they are in too much pain to ask for help, or too embarrassed. Someone needs you to see through their eyes. Maybe they’ve even said something, but you sloughed it off as whining or neediness. 

If the eyes are the window to the soul, how much are we paying attention? What are we missing that someone is hoping we’ll ask about? What do we fear from asking questions that show we deeply care? 

We can’t walk in the shoes of others, we can’t feel what they are feeling, but we can be there for them. Let’s you and I spend this week listening more carefully. Listen with your heart and your eyes. Don’t be in a hurry. Doing so may make a major difference in someone’s life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes I feel like I need to duck every time someone sends an e-mail. Like you, I get more e-mail than I want and I become numb to it. It’s a pattern of “click and delete,” and doing it over and over.

This week I was about to delete another e-mail from someone whose name I did not recognize, assuming it was spam. But it was from a reader who shared some personal things about how Sunday Coffee has helped. This makes it all worthwhile. I can’t share details, but everyone loves to hear about the meaning they have provided. Be sure to go out of your way to share with others what they mean to you. Make a habit of doing it daily. 

It’s gonna be a busy fall. I have a big online webinar coming up soon (watch for it), then Fall Color Week (sold out), then the Fine Art Trip behind the scenes in Stockholm and Madrid (there are still a couple of seats), and then Realism Live, our online art conference with top masters. And our Japan painting trip in March is getting closer. Though it’s sold out, we’ve been working on getting more seats and we think we can probably squeeze a couple more in, so get on the waiting list. 

Live life. Don’t buy fear. Treat yourself to great things. You deserve it. 

What Are You Not Hearing?2023-09-08T18:05:39-04:00
3 09, 2023

Worried About Worry


As I walk out of my cozy waterfront cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks, the old screen door slams behind me. It’s a sound that brings back memories from childhood. Entering the kitchen, the smell of coffee brewing seduces me to pour a cup of my own. I then walk across the creaky wooden floors to the old screened-in octagon-shaped porch overlooking the water and plop myself down in the same wicker chair as generations before me. 

There is little as soothing as the water, the movement of pine forests swaying in the distance, and the occasional canoe passing by. It’s where I sit in the mornings to follow my morning routine, and where we sit in the evenings to catch up on one another’s day. 

Farewell to Summer

Summer, here on the lake, ends tomorrow, when most residents return home. Overnight, things will get silent and a boat will be a rare sight for the few remaining stragglers who stay on to experience the fall colors, which are beyond spectacular. Our final event will be a gathering of lake residents to hand out sailing trophies and say farewell till next year. 


People post about all the things they are doing, the places they are experiencing or visiting, often making us wish our life was like theirs. But it’s a game, not reality. Other than an occasional family or pet death, social media provides only a glimpse, just the things we want people to know. Few offer a look at the harder aspects of life, and experts say depression is often driven by the perfection that others appear to be living.  

Each day offers something that can throw us off our game, rock our world, and create disappointment and fears. How we manage those things determines our level of happiness. If we allow worry and fear to consume us, we make life harder. 

Wise Words

Emerson said this: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

Look back just one year. What consumed you? Is that problem still consuming you? It could be, if it’s fighting a long-term illness. But are you still worried about the things you were obsessed with then? Did the worst happen? Did you survive it? Or was it less terrible than you anticipated?

The World Is Falling Apart

Recently I was talking to a person who is seriously uptight about the world today and how things are so much worse than they should be, thinking that our country is falling apart. Though I can certainly understand the perspective based on some things in the media, I recently ran across an e-mail from the same person 10 years ago, saying the same things. None of the things he mentioned as being the end of the world actually happened. I reminded him of this and his response was, “It’s different this time.” I realized he might be looking for problems.

Feeding the Worry Beast

Where we spend our time impacts our state of mind. If I watch the news or spend too much time on some kinds of social media, I can easily get worked up. So I bury my head in the sand and don’t ever watch news on TV. And I’ve deleted most of my negative friends who use social media to get others worked up. I consider it a form of protection, to keep my head in a good place. And if I can’t change things, why worry?

I’ve found that if you stay in the present, and acknowledge your feelings without judgment, you can become resilient against worry. And if something is bothering me more than normal, I know my tendency is to overthink it. By staying in the present, I tend not to get absorbed by “what if?” scenarios.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The other day someone was sharing some worry with me, and I started fact-checking: “Is this true?” We all tend to tell ourselves stories. Ask yourself how true your concerns are and if there is evidence to back them up. We tend to start with the thing that is happening and move on to “If x continues, y will happen.” But that’s rarely the case, so be careful about projecting. 

I like to ask, “Will this matter next week? Or in six months, or six years?” In most cases, I find myself putting off my worries.  

Big Reasons to Worry

I’m not entirely worry-free. There have been moments I thought I would lose my business and go bankrupt. And I ruminated on the “what if?” scenarios, curled up into a fetal position with worry, and became useless. My nerves were raw. The non-emotional side of me told myself that I would make the problem bigger if I lay in bed worrying, and that action and clear thinking were what I needed. So I went to my studio, painted for an hour, my stress melted, and then I was able to snap back to being more normal. I also find that if I’m stressed, a workout will shift me from worry to confidence. 

You Need Eight No Matter What

The worst thing is losing sleep, lying in bed and worrying, because sleep is what we need to operate optimally. So I’ll get up, make a list of everything on my mind, then go down the list one at a time and say, “Can I do anything about this tonight, right now?” If I can’t, I skip over it, or if I can, I’ll fire off an e-mail or whatever I can do. This gives me peace and allows me to sleep.

A Life of Waste

I look back on the days when I used to worry and realize that I caused myself unnecessary stress, probably knocking years off my life. And none of it was necessary. 

I’m not sure if it’s time and perspective that reduce my worry, but my attitude today is that I turn all my worry over to God and know that whatever happens, we will get through it. Over time, most things I could worry about, I realized I’ve faced. As a kid I’d worry that I’d lose my dad, yet all of that was wasted energy. I had my dad till he was 94. Though I never looked forward to losing Dad and Mom, I got through it. I’ve watched my son almost not survive multiple cardiac arrests, probably the worst moment of my life. I was seriously bothered, worried, but calmly got through it. I’ve lost employees I never thought we could survive without, but we survived. I’ve had businesses fail. I’ve lost my biggest accounts. I’ve lost love. I even crashed an airplane. In the end, I’ve realized we can get through anything. So why worry?

Are you worried now?

Is there anything you can change now?
Any action you should take to change the outcome?

If not, turn it over to God and give yourself the peace you deserve. You’ll get through it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The other day I went to a cocktail party where I met multiple strangers. When introduced to one, she said, “I love your Sunday Coffee.” This was a person I would never expect to have been exposed to it, which shows the power of forwarding things that you think will speak to others. I don’t know where this stranger got it, but thank you, whoever you are. I stopped keeping track of numbers of subscribers years ago because I don’t want to get hung up on performing for growth. I don’t ever want to be influenced by my ego (which isn’t easy). But it warms my heart to know that something meant enough to you that you decided to share it. 

PS 2: In just under a month I’ll be gathering with 100 artists at my Fall Color Week painters retreat in the Adirondacks. I’ll then drive back to Texas (dogs can’t fly) and then head out for three weeks in Europe, leading our annual art lovers’ trip in Stockholm and Madrid and then taking a week off to play. (There are still a couple of seats at www.finearttrip.com.) Then I return just in time for one of our biggest and most successful online art training events, Realism Live, where we teach all subjects and styles. It’s a must for anyone who wants to paint real things (not abstract). Hope to see you there (www.realismlive.com). 

PS 3: Thanks for all the birthday greetings on social media (@ericrhoads). And I hope you enjoy what’s left of Labor Day Weekend. A final thought. Time travel is real. It seems like just yesterday we were in a new year. You can still crush your 2023 4th quarter if you push hard now. Sometimes you can make 50% or more sales for Christmas. Start planning now, and start working on your 2023 plan so you have ample time to build and implement it.

Worried About Worry2023-09-02T12:14:30-04:00
20 08, 2023

What If the Worst Happens?


My hands were burning as they hit the steering wheel yesterday afternoon after the car had been baking in the 110-degree Texas heat. The ground is dry, and the grass caramel-colored as if slightly scorched. The car is like a visit to a sauna until the air conditioning cools it down. Even the nights are in the upper 90s.

When we moved to Texas, we did so knowing our summers would be spent in the high-altitude cool summers of the Adirondacks. Though it was always hot when we returned to get the kids into school, we never endured the entire summer, and the heat usually ends by late September. But this week I had the pleasure of waking up in the Texas heat because I came back to host my online Pastel Live event.

A Moment of Silence for Maui

I rarely comment on current events, but like you, I’m devastated to hear of the tragedy in Maui, one of the biggest tragedies in our country’s history. And like you, I’m feeling helpless, wishing there was more I could do to help. We’re working with a few art initiatives to help raise money, but somehow it does not seem sufficient.

Threats of Fire 

A couple of weeks ago I received an alert on my phone about record Texas heat and the high risk of wildfires. After seeing a local town wiped out by fire, I take fire very seriously. So I contacted some folks I know in Austin who might be able to step in if we have any warning or notice of fire. 

Making a Plan Before It’s Needed

My dad trained us to understand that if you have to think under pressure and don’t already have a plan, things won’t go as well in the heat of drama and emotion. But if you try to anticipate every situation, perhaps you can recover, or reduce the negative impact. Of course, no one in Maui could anticipate a fire, which is rare, or anticipate that warning sirens were not operating or that the water system would fail, or that people would not be able to escape some neighborhoods. 

What Can You Anticipate?

The first thing crossing my mind isn’t the stuff we can replace, it’s the stuff we can’t. Things with emotional meaning — in my case, an extensive art collection, a collection of portraits other artists have done of me, and piles of paintings that are my life’s work. What would I do if it was all lost?

I created a list of everything that had meaning, then prioritized that list, and handed out instructions. If there is a fire, if there is time, get these items out to safety first. If there is still more time, add these things on the list. 

Zero Notice

My friends in the Malibu fire had five minutes’ notice. They lost everything. That’s the most likely scenario. In that case, you would at least want records of everything — photos, and things stored off site on a server somewhere. I have most of my paintings and collection documented, but the list has not been updated in five years. I would at least want to be able to remember those things or have evidence for insurance.

Five Minutes to Leave

Of course, fire isn’t the only thing to anticipate. My late mother-in-law lived in Germany during WWII and was given five minutes to leave the family home as it was taken over by the Nazis. What would you grab if you had almost no time and it was only what you could carry? The first thing that comes to my mind, other than important papers, are old photos. But I have boxes full I could not carry. I have family members who have a bugout bag by the door, with some clothes, some papers, and a few important things in case they have to go on a moment’s notice. That’s probably a good idea.

A Big Project

Before my dad died, his goal was to digitize every photo he ever took, along with his family historical photos. We can find them all on an online photo site, preserved, hopefully forever. This is a reminder that I need to do that too. 

Becoming Numb

Yesterday I was asked to participate in a project that will take a few months to be ready, to raise money for the victims in Maui. Yet my fear is that we all have short memories, and after things are out of the news cycle, people become numb to the media coverage and we tend to forget. That’s why it’s important to think about your actions, and your life, now. 

What do you need to do to prepare to leave on a moment’s notice?

What will you regret not having, or not having created a digital copy of?

What needs to be documented?

What is your evacuation plan (if you have a little time)?
What should you consider going wrong that maybe you could not easily anticipate?

Most important, of course, is your life and your family. Don’t go into a burning fire and risk your life to save an old photo. It’s not worth the risk. But having a plan in advance is a great idea.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The horrors of Maui are beyond awful. Families need help, and if you have something extra, this is the time to step up and find a charity that will help.

PS 2: Last night we ended Pastel Live. It was well attended, and life-changing for most (myself included). Thank you to everyone who attended! Our next event online is Realism Live in November. 

PS 3: Moments from now, I will board an airplane and head back to the Adirondacks for some cooler air. 

PS 4: My March Japan Cherry Blossom painting trip has sold out, but we created a waitlist in case someone drops out (which just happened). Get on the waitlist, just in case. PleinAirJapan.com

PS5: My Fine Art Trip in October promises to be spectacular, doing the art of Stockholm and Madrid. We do have four seats open still, and you should consider joining us. FineArtTrip.com

What If the Worst Happens?2023-08-18T16:44:33-04:00
13 08, 2023



When something is taken away, or about to go away, we want it more.

After living at the lake since early June, I have to leave the cool weather, high altitude, and beautiful green forests for the excessive temperatures of Texas. I’m clinging to every last moment, sitting here on the dock and filling my lungs with air so pure it cannot be described. 

I close my eyes and listen to the lapping of water against the dock, the wings of eagles as they swoop overhead (yes, you can actually hear them because it’s so quiet here), and the frantic call of the loons to warn their families about the winged threat overhead. 

What’s new becomes routine, barely noticed, until the threat of disappearance. 

The Threat of Loss

This week our little dog Chewy had to “go under” for a necessary but minimal procedure, yet we were warned that there was a slight chance he might not come out of the anesthesia. Though he already gets lots of attention, the night before we were all treating him like we might never see him again. The fear of loss made us pay attention to how meaningful he is to us. He recovered, and he will get more attention than usual for a few days, till we get used to him being back again.

Difficult Relationships

Sometimes the fear of loss slaps us in the face to get our attention. I can remember difficult relationship moments when the fear of loss was enough to change my behavior. Even though I may have been told time and time again, I had not paid attention until it was almost too late. And sometimes, it was too late. 

What or who do we take for granted that is always there? 

What are the signals others have been sending that we’ve ignored?

In what ways do we need to change now, so the threat of loss does not occur?

I pay a lot of attention to my kids, but knowing they are off to college in a week has made me step up and spend more time with them this week. Why have I not done this the whole time?

We’re told to count our blessings. But what if we were told to ask ourselves if there is any risk of losing our blessings?

How would we behave differently?

Chainsaw to the Chest

Last week I received a call from one of my dearest and closest friends, who shared that he was going in for major open heart surgery. Of course I told him I loved him. But as far as showing my appreciation in every call through the year, I had not. What if instead of a call of a pending surgery, I instead received a call that he had moved on to a better place? Would I have regrets? 

Since the great lockdown over the past three years, I’ve increased my mentions of appreciation, because we’ve all lost people we love and appreciate, and none of us know who or what is next.

Sometimes I intend to call someone but don’t get around to it, then find I’ve lost my opportunity. I don’t want that ever to be the case again.

What if you and I started to ramp up our level of appreciation for those around us?
What if we went out of our way to spend more meaningful time?

What if we ignored less and listened with more intention?

Thankfully I get to return to the lake after my time away this week and get a few more glorious weeks there. But that could change, which is why I’m in full appreciation mode today.

Let’s increase our appreciation, starting today.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I just read about an interesting study about appreciation. Two groups of kids were given a task. Afterward, Group One was given “Intelligent” praise, about how smart they are. Group Two was given “Effort” praise, for the amount of effort they gave the task.

On the next task, Group One did worse than before, and Group Two did better. Scientists say praise for effort is more effective than praise for being smart, because being smart makes kids assume they don’t have to put in as much effort.

PS 2: Tomorrow I fly most of the day, returning to Austin for a week of hosting my online art event called Pastel Live. Tuesday is rehearsal day, and Wednesday is our Essential Techniques Day, followed by three more days of the world’s finest pastel artists teaching their craft. It’s a brilliant way to take your first step as an artist, or to grow by trying something new and different. Oh, and the price will more than double after midnight tonight. PastelLive.com

6 08, 2023

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few


Dark bags of vaporized water float overhead, ready to dump storms upon us. The sky is purple-gray, but the morning sun is hitting one particular billowing cloud with intense orange light, as if to offer hope that the looming storm will pass. 

After two months of solitude on this lake, the August season is upon us, and activity has increased tenfold. Most of the summer residents come only for August, then hibernate the rest of the year. When that happens, it will be silent once more as we enter the season of color. 

Though I love to see lake friends and the joy on the faces of kids as they learn to sail or water-ski, the silence is special.

My Checklist

We spend the entire year looking forward to our time here, yet it passes so rapidly, and my list of summer activities doesn’t yet have everything checked off.

I’ve painted my boat several times. Check. 

I’ve done evening sunset cruises in our old wooden speedboat most nights. Check. 

I’ve visited the Adirondack Museum and seen their glorious new art wing. Check. 

I’ve gone to the farmer’s market most Saturdays. Check.

I’ve used a fair amount of time for my woodworking hobby. Check.

I’ve yet to revisit my favorite painting spots, swim in the lake, water-ski or hike the woods or climb the mountain. So much to do, so little time.

Fridays off, not so much.
Of course, work requires eight- to 10-hour days, and though I intended to take Fridays off all summer, I’ve yet to take one. I guess I’m still a bit obsessed with working. But then again, there is much to do to create special experiences for others.

I wish I had worked more.
There is a saying that “No one says on their deathbed that they wished they had worked more.”

And there is no doubt that I do have regrets about working when I could have spent more family time. Yet there is a giant difference between working and working with a purpose. When working with a purpose to create things that change lives, it’s not work.

I do have regrets, and perhaps those regrets can be a lesson for someone younger who has a big future ahead of them. And they are reminders to me of what I need to focus more upon.

Some of my career-related regrets:

  • I wish I had wasted less time.

Time is our most valuable asset. We don’t know how much we get, and we don’t get more. I wasted too much of it. My best advice: Prioritize only the projects that matter, and put them in your calendar and get them done no matter what.

  • I wish I had taken swift action on everything.
    I missed tons of opportunities because I dragged my feet. Sometimes doors closed and I missed out. When you have passion for something you believe in, get it done. It does not have to be perfect, just get it done as fast as possible. Fix it later.
  • I wish I had embraced pain and understood that pain is good, because with pain and discomfort comes growth. 

More pain, more growth. More resistance to discomfort, less growth.

  • I wish I had been more open to learning from others more experienced.
    The best things I’ve discovered are mentoring and mastermind groups. I was so full of myself, thinking I had all the answers, that I missed out on a lot of great help that I only discovered once I had the courage and money to join.
  • I wish I had let go of my ego more.
    When you serve your ego, you’re not serving your customers — it’s all about you. When it’s all about them, you put your ego aside. Ego-driven decisions typically don’t go well.
  • I wish I had discovered painting sooner.
    All work and no play makes us dull. Painting (and hobbies) helps us lose our stress and get away from our work, and that helps us see the world more clearly.
  • I wish I had started sooner so my connections would be deeper.
    Don’t drag your feet. Don’t tell yourself you need to be of a certain age, or have a certain degree. Go for it now. I started in radio at 14, and as a result I have deep connections there that go back more than five decades. I can call anyone I’ve known that long and ask things I couldn’t ask of someone else. (Or I can ask, but deep connections pay bigger dividends.)
  • I wish I had started exercising sooner.
    “No time,” I told myself. But the benefit is clear thinking, more energy, and a better attitude.
  • I wish I had learned to stand and work earlier.
  • I stand all day. I don’t sit. Sitting is the new smoking. I got my first stand-up desk in 1995. It increases energy and efficiency.
  • I wish I had slept more.
    Sleep 8 hours no matter what. Go to bed early if necessary. Research supports this. You’re better with sleep. Eighty percent better with eight hours versus seven hours.
  • I wish I had focused more on quality and less on quantity.
    If you are going to do something, do it well, with excellence. Don’t just deliver — do it well. Quality matters every time. Your reputation is tied to your quality.
  • I wish I had networked more with people who change lives.
    Life-changing people think differently, and they get you changing lives. I wish I had focused less on me and my needs and more on others and their needs. It took me decades to understand that great things only happen when you’re solving problems and making life better for others.

I’m sure I could come up with dozens more, but enough for today. 

The most important thing you can tell your offspring or those you are trying to help is to be action-driven. Act fast, never assume that an opportunity will last, and do it now. Avoid thinking that conditions are not right. Avoid thinking, “I’m not good enough” — or young enough, old enough, rich enough, poor enough. You are what you are, and there is no reason you cannot reach the pinnacle of success you can imagine. No one can get in your way other than you. You can always go over, under, or around roadblocks. Life is filled with them. They don’t stop you, they simply force you to seek new solutions.

Your feelings will get hurt if you let them. Don’t let them. Hurt feelings or hurt pride or embarrassment are just your ego in the way. Things won’t be perfect. Do it anyway.

Eric Rhoads

PS: You are a unique human with incredible ability, even if you tell yourself that’s not the case. The reality is that you can master anything in a short period of time, if you study it intensely. And the more you work at it, the better you’ll be.

But remember, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. The way to get perfect practice is to get great mentors and do everything they say.

In a couple of weeks, I’m offering you a chance to get perfect practice by gathering the finest pastel artists on earth. Some from other countries, most from the U.S.

In the last three years I have personally helped MILLIONS of people to learn to paint. These are people who had no belief in themselves. They believed they did not have what it takes. And we taught them anyway. They listened, they did what we said, and now they are living the dream of being able to paint.

This is how I change lives. I’d like to change yours. If you’re telling yourself these lies that you can’t do it, give me four days and see if I’m right. If I’m wrong, you can get your money back. Watch Pastel Live for one day, and if at the end of that day you have not been transformed, I’ll refund your money — which isn’t much, really. It’s about the cost of a meal out for four.

Sign up now. You won’t regret it. And if you do, you’ll still have learned something new about yourself and what you can do.


Regrets, I’ve Had a Few2023-08-05T15:33:59-04:00
30 07, 2023

Finding Your True Self


 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to face only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods

Last week I mentioned that this home in the woods was built of trees from the property. We are the caretakers of this property, which has passed through the hands of several families since it was constructed. Little has changed other than the addition of plumbing. In fact, I sit in the same wicker chair that has been on this porch since the beginning.

Breathe Deep

The home’s purpose then, as now, was to disconnect from the frenetic life of the city, breathe deeply of the clean, pine-scented air, and reconnect with family and friends. But it was even deeper than that. The original builders, a wealthy family from New York, wanted to escape their gilded palace and hectic social schedule for a dose of reality by roughing it. 

This property, along with most of those on this historic lake, started out with tents, and then platforms built for the tents. Those platforms then had walls and roofs added. There was no heating, other than the wood you could cut yourself and burn in your fireplace. It remains mostly that way today, making early spring and occasional cold-front summer days a little less comfortable.

Healing from a Horrible War

But with the lack of comfort came a sense of self, a sense of peace and simplicity. Following the stress-filled Civil War years, people wanted to escape the cities, heal their wounds of lost family and friends, and improve the quality of life.

Sound familiar?

If anything good came out of the pandemic, it was this desire by many to escape the cities and improve their quality of life. Every small town in America has added new families who escaped their previous way of living. 

And most of us have found ourselves. We’ve learned about what we’re willing to tolerate and what we wish to avoid.

Suck the Marrow Out of Life

Sometimes we escape in search of something new in order to “live deep and suck the marrow out of life” (Thoreau). For some it’s a new town, an escape from the cities, but, as Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify.”

For many, the chase we participated in over the years provided no meaning, yet meaning was found within the walls we were locked inside. Rediscovering our family, our passions, and our creative side. No longer willing to tolerate what no longer feels right. 

Thoreau’s Walden provides advice that applies to our current situation.

  • “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.”
  •  “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”
  • “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
  • “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
  • “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
  • “Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Locked Up

When we were locked and chained, we discovered what matters and what carries no meaning. Now, you and I are getting used to our reinvented selves. Making adjustments as we see how this suit fits.

The danger, I fear, is that we return to being busy, forgetting the joys of being in quiet, forcing ourselves to be comfortable outside our zone of comfort.

The lockdown was a gift, a slap in the face, a wakeup call, that life does not have to be lived the way we thought we were supposed to live it. 

Be True to Yourself

Don’t forget what you told yourself was going to forever change. Be true to yourself, not your busy mindset.

Others have told me they discovered that they were leading lives of quiet desperation, going through the motions, on the merry-go-round with no chance to stop, no time to assess and realize the spinning was not moving them forward.

Have you returned to this maze, this trap? 

Have you returned to being busy and forgotten your dreams?

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with unexpected success in common hours … If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

What price are you paying for the life you’re pursuing? “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Eric Rhoads

PS: When I first read Henry David Thoreau as a young man, it had no meaning because I had yet to live, yet to be entrapped by busywork with no goal in sight. Its meaning shouted to me this time, because of life’s experience.

The biggest tragedy is a discussion with someone who isn’t following their dreams, who has given up on them, who lacks confidence in their ability to achieve them, or has never tried. 

I don’t believe dreams are random. I believe they are provided for you, to speak to your heart, to discover the special things only you can do. The world was built by dreamers. Yet cemeteries are filled with many who never followed their dreams. 

Don’t waste time. There are no limits, no expiring deadlines. The only limits are the cages trapping you inside your mind.

Don’t waste one more breath. Be deliberate and follow what you’re intended to do.

PS2: The words are almost predictable. A visitor at dinner last night, when discovering what I do for a living, said, “I have no talent. I can’t do what you do.”

“But you can,” I said. “If you can follow a recipe, I can teach you to paint.”

“No, I have no talent,” she said, defeat in her voice.

Why is it we know that musicians need to learn music scales and practice, surgeons need a decade or more of schooling, but we think that artists are born with talent. It’s a myth. Like any profession, or any hobby, you simply learn how to do it by following a process. 

Art is one thing I hear people tell me they would love to do, but fear they don’t have what it takes.

Please allow me to prove you wrong so you can live a life of joy, able to create beauty that is part of who you are. 

Join me for Pastel Live this August. If you don’t know how to paint after, if you have not dispelled the myth that you have no talent, I’ll refund your money. 

No one gets good fast. It takes practice. The more practice, the more perfect (instructed) practice, the faster you get good, but it still takes time. But it’s joy-filled time. 

What do you have to lose? Nothing at all.

Finding Your True Self2023-07-31T13:40:24-04:00
23 07, 2023

The Power of Pain


If I inhale deeply, my lungs are filled with the freshest air I’ve ever experienced, along with the scent of pine. This forest, hundreds of acres behind my Adirondack home, is old growth, much of it never cut, with trees that two of us cannot join our hands around, some exceeding 600 years of age. Twigs snap as I walk through the trail, and I hit an occasional patch of mud from the rains, making my way carefully across, jumping from logs to moss-covered rocks.

Forest Bathing

In Japan, they encourage people to take time off work to go “forest bathing.” The combination of fresh air and the visual of dark woods, deep greens along with fresh spring greens, pine needles, peeling bark on soft, worn pathways, is deeply good for our souls. Our home, built in 1894, was built from these trees, and sits on a patch of land between the forest and the lake. Our summer life feels ideal. Fresh air, fresh water, playtime, and family around us. Our bath of forest and lake time lasts through the summer and fall, and the rejuvenation I receive lasts me through the tough winter months of life. 

A Spoiled Child

At times I feel a little spoiled, with all this beauty around me. It started when I was a kid. I can look back to my childhood, when we had advantages our cousins did not have, and I once overheard my aunt say, “Those kids are spoiled.” I did not believe it at the time, but looking back, she was right.


And I’ve done a little too much spoiling myself. I can see the mistakes I’ve made as a parent, and those my parents made with us. We all gave a lot. But much of what they gave, with good intentions, probably did us no favors and prolonged important lessons on independence and self-reliance. My perspective on life was skewed because I was sometimes sheltered from painful lessons.

Child Labor

As boys, we were put to work at my dad’s business. I worked in the mailroom and learned to run a printing press. My brothers worked in the un-air-conditioned factory, assembling products. We put on our little suits and shook hands at trade shows. My dad would bring us into serious business meetings with clients or employees, and even at 8 or 10, would ask our opinions on things. And after the meeting he would ask, “What did you learn?” As a result, business came naturally to me as an adult. None of us liked it, but it was smart of him to do this.

Problems = Growth

Yet I never grew up until I had problems. My dad funded my first serious business venture, which speedily got me into the business world. I became privileged and a little too arrogant and full of myself, when in reality I was only born lucky. But when problems arose, he stepped back. Problems belonged to me, and I could get advice, but if I needed money, I was told no. I was told, “You have to figure this out.” It made me mad. But I actually had to figure it out.

Where Addicts Come From

Talking with some acquaintances who are coaches for addicted people, one told me, “Most of my clients have addictions because they never had any problems, or had all their problems solved for them. They weren’t allowed to make mistakes on their own. As a result, there is a giant addiction problem. These kids have low self-esteem because they were never allowed to solve their own problems. Parents mean well. But when you can’t solve your own problems, you have nothing on which to base your self-esteem.”

Parents Who Protect

“We make lots of threats as parents,” said this coach, “but the minute we should get tough, we break down and don’t let our kids suffer, just because WE don’t want to see them suffer. Yet the parents who let them suffer are the ones whose kids are less likely to end up dealing with problems their entire lives. Sadly, most get nervous, step in and solve the problems again, and their kids end up with problems for life.”

Two Paths

So many of us had parents who were hard on us, made us do things we did not want to do. From that, we went in one of two directions. We either suffered and realized it was good for us, and we passed that on to our kids. Or we suffered and told ourselves, “I’m not gonna do that to my kids.” That second one is why so many young people may be overly sensitive, easily wounded or hurt, and don’t know how to deal with pain. There is no telling how that might impact kids who end up struggling with their identity. When the kids whine about raking leaves or taking out trash, too often we give in so we don’t have to fight them or keep hearing the complaints. Soon they are doing little or nothing, and not suffering enough.

Learning Sooner

I was a numbskull. I kept repeating mistakes, and my parents kept bailing me out. Had they gotten fed up with helping me sooner, I would have learned sooner. And I’ve repeated a lot of that behavior with my own offspring.

It’s All About Me

My self-esteem came when I was responsible for myself, when I did things for myself, when I no longer looked to anyone else to save me. Then I had good reason for a healthy self-esteem, instead of having everything handed to me and being overly impressed with who I was when I had done nothing on my own.

Often I’ve suggested that pain is good, though we never look forward to it. Pain is the first step toward growth. It’s true in life, and it’s true for our kids. 

Surviving on Peanut Butter

I look backward and see where I was let off the hook, too many times and too easily. I see that when I was forced to work, forced to struggle, forced to suffer, I experienced growth and became a man. When I called my folks with a sob story and was told, “I’m sorry you don’t have any money for food, but I have confidence you’ll figure it out,” I was angry, but I never called and asked again. And I figured it out. I learned how to make my money last. All it took was a week living on a jar of peanut butter for me to learn to manage my money, and learn how to make more of it, which stimulated me to work three jobs. For several years straight I worked as an evening radio DJ, ran a wedding photography business on the weekends, and was also the DJ at the weddings I photographed so I could get a couple hundred extra bucks.

What was the moment you grew up?

What was the tough love you experienced that hurt, but made a difference in your life?
What did it take to find your own self-esteem?

When did someone say no and it benefited you?

What were you made to do that you did not want to do, that helped you grow and impacted your self-worth and self-esteem?

Parenting is hard. 

But the hardest part is to stop sheltering them as soon as possible, to give them chores and make them work, to resist their whining, and to let them gain independence in spite of their objections. Our kids had to do their own laundry, starting at age 7. We had to battle them for a week or two, and they had to go to school with dirty clothes, but they finally got it.

Kids without problems don’t grow up — until they have problems.

We have had some very difficult days when we worried because we wanted to bail a kid out of a problem. But bailing people out is the coward’s way. Great parenting allows them to suffer, and suffering along with them because you would rather not watch them struggle. But giving in is actually hurting them. Don’t give in, Even though it’s easier in the short term, it will be harder in the long run.

It’s never too late. It takes us time to grow, it takes us time to get fed up or tired of the battle. Sometimes it happens when you run out of money because you gave it all to help your kid. They can be 6 or 60, but the moment you say no and let them figure it out on their own, they will protest. But stick to your guns and let them experience pain. They will test you, they will pull at your heartstrings, and you’ll want to help them, but helping is hurting. 

Embrace the struggle.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This week I spoke to an old friend who started his business about a decade before I started mine. We talked about the recessions, the times we had to shut down or almost went out of business, we talked about all the problems we had to invent solutions for, and we both realized that the struggle is what made us. It’s not easy at the moment, but when you’re going through it, just know that you will get through it (or you won’t), but everything will be OK, no matter what. 

When COVID hit and I was facing closing down my company, I should have been more frightened than I was, but I had had enough challenges and struggles that I had confidence that we would figure it out, and if we didn’t, I could always start something up again.

What we came up with was a series of online conferences. When the pandemic ended, we wondered if these would end. We considered stopping them, but the people who attended told us how valuable they had been and that they were a gift because they often did not have the time, money, or circumstances to allow them to get on an airplane. So we’ve kept them going and they remain strong. Oh, we lost a few people who went back to work, but we picked up some others to make up for it.

My next big online conference is Pastel Live, starting in mid-August. It’s turning out to be the biggest we’ve ever had, even though one would think it would be smaller because people have less time on their hands. But in fact, last week we had record registrations. And we will again be presenting the biggest pastel event in the world. The Super Bowl of pastel painting.

If you want to learn to paint, or learn pastel, this is the perfect opportunity. You can join us by going to PastelLive.com, and we even have a money-back guarantee. 

The Power of Pain2023-07-21T19:01:13-04:00
16 07, 2023

Success and Happiness


Loon calls and the slosh of water are interrupted by a distant deep rumble. No, it’s not that thunder we’ve been hearing, but a classic 1930s wooden Chris-Craft jetting across the lake, its engine roaring and echoing. Though I’m not a fan of noise in the midst of silence, there is nothing quite like a classic boat, its sleek design, graceful lines, shiny high-gloss finish, and trademark rumble. Our lake is filled with wooden boats. 

Somehow wooden boats in a lake surrounded by deep green forests make me feel like I’m living in another era. If someone from this lake went into a coma in 1920 and awoke today, it would be virtually the same, other than one or two newer boathouses and some ski boats. But things here are mostly unchanged, which is why we love it. 

Have you seen the meme floating around social media asking, “If someone went into a coma in 1986 and awoke today, what would be the biggest shock?”


Repeating Life

I often wonder how life would be if I were just starting out now. Was it better when I started my career, or would it be better now? 

Years of Struggle

The struggle to succeed was difficult, and there were days and even months when I wanted to curl up in a ball and weep because it was so hard. When I first started I had to work like crazy to get hired by radio stations so I could live my dream of having my own radio show. I can remember putting on a suit and tie and wingtip shoes and having my mom drive me to interviews. I spent weeks editing samples of myself on the air (which I made up, since I did not have any experience) and sent them to radio stations within driving distance of my parents’ home. I wanted to be on the radio so badly, yet I was rejected by at least a hundred radio stations before I got offered a paying job. 

Yet if I wanted to be in the media today, I’d just start a podcast or a YouTube show. 

Stupidity and Hope

Starting my first real business was incredibly hard. Had I known how hard, I’m not sure I would have wanted to endure the struggle, but thankfully, I never believed the negative Nellies who warned me how impossible things would be. 

I had no money, no experience, and no idea what I was doing. I operated on pure stupidity, energy, and hope. It took me years to get my business to make a profit. I went seven years without a paycheck, putting all my money back into my business. I suffered through at least three recessions and almost went out of business several times. One year my bookkeeper told me I had enough to survive and pay my employees for three weeks, so I had to fire them all that day so I could pay them two weeks’ severance. Then, with one week of cash left, I managed to generate enough business to survive. It was the hardest two years I can remember, but I felt accomplishment when I made it through. 

Easy Breezy

If I wanted to get my business rolling today, I’d still struggle and make mistakes, but I’d have things like social media, e-mail, and messaging to communicate or promote. 

As an author, I was rejected by lots of publishers, and struggled to self-publish when no one would represent me. Yet when I launched my most recent book, I posted it on Amazon and it was a best seller in two categories within one week. 

Today is better.

If you want to be successful today, there is no excuse. You can do everything faster, for less money and more easily. You have more tools to help you than ever existed before in history. You have all the advantages and few of the disadvantages. You can even have training at your fingertips online.

If you can’t succeed today, you have chosen not to. 

Yes, success is hard no matter what. But it’s the easiest it’s ever been. 

So why are some not successful?

Maybe you actually are a success and just think you need more to be happy.

The Life of a Fisherman

There is the story of a man who approached a fisherman in Mexico. He asked the fisherman if he loved what he did.

“I get up every morning, make love to my wife, then I get to spend quiet days drifting in the ocean all day. I bring in a few fish, take them to market where I see my neighbors, make all the money I need, come home, play cards with my best friends, have a couple of drinks, and go to bed.”

The man said, “Yes, but if you work harder, you could get another boat, then a fleet of boats, and then you could sell it all and make a lot of money.”

The fisherman asked, “What do I do with all that money?”

The man said, “Then you can have a relaxing day, spend time on your boat, maybe go fishing, make love to your wife, hang out with your friends and have a couple of cocktails, and never have any worries.”

The fisherman looked at him in confusion, because he had all of that now. 

How Do You Define Success?

Lots of people tell me they want to be successful. So I usually ask them to define what success means to them and how it will change their life. And why do they want that? Often people have goals and dreams without thinking about how things will change and whether that’s the life they want.

Planes and Shiny Objects

I hear a lot of people talk about wanting things like jets, helicopters, fancy cars, and multiple mansions. Our culture and media tells us those things are the measurement of success. I’m reminded of a 1980s ad from some guru standing in front of a giant house, garage doors open and several Rolls Royces inside. Growing up, it was hard not to want these things because the media told us that’s what defines success. Nothing has changed. I used to buy the lie and unhappily chased mega wealth for years.

It all looks glamorous, till you realize the responsibility that comes with the perks. You have to manage and keep and pay for all those perks.

Rich and Lonely

One billionaire “buddy” had all the stuff. A three-floor penthouse in Manhattan, a 100-foot yacht in the Caribbean where he spent half his time, a jet, a dozen or so cars, and giant homes in all the cool places, including one in Europe. He had people who traveled with him to cook his food, massage his back, work out with him, and manage his business affairs. He was surrounded by people all the time. At any time of day or night, he could request any food, and it would be made for him. 

But he was extremely lonely. His wife left him because he was addicted to cheating with gold-digging blondes who loved men with hot cars and big bank accounts. Yet they were empty relationships. His kids would have nothing to do with him because he treated them as badly as he treated his employees. And he had no friends. In fact, he wasn’t really a buddy at all. I declined an invite to his big birthday bash with all expenses paid. Turns out no one else showed up either. They didn’t like him, they liked his money, and they only dealt with him because they had to.

Would you call him a success?

Maybe he was a financial success. Maybe he had freedom. But he was lacking what he needed most. Love and true friendships.

Don’t let others define success for you. Just because you see people with Ferraris, Gulfstream jets, helicopters, and yachts does not mean it’s right for you. Some of my friends who have accomplished these things gave up a lot to get them. Some are happy, others are not. But in most cases, those things are not about happiness. 

The Paradox

I find it almost comical. We strive for success to get stuff because we think it gives us validation, freedom, and happiness. Yet all too often we become workaholics and don’t have time for our families and friends or for leisure travel because there is too much to be done. 

Are you willing to give up happiness in the pursuit of happiness?  

I also find it tragic that some people are so driven to get these things to make them happy that they steal them or they take advantage of others in business. Is that happiness, knowing you had to steal, cheat, or deceive to get it? Knowing you did not earn it on your own, or knowing you did not earn it properly? Is looking over your shoulder in fear of getting caught a state of happiness? Does knowing you destroyed others so you could look better to yourself lift your self-esteem?

The pursuit of success and happiness often leads us to want these things so much that we give up happiness and true success to get them. 

The True Test

If you shed all the stuff society tells you you’re supposed to have, or supposed to want to have, what makes you happiest now?

What if you got all those trappings? Would you be happy? 

Would you be happy knowing you have to work insanely hard to keep up and keep them? 

Would you be happy knowing your friends might like you for what you have, not who you are?

A Sad Reality

I was with a famous actress acquaintance recently who was telling me about some of the challenges of her life as a celebrity, and how she and her kids can never really know if people are true friends. Over time, many she thought were her friends turned out to only use her to get a role or an introduction, or in hopes of money, then abandoned her. It’s heartbreaking. 

Will you be happy when you lose your fame, your money, your cars, jets, and yachts? Or will you be stressed to get more when one of your friends gets a bigger boat? 

If you’re not happy today, there is a big chance that getting the stuff isn’t going to make you any happier. 

One podcaster I heard said he craved owning a Bentley, and he worked for years to own one. Three weeks later, it was just a car. The thrill wore off quickly. 

Will you have happiness if those things never happen?

Friends who travel have told me that people deep in the jungles of Africa who have nothing, not even enough food, are the happiest and most joy-filled people they have ever met.

Chase the Right Dreams

There is nothing wrong with wanting more, or chasing your dreams, or wanting to change your circumstances, especially if they are awful. But if you’re not finding a way to be happy now, the things you crave may not change anything. 

Define Your Perfect Day

Waking up alive, playing with my dogs, having my wife and family around me laughing and joking with one another, showing up at work with people I love to work on things that will make other people’s lives better, playing guitar with friends and painting outdoors with friends, and having daily conversation with my Maker … that’s a perfect day. 

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and the life I’ve provided my family, but I’m happier that I discovered that the things I thought I wanted would not make a big difference. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of ownership.

Before you chase success, define it. With every goal, ask, Will this really make me happier? And ask yourself … What makes me happy now? And if I lose that in exchange for something else, will I be happier?

Success is wonderful, but there are always tradeoffs.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of my wealthy acquaintances recently said, “You’re a really good painter, and I’d give up a lot to be able to paint like you.” I responded, “If you give me some time, I can teach you.” He said, “I’m too busy. My time is not my own.” So in reality, he was blowing smoke. He could have made a choice to learn something he thought was cool. 

Learning to paint has helped me find happiness. God made you and me to be able to create, and it opened my eyes to a new world. I see things through the eyes of an artist, I have something I love doing, I get to go outdoors and paint in my spare time, and I even sell paintings, which is kinda nice.

But I’m even happier when I see people who had no confidence, no belief in themselves, people who believed they had no talent, learn how to paint. We have literally transformed millions of lives by teaching those people to paint. 

If you’re one of those people who thinks you could not possibly make a pretty picture, I challenge you to consider it. You can do this.

I have an event in August called Pastel Live. The first day is for people starting out; it’s called Essential Techniques Day. Pastel can be the easiest medium to learn to paint with because we were all used to coloring with crayons in our childhood. Pastel is a lot like that. It’s not chalk, it’s pure pigment, and you can get more brilliant color than with any other medium. And I encourage you to try it by attending Pastel Live, or just our Essential Techniques Day. If you watch the full first day and feel you did not get transformed or informed enough in some way, let us know by the end of that day and we will refund your money. There is no risk at all, but everything to gain.

And if you paint in oil, acrylic, watercolor, or other media, you’ll love trying pastel. It will get you reinvigorated and reinvested  in painting, and it will teach you things about painting you can only know by trying pastel.

You can attend the first day for less than a meal out. Sign up today at PastelLive.com.

PS 2: I’m taking a small group to see the art of Madrid and Stockholm. Both cities are rich with art. Check out my new trip at www.finearttrip.com

Success and Happiness2023-07-16T07:02:03-04:00
9 07, 2023

The Secret to Getting Things Done


P.S. It’s almost like magic when you make up your mind to learn something. Years ago, my dad wanted to learn about a certain type of investing, so he found the world’s leading expert, befriended him, and invited him to visit him at the lake. They cooked something up, and the guy moved in for the summer and they worked together every day for three months. Within three months, my dad was also one of the leading experts in that topic. 

That concept led me to the idea of teaching people to paint with the world’s leading experts. At my Adirondack event, two people painted well right out of the box, though they had never done it before. I learned that in both cases, they had watched a lot of my videos over and over. Though they were not learning in person, video can have the same impact. That’s why I’m so driven to capture the biggest names: so the world can have their minds forever and they can train more people than they ever could in person. 

If you want to learn anything, make up your mind, devote the time, and you’ll master it. 

The other way we’re doing this is by creating online events. These events are immersive, and the magic of immersion is that you can ramp up fast by devoting a concentrated amount of time. 

For instance, if you decided you wanted to learn pastel, you could set aside four eight-hour days for instruction from a top master, and focus on pastel all day. At the end of those four days, you could have a clear understanding of the concepts, because of the time and repetition. Will you be a master after four days? Nope. That takes decades. But you’ll have ramped up fast and you’ll understand the core principles, and then you just need to practice. Then, a year later, if you do it again, you’ll be way ahead, and you’ll understand concepts you did not understand before.

We do four events a year. Each is four days, and each is designed to immerse you to help you learn fast. Thousands of people have learned to paint for the first time when they did not believe they could, and thousands of others have elevated themselves by devoting four days a year, and, in some cases, four days several times a year. 

The other thing I find fascinating is that I learn faster when I’m forced out of my routine and comfort zone. For instance, I’ve been an oil painter most of my painting life, and I had no desire to learn other mediums like pastel or watercolor, because I still have not mastered oil, which is a lifetime of work. Yet when I started these online conferences, I felt the need to practice what I preach, so I studied at Watercolor Live and Pastel Live, and in both cases, it had a positive effect.

Not only was I learning something new, which was invigorating, my brain was constantly asking, “How can I apply this technique to oils?” The result was that I was reinvigorated, and I learned new things I could apply to other things. And the best part is that I discovered that I now want to do different mediums when I’m in different moods and want different effects. 

My next four-day event is Pastel Live, which is coming up this August. It features master pastel painters, each of whom do things differently, and who paint in different styles. It’s phenomenal to see the outcomes people get from attending. It’s a great entry into art for those of you who want to learn for the first time. And a great way to capture a lot of information from great artists and put it in your brain. 

I’ll be hosting and hope to see you there. PastelLive.com

Eric Rhoads

PS: Never in my life have I seen so much strife, so much conflict, so much polarization over the state of our country. You cannot solve it on the 4th of July, but you can destroy relationships by trying to change the minds of those around you. Before you open your mouth with a beer-induced disagreement, remember, these are people we love, who we want with us again next year. Keep it civilized. Have some fun. Change the world on a different day and celebrate the freedom we still have.

PS 2: Do you remember that feeling you got as a kid when you were lying on the floor coloring, feeling about as happy as you could?

Do you remember someone admiring your work and putting it up on the fridge for all to see?

I loved that feeling, but lost it somewhere along the way. But it was rekindled when I was about 40, with my first art lessons. Even though I had moments of frustration because my hand could not do what my brain had in mind, I still was in a state of joy making art.

One of the reasons I do what I do is because I love seeing people light up when they realize they can create art, even after they have told themselves they don’t have the talent required.

One of the best and easiest ways to learn art is to start with pastels, which you use kinda like crayons … pick a color and lay it down on the paper. It’s a great medium for newbies, and it’s something you can do your whole life. Pastel gives you a lot of flexibility, some brilliant, intense color (more intense than any other kind of painting), and you don’t have to learn about brushes, oils, and cleaners. It’s as simple as stick-to-hand-to-paper. (I’ve posted a couple of pastel paintings I love below.)

You may have heard me say I can teach anyone to paint. It’s true. Even those who don’t believe it themselves. Because painting is a process, not requiring talent. (Talent comes later, when you want to get to the highest levels, and talent is really just lots of experience and time painting.)

Take some time for yourself this August to attend Pastel Live online. You’ll never regret it. And take our Essential Techniques Day first. Pastel Live is four total days of top artists teaching techniques in different styles and approaches to pastel. And it is not much more than a dinner out with friends. But unlike that dinner, this will provide you with joy for a lifetime. In fact, if you attend and don’t feel you got your money’s worth after the first day, let us know and we will refund 100% of your money.

I encourage you to sign up now. Pastel Live, August 17-19, Essential Techniques Day August 16. Save up to $600 here.

The Secret to Getting Things Done2023-07-08T19:26:55-04:00