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So far Eric Rhoads has created 81 blog entries.
20 01, 2019

How to Convince Anyone to Do Anything

2019-01-16T17:02:10+00:00

Days before my 10-year wedding anniversary, I was sweating bullets about what kind of gift I could buy that would be more special than anything. I found myself flipping through catalogs, driving to the mall, and going into random stores, but nothing I found seemed special enough to celebrate a decade of marriage.


Zero Art Knowledge

At the time I was deep into my career as a radio trade magazine publisher, and I knew nothing about art. As I was walking down the street, I wandered by an art gallery. Frankly, I’m not sure I had ever been inside one, and as I glanced in the window, I saw a lot of beautiful paintings and some elegant old furniture, none of which I could relate to. But, because I was desperate to find something, I went in.

 

A Bit Snooty?

A well-dressed woman approached me, and looked me up and down with what I felt was a sense of disapproval. After all, I was probably wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and probably a lot younger than her typical customer.  

Without her lips even moving, she said, “May I be of service to you, sir?” Probably thinking I was there to steal something.

“Um, just looking,” which of course did not get her to walk away. It was clear I was around millions of dollars’ worth of stuff, and she was going to shadow me.

“Are you here for a specific purpose? Do you need to decorate a home, perhaps purchase a gift?”

I was totally intimidated, did not feel welcome, but said, “Well, I’m looking for a 10th-anniversary gift for my wife, but I don’t know anything about art. I was just walking down the street and decided to wander in.”

“Very good, sir, but I should probably make you aware, these are rare antique paintings and furniture, and, well, I don’t mean to be rude, but they are quite expensive. Is it possible that you might be looking in the wrong place?”

 

Sizing Me Up

Clearly, I did not belong, or so she thought, but little did she know I had just sold a business and could probably have afforded anything in the store. So I simply said, “I don’t think that will be an issue. Can you show me some things?”

I don’t think she believed me for a minute, but there was no one else in the store, so she played along, showed me some paintings, asked what my wife liked, and then pointed me to some really beautiful paintings that were, to my mind, very expensive.

 

Industry Jargon

I liked the paintings very much, but then she started spewing a bunch of gobbledygook I did not understand. She talked about the era of art the paintings were from, talked about the movement the artist had been part of, and threw out technical jargon that totally turned me off. This went on for about 10 minutes, and as my eyes glazed over, I decided I needed to get away.

Politely I told her that I did not understand a thing she had just said, and that it all seemed very important, but it did not matter to me.

 

Catching Me Off-Guard

Then she did something that totally caught me off-guard. She said, “The things I just told you may not matter to you now, but as you get to know more about art, they will be meaningful, because you will have paintings that are among the best of the best. You see, one of these paintings will not only be the perfect anniversary gift — it will make your wife cry when she sees it — there is a strong chance that it could put your kids through college 10 or 20 years down the road, or build quite a nice nest egg for when you decide to retire. And if you ever decide you don’t want it, bring it here, and I will always pay you what you paid me for it.”

She had me with “this will make your wife cry,” and it didn’t hurt to know that something I was buying might be worth money in the future, and that if I got into a pinch, I could get my money back. She was good.

I ended up buying one of the paintings, and it made my wife cry. And in fact, I later learned that the artist was very important, and that painting should be a nice nest egg for my ex-wife in her future.

 

This dealer helped me grasp the advantage.

The ability to help others grasp the advantage is one trait that all successful people possess.

All too often we speak in abstract terms that mean something to us but mean nothing to others. Yet all of us have to convince others of things in our lives from time to time.

 

Steve Jobs Could Sell Anything

One day Steve Jobs walked up to the top engineer at Apple and told him, “We need to make the boot-up time on the Mac 10 seconds faster.” The engineer told him it was not technically possible.

Then Jobs said, “Let me ask you this. If someone’s life depended on it, could you do it?”

The engineer said, “I guess I would have to find a way.”

Jobs then said, “10 seconds times the millions of users that use our products is equivalent to 72 years wasted. That’s someone’s life.”

The engineer not only figured out how to cut 10 seconds, he cut 20, because Steve had made him relate to the challenge in a different way to grasp the importance of that 10 seconds.

 

Guilty as Charged

Most trial lawyers will stand in front of a jury and say, “The plaintiff is sick. His employer is responsible, and they need to pay up.”

Trial lawyer Gerry Spence will stand in front of a jury and say, “Ol’ Bill over there got up at sunrise every day of his life for the past 40 years. He loved his job, he was devoted to his company, and he needed that job to support his six kids, who he put through college on his low salary, sacrificing what he and his wife wanted so they didn’t have to work in the coal mines. His back would hurt from shoveling coal, and he would breathe that awful black coal dust every day for 40 years. He was coughing and hacking while he worked, his skin was covered with coal dust, and the dust was always getting in his eyes. There was no fresh air to breathe, and workers were not allowed to wear masks. Now that he has cancer, his company is unwilling to pay for his care. Does that sound right to you?”

Gerry Spence helps the jury grasp the situation.

 

What if you and I spent more time helping people grasp the problem, the situation, the need?

We all get caught up in our own worlds. My doctor will use terms I can’t understand, and he loses me every time — until he sees my eyes glaze over and puts it into terms I can understand.

 

Speak in Actions, not Abstractions

Instead of industry jargon and terms others don’t understand, try to make a movie play in their heads. See your own movie, and describe what you see while weaving a story they can relate to.

 

Like Pac-Man

It’s also helpful to use things people already know to help them relate to what you’re trying to tell them. “There are these little creatures inside your bloodstream that are like Pac-Man, eating up everything in their path” is a lot more effective than talking about antibodies.

 

The Woodstock of…

It’s why I say the Plein Air Convention & Expo is like the Woodstock of plein air painting. People instantly grasp that it’s a giant, fun gathering with all the top artists, and a rare and special moment in history.

 

Oh, I Get It Now

Helping others grasp the right perspective is something few people do, but something that all successful people tend to do, knowingly or not. Doing so will help you in every part of your life … whether it’s convincing your kids of something, trying to sell your husband or wife on an idea, communicating with others, writing, or even selling something.

Translate everything to a story others can relate to. Find things that matter to the listener. Doing so will make a huge difference in everything you do.

Can you think of a time where you have failed to communicate with someone?

Is there something important you need to accomplish that you’ve been unable to convince others about?

Can you find an example of something else people already understand that could help others relate to it?

Help others grasp your perspective. It will do you a world of good.


Eric Rhoads

PS: Friday night late, I got back from San Francisco, where we spent some time exploring the places we’re going to paint in Wine Country and around San Francisco for the April Plein Air Convention. I’m really excited. We also decided to create a new indoor painting arena, so people who don’t want to go out of the hotel the whole week can stay inside and have a plein air-like experience with moving clouds, light, and sound, when others go out to paint. (Ironic, isn’t it? Indoor plein air painting!) It will be like looking out the window, and painting the outdoors from indoors.

How to Convince Anyone to Do Anything2019-01-16T17:02:10+00:00
13 01, 2019

Roadblocks That Get in the Way of Your Dreams

2019-01-13T12:21:18+00:00

I did a double take this morning as I glanced out the window. Our backyard looked like the scene of a horror movie, with twisted and gnarled oak silhouettes against the purple-white fog. This was the just the solitude I needed after returning from a holiday away to a to-do list the size of Texas.

I’m focused this morning on my year — not so much the planning, because that’s been done for a while, but my intentions, my beliefs in what I can really accomplish. I’m driven to help people find painting because I know how much it changed my heart, brought out my creative side, and made my life so rich. I want others to experience that soul-enriching feeling so they too can have the heart of an artist, even those who don’t believe they can do it.

Amplify Your Efforts

As I was thinking about how to appropriately amplify my efforts to draw others to the gift of painting, I had to admit that if it’s truly my life’s mission, I cannot allow anything to get in the way. I must drive it with smarter thinking, more time, more passion, fresh ideas, the willingness to do whatever it takes, and relentless, nonstop efforts.

This is how we all must approach our passions. When roadblocks get in the way, we have to find a way around, over, or under them. And if we’re unwilling, if we allow something to stop us, then our passion and drive aren’t strong enough.

Trading Your Life

We have to ask ourselves what we’re trading our life for. If I’m trading my life to help people discover and develop their passion for art, then life is too important to waste on petty little time-wasting things that don’t bring me closer to the goal. We each have to have a burning desire that is fueled into an all-consuming obsession.

But desire isn’t enough. If it were, we would all have endless money, perfect abs, and look like fashion models.

One of the problems with goal-setting is that we can’t just wish our way to our goals. Though mindset is crucial, mindset alone also is not enough.

A Glass Ceiling

A few years ago I realized I was not hitting my goals. It was as if I had a glass ceiling I could never get beyond, and though I had big dreams, I kept failing. Year after year, I set goals and missed them, and after two decades of doing that, I told myself I had reached my limit. I was unable to get beyond it, and I started to give up and accept my place in life.

Have you ever been there? Thinking you could accomplish something, but after getting beaten down time and again, finally accepting that it was never going to happen?

Though I thought I wanted to be successful, being successful beyond a certain limit triggered fears inside of me, and those fears held me back. And honestly, I had no idea it was happening.

If you and I were to be totally, painfully honest with ourselves, we would often discover that we’re continually missing out on our biggest dreams because we are subconsciously embracing the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others have told us.

Sometimes they are well-meaning, well-intentioned lies like …

  • “People are starving in China. Make sure you clean your plate.”
  • “We’re not cut out to be doctors or lawyers. We work with our hands.”
  • “Rich people are nasty and mean.”
  • “You’re not smart enough.”
  • “You have to retire at 65.”
  • “It takes talent to be a great artist.”
  • “You can’t make a living as an artist — artists starve.”
  • “Only losers do that.”
  • “You’re not good with money.”
  • “You’ll never be as good and successful as I am.”
  • “God doesn’t want you to be rich.”
  • “Men who drive fancy sports cars are compensating for their lack of manhood.”
  • “A woman’s place is in the home.”
  • “You should never be showy.”
  • “You’re big-boned.”
  • “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re a bad student.”
  • “God’s going to strike you down for doing that.”
  • “Seven out out of 10 doctors smoke Lucky Strikes.”

If You Repeat Something Enough, You’ll Eventually Believe It

Our beliefs are created by repetition, by hearing something over and over again. Repetition of messages from our parents, our family and friends, our clergy, our subconscious mind, our bosses and co-workers and the media. We repeat our fears — often fears of success.

We and others have unintentionally programmed us to believe what we can and cannot do, what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and unacceptable, what’s possible and not possible, and this programming tends to get in the way of our goals. Worst of all, we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Changing Your Behavior

The first step in overcoming the lies we keep telling ourselves is to find out what they are. Start by listening to your thoughts and asking yourself, “Is that really true? Or is it a lie I’ve been told and have been repeating?” You have to challenge everything you catch yourself saying.

What’s Whispering in Your Ear?

You can learn about yourself and your limitations by discovering the little voices inside that have been holding you back. Do it by reading books, by attending events like Tony Robbins talks, by taking online courses and webinars, by seeing a therapist or a hypnotist, or trying EMDR therapy or neuro-linguistic programming. You will be amazed at how many things could be keeping you from your dreams. Once you’ve discovered your limits, you can reprogram your brain to overcome these roadblocks.

What are the things you’ve believed your whole life that may be holding you back?
What thoughts are keeping you from your dreams?
What’s buried deep in your subconscious that hurts you?
What do you find painful to talk about?

If you can devote 2019 to discovering what’s inside, you’ll make your dreams a reality.

I believe in you — I know you are capable of anything you desire.

Eric Rhoads

Roadblocks That Get in the Way of Your Dreams2019-01-13T12:21:18+00:00
30 12, 2018

12 Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever

2018-12-28T09:01:59+00:00

As I’m snuggled in with a blanket draped over my lap, the chill outside prevents my normal porch visit. Instead, the sun gleams in and the ornaments of the Christmas tree sparkle with light, while a perfectly focused shadow of the tree is projected on the side wall by the sun’s powerful rays.

Like a wedding that is planned all year and over with a quick “I do,” Christmas is over. It seems as though we spend weeks, and sometimes months, in anticipation and preparation, then packages are ripped rapidly open and Christmas too is over, and we’re moments away from the hope of a new year.

Looking Backward

With the beginning of a fresh 12-month cycle, we evaluate the last cycle and ask ourselves what worked, what failed, and what needs to change. We set new resolutions — but we later forget them, and we repeat our same routines yet another year.

Finding Yourself

Here I sit with a list of questions I should have addressed weeks ago, yet life, work, and Christmas got in the way. But a couple of days to think them through will set the tone for my coming year. It’s not really fair to myself to spend just two days planning the next 365, but something, I suppose, is better than nothing.

What should I celebrate?

Looking over a year that has been as much a blur as scenery out the window of a bullet train, I ask myself what worked, what I am most proud of, what accomplishments I should celebrate.

What should I not repeat?

That high-speed view requires that I devote even more time to my mistakes. What went wrong? Why? If I had to do it all over again, would I still want to do it? And if so, what would I do differently the next time around?

What do I regret?

Regret is an emotion reflecting something I’m not feeling good about. How did I treat others that was not the best of me? What behavior or attitude do I feel badly about? What opportunity did I take that I should have avoided? What opportunity did I pass up?

What should I have been doing?

There are also things I should have done that I did not. For instance, I should have gotten more exercise, but I allowed some excuses to get in my way. What was I too lazy to do that would have made things better for my family, or for my surroundings?

What did I mean to do that I never got to?

This is a giant one for me — projects or actions that have been put off yet one more year. They loom over me, causing stress every time I think of them. These are not necessarily high-priority, but they do eat away at my energy, knowing they need to be done. It might be a great idea I need to consider at work, or something at home, kind of like that loose banister knob on the stairs in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Where do I want to go that I’ve never been before?

Though this sounds like, and could be, a travel question, it’s really a question about pushing ourselves into a new experience, a new world, about doing or trying something new.

What have I always wanted to do that I’ve never done?

Will this be the year? Which dream did I, or you, cast off with some poor excuse for not pursuing it?

What’s my updated bucket list?

What are the places and experiences I want to get to before I die?

What do I keep talking about but never doing?

Talk is cheap. Excuses get in the way.

What do others need of me that I need to make sure happens? It’s not all about me, and that’s a good thing. How can I be there better than last year? It what ways do I need to make sure I show up?

Who do I need to spend more time with?

There are people I love who I want to be around more, even though they may be far away. If not now, when?

What superpower or gift do I need to share with the world?

I have gifts I need to share — and so do you. You know things others don’t. You possess superpowers in some areas. Will you share that? Don’t tell yourself others don’t want or need to hear from you. I used to have a lady contact me often and tell me about her troubled life. She could not keep a job, she was miserable, her life was filled with problems. She suffered depression and was even feeling suicidal. She asked me what she should do, and I told her she should become a life coach and a public speaker. She laughed and said, “No, seriously.” And I said I was dead serious. All she needed was for someone to believe in her. She took immediate action, got a chance to speak in front of a small group, then another, then another, and now she is speaking in front of big crowds and telling her story. I’m sure the book will come. Her life changed in one second when someone told her they believed in her and held her feet to the fire to go out and do something tomorrow. Had she not done it at that moment, she might have slipped back into her old life. I didn’t do that, she did it. That’s what we all need to do. The instant you decide you need to do something, take action that second before doubt demons keep you from your dream.

Questions Are the Way to Find Answers

The better the question, the better the answer. Ask yourself a question and give an answer, then deepen it with another question based on that answer, and then another one. Ask yourself “How else might I accomplish that? What else would make that even better?”

How might I _____, so that I can ______?
How did things get this way?
Why do things stay this way?
How can I improve things?
What are the possible reasons I’m noticing this gap (a symptom of an issue)?
What isn’t happening that if I did it, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What is happening that if it stopped happening, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What don’t I see?
How much money would I have right now if I could unwind any three financial decisions I have ever made?

“What sabotages our dreams and causes most of our problems is our excessive optimism and emotional belief in magic pills, secret formulas, and financial tooth fairies.” —  Keith Cunningham, The Road Less Stupid (which contains these and other great questions)

Most of us, myself included, spend more time thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner that we spend thinking about our lives, our problems, and solutions to our problems.

A Powerful Tool

What if, before New Year’s, you locked yourself in a quiet room — no phone, no computer, no music, no distractions — and you made a list of every dream, of every problem, of everything you want to accomplish? If you just started writing down everything that comes to mind? Don’t judge, put everything down, and keep asking more questions about each.

If you did this for an hour or two, you’d be spending more time on your plans than 99.999 percent of the world, and if you do it a few more times, not only now, but a couple of times a month, you will see things change and worlds open to you.

Keep It Visible

If you and I looked at our list of goals, actions, and dreams once a day or even once a week, it would be more top-of-mind and not forgotten, so we wouldn’t get to next New Year’s Eve with the same list of unrealized dreams.

Manifest with a Plan

There is a mistaken belief in our culture that if you dream something, or manifest it, it will come. Though I’m very much a believer in this, the missing element is typically a plan, some action items, and making sure what you want is continually on your radar.

If Not Now, Never?

If it’s important to you, you’ll do it. And if not now, when? You may think conditions are not right and that things one day will be better, but that’s rarely true.

Roadblocks to Dreams

Don’t let excuses keep you from your dreams. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too busy, too sick, too healthy, too reliant on others, too consumed with other responsibilities. Don’t wait on others to solve your problems, or you’ll wait a lifetime with no results. You are the only one responsible for you.

Poof, You’re Gone

You and I could be gone one second from now. Each breath is an opportunity to not waste the rest of our breaths and live the dreams we were placed on this earth to accomplish. Our dreams are not just random ideas that came into our heads, they are gifts we need to embrace and on which we need to take action.

Dream.
Live.
Ask questions.
Make plans.
Take action.
Measure action.
Adjust.
Make new plans.
Keep taking action.
Live the joy of knowing your dreams became a reality.

Yes, it actually can be a happy new year.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of my action items, based on encouragement from many of my readers, is to help others find these Sunday messages. Maybe, if one day this gains some steam and gets some national recognition or notoriety, it could change more lives, maybe become a book or a few, and do what I was put on this earth to do.

If you, and each person who opens these e-mails, would do just three things, it would help tremendously. Because if I’m going to continue doing this, I need to do it right and amplify.

  1. Forward this e-mail with a note about why you find it meaningful (assuming you do) to three or more people.
  2. If you happen to know an influencer … someone in media, a blogger, a TV or radio person, a celebrity, a change agent, a book publisher, or anyone who, if they wrote about it, would bring in more readers, it could make a huge difference. Again, send a personal note.
  3. If you would copy the website link to this today and put it out on social media for others to discover it, I’d appreciate it.

My number one goal for 2019 is “Amplify to Cause Change.”

I want to say that I’m so grateful. I hear from a lot of folks every week by e-mail, in the comments below, and in person. It’s gratifying to hear your stories and how, on occasion, a thought helped you in some way. I truly, sincerely, and graciously wish you a year of abundance, of joy, and of great depth.

12 Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever2018-12-28T09:01:59+00:00
23 12, 2018

Two Opposite Perspectives on Life

2018-12-20T15:00:49+00:00

Sage-colored oak trees in the distance glow with dew as the sun glistens off their leaves. The mountain in view creates a stunning silhouette and cantaloupe color fills the sky as an Indian yellow sunrise peeks through the leaves with intense color. What were massive beds of little yellow flowers just weeks ago have turned into toasty, oxide-colored weeds.

The old studio porch is glowing, with the orange sunrise light flooding its dark wooden shiplap boards as the sun projects shadows of the twisted trees on the walls. Even the festive strings of lights that edge the porch are glowing from the sun, though the lights are not even plugged in.

Mornings, and sunrises, are magical in every way, and though there is no snow here and it’s a cool 50 degrees, the air is still filled with the magic of Christmas. And somehow we managed to get the Christmas tree and decorations up and even got the lights up on the front of this old house, just in time to celebrate the special day that comes this time of year.

Christmas Insanity

The word “tender” comes to mind for the holiday season. In spite of the pressure to perform miracles selecting the perfect gift, and perhaps pushing ourselves deeper into debt, come Christmas Eve there will come a calm, truly a silent night, and a time when, if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll fill that special night with tender moments and memories with our families or special friends.

A Final Farewell

Tender is on my mind because of a phone call I just had to make to a dear friend whose Christmases for the past three years have been spent wondering if each would be the last Christmas for her husband and best friend. My call was prompted by getting word that this will indeed be their last Christmas together. Her description of their last year together is “tender, not bitter.” Though they have fought his illness for three years, she tells me this process of dying is one of the cycles of life, and that they have enjoyed each cycle together and are determined to embrace this final cycle with dignity, grace, and abundance of love.

Intense Anger

Tender is also on my mind as I think of an old friend who has filled his heart with anger. It began like gasoline poured on a small spark, then spread like a forest fire in high winds, leaving destruction for miles in every direction as he destroyed ancient-growth friendships because of his obsession with politics. Everyone else abandoned him much sooner than I, but I hung in there, knowing the gentle, tender man he once was. Yet even I finally had to distance myself because it’s too painful to listen to the vitriol and watch his self-destruction.

Life in Contrast

The contrast of these two events is painful. In one case a couple is facing the most difficult possible time of their lives, yet they have found the peace and even joy in it, not allowing it to destroy their final weeks or months together. The other is allowing the media to manipulate him and add daily fuel to the obsession that is killing him from the inside out, as he carries so much unnecessary anger and drives his family and friends away. One family is facing their pain with dignity, the other with anger and disgust.

The Paradox of Friendship

Why is it that we can invest decades into friendships and look back on those years fondly, believing the friendship can outlive anything, only to find out that it can turn into contempt because of disagreement in one small part of our lives? What happened to trusting people for who they are and have always shown themselves to be? Yet they — or we — allow a disagreement over politics to bring it all to an end.

The Prescription for Sanity

This political anger is changing our behavior and increasing our blood pressure, and too many of us are allowing it to disrupt our lives, our relationships, and our day-to-day behavior. One woman told me she is not going to our Plein Air Convention this year because she is so upset over the recent midterm elections — she just isn’t going to go. Yet getting away from all that to be around people who love what she loves, and finding a much-needed painting distraction, is just the prescription she needs to bring some peace to her heart. As people ruminate over the horrible things they think are happening (no matter which side they support), they are putting life on hold out of fear that something even worse is about to come.

“Never talk money, religion, or politics,” my folks used to say as they were putting us through life boot camp. “It’s a good way to lose friends, and no one is going to change their mind anyway.”

A Crumbling Foundation

I remember hearing stories about families divided during the Civil War, brother fighting and killing brother, over their beliefs and ideals. Have we come to that again? Your beliefs, your ideals, whatever they may be, are worth fighting for, worth disagreement, but are they worth killing friendships over? Change what you can change, use your best efforts to make the change you wish to see happen, but don’t allow it to rip the very foundation from under your feet. Your family and your friendships, in my opinion, should be protected like your most precious possessions, because when we too face those final moments in our lives, we won’t be obsessing over politics, we’ll be wishing we could see all those people we love, just one last time. And if we’ve driven a wedge between us and our family and friends, they won’t be there. Our friendships and our families are our foundation, and if a foundation cracks, the house falls.

Use Time Wisely

My wife always reminds me that our final words won’t be “I wish I had spent more time working.” Alive and well, I am wishing I could spend more time with my wife, my kids, and my friends now, and trying to figure out how to get off the road and travel less. The recent loss of Sean, a lifelong friend, was a reminder that you cannot reconnect enough. And now that all three kids are driving and will be off to college in short order, it’s a reminder that we can’t look back, all we can do is focus on now.

I once wrote about battling troops who played football on the front lines of World War I. It was Christmas Eve, and out of respect, they put their anger aside to play football together, gifting themselves with a couple of hours of joy before they returned to killing one another.

I propose a truce. Not just a Christmas truce, but a lifelong truce.

A Rule Worth Following

Going back to my mom and dad’s advice about not talking politics, when I hold my events in the Adirondacks and Fall Color Week, we have a no-politics rule. We’re there to escape, play, and have fun, not to fuel anger and disagreement. The rule is that we simply don’t talk about it, and try to avoid looking at the news on phones or other media.

Escaping Pollution

This past fall one person brought up something political from the news to me mid-week, and it truly spoiled my joy for a couple of hours. And though I said this in a loving way, I suggested that I’d happily refund his money if he was going to pollute the atmosphere for me and the group at a time when we’re all trying to get away from all the political angst. I intend to recommend the “no politics truce” at the Plein Air Convention and the Figurative Art Convention as well because we’re there to celebrate our commonalities and the painting that gives us joy. We all need escapes.

What if you were to suggest this rule at family and friendship gatherings? Chances are everyone knows that there would only be disagreement and debate over politics, and it typically results in bad feelings, anger, and sometimes the end of friendships.

Keeping Certain Things Private

Honestly, we should not make it our concern what each other’s politics are. We should not want to know how others voted. We should not want to know who they support and who they hate. Political discourse used to be more civilized, but it’s become toxic, and that is why we should all make a truce to remove that from our dialogue with friends and family. Meanwhile, the media loves keeping us on the edge of our seats and fueling our anger so we go back for more. Resist it.

Our obsession with politics is hurting us all.

No More Poison

Last summer I disconnected entirely. No television, no radio, no news websites, and I asked my wife not to tell me about things she was reading. I was filled with joy; all that poison was not polluting my system. I enjoyed it so much that I try to go to my studio instead of turning on the news. I get to change things when I vote, and unless I run for office, which I would never do, there isn’t much else I can do. So why get worked up?

Extracting politics from my life may be putting my head in the sand a bit, but I’ll learn about everything important one way or the other. And doing so has brought me peace and tranquility. It’s not controlling my life, and the media is no longer pushing my buttons.

You have every right to be concerned with politics, of course, and I respect that. But is it truly worth the loss of friendships and family?

Are you feeling defeated, angry, or frustrated with politics?

Is it serving you or hurting you?

Perhaps it’s time for you to consider a truce. And there is no better time than now.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When we next talk, Christmas will have passed. Please accept my deepest and most sincere wishes for a wonderful Christmas. I intend to take some time off, so if I don’t show up next week, you’ll know why. Frankly, I won’t know what I plan to do till the day comes.

Two Opposite Perspectives on Life2018-12-20T15:00:49+00:00
16 12, 2018

Strangers Among Us

2018-12-13T08:34:46+00:00

Quietly sneaking out of bed, I tiptoe out past the dog crate where our two new small rescue dogs sleep, hoping not to wake them or their adopted mom. Softly closing the door, I think the dogs are still sleeping, only to hear the door open and a sleepy mumble, “Please take them out.” Walking from the cozy warmth of the indoors to the stark chill of a winter morning, they wander through the tall grasses and around the trunks of the gnarly oaks, then briskly head back to the heat.

Peace Interrupted

My best Sunday mornings involve quiet, undisturbed moments on the porch or a dock as the family sleeps. Now, a new era involves a couple of tiny dogs the size of couch pillows walking across my keyboard in search of a cuddle. Silence and peace are interrupted by an occasional love nudge or a growl at something seen out the living room window. At least I can see my porch and my little slice of heaven from where I sit. It’s just too cold to be outside writing, and gloves make me hit two keys at a time.

Looming To-Do List

Brightly and with bold confidence, the morning sun streaks a beam of light across the porch, ending on the Christmas tree leaning against the house, waiting to be brought inside. My to-do list stares me in the face — boxes of ornaments and yard decorations that should have been addressed right after Thanksgiving. If I get my chores done, I’ll have the tree up before it’s time to take it down.

A Walk Through the Woods

Last Sunday we managed to drag the triplets away from their busy lives, piling all five of us into Mom’s car, a rarity these days, off on our annual tree-seeking tradition. For us, a walk through the snow-covered woods, saw in hand, and dragging a tree down a country road is replaced by  pointing to a tree and pulling out a credit card. Not terribly romantic, but a tradition the kids love just the same.

The ritual of carrying boxes from the attic, decorating the house, and then tearing it all down again is worth the effort as we pull out ornaments, handmade by the kids as toddlers, that stimulate conversations about childhood. It’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas, especially when the kids bring up their own memories. In spite of being hormone-overloaded teens, there is a brief moment when they think we gave them happy memories.

Decorative Memories

Silly objects that sit around our house will be remembered forever, just as I recall the little white plastic church with the light inside whose doors would open as its music box played “Silent Night,” filling my grandmother’s 1940s living room. One memory stimulates others — odd things we remember, like serving Hillbilly bread at the dinner table, and important memories like reading a devotion and a passage from the Bible at every meal. As I kid I could not wait for it to end, yet today I appreciate faithful dedication, and maybe I absorbed a thing or two.

Family Prayers

Marathon prayers longer than War and Peace came from the hearts of my grandparents, as they made sure to ask for a blessing for every person they ever met in their lives. It’s in the grandparents’ manual, I suppose, because it continues with my own father’s epic prayers. Yet each prayer contains these words we will all remember for the rest of our lives: “Change all of our plans according to your plans, we do and say, and all of our actions according to your will, not our own.” Pretty good advice.

My own kids react the same way we did as kids, just wanting to dig into the meal. I remember an old family friend who used to say, “Don’t ever eat unblessed food.” But we would open our eyes and sneak an occasional green bean. My kids do the same.

Strangers at the Table

Christmas was that time when people we rarely saw would come out of the woodwork. Like aunts and uncles, they were always at holiday meals. One man who was always there, a fellow named Raymond, who was single his whole life and lived alone in a little white house down the road, had served in the Merchant Marine with my dad. I never heard much more about the story of why we adopted him into our family. I’m guessing when I ask my parents they’ll say, “That’s just what you do when people are alone. You include them in family.”

Adopting Families

I don’t know if it was the times, or just something our family did, but people were always living with my grandparents. One woman, Della, was like a third grandmother to us. She was there from the time we were born until she died when we were in our early 20s. I’m guessing she lived with my grandparents for over 30 years. She had lived a few doors down, across the street in a tiny little Craftsman kit house, and was left penniless when her husband and all her kids were killed in an auto accident. That’s when she became part of our family.

Am I That Selfish?

I had not thought about these adopted adult “orphans” in years, and I don’t know if it is what people did back then, perhaps rooted in the Great Depression when people needed help, but I don’t see it today. And I sometimes wonder if I’m too selfish to do something like that myself. I can’t imagine how disruptive it is to a family to take in a widow and let her stay the rest of her life. I’d do it for a week or two, maybe a little more, to help someone get settled. It makes me realize just what special people I had in my life who would put the needs of others before their own comfort. I wish I was less selfish.

Awaiting Your Call

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent some Christmases alone because of circumstances such as not being able to afford to travel home to the family. Being alone for Christmas is not fun. No one should spend Christmas alone, especially people who are suffering with tragedy in their lives, where the simple gesture of an invitation to a meal and to hang out with a family may be the best gift they get all year.

Displaced Families

A few weeks ago I wrote about friends whose lives have been disrupted by hurricanes and fires, losing everything. Maybe you and I can share a little of what we have with them, even if it’s just for a day or a weekend or Christmas. Let’s not assume they have an invitation. There are so many displaced people in those communities that there are not enough hotel rooms or housing to take care of them all.

Is there someone in your life who would enjoy an invitation to Christmas dinner?

Is there someone who, if you stop and think about it, is lonely because of a recent change in their life? Maybe they just moved to your town, or maybe they are recently widowed or divorced. Maybe they are just in need of some friendship.

Imagine the impact you and I could have if each of the 100,000 people who read this would invite just one person for Christmas dinner. That one gesture could change everything for that person. It may seem small to us, but it is major to them.

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, now is the time to be planning who you will invite.

Charities will tell you that Christmas is the biggest giving season, but what if we found a way to hold on to that Christmas feeling year round? Maybe asking someone to move in for the rest of their life would be a bit of a stretch for most of us, but let’s not ignore our Christmas invitees the rest of the year.

As we get close to the big day, and as the stress of giving “things” tends to keep us going from store to store, let’s not forget the difference we can make in the lives of others with a little slice of our time.

Eric Rhoads

Strangers Among Us2018-12-13T08:34:46+00:00
9 12, 2018

Bumper Cars and Pinball

2018-12-06T10:51:18+00:00

Country life is pretty amazing, especially when there is a convenience store at the end of the road where I can get a carton of milk in less than four minutes, including checkout. Having my eyes enriched with the greens, grays, and blues of nature each morning is a blessing.

Unusually, I heard the whinny of a horse this morning, and wondered where it came from because I thought my neighbor with the 40 acres sold his horses when his daughter went off to college.

As I write, squirrels sneak up to the porch for a feast of birdseed spilled from the feeders, and birds are surrounding the feeder and the porch, storing up for winter. Sometimes I sit out here and think about what’s coming this week, or I just lose myself in my memories.

Shiny Memories

Memories came flooding back to me as I interviewed artist Tim Horn recently for an upcoming podcast because he has become known for the amazing shiny Airstream trailers he paints. I told him we had an Airstream trailer growing up, but there was more to it than that. I’ve got to get one of his amazing Airstream paintings in my collection. I’d park it right in front of my face to remember my childhood.

Not Just a Trailer, but a Movement

Airstream wasn’t just a product, it was a movement, and we found ourselves growing up inside that movement, where Airstream owners would get together and caravan across the country together, or gather in rallies — large fields filled with shiny silver pill-shaped trailers, hundreds or sometimes thousands of them. There were local rallies, state and regional rallies, and national rallies. And the Airstreams were meticulously parked in a fan shape, making for some amazing photos from on high.

A Cult of Campers

I’m not sure who started first, my parents or my grandparents, but they both had Airstreams and we would be at these rallies together. I was too young to know just what went on among this cult of owners, though I recall some horseshoe games, and my grandmother winning blue ribbons in  the bake-off each year for her incredible German chocolate cake. My grandfather was head of the parking committee, getting those trailers lined up properly during these events.

Family Vacations

Though I didn’t like it at the time, I recall those weekends when my brother and I had to keep that trailer shiny, rubbing compound in hand. Our vacations were often the five of us piled in our Oldsmobile Bonneville, trailer in tow, heading out to places like Colorado or the Grand Canyon. And in summers, we used to camp in a wooded trailer park on Sandusky Bay in Ohio, across the water from Cedar Point, an amazing amusement park with a spectacular roller coaster.

Becoming Men

Eventually we got a little OMC boat that had a tri-hull design. I got my love of design from my dad, who always wanted things that were practical, efficient, and well-designed. This little boat was a beauty, and we would spend our days in the boat fishing, visiting neighboring islands in Lake Erie, and even visiting Canada. But if I’d had my way, we would have visited that roller coaster every weekend. I remember one day when my dad was taking a Power Squadron course in a competition, and he and my brothers and I were out all day in a massive storm, with big waves and heavy rain. It may have been the day me and my brothers became men.

Random Bounce

Aside from the roller coaster, my favorite things at the amusement park were the bumper cars and the arcade, which was filled with pinball machines. What was fun about both was the adventure of unknown, random direction. No matter how hard you tried to drive straight or shoot the ball straight, they would bounce into things and go in other directions. That was the fun of it.

Though Forrest Gump would say life is like a box of chocolates, I think it’s more like a pinball machine or a bumper car. We head off in a very specific direction and continually get thrown off course and start heading another way. Or we set off not really knowing where we’re going, and we get jostled around a lot and end up somewhere we didn’t expect when the timer runs out.

Accidental Magic

I have to admit that there is some wonderful random beauty seeing in life as pinball, and it keeps things interesting and exciting. No matter how many plans you make, things never really end up exactly the way you planned them. Sometimes the best things in life are accidental and need to be embraced for what they are.

I hear friends concerned about their kids bouncing from job to job, not knowing what they want to do — yet bouncing can help them discover things that are better than anything they might find following a plan.

Split-Second Decisions with Long-Term Benefits

As a kid I loved listening to the radio, but I never envisioned myself being on the radio until a random event I got pulled into introduced me to a kid named Charlie Willer, who had to leave the event to do his radio show. Though we had been working on a community project to break up ice dams on the river that were causing problems, I dropped everything to go along and see inside a radio station. It was a split-second decision, one I almost didn’t make, and yet that one decision introduced me to a career in radio — in which I celebrate 50 years this year (I was 14).

Imagine a 50-year career, based on a split-second decision I made because I was curious.

In spite of all the vision work, goal-setting, and planning I’ve done in my life (and these are still critically important), most of the best things that have happened to me were because I bounced off one bumper car into another.

I’m guessing that management gurus like Peter Drucker would be horrified at the idea of bumper cars and pinball.

A Set of Three Words

Thinking back to random, accidental things that occurred, I realize that there are three other critical elements: Curiosity, Movement, and Capture.

Curiosity: If you ever finding yourself thinking “I wonder…” take action! Go find out.

Movement: I’ve often talked about a boat that is adrift at sea, that just floats where the winds and currents take it. It could be lucky, or it could end up crashing on the rocks. Yet that same boat on course, with engines running, will still encounter interesting things along the way.

Capture: Continually ask “How can I apply this to me, my life, my business, my career?” and then do something about it. Lots of us are exposed to the same things and may find we have the same interests, but we must move toward those things and seek ways to capture them in our lives. That’s why one person will get results and another will simply whine about why something wasn’t right for them.

Have you ever stopped to think about the bumper cars and pinballs in your life?

What things in your life are a result of your Curiosity, Movement, and Capture?

I’m guessing if you think about it, many things will be present.

Not Bounceable

I have a dear friend in Florida who sold his business 10 years ago for a lot of money, and has been bored ever since. He is miserable. My advice to him is to get back out in the world, but he keeps jumping into the things he did in the past, then gets frustrated that they are not happening for him because those ships have sailed. Yet I keep suggesting that if he were to put himself out there, do things outside his comfort zone, attend events unrelated to anything he is interested in, go outside the parameters he has placed on his own identity, he will discover new things that will excite him.

Comfort No More

That’s the very reason I attend three or more events a year that are outside my own comfort zone. It’s the reason, when traveling, if there is a conference going on for another industry, I’ll slip in and listen to the sessions. In fact, doing that years ago resulted in an idea that became a successful conference for my radio company.

Your Next Big Bounce

Millions of baby boomers will be retiring every day for the next 20 years. Many will be fine, but others will be bored and wishing they hadn’t retired. But what a wonderful opportunity to play pinball and bumper cars! Picking random things outside your comfort zone to attend or try might result in something to keep you engaged and enthusiastic for the coming decades. (And don’t start telling yourself you’re too old).

Curiosity, Movement, and Capturing the things you discover that you find interesting is one of the great secrets of people who live engaging and interesting lives. (Success Magazine once did an article on my being the “shiny object king,” which relates to my CMC (Curiosity, Motion, Capture).

Don’t Lock Yourself Up

Many off us get locked into “I’m supposed to do X,” whatever “X” is. Many of us tell ourselves “I’m an (insert career title here)” and limit ourselves. Yet a trip to the amusement park may be just what we need.

I have great confidence in you, that a little random and accidental bouncing may help you discover the next great thing in your life.

Start bouncing.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Yesterday, while en route somewhere, we randomly bounced into a no-kill shelter and adopted two amazing elderly dogs who had been turned in by an older owner who could no longer care for them and wanted to keep them together. Our family is pretty excited about our new members. Next I’ll have to have artist Johanne Mangi do one of her amazing dog portraits.

Believe it or not, I’ve not started my Christmas shopping yet, I guess because I’ve busily been finding gifts for artists for our customers. We are making the kids each pay for half of their first car, so my guess is we’ll be doing a lot of car shopping in lieu of Christmas shopping this year as they get their licenses. Brady was the first to get his license (his beaming smile is on my beaming Facebook page, which may be out of “friend” slots, but you can always follow my Instagram too).

I’m unsure if I’ll get up on Christmas morning to write, but just in case, check your e-mail. Have a great day.

Bumper Cars and Pinball2018-12-06T10:51:18+00:00
2 12, 2018

Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest

2018-11-30T13:29:22+00:00

The loud cackle of a colorful and exotic Amazon-like bird startled me out of my euphoric dream state on what was planned to be a no-alarm morning — like a military bugler pressing his horn against my ears, playing reveille and saying, “Get up, soldier!” I jumped up out of a dead sleep, only to see darkness out the window, giving me permission to nestle back into my thick warm featherbed covers. But alas, once I was awake, my mind was spinning faster than one of those wobbly toy tops we used to get at Christmas when we were kids.

So here I sit, in a dark little corner of my long wooden back porch with the light of my screen painting my face in a blue glow, barely able to make out the keys. Bundled for warmth, I’m treating my footsies to the the thick fake-fur socks I bought for snow painting in Canada.

It seems impossible that today is the start of December. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah (Happy Hanukkah this week!), Christmas and New Year’s seem to go by faster than firecrackers popping on Independence Day.

Spinning and Spinning

Thanksgiving week was a blessing. A staycation, no travel and just time with the family, sleeping in every morning and suddenly realizing how exhausted I have actually been. When you’re spinning on the merry-go-round, you simply have to find your balance and keep going until it winds down, but once you stop, you’re a little dizzy and you don’t want to get back on for a while. What a blessing it’s been not to wake up in a hotel room or have to catch another airplane. Though I love to travel, I needed a break and plan to stay home till Christmas, though that required canceling some trips.

Freedom

Brady, one of our 16-year-old triplets, got his driver’s licence this past week, and his first car. We gave high fives at the driving test, and when he was handed his license, his smile was beaming. He could not wait to have that moment of freedom we all remember so well — his first time out driving alone. And as he pulled away, tears streamed down my cheeks, knowing this is the first of many clues that our little birds will soon fly away. The other two are right behind him.

This moment, though long expected, has been harder than I thought. My mind is racing with questions about how we’ve done as parents, whether the kids are ready for freedom, and what critical lessons we need to impart before our nest is empty.

A parent’s work is never done, and to this day I learn life lessons by observing my own parents, who are in their early 90s but still manage to surprise me with great advice. They have also done a great job of luring us with “worms” to get us back to their nests on a regular basis. Soon, we too will have to find ways to make the kids want to visit, to spend holidays and summers with us whenever possible.

The speed with which children grow up was predicted to us by everyone who has been through it, but you never really realize it until you’ve experienced it.

A New Kind of Box

Over the years we’ve kept memory boxes of special moments, with papers from school, art projects, and other things the kids will want. But now, I need to start working on lesson boxes. How can I impart wisdom and lessons? Though I’m hopeful my kids will someday want to look through my life’s work, the magazines I’ve produced, hundreds of editorials, the marketing courses, the marketing book, even my radio history book, those things are merely a blip in the grand tour we call life.

Repetition Forever

Comedian Jack Benny, prior to his death, arranged for a single red rose to be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. What if we could create one lesson a day, or a week, and have those lessons e-mailed to our kids every day for the rest of their lives?

My new goal is to give my kids a lesson a week for the rest of my life. Something simple, something small, probably something said in passing when we’re together, not packaged as a lesson. But something deliberate.

The Rhoads Walk

We are formed by those who surround us. My grandmother used to say I had the “Rhoads walk,” and walked just like my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father. I once asked a doctor if it was hereditary based on bone structure, and he said it was learned. We learn from observation.

Mockingbirds

Our kids learn from our good and bad traits, the way we interact with our spouses or parents, the time we spend or don’t spend with them, and that will probably be exactly how they treat their own parents and spouses. They learn how we interact with others, the time we spend helping others, our work habits, our focus, the time spent with our kids, and they tend to mimic our moments of anger, of joy, or our interaction with our Maker.

I became two people … my artist mom and my entrepreneur dad. It was never planned, it was based on what I absorbed from their behavior. I embrace it.

My offspring have absorbed a lot, some not so good and some, hopefully, good. But there is still time, and that time does not end when they leave the nest. It never ends while you’re alive, and may never end at all as lessons pop up over time in situations when we call on our brains and experience for solutions.

Still, to make sure certain things of value that have been learned are passed along, it’s important to be deliberate and start planting important lessons. Now I just need to start making my list.

What would be in your life lessons list?

If you could get your kids to remember only three things, what are the most important things you would want them to remember for the rest of their lives?

What are the best things you want them to discover and the lessons to help them discover them?

What are the things you can help them avoid?

What traits don’t you want them repeating?

What traits have served you well?

Do you have others who need your lessons? How will you pass them on? Is it time for you to write that book you’ve been talking about for years? Why wait? Sure, we think there is plenty of time, but if it’s really important, how about starting today? It all starts with a first action.

Being Purposeful

I’m guessing the lessons I learned have been passed down for generations, getting better with each one. And in there were probably some things that someone had to learn to change. Yet when we think about our role, we live on through our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and hopefully forever in the family lineage. Someone in your past was deliberate and purposeful in the lessons they offered, others passed on what they knew only by accident.

Which will you do?

I’d love your feedback in the comments below or in e-mail. I’m starting to work on my list and would love to hear about yours.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Everywhere I go people are sharing their stories about Sunday Coffee and what it’s meant to them. Most have told me they’ve shared it with others. If there is a particular Sunday when you find something you think has value for others, I’d appreciate your sharing it. Just forward it with a link to subscribe (www.coffeewitheric.com).

Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest2018-11-30T13:29:22+00:00
25 11, 2018

When Stealing Is Acceptable

2018-11-20T15:04:37+00:00

I’m bundled up with three layers … a flannel shirt, an old gray hoodie sweatshirt, and my puffy down coat, which has paint on the pocket.

This morning I went behind the studio to gather some kindling, and I set it alight in the fireplace on the porch of my art studio. Crackling flames whirl around, and my chair is as close to the heat as possible so I can snuggle in.

Too Cold, Too Soon

I stubbornly refuse to admit it’s too cold to be out on the porch to write this morning; I hate to let go of spring and summer and being outside among my oaks, with my field of little yellow flowers (which just disappeared because of the cold) and my distant view of the purple-gray mountain.

The wind is howling, “Get inside, you fool!” and the smoke is swirling out of the chimney back to the porch, treating me to the soothing smell of burning wood.

Famous Artists

The view from the studio porch is different from the back porch where I normally write, where I can see the mountain, the trees, the neighbors’ longhorns, and the little log home we call the Artists’ Cabin, where some of the best artists in the world have stayed during their visits for filming instructional videos. The guest book is filled with sketches and notes, and the cabin is filled with little paintings they’ve left behind. I feel like I’m living the dream.

Influences That Matter

When I interview artists on my Plein Air Podcast, I often try to understand the influences that contributed to their turning to art. I hear stories of visits to artists who were friends of parents, of visits to art museums and shows, and it’s my hope that one day my kids will look back and realize the people they met are today’s equivalent of a Wyeth, a Rockwell, a Bonheur, a Sargent, a Morisot.

The first artist to stay in the cabin was Katie Whipple, visiting with another artist friend during her first year of art school, and she is now becoming well known as an important painter. Next week California artist Karl Dempwolf will become the most recent. The cabin is home to over 30 artists a year, which keeps things pretty entertaining around here.

Thinking About My Opus

Earlier this morning I was cuddled up in my wife’s grandmother’s old rocking chair, inside my studio by the massive collection of art books. It reminds me of a lofty goal of one day creating a modern version of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, a book that chronicled the lives of artists in his time. Today, there are so many important artists developing, and this is such a special time in the world of art and the two major art movements we’re involved with — the contemporary realism movement and the plein air movement. But with all the other projects, how will I possibly ever get it done?

The Richard Schmid Method

Things get done by discipline and extreme focus. I remember asking Richard Schmid to come to one of my events, and his answer was very telling. “My number one priority is to get several books of my work published before I can do anything else. I need to stay focused.” And focused he is, producing beautiful books, including a wonderful revision of his opus Alla Prima II.

I often encounter people who have a major dream they want to pursue, but then I hear, “I’m going to get to it someday,” or “I’m gonna write when I have more time. I’m too busy now.”

Sound familiar?

Your Biggest Dream

Sometimes we’re so busy achieving our goals and paying our bills that we don’t achieve the big dreams we’ve always wanted to do. You know … the magnum opus … the book, the giant multi-figure painting, the thing you can do to change the world.

In fact, I just had this discussion with a friend, who told me that life was just too busy … running the kids everywhere, managing a house, getting up early and staying up late, weekends consumed with activities like soccer games and birthday parties.

I Refuse to Insult

I wasn’t about to tell her that she could find the time if she really wanted to. Frankly, raising a family and being insanely busy in a job isn’t easy for anyone. I would not want to insult her by suggesting she could find more time. In fact, if there were a Mom’s Hall of Fame, she would be in it.

So what do you do if you have something you absolutely have to get done in your life, knowing that there is simply no time?

Well, honestly, there really are only two roads you can take. Put the goal off and hope you can one day get to it, or find a way to steal the time.

I wrote my recent marketing book in the car as we spent a week driving with the kids on spring break last year. It needed to get done, and that was the only time I could find.

Early Morning

My friend Roy Williams says the way to write a book is to get up one hour earlier each day. Get out of bed and start writing before getting ready for work. Set a timer, and stop at one hour. He does this seven days a week, which gives him 365 hours a year for writing, which is equal to nine 40-hour weeks. He has written several New York Times bestselling books this way without disrupting his busy life.

Of course, you may not have the ability to get up a full hour earlier every day or stay up an hour later.

But could you find 15 minutes twice a day?

How to Write a Bestseller

My friend Mark Ford told me about a guy named Andre Dubus III, the author of House of Sand and Fog, who wrote his book while he was teaching full-time at a couple of different schools  and working a construction job to make ends meet, while he and his wife were raising three young children. Since he did not feel he could get up an hour earlier, he tried a different approach.

Don’t Call the Police

According to Mark, “Each morning, he started his commute 20 minutes early  — 17 minutes, to be exact. And each night, he came home 17 minutes late.
“At first, he pulled into an apartment complex parking lot and wrote in the car. But after 10 days, someone called the police to check on him.
“Fortunately, he knew the officer. Dubus relocated to a nearby cemetery. It was quiet, usually empty of people, especially at 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“Every morning and every night, 17 minutes at a time, writing in pencil in a notebook. In summer, sweating with the car windows down, in winter, with the heat on until he got a carbon monoxide headache and had to stop. All the way to the end of the book.”

The book became a bestseller in 2000.

Stealing Is OK

My guess is that all of us could find 15 or 20 minutes a couple of times a day if we want the goal badly enough. Maybe we steal time by avoiding social media, cutting phone calls or conversations a little shorter, or getting up earlier. If there is time for lunch, why not use that time to focus on that big dream goal every day?

I talk a lot about goals, but the key to any goal is to break it into little pieces so it does not overwhelm you. They say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Being Exact

Define the goal and the pieces exactly. For instance, for a giant painting, it might be “order the stretcher bars and canvas by Monday,” “have the canvas stretched by a week from Monday,” “gesso the canvas by Wednesday,” and “sketch composition by the following Monday.” Rather than an exact time deadline, “by Monday” is good enough.

Begin Right Now

The other problem is that we’re always saying “someday” or “when I retire” or “when it’s not so busy.”

Excuses

My friend Mark says, “When someone tells me they will start a new project next year or in a month or a week or even tomorrow, I’m pretty confident they will never do it. When it comes to initiating new projects, inertia is the enemy.“

I put every idea into a digital bucket and ask myself, “Is it for this year or the future?” If it’s next year, it stays in the bucket till I set my goals for next year. If it’s this year, I set a date, write out the steps, and start working on it immediately in small pieces.

“Someday” is the kiss of death for a project. So today is the day. Do something about it today, get the goal defined today, get the steps defined, and then work on it a little every day, even if it’s just a couple of times, 20 minutes at a time.

Also, never give yourself an excuse to skip your scheduled time. Do it religiously.

I don’t live in your world. I don’t know the stresses of your life, the circumstances, or the insanity of survival. It might be best to do something “someday.” Only you can make that choice.

You Have Much to Offer

But your big dreams are too important to not get done. You have too much value to share with the world by achieving your big dream goal. Time passes too quickly, and unforeseen circumstances can end our time suddenly. Your voice needs to be heard — your ideas, your dreams, your influence.

No one else can do this for you. Chances are, time will never be easily available and circumstances will always get in the way. If it’s important, can you find a way to steal moments to devote to your dream?

Today, not tomorrow, is always the answer to getting something done. I have no doubt you can do it, it’s just a matter of stealing some time.

Eric Rhoads

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you didn’t get trampled trying to get a great deal in a big store somewhere. In case you did not see my Thanksgiving message, it’s here.

I’ve enjoyed the Thanksgiving break and the chance to declutter during our staycation. Guess it’s time to start a little Christmas shopping and get my annual planning done for next year. Now is the time.

When Stealing Is Acceptable2018-11-20T15:04:37+00:00
22 11, 2018

My Disruptive Thanksgiving Temper Tantrum and Why I Was Called a Spoiled Child

2018-11-16T16:35:06+00:00

Tiny baby trees planted in 1957, when we moved in, are now thick, towering giants outside a little brown three-bedroom clapboard house at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was a small Midwestern town where you knew all your neighbors’ business, where people brought you hot pie and homemade ice cream and would drop in unexpectedly for a Sunday visit.

Raising a Mountain Lion

We raised chickens in the two-car garage of that little house, once raised an orphaned mountain lion, and gave a home to a beautiful collie and a little black Lab named Pepper. The garage was where I painted my first car, a 1947 Chevy, and we conducted science experiments there with our kit of chemicals (which was dangerous then and would be illegal today). At that house we climbed up the old pull-down ladder to hang out in the attic, with an extension cord up the stairs to power my mom’s old RCA record player. I’d sit up there for hours pretending to be a radio DJ. (I’m kind of hoping now there was no asbestos around.)

At this little house, my brothers and I blew up mom’s flower beds with firecrackers and a remote control while Mom had a group of women over for coffee.

We held muscular dystrophy fundraising carnivals in the little square backyard, playing games and selling hot dogs. My brother Dennis and his friend crashed one of the carnivals in a raid, squirting all the kids with mustard and ketchup.

My Time Capsule

I planted a time capsule in that little yard over 50 years ago. I got the idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and came home to gather all the cool things I had from that year. I buried it in the flower beds by the back fence. (I apologize to whoever lives there if someone shows up with a metal detector. I promise there isn’t that much gold in it.) What would be in your time capsule?

Slick Floors

The little house was modern for its time and was a model home for the new neighborhood, “Woodhurst,” made by a progressive local builder. The house had a see-through two-way fireplace between the living and family rooms, a modern kitchen, and pigskin leather floor tiles, which were great for sliding in our socks like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

Learning Art and Travel

The hallway to the three bedrooms had a hand-painted mural of a harbor scene, with old high-masted ships with brown sails — probably a painting of someplace like Italy. That mural may be why I fell in love with painting. A bookshelf underneath was where we kept the Collier’s Encyclopedia and shelves of National Geographic magazines, and I’d spend hours sitting on the floor reading and dreaming of someday traveling the world.

Cover Your Ears

We had a Hammond B3 organ in the living room, where I’d play horrific loud funeral music to annoy my parents so they would sell it and buy a piano, which I desperately wanted to learn. This may have been the first of many passive-aggressive traits I developed.

Making Movies

We made silent movies in that living room, with its modern ’50s gold couch and my dad’s chair, beside which he kept his “hi-fi.” I shot the first movie with my first Kodak movie camera, and in it my older brother wore a smoking jacket and smoked a pipe. My parents were mortified. That was my first failed attempt at becoming a media mogul.

Of course there are memories of Christmas, when I got my first painting easel, my first record (“Get Off of My Cloud” by the Stones), my first album (Help by the Beatles), and my gold Schwinn bicycle.

Art on TV

The family room had a little black-and-white TV where we would watch Bonanza on Sunday nights before bed, and I’d watch Jon Gnagy and Norman Rockwell on The Famous Artist School TV programs teaching us to paint. We watched Bozo, The Monkees, and Dark Shadows after school. It’s the place we saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and where we watched endless days of Walter Cronkite coverage when Kennedy was shot.

My Crazy Neighbor Lady

We had a basketball hoop on the garage, and a cranky neighbor lady who used to take naps during the day would call my mom and complain that we were playing basketball at 3 in the afternoon after school. She called every day of my childhood, and she would still be calling if we hadn’t moved. There simply was no safe time to play ball because it seemed like she was always sleeping, and her bedroom was right beside the driveway with the basketball hoop. Like typical troublemaking boys, my neighbor Stu and I would sneak out whenever possible and bounce the ball just to see how long it would take the phone to ring. (Of course, in Indiana, the basketball is the state bird.)

We moved into that house when I was about 3, and I consider it my childhood home. I cherish the wonderful childhood my parents created for my brothers and me.

And this little house is where we would have Thanksgiving every year.

My Tantrum

We usually had a pretty normal 1960s Norman Rockwell kind of Thanksgiving. But one year during dinner, I piled my plate high with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with a lake of gravy, ham with pineapple, sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows, green beans in mushroom soup with fried onions on top, a side of cranberry sauce, and two kinds of pie … pumpkin and cherry (my all-time favorite). Then I stood up, yelled something at my family, cousins, aunts, uncles, and all … and I slammed that full plate of food on the floor. Then I ran off crying.

Glass shattered and scattered, faster than a flock of goats being chased by a wolf. Food was spread over a 10-mile radius around the tiny dining room filled with card tables and “kids’ tables.” Food was on the walls, gravy was dripping down the the sliding glass door beside the table, and the cream-colored curtains were now decorated with red cranberries, cherry pie, and sweet potatoes. Funniest of all, marshmallow was dripping from my grandfather’s glasses and splatters were on the faces of pretty much everyone.

I honestly can’t remember why I did it, but I remember my aunt muttering something like, “Your kids are spoiled and something needs to be done about it right this minute.”

The fact was, I had a horrific temper as a kid. That is, until the day I slammed my ukulele into the door of my room and broke it into matchsticks. When my parents refused to buy me another, I realized rapidly that it was time to grow up and stop destroying my own stuff.

Little Apple Turkeys

I loved Thanksgiving because I got to help my mom. I’d put out decorations like little apples made into turkeys with a fan on the back, little legs, and gobbler head on the front. I’d make a horn of plenty, flowing out with colorful gourds, and I’d always open the family Bible and light a candle by it.

Seeing cousins was always a treat, and we would get sent outside to play in the snow, build snow forts, and have snowball fights — until someone ran into the house crying after an ice ball to the forehead.

Thanksgiving SHOUTING!

And almost every Thanksgiving, someone would say something that made someone else mad. Someone would go storming off angry or hurt, doors might slam, tears might fall, and people would silently stare into the eyes of others in discomfort, with that “What just happened?” kind of look.

Like all families, we had moments when we felt like we needed some space, some separation, or wished that someone hadn’t said something that got everyone into a tizzy.

Not So Perfect After All

If you and I had been present at the perfect American Thanksgiving Norman Rockwell painted in that masterpiece, we too would have watched the perfect moment pass, only to find plates of food flying, tears, angry moments, arguments, moments of insane laughter, great joy, and all the moments we can look back on and cherish or regret.

This, my friend, is family, and it is a golden gift.

You may have conflicts, you may have tough moments, someone may drink too much or say the wrong thing. But family is made up of real moments, of an environment so safe you can say what needs to be said, be who you are, and still be embraced.

No Perfection Required

You were not placed in a family for a Norman Rockwell-perfect Thanksgiving, you were placed there, in your family, for a specific purpose. The words that come from our mouths may cut or comfort, but each has a purpose, and everyone who utters their opinion about a politician or a social issue deeply cares about that issue. You may disagree just as deeply. But please realize each has reasons they formed their beliefs.

You can argue, you can disagree, you can get ugly or inappropriate, but before doing any of those things, know deeply that you have history with and love for the people surrounding you today.

Embrace the Reason You Came

You travel across town or across the world to be there, then leave wondering why you came home. I get it, but you came for a reason, and that’s because being with family is a great gift. And though you may have less-than-perfect moments, just remember that life growing up was also filled with conflicts, discussions, arguments, differing opinions, and joy-filled moments as well.

Trust that the people you are there with today are the people you admire and love. You don’t have to agree with them, nor do they need to agree with you. But each deserves your love, your respect, and for you to at least listen and try to see their viewpoint.

Or, as my dad likes to say, “Let it go in one ear and out the other.” Translation: Listen, but don’t let it get you riled up.

Listen Respectfully

Our world is filled with uncivil discourse. Friends start to hate friends because they don’t agree on political or social issues. But family is special. Don’t let it destroy family. Don’t let disagreement disrupt family time. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and life would be dull if everyone agreed about everything.

Make a truce. Agree to disagree and don’t bring it up. Find a way to rekindle old memories, and try to embrace the tradition of Thanksgiving and the meaning of gratitude.

Enjoying the Moment

Be grateful for those you love, those who share your table, and embrace their presence. Play a game, sing some songs, watch the game, but be there for one another, because you went to a lot of effort to be together. And be present. Let’s not make the Rockwell Thanksgiving into one where everyone is looking at their phones and not talking.

The Last Thanksgiving

There are people at your Thanksgiving table today who may not ever be there again. Fill the table with joy, with love, with laughter, with memories, and with respect. It will make it the best Thanksgiving ever, and then you can look back and this will be a day you’ll remember fondly forever. This is a day for love, for healing, for old and new memories. Be thankful.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Depending on when you read this, you may still have time to make a difference to someone who is alone for Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s serving in a homeless shelter, or taking a plate of food to someone on the streets, or maybe it’s inviting friends with no family, or people you work with.

I’m grateful for the gift you’ve given me, and I give thanks for you. You inspire me to share my thoughts, my stories, and my memories with thousands and thousands of people. You’ve graciously invited me to your home each Sunday morning, and you’ve been good enough to share your thoughts and memories with me.

And to my artist friends, for those who don’t want to watch the big game, it’s a good time to see if anyone wants to learn painting or sculpting. Could be fun. Or maybe you just make a craft together. Life is all about creating memories. For those of you with no artist around to help, you could try my free lessons online. The family that paints together cleans up together.

If you feel like it, I’d love you to read this out loud and share Sunday Coffee with others. I can always use a new friend (I can’t get enough). They can subscribe at www.coffeewitheric.com.

For kicks, I’ve prepared a few questions to start a table discussion at your house. Here’s wishing you luck.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

What is the one thing you never wanted Mom and Dad to know that you feel comfortable talking about now?

What family member had the most impact on your life, and why?

Which family members contributed to making who you are, and what did they do that helped mold you?

Who do you really miss, and why?

What is your most fond family memory from when you were growing up?

What was the one question you never asked your parents but you’ve been dying to know?

What are you really grateful for?

What’s the one thing you want to do with the rest of your life that everyone at the table might not know?

What are some of the things you want to check off your bucket list?

What’s the best book you ever read and the best movie you ever saw, and why?

Do you remember a time when you laughed uncontrollably? What was happening?

 

 

What are your memories about Thanksgiving?

 

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be richly blessed this year.

My Disruptive Thanksgiving Temper Tantrum and Why I Was Called a Spoiled Child2018-11-16T16:35:06+00:00
18 11, 2018

Tears of Joy

2018-11-17T20:47:43+00:00

Goosebumps show their little faces on my hands, arms and bare feet this morning as I sit in the chilly air trying to stay warm with sips of hot java. My knarly oaks are like a Bernini sculpture, twisted, and intertwined, looking as if there is movement, yet there is the stillness of a chunk of marble.

There is also no movement in the faded red hammock, that hangs on the porch of my log cabin art studio by the fireplace, which typically sways with the slightest breeze. Unusual quietness, the exact opposite of a New York City street, offers peace and solace as if it had known I had returned from the Big Apple in need of quiet time.

The warm comforting harmony of a distant train horn performs a sonnet in the distance as two baby deer and their mom are eating breakfast at my backyard buffet, popping their heads up at the sound of my fingers hitting the keyboards.

If my heart had a face there would be a big beaming smile on it, filled with gratitude. I’m finally home after a marathon of travel and events for artists and radio friends.

Tears of Joy

Nothing is quite as fulfilling as having someone approach me with tears welled up in their eye and tell me that we’ve changed their life. I must have heard it dozens of times in the past few weeks from people who took a risk, stepped out of their comfort zone, ignored the inner voices trying to protect them from making mistakes, who attended one of our events and discovered something about themselves. I heard it on our art trip to Italy, I heard it when we ended up painting unexpected snow in Banff and Lake Louise. I heard it from one lady who attended our Africa trip, I heard from several people who tried my free art lessons online and I heard it dozens of times at our FACE conference two weeks ago. I even heard it at my radio conference in NYC this past week. They all make everything worthwhile and put a big beaming smile on my face.

Yet as we approach Thanksgiving, it’s not all smiles. There are people who are hurting at this moment, who can’t gather in their homes this week because their homes have been lost.

Numb to Disaster

Too often we become numb to the news. Disasters in places we have never been, impacting people we don’t know. Yet, the recent hurricane in Florida and the fires in California hit very close to home because I know so many people impacted including people who are close friends and readers.

This morning, if you’re secure in your home, cozy and comfortable, I’d ask that you simply take a moment and realize just how blessed you are and how so many others are suffering. We must not forget them and we must help them in any way possible.

My dear friends, Carolyn and Chris, let me know that they lost their entire home and everything in it during the fires in Malibu. When we were at the Plein Air Convention last year I remember him telling me that it was just a matter of time before they lost their home in a fire. Now their family home and family heirlooms are lost, including a great grandmother’s rare, irreplaceable Steinway piano, their grandfather’s grandfather clock, every photo, every memory of raising their kids, every homework project saved for years, every painting they ever made, and those they had collected, every stitch of clothing other than what was on their backs at the time of evacuation.

Yet another friend, Jeremy, one of the most important artists in America, had just moved into a new dream house. Firefighters saved it, but he lost his guest house. And my friend, Robert, watched all the homes around him burn while his home was spared.

My friend, Lynn, told me during FACE  that she lost her home in the recent hurricane. She also lost her studio, all of her paintings, her collection of paintings, and literally everything she ever owned. The only possession that was found was her FACE apron from last year’s Figurative Art Convention.

Last year another friend lost her Santa Rosa home and all its contents in the fire. She was not only an artist, but a major art collector, and her lifetime of collecting and the paintings she had done disappeared instantly with the fire. The only possession she has is a letter we asked her to write to herself about her dreams and goals at the prior year’s Plein Air Convention. It arrived two days after the fire.

These people have been through a living hell, which is beyond imagination. Yet each has shared stories of the heroes around them who risked their own lives to alert neighbors in houses when all lines of communication were down. These fires happened suddenly and spread fast and most everyone was surprised and had no time to grab anything.

The amazing part has been their resilience in the face of incredible loss, their spirit, which they have not allowed to be broken, and their gratuity that their lives and those of their families have been spared.

My friends, Chris and Carolyn, looked at it as a blessing. “We’ve been tied down by this big house and all this stuff. We’ve wanted to move on to do other things, but we were clinging to our comfort and now we feel free.” She also said that the tragedy was bringing estranged family members back together and that the sacrifice was worth it. They plan to live their dream of living in another country.

My friend, Lynn, told me she would rebuild in the same place, and though she loved her home, there were things about it she always wanted to change, and that this was her opportunity.

And my other friend used the opportunity to pursue the dream of owning her own art gallery and living in a different community.

From the ashes, a Phoenix arises. Each is embracing what happened for them and not looking at it as something that happened to them. None are saying “why me?” Instead, they are trusting the plan for their lives.

Sadly, many families lost their lives and will be attending funerals instead of Thanksgiving celebrations. People are still missing, feared to be gone forever. Therefore, the rest of us have so much to be grateful for.

I’ve learned many lessons from the horrible tragedies my friends have experienced.

Declutter

First, stuff isn’t important. Sometimes we work our whole lives to accumulate stuff. Most of us cling to stuff, buy more stuff, and some of us, like me, tend to hoard stuff we have not touched, used or looked at in decades. I think of my own overstuffed office and garage. I’ll feel more free by purging, giving what I don’t need to others who do need it. Plus, I don’t want to leave that chore to my kids to sort through after I’ve graduated out of this world into the next. It’s not fair to them. So I plan to take a couple days over the holiday break to declutter.

Focus on Quality

Second, there is some good stuff, that if lost, would be a tragedy. Things that are passed down for generations, things that were handcrafted or made by special craftspeople. We should enjoy and appreciate those things while we have it knowing someday it can be gone. For me it’s the guitar I made with my own hands, which I hope to see passed down for generations, the paintings I’ve made, my kids’ school projects and crafts, a couple childhood toys that bring back memories and some things my parents and grandparents gave me. Rather than clutter with lots of stuff, I’d rather have less, and have it be good stuff.

Document

Third, those of us who collect or create art have a responsibility to photograph and catalog our art so it can still be seen by the future world. The artwork we own or created may be of little value today but may be of big value in the future as the artists become known. Through my decades of life in and around art, I’ve seen far too many collections destroyed by fire and storms and there are no records of paintings made by brilliant artists to be shared in future books. I’ve photographed my entire collection in high resolution so it can be published in future books and placed it all in a software platform where I can document it, comment on it, and have a “back up” off-site on the cloud.

Insure

Fourth, no one is every properly insured, especially their art. We buy random things and before we know it years pass and there is no record. There are companies that can do special riders for art. Of course, it may not have been worth anything when you bought it and may have become valuable over time, which means current appraisals should be done from time to time.

Scan

Fifth, scan all your old photos and slides, and paper memories, and backup all your computers on the cloud so there is an off-site record.

Plan

Sixth, what are the three most cherished things you would grab when running out of a fire? What is your exact fire or storm or escape plan? Decide now. You won’t have time to think when given one minute to get out. It might be a good idea to have a packed bag with three days of clothes, some cash, insurance records, passports, etc., that you can grab when there is only one minute to get out of the house. I have red dots on things in my garage if I had time to grab things.

More Important than Stuff

Though all of these emergency actions are good to do, the most important action is to heal your old wounds and to spend more time with the people you love. This is a reminder that any of us can be gone in a flash and that we need to look past our anger, our stories, our past issues, and embrace people for what and who they are. Enjoy each moment together as if it’s your last. Go out of your way to make memories, to visit one another, and take the time, which you won’t have when it runs out. And don’t waste a single moment doing what you don’t love. Spend more moments being around people you do love.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about healing wounds? Do it now.

Do This Now

Who is the first person you think of who you would regret not seeing one last time? Pick up the phone now and arrange it. Seriously, right now. For a few years, I’ve meant to visit my friend Sean, but I always had an excuse, and now that he’s gone I wish I could visit. I have others I’ve been too busy to see that I’d regret not seeing.

Though these fires are horrific, the ashes provide moments of clarity, moments of gratefulness and a much needed fresh start for some. Though reaching out to these people I did not know what to say or how they would respond, but I’m encouraged by their strength, their resolve, and their gratefulness. I’m not sure I’d be as strong.

Let’s keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes we do things not knowing we’re being insensitive. I wrote an email this past week about living in Paradise and how I got fired from my own company. Little did I know that when it came out a town named Paradise would be burning. It was pointed out by a very caring reader, so for those I offended, I beg your forgiveness.

My travel whirlwind is almost over for the year. Just one more trip to San Francisco to pick which of the hundreds of amazing landscape painting spots we will use for our Plein Air Convention attendees so we can all paint together, then a stop in Salt Lake City for a memorial service to honor my friend Sean, who passed recently.

There is some exciting news. Last week we announced our new Podcast Business Journal, which launches tomorrow. Each week I do the PleinAir Podcast and l love podcasting. It has brought me almost a half million listens. So we’re going to help the thousands of podcasters learn how to turn it into a profitable business.

And because I have Thanksgiving off, look for a special Sunday Coffee on Thursday.

And please consider giving to the Red Cross to help out victims in the recent storms and fires.

Tears of Joy2018-11-17T20:47:43+00:00