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17 03, 2024

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships


The sound of strong winds blowing is kinda eerie, like something out of a horror movie. Winds are causing a slight bend in the poetic palm trees, and the water is splashing against the dock as whitecaps fill the choppy water in our view. A morning walk on the dock felt like hurricane force against my wet jacket. Spring really is roaring in like a lion. 

I can remember spring days growing up. We would go out in short sleeves at the first sign of warmth, even though it was still very cold. But we didn’t care, because we were so tired of the frigid temps. The first sunny day was an invitation to pretend it was summer. I was always ready for winter to end — but of course it would get cold again and often snow as late as May or June. 

Last week, when I was in Austin, the bluebonnets were already thick and lining the roadways with a carpet of blue, while orange “Indian paintbrushes” were adding color against the blue. Pink trees were in full blossom, and bright green buds were already coming out.

Seasons have always been a metaphor for life. Spring is a fresh start. 

The cycle starts with spring … new birth.

Then summer … life.

Fall is aging.

Winter is decay and death.

The leaves fall and rot, and fertilize the soil. And the cycle of life begins again.

What Needs to Be Flushed Out?

Though we only get one chance at the cycle, what in your life needs to be flushed out with winter? 

What needs to be reinvigorated and rebirthed with spring?

Have you ever looked back on the mistakes you’ve made in your life and wished you had a second chance? 

Is there still time?

I think about relationships I’ve botched that could still be salvaged. Things may have gone bad because of a heated moment or an out-of-control rant. I’ve given up on people from my past because of their behavior in these moments — or perhaps my own, if I’m willing to admit it. 

But what if you were to be forgiving of a bad moment and give that person a second chance? What if you were to ask forgiveness, to offer some grace? 

Am I holding onto a grudge because of my pride or ego?

Am I thinking, “They need to apologize to me. They wronged me, I didn’t wrong them.”

What if you did do them wrong, but you’re not willing to admit it?

I can think of a few times when I felt I clearly was right and others were wrong, but I’ve realized I was really the problem. It can take a big person to admit that.

Thinking back to some great relationships that ended, do I miss them, or am I being indignant because they made a mistake? 

Is it possible you were the problem?

Is it possible they have changed?

Is it possible you were both having a bad day?

People change, people mature, people grow.

Is it time to plant a new seed?

Who are the first people who come to mind when you think about relationships gone sour?

Who do you feel is being unreasonable with you? Who feels you are being unreasonable with them?

I have a few people I’ve written out of my life who I loved and missed, but who had disappointed me. My ego got in the way of continuing the relationship because I perceived they’d hurt me in some way.

Are you willing to heal wounds, forgive them? Or just try to repair the relationship, not expecting an apology?

It’s spring. Let’s bring new life to old relationships that were once good.

Families should never be divided, no matter what. Families are all we have.

Friendships don’t have to end, and can become stronger by adding a little humility and grace. 

Let go of your pride. Relationships are more important than being right.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Later this week, I’ll be seeing spring from a whole new perspective as we make our way to Japan to experience the cherry blossom season. We’ll be hosting a group of plein air painters to tour and paint Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for almost two weeks. As a result, the next couple of weeks will be “Best of Sunday Coffee.” But if you wish to follow my trip, I’ll be posting on Instagram (@ericrhoads)  and  on Facebook at /ericrhoads.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships2024-03-16T16:01:51-04:00
10 03, 2024

If I Were King of the World


Gray-blue silhouettes of mountains and trees fill my vast view, as fog accumulates like piles of snow, cresting layer after layer of mountains against the pink sky in the distance. The morning is silent, and the mighty scrub oaks are completely still, paused like a dancer at rest once the winds of music stop. 

Being in this empty Texas house alone for a week is a gift. Not because I don’t miss my wife and family, I do, but because silence truly is golden.

I’d returned to Austin a week ago to host my most recent virtual learning event for artists, leaving my wife and daughter to go off on their own for spring break, providing another gift … Mommy-daughter time. 

Pumped Up

I’m feeling invigorated, not only from the high of having helped tens of thousands learn to paint and gain new confidence in themselves, but from thinking time alone with no clanging pots and pans, no barking dogs or barking newscasters. 

How did I choose to fill my free evenings after long, exhausting days?

Play Like No One Is Watching

I played my guitar and sang out loud at the top of my voice, as if no one was watching, because no one was. I then played my grand piano as loudly as I wanted, without fear of disturbing others who couldn’t escape it.

I took an online course on a marketing topic to sharpen my skills so I can offer fresh marketing ideas for artists when teaching at my convention. Then I did the planning homework required.

I read through a few bound editions of The Studio art magazine, published in the 19th century, from my collection of every issue ever produced. 

I painted in my studio, finishing a giant birch tree painting that may be one of the best I’ve ever done, and then debating whether to keep it in my family collection or send it off to one of my galleries. 

I wasted Super Tuesday evening watching the news like a horse race where I already knew which horse would win.

But the best part was thinking time, which is otherwise hard to come by because of my calendar, which tends to move me every few minutes like a chess piece in the game of business. 

Thinking allows me to see into the future, to play out what happens next, to think about where I am versus where I want to be, and how to fill the gap. 

When I Become King

If I were king of the world, I’d require thinking vacations for every person on earth, away from their work and busy work, away from their chores and obligations, and cast into a quiet spot uninterrupted for a week once a year, with no partying, no sleeping in, no going out. Isolated, alone, nothing to fill the time, no internet or media available. Complete disconnection, not filling even an hour a day doom scrolling or e-mail trolling.

It would not matter if they were retired, working, or just starting out. Most of us spend less time thinking about our future and our quality of life than we do on social media every day. 

Within a year of my new world of thinkers, the world would become a better place. People would be happier because they’d be focused on happiness first, which would make them kinder and less self-centered. Their work would be more fulfilling, because they would abandon what doesn’t make them happy in exchange for something that does. And they would be less likely to make money-centric decisions, because money is what people think will buy them happiness, but once you have it, you just want more. 

King Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes (which is filled with incredible practical life and business advice) and said the more you get, the more you want, but it never brings happiness because happiness isn’t defined by things. 

How much time are you spending on yourself, planning your life?

How much time are you wasting on social media?

This week I learned I can place a limit on my social media use on my phone, after realizing I wasted four hours scrolling the other day when I could have been productive. So now I have a 15-minute limit.

What if, for today only, for just one hour, you go somewhere quiet. No media, no phone, no music. Just a quiet spot. And ask yourself…

Am I as happy as I could be? If not, what would change that?

What have I not yet done that I’ve always wanted to do?

Start asking a lot of questions. Make a list of questions before you head to that quiet space, and then don’t just rely on the first three answers you get. Dig deep for 10 answers. Don’t operate on autopilot, use your brain.

If you do it right, that one hour will make you want to spend more time, until you figure it out. It might take a lot of time.

We are creatures of habit. We often run like robots acting out a computer program. But how much original thought do we have when it comes to the quality of our life experience?

Life is like a rocket. A massive amount of thrust pushes you into the air at 4,000 miles an hour. The flight is short, then it’s over. Time escapes like air from the Titanic. Then time runs out.

Ask yourself, if I died tomorrow, what are the things I’ve been meaning to get around to doing that I never got done?

Why have you not done them? Chances are it’s time, money, or fear. 

Why are those things still on your list? Do you really want them, or are you clinging to something from your past you THOUGHT you wanted to do but no longer really want? Of course, if these things are still important to you, why wait one more day? 

Life Is Over Fast

Sometimes life seems meaningless. It’s here and gone. What you do with it might not matter to anyone but you and your family. Why bother at all? I think we were given this rocket ride, and our responsibility is to spend that time creating experiences. 

What is your main purpose in life?

Will you feel OK if you never check that box?

In business I learned an important lesson the hard way. Do your homework up front. Study and be prepared. Yet in life we just kinda show up and don’t really prepare for it, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do … living well, living with purpose.

I used to spend more time reading the instructions to put an Ikea table together than I spent on my life, and the result wasn’t very good. No one taught us this important lesson, to think about and implement a life plan. Yeah, maybe we went to college to become a professional something, but how is that working out for you? 

Are you living your dream, or working to help someone else live theirs?

Give it some thought.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Giant thanks to all the people who joined me from 20 countries and 48 states this week. I love serving you. I’ll see you all next year or at the next event, which is our Plein Air Convention.

PS2: Soon I’ll be blasting off for Japan. I probably will run some repeats while I’m gone, but I’ll be posting pictures. If you do not already follow me on Instagram, please do @ericrhoads.

If I Were King of the World2024-03-10T08:50:49-04:00
3 03, 2024

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!


Each morning, as the sun blasts through our east-facing window, I’m treated to a colorful sunrise over the water, with the silhouettes of palm trees. It’s better than any alarm; it tends to get me up a little earlier than normal, and boosts my dopamine immediately. 

Upon waking, I walk out to the deck of our bedroom just to take in the beauty of the morning, marveling over the sun sparkling on the water, the warm breeze, the foggy blue distant islands, and the warm air kissing my skin. I’m feeling inspired. 

The Hunt for Inspiration

One of the reasons I travel so much is because I’m always on the hunt for beauty and inspiration. To me there is nothing quite as wonderful as getting out of my comfort zone, walking on cobblestone streets, changing foreign money, eating local and regional foods, and being unable to understand the language fully. It’s not only a vacation, it’s a mental break and a chance to feel invigorated. 

Last October, after our annual fall Fine Art Trip, I was totally inspired. Though this is a collectors’ trip, visiting lots of museums behind the scenes, artist studios, and collector homes, in my free time I always sneak away to paint en plein air, even if it’s after dinner and late at night under the streetlights. 

Inspired by Artwork

It’s hard to imagine this because so few in the world have ever experienced it, but I’ve been in the Prado, one of the most important and busiest museums in the world, having it all to myself and my small group, and no one else in the building. 

I can walk up to important paintings with no crowds and no pressure to move, and study them in depth. In one case, after seeing every painting in the museum, I kept returning to this one painting, over and over again. It captivated me, and I kept seeing more depth in it as I studied it. And after taking dozens of close-up photos, I’ll return home and try to copy parts of it as a learning experience. 

I gain tremendous inspiration from gazing at endless artworks by the world’s great masters in top museums. 

The Gift of Travel

I feel extremely blessed that I get to travel as much as I do. In just a couple of weeks, I’m leading a group to paint cherry blossoms in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan. Then in May I’ll be painting at the Plein Air Convention in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in June at my painters’ retreat in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, where I’ll spend my summer. Then I’ll host another Fine Art Trip in Europe (to be announced soon), and my Fall Color Week retreat in Monterey and Carmel this year. 

Gasping for Air

An important lesson was bestowed upon me by living the life of an entrepreneur, never able to come up for air, spending months on end working from sunrise till midnight, and then experiencing levels of burnout, depression, and lost relationships. Something had to change.

Sometimes it takes a kick in the teeth to stop bad behavior and reinvent yourself. The new me, I told myself, was not going to work weekends again, was going to travel to Europe at least once a year, and travel to paint with friends. 

The life of a workaholic is a dead end street, no matter what the books tell you. Life isn’t about working, it’s about living. Work becomes about providing enough fun tickets to live the life you dream of. It took me a couple of decades to shed my bad habits, my bad moods, and my work addiction to start living life.

Are You a Living Zombie?

Sometimes we feel like the walking dead … commuting to work, putting in the required hours or late nights, being workaholics, involved in endless projects and mind-numbing meetings that seem like Groundhog Day.

Are You  Burning Out?

Burnout and being stuck happens across all jobs and industries. It seems like we’re working hard to support our families, yet our families wish they could see us more, even if it means having less. It’s a trap too many of us fall into, convincing ourselves we’re “doing it for the family.” One friend recently said his wife told him, “If you think you’re doing this for the family, think again. If this continues, there will be no family for you to come home to.” 

So how do we break out?

Start with what you hate. While most people tell you to focus on goals, goals are of no value if you have to do things that make you miserable. Make a list of the non-negotiables, then start building a plan to unwind all the things you no longer want to do.

Instead of goals, make your dream list. “If I had all the money and time in the world, and no restrictions, what would I do?”

Do that. 

Even if it takes 10 years to figure out how. If you don’t do it, you’ll continue to burn out. But if you have a plan and know you’re working your way to freedom from the things you hate and toward the things you love, you’ll have hope. Hope with an action plan removes burnout.

Near Death

A near-death experience gave me instant clarity, from which I made my list, set my dreams in motion, and found a way to do them.

Be There

Science has a lot of recent research that says when you imagine yourself IN something, you find a way to become it. If you constantly tell yourself you’re miserable … you’re IN misery. If your brain is living your dream, it will find a way.

I could not afford to go to Europe once a year. My brain found a way once I started making that part of who I am.

BE where you want to be. Don’t tell yourself, “Someday I’m gonna.” Tell yourself you are there. 

Sometimes being delusional is the best thing to motivate your brain to find a way to climb out of a bad hole.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Tonight I’ll board a big bird and fly home to Austin, where I’ll be hosting PleinAir Live all week. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year because I see so many lives transformed. You are joining me, right? Be a DO IT NOW person, and you’ll move closer to your dreams.  

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!2024-03-02T14:39:48-05:00
25 02, 2024

Stunned by My Bias


The flags on the dock are blowing sideways as a strong wind pushes the waves into whitecaps. The birds overhead are doing acrobatics with the wind, diving in for fish and hovering in place. Schools of fish are scurrying to avoid becoming bird food. It’s wonderful to wake up to a flurry of activity.

Going Deep

One of the joys of my life is having deep conversations with friends, especially smart ones. Over the past five years I’ve become close to a doctor I was going to who is one of the smartest and most tuned-in people I know. Not just tuned in to medicine, but tuned into the latest research and trends, and also very aware of trends in business and in marketing. We’ve had some amazing conversations over the years. This week he and his wonderful family visited us for a couple of days and we had the opportunity to sit up late at night to pontificate about all of our interests.

A Shocking Moment

During our conversation, I was talking about some of the frustrations or roadblocks I experienced in my business. Then he asked me a very point-blank question: “What is the very best way to grow a business fast?” I paused, pondered it for a moment, and gave him my answer. In fact, I was emphatic about my answer being the only way.

A moment later he chuckled and said, “The only way? You are dead wrong. In fact, there is current research about that topic, and you’re not only wrong about it being the top way to grow a business, the way you’re suggesting isn’t even on the radar of top businesses. You have a major blind spot — a bias.”

Though it was all light and fun, it was one of those moments of clarity when I had to realize and admit he was right. I do have a bias about the way certain things are done. Though I had considered the thing he suggested, I had no idea it was proven to be more important than what I was suggesting.

My friend had called me out. Not to be critical, but as good friends do, to point out that my bias was blinding me, and probably impacting my results.

I was flabbergasted. 

Discovering My Bias

I would never have considered that I had a bias. Yet the more I pondered the idea over the following days, the more excited I became, realizing that there was something new to me, something I was not doing that could make a major difference in the growth of my business. And because he opened a new door in my mind, I started asking myself about other things I thought of in only one way, realizing that I had biases in other areas of my thinking.

Finding out was exhilarating and brings me new hope.

Stuck in Our Ways

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve done something the same way for so long, you’re shocked when you learn there is a new and different way you had never considered? I love to see people light up when I point out things their smartphone will do that they have been doing wrong for years. One time someone pointed out the little arrow on the gas gauge of my car, which is an indicator of which side the tank fill is on. I’d been driving for four decades before someone pointed it out. How had I not seen it all these years?

Meaningless Routines

We all have a bias about the way we think, the ways we do certain things, and we run on autopilot more than we would like to admit. I pretty much showed up at the office and followed my routine the same way every single day … that is, until a book I just read pointed out that there is a better way. At first I resisted it, but then after some thought, it was a game-changer.

I don’t know how to discover my own bias. I think we’re all blind to them. But the first part of discovery is about realizing they exist, examining everything you do, and asking, “Why do I do it this way?” I have routines I started 30 years ago that I do the same way.

Brain Games

A great way to challenge your brain is to force yourself to do things differently. For instance, I realized that I have a pattern that the washcloth follows every day in the shower. So I switched hands, which was very uncomfortable and almost overwhelming to my brain. Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. Close your eyes and walk backwards, or sideways. These little brain games can be invigorating, but also help rewire your brain to try new things differently.

Break habits. Go to a different grocery store. Visit different restaurants. Don’t order the same things in the places you always go. Don’t go home the same way, try new roads. Try to write or comb your hair with your opposite hand. Stimulate your brain.

I learned a good lesson this week. Surround yourself with people who are willing to challenge your assumptions. 

Runner No More

I was telling my doctor friend that the Mayo Clinic told me 25 years ago that I had to stop running because the pounding was pressuring a nerve, and if I continued, I’d be paralyzed for life. My friend pointed out that they used to believe that, and that the science has since proven that not to be true. Yet I held on to that assumption and advice for over two decades, when I could have revisited the assumption just a few years later and discovered I could be a runner again. I’m more than a little irritated with myself for not revisiting this.

Avoid Eggs!!

What are you not doing today because someone told you it was a bad idea? Remember it used to be a bad idea to eat eggs and fat? And now science has proven that it’s healthy. That’s why it’s important to read and be willing to accept what you know to be true. My doctor friend told me that almost 100% of the things doctors believed 30 years ago have since turned out to be wrong. Who knew?

I’m a little embarrassed about how stuck I’ve been. But it’s a good reminder to listen to others, read like a madman, and check all assumptions at the door and keep an open mind to new possibilities.

What is your bias? 

What are you still believing?

What do you do because of something that was told to you decades ago? Has it changed? 

Dig deeply and you’ll find a bucket full of bias you did not know you have. I know I did.

Eric Rhoads

PS: An artist friend of mine said “never” when I asked if he had ever done plein air painting (painting outside in nature). In fact, he reacted violently: “Why would I ever do that? There are bugs, the light is always changing, and you have to deal with the mud and the rain.” He had a bias about something he had never done. I urged him to try it and he said no several times, but finally I convinced him to go out and paint with me. “This has been the best painting day of my life! Why didn’t you make me go out sooner?” SInce then he has become addicted and it’s his preferred way to paint. His bias got in the way.

For those who want to learn plein air painting, I highly recommend it, because you get to be outside, and you get to see light, shadow, color, and form in ways you can’t see painting from photos. And it’s very social, and it’s fun to travel the world painting with friends (I’m going to Japan soon with friends to paint cherry blossoms).

You might like my online event called PleinAir Live, coming up March 6-8. If you get your seats reserved before midnight tonight, you’ll beat the price increase. Sign up today. It’s 100% guaranteed. If you watch the first day and think, “It’s not for me,” I’ll refund all of your money. Register at www.pleinairlive.com. Especially if you can’t make it to the Plein Air Convention this year!

Stunned by My Bias2024-02-24T14:55:45-05:00
18 02, 2024

The Cure for Selfishness


Cake everywhere! 

It was in their hair, in their ears, and all over their clothes. 

Laurie and I decided to celebrate the first birthday of our triplets, Grace, Brady, and Berkeley, by laying a plastic sheet on the floor and letting the kids dig into a birthday cake. It was a giant mess as they grabbed handfuls and stuffed cake into their mouths. It was their first real exposure to sugar, so they got very wired very fast. Afterward, the bathtub had a ring of grease that took lots of scrubbing to clean up. Though it was really a bad idea, it was a lot of fun to watch and made for great photos (I’ll post some on my social media).

This past Friday, our little babies turned 22. So Laurie and I flew from Florida to Austin to celebrate with them. This time the cake went on a plate and had 22 candles. 

Now that our kids are working and/or in college, we don’t get to see much of them and each moment is precious, which is why we went to the trouble to fly in for the special day. Once they have their own lives and families, it will be more difficult to gather them. 

No Kids, Please!

When I first got married at age 25, not much older than they are now, I did not want kids. Instead I wanted to be free to travel the world and do what I wanted. But time changed my desire to have children, once I stopped believing every day was about me. And though it has been the hardest work my wife and I have ever done (harder for her than for me), it has been the most rewarding.

Good and Bad All at Once?

How is it that one thing can be two opposite emotions at once?  Parenting is both horrible and joyful, at the same time.

Horrible moments like when all five of us got the flu, and we had to figure out a way to care for three sick kids and ourselves when we could barely lift our heads off our pillows. Or when doctors misdiagnosed them with a deadly disease and were about to put them through three years of drug “cocktails” to save them. When we insisted they be tested again, the doctors humored us, but discovered they were wrong. We’ve had horrible moments like numerous trips to the hospital, calls to doctors, calls to EMS, dealing with school bullies, difficult teachers, and some tough school years. 

We’ve also had some expensive moments, like three sets of Big Wheels, then three trikes, then three of the next size of trike, then three small bikes, then three bigger bikes, and then bigger and bigger and then scooters and wagons and every other imaginable contraption until we got to cars. Then it was three college tuitions at once. We’re still writing those checks.

Or frustrating moments like having all of our tools disappear, or finding moldy candy bars stuffed in the deep recesses of their disgusting closets. Or having to repeat ourselves 50 times and still having them forget to do things.

Not Good for Landfills

The years have been a blur. We don’t remember a lot of it. Triplets kept us very busy. We once calculated that we used over 16,000 diapers. We did three science fair projects a year for several years. Then there was homework, band, after-school activities, and so much more. It was exhausting. And we only had three the same age. I can’t imagine what it’s like for families with four or more kids, all different ages. 

Even Bad Days Are Joy-Filled

Yet the last 22 years have been filled with joy. It’s been the most incredible experience of my life, more incredible than traveling the world and meeting important people. I would not trade anything for the joy and pain of parenting. We would both do it all again, including the sleepless nights, the tears and fears, because the joy outweighs any challenge we could face. And we’re realizing that parenting never stops, it just changes. We have a lot of new things to look forward to in the future. 

The best cure for selfishness is to have kids. I was really selfish, but kids took all of that away.

The best way to learn to love is to have kids. There is no love like the love of your children, and there is no way to explain it to someone, but once they have kids, they always agree. 

The purpose of Sunday Coffee has been to express my thoughts, my ideas and ideals, and to share moments about life that might serve my kids well in the future, if and when they ever decide to start reading these. So today I dedicate this missive to my children in honor of their birthday. 

Being Selfless

For those who don’t have kids, don’t care to have kids, could not have kids … joy is found by serving others. I think that’s why parenting is such a wonderful experience — because it’s selfless. Seek places and people you can serve and you’ll have a very fulfilling, enriched life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: We had a massive number of people sign up for our Plein Air Convention before our Valentine’s Day price increase. Thanks to all who plan to join us. 

There is still room for our online event called PleinAir Live, coming in March. It’s a great way to experience plein air and learn all about the lifestyle and the process while staying home.

The Cure for Selfishness2024-02-18T08:13:21-05:00
11 02, 2024

Are You a Dream Weaver?


Coming to a dead stop in her flight across the sky, an eagle dives straight down to the water and scores a sizable fish with her massive golden talons. She has no fear. She does not think about what might happen if she fails, if she hits the water wrong and crashes. She is focused on her sole purpose. Getting food. 

“Do the thing you fear to do, and keep on doing it. That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —  Dale Carnegie

Some of us are born with no fear. 

That’s not me. I have fear of a lot of things. But I never have feared starting a business, even from a young age when I made lemonade stands and sold candles, and over decades of business startups.

The Gift of Youth

When you’re young and naive, you don’t fear life as much. You have not yet seen the repercussions of doing doughnuts in the parking lot, racing down the highway at top speeds, or daring to dart in front of a speeding train just before it hits the crossing.

I did all those things. I was strong, confident, and I could never die. 

Sadly, others did die. I had four classmates in high school who were driving drunk and were hit by a train. Three of the four died.

And as we grow older and wiser, we have more stories to tell of others whose reckless pursuits did not go well. That helps us mature.

When we start up a business for the first time, we have never experienced the difficult days — the decades of experience that make us exercise caution and play the “what if?” game.

At a young age, we have nothing to lose. Even if we lost our life savings, how much could it be? And we know we can easily make it back again.

No Pressure

It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have no spouse or partner, no kids, no mortgage, and no pressure. Once you have those things to consider, reckless pursuits are dampened by fear of loss. 

The joy of parenting includes watching my kids make reckless decisions, like jumping out of airplanes, even though I begged one of them not to do it — a dear friend urged me not to let my kids do it after the painful loss of a child. 

I, too, was an adrenaline junkie until I got married and had kids. 

A New Chapter

A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons lost his job. I was not unhappy about it because he was never happy in that job, did not love the way he perceived he was being treated, and he was making almost no money. But of course we worried that he needed to get something else quickly so he could pay his rent. Plus, he is like me and can’t work for others. He rejects authority, as I do.

So he and his friend decided to start a tree service. He put out the word and got a customer to pay them a couple thousand bucks for a project the first day.

Beaming with Pride

For the first time in a long time, I saw pride of accomplishment in his face, and he was determined to get other customers by making flyers, knocking on doors, and making posts on Nextdoor.com and Facebook Marketplace. 

He has no fear.

Proud Papa

You can imagine how proud I am of my kid when he is launching his own business and got his first customer, and for the first time in his life, generated money from his own brain, his own labor, not getting his money from a job or a parent, but from a customer. 

What Experience Tells Me

Of course, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “This could be tough.” It may have been beginner’s luck to get a customer, and the others might not come as easily. And of course, it was not long till he was discouraged because other customers were not jumping in the boat like the first one had. 

Yet he continued doing all the right things to market and promote his business. And he’s learning just how hard it is, but still he has no fear. He is confident he will figure it out, and so am I. And once he has had a taste of business success, he’ll never have a job working for anyone else again. 

The Power of Encouragement

I knew this would not be easy, and my first temptation was to talk to him about all the things he was not thinking about … like insurance and taxes and safety and 900 other things business owners have to think about. I could have told him all those things, but I bit my tongue. Instead I told him I had confidence in him, that I knew he would figure it out, and that he is doing all the right things, and that I was proud of him.

The Power of Discouragement

People are fragile. If someone they love and respect tells them that they don’t believe in them, or gets overly negative about everything that could go wrong, they will often stop and never try again. I’ve seen it far too many times in life. When people stop trying, they always wonder what could have been.

A Discouraging Word

When I was about 11 and told my aunt I wanted to get into radio, she told me it was a bad idea, that radio people were poor-quality people, that it was not a good industry to be a part of and I should pick something else. Instead of swaying me, it made me determined to prove her wrong. “One day I’ll be successful and show her,” I said to myself. I was passionate, I had found what I loved, and nothing was going to get in my way. And ultimately, my dream came true. I got into radio at 14, had my own show, worked on top radio stations, and even ended up as an owner of radio stations and radio-industry magazines and conferences. But what if I had listened to my aunt? I would have missed a lifetime of wonderful experiences and friends. 

You Can’t Make a Living as an Artist

I can share countless stories of people whose parents told them to pursue something other than art, because they “couldn’t possibly make a living.” I have stories of people who allowed their parents to influence them and spent an unhappy life in some other industry before coming back to art and finding their joy. I also have stories of people who proved their parents wrong and became successful and made more money than they ever imagined (even though it was never about money).

Don’t Squash Dreams

Be a dream weaver, not a dream destroyer.

If I had known all the difficult things I would face in business startups, I probably would have backed out. Getting your teeth kicked in is part of the growth process, and though it still happens on a regular basis, it hurts less every time, and the benefits outweigh the difficult stuff.

Encourage people. Build them up. No matter how much you see that they might be in for a tough year or two, let them find out for themselves. Though your instinct is to protect them, we have to let them experience the tough stuff too. We grow from adversity.

What I Discovered

Most of the people in my life are dream destroyers. I’ve launched 20 or 30 businesses or business products over the decades that I was told would never work, were likely to fail, were stupid ideas that no one would buy. I even did research that told me something would fail, did it anyway, and had huge success. It’s important to understand that someone with passion or an idea has a vision others can’t see. So no matter how much you don’t understand it, or even if you think it’s already being done elsewhere, give them all the positives and none of the negatives unless they ask. Even then, be thoughtful about not destroying or discouraging them. 

Besides that, nothing ever ends up the way you envision it. A good entrepreneur will pivot with the needs of the market. 

Stories of Success

The world is littered with failures, but it’s built on successes. Every startup person will tell you they had more discouragement than encouragement, and that sometimes it was one person believing in them, and offering ideas or help, who made the difference between success and failure. You can move mountains when you know others believe in you.

What dreams did you not pursue?

Did someone discourage you? Did you do it anyway or did you listen to them? Do you have regrets?

Don’t do it to others. Build them up. Give them encouragement. Help them see even bigger visions. With your encouragement, they might change the world.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Over two decades ago, I started PleinAir Magazine. But I almost didn’t because so many people told me it would fail. I ran it for two years and it did fail, and then they said, “Told you so.” But I believed so deeply in it that I found a way to bring it back, and started the Plein Air Convention. Again, people told me not to do it. Yet it’s been wildly successful. Thank goodness I did not listen.

The 11th annual convention is taking place in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this coming May.

A few years ago several people cornered me and said, “You always do your conventions in the West. Why not bring it east?”  I told them that the majority of attendees come from the West and that our fear is that if we hold it in the East, those people may not come. And if they don’t, we would have a financial disaster that could kill the convention.

Their response was, “We’ll make sure every plein air painter from the East comes, so it won’t matter if people don’t come from the West.”

So I took a chance, booked a facility, and we’re holding our first convention east of the Mississippi. Will it work?

So far, the West is winning.

What I mean is that there are more registrants from the West (in other words, they are coming anyway), but the East is not doing its part. Don’t get me wrong, we have hundreds of people coming from the East. But unless we can see more participation from the East, it could impact future decisions about coming back that way. 

So the challenge is on. Who will win?

If you’re a plein air painter in the East, the driving time to the convention from most of the U.S. is less than a day. This is your opportunity to prove the East has just as many plein air painters as the West. 

If you’re thinking … “I’ll do it another year,” please know we may never be this close to you again. We have four pre-convention workshops: one with Joseph Paquet, one with Indian artist Amit Kapoor, one with pastel artist Aaron Schuerr, and our Essential Techniques Day for beginners, which is a great way to learn the whole plein air thing.

If you don’t know anyone, come anyway. You’ll make friends.

Oh, and the price goes up on Valentine’s Day. So sign up today. www.pleinairconvention.com

If you’re thinking, “I’ll attend the online version of the Plein Air Convention,” we are NOT doing that this year. But if you can’t come to PACE, you can still attend PleinAir Live, coming up in March. This has top masters teaching plein air, but it is not the online version of the convention.

Are You a Dream Weaver?2024-02-10T19:26:25-05:00
14 01, 2024

One Thing to Solve Every Problem


If my memory serves me, Florida is supposed to be warm, sunny, and a good place to escape to during winter weather. It’s not any of those things at the moment. But I suppose it’s all relative, because, in spite of low temperatures by Florida standards, it’s a vast improvement over most of the country, which is suffering with record lows and giant storms. 

The flags on my dock are blowing at full speed, driven by intense high winds. The sunrise was hard to notice because the sky is dim and overcast, and the air has a chill. Yet I love the smell of salt air and the sound of pelicans, ospreys, and cranes flying over the choppy, splashing water. Chilly or not, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Vacation Is Over

Today is a bit of a somber day, but also one to celebrate. Is it possible for two conflicting emotions to be trapped in my brain at the same time? My kids leave us today to return to college, which is sad. It’s been fun having them around. But it means our empty-nester routine can go back to normal, and we won’t have to deal with dishes left in the sink and stocking the fridge with mounds of food for starving college-age appetites. Still, it’s all met with mixed emotions.

Tear-Filled Goodbyes

It’s a joke in our family: Daddy’s going to cry again. I tear up a little when the kids or other family members leave. I always have. But somehow it helps to reframe the situation to consider all the benefits of having them leave. 🙂

Hanging a New Frame on the Wall

Reframing is a concept I wish someone had taught me years sooner. Being able to manipulate my own thinking has been helpful, because doing it lets me gain a new perspective.

For example, I could never seem to grow my company beyond a certain level. I always looked at my business as a publishing company, and as long as I thought of it as publishing, I seemed to fall into the trap of only selling ads and subscriptions. My first reframing was to tell myself I was also in the events business. By doing that, I started to consider things I’d not previously considered, like creating conferences. The result was a massive increase in my business. 

Later I added “travel” to my reframe, and I broadened my business into travel services like painters’ events. And when I hit a wall, I reframed my business as a direct response marketing company, which impacted how we sold products. This was revolutionary. So whenever I find myself stuck, I search for a reframe.

A Classic Reframe

It’s so easy to fall into traps. Edison famously said that he hadn’t failed 10,000 times, he’d just found 10,000 approaches that wouldn’t work. This reframe allowed him to persevere until he found answers, long after most of us would have given up.

Reframe Away Stress

In 2002, my company, RadioCentral (one of the first Internet radio services), blew up, and my own board of directors fired me from the company I founded. Though I could have told myself I was doomed, I reframed it as a new opportunity to do work differently. My last day of work was the day my triplets came home from the hospital, so I reframed that I could now work from home and be a dad, being there for my wife and kids. It melted the stress away and made a huge difference.

Reframing Addictions

Writer and cartoonist Scott Adams talks about reframing drinking by simply asking himself, “Why would I put poison in my system?” Every time he was tempted to take a drink, he would tell himself he was about to pour poison down his throat. 

The Classic Reframe

I’ve heard it a million times. “No one ever says on their deathbed, ‘I should have worked more.’” This reframe works great when you’re a workaholic, like I used to be, or when you’re guilt-tripping about whether you really need to work on a weekend.

Of course, the deathbed can be used to reframe other things, like stress. “Is this going to matter when I’m on my deathbed?” No, of course it won’t. Whatever it is won’t even be a speck on the radar. Stop worrying.

Sleepless Nights

A couple of weeks ago, I was having some issues in my business, and I found myself lying in bed with my head spinning about the problems. Then I remembered something my dad said he used to do. He reframed by saying, “Stress only keeps me from thinking clearly and leads me to worse decisions.” So he gave up worry and stress. 

If Dad was having a sleepless night, he would get out of bed, write down everything he was worried about on a tablet, then go through the list one at a time: “Can I do anything to solve this problem tonight?” If he could, he did. But most things had to wait, which allowed him to reframe: Worry only disrupts sleep, which impacts your ability to deal with things properly in the morning.

Though these little tricks seem overly simplified, they are very effective at tricking your brain to overcome the things that are bothering you. 

What areas do you need to reframe? Will these things matter in two weeks? In five years, or 10 years, or at the end of your life? Probably not.

Flip the Switch

Sometimes reframing is so powerful that it’s like flipping a switch, turning a problem off or revealing an opportunity.

What is your biggest problem today? Reframe it.

Reframing the Economy

I have lots of artist friends who tell me they are not selling any artwork because the economy is bad. Others I know reframe it and tell themselves, “This is the best time to advertise because there are fewer people advertising. As a result, I can steal everyone else’s customers. And for those who aren’t buying now, I’m branding myself at a time when I can brand more easily and effectively because there are fewer advertisers. When things change, the people who can’t buy now will seek me out when they are ready.” 

It’s a brilliant strategy, and it’s been proven to work. Kellogg’s was launched during the Great Depression. Post, king of the cereal category at the time, ignored Kellogg’s because they believed no one could take away their market dominance. So Post did no advertising while Kellog poured it on. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg’s had the number one market share, and Post has not caught up to this day. 

Ask yourself: 

What do I need to reframe?

Where do I find myself stuck?
Where do I continually have drama in my life?

What things bother me that shouldn’t?

Reframing is a great way to overcome any issue.

Eric Rhoads

During the pandemic, I reframed my fear. “How am I going to survive? How will I meet payroll?” Business had come to a complete stop. Then I started reframing… “People are scared to death, what can I do to help them? My people are not busy, I might as well do some things to keep them busy, entertained, and help them overcome their fear.”

Showing Up

First I launched a daily YouTube program called Art School Live. I broadcast free art lessons with other artists every day of the week for seven months. After seven months, I reduced it to five days a week, and it has gone on since and continues to this day. It was showing up when no one else was, and I ended up reaching millions, building my YouTube subscribers to over 100,000. And it helped my business in other ways. In fact, because of it, my artist retreats are selling out four or five months in advance, and the Plein Air Convention has only 41 seats left, five months in advance.

A Painful Day

In the first week of COVID shutdowns, we had 95 percent of the Plein Air Convention attendees cancel, and we refunded everyone’s money who asked. It was painful, but it was the right thing to do. But rather than saying we couldn’t have a convention, we reframed it; we would start doing art conventions online. This resulted in launching our online events. The income from those events saved our business.

The End of a Good Thing Did Not End

When COVID was over, all the experts said online conferences were over. But instead of stopping, we reframed them as online conferences for people who were unable to travel, who were at home raising kids or taking care of someone, and for those who couldn’t spend the money for an in-person event. The reframe saved the events, which continue strong to this day. As a matter of fact, our next event, Watercolor Live,  is January 24-26. If you want to learn watercolor, you should at least come to our Essential Techniques Day for beginners or as a refresher.

Every problem or challenge can be addressed with a reframe. 

One Thing to Solve Every Problem2024-01-13T18:06:55-05:00
11 01, 2024

Your Countdown Begins Now


Dolphins frolic in the water with their fins bobbing up and down, right beside the dock. Looking down into the water, shading my eyes from the reflection of the warm morning sun, I can see a stingray slowly cruising along the sandy bottom. The flag blows in the breeze, just enough wind to keep it steady. 

Driving the U.S.A.

Earlier in the week I set out to drive from Austin to the central coast of Florida, where I hope to spend part of the winter, escaping “cedar fever” season in Austin. That’s an allergy almost everyone gets after three years there that can cause flu-like symptoms for the first couple of months of the year. Those are also the coldest months, making time away even more appealing.

Pioneering Virtual Work

Thirty years ago, my company had an entire floor of an office building in West Palm Beach. One day one of my team members, Chuck Renwick, asked if he could work remotely because all his work was done on the phone and via e-mail (new technology at the time). He wanted to live in the Carolinas. I agreed to give it a try, and it worked so well that when our lease expired, I downsized the office from the whole floor to a small corner, asking everyone to work from home. For decades, I’ve been able to work from anywhere with no obligation to a fixed location, and that’s why I’m able to spend time in a remote location this winter. 

A Specific Plan

In 2002, when our triplets were born, I was fired from an early-stage Internet radio company I’d founded in San Francisco, as the company went down with the Twin Towers and the economy. Though upsetting at the time, seeing my dream crumble was a chance to reevaluate what I wanted my life to look like. 

What did I love about my last few years, and what did I not love? What did I want my life as a dad to look like? What were the things I wanted to make sure I did? What did I want to avoid? 

There is nothing quite like a kick in the teeth to get your attention. 

Though I’d been having the time of my life, living a dream after inventing something that could change the world of audio forever, I also discovered some things about myself that I did not love doing. And now that I was free, I had a chance to reinvent myself.


What if everything you had going for you came to a sudden stop? You’ve lost your income, and the things you’ve been working on for the last few years have been taken away. What if you could never do what you do now? Where would you turn?

Some people have to have things end badly before they realize what needs to change in their lives. We’re so busy keeping the merry-go-round moving at high speed that we can’t see that we’re dizzy and not enjoying the experience anymore. 

What needs to be reinvented in your life?

The magic of the week between Christmas and New Year’s is that things slow down, and the gift of the new year, beginning tonight at midnight, is that you get to make some resolutions. 

The countdown has begun. You have today and probably tomorrow to discover some things about yourself that need to change. And you have a fresh start to begin implementing them. 

Hopefully you won’t be forced to make hard decisions, but this is a chance to make some adjustments to eliminate the things you know need to change.

Broken Resolutions 

How many New Year’s Days have come and gone when you made resolutions and did nothing about them? How much longer will you tell yourself things need to change but do nothing? 

Here are some questions. The first thing that pops into your head is probably what you need to change. 

What needs to change regarding your health?

What needs to change regarding your diet?

What needs to change regarding your family relationships?

What needs to change regarding your spirituality?

What needs to change regarding your marriage?

What needs to change regarding your job?

What do you least look forward to doing?

What do you want to do more of?

What have you always wanted to do but never gotten around to? 

What do you hate about your life now?

Who do you need to spend more time with?

Who makes you happy?

Who makes you sad?

Who do you need to remove from your life?

If you were told you have three months to live — but you would have perfect health till the day you die — what three things would you do? What is the most important of the three?

What have you always wanted to do but fear?

What do you see yourself as, but you’ve never made it happen?

Here’s a tip:

Be detailed and specific in your answers.

And whatever comes up on your list, ask yourself, item by item, if you believe they can happen, 

The things you tell yourself probably can’t happen are likely the most important ones. 

Now ask yourself: If they could happen, what would have to change to make them happen? 

Add those things to your to-do list. 

Typically the biggest things that have not happened are the things we tend to tell ourselves are not possible.

But how do people build skyscrapers, invent rockets, and change the world?

They have fear, too. They have simply found ways to control it and not let it stop their dreams. 

What I Want for You

I set a giant, unreachable goal about three years ago. I wanted to teach one million people to paint. 

When I set the goal, it seemed impossible. So I lowered it to half a million. I lowered it again to half that, then half again. I ended up with a goal that I would teach 10,000 people to paint. But even then it seemed impossible. So I told myself it might as well be a million. 

I set the goal, and I announced it publicly so I’d be accountable. But I did not believe it. Yet after a couple of weeks of telling myself daily, “I am teaching a million people to paint” (not “I’m gonna,” but “I am”), it started happening, and things started falling into place. 

My brain paved the way. Total views of my YouTube channel have reached several million. 

I want you to know that you have the ability to overcome any obstacle, to do things you currently believe are impossible. 

I believe you can do impossible things. I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Sometimes just knowing someone believes in you is enough for you to begin believing in yourself. 

But impossible things don’t happen until action is taken. Every small step toward the big dream is a step in the right direction. Any step toward the goal is courageous. 

If you make your list, pick the number one thing on the list and take action toward that thing every day, using focused time toward that goal, you will hit it. If you break down big, impossible steps into small, bite-size steps and knock them down like bowling pins, you will crush any impossible goal. 

“Small plans do not inflame the hearts of men.” — Napoleon

You can do this.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This message is spread worldwide to over 90 countries and hundreds of thousands of people. I’m honored that you open your e-mail every Sunday and thankful for all of you who forward messages to friends and family.

Only a tiny fraction of you live near me in Austin, Texas, but we’ll be at one of five services today (probably the 11 a.m.) at Austin Ridge, our home church. We hope to see you there. You can find it online at www.AustinRidge.org.

Your Countdown Begins Now2024-01-11T11:47:10-05:00
11 01, 2024

Rethinking the Impossible


The high-pitched bird whistle was one I did not recognize, yet a quick glance out the window revealed a huge osprey sitting atop the dock on the water before me. Moments later, he made the sound again, and then, with giant wings spread, he swooped down into the water and came up with a fish in his beak while making a loud whooshing sound. It was one of those unforgettable moments here in paradise on the Space Coast of Florida, where I will be spending part of my winter this year. I feel fortunate to have designed my life to work from anywhere there is a good Internet connection. And as we find ourselves traveling, we realize how little we really need.

My grandmother Luella used to say that as she aged, the years passed by like minutes. I can remember it seemed like school years would never end, when I was in school and when my kids were in school. But now my years are so packed with planned activities, we go from one event to another, and suddenly it’s time to start a new year and a new cycle of events.

Though I made a lot of plans and goals for the year, I’ve still not completed my planning process. My goal is to actually get it done this week so I can move on to other things.

Planning Time

As I alluded to last week, the most important part of planning is thinking. Asking yourself questions. And though I have planned thinking time on my calendar every week, I’m finding myself questioning my motives. 

Why do I do what I do? 

Do I want to continue doing it? 

Do I want to continue repeating the same things over and over, or am I ready to abandon some old things in exchange for some new ones? 

These are tough questions, because removing something successful might mean taking something away that my clients love, or it might mean losing revenue we need for survival. 

Yet the idea of adding more new things is overwhelming to me and to my team, who are already overwhelmed. 

So I have to ask myself this … knowing what I know now, if I were starting over, would I do the same things I’m doing today?

If not, what would I do differently? What would I change?


What would I not want to do anymore?

Creatures of Habit

We buy the same brand of cars from year to year because we like them, we’re comfortable with them, and it’s easier because we know we can trust them; we know what to expect. I have friends who bought a new house in the same neighborhood rather than trying a new area. 

Though we may be questioning the known, staying put and repeating the same things week to week and year to year is easier than making change and leaping into the unknown.

Far too often, we’re in careers based on decisions we made when we were too young to make good decisions. Think about how immature we were at high school or college age, when we fell in love with something that became our career. 

Would we pick that same thing today, knowing what we know now? Knowing what else is out there?

Stuck on an Old Dream

I spent decades in a career that was based on a passion I developed at age 12, and though I’m less involved, I am still linked to it today. Also, I continue to be passionate about painting, as I have been since almost three decades ago. But do I do it because I’ve invested so much into it, become so established and secure in it? Or because I am still as passionate as before? 

These are the kinds of things I find myself asking.

If change were not forced upon us, would you and I ever change? 

One friend got fired from a job after a long career in her industry. She would have retired in it, but instead found herself disconnected, unable to get employment in that industry because of non-compete contracts and because of her age. Reluctantly, she grasped for something, anything she could find, and it turns out she loves her new direction more than anything she ever did in her career, and wants to spend the rest of her career doing it.

So how do we make change if change isn’t pushed on us? 

Most of us don’t make change unless it’s dropped upon us like a nuclear bomb. Even then, we cling to our comfort zone, trying to get something close to what we know.

But what if you were forced into something and it turned out to stimulate you more than anything you’ve done in your life? 

What Holds You Back?

The first answer is to look at the boat anchors wrapped around us, the biggest being financial security. If you knew you could leave your current career for something that would make you happier, but you had to take a 50% cut in pay and move out of your existing nest, would you do it? I don’t know if I would.

A few months ago I talked about tapping into our subconscious mind. If I had to do something else and could not do what I’m doing now, what would it be? 

The answer coming into your head is probably the correct answer, if you catch it before you start judging it and coming up with all the reasons it must be the wrong answer.

What Should I Do Next?

I asked myself that question recently, and what came to my head was to become a stage speaker, to help people craft better lives, kind of like what Tony Robbins does. The other thing was to create a general interest podcast, interviewing smart people in areas that have nothing to do with what I do now. 

Will I do them? I’m not sure yet. Probably not, if the pain of losing what I’m passionate about is too severe. The upside would have to be bigger and better, and I’m not sure it would be. And my head automatically defaults to all the reasons it’s a bad idea… needing to start something new from scratch, not having financial security, and not seeing all the people I’ve grown to love at my events. These are the kinds of strings that we are comfortable being tied down with.

What Should You Do?

I’m not suggesting you do anything about any of this, but I do think it’s healthy to keep asking the questions. I also think that some of us face “reality” questions: Do I have the time, health, or energy? Frankly, I don’t think those things would stop me from pursuing something I love. After all, all the bad things that we predict could happen might not. So deal with them when they do. But don’t stop living because of fear of what might happen. 

A Great Example

I saw recently that Kentucky Fried Chicken was formed when Harlan Sanders was in his sixties. I had a great mentor, my own father, who forced himself to do something fresh and new about every decade. He started a new business at 70, and then another at 80, which he worked on till he was in his mid-90s while he was reinventing himself for the next chapter.

My friend John told me he was upset with his dad, who invested in a new shopping center when he was 80, because John ended up having to deal with it when his dad died a decade later. Though he was annoyed because he felt his father had no business making such a commitment at that age, it gave his dad something fun to do, it made money, and it kept his father mentally engaged. I think it was a great idea.

The thought of stopping, enjoying the fruits of my lifetime of labor on a boat or a La-Z-Boy chair, isn’t of interest to me. I want to be busy, emotionally and intellectually stimulated, and use the brain I’ve been given as long as it’s willing to keep operating. 

Dying at Your Desk

My friend Frank Covas, a broadcaster I loved and respected, an inventor who saw tremendous success, was always reinventing himself, loved life, and loved working. He did not die in a nursing home alone and unvisited, he died at his desk, at 2 o’clock in the morning, working passionately on some worthy project. When he learned he had a disease that was going to kill him, he and I sat down, he looked me in the eye, and he said, “This time, it’s gonna get me, there is no escape. I don’t know how long I’ve got, but I’ve got to get busy because there are things that need to be done that only I can do.” I loved that.

If you want clarity … write what you want someone to say about your life at your funeral. Read it out loud. Is it enough? Do you have regrets? Is there more you intend to do? 

Today is the perfect day to start filling in the blanks and answering those questions.

Eric Rhoads

This probably sounds lame to most people, but when I started PleinAir Magazine, I told myself I wanted to turn plein air painting into the next big sport, helping others discover the joy of painting, and painting outside. The mission was not to make money. Money usually follows when big change happens. Today, two decades later, there are more people worldwide painting outdoors than ever. The PleinAir Podcast has millions of downloads. There are hundreds of plein air events today, when there were only a handful when we started, and PleinAir remains the #1 selling art magazine nationwide at Barnes & Noble stores.

When I started Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, I was disgusted because the art world was snooty and it was not embracing the young realists who were doing work every bit as good as the Old Masters. I made it my mission to make art approachable, and to expose the work of these artists and help others discover how to do what they do. When we started, there were only about three or four places to learn how to create realism. But the students of those schools started their own schools, and now a third generation has started schools, resulting in a substantial number of places teaching academic realism. Plus we have had Realism Live online, and an in-person conference.

I did not launch these to make money. In fact, I lost money for years, knowing I needed to play the long game. I launched them based on a big vision for what could be. 

My next big vision is to change the way art is taught and learned. Too many people never do it because they believe that natural-born talent is required, which isn’t true. We’ve created over 700 incredible art instruction courses with PaintTube.tv, and we’ve trained many thousands with events like this month’s Watercolor Live online conference. And of course we’ve planted seeds for millions with our daily Art School Live YouTube channel.

Though there is more to do to optimize everything we do, the reality is that there are more hills to climb, more people who have a burning desire to change their lives and live dreams they may not think are possible. 

You have more in you. Make 2024 the year you make things happen.

Rethinking the Impossible2024-01-11T11:46:40-05:00
3 12, 2023

White Dresses and Lace


Instead of the sound of rustling trees, rain hitting the tin roof of my long Texas porch, and the chorus of a flurry of birds hanging out in my twisted oaks, I’ve awakened to the slow low rumble of of an elevator, the rattle of an ice machine dropping ice into a cheap plastic bucket, and the knock on my hotel room door and shout of “Housekeeping!”

I’m in Dallas. Yesterday we attended the wedding of the son of two of our favorite friends. It was a perfect day, and it’s fun to see a child we watched grow up become a man and a husband. We wish them well.

Why I Hate Weddings

This wedding was beautiful in every way. I don’t regret attending a bit. In fact, it was loads of fun and I spoke to some interesting folks. But there was a time when I swore I would never attend another wedding in my life. I avoided weddings for over two decades. 

A Rough Moment

When I was a young radio DJ in Miami, I supplemented my income as a wedding photographer. I’m not sure how many weddings I photographed, but it was one too many. My final wedding was the one I screwed up. No matter how many backup cameras, sets of film, and plans for disaster, that time was the perfect storm, and something I did ruined most of the photos. I don’t know if it was a bad batch of film, a processing mistake, a bad light meter, poor exposures, or human error, but I had the displeasure of showing up for the viewing at the family home. 

The anxious bride was on my right, the parents were on my left. Stuttering and stumbling with fear, I had to show them the two dozen photos that turned out OK, and the hundreds that did not. The result was not pleasant. I was loudly berated by the enraged father of the bride and was kicked out of the house. Of course I gave the couple their money back, but I’d botched the photos of their special day. It was one of the toughest days of my young life. I was so mortified that I canceled all the other weddings I had scheduled and swore I’d never do another. And for years I refused to attend weddings because it brought back such a difficult memory.

Looking Back

In hindsight, I should have gotten back on the horse and continued. I was pretty good, well paid, and very entertaining. And I had lessons to learn that would have come in handy in future years. But I was too immature, and pain avoidance was all I wanted at that time. I should not have allowed one angry customer to discourage me. (I’m lucky I didn’t get sued, but then again, all I had was my 72 VW and some cameras.)

Photographer to the Stars

Picture this. It’s 1977, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is the number one album worldwide, and the Bee Gees are at the top of their game. Their sound engineer, Carl, was an icon in the recording industry, and he fell in love with the receptionist at the radio station in Miami where I was working as the night DJ. The couple hired me as their wedding photographer. So I showed up at the beachfront park in Miami to learn that the wedding included the Gibb brothers … all of the Bee Gees, and their little brother, Andy. Here I am, posing some of the most famous people in the world in wedding photos. It was a little intimidating.

At the reception Robin Gibb invited me to sit with them and invited me to an afterparty at their house. I politely declined, but kicked myself later; I should have attended. But I had to go on the radio later that night — and I was so insecure that I did not feel deserving. In hindsight, someone could have filled in for me on the air. 

Thankfully, those wedding photos turned out perfectly. 

My Best Marriage Advice?

When I got married, all the older couples were giving me their best marriage advice, but it fell on deaf ears. And I resisted the urge to take the young couple aside at the wedding yesterday because anything I had to say would also fall on deaf ears. There are days when I wonder how even my wife puts up with me. Here’s what I wanted to tell them, but didn’t.

  • Love changes. I always heard this, but never believed it would happen to me. You go from that euphoric feeling of being in love to a level of mature love. The changes usually start about year three and peak at around year seven, which is why those are the most dangerous times for a marriage. Mature love is so much different. You care as deeply, probably more, sometimes less, but as the euphoria wears off, you get closer to real life — kids, jobs, mortgages, problems and challenges, what to do with your money, how to raise your kids, the impact of your faith, etc. It’s actually better, but it’s easy to look back at the feeling of early love and crave it. If you know this will happen, you’re less likely to do something stupid trying to regain that feeling.
  • Up till now you’ve been living with campaign promises, and now that you’re married, all the pretending will slowly disappear. One friend of mine had never seen his wife without makeup until after they’d been married for a while. Another reported that he no longer closes the bathroom door and no longer hides passing gas. You’ll start seeing the real person behind the actor or actress you’ve been dating the past few years. Don’t let it shock you. Embrace the fact that the real person is better than the person running for office.
  • The person you marry will change, and you will change. Ten years out, they won’t be the same person. Twenty or thirty years later, they will have changed dramatically. That’s not a bad thing. It’s like fine wine; we all mature. Again: Embrace change.
  • The moment you get married, you’ll discover people want what they can’t have. You become more attractive. There will always be shiny objects who will try to grab you when you’re vulnerable. Don’t ever put yourself in a position to take advantage of it.
  • You’ve both been on the hunt … seeking the perfect mate. And you developed a lot of habits you now need to shed. You’re used to trying to win, to conquer. Now you have won the best prize of all, so put your conqueror behavior aside. It’s not even cool to flirt with others. Just understand you have to lose the habit or it could lead you to big problems.
  • Speaking of shiny objects: If you shed one marriage for another, the things you don’t like about your previous mate will tend to show up again and again. I have this on good authority from a friend who has been married five times and finally admitted HE was the problem all along.
  • You’re a team now. Partners. You’re used to making your own decisions, but you can’t do that anymore. All major decisions require both of you to agree. Don’t dominate. Be a true partner. Things will go smoother.
  • Your money isn’t your money anymore. You share it unless you’ve made specific arrangements otherwise. This was a hard one for me. I used to buy things without input, or I’d buy them anyway, even after input. I slip into that behavior once in a while still, but these decisions should be shared.
  • Try to agree on who does what up front. Don’t just assume that she will do the cooking and dishes or stay home with the kids. Don’t just assume he’s the one who is going to work to support everyone. Figure this out before you get married.
  • Don’t think you can change their mind after you’re married. Make sure you talk about every possible scenario, and if the person you’re with says they don’t want kids, or want to work when you don’t want that, take heed and listen. Have the difficult discussions. Get premarital counseling.
  • The “D word” is never an option. Agree up front that no matter how bad things get, you’ll never threaten divorce. You’ll think about it hundreds of times in your marriage when things are not going your way or when you have rough patches. Never make it an option. If before you get married you’re thinking, “If things don’t work out, we’ll simply divorce,” don’t get married. You’re not committed.
  • You’re not going to be easy to live with. Whatever you’re whining about because it’s their fault is 50 percent your fault, you’re just not seeing it. You’re in this together.
  • When you’re upset, don’t start name-calling. Remember, some things will resonate for years, and some things you can never take back. If you’re angry and about to say bad things, you’re allowed to say instead, “I’m angry and might say the wrong thing, so let’s continue this discussion in an hour” or “tomorrow.” But do always go back to resolve it.
  • Don’t keep bringing up old arguments over and over. You get to bring it up one time, not every time you get angry. Get over it. We all make mistakes.
  • Honesty is important, but there are some things you should never share with your spouse. If it’s something that might haunt them forever, keep it to yourself.
  • The number one reason for divorce is people feeling as though their mate is not paying attention to them anymore. Most divorce happens between year three and year seven, or after couples become empty-nesters. When you were campaigning, you worked really hard at showing them you care. When that goes away, your partner no longer feels special. Find ways to keep the attention fresh and new and show that you still care, even if you’re married a hundred years.
  • If you’re going to take sides, side with your spouse, not with your family or parents. Doing anything else is a quick road to division. Even if you disagree, suck it up and support your mate. You’re not married to your family.
  • Communicate about what you each need, daily or weekly. Live up to it.
  • If you’re getting married for financial security or to escape your parents or to get away from an ex, run for the hills. Those are stupid reasons. Marrying for money is empty once you realize that all the money in the world, all the stuff, won’t make you happy.
  • Communicate up front about your faith. It never seems like a big deal if you don’t agree, until you have kids. Then suddenly it matters and you want to raise your kids the way you were raised. Conflict will arise. And it might not be healthy to confuse your kids.
  • Christmas, birthdays ,and major holidays hold family traditions. We used to get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, my wife’s family got the tree Christmas Eve. I wasted a lot of time and energy debating these cultural things, and there were lots of hard feelings. Decide in advance.
  • Most men change significantly between 25 and 35. Most women change significantly between 20 and 30. What you want and need and who you are will change. Wait it out if you can. But if you can’t, you need to be willing to live with what each of you has become. Growing apart isn’t an option. Stay committed. You can get through anything. Even arranged marriages end up with people coming to love one another over time.
  • Addictions destroy relationships. Take it very seriously if your spouse is giving you clues about your addictions. Listen and change.
  • Make it clear up front that you will never tolerate physical abuse of you or your kids — or emotional abuse. Put him or her on notice that the first time they get physical is the last time they will see you. There are no excuses, and no apology that would ever be enough. If you love someone, you don’t hit them, ever, or threaten to.
  • People who give up who they are and what they love resent it. Respect the passions of your spouse and make room for them.
  • Don’t clam up. Say what needs to be said, no matter how painful

Nothing is ever perfect. The movies sell perfection that does not exist. If you don’t expect perfection, you’ll be a lot happier.

I’m looking forward to the day when my kids find their soulmates and I can have them ignore my advice. But at least I’ll feel as though I tried. 

Happy Sunday,

Eric Rhoads

PS: A note to my bride. I know when you see this list you’ll realize that I’m aware of the things I should be doing that I’m not doing. I’ll try harder. I know I’m hard to live with, I know I drive you crazy, and I know I do stupid things. Still, I adore you. You’re as beautiful as the day I married you, smarter than I knew at the time, and your advice has been valuable and helped me in ways you cannot comprehend, even though I was often resistant to it. Thanks for being my partner in life.

PS 2: Though I love Christmas, I hate the pressure of shopping and gift-giving. I love to give people what they want, but I don’t love buying things not knowing whether they will like them.

I still don’t know what I want. I honestly can’t think of a thing, yet people are asking. But surprises are wonderful. The best gifts are the ones you make.

PS 3: It all clicked when I stood in front of Anders Zorn’s watercolor paintings in Sweden. Then I went to the home of Stanislaw Zoladz and saw watercolors that I couldn’t believe could be made by a human being. So I’m painting in watercolor and gouache more than ever. I’m loving it. It has given me a fresh perspective on painting, I’m learning and growing in new ways, and I’m having fun experimenting. This week I copied two Zorn masterpieces. I did one that I’ve spent five nights painting.

What I realized through all of this is that I never could do what I’m doing had I not attended Watercolor Live online last January. When I find challenges I don’t know how to solve, I’m able to pull the answers out of my head because they were taught to me during that four-day event. It truly does change you; I’m living proof. As the host, I can’t watch every segment. But there is something to this immersion-training thing. 

Reward yourself with a ticket. www.watercolorlive.com Yes, you can do it even if you don’t think you have talent. Oh, and it’s a great Christmas gift.

PS 4
Other cool gifts 

White Dresses and Lace2023-12-01T18:01:45-05:00