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So far Eric Rhoads has created 45 blog entries.
8 04, 2018

Beating “The System”

2018-04-04T14:38:05+00:00

Tweeting took on its original meaning as I awoke to the golden orange sunshine, which places a rim of intense light around the edges of my scrub oaks this morning. The weeds, bushes, and tall grasses are glowing like fire.

The morning doves are conversing with cooing in stereo and a choir of chirping fills the air, creating a symphony of nature’s music.

Bluebonnets in full bloom, rich indigo and cobalt blue, create thick carpets of blue which can be seen for miles. The scent is heavenly. I draw air deeply into my chest for the perfumed blast to my brain.

The distant mountain is glowing with a rich purple-blue as the light is filtered by morning fog. Spring in Texas is its very best season.

Celebrating Mom

As I sit on the back porch thinking though my coming week, it starts today in celebration on mom’s 92nd, and I’m wishing she were in Austin to see the bluebonnets so we could celebrate with her. Local tradition is to take your kids out for a photo in the field of bluebonnets — I’d love to have a birthday photo of mom in the flowers. As my grandmother used to say, “Today is a red-letter day.” Mom is responsible for my passion for art and I owe so much to her. She reads every one of these, so mom, me and the 100,000 readers of this blog wish you a happy birthday.

My Biggest Week of the Year

Pondering my coming week at the PleinAir Convention in Santa Fe, where 1,100 of us will gather to celebrate outdoor painting and learning together, I feel so grateful that it’s grown into such a rich experience, especially when it almost did not happen.

Facing Bankruptcy

When I came up with the idea of the plein air convention, all my advisors and friends told me if I failed I’d be bankrupt. One advisor told me it had been tried in a different form (not plein air-specific) and after three attempts had lost over a million and a half dollars. “The concept has been tried. It won’t work. You’ll lose everything,” I was told. “Why risk your entire career on one event?”

Giving Up

I was determined to find a way to make this dream happen. When I did my homework I figured out why others had failed. I had to approach everything differently to make it work. “But those things won’t work,” I was told. Frankly, I believed my cherished advisors for a while and I gave up. I decided not to do it.

Finding Their Tribe

Yet in my heart I knew the people who are part of the plein air movement needed a place they could call home, a place to find their tribe, a place to break bread with others and feel a part of something bigger. They needed a place to refine their skills, to paint beside one another in a massive historic painting experience where all of us paint in one location. I felt that having a place we gather annually as a community would do wonders for the people attending and grow the movement, which according to art historian Jean Stern is the largest movement in the history of art.

The Movement Flickering Out

Not only did I believe it had to be done, and that without it the growing plein air movement might flicker out, I believed it would change lives, would inspire people, would give people a new outlook, and give them a “family” they could look forward to seeing every year. I had to find a way. Even though the practical side of me decided to stop, my heart said go. So I changed my mind.

When I picked up the phone and told my accountant I was going to put my entire business and my life savings on the line, she urged me not to do it. “You’ve had ideas fail before, Eric. What makes you think this time will be different. I beg you not to do it.”

“Don’t Do It, Eric. Please!”

That day I took a deep breath, spent some time in prayer, then I announced my plans to my team. Once again they urged me to reconsider, probably thinking they would all lose their jobs when I failed.

Seven Years Ago This Week

I picked up the phone and called some artist friends, many mentioned the failure of the other event, but told me they would give me their support. So, after a few months of work and finding a hotel we could afford (which wasn’t easy), we launched the first event seven years ago this week. And though it was not a giant financial win, I felt I was ok keeping it going if I could just pay the bills.

“You’re Being Irresponsible”

The reality is that I could have failed. I knew that. I did not like the idea of starting over in my mid-fifties knowing I had three kids to put through college and had to find a way to pay for life in my elder years. Some told me it was irresponsible.

But when something gets in your gut and you believe in it, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering what would have happened if you had just tried.

Preventing Disaster

Human beings want to prevent others from going through the difficult things they face, which is why they issue warnings about the foolish mistakes we’re about to make. Though there is no substitute for wisdom and experience acquired through effort, we all need to listen but follow our own inner direction. Here’s one story where this worked out.

Falling in Love with Radio

As a young boy, I used to lie under my covers at night and listen to my favorite radio deejays on my transistor radio. Bob Dell on WOWO, Chris O’Brien on WLYV, John Records Landecker on WLS, Larry Lujack on “Super CFL,” and Big Don O’Brien on CKLW all entertained me, played my favorite songs, and became friends to me, even though we had never met. I loved how radio made me feel. I wanted to be like them.

Breaking the Ice

In 1968, I joined a local Up With People group called “Sing Out Fort Wayne.” The group would meet weekly and rehearse shows and do community projects. In this group I met an older kid, the sound guy, named Charlie Willer. One of our community projects, where we were breaking up ice on the St. Mary’s river to prevent flooding, I was chopping ice next to Charlie. Before we were done I remember him saying, “Well, I’ve got to go to work,” and me saying, “You can’t go yet, we’re not done.” His response was, “I’m on the radio, it’s not like I can be late.”

I was immediately mesmerized.

I was meeting someone who worked on the radio? I wanna go! So, I put down my pick and asked if I could come along and watch. We piled into his black 1938 Ford (I didn’t have my driver’s license) and went to the radio station on the campus of Indiana Tech, in the basement of Syler Hall, and watched him spin records and talk on the radio.

I knew at that moment what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

“Sorry, You’re Too Young”

Soon I was introduced to the program director, whom I asked if I too could be on the radio. Keep in mind this was college and they had trouble finding college students to get up for the unpopular early morning shifts or late nights on weekends. When he found out I was 14 he discouraged me and told me that I needed to be at least 16, because a 3rd-class FCC operator licence was required, and I’d have to wait. I was heartbroken and that two years was going to seem like an eternity.

“Hello, FCC?”

The following afternoon I was on the phone to the Federal Communications Commission field office in Chicago to find out the criteria to get my licence.

“Um, yes sir, I’d like to get my 3rd-class licence. Can you tell me how to do it?”

“Well, you simply need to read the manual, study, and take the test. We have tests every first Saturday in Chicago.”

Now, at that moment I had a choice. I could ask if I had to be 16 like I had heard or I could just show up and take the test. If I asked and he said I had to be 16 and found out I was not, he would not send the study booklets, so I did not say a word, I just gave him my mailing address.

Soon I was studying the manual and my friend Charlie was testing me, and days later I was in Chicago taking the test. I remember being very nervous, walking into this giant granite building and this massive oak-paneled room from the 1930s filled with rows of wooden desks and wooden chairs. There must have been 150 people in there taking the test. I was one of them.

On the form it asked for date of birth. Should I lie, I wondered? No, I can’t. Not only is it wrong, if they found out I may never get my license, so I put my true age on the form, took the test, turned it in, and paced the floors to see if I had passed.

To this day I don’t know if the age restriction was 16 or not, or if they simply did not catch it, but all that mattered was I had what I needed to go on the radio, and a week later I was on the air every Saturday and Sunday morning playing Jimi Hendrix and album cuts from 1969.

Practice Practice Practice

Within about a year I was working Sunday mornings at a local Top 40 station, WLYV, getting paid a dollar an hour to come in and run the Sunday morning church programming. The highlight was that I got to “open” the microphone once an hour and say, “This is WLYV Fort Wayne.” I would rehearse it all hour. And while tapes were running I got to be in the production studio practicing being a deejay.

One day I hoped to be on the air on a real station, not just a college station with no listeners. I spent as much time as possible talking to the local deejays, the icons I had grown up listening to; and though encouraging, they would tell me, “Eric, you have to pay your dues. This can’t happen overnight.”

Pay Your Dues

If I wanted to be on the radio, making a living as a radio deejay, I’d have to fight to get a good job, and I’d have to work at small crummy stations in small towns for 10 or 15 years before I could be on a station like this. Though they did not mean to discourage me, everyone kept saying, “You have to pay your dues.”

But I did not want to pay my dues. I had big dreams. I knew I could do it, I knew I was going to be a big radio star one day, but I could not imagine paying my dues for decades before I got to a big station.

Seeking a Solution

Meanwhile I just kept practicing and making tapes, working at both jobs — one paid at a dollar an hour and one paid nothing — and I told myself I was going to beat the system and not pay my dues. There had to be a way, and by the time I got my driver’s license I was going to find a way.

Early Discouragement

Though I applied for jobs in small-town stations surrounding Fort Wayne, they asked about my experience, told me I was not good enough, plus I needed to get experience in smaller stations and pay my dues. The stations in town would not even talk to me.

Determined, I made tapes for six hours every Sunday morning, asked the local deejays for critiques on my tapes, made changes, made more tapes. One deejay, Bill Anthony, took a liking to me, helped me a lot, and we stayed in touch when he moved away to a new job in Kalamazoo. I must have mailed him a tape once a week, and one day he called and said, “Are you willing to drive two hours each way for an air shift on Saturday and Sunday mornings from six to 10?”

My Big Break

I was in! This was my big break. So, I quit my church tape job, drove up to Kalamazoo on Friday nights, and drove home on Sundays after my shift. I did this for about a year, and I even drove home on some Saturdays so I could go on a date with my girlfriend “Corky,” then I’d drive back.

That experience was so helpful and now I had tapes of me being on the air. But how was I going to get on better time slots, get on bigger stations? I kept hearing, “You have to pay your dues. Stick with this weekend shift for a few years so you can get good enough. Don’t even bother sending your tape around to other stations, no one will hire you with no experience.” I refused to believe them.

A Different Outlook

Though I wasn’t making much money and my gas for the commute ate up most of it, I saved my money and subscribed to a radio industry newsletter for deejays called The Gavin Report. I read it every week from cover to cover and decided I needed to get to know one of the writers, Gary Taylor. I would call him every week and ask him how I could get better jobs. Though I probably pestered him, he would tell me, “Just keep practicing and sending out your tape.” He was the only one other than Bill who did not tell me I had to pay my dues.

Then, one day, I saw an ad that read, “New radio station in Miami-Fort Lauderdale going on the air soon. Send tape and resume. So I sent my stuff (there was no FedEx at the time) and called Gary and said, “This sounds like the perfect job for me.” He encouraged me, and though I don’t know this for sure, may have made a phone call on my behalf, because a couple days after my packaged arrived I got a call in the middle of a party I was having with my friends at my parents’ house.

An Important Call

“Is this Eric Rhoads? This is Ronnie Grant, and I’m the program director of a new station we’re putting on the air in Miami. Our consultant, Buzz Bennett, likes the way you say “Y” because our new station is called Y-100. I’m offering you the 10pm-2am shift, on one condition. You have to be here in 48 hours when we go on the air.”

The next morning I loaded up my VW Bug and drove by myself to Fort Lauderdale and checked in to join the air staff of this new station. The rest, as they say, is history. My parents were probably mortified, but they were only encouraging. This was the big break that made my career in radio.

Paying Your Dues

My entire life I’ve been told I needed to pay my dues. It was true in radio when I was on the air. I was told this when I wanted to break into being a program director. I was told it was impossible for me to own radio stations when I was just 25. Almost everything I’ve done has had most people telling me I had to pay my dues, that what I wanted to do was impossible, or I was too young or too inexperienced. I’ve been told product ideas I had would never work and that no one would buy them. I’ve been told magazines I wanted to start could not succeed. I’ve been told events I’ve created won’t be embraced. Why? Because you have to pay your dues first.

Painting Your Dues

As a painter, I’ve also been told you have to pay your dues, you have to get your 10,000 hours of experience. I was at a dinner party at Fred Ross’ home (founder of ArtRenewal.org) when a famous painter told me I should give up painting because there is not enough time to get good starting as late as I did. No one over 16 has a chance to be a great painter, he told me.

New Ways of Learning

I have to admit, painting was harder, and that brush time is important. Yet, by being persistent and finding the right mentors, I think I was able to overcome some of the dues. And when I heard of new research about “chunk learning” as a way of overcoming the required 10,000 hours, I produced a video with Brian Mark Taylor to help others gain an advantage so they don’t have to pay as many dues.

Overcoming Barriers

I know experience is important and never want to say it’s not. I’d not want some upstart brain surgeon working on me without experience. And though we all need experience, there are ways to speed up some of the learning process and overcome some of the barriers.

All of this starts in your own head, in your belief.

When I had a dream of developing a new way of doing radio on the Internet, I kept getting “no,” and yet after flying back and forth from West Palm Beach to San Francisco every week for 10 weeks, the “no” turned into a “yes” and my idea was funded for millions of dollars.

An Impossible Dream

Since I knew nothing about technology I hired a search firm and interviewed 20 tech people. When I told them what I wanted to do, every single one of them told me it was impossible technically and it could not be done.

Only one engineer, Rich Sadowsky, said, “What you want to do is not physically possible. It’s against the laws of physics. But I’ll find a way.” The result was that we perfected new technology, got some patents, and paved the way for standards being used online today. It took us less than a year. The only difference between Rich and the other 19 people I interviewed was his attitude.

“I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

Life has introduced me to a lot of amazing people, from fellow artists, fellow business people, writers, filmmakers, musicians, celebrities, radio and tv personalities, and film actors, and I’ve realized that the ones at the top of their game all have one thing in common.

  • When they hear of barriers they ignore them.
  • When they are told they have to pay their dues, they seek ways to get around paying them.
  • When others try to discourage them, they keep going.
  • While others stop trying after two or three attempts, they keep going even after 30 or 40 attempts, or more.
  • Though they too get discouraged, once they get something in their head they don’t give up, even when it seems giving up is the only option.

These are not people with some special advantage or gift. Most of them started with no advantages. They worked hard, they used their brains, they persisted, and though they experienced hurt, pain, adversity, they did not let that stop them.

Road Blockers

I’m a firm believer that people who discourage us along the way don’t do it to hurt us, they are simply trying to keep us from getting hurt. Perhaps they tried and failed and went through pain. They don’t want you to struggle.

Following Your Own Muse

We should always listen. We can learn a lot, save ourselves a lot of headaches, and often people are right. But it does not mean we should always do what others say. I’ve had many experiences where others have tried what I wanted to do, but sometimes one or two little different approaches will make your approach work where others have failed.

“Never settle for being a character in someone else’s story when you are meant to be the author of your own.” — Unknown

If your dream is big enough, if you know in your heart that you can and will make something happen, even if it’s impossible, you will find a way.

“If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.” — Elon Musk

Perspective is a wonderful gift, and it’s true that the experiences of others can be beneficial. Take it in, but know that you might succeed where others failed.

The longer I’m alive, the more clearly I see how much our attitude and our belief systems impact the quality of our lives and our ability to live our dreams, including impossible dreams.

What about you?
Where are others throwing roadblocks in your life?
What do you believe that others are trying to tell you won’t work, can’t be done, isn’t right for you?

I spend my life around a lot of artists and most were told by their parents that the artist’s life would be filled with struggle, pain, and no income. Most did it anyway. Most had pain, struggle, and no income — until it changed. Most did not stop when the roadblocks were placed in their way. One can never stop. Some endure years of ridicule, keep painting, and one day hit gold. Gold hunter Mel FIsher persisted for decades with no success until he found $450 million in lost gold.

“Never settle for less than you deserve, because once you start to settle you always will.” — Unknown

Perhaps today you might want to stop and ponder your dreams.

Don’t tell yourself they can’t happen, and listen respectfully when others tell you of their impossibility.

Life is about following your dreams, finding your own unique way of contributing to the world and changing it.

Don’t tell yourself there is no time left.

Don’t “try,” because trying is an excuse that lets you off the hook if you fail. Just do. Don’t let yourself off the hook.

“When you accept the fact that your true identity includes being an overcomer, you will never settle for less than a miracle.” — Craig Groeschel

Most of us have paid dues through the road of hard knocks. But don’t assume that just because someone else had to pay their dues means that you have to.

Be an overcomer.

Try more times.

When you fail, try even more.

Engage your mind and find ways to overcome what others have not figured out.

Start by believing that you have what it takes, your own unique ideas and perspective, which no one else on earth has. Use it to your advantage.

Eric Rhoads


PS: I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in Santa Fe at the plein air convention! I’ll be doing an art marketing boot camp with all new material three mornings in a row. Also, if you live in Santa Fe, we might have a ticket or two available if you show up and someone has cancelled. And the art show and expo hall are open to the public. I’ll be recording the new podcasts live at the show, too, and releasing my new book. See you there.

Beating “The System” 2018-04-04T14:38:05+00:00
1 04, 2018

Healing Deep Old Wounds

2018-03-29T10:13:19+00:00

Since today is April 1, it crossed my mind to invent an elaborate scheme, a story to fool you. Yet because it’s also Easter, that seemed a bit irreverent. It’s pretty rare that the two holidays fall together.

Today is a day of fools and jokes, but it’s also a day of resurrection and renewal. So I’ll start with some Easter groaners and end with resurrection:

How do you know the Easter Bunny is really smart?
Because he’s an egghead.

Where does the Easter Bunny get his eggs?
From eggplants.

What happened to the Easter Bunny when he misbehaved at school?
He was egg-spelled!

Did you hear about the lady whose house was infested with Easter eggs?
She had to call an eggs-terminator!

What day does an Easter egg hate the most?
Fry-days.

How do bunnies stay healthy?
Egg-sercise.

What do you call a mischievous egg?
A practical yolker.

OK, enough Easter jokes.

Pranks on April First

As a kid I used to love April Fools’ Day. We used to get up early in the morning to trick the rest of the family — things like putting food dye inside the water faucets or plastic buckets of confetti over the doors. I have fond memories. I also loved Easter. I had a bright red sportcoat, and under it I’d wear my James Bond hidden holster (toy gun, of course). We would go to church with family, then gather at one of our grandparents’ homes with cousins. It was a blast.

To this day, even though the kids are 16, we’ll still hide Easter eggs and they’ll have a blast hunting for them. They still love these traditions.

Challenging Holidays

Easter for many of us is a time when we’re together with friends and family, and, like Christmas or other family gatherings, there can sometimes be difficult moments or unresolved pain. Sometimes people hurt us so badly that we find time does not heal all wounds after all. Instead we cling to our stories, and never cut anyone a break for doing stupid things, being human, or making bad choices. So those hurts get carried from holiday to holiday, amplified, rarely healed, and sometimes we cheat ourselves out of those family moments because we don’t want to face those we believe hurt us. It’s called avoidance, and most of us have done it from time to time. I know I have.

A Lesson Finally Sank In

Sometimes it takes me decades to learn important lessons. Maybe I heard them and refused to listen, maybe I didn’t want to hear them or wasn’t ready, but this one finally sank in. Forgiveness isn’t about others. It’s about us.

When I Got Bullied

When I was in the 6th grade, I was severely bullied by a rotten kid I grew up around. I’m not sure why I was his target, but he did everything possible to annoy me and get me in trouble, and, because he often sat behind me, I got lots of things thrown at me. It got old, but I was not strong enough or did not have the courage to fight back. So I took it, got laughed at a lot, was often embarrassed, and could not wait till I got away from him. But he was behind me in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. It was four years of difficulty. I worried so much about it that I got ulcers. He would make such horrible threats, and, still having a young, immature brain, I believed him. Some days I pretended to be sick just to avoid school.

The Weight of Hate

I hate to admit it because I’m not a hate-filled guy, but I carried hatred for this kid well into my adult years. It ate away at me from time to time even as an adult. Seems silly now, yet we all tend to carry old stuff.

I had heard sermons about forgiveness, but this kid had hurt me so badly, had angered me and frightened me so much, that I could not let go of that anger, and it kept building inside.

Wisdom of Friends

Then one day it came up in a discussion with a friend, and he said two things that really hit home. First he said, “This kid bullied you for four years, and you are still giving him power over you for something that is only a fraction of your life. Don’t give him any more power. Let go.”

Look for the Motivation

Then he said, “When you look back on this as an adult, why do you think he did this?”

I thought about it and it came to me that maybe he was hurting, maybe he was being bullied, maybe his parents were abusive, maybe he was jealous of my happy family — or maybe he was just a rotten kid, but that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him.

Self-Destruction

My friend told me I needed to stop being angry because anger eats away at you, actually changes your physiology, and by not forgiving that kid, I was hurting myself. I wasn’t forgiving him because I didn’t want to let go of my anger. I rarely thought of him, but I steamed every time that I did. And on Sundays, each time the preacher would ask “Is there someone you have not forgiven for something they did to you?” that kid’s name would come to mind.

When I forgave him, I felt a new peace, and healing of an old wound.

Caring Too Deeply?

I know a lot of us hold on to anger because we think we had bad parents who should have done things differently. Yet I guarantee you that most of those “bad” parents cared very deeply. The problem is they cared so deeply, they may have pushed too hard to protect you from the bad things they knew about that you had not discovered. Chances are they wanted better for you.

Good Intentions?

Most parents have good intentions, but maybe they had no role models, no examples of how to do it right. Maybe they didn’t have the benefit of education or understanding. Whatever it was, unless they were actively abusive, they probably meant well. Even those who do horrific things may have been passing it on because of horrific role models. Though it’s not an excuse, it helps us understand why.

Parenting is hard, and even if we try to give our kids an ideal life, chances are there will be something that bugs them. Someone got more attention, someone got a better Christmas gift. We have to understand that most parents do the best they know how.

And even if you had relatives or others who did terrible things to you, you can forgive them — and still write them out of your life. Remember, forgiveness is about YOUR inner peace.

Sometimes I’m Burning Mad

I don’t get mad very often, but sometimes someone really wrongs me and it really hurts me and makes me mad — hurt usually becomes anger. Things like finding people were sharing your darkest secrets behind your back, people gossiping, people lying, people ranting on social media about you when they’ve never even met you. I get so angry that I want to stay mad, but that’s only giving them power and hurting me.

Who comes to mind at this moment that you don’t want to forgive?

Who hurt you in some way that makes you just want to scream?

There is new life in letting go, in forgiveness.

If you were in a 12-step program like AA, they would tell you to call or meet and ask for forgiveness. I agree that can be the best step, and very cathartic. Yet you just need to close your eyes and forgive. Truly let go.

Though it can be helpful to try and understand why, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Some things cannot be explained. You just need to stop letting your past hold power over you and trigger anger in your heart. And you don’t have to visit or call the person who hurt you, especially if it doesn’t feel safe. You are doing this for yourself.

Personal Resurrection

Today is celebrated because Christians believe that three days after his death, as predicted, Christ rose from the grave, proving that he had died for their sins.

Whether that appeals to you or not, there is personal resurrection, a change in your heart, when you let go of hurt and anger and forgive those you believe hurt you.

I Had No Idea

By the way, the person you are angry at might not even know. A few weeks ago an artist friend called me and told me I had said something that hurt him and made him feel bullied. I had no idea. Yet he had hung on to it for a year or more without saying anything because he did not want to make a big deal about it. Though I don’t know if he has forgiven me, I did ask for his forgiveness, and I think we healed our wounds. I cannot control anyone else and what they think, I can only create forgiveness in my own heart.

Anyone in Mind?

If anyone comes to mind who has angered you, who has wronged you knowingly or not, who has not always been the person you wanted them to be, you’ll never fully heal that wound until you forgive.

What if we all use today to heal, to ask forgiveness, to resurrect our families and our relationships, to reach out and, if nothing more, just let them know they are loved. Maybe then we can be silly fools together again like old times.

There is no need to bring up old stuff. Just go into a quiet space, close your eyes and think about where forgiveness is needed, and grant it. You’ll be doing something big for yourself, so that healing can occur.

 

Eric Rhoads

Healing Deep Old Wounds 2018-03-29T10:13:19+00:00
25 03, 2018

Warm Memories

2018-03-22T09:23:00+00:00

Peaceful? Not exactly how I’d describe what I was thinking might be a quiet morning. The roar of passing cars fills the air, road rage with someone laying on the horn for what seemed like a full minute, and some muffled sounds of obscenities screamed out a car window. I thought that even Philadelphia would be immune to noise this early. I was wrong.

In spite of the noise, my daughter Grace is nestled in her cozy bed, asleep and not disturbed by the noise of passing traffic and the soft clicking of my iPad keyboard. Soon it will be time to awaken her, get some breakfast, and make our way over to get tickets to see the Liberty Bell. They say it has a crack. We’ll find out firsthand.

This is a special weekend. I’ll explain.

A Golden Invitation

Several weeks ago I received a call from Jay Pennie, director of Studio Incamminati, one of the great realism art schools in America, founded by Leona and Nelson Shanks. Jay told me they were going to do a special event where I would be the invited guest. They would be doing a Facebook Live event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 24, and I would be painted simultaneously by three amazing painters: Kerry Dunn, JaFang Lu, and Nell O’Leary.

I was told that video would pan between painters and paintings while I was interviewed throughout the day. I agreed — reluctantly, because it would mean yet another trip away from the family. Been too many of those lately. But I had a plan.

Two Good Reasons and One Not-So-Good Reason

Being an opportunist, on the spur of the moment my agreement was based on three things. First, it would be viewed potentially by tens of thousands of people, and, being a ham, I’m always looking for anyone who will listen to my story. Second, I get my portrait painted frequently for Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, and I’m behind schedule because I’ve not had time to sit still for a couple of years, so I could kill three birds with one stone. Third, and most importantly, it was an opportunity for a daddy-daughter weekend with Grace, age 16, one of the triplets.

One Trip That Didn’t Work Out

Grace and I actually had another weekend planned. Since she has been showing interest in art and had done a wonderful self-portrait in art class in high school, I was going to take her to the 100th anniversary of the Salmagundi Club building in New York a few months ago. But it turned out her high school ended up in the state football finals, and she was required to stay and play her trumpet. So I’d been looking for another opportunity. This was it.

Secretly I arranged for a private art lesson from one of the instructors at the school because I knew she would not want to stare at me being painted all day. “Boring, Dad.”

Being Tourists

Then we would go be tourists, and as much as I wanted to visit art museums, I would resist my interests and do the things she wanted to do, like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We would make a weekend of it. That is why we’re here.

It’s hard to gain perspective when you’re a guest who is modeling and talking simultaneously, but you can see the replay at Facebook.com/TheStudioIncamminati. You be the judge. It sure was fun and went by quickly, and I learned a lot watching myself being painted. And Grace loved her full-day drawing lesson.

The Painter of Queens and Presidents

Best of all, of course, is spending time with Grace. When we arrived I did have one art thing arranged, a private tour of one of the world’s great collections of Old Master paintings at a nearby estate. The collection had been created by my old friend Nelson Shanks (1937-2015), who invited me when we spent four half-days together with him painting my portrait. He was one of the great museum-quality portrait painters of all time. He told me loads of stories about friendships developed while painting Princess Diana (twice), Luciano Pavarotti, Bill Clinton, and others. I was honored to be painted by Nelson Shanks, something I chronicled here. It is one of my fondest memories.

Good Things Don’t Come Easy

I don’t know about you, but I cherish my weekends, and it would have been a lot easier to stay home, kick back, and not make the effort for a daddy-daughter weekend. But I have such fond memories of my special times with my dad that I could not resist the opportunity to create a memory.

Traveling with Dad

My dad took me to New York on a business trip with him when I was 13 or 14. I remember most of the details to this day, but when he said, “What do you most want to do?” I said, “Dad, I want to see inside a New York radio station” because I had caught the radio bug. So one Saturday morning we drove to Black Rock, home of CBS, and my dad went in and talked to the guard. He put me on the phone to the DJ on the air at WCBS, a man named Bill Brown, and before long we were inside the studio talking to the DJ.

That moment of inspiration created a career. Dad could have suggested we do something else, but he made it my weekend. I’ll always remember that. To this day he tells the story about how I talked my way into the station after being told no, but I’m guessing he secretly slipped the guard a 20.

A Cherished Memory

My nephew Ryan, now age 31, talks about a New York business trip I took him on when he was 12. It’s a reminder of how important these things are, and my hope is that my daughter will remember our time fondly and carry the tradition on with her family. And with triplets, I’ve got more special memories to make.

Manufacturing Memories

I learned an important lesson from my dad. I’m not sure where he learned it, but life is about creating memories. We may not remember all the moments in between, but the memories stand out. He and Mom devoted their lives to giving us memorable experiences, even though they probably couldn’t afford them. They went out of their way to make an effort to expose us to new things and create memories. We had weekends boating in a tiny boat in rough waters on Lake Erie, flights on Ford Tri-Motor airplanes, campfires around our Airstream trailer, amusement parks, road trips cross-country, flat tires on a single-lane road in an Aspen pass, working trade shows at McCormick Place in Chicago, flying in a DC-3, and hundreds of other memories, too many to mention here.

I’m trying to do the same, and as an adult with a job, responsibilities, and not-unlimited income, I’m realizing just how special these memories are and how inconvenient they were to create. Yet they are the life I fondly remember with my family.

Difficult Childhoods

I know so many people who had rough, rocky, unpleasant childhoods and deadbeat parents, which makes these memories even more special. I feel I was blessed with a great childhood and great parents. I wish everyone could experience that. That isn’t possible, but at least I can try to do it for my kids — and people who did not have role models can become role models.

Accepting Flaws

I know some families who are estranged over what seem like petty little things. I can never truly understand until I’ve walked in their shoes, yet it seems to me that we don’t want those angry things to be the memories of our lives. We need to work extra hard to shed the negatives, accept one another for our own unique flaws, and focus on good memories for our remaining time on earth.

Rocking Chair Moments

Though I don’t want to be morose, I wonder if one day I’ll be sitting in a rocking chair, my family off with their busy lives, and I’ll be left with nothing but my memories. If so, I want to make so many that I have years of entertainment to keep a warm smile on my face.

Looking Back

Sometimes in our lives we may each be faced with difficult and challenging moments, and it will be these good times, these positive memories, that will get us through them. Maybe my baby girl will look back if she’s having a difficult moment and cherish time with her dad. Not just one trip, not just family vacations, not just silly dancing around the house or daddy-daughter dances, but times sitting on the porch just talking, or lying in the grass spotting animals in the clouds.

You don’t have to go on a trip to make memories.

In the book of Luke, the prodigal son left his father’s house and moved far away, yet his heart was warmed when  “he came to himself” and remembered the blessings of the father’s house. His memories brought him home, and his dad received him with open arms.

Memories can serve purposes far beyond our intentions, and they should be received with open arms.

I Hate to See It End

Later today, after we’ve seen Philly and experienced the local food, seen the sights, and perhaps bought some T-shirts to bring home, we’ll board a plane bound for Austin, and we’ll have completed a lifetime memory. A memory of a great art visit, a great portrait experience, a great drawing lesson, and great times together. Tomorrow we’re back to the routine.

Memories are not all about childhood.

My dad and mom still make a point to create memories for their kids and grandkids, so it never really stops. My goal is to create memories for them.

What memories do you cherish the most?
Pause and think about them.

What memories do you have of your childhood that make you feel great?
I hope there are many.

What memories can you create, starting today?

With family, with friendships, there comes responsibility, maybe not by requirement, but out of the goodness within us.

Let’s each go out of our way to create memories, and let’s cherish the memories we hold dear. We would all be better off spending more time enjoying those memories.

Today might be a good day to gaze and simply remember. These are gifts implanted by others. Cherish them.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Just last week I made memories by driving with the family from Austin to Santa Fe, where we played tourists and saw the area. We laughed a lot. I’m really excited about painting there in just a few weeks for the Plein Air Convention. It’s a very special place. And this was a special vacation, another wonderful memory.

PPS: Last week I sent the link to the Cuba story, BUT the link was broken. I heard from a lot of people, so here is the link. Sorry.

Warm Memories 2018-03-22T09:23:00+00:00
18 03, 2018

Emotional Spring Cleaning

2018-03-14T09:05:28+00:00

Today’s brilliant cobalt blue sky is filled with big, puffy clouds, dark on the bottom and rim-lit with yellow sunrise light. Tiny feather-like light green leaves are showing up on the bare branches, and blossoms of pink and white are filling my favorite tree. Birds are chirping out “Spring is in the air!” and I’m finally able to get back to my porch without a blanket or sweater. Soon bluebonnets will fill nearby farmers’ fields, seducing me and my easel.

Seasons are a good guide for living, since they reflect the cycle of life. Spring is a time to be grateful after the hardships of winter. Gratitude guides my life.

What if we followed the seasons in our lives and our work? Spring is a time for new life, reinvention. Summer is a time to enjoy that reinvention. Fall is a time when the old starts to fade, yet it fades with glory and the most beauty, and winter is a time of death … out with the old, so the new can begin.

My mom used to make us do spring cleaning. It’s a time to open the windows, freshen the old stale air of home, clean out our accumulation of stuff, and throw out or give away what we no longer use.

A Fresh Start

Maybe spring is a time to clean out more than our homes, and to think about what’s working and what in our lives needs to be removed to make for a fresh start.

I like to do an annual personal inventory, and spring is a great time to do it. It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re truly happy. Are you doing what you love, or are you stuck in a rut?

Tough Questions

Spring cleaning takes on a new meaning when you make a point to ask yourself these questions…

Am I truly happy? If not, why not? What is getting in the way of my joy? Can I eliminate those things, those people, from my life?

Who am I around who exhausts me, who hurts me, who is not respectful, who does not bring me joy?

What am I not doing that I want to be doing?

Emotional spring cleaning is a great way to change your life. Usually it’s one or two big things that are bringing you down.

Stuck?

“But Eric, I can’t make changes!” you may say. Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you hate, stuck with family who is abusive, with a spouse or partner who brings you down. Maybe you’re caring for an elderly or ill person who needs you.

Yes, life has responsibilities, and we can’t always abandon them. But too often, people stay in place far too long, tell themselves it’s not possible to make a change, wait till their emotional dam bursts, and then do it anyway.

Looking Back

Often, once people escape the ties that bind them — in a healthy way —  I hear them say, “I should have done this years ago. I wasted so much time.”

Looking Inward

I’ve also found that the problems with people and things that bug me the most are usually more about me than them. If I can cut them some slack, not get so worked up, stop letting little things bother me, or try to be a little more understanding of the situation, I find that I am much happier living with things. Attitude is everything. Sometimes that little change can even make the unbearable seem wonderful again.

My pastor says the easy thing to do is walk away — but also that doing it can destroy lives. The hard thing to do is be forgiving, be accepting, be loving, and understand that you’re part of the problem. That changes everything.

What Can You Change?

There are things you can change. You just have to be willing. Jobs, for instance, can be changed. We often feel bound to jobs because we’ve invested so much time, education, and experience, but if a job isn’t working for you anymore, it’s time to move on. It won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable, and you might even walk away from some secure income. So what?

Which is better? Work another two decades and be unhappy every day, or have less and do what you love?

The question that cuts to the heart of things…

Your doctor has given you 90 days to live.

What will you do with those 90 days?

Perhaps those are the things you should be doing every day.

Are you ready for some emotional spring cleaning?

Are there changes you need to make? Things you need to shed? Things you need to do?

Today is a good day to ponder those changes. Look outwardly and look inward.


Eric Rhoads

 

You’ve probably seen this, but it might be helpful to read it again:

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore AD 1692
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Emotional Spring Cleaning 2018-03-14T09:05:28+00:00
11 03, 2018

Listening to the Voices In Your Head

2018-03-07T11:53:02+00:00

The small sound of pellets of rain has turned into a roar, louder and louder as the rain hits the tin roof in my art studio, where I sit this morning.

Sage-colored leaves frame the light grayish-purple mountain in the distance, under a grayish-yellow ochre sky. Streaks of light suddenly hit the ground, lighting up patches that seem to glow.

Drips pour down the edges of the porch overhang, creating a sheet of water. Wet ground covered in oak leaves and sap green patches of grass lead up to the distant World Famous Artist’s Cabin in the distance. Its dark brown logs are shimmering from the water.

The cabin, which sits among the woods on the back of our rural property outside of Austin, Texas, also has a tin roof, and a porch with two rockers and a porch swing.

Every two weeks or so, almost year-round, the World Famous Artist’s Cabin is occupied by world famous artists (which is how it got its name). These are people we invite for the creation of art instruction videos, and they are so important to us that we just would not feel right putting them up in a hotel when we could share our home and get to know them better.

Driven with Passion

Sometimes in your life, an idea comes to you that has to be done. It’s usually inconvenient, usually a lot of extra work, and often it’s a shiny object that has nothing to do with your plans or your goals.

John Singer Sargent

For me, it was finding a way to change art instruction videos forever. It happened when I was trying to learn more about the techniques of John Singer Sargent, only to learn he never wrote much about painting and the only documentation comes from one of his students. I remember thinking, “If only there had been technology that allowed us to understand how Sargent painted. And even more important, if only we could have deeply probed his brain, to understand what was in his mind.” (Speaking of Sargent, I recently interviewed his grand-nephew and the world’s leading Sargent expert, Richard Ormond.)

The Perfect Position

That’s when I decided I was in the perfect position to do something that went deeper than the typical art instruction videos that had been around. That’s when I decided I needed to capture and document artists in depth, at the highest possible quality. Because, as I often ask myself, “If not me, then who?

The Artist Legacy

It has turned out to be one of the best parts of my life because I’m interacting with the world’s top artists on the deepest possible level and documenting their technique and their mindset at the moment, helping them leave a legacy that nothing else can provide and a distribution that is unparalleled, something they could never do themselves with any amount of advertising.

Passing the Vault of Lessons

Most artists I approach are somewhat shy, somewhat introverted, and not at all comfortable with the idea of being on camera, yet when I help them understand that they have spent a lifetime figuring things out and that their lessons and mindset will disappear with them, they realize this isn’t at all about the money, it’s about the responsibility of sharing their life lessons. Six hundred years ago, it would be about a master training an apprentice so that apprentice could carry on his knowledge and techniques and then pass it down through the generations. Yet today we can amplify that to the world, and not just to one at a time, making this more powerful than an appearance, a demo, a workshop, or almost anything an artist can do.

There are points in each of our lives where we have to think about these two things…

First, what is it that may be inconvenient and not in your plan, but you must do it because it needs to be done and you’re the only one with the vision and capability to do it?

Second, what is it that you possess, because of your unique life experiences, that no one else in the world possesses? What do you have a responsibility to share with the world?

Resisting the Voices

I spent a lot of years resisting these issues, often telling myself someday and never getting them done. Then the window closed, and I regret not doing them. It’s my belief that God calls out, keeps something in our minds repeatedly, and then closes the door if we don’t listen. Maybe it’s passed to someone else, maybe not, but I’ve learned I need to listen to these things that suddenly appear in my brain.

Shiny Objects

My team tends to call them “Eric’s shiny objects” and even Success Magazine called me the Shiny Object King. Yet, when something is laid on my heart and I feel a responsibility to do it, I’m trying to listen. That may be why I’ve got so much going on, but if you notice, this is all about helping others live their dreams. It’s my goal to be a vessel.

Learning to Listen

You too are a vessel, whether or not you know it or believe it. There is a responsibility you are being given, words ringing in your head that you must listen to. People often mock those who say God speaks to them. I can’t really explain it, but there is a voice in my head. Maybe it’s my conscience, maybe it’s just me talking to myself, but it seems to be random, and not a fit to the rest of my voices. I’m trying to listen because my time left to get things done is unpredictable and I feel a responsibility to spread the passions I possess, to help the world…

  • discover painting
  • help artists market their work
  • document the great artists of our generation before their time runs out
  • help others discover something about themselves they did not know was within them.

Finding My Gifts

I once took a class on discovering the gifts we have been given and using those gifts to serve others. Among others who thought they had no gifts, it was an eye-opener to see them discover the gifts they had, and to watch them implement those gifts to help others.

Finding Your Gifts

You too have gifts for the world. If you’ve not discovered them yet, you will. It took me a lot of years. Start by making sure you have quiet time, meditation or prayer time, and make sure it’s not you doing all the talking. Just listen. You don’t have to hear voices. Just be still and think about whatever comes into your mind. It is there you’ll discover an untapped world of deep personal satisfaction, and it’s there you’ll discover your gifts, the things you need to do for others, and the things you must share.

No Platforms

This little thing I call Sunday Coffee is one of the ways I try to share. I also write columns in my magazines, I speak at our conferences, and I teach on my videos. Keep in mind, none of these platforms existed until that voice in my head suggested I create them. I did not know how, I did not have the money, and in some cases I was not sure I even wanted to do them, and yet some turned out to allow me to amplify ways to helps others live their dreams.

Your platforms may be something entirely different. It might be teaching locally, it might be speaking or writing or blogging or something no one has ever thought about.

Recently the voices told me that I needed to get my first art marketing book out in time for the April Plein Air Convention, just a month from now. This was just about five weeks ago, and I will have written it, gotten it edited, proofed, laid out, cover designed, and printed, and have it at the convention. It was a major hassle with all the other things going on, 30 weeks a year of travel, and a business to run, but I felt I needed to listen and do it in spite of how inconvenient it might be, because my voices tell me people need more help with marketing their art.

After my healthy friend Sean had his stroke, I intend to waste no time, knowing any of us could expire at any moment.

Pondering Purpose and Responsibility

I hope today you’ll find a quiet spot and simply listen, and ponder what role you play.

What do you possess that is unique to you?

Where do you have special understanding? Something where no one else has your perspective?

What do you need to share that will make your struggles worthwhile, knowing you’ve helped others avoid them?

What are the voices telling you that you’ve done nothing about?

What passions do you have that you want others to discover?

What is in your mind that seems so big, so overwhelming, that you think someone else should be doing it instead of you? And how can you take a baby step today to begin the process of making it happen?

How You Change the World

You have things deep inside you that truly will change the world. Though you may catch yourself telling yourself that isn’t true, that you don’t have anything special, I don’t believe it and neither should you. The natural defense mechanism in our brains tell us this to protect us, but it’s not protection at all.

If you get into your quiet place and listen, you’ll discover those voices, and if there is nothing there, start asking to understand your purposes, your unique gifts.

You have unbelievable gifts within you, things you don’t even know you have, that have been molded by the experiences in your life. Adversity may have been painful but it’s where many of our gifts come from.

Embrace adversity. Believe that those gifts are there.

Keep listening. The answers will come.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: I just returned from an amazing trip to Cuba, which I wrote about here. The best part wasn’t Cuba, it was getting to know some folks deeply from having meals together and painting together for a week. I’ll be doing my summer painters’ retreat again in June in the Adirondacks.

The last few weeks I was honored to share the World Famous Artist’s Cabin with artists Lori McNee, and again with Bill Davidson, Nancie King Mertz, and Thomas Jefferson Kitts. I feel so blessed to be able to get acquainted with these greats.

An update: My buddy Sean is still “locked in” to his body, totally aware, but unable to move or speak. I’m praying that his body will recover and give him ability to communicate and have mobility. Thanks to those of you who donated to help him and his wife survive financially. We’ve got a good start, but their medical bills are so steep that they still need help should you feel willing.

Listening to the Voices In Your Head 2018-03-07T11:53:02+00:00
4 03, 2018

The Impossible Dream

2018-02-26T12:56:13+00:00

Dark, billowing clouds are dancing overhead and the muted orange sun is streaming rays out over the Atlantic Ocean. Balmy air is met with a quiet breeze as palm fronds playfully move about, swaying from side to side. Cathedral bells ring out and echo off the old historic buildings.

I hear distant music in the streets, the soundtrack of Cuba. I’m up earlier than normal this morning and instead of the usual porch in the backyard, I’m on the upper deck on top of a hotel in Havana.

Last night over dinner one of the painters here with me told me she had once lived in New Orleans, which prompted me to tell her this story.

My Chance to Own a Radio Station

When I was a young man, about 23, I learned of an FM radio license possibly available in a small town outside New Orleans. This was very rare because it was believed that all the radio licenses that could be granted by the FCC were gone. Was it too good to be true?

The process to apply for a license required visiting the community and meeting with 150 or so community leaders and citizens to ascertain their needs, so you could prove to the FCC that you were able to meet those needs.

Doors Slammed in My Face

Upon arrival in this small Louisiana town, we found everyone to be very unfriendly. No one would talk to us. People would slam doors in our faces. But why?

Meet the Boss Man

Finally, we sat down in the city hall of this tiny town, and it was like a movie set. It was sweltering hot, and the clapboard building had wicker chairs and a slow-spinning ceiling fan. The leader of the town kept us waiting for four hours, and after he found that didn’t discourage my partner and me, we entered his office. It was like a scene out of the old TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. This man was dressed like Boss Hogg … white suit, white hat, giant cigar, a half-empty fifth of Jack Daniel’s, and he had his cowboy boots up on the desk when we entered. He did not stand to greet us or shake our hands.

In the deepest Louisiana accent, he said, “I understand you boys want that radio frequency down in these parts.”

“Yes, sir,” I said respectfully.

“There have probably been 200 people down here trying to get that license, but there is something you need to understand. I control things around here. I control all the land and the permits where you would need to build your tower. And I happen to own the one local radio station here. So you boys won’t get a permit to get a picket fence, let alone a tower.”

“But sir, we intend to serve the community, and we won’t impact your radio station. The reason the FCC wants another station here is so there are other people offering service.”

Alligators Await You, Boy

“You think I don’t know that, boy?” he said heatedly. “You boys better be gettin’ out of my town lickety-split. If we catch you talking to any of the people in our town, our officers might just pull you over, find a bag of cocaine under your car seat, and put you in jail. No one comes out of our jail, and the only way out is through the alligators.”

The meeting ended, and not well.

Naively, we continued to try and meet with people, but more doors were slammed in our faces. Now we understood why.

This Isn’t a Movie

By chance we landed at the office of a local attorney who had spent his career trying to bring this man and his brother down because they were so crooked. When we told him what happened, he told us, “Boys, this ain’t the movies. This won’t end well. People who get arrested in this town really do end up with the alligators. I don’t recommend you stay.”

This of course did not stop us; we were determined to get that station. But soon we noticed a squad car following us and we got spooked, so we got in our rental car and drove to our motel in New Orleans, about 30 miles away. This was around two o’clock in the afternoon, and that squad car followed us all the way there and parked right outside our room.

I was more frightened than I’d ever been in my life.

Escape in the Night

Once it got to be bedtime, we turned the lights out, but we stayed awake and alert, and finally that squad car left at two in the morning. If his job was to make a point and scare us, it worked. Once he left, we grabbed our bags, got in our rental car, and went to the airport, where we slept safely until our flight the next morning.

The following morning I phoned our FCC attorney and told him the story. He said, “That’s unfortunate, Eric, but the FCC won’t give you that license unless you have about 200 ascertainment interviews, and even then it’s a long shot. You simply weren’t meant to get this license, and this explains why such a rare license is available. It looks like no one will get that license.”

Then I said something the attorney did not expect.

A Bold Idea

“Let’s go to the FCC with a sworn affidavit from me, telling them about the situation, telling them our lives were threatened, and telling them we can’t build a station tower in that town because they won’t give us a permit. Maybe they would make an exception and move the city of license and not make us do ascertainments?”

He told me the FCC had never done anything like that in their history and that I would be wasting my time.

Just Do It

Though I was young, very insecure, and respected this man tremendously, I told him I would write it up and get it notarized, and I asked if he would present it to the FCC and request a special hearing. Reluctantly, he said he would do it, but it would cost me a lot of money, and he repeated that it wouldn’t work and would be a giant waste of time.

Months passed, and one day I received a call: The FCC had granted me the license.

Following Your Gut

If I had listened to the advice of my attorney, the course of my life would have changed significantly. Because I had a gut feeling, because I did not allow his advice to sway me, because I believed in my own ability to write a convincing argument, I ended up building a station, putting it on the air with one of the best signals covering New Orleans, and eventually selling it at a nice profit. Though a couple of hundred had tried, I prevailed.

Winston Churchill was known for saying, “Never, never, never give up.”

Fool, This Can’t Be Done

I have a lot of crazy ideas, and it is not unusual for people around me to tell me why it’s a bad idea, why it’s not possible, why it won’t work, why we will lose money. Often I’ll assign a project that is seen as folly, or even impossible, and I get the response that it simply can’t be done.

My radar goes up when I hear the words “It’s not possible. It cannot be done,” and I am driven to find a way, and almost every time I’ll work on it until I’ve proven that it can be done.

Most people stop at the first no, or the second no, or sometimes the third. I believe that every project has a large number of “nos” until you get to a “yes,” and the more “nos” there are, the more it’s worth doing.

Consider “NO” as Progress

My friend and former sales trainer Pam Lontos used to demonstrate this principle by stuffing $100 worth of $1 bills into her sleeves and clothes. She’d have a salesperson come up and talk with her, and every time she said no, they would pick a dollar bill from her. She said no many times, and they ended up with a dollar for each one. The point being that you have to be ready to keep asking, no matter how many “no” answers you get.

What are the times when you did not accept “no” that turned out well?

What are the times you regret accepting a negative answer?

People Who Try to Kill Ideas

I’ve discovered that pack mentality tends to default to the negative, not the possibilities. I’ve discovered that when a lot of people tell me something is a bad idea, I realize what a good idea it is after all. I’ve also found that the more negatives there are in the media about something, the more likely it is to happen. Remember how everyone said Jeff Bezos could not succeed with Amazon? He is now the richest man in the world.

This isn’t about money, or about business, it’s about a way to consider living life. It’s about believing in your instincts and following your own vision, your own dream, no matter how many people tell you it’s a bad idea. It might be about your art, your dreams, your goals, a better life.

Giving Up on Dreams

I’ve met dreamers who failed but are glad they tried. I’ve met dreamers who never tried and regret not trying. I’ve been both. I never followed my dream of becoming a Hollywood film actor, and though I’ve never given up, I’ve never really tried because I lacked self-confidence and told myself the odds were against me. I wasn’t following my own advice, so I’ve not given up on this dream, or on some others I’ve told myself were not possible.

Impossible Becomes Possible

Almost everything that is in your head is possible, or will become possible. (No, I can’t wish myself to become 7 feet tall.) When I went into the Internet radio space, I was told by every technology person I interviewed that what I wanted to do was not possible — that physics would not support it. The guy I hired told me it was impossible but he would figure out a way to do it, and he did.

Everything starts with your belief systems. Though we always need to listen to others, we also need to keep in mind that our vision is different from theirs. You can see things others can’t envision.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you…

  • It’s impossible
  • It costs too much
  • It can’t be done
  • Physics won’t support it
  • No one has ever done it
  • You’re too old
  • You’re too young
  • You don’t have the right education
  • You’re not good enough
  • If Edison couldn’t do it, why do you think you could?

The voices inside your head are put there so you can change the world. So you can do the impossible.

Your Special Mission

You have been given a purpose, a belief, and though few can see it or understand it, you have special abilities to see what they cannot. Don’t let others discourage you, don’t let others stop you, don’t take no for an answer, ever. The world will change, and what is physically impossible today may not be tomorrow.

Seeing Beyond Others

The great people of our times like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, as well as the greats of the past, were all told what they wanted to do was impossible. Yet they were driven to prove their ideas could happen, and they worked tirelessly to find answers and solutions. They never took no for an answer. Sometimes they are seen as arrogant or tough, which is probably only from frustration when others tell them no and cannot see the world they envision.

Life is richer when you follow the voices in your head and never accept no for an answer.

In what areas of your life do you need to plow forward in spite of negative comments or discouragement?

What Are Your Voices Saying?

If you tell yourself, “But I’m different, I truly can’t do this,” you are underestimating your own abilities. You have things inside you that will come out at the right time, when you need them, and you’ll surprise even yourself.

Use this week to dream, and to move forward on your dream because you know in your heart your ideas, your vision, CAN be done. Oh, you’ll still have self-doubt. When you catch yourself doubting, kick it out of your head and tell yourself, “That’s unlike me. Of course I can do this.”

You will find a way.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I was told it would be impossible to take a group of 100 artists to Cuba to paint. I was told both governments would never allow it, yet it happened, two years ago. Then I was told it could not be repeated. But right now I’m in Cuba with a group of painters, and today we’ll be painting all over Havana. Wish us luck. Internet is spotty, but watch my Facebook page for photos and video this week, or once I get back.

The Impossible Dream 2018-02-26T12:56:13+00:00
25 02, 2018

Being Deliberate

2018-03-16T06:25:00+00:00

Nestled in my art studio this morning, my bare feet wrapped under a blanket, which covers me keeping the chill off. The whir of a small space heater trying to play its part. Chilled raindrops slowly and methodically pinging on the metal roof above me.

Looking at my blessings each day, my daily exercise of finding three things to be grateful for, I recall the days when painting occurred in a back bedroom with the paint smelling up the whole house, which eventually pushed me into a small corner of the garage. Countless hours were spent there bundled up in the winters and in t-shirts and shorts in the summers since there was no climate control. Yet my passion to paint overcame any inconvenience. And frankly, I know even those conditions were a luxury compared to most.

A Dream Art Studio

The dream of one day having a studio of my own, with ample space for my friends to visit and paint models on Wednesday nights, came true about seven years ago when we moved to this very spot. The little 16×20 brown clapboard cabin sits behind the house overlooking the winding oaks and distant purple hills; its porch has a fireplace to warm me on days when I move my easel there.

A Room of Memories

The tall ceiling comes to a peak, making the small space feel bigger, and every square inch of wall space is covered with framed plein air studies I’ve painted on my art retreats and fine art trips all over the world. Within view … a lighthouse and colorful trees painted on fall color week, a nocturne (night) painting done in Bruggen, a waterfall done in the Adirondacks in one of the same spots many Hudson River School painters painted, a Native American painted in Santa Fe, and a rock scene painted with my friend Joe McGurl.These and hundreds of paintings are my lifetime memories of trips, painting with friends, painting models, and living the plein air lifestyle. Unlike tens of thousands of photos, which may someday be lost on discarded hard drives, paintings are much harder to throw away. One can only hope they find good homes with my kids, grandkids, and their grandkids.

A Family Celebration

Speaking of kids, last week I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks as I searched old photos of my children at different ages so I could could post some old pictures on Facebook in celebration of their sixteenth. I had no idea the impact this momentous celebration would have on my heart; it was a sobering moment realizing that with driver’s licenses we will begin the separation process, soon to be followed by college, then the rest of life.

When I think about how little time they have in their nest, I started thinking about what lessons they still need to learn. One can only hope our own behavior and actions have left them with the tools they need for a quality life.

A Different Kind of To-Do List

I decided to make a list of traits I hope my children will adopt that will serve them well, so I can think about ways I might help them develop some of these important traits before they fly. Though the list is personal, the thing that led me to this is that lessons cannot just be random. We need to be deliberate. Though much of parenting is accidental, which is why our bad traits are also absorbed and become part of our legacy, we need to put ourselves in a position where they can observe these lessons in action.

Making a Point

An example: I recently picked out a pair of sunglasses when we were all in a store buying some things together. I handed the glasses to my wife to add to the the items she was purchasing. Because her hands were full she put them in her purse fully intending to pay for them, only to discover when we returned home that she had not paid for them. Though a return to the store was inconvenient, and though I could have phoned them to give my credit card, I piled the family into the car, made the drive, and together we went in to pay for them. The clerk was amazed and said “this never happens,” and then let us know how much they appreciated our honesty. Having the kids hear those words was important.

What They Don’t Know Can Help Them

My kids would rather sit on their screens, texting their friends, than go out on an adventure. Visits to museums are met with whining, yet usually the kids are grateful at the end of the experience. They don’t know what they don’t know; therefore it’s easier to let them stay home. But then, that isn’t good parenting.

What is on your list for your kids, grown or young, or grandkids, or nieces and nephews?  What lessons do they need to learn?

What things do they need to be exposed to in order to open their minds? What things do you need to drag them to, that they don’t want to do, that they might enjoy?

What traits have given you an advantage, which need to be instilled in your kids? What traits have hurt you along the way, which you can help them avoid?

Breaking Bread Plays a Powerful Role

When I was a child, we sat for dinner as a family every night, starting with a prayer of gratitude. Later in years, we gather as a family on Sunday nights for dinner. Everyone is welcome. I’ve come to realize that dinner is about sharing stories of our day, our lessons, and also a chance to listen. It’s something we don’t do enough of anymore. Busy lives and homework tend to lead to random meals. Yet in spite of how difficult it is to gather as a family, this is the glue that holds families together, helps them hear the stories of the past, the lessons of our day or week, and that gives us a chance to reconnect on a deeper level, and maybe help each one feel heard.

Life’s Lessons

These phases of life, monumental birthdays, play an important role reminding us of our own role, our own purpose, what we are grateful for, and what we have yet to accomplish. Though it was a week of celebration, it was also a stark reminder that time travel exists and that it’s moving fast, and though parenting lasts forever and lessons continue, we have much to get done.

What will you do this week to impart lessons to friends, family, and others, which are important for them to hear or experience?

It’s my hope that your week will be richly blessed and that new lessons are learned that we can pass to others to make them better, stronger, more resilient, and have more open and caring hearts.

Eric Rhoads

Being Deliberate 2018-03-16T06:25:00+00:00
18 02, 2018

Which Kind of Arrows Do You Shoot?

2018-02-13T13:20:08+00:00

I’m shivering — my flesh has goosebumps. Frost and shiny reflections of ice on my porch take me outside long enough to grab a couple of fallen trees for the fire to warm my skin.

Nestled away in their cozy covers, the family sleeps while I sit in my favorite recliner, one my wife found along the road. We took it down to its solid bones, adding new muscles and a fresh skin.

Snap, crackle, and pop accompany the flames, the only sounds present other than the tapping of little doggy paws on the wooden floor of this old stone Texas ranch house as Tucker, our new 11-year-old rescue, paces awaiting breakfast.

Touching Memories

Wrapped in history — an Afghan blanket knitted by my grandmother “Mema” and given to me on my 17th birthday, keeps me warm emotionally and physically. Knowing her delicate and frail hands infused each strand of yarn with her love makes me tear up when I think about how much she is missed and how much she touched my life with important lessons.

Thinking back, there are those who are in our lives, and those who touch our lives. There is a difference. Someone can be in your life for a great length of time and not leave their mark, while a brief encounter with someone else can have a profound effect.

Some impact is premeditated, some is accidental (though I’m convinced there are no real accidents).

Angel Drops

Looking through a microscope at my own history, I can point to brief moments where an impact was made by the angels dropped into the winding country road of life. Looking back, I can see moments where someone briefly appeared, dropped off a lesson at the exact right time, then departed.

I can also see times when someone kept putting the same message into my life, over and over until the timing was right for me to hear it. As I say in my Art Marketing Boot Camp, it is repetition that sells products. The same is true for lessons, especially when there are teenagers involved.

Grandmother Calling

When we were kids living at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, our phone (Kenmore 7463) would ring and Mema would say, “I just wanted you to know that Billy Graham is on TV right now on Channel 15.” She must have done it a hundred times, and though I rolled my eyes because I thought I had better things to do, she never stopped … and I miss those calls today. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the repetition helped me understand the importance of what she was trying to tell me.

At the fire I’m tending, the flames are now reduced to embers and will soon burn out. We all need to fan embers to bring new flames and new passions. It is that repetition of messages that brings out the flames. But sometimes a fire starts with only a brief spark.

These angels may have a specific lesson to give, but mostly they help others discover what is inside of themselves, and help them see things in themselves that they couldn’t see before. These angels offer encouragement, build confidence, and help us become better.

Any Life Left?

Actor Will Smith has a viral video that asks, “Are the people around you contributing to your life, making you feel better about yourself, or are they sucking the life out of you?” He asks, “With whom are you spending your time?”

Rarely do we know the impact of our words, whether they are encouraging, hopeful, sharing ideas — or snuffing out the flames.

Random Meeting

Years ago, I was visiting a radio convention and I was stopped by a man I didn’t recognize. He introduced himself, told me that we had worked together very briefly, and that I had said one thing to him in passing that had encouraged him to go out and buy his own radio station. He told me he had never considered it or believed he could do it, but my words of encouragement gave him the confidence, and today he is a station owner with several radio stations. He told me I had changed his life, yet I had not even remembered saying it.

Did you ever say something to someone and then wonder where those words came from? Something just came out of your mouth, unplanned? You just blurted it out?

Unpredictable Words

I’m convinced that we are vessels, placed in circumstances at certain times when angels are needed, and that those words that fall into our brains, unpremeditated, are placed on our lips to help people in need of those words at those times.

It probably sounds crazy. I get that. Yet the more years I’m alive, the more things I experience that I cannot begin to understand, and sometimes I believe we are the angels, or perhaps they are speaking through us.

I also think those words that come to us can be from a positive source — or a negative source. It’s like the little devil on the left shoulder and the angel on the right shoulder. Both enter our heads, and we have to have enough discernment to ask ourselves, “Are my words going to be used for good or evil?”

Sometimes our messengers help us see a bad situation that we would rather not see, rather not face. Yet negative messages, no matter how helpful, are rarely received well. This is where relationships end, especially with those who want to avoid those who snuff out their flames. It’s a delicate balance.

A Painful Letter

Several years ago, I felt the need to write a letter to a family member because I saw things going on that he did not see. They were, in my opinion, so harmful to him, and I loved him so much, that I felt he needed to know, even at the risk of losing my relationship with him, to save him from such deep pain and the coming train wreck. After I hit the send button, I knew there was no turning back. The result was not what I had expected. He did take the action recommended, but he has not spoken to me since, and years have now passed. I miss him terribly, and I’m not convinced it was worth the sacrifice of not having him in my life. Now I wonder if it would have been better for him to face the train wreck and learn the harder lesson on his own, without my pointing it out.

A well-meaning push to help someone avoid pain may seem like a good thing to do, yet pain and adversity are often what others need. Adversity is what results in growth and turning points. I had not considered that, and only hope that time will eventually heal the wounds.

Words can cut like powerful swords and create deep wounds, or they can be be like glowing bricks that build greatness in others.

Which words will you use?

What do you see in others that they do not see in themselves, and how can you help them see it?

E-Words

I’m convinced more than ever that the only kinds of words that flow from our lips should be words of love and encouragement. Yes, there are times when discipline or correction is needed, and times when someone needs to be pushed off the tracks before the train of adversity crushes them, yet it all has to be done with love and care.

I’ve also discovered that the only words that penetrate the shield of the human brain are positive words, and they sometimes have to be used to help someone discover something in themselves.

Cutting Words

Families and relationships only break because of negative words that have come from our lips, negative actions, usually in a moment of deep passion or anger. Those words never leave us and become our story. Though we all should learn the magic of forgiveness, our egos get in our way.

Words linger inside our spirits. Words bounce around inside our heads for a lifetime, and each time they bounce, they either make us feel better or feel worse. Over time the impact of those words reverberating builds us up or tears us down. I carried words that I found hurtful with me for decades, and I did not heal till I shed them and forgave the speaker of those words.

The words “I’m truly deeply sorry that I’ve hurt you, and I beg your forgiveness” can repair decades of hurt, even though they are the hardest words for us to say.

Valentine’s Day Massacre

As I write this, words I’ve spoken that have caused damage come to mind, words where forgiveness is needed. What about you? As you read this, are you realizing words that you’ve spoken that cut down others like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Are there words where you were cut down, words you allowed to hurt you? Can you forgive and move on, or make a call and try to heal the wound?

Are You Reflecting?

I’ve also realized that certain people have only negative bullets loaded in their verbal arsenal, and no matter how much we crave their love, crave for them to change, they will not. Often avoidance is best, yet sometimes it’s not possible. We cannot change others, only ourselves. Yet you can make a decision right now. Are you going to spend the rest of your life as a reflector or a deflector? When negative arrows are shot at you, do you reflect them and shoot negative arrows back? Do you let those negative arrows penetrate you? Or do you approach them with love, and simply deflect them so they don’t rule your life?

The only arrows we should carry in our quiver should be golden arrows, and when people shoot dark, negative words, we should not pick them up and put them in our own quiver.

Hurt Me, I’ll Hurt You Back

Human nature, our reptilian brain, wants to hurt others when they hurt us. It’s built into our DNA, but to evolve to a higher level, we must resist the urge to return pain. We simply need to tell ourselves that they must really be hurting, must have deep anger because someone hurt them along the way, and pray that they one day evolve to a loving and giving spirit.

It’s so natural. I can have a family member scold me or yell at me and allow it to ruin my day, and push those negative boulders downhill to others, which in turn ruins their day and makes them push the pain along even further. Eventually those boulders will build, and grow, and create damage of epic proportions, impacting hundreds of others.

Crushing Others with Your Bad Day

Or, when I’m wounded, I can stop that boulder, take a few minutes to understand what I might have done to create that anger, and not push that boulder any further. Sometimes I have to take a walk, or go out into the wilderness and let out a primal scream to stop pushing. But if I push it forward, I’m hurting others even though I’m really just trying to heal my own pain.

That’s why our words matter.

Are you pushing along negative boulders that will roll down the mountain and crush others along the way? Or are you pushing out warm sunlight that encourages and warms the soul?

How do people feel when they leave your presence?

Today, let’s practice. After all, small steps lead to big actions. So, ask yourself…

  • Who in my life needs to know I believe in them? Who can I encourage?
  • Who needs to see something in themselves that I see and they don’t see, something that will help them soar?
  • Who have I wounded who needs my sincere apology?
  • Who do I need to forgive so I can let go of the negatives inside myself?
  • Who shoots only negative arrows? Who do I need to avoid?
  • Who is there who shoots negative arrows and I can’t avoid them — but I can decide to return only positive arrows?
  • What wounds from the past am I clinging to that I need to let go of, that are getting in the way of my progress?
  • Who can I turn to that I know is always encouraging, and how can I spend more time receiving their encouragement?
  • Who desperately needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

If you think about what you’re grateful for every day, then think about three people a day you can reach out to and tell them how much you appreciate them, how much they mean to you. Or leave them with some words of encouragement. Your own life will change for the better. Before long the negative clouds will disappear from over your head and you’ll be flooded in warm sunlight.

This week, my plan is to put only positive arrows in my word quiver, even in negative circumstances. My goal is to find a way to deal with those negative circumstances with positive words. It will be harder, but it will make a massive difference in outcomes.

If you’ve read this little Sunday Coffee note this far, I am grateful for your time. I want you to know that I believe in you. Even though we may not know one another, I want you to know that your big, impossible dreams are not impossible, and that giant walls of adversity can be overcome. Even if for some reason they cannot because it’s too late, know that the words you use to change the outlook of others will change your own outlook and make the unbearable more bearable.

Imagine how your life would change if you made just one change in the type of words you use.

Warmly,

Eric Rhoads

EricRhoads.com

 

PS: If you received this because someone else has sent it to you, I do this every Sunday morning, and it can come to your inbox directly if you subscribe in the sidebar. Mark it as “important.” If ever you cannot find it, it might have ended up in a spam or promotions folder. Simply take it out and mark it as “not spam.” That will help make sure you’re seeing it. I also post it on my Facebook page each week. I hope you’ll follow me there. It’s a good place to see more pictures of our new dog, Tucker, pictures of our insanely crazy life, and a chance to interact a little more. And of course, I welcome your comments below. And I’m always flattered when people pass this along to others because they felt they might enjoy it.

Which Kind of Arrows Do You Shoot? 2018-02-13T13:20:08+00:00
11 02, 2018

When Moments Matter

2018-02-09T14:06:03+00:00

This soft Sunday morning on the back porch sees a deep and thick fog covering intense backlight from the rising sun, creating a tunnel like those in a movie scene where they “walk into the light.” Color is absent; the yard is reduced to shades of gray. Distant gnarled and twisted oak branches are silhouetted and are lighter in the distance, darker and bigger as they come close. This morning would be a good painter’s lesson on perspective, atmosphere, and values (the scale of light to dark).

The morning is nearly silent, sound dampened by dense fog. Birds gossip in stereo. The old swing hangs still and low to the ground, as if waiting for its next rider.

I’m wringing my my hands from the chill, but my mug radiates heat to warm my fingers between keyboard strokes.

Like every Sunday morning, when I try to sit quietly and give honor to my past week, today I reflect on a difficult but important moment, something over which I scoured my brain for new lessons on life. As good as these lessons were, they were hard.

A Difficult Week

Last week I mentioned that I was heading to Portland to visit my friend who had had a stroke that left him unable to speak, unable to move anything but his eyes, and those only up and down.

Upon leaving I told my wife that I was dreading this trip because I knew it would be painful for my friend and for me, yet I was looking forward to being there for him, because that’s what friends do.

Stressed About What to Say

For the entire plane ride, I ruminated about different scenarios in my mind. What do I say? How do I say it? I can’t ask questions, I can only monologue. Do I give him encouragement? Is it false hope, or can he possibly recover?

Upon arrival I was greeted by one of my other close friends, Jackson, who drove down to Portland from Seattle to support me and to be there for our friend Sean. We discussed all the approaches we might take and finally decided none of that mattered, that the only thing that mattered was showing up, being there for a friend, and his knowing we loved him enough to make the trip. All we could do was let him know we supported him, we loved him, and we believed in his ability to fight the biggest fight of his life.

A Gold Nugget Moment

My time with Sean was brief, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, because he becomes exhausted easily, and because he had to be prepared for another surgery that afternoon. And though what I said would be too personal to share here, I feel that was among the most important 20 minutes of my life, and the two days of travel for 20 minutes with him and his wife was well worth the time and the money.

What Would You Do?

I learned a lot on this trip. A lot about my friend, a lot about strokes, a lot about his wife, a lot about what happens to people in this situation, and a lot about myself. This experience made me turn inward and ask myself what I might do if I were totally lucid but trapped inside a body that couldn’t move or communicate. Ultimately, no matter how hard I try, I can’t answer that question. Though I think I would have the will and the fight to continue, it’s really impossible to know.

A Flood of Appreciation

What I do know, however, is that I felt a flood of appreciation for each breath I take, for each step, for the warmth of the sun on my face as I was walking over to the hospital, and even appreciation for every ache and pain, every word I can utter, because I know my friend cannot experience any of that.

I also realized that life boils down to brief moments.

As I take inventory of the best, most memorable times in my life, it’s not decades or years or even special months or weeks. It’s a collection of brief moments.

Celebration of Memories

I’ve had so many wonderful moments I can celebrate. The moment I realized I was in love with my wife. The moment we married. The moment our triplets were born. The moment we celebrated their first birthday. The moment we put them in preschool. And so many more.

Moments, I realized, don’t usually happen randomly. Though there are random and memorable moments, some of the best come from an orchestrated effort.

For instance, the effort to go visit my friend, which will remain among the most special moments of my life. The effort of my good buddy Jackson, who spent the two days with me catching up on our lives, our families. And laughing and joking like old friends do, which is something our friend, lying in a hospital bed, would encourage and appreciate.

I can’t begin to document all the special moments. Many are forgotten, but they come up again through reminders as I talk with an old friend or my wife.

What I Should Have Done

My regret, however, is not taking the time to create new special moments with my good friend, whom I had not seen in person for over three years and talked to only occasionally. In hindsight, I wish I had made the effort to get on a plane and spend a weekend with him while he was well and strong. I had considered it, but did nothing about it because of all the usual excuses, like time or expense.

Though I’m not one to look back with too many regrets, I have decided that I need more moments with those who are important in my life … my wife, my kids, my special friends.

I’m also in a state of heightened awareness that one moment could bring you or me down. Therefore the gift my friend unknowingly gave me is a harsh reminder that I cannot wait to get more important things done and make the most of life.

Embracing What We Have

I need to use the gift of time and health for the things that will hopefully change the worlds where my passions lie.

I realized that though I’m active, and busy, and doing a lot, I’m simply not doing enough. I don’t want to look back, trapped in a body unable to speak, or six feet under, knowing that important things that required my special skills did not get done.

In Search of Understanding

I sometimes wonder how people like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk accomplish so many things and change the world so much. They have special gifts, incredible vision, and ideas beyond what others could even think of. They believed in their ideas and their passion and executed their visions and were driven to make the impossible happen. I wonder how they got so much done, and I’m going to start to study people like this to understand how I can do more.

I’m not here today to be morbid. I sit here on the porch in celebration that my own problems are small, that my own aches don’t matter, that I’m still blessed to breathe, move, and live. I’m grateful for that gift, and not one moment can be wasted.

Each of us, including you, possesses a special gift.

Discovering Your Passion

It took me decades to discover a passion for art and to realize that my primary goal in life is to help others discover and embrace painting, sculpting, or any form of art-making, or even collecting or appreciation.

Don’t Wait for Answers

Though I teach artists how to market, how to set goals, and how to plan, all of which are important, I also have to say that random events have always led me to the things I need to be doing. The key is action. One can’t sit around and wait for answers, because they don’t come from waiting, they come from action — any action that then leads you to something you never knew you would discover.

Accidental Magic

My entry into radio was not premeditated, but accidental, at a time I did not know what I wanted to do. The same is true for my entry into painting, and later creating art magazines, art retreats, and conventions. Even my art marketing classes started as an accident. But they all happened because I was taking actions that led me to discovery of these things.

A Deeper Purpose

This week in Portland, my friend said he had discovered Sunday Coffee and asked me why I did it, why I bothered to take the time, since it wasn’t really about art and was not about promoting my business. I paused, hesitated, and said, “I think it’s about helping others think about things they might not have thought about, and discover things inside themselves that they don’t realize are there, and hopefully help them believe in themselves so they can make their own lives as good as they can be.”

Pick Just One Thing

If you had just one thing you needed to get done, needed to accomplish, and you had to get it done now, so you knew it would get done before your unexpected last breath, what would that one thing be? What are the baby steps you can take to make that thing happen?

What is your special gift? You may not know what it is, but those close to you can tell you things about yourself and your special gifts that you probably don’t realize you have. And then, how can you use that gift to change the world around you?

An Agreement Together

Let’s make an agreement. Let’s not waste one more minute on things that don’t provide moments, memories, or good value to ourselves and those around us. You and I both know that it could have been your good friend instead of mine, or it could be us. Our time may be long or short, but since we don’t know, let’s make each tick of the clock one tick closer to greatness.

Here is some great wisdom from the movie trailer for 15:17 to Paris.

Once you discover who you really are, you begin to discover you have been given authority over your life
But you can only do that through the struggle of life
Most people are born to struggle
Most people go through life avoiding pain
When you’re working on a dream, at some time a transition takes place
You learn how to leap higher
You start challenging yourself to dig deeper
Something in you that you never activated lies dormant in there
Don’t try taking shortcuts
Do what you know is right
You’ve been chosen for this great work

 

Respectfully,

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: I know this is a tough ask. Especially since you don’t know my friend. While I was in Portland, I learned that he had used up all his comp time and is no longer getting paid by his employer. That is not evil or unexpected, it just is what it is.

Secondly, his stroke came the very day he and his wife closed on a new house. Now they can’t make the house payments, and all of their small savings is going to hospital bills. And they need to be able to afford to make their small house payments.

 

His wife is an artist who has been trying to launch her own art career but now finds herself with bills that will burn all of their savings, and it’s looking like she will have to find a way to care for her husband in facilities, probably for the rest of his life. Insurance can’t cover everything.

 

If you would find it in your heart to give just a couple of dollars, together we could help an artist and her husband get through some of their massive expenses. No pressure from me. And don’t put yourself out; I don’t want to take food off your table. I know every dollar is precious. But if you can afford a couple of bucks, anything will help: https://www.gofundme.com/share/similar-campaigns/sean-demory-stroke-medical-expenses

 

PPS: Early valentines day greetings to everyone! Have a great day! It’s gonna be a big day for us because we always get about 200 registrations that day since its our last day for early bird price on the Plein Air Convention. So wish us luck with the mad rush 🙂

When Moments Matter 2018-02-09T14:06:03+00:00
4 02, 2018

The Recipe for a Great Life At Work and Beyond Work

2018-02-02T13:14:20+00:00

A warm orange glow dances across the blades of grass and lights up the trunks of my oak trees on this crisp morning. The warming sun and my hot coffee have removed the chill here on the back porch. I’m wondering if spring has begun or if it’s only a teaser before the cold Arctic blasts return. I’m hopeful it will be an early spring, not uncommon here in Austin, and a great time to paint fields of blue and orange when the Texas bluebonnet season arrives.

Most of my mornings start out thinking about three things I’m grateful for. Today it’s breathing in the fresh air, the ability to walk through the yard, and the gift of saying “I love you” to my wife and kids. Sadly, as I ponder last week, these gifts are reinforced.

A Cryptic Text

I knew something was wrong when I received a text from one of my closest friends that read, “Eric, it’s Jen please call me. I’m using Sean’s phone.”

The grim voice on the other side told me that Sean had suffered a massive brain-stem stroke, was on a respirator, and was paralyzed completely, only able to move his eyes.

One of my dearest friends, Sean has worked for me three times. I gave him his first job at age 19, when I was just 22, and we’ve been close since 1978. Sean loved his job in radio and always resisted the idea of someday retiring. I remember him telling me that to him, retirement would be like death, because it would keep him from what he loved doing.

Now, Sean is facing the biggest challenge of his life. I’ll be on an airplane to visit with him this week. But his stroke serves as a reminder that everything can change in a split second, and that when you and I look back, we want to make sure, if we are able, that we are doing what we love every second of our lives.

Please Let Me Work!

A few years ago I met Rick, an artist who had owned a giant business, and who had sold it for a large amount of money. After selling it, he told me, “I can never spend all this money, and every day I wake up bored and wishing I was still running my business because I loved being there with my employees and my clients. I’ve realized that is more valuable than money. I may be rich, but I would rather be going to work every day.” Though Rick is thankful he discovered painting, he misses running the business he built, his true passion.

A Giant Smile on My Dead Face

Though I have never really considered retirement or even slowing down, Rick’s situation reinforced my decision to work forever. I cannot imagine taking my active brain and giving it no outlet for my ideas. I too would be bored, so I decided that my goal is to be carried out from my desk, at a very, very old age, with a big smile on my face because I was doing what I loved. Or maybe it will be in my studio, or painting plein air, which I always find time to to do.

So Why Do I Think Retirement Is a Bad Idea?

Giving up eight hours a day, five days a week, for 40 or more years is a giant sacrifice. My belief is that those 80,000 hours should used only doing something you love, or on a mission you are so driven to accomplish that it never seems like work. The very idea of just showing up, burning 80,000 hours doing something you despise, seems very wrong.

I know many people do it. Some feel trapped because of financial pressures or because they feel they can’t find anything else. Some make the best of it, others show up every day hating their work and looking forward to the day they retire.

Of course, there are also people who don’t have a choice, who have to retire due to age restrictions in the company or industry they work in. Or maybe health conditions force them out, like the surgeon whose hands can no longer operate, or the construction worker whose body can no longer lift heavy materials.

The Reality of Work

I discovered the hard way that boredom, the lack of excitement and energy, is what drives the desire to escape. I’m a living example. When my business celebrated 20 years, I realized I had repeated one year of experience 20 times. I was bored out of my mind. (Thankfully, I had painting to keep me challenged.)

But when I made a conscious effort to reinvent myself, something magical happened. The boredom went away and I was again excited about every day, because once again I was doing what I loved. Though reinvention took me two or three very hard and intense years, now my to-do list of things I hope will change the world could keep me excited for the next 30 years or more.

No More Golf, Please!

Retiring friends tell me all the things they look forward to doing, things like sleeping in and more golf or tennis. Yet I usually get a call at the one-year mark. “I’m thinking about going back to work. I’ve never been so bored. Got anything?” Most tell me they wish they had never retired.

Chained to Their Jobs

Most of the people I know have worked in jobs they’ve never loved and been so reliant on the income that they were unwilling to take chances and find what they do love. Though paid well, with great benefits, they spent a good part of their lives looking forward to retirement. It’s why I tell my kids to find something you love, and make your interests or your hobby your work. “If you are unhappy more than 51 percent of the time, you’re in the wrong job, and it’s better if you’re not unhappy more than 5 percent of the time.”

I’d Rather Just Paint

Just yesterday a friend told me he was trying to decide it he would stay with his company for another five years. When I asked what he wanted to do, he told me, “I could probably muster up the strength for another five, but it would be hard. I’d rather be painting.” I told him he had answered his own question. But his reluctance was the money … could he survive? It seems that is always what handcuffs us to our jobs.

A good way to bring clarity is to ask, “If you got hit by a bus today, would you be happy that you’ve done what you want to do?” The answer is usually no. And if it is, maybe it’s time to pursue your dream.

What Is Worse Than Retirement?

During Christmas week I encountered a friend who had been retired about five years. When I asked what he was doing with his time, he said, “Other than investing, absolutely nothing. I have no hobbies, I don’t play golf. I tend to read a lot and think about when I was a somebody.” When I asked him if he was happy, he said, “I wish I was still working. I should never have retired.”

I’m not anti-retirement, I just hate to see great minds go to waste by sitting around. People were not put on earth to be unproductive and to let their brains atrophy. We all need a purpose, and if we can find a mission or a project or something we can get excited about and it requires retiring to do so, I’m all for it.

Now if you’re the person who wants to sit and rock for the rest of your life, I’m not judging, more power to you. I’m simply saying it’s not right for me.

An Untapped Resource

The world has missed a huge opportunity by putting people out to pasture when they reach retirement age. Though some have health or memory issues, most are vibrant, healthy, and have a lot of life left in them. Best of all, their mature brains are very wise and capable of doing great things. It saddens me that our culture seems to think someone over 65 is of little value anymore, when in fact this is where you find the best work ethic and the most experience. I’d like to see the world embrace this untapped resource.

No E-Mails, Please 🙂

So before you send me an e-mail to tell me about how busy and productive you are and that you are living your dream, you are, well, the point. Living the dream is what this little missive is all about. If you’re retired and your brain is engaged and you’re doing what you love, then retirement is what it should be.

Being Curious

As a young man of about 12 I remember wondering what I would do for the rest of my life. Though I had a lot of interests, none struck me as a lifetime role. I was very concerned that I had not figured it out, and the pressure seemed to be mounting, even at that age. But then, because I was curious, I found radio, got on the air, and ended up as a DJ in some big cities, which led me to station ownership and beyond. Of course, that was my first career and I’ve had many since, each of which I loved, and each of which had its time in my life.

The one critical factor is never waking up and dreading work. Yes, I’ve had a lot of those days, but the majority have not been a chore. That is the ultimate measuring stick.

I’ve had to turn to God on a regular basis to find out what’s next, to find a purpose bigger than myself — which is why I’m on this path to help people discover painting. But I have always found it.

Being Stuck

At 17 I was working at Challenge-Cook Brothers, a cement truck factory. I had to be there at 5 a.m., the factory was loud and hot, and the work was back-breaking. My co-workers, most of whom were in their 50s, used to talk about how much they hated their jobs, how much they could not wait to retire. It was one of the first important lessons for me. I too was complaining to myself, but I decided instead to seek ways to make the work fun and challenging, which resulted in inventing some new processes to save the company time and money. It was also a lesson in knowing I did not want to be doing this for the next 30 years of my life.

Being Trapped

Amazingly, most of the people I worked with were smart people who felt trapped. Trapped by house payments, trapped by families to support, and we talked about dreams they had been afraid to pursue because they might lose everything. Though I had not been in their shoes, it was an eye-opener: most would never know if they could have succeeded because they did not try.

The Message to the Rest of Us

My dear friend’s tragedy led me to think about never wasting another day and trying to survive, and to stay as healthy as possible so it might not happen to me. And though I seem to get a lot done, it’s a reminder that big dreams are yet to be accomplished, more people need to be helped through my work, and we should never waste a single second because that second might be our last.

Make Your Kids and Grandkids Read This

One day you’re 17 and you have dreams. Then suddenly, it seems like overnight, you’re married, then having kids, then your kids are going to college, then your career is nearing its end, and often, too often, there is much to do and it seems the time left is short. My grandmother used to tell me this, and I never believed her, until it happened to me.

Life is never long enough. Never ever spend a day doing what you don’t love. Yes, of course you have to do your taxes, go to school and learn, but once you’re in the world, you are responsible for your life. How you burn those 80,000 hours determines if you look back and say it was worthwhile or a waste. Don’t let anyone force their dreams on you. Don’t pursue anything unless it’s your dream. And if you don’t yet know your dream, be curious, try everything, and you might stumble into your life’s work. But if you don’t try different things and instead just wait and hope, you might end up forced into a dead end job that traps you.

Choose big dreams and chance them. You are perfectly capable, no special advantage required. Sweat overcomes advantage. I know kids with rich parents who never did a thing with their lives, and poor kids who became billionaires because they worked harder than everyone else.

It’s not about money. Money is only a tool; it helps, but it’s not happiness. Again, I know unhappy billionaires. Life is about rich experiences, making great memories, and changing the world with your ideas. Yes, YOUR ideas. There is no substitute for hard work. Smart is nice, but smart without application isn’t smart at all.

Find a Passion

I’m driven to write this today because I keep running into miserable people who are bored and feel trapped. Action and curiosity will work to your benefit. If you have time, try something new, go to an event you know nothing about, volunteer, find something to get excited about. If your body moves and your brain works, you still have a gift to contribute.

That’s why I love painting, and especially plein air painting. It’s an engaged community, you can make loads of friends, you can be outdoors with others, you can travel the area or the world, and you can be creative. It truly is the new golf. Best of all, you have something to challenge you (it’s not easy, but anyone can learn it), and if you want, you can make some extra money or even a great living once you get good at it.

Be productive. Be happy. Do what excites you. You won’t regret it.

What about you? Are you bored? Are you spending your time doing what you love? If not, why not? Don’t wait even one more day.

The Recipe for a Great Life At Work and Beyond Work 2018-02-02T13:14:20+00:00