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2 12, 2018

Feed for Birds Leaving the Nest

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

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

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

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

Spinning and Spinning

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

Freedom

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

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

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

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

A New Kind of Box

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

Repetition Forever

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

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

The Rhoads Walk

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

Mockingbirds

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

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

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

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

What would be in your life lessons list?

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

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

What are the things you can help them avoid?

What traits don’t you want them repeating?

What traits have served you well?

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

Being Purposeful

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

Which will you do?

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

When Stealing Is Acceptable

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

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

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

Too Cold, Too Soon

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

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

Famous Artists

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

Influences That Matter

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

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

Thinking About My Opus

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

The Richard Schmid Method

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

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

Sound familiar?

Your Biggest Dream

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

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

I Refuse to Insult

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

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

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

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

Early Morning

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

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

But could you find 15 minutes twice a day?

How to Write a Bestseller

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

Don’t Call the Police

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

The book became a bestseller in 2000.

Stealing Is OK

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

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

Being Exact

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

Begin Right Now

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

Excuses

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

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

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

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

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

You Have Much to Offer

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

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising a Mountain Lion

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

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

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

My Time Capsule

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

Slick Floors

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

Learning Art and Travel

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

Cover Your Ears

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

Making Movies

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

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

Art on TV

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

My Crazy Neighbor Lady

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

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

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

My Tantrum

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

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

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

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

Little Apple Turkeys

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

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

Thanksgiving SHOUTING!

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

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

Not So Perfect After All

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

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

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

No Perfection Required

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

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

Embrace the Reason You Came

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

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

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

Listen Respectfully

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

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

Enjoying the Moment

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

The Last Thanksgiving

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

What is your earliest childhood memory?

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

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

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

Who do you really miss, and why?

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

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

What are you really grateful for?

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

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

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

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

 

 

What are your memories about Thanksgiving?

 

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be richly blessed this year.

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

Tears of Joy

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

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

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

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

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

Tears of Joy

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

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

Numb to Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Declutter

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

Focus on Quality

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

Document

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

Insure

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

Scan

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

Plan

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

More Important than Stuff

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

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

Do This Now

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

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

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

 

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

Tears of Joy2018-11-17T20:47:43+00:00
11 11, 2018

Breaking the Chains that Bind You

2018-11-07T09:09:17+00:00

Pools of water reflect the sky and the railings on the porch after last night’s massive storm, which I thought I had dreamed in the middle of the night. Cool, crisp air and a slight breeze swaying the tops of my twisted oaks signal cold mornings to come, when I may have to build a fire in the porch fireplace. This morning my thick, fuzzy old navy blue cotton robe makes me cozy, though my hands are a bit chilled. Just four weeks ago, my freezing hands were bundled in two layers of gloves as I stood in the snow painting while giant snowflakes landed on my canvas, so today is easy in comparison. And, once again, it’s good to be home on my own porch, knowing the family is here with me, all nestled in their warm beds. Like Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Yellow Brick Road lately. I wonder what the writer had in mind when he created this metaphor for life with twists, turns, and challenges along the way, hoping to get to Oz — only to find out Oz was unable to provide what had been imagined and that what we have at home isn’t so bad after all.

Have you ever set a goal, achieved it, and found out it wasn’t really what you wanted after all? I have.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on goal-setting, but sometimes we strive for goals that don’t make us happy when we get there. That’s why it’s important to understand Oz before you get there.

“Ah, The Good Life” May Not Be So Good

Frequently I hear stories of businesspeople chasing the good life that’s promoted by advertisers, products, and marketing, all trying to make us think what they offer will solve our problems and make us happy. Just a few weeks ago I met a man who worked like a dog to get massive wealth. He had the jet, several Ferraris, houses in many places, and he was traveling the world whenever he could. He told me he became arrogant, dismissive of others who did not have what he had. He said he became a complete jerk and as a result, he lost his wife and his kids. Soon he had another wife and more kids and lost them, too.

He was richer than most people could ever be, yet he became very lonely. Then he lost his Midas touch, his business fell on hard times, and he lost everything and had to rebuild from scratch. He quickly learned his friends only liked him for his money and were not there for him when he lost it.

I think sometimes we chase things because we think we’re supposed to, or because society expects certain things of us. Most of this disease is driven by comparing ourselves to others and caring too much what other people think.

Not Such a Hotshot After All

I made a lot of money early in my career. Not enough money to buy a jet or multiple houses, but enough to buy a really nice car and have a little money in the bank. I was pretty full of myself and I wanted more, and it came so easily for me, I thought I had the Midas touch. But in reality, I got lucky. And once I lost all my money, lost my fancy cars, and destroyed my marriage, I got a much-needed dose of humility pretty fast.

I kept trying, and came close to making a fortune another time with a company I started, and raised money to start, but I screwed that up too, and lost again. For years I blamed circumstances like 9/11, blamed my board of directors, but I didn’t blame myself. Yet I was the problem.

Being Stuck in My Past

It turns out I was stuck in my stories. In fact, I clinged to blaming others for my failure for almost two decades, until finally I had a revelation that I was the problem. I had to accept the blame for all those employees losing their jobs because I didn’t have my act together. That was a hard pill to swallow.

The Art of Reframing

In the process called reframing, I learned that we can take the painful moments in our lives and ask ourselves, “Though it was extremely painful, is there possibly anything good that came out of it?” Then I write that thing down and keep asking myself what other good came out of it. I’ll do this until I’ve come up with six, or 10, good things.

Suddenly, once I’ve gone through this process, I’ll realize that my pain is gone, and that I’m looking at the good that was done for me instead of the bad that was done to me. By reframing the story, I am able to let go of the pain.

How I Killed Two Decades

We all hate and want to avoid pain. Yet we try so hard to avoid it, we actually cause more pain because we let fear of it hold us back. For instance, I stopped taking risks. I was so hurt by taking a risk and losing my company that I avoided risk completely. And for 20 years my company was stagnant, not growing and not providing the kind of growth my family and my team deserved.

Waking up to my pain, reframing it by finding the good and the lessons, is what broke those chains and set me free to take risks again, and the result has really changed my life.

The Worst Horrors Relieved

Reframing takes away your chains. I’ve heard stories that are more horrific than I could imagine. People who have experienced child abuse, or rape, or terrifying fires, or other terrible events. They understandably live in fear, yet that fear has made some of them afraid to really live. I’ve watched people snap out of those situations in less than a half hour when coached by someone in reframing — and when those chains go away, life changes.

Pity Is Our Comfort Zone

We fall so in love with our own stories and our own pity, our love of blaming circumstances or other people who have hurt us, that we get stuck and don’t live our lives. We get stuck in traditions, we get stuck in religions, we get stuck in things our families require, we get stuck in the way we think we should be, and we get stuck in comparison to others.

They say the biggest cause of depression today is spending an hour or more a day on Facebook because we’re watching our friends and their wonderful lives. We get caught up in their travel, their events, their happiness, and we compare ourselves to them.

Don’t Should on Me!

We get stuck in “shoulding” on others. You should be like me. You should vote the way I vote. You should believe what I believe. You should … fill in the blank. This shoulding causes anger, resentment, and depression. If we can stop trying to put others in our box, stop shoulding on them, we can live freely, and care less about what they think.

Certainly, though I offer my ideas here on Sunday mornings, I don’t intend to “should” on you. I share what works for me, but I want you to find what works for you.

The Yellow Brick Road is filled with challenges. Life is never easy, but it does not have to be awful. There are those who frame everything with a positive outlook in spite of going through some terrible stuff, and others who frame it badly. You get to pick.

Know Why You’re Going

I do think it’s worth considering what Oz looks like for you so you can design your life to fit what you really want. I think it’s worth considering that what we think we want may not really be what we want. It might be a good idea to find someone who has what you want and find out from them if it’s truly worth it. Look at Anthony Bourdain, who seemed to have a cool life of fame, travel, and money, yet he pulled the plug for some reason. Maybe once he got what he worked for, it wasn’t what he expected. Why not find people who are living the same dream you want to live and study them, talk to them, get them to level with you about the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Don’t Wait for Others to Fix You

You may also ask yourself about the biggest pain in your life and see if you can reframe that pain to break your own chains. If it can work for me, it can work for you. I keep finding things that are holding me back because I’m clinging to something old. I had to learn that no one else can change things for you, only you can change them. If you’re expecting someone to be a certain way to free you up, it won’t happen. I learned from many years of therapy that all the things I complain about start with me, my perception, my story, and my chains.

I truly want you to live fully. Chains are no way to live, and most people don’t realize they are living in chains until they reframe their pain, and suddenly one little breakthrough opens their life and gives them rich experiences they were missing.

Have you defined Oz and made sure it’s something you really want?
Have you defined the steps to get there and exactly what it will look like when you arrive?
Have you found your pain points and reframed them?
Are you comparing yourself to others?

In the ‘60s they used to say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Make today count.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week we held our FACE event (Figurative Art Convention & Expo). I thought it was a great experience and one that enriched the lives of those who attended. I want to thank everyone who attended. You enriched my life.

This week, another adventure. My same time, next year time with an old friend while I do my Radio Forecast conference in New York. I always love seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Last, Thanksgiving is coming. I have friends who avoid reconnecting with family because of the pain. Sometimes distance is healthy, but sometimes just a little reframing will make you want to go again.

Breaking the Chains that Bind You2018-11-07T09:09:17+00:00
4 11, 2018

Art From the Ashes

2018-11-03T11:17:01+00:00

“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

If you live in Austin, Texas, where I am this morning, the past few weeks have been made up of those howling winds and driving rain, flooding, and a water-boil order. This morning, November’s first Sunday, is chilly, but not cold as frozen iron.

Fortunately, the rain and two weeks of boiling water occurred while Laurie and I were on the Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine Italian Art Trip, hosting about 42 guests who accompanied us to see the art treasures of Italy. I’m jet-lagged and a little groggy still, but so invigorated from miles of the best art in the world.

It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and I have to admit the highlight, among many, was one private hour inside the Sistine Chapel just for our group, which is simply unheard of. I may be the only person who’s ever held a Facebook Live broadcast from inside the Sistine Chapel (you can find it on my Facebook page), until I was scolded and shut down by the guard. It was such a wonderful experience to be there with just our small group, without sharing the room with a noisy 5,000 others, shoulder-to-shoulder and unable to see anything.

Tears welled up in my eyes at the overwhelming experience, not only because I was pleased I could make that happen for my guests — a privilege typically offered only to presidents and ambassadors — but because of what the room represented to me. 

Here I was in a giant room, where one of the great artists of all time spent several years creating one of the world’s great masterpieces. To know that one man, and a couple of assistants, could accomplish such a feat in just nine years. I am in awe of Michelangelo’s ability as an artist, and the nearly impossible task of filling the ceiling and one end wall of a 12,000-square-foot room, and with such perfection. Keeping in mind that he was a sculptor, not a painter, when the Pope appointed him for the task. And it was not just painting, it required a fresh second layer of plaster and the ability to do fresco painting, a very special and difficult technique. He essentially learned as he did it, which shows what a genius he was. Though legend has him working while lying on his back, Michelangelo did the entire painting standing on scaffolding. Most of the great artists I know today, some of whom are tremendous at figure painting, could not complete a fraction of that room in a lifetime.

Michelangelo’s influence was felt in every city we visited throughout Italy — not only his sculpture, but his exterior and interior designs, such as one of the most amazing staircases I’ve ever seen, still in use today. It was humbling to walk on it, knowing he designed it and walked on the same steps hundreds of years before. 

Of course we also had a private time scheduled for Da Vinci’s Last Supper, and we had a private dinner inside an amazing palace filled with the works of history’s best painters to entertain our gazes as we dined. 

And we visited the massive home of a prince, who greeted us and told us about his family’s amazing collection of art. We had numerous experiences like this, too many to mention here; it’s something we will cover in an upcoming article.

The biggest surprise for me was a visit in our post-trip to Pompeii, the ruins preserved by volcanic ash at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Having seen photos in National Geographic as a child, I assumed we would see just a room or two, but what we saw was a city, acres and acres of homes, and there are more acres still under ash to be explored for generations to come.

The art found in Pompeii was exquisite, not at all primitive but highly sophisticated, with form, perspective, and shadow, and all of it made possibly 500-600 years before the time of Christ. Yet this was unknown because the city was buried and its art unseen — and “early” art that came hundreds of years later was primitive, flat, and lifeless. It was not until the Renaissance that the techniques of perspective, form, and shadow were reinvented. The Romans were doing it hundreds of years before, but no one was aware because that artwork was underground and undiscovered until 1549, and the art objects were not revealed till 1748.

An estimated 11,000 people in Pompeii died in less than three minutes from the heat of the volcanic eruption five miles away, and then the city was pounded with pumice stones and ash. Just a few short years before, the same city had been destroyed by a major earthquake and then partially rebuilt. Being there was sobering yet enlightening, and seeing the art, now housed in the Naples Museum, was an unexpected pleasure. 

We know of life in Pompeii because of the art left behind — the mosaics, the architecture, the sculpture, the glass, the jewelry, and the writings by a witness to the volcano from across the bay. It was art that was archaeological evidence of life. From it, we know how the Pompeiians lived, we know what they worshiped, we know their myths and legends, and we see the faces of their people. 

Art left behind not only told the story of Pompeii, it told the story of Rome, of Florence, and of life throughout Italy. For me, this reinforces the importance of what we do for those of us who create art in various forms.

Though I’ve traveled the world, this trip had a profound impact on me. In a way, it put me in my place, taking away my smugness about how good we are at things today as it was so clearly demonstrated that life was rich with experiences, art, and quality of life thousands of years ago. It truly is ashes to ashes, but the art remains to tell future generations about the world.

The stories of life, of wars, of famine, of successes and riches, of political rulers and failures, demonstrate that life is an endless cycle that will go on well past each of us. A reminder that life needs to be lived, and experienced richly, and not a moment wasted. And a reminder that we need to embrace those things that will tell the future world what our world was like. Our writings, our art, our architecture, and our stories — a contribution each of us can offer.

Looking over thousands of years of history, we see the evidence that we are each a brief blip, yet what we choose to do with that blip can have an impact for thousands of years, just as many of the things we saw were carried forward for us all to enjoy today. Those who produced the best stood head and shoulders above others, making a statement that striving to be the best holds great value. Whether it is the works of Bernini, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or those who created the treasures of Pompeii, art lives on.

One of the guests on the trip said that part of the key to life is “to finish well.” Those who devoted their lives to their craft, striving to be better, finished well, as evidenced by millions of tourists who come to see their works in person.

A trip like this offers a fresh perspective on the world, in a land out of our comfort zone, looking at life today and life in the past. It’s made me rethink my own purpose, my own art, and what each of us might do to leave something behind that could be recovered from the ashes to astonish others.

Comfort may be cozy, but our minds can do more when they encounter discomfort, and examples of brilliance made by mere mortals of the past. Having the world may not be possible, but seeking discomfort in our own world will make us all stronger, better, and maybe a tad bit more interesting. 

How can you get out of your comfort zone? It may be as simple as a visit to a gallery or an art exhibition or a museum you’ve not visited before, or learning a language, or finding a book outside what you’d normally read. While most seek comfort and security, it’s the discomfort that fosters growth and an invigorating life.

Eric

PS: Thank you for a much-needed break. I asked my team to deliver some past writings during my absence so I could take time away, disconnected from the news, from social media, and from e-mail and work. Disconnecting was a gift. No election news, no Facebook rants, no stress of work, just a week of living in a fantasy world of art, history, and amazing beauty.

The week before Italy I left my comfort zone and painted in the snow in the Banff and Lake Louise area of Canada, and hosted 74 painters who did the same. We had a blast. Most of us had never painted in the snow — we hadn’t planned to, but we ran into a 100-year early storm. It made it better, made it more fun, brought us all closer, and took us out of our comfort zone. I feared snow, and now I am a snow painter, as are all who came with me. You can see the story here.

Tomorrow I venture out to Miami to host our Figurative Art Convention & Expo. We have a few hundred people coming, and it’s going to be amazing to see the world’s top figurative and portrait artists teaching in one place. Perhaps you’ll attend, to get out of your comfort zone. Then the following week, we have our big annual Radio Forecast conference at the Harvard Club in New York. 

Let me leave you with this. I cannot remember when our world has ever been more polarized. I’ve never seen friends have such division over political discourse. 

I never talk politics. My views are my own and not ever shared with anyone. I keep more friends that way. And I’m careful not to judge others because they have a different view than mine.

You have the privilege of voting, and it’s something we should all honor with our presence. I’d like to believe that every vote matters, and I’d like to encourage you to vote. 

Art From the Ashes2018-11-03T11:17:01+00:00
7 10, 2018

Conquer Your Unrealized Dreams

2018-10-05T10:46:06+00:00

My body was shivering uncontrollably as I stepped out at the Calgary airport last Thursday, coming from 80-degree Austin heat to 30 degrees and an unexpected winter storm.

I’m not a winter person. When I was a kid growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I recall winters with giant snow drifts that towered over our front door on the old farm out on Illinois Road. I loved making snow angels and snow forts, and heaving giant snowballs at friends and at passing cars.

Why I Developed an “Attitude” About Snow

But once I was driving age, I realized snow and ice had a downside — after getting stranded on the sides of roads, being stuck in snow drifts, and sitting in freezing weather waiting for rescue. Coming out to a dead battery on mornings I was headed to school or work was another frequent occurrence.

Looking back, I realize I developed a story about snow. I decided I did not love it and remember telling my parents that I didn’t understand why anyone would ever want to live in a climate with snow. My internal story about snow was so negative that I worked hard to get an early graduation from high school, set my eyes on a climate where I could wear shorts year round, and soon moved to Florida for my first real radio job at a new station called Y100, which we put on the air on August 3, 1973.

I Wanna Wear Shorts Every Day

When possible I strive to live in places I can wear shorts 90 percent of the time, though opportunity was often more powerful than my dislike of snow and I lived in places like Salt Lake City, where we owned our first radio stations. Learning to ski and enjoy the snow helped change my internal story. So now my story is that I’ll tolerate snow for the sake of skiing.

Here, this morning, I awaken in one of the most magnificent places on earth. The morning is cold, the fireplace is warming the room, and as I peek out the frost-covered window, the scene is like a postcard from the Canadian Tourism Bureau. Snow is weighing down the branches of giant pines, and in the distance I see a huge valley below and massive mountains towering above us, more spectacular than our own El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

It’s Time to Change My Internal Story

Here in Kananaskis Provincial Park in Canada, about 40 minutes outside of Calgary, I’m changing my internal story again, standing still outside with flakes falling heavily on my canvas as I paint plein air in some of God’s most spectacular scenery. Though I cannot do it justice, it’s sure fun trying. And I found that if I changed my attitude about snow, romanticizing that I’m following the path of artists like Hibbard and Redfield, who are known for their snow paintings, I can feel honored to take my best shot in reverence for the freezing temperatures they endured.

New Friends and Great Times

I’m here with about 80 of my closest friends. Though many of us were not close before Friday, we are rapidly getting acquainted, bonding, and having a ball, in spite of the fact that we are here for Fall Color Week to paint the orange aspens and the amazing mountain lakes surrounding Banff, Lake Louise, and Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies. For those who are not painters, you would think that snow is white … but it’s filled with colors in the shadows and reflections of the sun and the surroundings.

Let Your Hair Down

A few minutes from now, I’ll meet my family of painters for breakfast, make my announcements for the morning, and then we’ll pack our sack lunches and head out to endure the snow for the sake of the opportunity to paint, and we’ll do that till next Friday. Tonight we’ll gather for dinner, probably sit around the fireplace and sip hot chocolate, and some will sit in the outdoor hot tub sipping glasses of warmed wine. We’ll paint portraits, and Rick Wilson will play his guitar and we’ll sing along. It’s a “let your hair down” moment of fun in an otherwise busy life for all of us.

It Was Spectacular

I have to admit, I love my life. My goal is that before my final breath, when I’m asked one last question about how my life was, I will be able to say, “It was spectacular.” And though I’m in no hurry to reach that moment, I know that “spectacular” does not come by accident. It comes by planning your life and making a point to create memories.

Another Goal Met

Last weekend I would have been returning from our paint trip to Africa, which I had to miss due to a temporary illness. But because I was in town, I grabbed the opportunity to take a four-day class on business and marketing, which I’ve been unable to do for the last couple of years due to my schedule. Though it was ridiculously expensive, it was the best money I think I ever spent. My dad always says an education is a bargain at any price. Learning empowers me, and I never want to stop.

Smart people learn from their mistakes. Brilliant people learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s why I invest in constantly learning from others. It’s why I attend workshops, it’s why I watch art training videos, it’s why I listen to podcasts. Because I hope to someday be brilliant.

The Great Lie

People think practice makes perfect. It’s a lie. Practice makes permanence. If an Olympic hopeful practices what she or he is doing wrong, it will hold them back. If you use the same bad golf swing for 20 years, it won’t get better, it will just become permanent.

Stuck in Business Mud

I spent 20 years practicing in my business, but I was not getting results because I was repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over. I had resourced my limited experience again and again until it became permanent. I did not see it or know it was happening until I hit a 20-year milestone in my business and realized I had not come anywhere close to the financial and other goals I had envisioned two decades before.

It was not until I decided to get out of my comfort zone to attend things I was uncomfortable attending, to learn about new things, that I started to solve my problems. It changed everything. And the minute I stop doing that, I’ll go back to my old ways. That is why I try to attend four or more learning events a year, and why I join mastermind groups to be around smarter people than me. It’s why I try, when I can, to pay for some of my team members to attend learning events. Sometimes I insist, though they tell me it won’t give them any value, and usually they come back wide-eyed about all the things they learned.

Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know. My friend author Chris Lytle calls it “unconscious incompetence.”

Keith Cunningham says, “The key to mastering the art of living starts with defining your vision of excellence.” In other words, define what spectacular is for you. (Keith is author of The Road Less Stupid.)

Why Goals Fail

In my new book I talk a lot about defining your life and your goals (which goes hand-in-hand with art marketing but applies to us all). But goals alone are not enough. Most of the people I know never achieve their goals, because a goal without an execution plan is simply folly. Goals have to be broken into milestones, and each of those milestones must be broken into steps and sub-steps, the critical drivers to accomplish those steps. Though I’m big on vision and manifesting what you want, manifesting requires commitment to the steps. Things don’t just float to you. Execution is required.

A Cabin in the Woods

I remember my cousin Jim, decades ago, telling me his goal was to have a cabin in the woods and saying that if he kept thinking about it, it would happen. Though there is truth in the vision part, the focusing on dreams part, you need a plan. So you take the goal and work backward. Start with the cabin, and define it in excruciating detail. Where is it? What is the square footage? What does it need to have in it? Going into exact detail not only helps you envision what you dream about, it helps you build a plan.

The Magic Is in Execution

When do I want it? Now? Five years from now, or 20 years from now? What is the cost of building that exact cabin 20 years from now? What is the cost of the land? How much are the taxes and the cost of maintenance? Now that I have that number, I back it out. If I need $50,000 within five years, then I know I need $10,000 a year … extra. Now how do I save the money? What will I need for a down payment, and how do I get the extra money I need to make the payments? With each step come several action items. To save $10,000 a year, I need to cut other expenses, or I need to get a job that pays X a week extra. And that money, after taxes, goes into a separate account that is never touched.

I think you get the point. Start with the goal, define it in detail, then back out all the steps, the sub-steps, and the things that must happen in order to make your goal happen. That’s how goals actually get achieved.

Working on the Gap

A goal without a plan to execute is a goal that is unlikely to be realized. Understanding where you are and where you want to be helps you find the gap between those two points. What are the obstacles within that gap? We all need specific clarity about the problem to be solved, the specifics of the opportunity or obstacle, and the steps required to execute our strategy.

Mastering Snow

So this week, the gap for me is that I don’t know how to paint snow because I have never done it. I can get out there and try, or I can find someone in the group who knows how to paint snow to speed my progress. And I need to break it into the steps I need to learn, in order to fill the gap between where I am and where I want to be. And before I leave, I’ll study the great snow paintings of great snow masters. If there had been a video or book on painting snow, I would have bought it.

I’m definitely out of my comfort zone, and because of that, I’ll learn new things and make great progress.

What about you? What is the gap between where you want to be and where you are? What are the obstacles? What are the specific steps required to get past them? Who is the best person with experience that you can learn from? What are the steps and sub-steps? What happens if you don’t do it? What is the question you’re not asking but should be? What don’t you see that you should see? (Cunningham says, “It’s what you don’t see that kills you.”)

Surprisingly, the answers are in the questions you ask. You have to give thinking time to your questions.

Have a great day, and wish us all luck painting snow! And hopefully we’ll get some warmer weather and some of that fall color we hoped for.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’ll leave Canada next Friday, be home for a few hours, then board a flight to Italy for our annual art trip, seeing the art world in Italy behind the scenes as Fine Art Connoisseur Editor Peter Trippi and I lead about 50 collectors, art lovers, and artists on our Italian Art Trip.

Upon returning, I’ll be with about 350 people who are willing to put themselves out of their comfort zone to study under the best figure and portrait painters in the world at our Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE) in Miami. This was a 20-year dream that I turned into a goal, breaking it into steps for what had to happen and what obstacles I had to overcome (everyone said it would be impossible to get that many of the world’s best painters teaching at the same conference because it had never been done).Though it was not easy, and pretty much put my life savings and the health of my business at risk (which I don’t recommend, by the way), we will enter our second year of FACE. And when it’s done, we will decide if there will be a third year.

I remember in the 7th grade, getting scolded by a teacher who mocked me in front of a laughing class for drawing portraits of people when I was supposed to be listening. That moment discouraged me, yet it also made me determined to one day be able to draw and paint amazing portraits. It’s been a life goal, and though I’ve got a lot of progress yet to make, I could pinch myself because I’ll be able to sit and watch the world’s best, teaching how they do figure and portrait drawings and paintings. Though it took me 49 years to get to this point, some dreams never die. Keep in mind, I could not draw well but always wanted to. I have since learned that the majority of artists don’t have “talent,” they learned a skill that became their talent. If you’re telling yourself you can’t even draw a stick figure and that you can’t learn, it’s a lie. You can learn. If you would one day like to be able to draw or paint with great skill, make sure you take that first step, then introduce yourself to me at one of our conferences. I’ll high-five you for stepping out of your comfort zone and showing up to work on your unrealized dream.

 

Conquer Your Unrealized Dreams2018-10-05T10:46:06+00:00
30 09, 2018

Embrace the Seasons

2018-09-25T13:37:39+00:00

Gray-blue is the color of the distant mountain, almost obscured by the light sage green scrub oaks at the edge of our country property on the outskirts of the Texas capital.

Baby raindrops lightly kiss the shiny tin roof above my head, making an ever-so-slight random pattern of sound, breaking the silence of this moist gray cloud-covered morning.

Packets of moisture shine on the dark green leaves of ivy that crawl like erratic, busy little ants in all directions on the rails of the deck.

Hints of red infiltrate the otherwise green leaves like old age creeps into our bodies, indicating fall is here, followed by the end of the season and the beginning of winter and a new year.

In Celebration of Fall

Fall is my most celebrated season, the biggest Thanksgiving feast for the eyes. It’s when our color shines the most, when we’ve graduated to a time when our wisdom is strong though our leaves may one day fall.

Vivid Contrast

The contrast of seasons is demonstrated in my own household, where the spring greens of youth dominate our home as three 16-year-olds awkwardly seek independence and want adulthood too soon, just as my generation wish they could keep their vast wisdom but take on the bright greens of spring once again.

Wanting to Be Older

The hairs barely visible on my chin and the hint of a mustache never got shaved when I was a youth wanting to look older, and now, in the fall season, my sags and wrinkles make me want to look younger. When we’re young, we want to let go of youth, and when we age, we want to return to it.

The Life of Trees

I can’t imagine the fall leaves, in their stunning beauty, looking back at spring and wishing they were green. Instead they shine brilliantly in celebration, and we humans drive long distances to marvel at their color. They don’t stop shining because of the fear that they will one day become brown and crisp, and will soon leave their branches to dissolve into the ground and enrich the soil. Instead they embrace their role, their season, their purpose, as part of a cycle that endlessly repeats.

Be the Tree

Focus not on the season or the season to follow. In youth, spend not your time wishing you were older. In old age, focus not on wishing you were young. Just be the tree … the seedling absorbing the nourishment of light and water and growing out of the soil, or the thin growing sapling, feeling tall and on your way to being a master, or the giant mighty oak crowning the top of a hill, confidently spreading twisted and gnarled branches that reach out like vast open arms to embrace the sun, providing a safe place for birds to nest, a place where young energetic squirrels playfully jump across the wide and secure branches. Acorns fall from your tree and soon peek out of the soil below, and the seed creates a forest.

Live the Questions

“Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Natural Flow

Joy is found in the discoveries and in the pursuit. The flow of water is too rapid and vast to overcome; let it flow over you like a rock in a raging river. Embrace each time, each season, each moment, whether you’re young wishing to be older, or old and wishing you were not suffering the aches of age.

The Purpose of Seasons

You were planted by elders before you. Your season — your tiny sprout peeking through the soil — was nourished by the fallen leaves before you, feeding your growth, your shiny green buds of spring leaves, your dark end-of-summer leaves, your coming fall leaves, your brilliant reds and yellows, your delicate brown, crunchy leaves, and even your escape from the tree as you float to the ground and into the soil. It is a season with a purpose.

You’ve been given the gift of life. Embrace it as it is.

Feel the Breeze

Your circumstances have been created for you for a reason. Change what needs to be changed, embrace what cannot be changed, but feel the breeze on your skin in every adventure, every moment. Like it or not, you’ve been given a purpose, and the questions you live will provide a clear direction.

Live it fully, embrace what is. Don’t ask why. The answer is in the season. Instead ask for guidance so you can make the best of the season you’ve been given.

 

Eric Rhoads

 

PS: We all provide gifts to one another, and sometimes we don’t know the great value of the gifts we’ve been given. Gifts of difficult trials, gifts of opportunity, gifts that don’t seem like gifts at the time. Recently when I was talking artist Joe Paquet into presenting at the coming Plein Air Convention this April in San Francisco, he gave me the gift of the Rilke book, which is a bouquet of words every artist should read. Only a few pages in, its impact is mind-boggling. Thank you, Joe.

This week I’m so excited I could jump up and down with glee as I check the box for another bucket list painting spot. On Friday we begin Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, where we’ll paint the rich color of aging aspens, and the snow-capped mountain peaks in front of lakes filled with turquoise blue-green glacial waters. I feel blessed to be able to go for a week, and to welcome the new friends I’ll make and amazing artists I’ll discover. These events are a gift to me. A week of painting not only makes me a better painter because I’m painting two or three canvases a day, it enriches my soul to be in the beauty of God’s great creation, and it reduces my stress to lose myself in piles of paint. Though doing something for oneself seems selfish, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not selfish at all because it enhances our mental health, improves our outlook, and makes us happier and able to be better at our other responsibilities. Still, my absence from the family is hard for me and for them. I want to thank my wife for her patience and understanding, encouragement, and the increased work she takes on. She is a true blessing to me and our family.

Embrace the Seasons2018-09-25T13:37:39+00:00
23 09, 2018

The Need to Reconnect

2018-09-20T07:52:30+00:00

My hot cup of coffee feels good in my hands. I close my eyes and feel the first sip rapidly warming my body. It’s not something I think about normally, but I missed it, because I had taken a break during recent medical tests.

Moisture in the air on the back porch is so thick this morning it might as well be raining, as it has been for the past couple of weeks. Yet the sky is clear, the sun is bright, and it almost feels as though the rain may be over. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hope from a bright sunny day, which somehow makes the rain more tolerable when it comes back. Little rays of hope are all it takes.

For me a little ray of hope is a day when I’m feeling normal again after a few weeks of not feeling great. I had a great night’s sleep, awoke with my normal energy, and feel like today is the day I’m supposed to conquer the world. Not that the world needs to be conquered.

A Bad Day

Though I’m having a good start to my day, there are others this morning who don’t want to roll out of bed to face what today may bring. This morning I’m thinking about the 30-year bride of my friend Sean, whom I mentioned after he had a stroke, six months ago. He passed away last week. Her days for the past six months have been about being brave for him, giving him a ray of hope, being at his side, dealing with doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, and trying to cope with the financial issues all of it brings. (His GoFundMe page is still up if you want to help her.) Now she has to deal with her grief, and perhaps feelings of guilt about a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering, and the fear of how she will survive without him. There is a line in the movie Unbroken saying that marriage is like two trees that grow side by side and get intertwined over the years. Those of us who are the other trees in the forests of their lives need to step in and do what we can to fill the unfillable void.

My Own Space

When my friend of 40 years passed, I went out to my little art studio back behind our old Texas ranch house, my equivalent of a man cave. Instead of a big screen TV and football memorabilia and beer signs, I’m surrounded by the things I love … paintings friends have sent me, paintings of places I’ve been around the world, and my art books. I sit in the old rocking chair — it belonged to my wife’s grandmother — and just rock and think. I was wondering how I should react to his death.

Though that seems like an odd question, I think we get to a point in our lives where we can control our reactions to some extent. I’m not talking about stuffing our emotions, but making good out of a bad situation.

Funerals Can Be Fun?

Though I think my friend would appreciate that his friends are saddened by his passing, knowing his gleeful personality, I think he’d rather I found something funny in it. You know, put the FUN back in FUNeral. He would be cutting up, making jokes, and being filled with life about his own passing because he was that kind of guy. And in it all, he would find some depth and meaning, some next steps. I simply don’t think he would want to see us wailing about him uncontrollably, which is why I shed some quiet tears to myself, and had a lot of smiles remembering where the tree branches of our lives intersected. How can I make the best of a bad situation?

I came to a few conclusions, the first being that I need to do more things with my family, my kids, so that they have memories. It’s too easy to let them sit reading their phones or playing video games, but those are not meaningful memories like a hike together, or something fun. And with college two years out, there is no time like the present to schedule memories.

Get My Own House in Order

Seeing what my friend went through because of a stroke was also a reminder to clean my own house. There is more I can do to lose weight, to get exercise daily, to control my diet, to manage my attitude and reduce my stress. My recent illness was not only a surprise, but a wakeup call that maybe I’m not a superhero after all, and maybe I’m just trying to do too much. It’s something I don’t want to admit, especially because I’ve had a vegan diet for the past 13 years and thought that would keep the wolves away.

The day before Sean died, I was having a discussion with my wife about whether I should get on an airplane to go see him, since it had been several months. She appropriately reminded me that though the thought was good, I just had my own health scare, and getting on an airplane and adding one extra trip might not be in my best interest. And as I was still pondering it, he passed away. The good that came out of that is realizing that I need more time with the friends I cherish, not just visiting them in hospitals, but having fun with them while they are filled with life. So I plan to do that, somehow, without adding more trips.

Same Time Next Year

Each year I hold a big radio conference at the Harvard Club in New York, and each year one of my closest friends, Jackson, flies into town. We room together at the National Arts Club, and we spend two or three days catching up over breakfast and dinner, sitting up late nights, laughing. We’ve done it for probably 10 years, and it’s a way to take advantage of a trip I’m doing anyway, to spend time with a friend. And it sure beats being in another hotel room alone at night.

Roomies

When I did my recent painting trip to Cuba, my old friend Mitch roomed with me, and it was like two schoolmates telling jokes till two in the morning, laughing a lot, and reconnecting. And in a couple of weeks I’ll be rooming with Rick Wilson, a painter from my home state of Indiana. I suspect we’ll sit up playing guitars till the wee hours. I cherish those moments and regret that I never did anything like that with Sean while he was full of life. Though we were both busy, there was no excuse. We could have found a way. So my plan is to do this with my best buddies in places I’m already going, whenever possible. Not adding extra days of travel, but making good use of the time I’m there.

What about you?

Who are you not reconnecting with that you need in your life?

What excuses are you making for not spending time with them?

What can you do to take advantage of something you’re doing anyway, where they can be woven into the fabric?

What needs to be done to make more memories with your kids, grandkids, parents, and friends?

What’s stopping you?

Moments like these force us to think about things that need to change in our own lives.

It also makes us realize what we need to do for ourselves. I always say that you have to give yourself oxygen before helping others, because without it, you can’t help others as well. What do you need for yourself that you keep thinking about doing, but you find all the reasons you can’t? What old stories are holding you back?

There is a mountain you must climb. It may be Everest. There will be a time you can no longer climb it and can only dream about what could have been. Don’t look back in regret. Focus on today because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Don’t just exist, fight to create memories and live dreams. It’s worth fighting for.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week I told you why I was unable to go to Africa. They are sending me photos and messages, which I’m reposting on my Facebook page. It’s a missed bucket list opportunity. I want to publicly thank everyone on that trip who was expecting me to be with them, and thank them for being so gracious and understanding. I don’t like to disappoint, and this is the first time I’ve been unable to attend one of my own trips.

 

The Need to Reconnect2018-09-20T07:52:30+00:00
16 09, 2018

A Life-Changing One-Word Substitute

2018-09-14T08:12:44+00:00

Brilliant sunsets, scenes of the African bush, and experiences with elephants and lions should be part of my Sunday Coffee this morning, as I was due to leave from New York to meet up with my Publisher’s Invitational trip to South Africa.

A Childhood Dream

I was about to live a dream I’ve had since leafing through issues of National Geographic as a child, about to go on a game drive. (I just learned the word safari is no longer considered correct because it has connotations of a time of oppression and the killing of beautiful animals.) About to see animals in their natural habitat, not a zoo. I’d get to paint Africa and create painted jewels for my necklace of memories, and spend time with old and new friends who came along.

Packed and Ready

I spent months getting ready for Africa, studying which lenses I should get for my camera to capture distant game, what kinds of paint I should take along — knowing I might not get my normal solvent through the airlines — and what I should take to accommodate the weight restrictions on luggage. I spent my spare time last week picking up some adventure clothes, and packing my painting gear, clothes, and cameras.

A Last-Minute Change of Plans

I think I mentioned that I had not been feeling well the week before, and as a precaution, I scheduled a visit to my doctor to find out why. Knowing I had very little time, he got me in to see a specialist, who put me through a battery of tests to be done in time for my trip. When we met for the results, he told me he was not confident that I would feel better and he felt I needed even more tests, and he wanted to give me some meds that had to be monitored for a week or so to make sure I did not have a bad reaction.

Then, the words I feared. “I’m afraid, Eric, I’m going to recommend you not go to Africa and that you spend the next couple of weeks getting better so you can go on the rest of your trips.”

(I’ll be going to our Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, Banff, and Lake Louise, and then to Rome and Florence for our Italian Art Trip, then our FACE convention, and then our Radio Forecast conference.)

A Week of Crashing

In the midst of getting packed, having two kids home sick with a virus, and having a deal I had been working on for three years suddenly fall apart, plus trying to get our new soundstage video studio fully decorated and operational before leaving (including getting a floor laid), plus my normal workload and trying to get things done so I could be gone, and then the doctor putting an end to my going on the trip, I was stressed, disappointed, and feeling pretty blue.

Why is this happening to me?

Because I was not feeling well, because I was not sleeping well, because a major deal had fallen through, and because I had to cancel going on my trip, my first reaction was “Why is this happening TO me?” Though it’s unlike me to be negative, it’s easy to get that way when you’re not feeling well.

Once I got some rest and was feeling better, I realized that something wasn’t happening to me, it was happening for me.

What We Want May Not Be Right

Think about this for a second. People always say things like, “If God loves me, why would he let this happen to me?” Yet how many times in our lives has our not getting the things we hoped for ended up leading us to better things? Just because we think something will be good for us does not mean it will be.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be more trusting that all things are being done for me — even the things that don’t go my way, even the things that happen that I don’t understand.

I’ve also learned to pay attention when doors close and stop trying to force them back open.

And sometimes doors keep getting opened that I ignore, and I need to be trusting and go through them.

No, Not One More Thing

For instance, this week, in the midst of all this chaos, I kept seeing a peek of light through a door that has kept opening for me for years. I had resisted it, not because it was not inviting, but because I kept telling myself an old story and had a thousand reasons I should not pursue it. When I stopped to think about it while all this other stuff was going on, I realized it was something I wanted, that I needed, and that I was resisting because of fear and because of being worried about what others would think. I was also so busy, so stressed, that I almost walked away from it because I could not handle one more thing.

A Different View

When you trust that doors will open and close FOR you, when you trust that things happen FOR you and not TO you, it opens your eyes to a different way of looking at life. So I held my breath, held my nose, and jumped through this open door that was about to close forever. And I trust that it was the right thing, and that if it is not, the door will eventually close.

Changing one little word, from TO to FOR, impacts the way we process everything. Suddenly you’re not the victim, you’re the beneficiary.

Remarkably, you see the world differently.

  • What am I supposed to learn?
  • Why do I have to go through this?
  • Why do I or others have to suffer?
  • What am I supposed to see that I’m not seeing?
  • Am I being self-centered instead of selfless?

Though I know what I want, what I want isn’t as important as the grand plan for my life.

The Gift of DNA

Like it or not, the DNA you were given at the moment of conception is the same DNA that determines how your body responds over time. Some believe that same DNA carries a divine plan for your life. If that is true, shouldn’t we embrace it rather than fight it?

A Talk with My Girlfriend’s Dad

When I was about 17, I was dating a girl who I thought at the time was the love of my life. I dated her on and off till I was about 20. With the girl came a great family, who I adored, and one day her dad sat down with me for a talk. He said, “I’ve noticed something about you — would it be OK if I pointed it out? You’re an amazing young man, you’re bright, you’re intelligent, you’ve got lots of ideas, and you’ve got a promising future. But my daughter has told me you’ve become very negative. You’ve got to manage your self-talk. You’ve got to look at life as the glass half-full, not half-empty. And if you don’t turn this negativity around, your life isn’t going to go well. You’re going to look for problems, you’re going to hurt your success, you’re going to hurt your health, and you’re going to die young and unhappy.”

Wow. Did he just say that?

He went on to coach me about how to change my mindset.

Nothing New

Now, it was nothing I had not heard before. In fact, my own father had coached us on this very thing repeatedly, but because my girlfriend’s dad had seen it and wanted to point it out, he changed my life — because I was not even aware I was doing it. My self-image was that I was a positive person, but my actions didn’t reflect that. His talk made such an impact in my life, I dedicated my first book to him.

Manifesting Action

About a year ago my wife attended an event called Date with Destiny, put on by Tony Robbins. During the event he gave several days of training about how to get your life together, how to think, and how to manifest things in your life. Though she went through the process, I’m not sure she believed any of it. Yet yesterday she said to me, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve been manifesting my goals every day by seeing myself in them. Do you know that every single goal I set for myself has come true this year?”

Being Negative About Being Positive

Negative people say that positive thinking doesn’t work, that it’s all nonsense. They will come up with excuses for why good things happen to others, things like “they had advantages” or “their family had money” or “they had a better education.” I know people who had every advantage in the world who had crummy lives, and I know people who had no advantages, who had horrific upbringings and experiences, who are living amazing lives.

Magic Mindsets

Mindset is everything. I’ve seen it manifested in my life, and when it gets out of tune, I see bad things happen. It is why I have to constantly remind myself, check myself, and get away from negativity. It is why we need sleep, we need something to distract us from our stress, we need laughter and fun, and time away, and whatever else recharges our batteries, because sometimes we have to go for long stretches of time dealing with difficult things.

Today, I’d like you to consider how you’re processing this message. What are you finding wrong with it? Why?

I’d also like you to consider the times in your life when closed doors resulted in good things.

And what would happen, if just this week, for one week, you looked at what was happening FOR you instead of TO you?

A Big Negative Snowball

Last week things were happening TO me. I was not feeling well, things I’d been working on were falling apart, I was grumpy, I was making others around me unhappy, I felt as though everything was crashing down on me, and I was not able to go on my own trip to Africa. It was very out of character for me, but things started to snowball. Yet the minute I caught myself, I embraced the closed doors and realized it was all FOR me. As my attitude changed, the negatives became positive.

Self-Correction

I don’t know if this is a vibe I was putting out, a change in the universe, or God getting my attention, or what, but the moment I changed my attitude back, even though a lot of things were crashing down, everything corrected itself. And some of the biggest and best things I have been working on for years, months, or weeks suddenly came together, when three days earlier it had been clear they were all not going to happen.

Attention Needed, Please

I also realized one other thing. I spend more time in prayer when things are not going well, and I need to spend more time in prayer when things are going well. It’s almost as though God is saying, “I’ll do what it takes to get his attention and get him into prayer.” By the way, all my prayers were answered. All prayers are always answered. Though it may not be the answer I want, they are all answered, and I have to trust more that I can’t always see things clearly and what I want today may not be what I need today.

I hope you have a great week, and I hope you’ll consider FOR instead of TO.

Eric

 

PS: This past week we remembered the anniversary of 9/11. I was due to be in the South Tower on the morning of September 11. My RadioCentral team was on a fundraising tour, and we were to meet at the towers at 8:30 for breakfast, then wait in the lobby of the SEC while one of our members, Mark, had a meeting there. Then we were going across the street to meet with the Wall Street Journal people who were going to invest. Then that night, we had a flight to Minneapolis to meet with Ginny Morris of Hubbard Broadcasting the following morning. But at the last minute on the Friday before we left, Ginny called and asked to reschedule the meeting for a week later. We would either have to do two trips or cancel the one trip and reschedule everything for a week later. We decided to reschedule and not go to New York.

The man Mark was meeting with died that fateful morning, and we would have been in the waiting room of his office at that time.

I have to admit I was miffed when Ginny called, because I was eager to meet with her and because we had to change our plans. Yet that call to reschedule saved my life and the lives of five of my team members. This is a great example of something that happened for me when I was thinking it happened to me. Since then I’ve learned to accept closed doors.

Though I was pretty frustrated that I could not attend my own trip to Africa, my tests revealed the need to be on some meds, and who knows what would have happened if I’d gotten ill in the middle of nowhere? I have to assume this happened for me. And the good news is I’ll be feeling 1000 percent by my upcoming trip to Banff and Lake Louise and won’t have to disappoint the people going on that trip. I’m so grateful I’ve been placed in a role that allows me to help people live their dreams with trips like that one. If painting in exotic places sounds fun, we probably have a couple of seats left for the Canada trip, and if you love art but don’t paint (or do), there are two seats left for the Italy trip.

A Life-Changing One-Word Substitute2018-09-14T08:12:44+00:00