About Eric Rhoads

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Eric Rhoads has created 76 blog entries.
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 Substitute 2018-09-14T08:12:44+00:00
9 09, 2018

A Tale of Two Mindsets

2018-09-06T08:05:06+00:00

Quiet things seem loud in the early morning as everyone sleeps. The creaking of the door as it opens, the slam of the screen door as it closes. Yet I make my way to my special spot in the corner of the old porch on the back of my Texas ranch house.

My neighbors’ cows are scratching their backs on the fence this morning, their tan and brown coats shimmering from the early sun and their long horns catching the light.

The heat is more intense than a sauna, which I suppose is good training for my upcoming trip to Africa. But it will be spring there, so it may not be this hot.

About last week: When Sunday Coffee failed to appear in your mailbox, some of you wrote, wondering where it was. First, all is well, nothing is wrong. I just needed a break. I had flown to Florida and spent the entire week in the long meetings where we plan our year, work on our budgets, and try to dream up new ways to help people discover and live their dreams.

When I travel, I try to make the most of each day so I don’t sit idle in my hotel room (have no fear, I always have paints if I need them). So one night I had a meeting I needed to do in person, one night I visited my 92-year-old mom and my brother, and one night I met with two dear old friends.

Mom’s Cooking

Mom’s dinner was the highlight for a couple of reasons, the first being I just don’t get to see her enough and it’s a red letter day when I do. I am so pleased she is able to live on her own, in her own home. Though I offered to take her and my brother to dinner, she insisted on making it. There is no cooking like Mom’s cooking, and it’s a chance to eat old comfort foods I rarely eat anymore, and a chance to catch up. I thought she was doing great. And it was the first time in years I’ve been with my mom around my birthday, so this was even more special, since it was on the eve of that event.

A Working Birthday

The next morning, on my birthday, my team, which I am so honored and proud to have, had balloons and vegan cupcakes waiting. Of course they then treated me to another day of meetings, and then I drove a couple of hours to a distant airport, boarded a flight, and arrived home about 11 that night.

Forgiveness, Please

I have to admit that hardly anything ever takes the wind out of my sails, but during the week I had not slept well, had picked up a touch of a stomach virus, and I arrived home feeling exhausted — and I awoke exhausted the next day, when I had a schedule full of appointments, and a list of important chores and family things to get done for the weekend. And so on Sunday morning, when I normally awaken early for the quiet and to write, I slept and slept, waking late, just in time to rush to get to church. So please forgive me for missing a Sunday.

From all of this, I picked up a few lessons, one of which is that you can power through something if you need to, no matter how bad you feel. Though I would not say my knife was the sharpest in the drawer during the last couple of days of meetings, when you get involved, you tend to forget about not feeling well.

Second, nothing new: If you don’t sleep well, everything gets out of whack fast. Though we all try hard, sometimes we can’t control what is spinning in our minds or causing us not to sleep.

Grumpy and Out of Character

Third, attitude is everything. It holds us together. I noticed the worse I felt, the worse my attitude became, and I got grumpy and even had a brief moment of poor judgment and lashed out at my team during a meeting over something minor. I later apologized, but I know that you can put a lot of chips in an emotional bank account, and one moment of negativity can wipe out your account with others.

I try to be a great boss (I hate that word) and treat my team with respect, but when a leader fails to lead and becomes a dictator, a team suddenly stops being a team and instead becomes a bunch of people in a job they want to leave. I try to avoid going there, ever. But I’m human, though I should have taken a deep breath instead and not said a word.

An Abusive Boss

I suppose if there was a silver lining to acting that way, is that it got attention because it was so unusual from me. I’ve worked in the past for bosses who yelled all the time, scolded all the time, and after a while it all blends together. It doesn’t stand out as anything different, so their message gets ignored. I once worked for an abusive boss who also threw things — which is how you knew he was really mad. The yelling was so normal that you just assumed he was an unhappy guy whose only way of dealing with things was yelling. Eventually his wife left him because he physically abused her. Sad.

A Reunion of Old Friends

After my first day of meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting with two men I’ve known for probably 30 or more years. One used to work for me, and we’ve remained good friends since he left to start his own business. The other, who used to be a competitor, is someone I always liked. I see the one on occasion at radio industry events, and the other I have not seen in 20 years, so it was a special but alarming treat. Both men are exactly the same age, 71.

A Physical Change

Though I had seen photos on Facebook, when I arrived I was shocked to see one old friend as an old man. When I last saw him, he was vibrant and full of life. Sadly, he looked like death warmed over. He was moving slowly, he kept forgetting things mid-sentence, and though his old personality shone through, his language was defeatist and negative. He had been in the hospital two weeks before, in a coma for two days, almost died, and was talking as if these were his final days. Though we had a great time talking about old times, I was sad and disturbed to see my friend deteriorating.

The Polar Opposite

When the other friend arrived, he was exactly as I remembered him from 20 years before. He had a sparkle in his eye, a big smile on his face, and a spring in his step. He was upbeat, fun to be around, and looked 50 — he was all positive. He talked about all the things he was doing, all the people he was seeing, about some of the projects he was doing to bring in income, and what he was thinking of doing next.

Keep in mind that both of these men used to be the most fun, upbeat, happy-to-be-around people, always filled with jokes, laughter, and with the momentum of a freight train. People wanted to be around them, which is why both had such successful careers.

Yet at this dinner, one was beaten down and running out of life, while the other was upbeat and full of life.

Why Were These Men So Different?

One of the reasons I could not sleep that night is because I was so disturbed by my time with them. Why is it that one was thriving and the other was dying? The thought of losing an old friend was daunting. What could I do to help? What was the difference between the two, who had started out the same, yet one ended up beaten and bruised.

It’s Not About What Happens

It first crossed my mind that life had just beaten one of them down. His business had failed 15 years ago because the market changed, his wife had left him, and his grown child had ended up doing drugs and has spent a life in and out of rehab. This man had served his country in Vietnam, was dealing with PTSD issues that came up later in life, and was on lifetime disability, meaning he could not get a job and make money without losing the security of those benefits.

But as I started thinking about it, the other had also been beaten down. He lost his wife, the love of his life, just two years ago, and he lost his first wife 17 years before. Yet today he is upbeat, vibrant, and even dating a younger woman.

So why the difference?

First, I have to say we cannot always control our health or the things that happen to us. But we can control how we accept or perceive them, and we can take actions toward prevention with diet, attitude, and exercise.

Deep Emotional Dive

But over the years I could see the one friend fall into a deep emotional dive. He just never recovered after his wife left him. He was continually frustrated and beaten down with the problems with his child, and when his business died, he just decided to stop and live the rest of his life on his savings. When he received government disability and an inheritance, he could survive the rest of his life without work.

My perception is that he had no mission in life. He had a lot of time, but was not using it for a bigger purpose. Which may be what contributed to his downward spiral.

I’m not here to judge anyone. I don’t have that right, and we don’t know what someone has gone through until we have walked in their shoes. Nor do I know how I would react if I lost the love of my life and my kids turned to drugs. All I can do is love him, and if he asks, offer my thoughts or opinions.

My Advice, If Asked, Would Be…

If he did ask, I’d probably suggest that being alone with your thoughts all day isn’t a great idea, and that he needs to find a bigger purpose, perhaps volunteer work for some cause, to use the great skills he developed over his life. I’d also recommend something that gets him around people, where he can feel he is contributing to help others, and maybe even a hobby (can you guess which one I would recommend?) where he can do something that challenges him, and be in nature and around other people. Being in a cave is the worst thing you can do when you’re down and depressed.

Be On Guard

I can tell that when I’m not feeling well, my mind starts to go into a downward spiral, and it would be a lot easier to stay in bed. Yet I know if I don’t pull myself up, force myself into getting out there no matter what, I could easily slip into a funk that would get worse with each passing day. I know that when I skip yoga or going to the gym or even talking a walk, my brain stops functioning normally. I don’t feel as good, my outlook isn’t as good, and I start allowing negatives to creep into my life. If I’m not social, and if I have no mission or purpose, things worsen. If you wonder why I stay so busy, it’s because it keeps me healthy, happy, and engaged. We have to be on guard constantly so we don’t get pulled down.

What Is Your Story?

I’ve talked in the past about the stories we tell ourselves, and that sometimes we have to let go of a story and create a new story so the old story no longer controls us. You and I, and everyone we know, has a story, and has had some horrible things happen in their lives. Some absorb it and spiral down, while others get tired of repeating their old story and allowing it to hold them back.

Why Drive Matters

I turned 64 this week. Yet I still feel like I’m 15. I have more ideas than I can execute, and I’m committed to working and not retiring. In fact, I’ll be announcing a major project that will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career, which should keep me busy for decades to come. I’m involved and engaged in the radio and art communities, where I love the people. I travel about 30-plus weeks a year and I’m always out doing something, whether it’s leading a paint group to Africa, which will happen next week, leading a paint group to Canada in early October (join us), leading a group of art collectors and artists on a behind-the-scenes art tour in Italy later in October, leading a convention of figurative artists in November, and meeting the leaders of the radio industry in an event the following week at the Harvard Club in New York.

The Battle in Your Brain

I’m not saying any of this to say, “Hey, look at me.” That’s not really in my DNA anymore, to be insecure and brag. I’m saying it because age is a battle with your mind. We’ve all been so conditioned that 65 is where we hang it up to relax and enjoy life that it’s a signal to some that the work life is over and the fun is just beginning. Yet I’ve always operated on the idea that it had all better be fun because you never know if you’ll even make it to 65. Sadly, I’ve had lots of friends along the way who passed far too young. What matters is that their lives were rich and full and fun during the time they had.

Watch Your Words

I’ve talked about this before, but seeing evidence in a side-by-side comparison has really made me take notice. Though some are blessed with good health and good genes, it’s the mindset that contributes to the outcome, and there are studies to support that. Therefore I’m constantly pushing things out of my head, telling myself it’s not like me to think that. And my prayers are often about pushing things out of my head that should not be there. I intentionally never refer to getting old, because I don’t believe I am. Yet I have friends who started saying they were getting old at 45 — and ended up dying young. Coincidence? Hard to really know. But words matter, and there are certain things I never say to myself, like “I’m getting old,” “I’m dying,” “This is killing me.”

So what about you?

It doesn’t matter your age. What stories are you telling yourself that give a message to your subconscious mind? The longer I live, the more I see evidence that the subconscious mind is responding to the messages we implant there.

Are the repetitive thoughts and stories you tell yourself hurting you or telling your body to shut down? Though some will read this, laugh, and say it’s utter nonsense, it’s what I believe to be true.

What, At My Age?

Recently when I was approached about this major project (sorry, you’ll need to wait a year to find out), the first thought that came to mind was, “Should I be starting something like this at my age?” As I caught myself, I pushed it out of my head and told myself, “Of course I should. I’ve never been more ready, my mind has never been sharper, and it’s the perfect time.”

Our brain’s subconscious mechanisms default to negatives to protect us. Our conscious mind is the only thing that can overcome these negative defaults.

You Choose What Wins

Will and attitude win. I’ve watched it over decades of my young life. You and I have a choice, no matter what our circumstances. If you choose life, choose to make the best of your current circumstances, no matter how dire they may seem. Choose to be an example of how to live, or even how to die.

You may find fault in this idea, and I honor you and your thoughts. This works for me. And one day someone may say, “It didn’t work for him after all.” But I’m not going to live a story that the government decides for me because they think 65 is when I should stop. You and I should not live the stories others set for us. We should live the stories we set for ourselves.

Don’t Accept Bad Advice

The choice is life or death, living or dying, thriving or existing, active or inactive. We don’t have to accept our circumstances; we can try like mad to change them. A year ago I was in agony, in so much pain I could barely stand. My doctor told me I needed to live with it and accept it. I went to a different doctor. I worked hard for a year experimenting with different solutions, and I’ve been pain-free for the past three or four months. Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up.” I say never, ever believe something just because someone else believes it.

Not Giving Power to the Wrong Thoughts

Today is a good day to have a chat with yourself about what you believe and how you want to change your story. I can tell you that if you repeat your new story enough, your old story will fade. Don’t give it power over you. You get to choose how you perceive your situation. You get to choose how you can change it or what you believe about it. You deserve the best. You still have time to change the world, to make an impact or impression on others, and to make the remaining days or years the best they can be. It lies within you. Wake it up.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: You can interact with coffee in the comments section of CoffeeWithEric.com (just scroll to the end of any post and join the conversation). That’s also where you can point others to sign up (or you can of course forward these to them). I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you place them there, others can see them too. Or you can respond privately. I try to respond to every single e-mail.

A Tale of Two Mindsets 2018-09-06T08:05:06+00:00
26 08, 2018

Nature Calling

2018-08-24T14:35:19+00:00

Trading cool lake breezes on the dock in my favorite red Adirondack chair for Texas heat in my wicker chair on the house-length back porch of the old Rhoads Texas ranch house is a signal that summer for our family has ended. It was hard to leave the Adirondack lakes because I never want summer to end, yet it’s always nice to be in the cuddle of our home here in Austin.  Plus, if I had summer all the time, I’d never appreciate it like I do.

This morning the heat is intense, and the natural grasses in our little slice of heaven are parched, begging for water, and looking a little shriveled up. Yet the scrub oaks offer rich sage greens and the deep green cedars seem to thrive in the dry climate and oven-like heat, which will last through mid-October. This spot, in spite of the arid climate, offers its own form of beauty — a place I’m grateful to call home.

Though dead silent this morning as everyone catches up on lost sleep, our house has been a flurry of activity as the kids return home to their friends, who have all been visiting to tell their stories of summer. Boxes have to be opened and suitcases of clothes never used have to be unpacked to restore order to our routines.

Summer was a time to slow down, and soon my life of intense business travel begins.

Golden Silence

Slowing down isn’t something I ever considered very important because I tend to be a high-speed, “on to the next task” kind of guy. I walk fast, I work fast, and I’m highly productive because life has so many things that need to get done.

Rushing Through My Art

When photography was my hobby, I’d rush to great locations, take a quick shot, then move on to the next potential photo. But painting helped me see the value of slowing down, enjoying a spot, and becoming a part of nature. Slowing down and painting is just what my soul needed. In fact, my friend the great Russian painter Nikolai Dubovik taught me that he, and many others in his country, use painting as an act of meditation and prayer. I find that when I paint, I’m having a continual dialogue with God. I find myself in a meditative state, lost in the rich greens, the crashing ocean waves, or the distant mountains. It simply doesn’t get much better.

One of my dear readers in England, Kate Edge, wrote me this week to say this:

“By far the hardest thing to be today is to be at peace, to be centered in the place of stillness where the Spirit of God resides as it clearly does in Creation. The miraculous sunset which you witnessed is without limit, it is just simply a total flow of joyfulness in the creation of colour which all of us register with our retinas too.”

She goes on to write,

“Painting is a response to the pure beauty we are blessed to witness and which we honour by the desire to wish to capture, which is also the desire to remember that moment when we were present in mind with the eternal. When you let go of all techniques and must try to do this or that, there is another, deeper painter within which does not have an agenda. It flows its wisdom over the canvas, and if it is given the space before the busy mind engages what it wants to do in the extraction process from nature, into a rectangle, someone else flows through the heart and mind, and it registers a different feel altogether in the brush, and the result.

“When Turner exhibited the painting The Fighting Temeraire at the Royal Academy in 1839, it created an enormous response from the public. But the history of the painting included his seeing the ship being tugged just outside Margate behind a blazing sunset, and given his tremendous memory and note-taking, the emotion it evoked in him remained. He would never part with the painting despite numerous offers, and he came to refer to it as his ‘Darling.’

“The point of this is, I am sure, Eric, you have paintings that you have really loved to paint and you would be reluctant to part with. The evolving process of painting is being compassionate towards our attempts to realize that love, and when we do make progress, it also signals  an inner change in us.

“It’s good to compare our efforts with others, see masterworks, but it is more important to quietly recognize how we see nature and communicate that experience. All of us have perfection in our DNA, and one of the great ways to get in touch with that is to sit quietly with Nature and allow ourselves to truthfully respond, and accept the response too!!!! But know that in our re-creations we are on an unfolding path of happiness, as you say, which links us firmly with the Creator.”

It’s About Us

Kate opened my eyes in new ways with this lovely note, but it isn’t about me, it’s about us. You and me, and those you love. What would happen if we all spent more time in touch with nature?

My morning walk in the deep woods, down the dirt path to the lake where we have spent our summers for decades, is something I look forward to each morning, and something I miss when I’m not there. It’s time in nature, time with the Creator, and it impacts my response to everything throughout the day.

Touching Base with Creation

This reflects the reason I’m so insistent on finding ways to reach millions of people and help them discover painting. Though I know painting will give them rich challenges, wonderful experiences, and a creative outlet, it’s being outdoors, losing yourself, and touching base with Creation that makes the experience so important.

Remarkably, it’s rare to meet an outdoor painter who is angry, unhappy, or carrying an ego the size of Texas, and I think it’s because they are in nature, still, looking at one spot, and taking it in. It’s the stillness that makes this special and gives them peace.

It’s also why we are teaching veterans how to paint, and why I’ve enlisted thousands of painters across the U.S. to go to schools, play my documentary on plein air painting, and invite others to learn to paint. It’s why I have free lessons online, because I believe painting outdoors opens hearts and calms us inwardly. And I’m hearing from people all over the world who have tried it and found this same peace.

Though this little weekly missive started out reaching just painters, the 100,000-plus readers now come from all walks of life. If you’re one of them, please know this message isn’t about painting, though you might have fun trying it. It’s about stillness in nature.

Family Frenzy

We’re all living very busy lives. We’re not communicating with our families when we’re all on our phones around the dinner table. We’re in a world of constant stimulation, feeling the need to not let a second pass us by without a new e-mail or social media post. Though it’s a wonderful time to be alive and to gather information, it’s also a dangerous time of addiction when our phones and social media posts become more important than love, human interaction, and communication with our Creator, however you define that.

On occasion I take one of my 16-year-old triplets out painting with me. Often it’s a battle to get them to come because their phones tend to rule their attention, but this summer at my Adirondack painting event my son Brady spent the week with me painting, off his phone, and told me he had so much fun he did not miss it. Every minute was occupied not with a small screen, but with a big canvas.

Without sounding like an old school fuddy-duddy, our families need leadership away from their addictions, so they can realize what else is out there — so they don’t grow up and only visit places on their phones or in virtual reality. We need experiences in nature, and we all need, somehow, to plant ourselves in one place to take it in. That’s why I find painting so appealing; it satisfies my busy mind’s need to be doing something, yet it offers me peace and meditation.

Soon your summer will come to an end. Schools are starting, vacations are ending, and time alone with nature often becomes less easy to find. If there is time, give yourself this gift of one spot, breathing the air, smelling the scent of pines, and staring into the rich colors of nature. It will feed your soul.


Eric Rhoads

PS: Because of my podcast and this blog, lots of people have decided to believe me when I tell them no special talent is required to learn painting, it just takes following a process and the courage to try. The result is that a couple of hundred people have shown up at our Plein Air Convention & Expo to learn to paint for the first time and started their path toward a lifetime of painting. Many have also shown up at my Publisher’s Invitational retreats. If you want to come hang out with us in Banff, Lake Louise, and the Canadian Rockies this coming October, we welcome painters at all levels, including beginners. We’re just out to have fun, connect with nature, and hang out with other painters.

PPS: I’m thankful for all the people who have reached out about our cool new FACE conference, and I want to use this opportunity to say thanks for signing up. I’m told we’re making art history by the fact that so many amazing top tier instructors will be teaching in the same place. If you’ve not signed up yet, you can save $400 if you sign up before Labor Day Sept. 3.

 

Nature Calling 2018-08-24T14:35:19+00:00
19 08, 2018

A Fresh Perspective on Failure

2018-08-16T15:31:52+00:00

Dark, ominous storm clouds engulfed the lake last night, billowing high into the sky, blocking an intensely red sunset we could barely see on the horizon. Light shows go on each night, starting with mild color and developing into intense reds, pinks, yellows, with hints of blue peeking through.

Distant thunder echoes across the lake, with mild flashes of light within the clouds — storms here tend to reach the mountain and pass to its sides, keeping us storm-free. Sitting here, into the darkness, we watch the clouds break and distant stars peeking through as the air chills.

Each sunset here is a gift, as is each morning on the dock, watching the fog lift and the sun break through. Sadly, this is my last Sunday morning on this dock as our summer here draws to an end. It seems we just arrived, and there is so much I didn’t check off on my summer bucket list.

Summer Can’t Last Forever

Sundown has a powerful meaning to me today because it’s the close of a wonderful celebration of summer, with much of the family gathered together. I can think of nothing better than giving the kids time at a lake filled with adventures, hikes, canoe rides, mountain climbs, and independence on boats with their summer friends. This time here is also a gift for the rest of the family who gathers here — this summer there were more than usual, and, though not everyone was present, it was a chance to reconnect, just sit and chat, cook and eat together, and just be. Now we depart for our separate lives and wonder what next summer will bring. Will there be a place to gather? Will there be family members added or lost? We always wish for just one more summer together, and dream that we can make this tradition last for generations to come.

Never a Summer Missed

Last week at a lake cocktail party I was speaking with a lake friend, celebrating her 80th summer here, never skipping a year. Her memories of childhood, spending her summers with her friends and watching them grow, having kids, grandkids, and now great-grandkids, and even watching some of her friends and relatives inevitably pass, has been a gift like no other. It’s rare anywhere in the world that someone could claim such a gift.

Sunsets and seasons are the cycles of the earth and the cycles of life. Change, too, is a cycle of life — out with the old, in with the new. Change causes personal growth and creates a new cycle, and even failure brings growth.

Edison Embraced Failure

I’ve been reading a lot about growth lately and the importance of failure. Failure led Edison to the invention of the light bulb, after 1,000 attempts. He did not stop when things got hard, he failed forward. He took his failure as feedback to learn what works and what doesn’t work.

What would happen if you and I looked at failures as feedback?

People tend to give up too easily when they receive negative feedback, since they perceive it as failure. Yet if they would look at all feedback as positive, their entire outlook would change, in all areas of their lives, their careers, and their relationships.

How many marriages have ended because relationship problems were looked at as failures rather than feedback?

Turn Failure into Feedback

Too often we communicate with someone and fail to get the response we want, so we get angry and huff off. But what if you were to alter your communication so you turn failure into feedback? It will make you listen more, learn more, and adapt your communication until you are no longer failing.

Saving Marriages and Businesses

How many relationships or marriages end because people fail to get what they want immediately? How many businesses fail because their investors take failure as a reason to stop or give up?

What if in our marriages or our work lives or our businesses, we were more like Edison, who found a thousand ways not to build a light bulb but kept persisting until he brought light to the world? Think how much light you would bring to your own world by looking at failure as feedback.

Defuse Emotion

When you and I look at failure as feedback, we remove the emotion from a situation. Rather than blowing up because we did not get our way, what if we detach from our emotions so we can learn what’s not working? Then we can make adjustments until it does work, and we are less likely to get stuck.

Being Right May Not Be Right

Everything you and I do in our lives is designed to give us meaning. We want to be heard, we want to be significant, and sadly, we want to be right. Yet accepting feedback keeps us from having to be right all the time and helps us seek solutions that work.

Looking Inward

My tendency is to blame others when something does not go my way. They simply don’t see what I see. Yet if I’d accept more blame, look at others’ failure to embrace what I’m trying to communicate as a failure on my part, my guess is that I’d tend to look inward for a solution, based on that feedback, and see it as a chance to try something new next time.

Next time you have an argument, stop yourself and tell yourself that you just got feedback. Same when you’re experiencing political discourse or a business disagreement.

Turn failure into feedback, and you may find yourself happier, less frustrated, and able to see a different side of things.

Eric Rhoads

 

A Fresh Perspective on Failure 2018-08-16T15:31:52+00:00
12 08, 2018

You Can Strive to Be the World’s Best

2018-08-10T09:34:15+00:00

In the 1850s the Hudson River School painters painted in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York — and were accused of exaggerating the colors of the sunsets. Yet living here and experiencing the sunsets each night, I can testify that the colors are so brilliant, so vibrant, that no matter how brightly or brilliantly they may have been painted, they could not touch the colors in the sky.

Banner in the Sky

In 1861 Frederick Church painted a piece called Our Banner in the Sky, a depiction of the American flag made up of bright-colored clouds, with a hint of blue sky and stars showing. I always thought it was a bit kitschy and made-up, until I saw an almost exact reproduction in the sky here, with red stripes of clouds between white stripes, and a patch of blue showing. The only things missing were the flagpole and the stars.

On Golden Pond

This has been the summer of sunsets. I posted a video on my Facebook of brilliant golden light shimmering on the water, reflecting the gold in the sky. Almost every night has been a display of color so brilliant that no paint color could possibly represent it. Last night I sat here on the dock as the sun went down and watched a light show of color that got better with every second, and just as I thought it had peaked as the sun slipped behind the pines’ silhouette, the entire cloud-filled sky lit up like the Las Vegas Strip.

This morning the sky has reset in preparation for yet another show tonight. There is dew on the dock and it’s cooler today, the lake is like glass, and the birds are happily entertaining with some soft, quiet chirps to fill in the silence.

Last week I mentioned giving yourself some oxygen, but what I didn’t tell you is that I had planned a little oxygen for myself this past week. I blocked the week out on my calendar, took the week off, and spent all day, Monday through Thursday, working on improving my painting skills.

Two Big Goals

Specifically, this goes back to a moment of frustration two years ago when I felt I was not making the kind of progress I should be making. So I crafted a plan to see if I could make a dramatic leap, starting by realizing I had two goals … to get better at landscape and plein air painting and to get better at portrait or figure painting, my two passions. (It’s no coincidence that I have a magazine and a conference for each, with the PleinAir Magazine Plein Air Convention & Expo and the Fine Art Connoisseur Figurative Art Convention & Expo.)

Great Mentors

I decided I needed to study under two people I greatly admired for their skills and their ability to translate those skills to the feel of emotion in their work. I then decided to watch their videos to learn and practice all that I could. I considered a workshop with each, but found my available time was limited. With busy family and business obligations, more time away was not an option, so I had to figure out how to fit them into something I was already doing. So I made an arrangement with a top landscape artist to meet me at one of my events, where I would be out painting daily anyway, and asked him to paint with me and coach me for the week. This past week I did the same with a top portrait and figurative painter I highly admire. Since I would have been working anyway, we worked 9 to 5, and I was home with the family the rest of the day.

It’s a little soon to know the impact of this past week on my painting, but if it works as well as my landscape painting adventure, it should make a significant difference. In both cases I had good basic skills but needed to get to the next step fast. A week of solid, dedicated instruction was just the ticket. Now I’m committed to using these techniques and colors going forward for the next few years so that I reinforce what I’ve learned. And in both cases I’ll watch the videos a few more times to remember things I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Learning Obsession

I find it a bit comical that the guy who could barely graduate high school because of bad grades could be so obsessed with learning, but the key is finding something you’re passionate about and making it a lifelong education. My dad used to tell me, “Education is a bargain at any price.” It’s so true.

Meeting the Challenge

Over decades I’ve interacted with and experienced lots of different kinds of people, and the ones most frustrating to me are those who claim expertise, yet don’t reach or strive to be at the top of their game. God has given us each a life, and it seems as though we should choose to be the very best in the world at what we’re trying to do. Why just get by? Why not be the world’s leading expert? Though I’m far away from being the world’s leading expert at anything, I’m driven to be the very best I can be.

It’s Not Done Till It’s Overdone

Painting is just one example. I want to be the best I can be in my business, be the best I can be when I’m on stage, and be the best I can be when writing. That’s why I am a member of a mastermind group that meets monthly by phone and three times a year in person. That’s why I travel to conventions and events so I can meet and study under the best in the world. That’s why I pay to attend writing workshops and speaking workshops, and why I take lots of online training. Anything done should be done well.

What I Strive to Be

I once saw a speaker on stage at a radio convention. He was the best speaker I had ever seen. He was confident, entertaining, outgoing, and exuberant on stage. I wanted to be that guy, so I went up to him after his speech and asked if he would teach me. I then attended his workshop for a week. I’ve done this with several great speakers because I want to get better at my craft.

The Deep Dive

We are all wired differently. You may be thinking, “This isn’t for me. I don’t see myself working that hard.” Or maybe you simply don’t feel it’s the right direction for you. I hear you, and I don’t want to suggest this formula is right for everyone. But I can tell you one thing I’ve discovered on this journey … a deep dive into anything you love is an investment in your happiness. These things can excite you, reinvigorate you, and make you feel better about yourself. And there is no better confidence booster than seeing personal growth and having it reinforced by others.

Not only is pushing yourself great for your head and your actual performance, you’ll find yourself getting to new levels, then challenging yourself to see how far you can take it. Wouldn’t it be cool to be invited into an art show of top artists, knowing it was earned?

Recently I received a compliment when a top marketing guru, Dan Kennedy, invited me to speak on his stage at his conference. Though I declined because of a travel conflict, it’s recognition that what I’m learning is making me better.

Never Ever Give Up

The normal view of the world is that you go about your days, do your job, retire from that job, and coast the rest of your life. My view of the world is that you be the best at your job and become the best in the world at what you do, just to see how far you can go. And when that ends, you keep going by finding something you’re passionate about and becoming the best you can be, and you do it so that you have the enthusiasm and energy to go forward at 180mph the rest of your life.

Though retirement isn’t for me, if it’s for you, be the best you can be when doing it. My friends from Colorado retired and started yoga training for veterans and now have an organization doing 200 classes a week. That’s what inspired me to create our initiative to teach painting to veterans. Just because your body is aging or because your career in one area will come to an end does not mean you have to coast the rest of your life. It’s great if that’s what you want, but if you keep learning, your brain will tell you that you’re alive and keep you strong and vibrant. And having a goal like mine, which is to teach a million people to paint, gives you a focal point to concentrate on. (If you’re not a painter and want to be, check out my free lessons.)

Recently I spoke about how my brain was scrambled, confused, and overwhelmed in a guitar lesson. I honestly did not think I could do what my instructor wanted me to do, yet by practicing it over and over in small chunks, I’ve mastered it. (We teach this for artists in our video The Master’s Mind).

What have you always wanted to learn? What are you doing where you can see yourself working toward being the best of the best? Maybe it’s learning a new language, learning a craft or a hobby (please try painting!), being a better painter, a better marketer, a better writer, a better  … fill in your blank here. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get the training you need, and once you start to focus on something and spread the word that you want to learn more, great things will come to you.

What’s the first thing that came to mind when I asked what you see yourself learning? What was the limiting thought that immediately crept in? (I’m too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too lazy, it’s too hard.) Push that aside and go for it anyway. You’re in control of your mind; don’t let your thoughts put up roadblocks.

Here’s to you and me learning some new things yet this summer and fall! Have a great day.

Eric

 

You Can Strive to Be the World’s Best 2018-08-10T09:34:15+00:00
5 08, 2018

You Need Summer Oxygen

2018-08-03T19:00:01+00:00

I arrived on the mist-covered wooden dock this morning as the sun was coming up, just peeking over the horizon. Long warm rays are penetrating cool layers of fog. The mountain is barely visible, and the green highlights of tall pines are shining through the mist. Just as I sat down, I could hear the splashing of baby loon wings beating against the water. Accompanied by loon cries of encouragement from mom and dad, the little loons flap forward about 30 feet, trying to take off but not yet getting airborne. They’ve been trying over and over, and soon those babies will be ready to fly south.

Now that August has arrived, so have most of the lake neighbors, who usually come now through Labor Day. Though I love the quiet months of June and July here, it’s nice to see some people on the lake. Sailboat races have begun, with giant 125-year-old sailboats competing for the annual silver cup. There is nothing quite as beautiful as seeing an old wooden boat keeled over, people leaning out over the water, and that yellow ochre sail against the purple mountain in the background. It’s a painting waiting to happen, and one I’ve done many times, yet the perfect one has yet to be done. One has to capture a moment with a quick sketch, or cheat with a photo, to drop the boat into the scene.

August is also a reminder that my three remaining weeks here need to be filled with bucket list places to visit and paint, chores that need to be finished, kayak rides to take, and family memories to be created. I’d better get off the dock and get busy, starting today.

Rather than getting into anything in-depth or “heavy” today, I thought it would be nice to give you a simple reminder: “Put your own mask on before helping others.” The classic line from airline travel.

What I want to remind you of is that in this busy place we call life, you have lots to do, lots of people to take care of, lots of responsibilities, pressure, and maybe stress. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re unable to do a stellar job of helping others.

I’ve spoken about the value of summers, and since summer will be gone in just a few weeks, I want to encourage you to find some way to give yourself some more time. It may be a well deserved vacation, or if that’s not possible, find a way to do something to bring you some peace and joy. It’s amazing to me how a walk in the woods does wonders for me. Maybe it’s an afternoon of fishing … or painting. Try to get to a comfortable place to do something you cannot do every day at home (like TV) and treat yourself.

In my crazy existence I run continuously for months on end, traveling, doing meetings, meeting deadlines, and the only reason I can run at full throttle is because I make a point to give myself some personal oxygen.

If you’re high-strung, you’ll tell yourself there isn’t time, there isn’t money, or there will be some other excuse. Though these things may be very real, you have to find time for you as much as possible.

Do something for yourself today, and try to find as much time for yourself as possible before summer ends. If you’re thinking, “There is always next summer,” just know that’s not guaranteed. Be bold and take care of yourself first. Others who rely on you will understand.

Last week I learned of yet another acquaintance felled by an unexpected stroke, and you may remember my story about my friend who had a stroke, and six months later has had no improvement.

Take special moments while you can. You deserve them.

Have a great day.

Eric

You Need Summer Oxygen 2018-08-03T19:00:01+00:00
29 07, 2018

The Last Sunday in July

2018-07-24T13:15:30+00:00

On most mornings around here in the Adirondacks, if you get up early enough, there is a light fog on the lake that doesn’t lift until the sun makes its presence known. On a drizzly morning like today, the fog is thicker, which makes for beautiful photographs and paintings. After this, if there is time, I may attempt one or the other.

In the distance I can barely make out a green sailboat, muted in color by the fog, the mast popping out of the fog with a tinge of sunlight hitting it, and a foggy reflection in the water.

The cry of a loon flying overhead is an unusual sound. Though typically in the water, I’ve seen more flying this year than ever, making me wonder if they plan to fly further north for cooler weather. Other than that, the lake is pure silence, so much so that a voice across the lake from someone chatting and drinking their coffee is perfectly clear. It’s another good reason to never talk about the neighbors.

So Little Time

This, the last Sunday of July, is a stark reminder of how rapidly summer passes and how little time remains. There are mountains to climb, paintings to finish, family outings to get done before I return to the crazy life I lead once the kids return to school to start their sophomore year and get their driver’s licenses.

A Tradition We’ve Never Missed

Soon, we’ll take our annual canoe picture. We try to do it toward the end of the summer because the kids tend to change so much from the beginning to the end of each summer. It’s a tradition I started when they were four months old, sitting them in a canoe in front of the lake with the view of the mountain in the background. We’ve never missed a year. Though it’s unlikely they will continue that tradition in this camp, with this view, wouldn’t it be nice if they made a point to do it every year for the rest of their lives? I love tradition.

A New Game

Siblings, as you know, have moments when they don’t get along. At this age, as they find themselves, everything tends to be annoying to them. Yet when we get up here, once they get relaxed, they begin to interact on a different level, and eventually start to play together. This week they invented a game they call Boo Bee, where they use canoe paddles to hit a ball to one another. Last night one of the neighbor kids came over to play along. They are unknowingly creating memories they will remember their entire lives.

A Cow Apron? Really?

Earlier this week Laurie decided we should have dinner out by the old lean-to, way in the back of the yard at the edge of the old growth forest. We sat around the campfire as we ate our dinner. My dad said, “They won’t remember all our family dinners together, but they’ll remember this.” So true. We’ll do a meal or stories in the old teepee, and breakfast in a tiny cabin we call the trapper cabin, which has an old wood stove and is barely big enough for us all to fit. My dad puts on his old cow apron and his leather trapper hat, and makes us all breakfast in a cast iron skillet. And Tuesdays around here have become “Taco Tuesdays,” when our neighbors from Arizona come over and cook Mexican food. They and some other neighbors will gather, casually. It’s a good excuse to get together.

What matters is that we’re together. I cherish these times, knowing that soon the birds will leave the nest, off to flight school. Though not all the family can be here, they come when they can, and we reconnect, catch up, and have no agenda other than sitting on the dock and relaxing.

Dreams Worth Doing

From the moment school lets out till it starts again, we spend the entire summer here. Though I still put in eight- or 10-hour days, my evenings are spent in a boat or on the dock. Years ago I realized I loved summers here so much that I wanted to spend more time. Some summers I have not made it at all, some just a week or less. So I spent about 10 years sowing the seeds that allowed me to operate from here.

That meant making a lot of changes in the structure of my business. It was a giant hassle and took years to get to the point where I could do it, but the reason I do it is because it’s so important in my life. It’s my number one thing because it’s different from time with family at home in our busy lives. It forces us to reconnect, gives us a chance to play, to be in a different place, with no pressures.

I did not know I wanted it until I had the chance to do it, thanks to the hard work my father put in to make it happen. So it’s my new goal to continue the tradition, here or elsewhere.

Looking back, I realize this place, this idea of being together as a family, had become my top priority. I work hard so I can be here in the summer.

Have you given thought to your top priority?

Nothing Comes Easy

This did not happen overnight, for my dad or me. I watched him work unbelievably hard and struggle for decades, and I too struggled for decades. Nothing comes easy. Yet if you’re focused on your goals and you want something badly enough, it will happen if you dedicate the energy and time and make the commitment.

Which Ship Are You?

There are two kinds of ships. First, there are those at drift at sea, that float to wherever the waves take them. Sometimes they get grounded in the sand and stay there forever, sometimes they hit the rocks, and on occasion they get to another shore. The other kind of ship follows a chart, knows exactly where it is going. Engines are running, pushing the boat forward, with constant course corrections.

Chances are you won’t get there without knowing where you want to be. I’m only able to be here because it was the destination on my chart, and remains important to my family.

What is your destination? What is your top priority?

It won’t be easy to get there. It will take a lot of time, effort, energy, and toil. There will be moments of frustration and failure. But if you keep your eye on the destination and keep the engines engaged, you will arrive.

This might be a good day to set a destination and start working on a chart.

I’ll leave you with this…

Everything good you want to do in your life life may seem daunting and impossible. Dreams may seem impossible, but if they are dreams, they are what you were put on this earth to chase. Chase them with vigor. But you’ll get there faster with a plan, and when you break things into small, simple steps, it makes everything seem a lot easier to accomplish.

Go make your dreams happen. You deserve them.

Eric

 

The Last Sunday in July 2018-07-24T13:15:30+00:00
21 07, 2018

How to Set Your Brain on Fire

2018-07-18T13:08:36+00:00

The droplets of water drizzle lightly on the tin roof of our cabin in the woods. A cozy knitted blanket is tucked tightly around my arms and legs, with just enough slack to leave my arms free to type.

Beyond the old eight-pane windows, which have never changed since this cabin was built over a hundred years ago, lies a blanket of greens. A deep forest of cascading leaves, branches, and tree trunks. Happily the birds tweet, scattered over the branches of the old-growth trees, 600 years or older with trunks the size of Volkswagens.

Red-and-Black Checks

Nestled inside are the memories of decades past. The couches from the house I grew up in, now worn and slipcovered with red-and-black “buffalo checks.” A crackled hundred-year-old canvas canoe hangs in the rafters, upside down so the beautiful wood strips on the inside are visible. I painted a local couple’s home on the lake in exchange for the canoe about a decade ago.

Brown Velvet Lace

An old stone fireplace sits before me, unlit though it’s a chilly morning. Old books and magazines fill the shelves along the wall under two paint-by-number paintings, an old violin, and a hundred-year-old Victorian lamp with brown velvet lace hanging from its shade. A pair of snow skis adorn the wall, along with an old pennant for the local college, a pair of antique ice skates, a stuffed fish, and some paintings from my early days as a painter. Though it’s clutter, it’s comforting clutter.

Beside my overstuffed old chair sits a birch bark log I drilled and made into a lamp, a little log cabin model my son Brady made a few years ago, a sketch pad, and a harmonica I just bought in hopes I’d learn it this summer.

Sacred Family Time

Summertimes are special, and we look forward to them all year, never knowing how many summers we have left. I consider it sacred time with the family and a chance to recharge my batteries. Though I still work eight- or 10-hour days from here, the view from my office is a lake and a mountain instead of the old scrub oaks of Austin. The days are long — last night it was light till about 10 — so there is time for kayaking, swimming, bike riding, or whatever I can do with my family. It usually involves leaving camp for a visit to Donnelly’s Ice Cream, the best in the Adirondacks, so creamy it’s like a flavored stick of cool butter. There are lines of people waiting to get their ice cream, usually 50 or more people every time we stop. It’s that good.

Though I’ve not yet got to learning the harmonica, which requires a very quiet spot where no one can hear you, I’ve also decided to take classical guitar lessons. I’ve been playing for about eight years, since I began accompanying my daughter to lessons so we could do something together, but I have reached the limit of my basic abilities.

Going Classical

Thankfully I found Steve, a local instructor and excellent classical guitar player, who has discovered all the bad habits I’ve developed. So I’m having to relearn everything I know. For instance, I’ve been holding my fingers wrong, and for classical guitar I have to move the instrument to my left knee, not my right. Because it’s summer, I can find a hour a day to practice.

I’m Ready to Give Up

And already I’ve suffered through those “this is too hard” moments, when I’ve said to myself, “It’s simply not worth it, I’ll just stick to what I know and stop these lessons.” Unfortunately, I’ve said that about six times this past week, pretty much every time I practice, because my fingers are in excruciating pain — I’m using different spots on the tips than I’ve used before, and having to use specific fingers on my other hand differently, with one finger assigned to each string. I keep getting it wrong.

I keep telling myself that I can do it, that every good guitar player went through this, and that the outcome will be worth the pain. But pain and frustration aren’t easy, and quitting is. Yet I know I have to pay my dues.

Comfort zones are happy yet dangerous places. Dangerous because we can get so cozy that we stop learning, and we don’t put ourselves out there to try new things.

Why bother? Why not stick with what we know and be happy with that?

Confusing My Brain

Well, that’s an option, and I think it has a lot to do with your personality. In my case I need fresh challenges at every turn; I feel as though I’m going backward if I’m not growing. But the best part is the mental rush when my brain starts to scramble. For instance, this week in my guitar lesson, the instructor was pushing my limits and I simply could not keep up — my brain was confused, and I had to just stop and think about each task, one at a time. I felt for a brief moment like my brain was exploding. Though confusing, it was invigorating, and I could feel my brain changing.

The Brain Gym

Experts say that one of the best ways to combat aging and dementia is to challenge your brain with crossword puzzles and online games. Just like your muscles need resistance to stay healthy, the same is true for your brain.

What if you asked yourself when the last time was that you were learning something new and challenging your brain? One of the things I love about painting is that it’s a continual challenge, and I’m constantly learning. Yet my brain isn’t freaking out like it was when I was asked to do a multi-string multi-finger sequence I could barely figure out. It’s those kinds of things that I think we need. Things that really push our limits and make us feel alive.

Resisting Change

If comfort is the enemy, then perhaps stimulation is our friend. Six years ago I awoke to the realization that after 20 years of running my business, I had been repeating the same practices year after year. I was doing nothing new, and it was reflected in the lack of growth in my business. But when I started attending conferences about things I knew nothing about, my brain, and my motivation, changed. It was very much like my guitar lesson. At first I was confused and overwhelmed, then as my brain started opening up new paths, I was starting to understand new concepts. When I tried doing them myself, it was hard, and I was ready to give up, but my stubborn nature made me stick with them. The end result was that they started changing the outcome of my business, and I became better than I had been.

Ask yourself…

What have I wanted to learn but have feared failure? (I know I keep telling myself I’ll never get good at this guitar thing, but I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Plus, I have to continually manage my mindset.)

What have I always wanted to learn but have never taken the time or effort?

What have I wanted to learn but have resisted because of some mental block, like “I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m too” … you get the idea.

It’s also a good idea to consider that there are things you would love that you don’t know exist. Why not visit the website of a local college or adult education center and pick something completely foreign to you? Even if it’s not something you turn out to love, you will learn something of value.

Usually our minds and our comfort are the biggest roadblocks.

How about a new mantra? “I’m curious. I want to grow. I want to keep learning. I want to keep my brain stimulated.”

Keep in mind that whatever you decide to learn will get hard, and it will be easy to find a good excuse not to continue. It is at that inflection point that the true learning begins.

Today is a good day to play with the idea and do a little self-examination. Mental stimulation keeps life more interesting, has a great impact on your brain and health, and has a huge impact on your state of mind.

Just the challenge of a few guitar lessons has really challenged me, has been mentally and physically painful (burning fingertips), and I’ve wanted to quit and not wanted to practice. But I’ve accepted the challenge and will not give up.

My wish is that you find a fresh challenge.

Eric

How to Set Your Brain on Fire 2018-07-18T13:08:36+00:00
15 07, 2018

When Change Is Hard But Good

2018-07-12T19:05:56+00:00

Walking out on the dock last night, it was pitch black. There was not so much as a ripple in the water; it was still as glass. I’ve never seen a darker sky anywhere, for here in the middle of the wilderness, we’re 25 miles from the nearest small town and hundreds of miles from light-polluted big cities. The sky was littered with stars. Not just a few, but thousands were visible, and I could see a depth to the night sky I’ve never before noticed. In the distance, just above the silhouette of the mountain, is a small bright blood-orange ball they call Mars.

Sitting here in my Adirondack chair with my head back, looking to the heavens, I heard the eerie call of the loons … not once, but three times, because each call reflects across the lake, then back, then back again.

Nowhere I’d Rather Be

Yesterday my wife was telling me about our neighbor, a lovely lady who has the means to live anywhere in the world and who has homes around the globe, yet finds this place her favorite place on earth. I feel the same, not just because it’s the closest thing we have to an old family homestead, but because it’s extraordinarily beautiful and in an area filled with traditions. In fact, Frederick Vanderbilt said this was the most beautiful lake in America and the second most beautiful in the world. Families on this lake have been here since the 1890s, and they are all deeply rooted together; everyone has known everyone’s kids, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. They gather for sailing, for barbecues, and for memorials when a lake member graduates to that great big lake in the sky.

Living In the Past

Tradition is rich in this little lake, nestled in the 6 million-acre protected Adirondack Park. Most people here resist modern things and are living in cabins built well over 100 years ago and heated by wood stoves and fireplaces when needed, and most have no road access. A trip to get groceries involves an old wooden boat, heading to a landing that is like a portal to modern times for the necessary trip back to 2018. Being here is like living in the past. It’s an escape from reality.

I’ve looked, and have found no lake in the world like this one. Though there are lots of beautiful lakes in the world, most have been modernized and are filled with the noise of Jet Skis and speedboats. Here it’s mostly wooden boats, canoes, ancient guide boats, and hundred-year-old sailboats that race weekly in August.

A Morbid Thought

My ideal last breath would be in this very place, in this very chair, looking at this very view of the mountain, someday watching my children’s kids playing on the dock, filled with laughter and squirting one another with squirt guns. Hopefully that will be a long, long time from now.

Though I can dream, as in a Greek play, the good of this place has also come with tragedy. Families who have owned these properties for generations are being forced to sell by unusually high taxation, so high it’s sustainable only for the ultra-wealthy. My only hope is that when the last of us are taxed out of this lake, the new caretakers of the lake carry on the traditions.

Saying Goodbye to Home

Years ago my father announced to the family his intent to sell this lake home. It’s an old story. Families downsize and sell the old family homestead, and family members are saddened because of their memories and the comfort of the old family pictures, and the vase they bought Mom for Mother’s Day as a child. I was deeply saddened when my grandparents sold their homes, and I’ll be saddened when this home is gone.

A Flood of Memories

Recently my grandparents’ old home on West Wildwood Avenue came up for sale, probably 30 years after their passing. As I looked at the photos, my mind was flooded with great memories of my grandmother reading the Bible to us, we kids playing on the old oak stairway, my grandfather reading the paper in his favorite chair, learning to woodwork in the old garage, “Mema” baking pies in her little kitchen, and “Papa” giving us haircuts in the dining room. Though I had a chance to buy the house, and it was affordable, I realized that their absence would make the home feel empty. That house had its time for our family, and now it is time for another family to make their own memories. The same is true here.

The Seasons of Life

As I think about the possibility that we’ll leave here one day, I have in mind this somewhat comforting reminder: For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to break down, a time to build up; a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend, a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace. — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Like most, I’m set in my ways. I like it here. I’m happy. Yet I was happy in another place and was sad to see that sold, and didn’t want to come up here. Once I was here, I fell in love.

The Value of Change

Change is good, and though it’s uncomfortable, there is also the unknown, which can be pretty exciting. My wife and I have moved every decade since we’ve been married, and we look forward to our next mystery move once the kids hit college. Though we love the comfort and stability of knowing people and places, we also love the thrill of learning a new place and meeting new people.

Is being cozy and comfortable being stuck?

I often hear, “We should have done this years ago.”

Stuck in the Mud

I’ve been stuck much of my life. Stuck in jobs. Stuck in businesses where it was easier to sit still than to move forward. Stuck in relationships. Most of the time I got unstuck it was because someone made a change against my will. Getting dumped by a girlfriend, dumped by an employer, and dumped by investors. And in every case, I ended up in a place I like better.

Change is probably the hardest thing any of us experience. But just because we’re comfortable doesn’t mean it’s good for us. I have friends who are comfortable in dead marriages because they fear being alone the rest of their lives, fear they might end up in a worse relationship, or fear they might lose their money.

Have you ever lost a job, thinking it was the end of the world, only to find out it was the best thing to happen to you? I have.

Are you stuck?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I talk about being stuck? There is a good possibility that first thing you think of is where you’re the most stuck. Admitting it is the first step to getting unstuck.

What would you change if there were no consequences?
What would you change if you knew it would be easy?
What do you know you need to change but just don’t want to?
What have others been saying to you that you refuse to hear?

My Happy Place

There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, feeling settled and secure, and being in your happy place. Frankly, I could be here on this dock the rest of my life and be thrilled. I don’t feel stuck at all, but I’m not in control, and my future here is not in my own hands. So the most logical thing for me to do is to realize it and work to get into a position to be where I am in control.

In spite of my anxiety about having to leave this special place one day, I’m also excited to know that one day in the future I’ll be on to a new adventure. A change in perspective or attitude makes it easier to take.

Though I hope you’re not stuck, it might be worth asking yourself if you are and what you could do to get you into a better place.

Today is as good as any to think about it.

Eric

When Change Is Hard But Good 2018-07-12T19:05:56+00:00
8 07, 2018

Your True Purpose

2018-07-06T08:16:36+00:00

This morning as I stepped on to the dark brown wooden dock, I jumped a bit from the heat on my bare feet and carefully tiptoed my way to my bright red Adirondack chair overlooking the lake. A warm blue color reflects the humidity in the air, like looking through layers of glass, making the distant mountain look even farther away.

Deep Wilderness

Behind that distant mountain is pure wilderness, as far as the eye can see. Untouched, unspoiled, most never even explored by man. Each summer I canoe the lakes deep into that wilderness, where one can feel what it must have been like for explorers in uncharted territories. There is no road noise, no sound of humanity, only the splash of my paddle and the calls of distant birds. It’s a silence I never experience anywhere else, and it is intensely therapeutic as my eyes focus on deep greens and blues reflecting in the still water, and I spot an occasional animal on shore and bald eagles overhead.

Soul Food

This special place on the little lake on the edge of the wilderness feeds my soul. A walk down a wooded winding road is my morning commute for three months of the year. It’s quiet time, thinking time, a chance to breathe in the feel of the forest, the scent of pine as pine cones crunch under my feet and the soft carpet of pine needles puts a spring into my walk. Every morning’s walk is a time for prayer, to show my gratitude for one more season in this place.

Trusting More and Controlling Less

As I walk the road I think about all the past discussions I’ve had with God, decisions I’ve faced, my angst over certain issues, including some that consumed me unnecessarily. Yet each day walking that road I am reminded that I’m not in control and that everything I’ve struggled with was not worth the worry. It reminds me to stop trying to control outcomes and lets me focus more on trusting that everything eventually works out with perfect timing.

The Woods

Something about the woods makes one think about one’s life and purpose. Perhaps the brain is stimulated by the air, the scents, the visual of greens and browns, and the light shining through leaves like stained glass. Sometimes I’ll just sit on a rock to ponder life.

True Purpose

Looking back on my lifetime of obsessions and things that seemed critical for months or years,  I’ve realized that I’ve only recently found my true purpose. I stumbled along for decades searching for it. A couple of times I convinced myself that I had found it, but it never felt entirely like a fit. Yet today I feel deep commitment and comfort.

If you’re like most, you have probably asked yourself, “Why was I born? What is my purpose? Why am I here?” You’ve thought, “There has to be more to life than this.”

Perhaps your purpose is clear, or perhaps your compass is drawing you in a lot of different directions.

Unanswered Prayers

If you’re feeling a little anxious about that purpose and not having discovered it yet, don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up; don’t put yourself under pressure. You’ll find it at the perfect time when you’re ready to receive it. All the pain, discomfort, stress, anger, hurt, fear, illness, sadness, uneasiness, and unanswered prayers are the seasoning that prepares us for the right moment.

Embrace Everything

And you may find the things you hate most about yourself, your circumstances, your upbringing, or your physical attributes are the very things that lead you to the clues that help find those answers. The things you’ve always perceived as negatives may be things you can use to your benefit. Embrace everything about yourself; these are the cards you were dealt, and that has everything to do with your purpose.

Also know that you may already have discovered it unknowingly. I was working within my purpose for a few years before I discovered it was my true purpose.

Protecting Your Purpose

Once you’ve discovered it and realized how it will impact the world around you, protect it with everything you have, because your mission may take years or decades to build momentum. Therefore you need to use impeccable self-care for your mind, your body, and your spirit and your attitude. You need to be tuned in to what you are receiving and transmitting, because those things will impact the outcome of your purpose.

Aligned with Purpose

Self-care means proper diet and exercise to protect the vessel of your purpose and provide you with the time and energy you need. It means being aligned with your purpose and knowing what is and is not acceptable for you to achieve that purpose. It means surrounding yourself with people who will be supportive and shedding those who are not.

Monitor Your Influences

Chances are your parents may have expressed concern over who you were hanging out with as a kid, because they knew that who you spend time with is who you become. Your purpose requires you to spend time with those who are supportive. Though you and I can have resistance to negativity, I teach in my marketing classes that repetition sells. Sadly, negative repetition also sells, and that self-doubt starts to creep in when you have the constant drone of negativity around you. Though you may feel you’re being strong, any doubt in your mind that keeps you from your purpose is cancerous, and negativity breeds negativity. That’s why it’s important to distance yourself from negative people.

I don’t believe that anything is random. Each person born has a purpose. Some will never discover it, yet may have had a huge impact on others by way of unintended consequences. Others may allow their self-doubt and lack of confidence to block them from their dreams and never take action. Still others may shoot a lot of arrows before hitting their target.

Watch for it. Listen for it. Yet be patient. Purpose will come.

 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Life has many chapters, many of which are about finding purpose. Yet so many who consider themselves seniors or elderly feel they have lived their purpose; they feel as though they’ve had their chance and they seek no new purpose in life.

I’m reminded of a surgeon who was changing the lives of others with his gifts. Yet in a brief moment, after a nurse noticed a shake in his hands, he had to pull himself out of the game, knowing that shaking might make the difference between life and death. Suddenly he had lost his purpose, and his dreams of another decade of surgery were shattered. It was devastating, and this great man considered suicide. Yet when all was said and done, he discovered a deeper purpose, bigger and better than anything he had done in the earlier parts of his life. He now looks at that devastating moment as the best thing that ever happened to him.

If you are breathing, there is more purpose. Don’t buy into this concept of “aging out.” Instead, age in. There is more to do, more purpose to find, and we must embrace every season and every challenge as opportunity.

Your True Purpose 2018-07-06T08:16:36+00:00