Bumper Cars and Pinball

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

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

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

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

Shiny Memories

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

Not Just a Trailer, but a Movement

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

A Cult of Campers

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

Family Vacations

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

Becoming Men

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

Random Bounce

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

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

Accidental Magic

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

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

Split-Second Decisions with Long-Term Benefits

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

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

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

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

A Set of Three Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Bounceable

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

Comfort No More

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

Your Next Big Bounce

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

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

Don’t Lock Yourself Up

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

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

Start bouncing.

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

6 Comments

  1. Colette Pitcher December 9, 2018 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Dear Eric:
    I so enjoy your Sunday coffee emails. I get up before everyone else on Sunday and read while enjoying my cup of coffee. This week I am privileged to speak at a 60 in 60 talk put on by the local newspaper. It is a program where 6 leaders from the community give 10 ideas to help others in business. Choosing 10 ideas to be delivered in 10 minutes to challenge or enhance others is a fun exercise. I think “capture” goes along with a “seize the moment” idea that is so important. I am a life long visual artist that owns an art center and has made an arts program in an area that did not have one. It is done as a for profit business with no charitable begging. That is unusual I guess. So I will tell business leaders about art and creativity and the joy of plein air painting classes alongside speakers that run colleges and own hockey teams. But I have the best job. You know. Hope to meet you one day in person at a plein air convention. Thanks for sharing your coffee.

  2. Lindsay Tozier December 9, 2018 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Eric, I look forward to your weekly Sunday Coffee Posts and often forward them to non painting people in my life. Thank you so much for these. I am also so excited for you and your family adopting the senior dogs! Thank you for that. Have a great Christmas and I am looking forward to San Francisco.

  3. Rosemarie December 9, 2018 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your Sunday posts full of wisdom and everything you do for plein aire and the art community in general. Good luck with the pooches and have a blessed day.

  4. Julie Schultz December 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    there’s a study one in the California college system that said ..three qualities that were valuable for a happy life. Self-confidence,independence, and curiosity. This parallels with what you talking about. It didn’t matter what troubles people had in their lives. What did matter was how they viewed their lives, how they reacted to the stressors and the future choices they make. Curiosity is very important! It keeps dust from accumulating in the brain!

  5. Liliane Joris December 9, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    It is always nice to read your story. Inspiring, uplifting and positive. Good going! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  6. Carolyn Doherty December 9, 2018 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the Airstream memories. We had one when our kids were little. We also belonged to the Airstream club and attended many rallies. I still remember our number- 10579.

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