17 04, 2022

Getting Small?

2022-04-15T15:49:21-04:00

The scent is heavenly. I breathe deeply and take in the perfume of spring. After a couple of days of light rain, the roadsides and fields are filled with blue and orange wildflowers. My own property is filled with little white flowers and spring greens. Bees are buzzing with delight, preparing the sweetest honey you can find. Spring is so welcome after a tough winter. 

Speaking of inhaling, on Saturday Night Live back in the ‘70s comedian Steve Martin used to say “Let’s get small,” which was code for getting high. We all snickered.

Helpless

During the early coverage of the travesty in Ukraine, I felt small and helpless. Though giving money was an option, I felt like money alone was not enough. But I could not think of anything else I could do to make a difference. And the things I did think of required someone with more connections, more money and clout than I had on my own. 

Unfortunately, I was thinking, “I’m too small to make a difference.”

Do you ever think too small? 

I’m too small to take on this project.

I’m too small to make big things happen.

I’m too small, so important people don’t care what I have to say.

Our culture tends to idolize people who are big … big CEOs, celebrities, sports figures, pundits, musicians, actors, etc. When they speak or issue a press release, everyone pays attention. 

Therefore we assume that big things are left for them to do.

As I was pondering what I could do as someone who was small, I started thinking big. “What if I could write a song and call attention to Ukraine?” I asked myself. 

The battle inside my mind was ugly. 

One side of my brain was telling me all the reasons it would fail. The other side was offering me possibilities. I had to make a split-second decision. Would I be small, or would I think big?

The outcome was a song title, “Tears for Ukraine,” and some lyrics. But what do I do next?

I sent it to one of the few recording artists I know personally, someone who is known regionally but may not be a national name.

“See if you can do anything with this,” I said. “Maybe we can help a lot of people by keeping this at the top of everyone’s mind.”

Of course I’ve spoken of this before, but so much has happened since. Within 24 hours Bill Craig and a friend, Mark Jacobson, revised my lyrics, recorded a scratch track to see if I liked the direction of the song, and then recorded a full studio recording with the group Elsie Binx. (You can hear it here.)

That was about three weeks ago. For two weeks, it was the number one download by radio stations for most of that time. And it started receiving airplay on radio stations across the U.S. 

That was cool. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. But what more could we do with it?People Who Know People

So I reached out to some people who knew people who knew people. “Let’s re-record it, like ‘We Are the World,’ and get a bunch of stars together to do it.” Keep in mind, I don’t roll in those circles. The next thing I know, it’s catching on. One big star started reaching out to other stars. And, as of today, there is a big possibility this will happen and be recorded by a bunch of big artists.

Going Latino Too

Then I thought we should record a Spanish version for the Latino audience, and one introduction led to another, and we have been in dialogue with a major Latino star. A discussion began about getting a bunch of top Hispanic stars to record it together. 

I don’t know what will happen, but the progress made has been much more than if I had told myself to stay small and not think big.

Big Stars

I’ve been watching two documentaries this weekend, one on David Geffen, the billionaire media mogul, and one on Frank Sinatra. I learned a lot from both, but the one thing that we don’t think about is that they too were small, unknown, and went for years without any success. But because of their hard work and tenacity, and thinking big, they became giants.

A Choice

In the two documentaries, each of the men had a moment where they had to make a choice. Be small or think big. Both thought big, and pursued their idea with all of their might. It changed their lives and careers forever. And when they got to one level, they kept thinking bigger, which resulted in getting to another level.

No one who ever got big had it happen by accident. In fact, the bigger you think, the bigger your results will be. I’m picturing supplies and help going to tens of thousands of people who need help, because of this song. (We made a pact not to personally accept ANY money on this project.)

The Battle in My Brain

My small-thinking, negative brain told me, “You’re not a songwriter. Why are you wasting time on this?” It told me I was not qualified, it told me that I needed to stick to what I know, it told me I was too old, it told me people would mock me. But my positive brain said, “Go for it, take action now, see what happens.” 

The Movie That Never Was

When I was a teen I always wanted to be a film actor, but I never pursued it. One day about 15 years ago I was browsing Craigslist and saw tryouts for a student film. I told my wife I was going to go and try out. She suggested there were probably better things I could do with my time. Upon arriving, with a line of people around the block, all trying out for three parts, I started to think I was a bit out of touch myself.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

When I arrived at the desk, a lady handed me a script and said, “Memorize these parts, and come up when we call your name.” Here I am competing with a couple of hundred professional actors who know how to do auditions. Suddenly my name is called. I read the lines in front of the producer, director, and all the other actors staring at me like, “What’s this guy doing here?”

“Thanks, we’ll call you if there is interest. Next?”

Impossible. How Could This Be?

Just as I’m getting ready to leave, a lady taps me on the shoulder. “We need you to read for a different part. It will just take a minute.” I read the lines, and they took me aside and said, “You’ve got one of the three parts.” A week later, I was filming a short film for three nights, all night. 

As I mentioned, it was a student film, but it was being supported by a major director trying to help serious film students, and it was he who insisted they give me the part. The film never got released, but I learned a lot about myself and about acting. And I learned that you can’t listen to your negative brain, no matter what you’re up against.

I love to read biographies about exceptional people with exceptional lives, and they always talk about the negative brain and how it almost kept them from success. These are not people with special advantages. They all started small, and had struggles, but they thought big to pull themselves to the next level.

Are you getting small or are you thinking big?

The bigger you think, the more unrealistic it all seems, yet big dreams conquer worlds. What world will you conquer? How will you change the world?

We all have negative thoughts and doubts. Push them aside and start thinking big. 

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m thrilled to hear stories of families and friends getting together for Easter for the first time in two years. I hope this is a special Easter filled with love and hope. And though bunnies and eggs and chocolate are part of the way we celebrate, especially with kids, it is the resurrection of Christ that is celebrated on this day. 

Here’s what’s happening in Eric’s world these days…

No Restrictions for the Plein Air Convention

We received great news this week. The state of New Mexico and our hotel, Buffalo Thunder, are no longer restricting attendance at the Plein Air Convention & Expo and no longer requiring masking or distancing. We had been told to limit to 50 percent attendance, but now we can return to normal. Though it’s only a month away, you still have time to grab a ticket and a room. We intend to celebrate especially well this time as we get the family of painters together for the first time in over two years. You can register at PleinAirConvention.com.

Painting Together in Mid-June

I’ve got about 30 seats left for my Adirondack painting event this June. It’s a week of painting with old and new friends, for beginners or experienced pros. No workshops, just painting the stunning 6 million preserved acres of the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. You can learn more at PaintAdirondacks.com.

Join Me in New Zealand

I’m taking 50 people to New Zealand in September to paint and tour. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So far 20 seats are sold. Visit PaintingNewZealand.com.

Bold Colors

My fall retreat in Maine is starting to fill up. We can accommodate just 100 people. We will paint in Acadia National Park and in the entire Bar Harbor area. Our lobster dinner is legendary!

Learn more at FallColorWeek.com.

Getting Small?2022-04-15T15:49:21-04:00
31 12, 2021

What’s Your Resolution?

2021-12-31T13:37:22-05:00

Startled out of bed, I awakened shocked to the sound of a giant fireworks BOOM! It’s been happening all night, even though the New Year celebration is supposedly long over. I drag myself up, tired from a long night of firework alarm clocks, and start my day because of my resolution to get up earlier.

My resolutions:

  • Up by 7
  • Read a passage in the Bible before I check e-mail or social media
  • One hour workout, five days a week (two days a week with a trainer)

Gym owners will tell you that 80% of their signups happen the first week of the new year, and that most people show up for the first 30 days and don’t come back. But keeping their membership active makes them feel like they are doing something.

Did you make resolutions?
Have you broken them yet?

The moment you break a resolution, it’s over. So make sure you are committed.

And, if it’s goal-related, like weight loss, you’ll need a process or a plan to follow. Just saying you’ll lose weight is like saying you’ll show up in Hawaii without getting on an airplane. List out the specific steps to be followed. Be specific (such as limit to X calories a day, exercise for X minutes a day, get your heart rate to X for X minutes daily, etc.)

Accountability is also important. Share your resolutions with those who will challenge you if you break them, and give them permission and encouragement to call you out for cheating.

That’s all for today. I’m keeping it brief so you can concentrate on your resolutions.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though I had lots of projects to get done over the holidays, only part of them were finished. It gives me an excuse to take some more time off in the future, I suppose. Or not try to do so much.

2022 promises to be a great year (if you make up your mind for it to be, no matter what).
Be strong.
Keep your mindset in check.

Follow your weekly goals.

Keep your head in the game.

Here are some things that will be happening at Streamline starting tomorrow.

  1. If you did not see it, we consolidated the Streamline Art Video, Liliedahl, and Creative Catalyst video brands into PaintTube. This will mean less confusion, fewer e-mails, and better service.
  2. Starting this week, PleinAir Today, our landscape painting newsletter, will go daily, including a summary Saturday. If you’re not signed up, go here.
  3. American Watercolor will move to twice weekly for the year. 
  4. Our big watercolor conference could hit record attendance this year. We decided not to raise the price after all, so you can still get a lower price if you go to this secret website for Sunday Coffee readers to use (you won’t find the price on the regular website).
  5. This week we’re launching a new video on painting cars, called Wheels & Steel with Lyn Boyer.
What’s Your Resolution?2021-12-31T13:37:22-05:00
22 11, 2020

Acting Like It’s the Last Time

2020-11-29T03:11:14-05:00

A wall of chill hits me as I open the door to let the dogs out. I hadn’t bothered to grab a jacket or robe, so the goosebumps are standing tall on my arms and legs. It makes me feel alive.

As I sit on the steps of the old porch, looking out over the vast view, a tinge of fog has planted itself at the base of the distant blue hills as a blinding streak of light lasers itself to my eyes, forcing my hand up to shield my face. Blades of grass and tall weeds are flashing like neon as they sway with the breeze, and dancing white highlights kiss the leaves of the silhouetted great twisted oaks. We like to call this “California weather,” which comes to Texas in the spring, and in late fall once the heat has gone home for the season.

Coming Home

Later today we will celebrate one of our sons’ return from college, about eight hours away. We don’t get to see him as much as the other two, who are “drop in” distance for some weekends. We’re looking forward to reuniting our family and spending a couple of months before their return to campus.

What’s Different This Time?

All too often we take family for granted. Yet many families across the world are missing loved ones, many of whom were victims of COVID-19. What will you and I do with our families the next time we gather? How will our interactions be different — knowing we’re fortunate to have one another, or, heaven forbid, wondering if this time together will be our last?

Give Up Everything

When playing golf one day, a buddy of mine said, “I would give everything I own, give up all of my wealth, for just one more hour with my mom and dad.” It’s a story we’ve heard before. Yet how will we treat our loved ones if we’re together this Thanksgiving?

Will we revert to reacting to the buttons others tend to push in us? Will be we loving, appreciative, and trying to create special moments? Or will we open old wounds or resort to old ways?

I have friends who refuse to return home because of their wounds, because of tough memories of how they were raised, or wronged. But could they get beyond that?

No Chance for a Farewell

Another friend was estranged from her dad for close to 20 years, with no contact. She carried her anger over her past, and yet, the moment he passed, she commented that she suddenly regretted not taking the high road, getting beyond her wounds, and healing a relationship that she now cannot heal.

For those of us lucky enough to be with our families, this is a great opportunity to avoid returning to our old habits, letting go of our fears and anger. No sin is unforgivable, even the worst of the worst. And though sometimes it’s simply best to avoid people who hurt or wronged you — which certainly would be understandable because of certain actions. But perhaps, in most cases, we can turn the other cheek?

Getting Deeper

As a dad who almost lost a son to a heart attack this past January, I want my time with him (and my other kids) to be the best possible memory. I don’t want him to be eager to get back to college because he wants to get away from his family. Instead I want to engage him, appreciate him, and create special memories that will plant themselves in his brain forever.  And as a son who lost his mother about a year and a half ago, I look back with some regrets about not taking the effort and time to be there for her more, and get to know her more deeply. 

I think we fall into this mindset of “I’ll do those things someday,” but then we’re often surprised to learn we’ve lost our chance. 

Don’t lose your chance this season. 

Ask yourself, what would I want? How would I want to be treated? Be that person.

What We All Want

Those around us may never live up to our expectations, may never perform in the way we want of them. But instead of being critical or demanding, how about just letting go? How about accepting who they are, and loving who they are? How about encouraging and appreciating them? After all, that’s what we all want.

Growing to Be Loved

As a parent the temptation is to project what I want for my kids on to my kids. I’m sure they can feel the pressure, but the only thing I really care about is that they grow up to be loved, appreciated, and live quality lives. Of course I don’t want them to make the mistakes I made or to throw valuable time away. But, as I said recently, I also want them to grow from pain.

Lots of us are keeping our distance to prevent the spread of the virus, but lots of us will be thrown together anyway. When your family arrives, hug them like it’s the last time, and seek to bring joy to this time together. 

Don’t look back with regrets. Hold back on judgment, but don’t hold back on love and encouragement. Treat this time as the last time. Treat every time as if it’s the last time. One day it will be.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This year I’m going to slip out on the porch and give you a special message on Thanksgiving. Watch for it, and if it’s worth reading, read it at the Thanksgiving table.

PS2: I’m really excited. Here I was worried about surviving and staying in business, and because we pivoted to virtual online art conferences, we’re going to make it. Yay! But I’ve got to keep it going to keep all these wonderful people employed so they can make memories for their families. If you think you might like to learn watercolor, even if you don’t believe you have the talent, sign up for my Watercolor Live learning event in January. Somehow we’ve managed to get the very best watercolor masters in the world to teach, and we’ve also created a Beginner’s Day. I’d be grateful if you would check it out and maybe give it to someone as a Christmas gift.

Acting Like It’s the Last Time2020-11-29T03:11:14-05:00
3 05, 2020

When Sparks Fly

2020-05-02T22:28:59-04:00

Bright green backlit leaves are glowing high in the sky as the warm sun filters through them and projects little leaf-shaped shadows on the spring grass. As I breathe deeply, the scent of wildflowers and roses reminds me of my grandmother’s garden. The day is perfect for all my senses. Even Mozart would be inspired by the songbirds singing from every direction. Though the old night owl is safely in his “owl box” atop one of our trees, his occasional question interrupts the songbird symphony as if to say, “Who, who is making all that noise while I’m trying to sleep?”

Kaboom!

Last night the warm spring weather inspired me to fire up the grill. I walk across the deck with the lighter in hand, turn on the gas on the grill and click the lighter, sparking a small flame. Suddenly, “Whoosh!” The sound of the gas igniting fills my ears.

Small Spark, Big Result

No matter the size of the container … a small grill, or a gas-filled building … it takes only one small spark to set it off. Our cars operate only because of a small spark in the cylinder. But what do sparks have to do with our lives, our careers?

We are surrounded by sparks.

You Wanna Be a Star, Kid?

As a young boy of 14, I visited my first radio station to watch my friend Charlie Willer do his radio show. I was hooked, and his encouragement and the spark from that day resulted in a 50-year career in and around the radio industry. 

A Giant Painting

Seeing a painting of pirates sword fighting when I was 12 and on a family vacation was a spark that created a lifetime interest in art, and at age 40, the spark of an art lesson as a birthday gift set me on the path to becoming an artist. That spark resulted in my career in the art world. 

We never know when sparks will fly and ignite a new passion, which is why it’s so important to try new things, read everything we can get our hands on, and visit places NOT on our radar, to spark curiosity. 

It’s also important to be a spark, to help others find and ignite their passion.

Not only can we ignite others or be ignited, we can often seek sparks. My dad always tells me, “Son, you can change everything about your life or your business in just 90 days. You can go from being broke to rich, go from unsuccessful to successful. All it usually takes is one small change.” 

Comfort Is the Enemy

All too often we get stuck and set in our ways, and we end up repeating Groundhog Day over and over, never seeing ways to change things up to keep them interesting, or to make what we have to offer ourselves more appealing. Yet listening to others may give you the one small spark you need. It usually takes removing yourself from your comfort zone, yet it can be so invigorating to try something new.

Think Big

My friend and mentor Jay Abraham was talking one day and I asked his advice on how I can teach a million people to paint, my biggest goal. He told me that the best way to get big fast was to get on national TV with a show (more about that later). He suggested that a TV show could be the spark to reach millions and hit the goal fast. 

Where do you need a spark?

Where can you be a spark?

Gas On

The longer I’m alive, the more I understand that the best things that happened in my life and my career came from accidental sparks I never would have followed on my own. But I also discovered that to ignite at the very second the spark hits, the gas has got to be on. You have to be constantly on the lookout for sparks, and when you feel them, they won’t ignite without your instant pursuit. 

Create Your Spark

And, though accidental sparks will happen through random moments, the longer you’re around, the more established you become, the more it’s critical to create your own sparks. I have to help those on my team find their sparks, I have to push and pull to get people out of their comfort zone to move to a higher level, or else we’ll never do anything new. And I have to get others to step up and offer ideas, and be willing to listen to them. It’s not easy.

What have been the sparks in your life that were accidental but ignited your passion?

In what ways can you ignite a spark in others?

Listen, be aware, and know sparks are always flying, but often go unnoticed. If you’re on the lookout for them, you can change anything in your life, your work, your family, your business, in just an instant.

In an Instant

I received a lovely e-mail from an artist friend this week who said this … “I was stuck … I was one of those people that could do anything well I set my mind to, yet I tamped down my potential with alcohol and fear of success.  Eleven years ago, I said no more. I stopped self-destructing … simply made up my mind and never looked back. I shifted my own paradigm. It was then that I decided I was going to not talk about chasing a dream, but I was going to LIVE the dream of moving through the rest of my life as an artist.  Embrace the hard years of choosing between electricity or food or gas and strive and improve until I could find the other side. What I learned was that the moment I made the decision internally, with no room for inner argument, I became.”

The magic of a spark is that the moment it ignites your passion, you become. It takes a split second.

The split second I was exposed to radio by my friend, I became radio. The split second I was really exposed to painting, I became an artist. Though there were a long and often painful few years to follow, passion overcomes pain because your head has moved to a new place.

Seek to spark and be a spark.

Blessings and Lessons

We’re in a new normal. There have been blessings and lessons learned from these strange times. We might look at the sparks that happened to us over the past few weeks and ask which ones we no longer want to ignite, and which ones we need to pursue and change. 

I’ve had over 2 million views of our samples of art instruction videos over the past few weeks, and an average of 59,000 viewers per video. It has sparked a new path for us, all because we were trying to be a spark to entertain, educate, and inspire others during this pandemic. It will change everything.

Reinvention

I’ve learned I don’t want to return to the adrenaline-driven life of being so busy, spending life on a plane, and being separated from my family.  I want to be home more, I want to have more time, and to not always be doing something to keep me busy, and I want to learn new and interesting things. So I’ll be shedding some of my skin for a new, reinvented me.

What about you?
What lessons, what new normal, will come out of this for you?

What has sparked you?

Eric Rhoads

PS: My initiative to teach a million people to paint is driving me to do a national TV show on a very large TV network. The topic is a plein air painting reality show called The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge. It will reach over 20 million people per episode. I hope it will teach millions to paint or challenge them to explore painting. I’m in the funding process now (seeking big donors) and hope to have it on the air in about a year.

Last week I listed all the things we’re doing, all the videos created. I’m reposting that updated list here so you too can find something to spark you.

When Sparks Fly2020-05-02T22:28:59-04:00
19 04, 2020

Why You Don’t Need More Stuff

2020-04-18T13:30:26-04:00

A blast of high winds is bending the tops of the trees, which are performing a ballet of unnatural yet graceful moves. Their gnarly branches are twisting and turning as spring roars in like a lion. Deeply I breathe in the freshly cleaned air from the past few days of rain, which has also made the sky its purest color, purer still because so few cars have been on the road during this time of rest and resurrection.

When we’re driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour, we barely notice the rapidly changing landscape, but a traffic jam slows us down, giving us a chance to look around and notice our surroundings. This quarantine period has allowed us a chance to slow down, to breathe in our surroundings, and to appreciate where we are and what we have. Though we’re often on a high-speed treadmill, ever faster and with ever steeper hills, seeking to earn and accumulate more, this has helped us to slow, to ponder, to realize that maybe more isn’t what we need.

Feeding My Addiction

Last night I was cleaning up my studio, putting things in their place, when I noticed a stack of art books I’ve purchased but never read. Feeding my addiction, I’m always on to the next art book — some sent to me for publicity, others purchased, yet my unopened, unread pile is growing, and I realized I often buy them and then forget to read them. Just yesterday a new book arrived, yet I’ve not paid attention to the ones I have and I always want more. This addiction is for more and more, and these unread books have made me realize I’m striving but not enjoying. If I never bought another art book for the rest of my life, I’m not sure I could properly read all that I have.

Is Better Really Better?

Maybe it’s a natural instinct to always want to better our circumstances — but why? Are our circumstances not good? In some cases they are not, and we need to pull ourselves up. In other cases, it’s simply addiction-feeding. I think back to cleaning out my mom’s house and how many items she had acquired. They had meaning to her, but in most cases, not to the rest of us.

Accumulation

For years I collected antique radios, which I love. I could not get enough, and one time I bought a man’s entire collection and a 1955 Oldsmobile. Though I thought they would bring me joy (and they did, for a while), they became a burden. A collection of 150 radios has to be dusted and stored, and an old car has to be driven and kept clean. That car was fun when it was my only car for a year or so, but once I got a different car, it sat in the driveway and deteriorated until it had to be hauled away years later.

I eventually sold off most of the radios and realized I could feed my addiction by enjoying the few nice ones I kept. It no longer had to be about buying.

No More Wall Space

I’m also addicted to paintings. Because my job takes me to art galleries, I was always seeing things I loved and on occasion bringing one home. But it got to a point where there was no place to hang them all, and I would put them in storage, meaning to rotate. But like most things in storage, they’ve been ignored. The buying was more of an addiction than the owning.

Maybe it’s my time of life, but I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than buying a lot, it’s best to buy less, and to ask myself these questions before I buy…

What am I going to do with it? Where will it go? Will I use it? How will I feel about it in a year? If there was a fire, would I grab it as one of the few possessions I want to keep? Would I be better off keeping the money in the bank? Do I really want to get into debt over this item?

Valuable Lessons

This quarantine has taught us some lessons — like we go out to shop too much. We buy too much. We don’t need so much. Sometimes the act of traveling to buy is why we buy, more so than needing the item.

Depression Mentality

I can’t say I’m cured, but as we all struggle over money lost, jobs lost, and fear of loss, maybe we will take on the mentality of our parents or grandparents who grew up in the Great Depression. Now I understand why they were so frugal. They know it could all be lost in a moment. Now we know this too.

Life isn’t about stuff. Stuff is nice to have, but I’m wishing I had a Steinway instead of a cheap knockoff. I could have had one if I hadn’t bought all the other meaningless stuff over the years. I’d rather have the best of the best paintings than a garage full of pieces in storage.

A Glance Behind

There was a time when I had nothing. I lived in a small studio apartment without even one bedroom, and I didn’t have enough stuff to fill that space. Looking back at those days, I’d rather have the money I later spent on stuff — not so I could buy more stuff, but so I could just have it at a time like this.

More More More

A friend recently told me he wants to get a new job to make more money. I asked why. He said, “So we can get a bigger house and a better car.” I get that. But I cautioned him and suggested that our tendency is to make more money and then spend more money, and still not put any more in the bank. We just go from one house payment to a bigger house payment, one car payment to a bigger car payment. I suggested that maybe before doing that, he ask himself … why? Why do I want a bigger, more expensive house? Do I need the space? (In some cases, the answer to that is yes.) But sometimes it’s just that bigger seems better. I said, “Would it be better to get the new job or a raise and keep your expenses the same? Not to buy more, just to save more?” He has a big house, two nice cars, and no money put away to survive a time like this.

What about you? What are you addicted to?

I often remind myself that rather than looking forward to all the things I hope to get, I should look back to see how far I’ve come. Do we really need more? In some cases yes, but in many cases, no.

Finding Lessons

I’m grateful for the lessons coming out of this horrible tragedy. You and I will be better off as a result, in spite of the sadness surrounding it. I for one am thankful for what I have, and ready to shed what I no longer need. I’m going to be less of a consumer and more of an enjoyer. What about you?

This time is difficult, but it’s a blessing too. Use it to learn, to grow, to finish unfinished projects, to do new projects, to reconnect with the people you love, and to make yourself a better you. Embrace this moment in time for the blessings we’ve discovered.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I once went to a seminar by W. Clement Stone, a wealthy businessman and motivational speaker. His mantra was “Do it now.” When you think of it, do it now. If you can’t find a way, find a way now. Make your list of how you want your life to look. Do it now. Projects? Do it now.  Now is all we have. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Do it now.

For my friends who are artists (or want to be) I’m doing a daily art update at 12n (ET) today and every day. I’m on Facebook live on my page EricRhoads, or on EricRhoads, Publisher and on Instagram on Eric Rhoads.

Also, you’ll find our free 3 pm daily art instruction videos there (and previous ones below) on the Streamline Art Video page on Facebook or YouTube.

3.23.20 –  Bryan Mark Taylor The Master’s Mind
3.24.20 – Johanne Mangi The Fine Art of Painting Dog Portraits
3.25.20 –  Joseph McGurl Painting Light & Atmosphere
3.26.20 – Cesar Santos Secrets of Figure Drawing
3.27.20 –  Michelle Byrne Palette Knife Painting  
3.28.20 – Michael Mentler Figure Drawing in the Renaissance Tradition
3.29.20 –  Shelby Keefe Painting From Photographs
3.30.20 –  Daniel Graves Old World Portraiture   
3.31.20 –  Kathy Anderson How to Paint Flowers in the Studio 
4.1.20   John MacDonald Creating Dynamic Landscapes   
4.2.20 – Lori Putnam Bold Brushstrokes and Confident Color  
4.3.20 – Cesar Santos Secrets of Figure Painting    
4.4.20 – Erik Koeppel Techniques of the Hudson River School Masters 2
4.5.20 – Juliette Aristides Secrets of Classical Painting   
4.6.20 – Thomas Jefferson Kitts Sorolla: Painting the Color of Light
4.7.20 – Gregory Mortenson Realistic Self Portraits
4.8.20 – Bill Davidson “Landscape Painting Secrets”
4.9.20 – Stephanie Birdsall “Lemons & Leaves”
4.10.20 – Huihan Liu “Expressive Figure Painting”
4.11.20 – Scott W. Prior “Painting the Urban Landscape”
4.12.20 – Michael Holter “7 Steps to Watercolor Portraits”
4.13.20 – Nancy Tankersley “Painting Figures From Photographs”
4.14.20 – Paul Kratter “Mastering Trees”
4.15.20 – Karl Dempwolf “California Impressionism”
4.16.20 – Albert Handell “Painting in Oil”
4.17.20 – Cynthia Rosen “Expressive Landscape Painting: Palette Knife in Plein Air” 
Why You Don’t Need More Stuff2020-04-18T13:30:26-04:00
2 02, 2020

The Power You May Not Be Using

2020-02-01T08:52:20-05:00

I feel the gift of nature, the feeling of being alive as I stare out over the fields covered with dew, the distant blue mountain, and the rays of light beaming through the twisted old oaks that fill the rough grass with shadows. Nature, somehow, feels more alive this morning, as I realize I’m in a mode of praise when I could have been grieving.

If you read about last week’s worst day ever, you may not know that after 10 sleepless nights in two different hospitals, my son walked out as a miracle, surviving what most never survive.

Groundhog Day

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray wakes up each day and repeats the exact same day, over and over. It’s comical, but also somehow profound.

Our son was living his own Groundhog Day, and we were not sure it would disappear. When the brain is shocked or given massive amounts of sedatives or amnesia-causing drugs, inflammation causes short-term memory loss.

Short-Term Memory Loss

For four days after my son’s heart attack, while he was perfectly conscious and seemed normal otherwise, we would tell him what he experienced. “Your heart stopped. They revived you. You were clinically dead,” we would say. Each time, he would say, “I was?” In fact, we did this probably 50 times in one day, and not once did he remember it, or anything else from that day. 

We brought some DVDs of his favorite TV shows (I’ve suddenly become a fan of The Simpsons), and he would watch the same episode over and over, not realizing he had watched it three hours before. Professionals told us his brain would return to normal in days or possibly weeks. But it was frightening during the days when he remembered nothing.

Our other Groundhog Day was life in the hospital. Though the hospital we were in is one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, with THE best cardiology and electrophysiology team in the world, the experience was, one day after another, a lot of waiting. A lot of the same routine as the day before.

Rushing to Wait

We arrived on Tuesday after my son was transferred, and by Sunday, five days later, he had had only one of the many tests he was supposed to have. It took two days just to do a CT scan. And we were told he needed and would have an MRI “right away,” but right away never came. First it would be Wednesday, then Thursday, then we were told the machine broke on Friday, and then we were told it would be Monday. Finally, it happened.

Though there had been tremendous value in their monitoring my son’s heart for a few days, a chance to see some other rhythm incidents, we were just parked in a room as he was cared for by very wonderful professionals — nurses, doctors, cardiologists, and others. But just sitting each day. Yes, we got daily visits for five minutes from the doctors, and regular drop-ins and care from nurses. But why could they not have done all the tests the first day or two? Looking for answers starts with the tests. Of course, the nurses and doctors have no answers for that. It’s not up to them.

Sudden Change

What would happen if the CEO of the hospital chain had experienced what we experienced? My guess is that every test would have been done the first day, the procedures done the second or third day, and the patient would be out the door. The problem is that too many CEOs of too many businesses don’t understand what their customers have to go through. If they did, things would change.

My guess is that I’ll get a survey in the mail, and my guess is that what I say will be the same thing hundreds of others have said, and nothing will change. And it crossed my mind that this could be a strategy to “sell” more room nights. I can’t imagine the size of our bill after 10 days.

Deeply Grateful No Matter What

Please keep in mind, I’m grateful. We would be thrilled to spend months on the cold blue vinyl couch if it meant saving our child. But it was frustrating, and I’m intentionally not mentioning the name of the hospital because I don’t want them to think we are anything but grateful.

But whether we’re talking about family, running a business, or doing anything in life, it’s critical that we see the world through the eyes of the people we’re in those relationships with. We all need to listen more. We all need to understand the needs of the other.

Each of us approaches our life with a built-in bias that tells us how we think things should be done, but most of us are wrong. It’s why friendships and relationships end, it’s why businesses fail. It’s why some hospitals still do things the way they were done decades before.

Two-to-One Ratio

My old friend David Gifford (Happy Birthday, Dave!) a wonderfully accomplished sales trainer, used to say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth. Listen two-thirds of the time and only talk one-third of the time.” Great advice for life. We’re all eager to speak, but we learn more when we listen.

Silence Is Golden

My dear old friend Steve Rivers used to sit and listen and never talk. He might nod, but usually it was a blank stare. It was very intimidating, and when he didn’t talk, you would ramble on and say more and more. He told me later, before he died, it was his secret weapon for success and the best technique he ever learned: Shut up and listen, and people will tell you everything you need to know. In those uncomfortable moments of silence when people were waiting for a response, he would look people in the eye and say nothing. So we would ramble on. He did not have the need to speak, just the need to listen. Listening is where you’ll find the answers.

Are you listening?

I have to admit, I’ve been a bad listener. Too many times I’m barking out instructions and directions instead of listening for answers. I’m trying to learn not to have to be the smartest guy in the room, and to become a better listener.

I’ve also learned that when you’re around someone with all the answers, you tend to clam up and say nothing, even if something needs to be said. No one wants to feel like a fool. I’m sometimes that way with others, but didn’t realize others were that way with me. So I decided to change.

What if we all listened more? My guess is that everything would change.

More Real Feedback

Recently I asked my team to talk to our customers more, saying each should talk to a couple every week. That goes for me, too. It’s easy for me because I’m always talking to people. But I need to do more of it, not only with my customers, but starting at home with my wife and my kids. I think they would talk more if I talked less and didn’t dominate the conversation so much. 

Tell Me More

There is an old technique I learned in a class one time. We were told to go to lunch, engage a waitress in conversation, and after the first question, just say, “Uh-huh, tell me more” (and find different ways to say it), and see how long we could keep them talking. I was amazed at how much I learned from my waitress. People love to talk about themselves.

I tell my kids, when on job interviews, to ask questions. Ask for advice from others. Again, people love to talk about themselves, and when we listen more than we talk, we can deliver a better relationship or customer experience. I wish I had known that at 17. 

Try it today. Ask questions, then listen. Don’t be in a hurry to comment or give your opinion. See how long you can keep it going without speaking other than “Uh-huh” or “Really? Tell me more.”  I think you’ll find it will open doors and help you in new ways.

Listening is the key to all great relationships. And life is about relationships. Let’s listen more.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m heartened by all the messages this past week about my son. Thank you all for the thoughts, good wishes, and prayers. We received hundreds of e-mails, comments, text messages, phone calls, and an outpouring of love and concern. Friends brought food to the house for the other two kids so Laurie and I could concentrate on Brady. 

Brady has made a full recovery. They discovered some abnormal heart rhythms that were causing his issues, so they were able to remove those electrical pulses in surgery and placed a defibrillator in his chest as a backup. We can all breathe easier. We returned home on Wednesday and life went back to normal. Laurie and I feel as though we experienced PTSD, and we’ve been absolutely exhausted, catching up on our sleep.

We are extremely grateful for all the good wishes and prayers, and we know that Brady is a walking miracle. First, because he was in a public place when this happened. Had he been home or at school, he probably would have not been revived because a defibrillator was necessary. Second, because when EMS could not revive him, a doctor who, unusually, happened to ride along that night was able to bring him back. Third, we later learned a harsh, gruff doctor at the first hospital wanted to send Brady home because he was convinced he had done drugs (he had not). Thankfully, a young cardiologist named Jason fought to send him to the children’s hospital, where they discovered this defect in his heart. That doctor’s bias, had Brady been sent home, probably would have resulted in his not surviving another heart attack. 

PS2: Hundreds have told me they are taking CPR classes as a result of last week’s Sunday Coffee, and many have bought defibrillators for their homes, businesses, and schools. We met a young man who had the same issue as Brady, who coached him on life with a defibrillator. This young man convinced the state of Texas to make a law to put a defibrillator in every school in Texas. We need to make this a federal law for all schools, all malls, all public places, and honestly, it should be in every home and business. I bought one this week for our home. 

PS3: I’m very excited about my upcoming Plein Air Convention this May in Denver. It’s our best speaker-teacher lineup yet, with some of the best artists in the world. If this plein air thing is something you want to explore, this is the best possible place to experience it, but we don’t have a lot of seats left (this is our biggest ever). Last I checked there were 94 left (unusual to have so few seats left this early), and you can save $500 off the price by booking before February 14, Valentine’s Day, which will be here soon. And right before the convention, we have a rare Scott Christensen workshop, a great Thomas Schaller watercolor workshop, and a Plein Air Basics Course for beginners.

PS4: I should also mention that my event in the Adirondacks, where we paint for a week (no training), is almost sold out. I think we have 15 seats left. This is the 10-year anniversary, and I’m planning some new and different things for this year only. And my Fall Color Week painting retreat for September in the White Mountains will be sold out before we know it too.

PS5: You may have heard me say I’m going to spend three weeks in China on a seven-city speaking tour, speaking at the top universities teaching art and meeting with top art leaders and artists in China, as well as attending two massive plein air events there, all while filming three documentaries. You’ll be pleased to know that I’m not going until the coronavirus has been eradicated. I will, however, be heading to Russia soon to film an art instruction video with the top Russian artist in St. Petersburg, and to shoot some documentary footage for two films I’m producing. Like Russia or not politically, they have the two best art schools in the world, and saved realism when other countries had moved into modernism. I’m also working on planning for a painting trip to Russia in September 2021, a rare chance to paint in the exact spots painted by Repin, Levitan, Shiskin, and others, including small Russian villages with livestock in the streets and women wearing babushkas and carrying water to their charming little dachas. It will include visits to the top museums and tourist attractions in Saint Petersburg, and hopefully meetings with my friend who is the director of the Hermitage, along with visits to the best art schools in the world. We will be accompanied by some of the leading Russian artists, who will work with anyone wanting some help. I’m only able to take 50 people, and if you have interest (with no obligation), send an e-mail and simply say, “Yes, I am interested in Russia.”

The Power You May Not Be Using2020-02-01T08:52:20-05:00
26 01, 2020

My Worst Day Ever

2020-01-25T10:45:15-05:00

Awakened from my sleep this morning by the sounds of beeping heart monitors, loud alarms, frequent interruptions by nurses, the bright fluorescent lights, and the chatty nurses’ station nearby. The hospital is no place to rest. This morning is our sixth day here.

This morning I’m going to recount what I think was the biggest horror my wife and I have ever experienced. 

Dinner Interrupted

On Monday at 7:30, while we were having dinner, the phone rang. Since I did not recognize the number, I almost didn’t answer. I assumed it was another unwanted telemarketing call, but for some reason I answered. The voice on the other end said, “This is Brady’s friend John. Brady has had a seizure, what should I do?” I immediately told him to call 911 and tell me where they were. 

Within moments Laurie and I were en route to the bingo hall where they had been playing. Minutes later, we reached this boy’s mom on the phone; she was close by and got there before we could. 

Play-By-Play

On her speaker phone, she’s doing play-by-play, with perfect calm. We could hear things going on in the background: “He isn’t breathing, he has no pulse. The CPR isn’t working.”

Our son was clinically dead.

As EMS arrived, they too tried to revive him, with no luck. One EMS professional is on the phone to us explaining what they are doing, asking us medical history questions and asking us to rush there. Of course, our emotions are running high, we’re trying to drive, listen, and cope with the fact that our teenage son is dying.

Suddenly the EMS officer says, “They have a pulse.” The most beautiful words I’ve ever heard in my life.

Laurie and I are driving as fast as we can to get there, to see him, let him know we love him, and prepared in an instant to say our final goodbye. We are in shock, and can hardly believe it. 

Change of Plans

“Meet us at the hospital, don’t come here. We’re on our way,” says the voice on the phone. Quickly we change direction and arrive at the emergency room, but there is no ambulance — and it should have been there before us. Ten minutes go by, still no ambulance. We’re thinking the worst.

Minds Playing Tricks

Then suddenly an ambulance appears, but it’s driving slowly, with no lights or siren. We look at each other in disbelief. Had he died along the way? Does that explain why they are no longer rushing? We’re sure this is the case, because what are the odds another ambulance would appear when one is supposed to be coming? Our minds are playing terrible tricks on us. We assume he is inside and they have done all they can. We’re watching the doors slowly open, and thankfully, as the doors open, there is a woman on a stretcher whom they were transporting. We both breathe a sigh of relief as we hold each other.

Moments later we hear sirens and see flashing red and blue lights. The ambulance rushes in and we run to the entrance to be there with our son. We see his limp body on the gurney. His face is covered with a mask and he is hooked up to all kinds of wires.

A Lucky Day

As they pull him out, they tell us he is alive. They had trouble reviving him. He was in critical condition and could not breathe on his own. The EMS officer approaches us and says, “Your son is very lucky,” of all things. “One of the doctors was riding with us tonight. If he had not been there, he may not have made it. We couldn’t revive him on our own.”

Helplessly Watching

We watch helplessly in the ER, between our tears and fears. Our son’s body is convulsing and shaking. “Just the meds we gave him, we assure you.”

But we have to get him stabilized. At that point we, and they, don’t know what is going on, what the problem is. All we know is that he collapsed and his heart stopped. 

Our 17-year-old baby has a dozen or more people tending to him, putting in tubes and wires, meds and fluids. We watch helplessly for two more hours. The only calls are to some friends for support, and to his siblings who rushed to visit, in case it’s our last chance to tell him we love him.

Hours with No Answers

For two hours, we don’t know if he is going to live. Then once he is moved out of the ER into intensive care, we watch for three or four more hours, waiting for him to stabilize. Finally, we’re told he is breathing on his own again, but the respirator is there to supplement and help in case he stops. 

Toxicology reports show no drugs were involved. A CT scan shows no brain damage from when his heart wasn’t pumping and no head damage from the fall. “We think he is going to be OK,” says the doctor. “He is showing signs of improvement.” The words we needed to hear.

A Small Nod and Big Hope

At his side, holding his hand, kissing his cheek and talking to him, we want him to know we are there, but there is no response. Finally, hours later, a nod of acknowledgement is the hope the doctor was looking for. It’s another 12 hours before he opens his eyes.

Hours later, the ventilator is no longer needed and the tubes are removed. Soon the sedation begins to wear off and we have some signs — brief open eyes and a word or two. 

Hours pass, and we don’t know if it’s day or night, but we look and see it’s 3 p.m. the following day. We still don’t have our son fully back, yet each hour that passes, we see improvement. 

Doctors now think our son had a cardiac event, something that rarely happens to a teen. They study his heart and decide to transfer him to Dell Children’s ICU, where the cardiologists and electrophysiologists can study him more. 

Amnesia

Over several days he is being monitored, probed, and tested. He is awake, alert, and bored, but he has no short-term memory. We’re assured it will return, it’s from brain inflammation as a result of the shock to revive him and the amnesia drugs used when intubating him. He cannot remember anything told to him for more than about 10 minutes. We started the week with him wondering why we were in his room, as his brain gradually came back. Though we will still experience this short-term memory problem for a few more days, maybe weeks, we’ve seen a vast improvement. 

Learning About Ourselves

A moment like this is one no parent ever wants to experience. But also a time we learn lessons about ourselves. For instance, our ability to make hard decisions even as we were surrounded by devastating grief. Both of us were thinking surprisingly clearly in spite of being so emotional. We also learned how much we can do without sleep if we have to. I think we were both awake for over a day and a half before being comfortable enough to sleep. We had to know he was stable and out of danger. 

Of course, parenting doesn’t stop. We not only had to deal with this tragedy, but the fears of our two other kids. They were dealing with their anxiety and emotions and we had to be there for them and help them through it. In short, we had to be at our best during the worst experience of either of our lives.

The Moment We’re Never Prepared For

All of our parenting, our training in business, and our ability to manage our emotions comes together in one moment of parenting where the best and worst are displayed at once. It’s our purpose. Though it’s not what we hope for, it’s what we’re there for. It’s a time to step up, to wake up, and to take control.

Showing Appreciation

The last time I saw my son before the incident, I dropped him off at his friend’s, said goodbye. No hug, no kiss, not realizing in that moment that it may have been the last moment I saw him alive. Seeing him lying in the bed all wired up, looking at his strong teen hands, I realized that I needed to hold them every minute I could, knowing I might never get another chance. Our kids, our loved ones, are treasures we take for granted. They are precious jewels, and we need to treat them as the precious cargo they are at every encounter. We need to show appreciation and make sure every encounter is one we’ll be proud of.

In Bigger Hands

As my mind wandered into the worst case scenario, I felt peace knowing the outcome for my son was in God’s hands. Though we prayed like crazy, there was a peace, knowing we had to trust His will. Not an easy thought, but a peaceful one. There is only so much control we as humans can have.

A Second Chance

During all our waiting, I flashed through the memories of my son’s life, our good and bad encounters, some I wished I could undo. Though I can’t change our past, I can change our future in the second chance we’ve been given. And hopefully I take no one for granted and embrace every moment, knowing any of us could be gone in a split second.

Saving Future Lives

Had my son collapsed in his room playing video games, he would not have survived. Thankfully, a crowded bingo hall had one CPR-trained person. I owe my son’s life to that person. That person could be you next time. And if your family is trained, they could be saving you or me.

If we could do one good thing from all of this, it would be to ask you to learn CPR. And if you know it but have not trained in the last five years, everything is different now. I’m told that proper CPR made a huge difference in my son’s survival. 

Twenty-five years ago I required everyone in my company to take CPR classes. I had a CPR trainer come to our office and train all of my employees. That night on the way home, Jim, our art director, saw an accident and gave CPR to the driver, saving his life. The very same day. Any day before that he would not have known what to do.

Your Next Purchase

This is a story I’m uncomfortable sharing because it’s very personal, but I hope it may wake you and me up to appreciate our loved ones more, learn CPR, and to get a defibrillator for our homes or offices. Turns out a defibrillator awoke my son’s heart when CPR alone would not. Yes, they are expensive, but human life is worth more. Buy one. You’ll never regret it. I’ve learned that some heart attacks cannot be resolved by CPR alone, but only by a defibrillator.

Grateful

I’m not only grateful for the prayers, but for the dozens of people who saved my son’s life and who worked with us over the past week. There is surgery and at least another few days of hospital time ahead. I’m also grateful for all the prayers from people around the globe, and for all the people showing support and offering to help. I’ve not been able to work for a week, and because of my vacation and time at a workshop, I’ve not worked for a month. I’m grateful for the amazing team that has kept the trains running on time. Thank you to everyone for the good wishes.

Hug your family, and keep us in your prayers.

Eric Rhoads

My Worst Day Ever2020-01-25T10:45:15-05:00
12 01, 2020

You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This

2020-01-10T14:46:14-05:00

Scratchy wool socks and a worn old sweatshirt don’t seem to be enough to warm my chilled body this morning. We had a temperature drop from our unseasonably warm winter last night as clouds billowed through the sky at the speed of a freight train bringing carloads of cold as its cargo. Yet tradition is a must, and unless it’s unbearably cold or hot, writing you from this long old covered porch overlooking the 40 acres behind me is my one superstition. Coffee and thoughts are always better here, in the secure comfort of my special spot on the squeaky wicker couch.

Walking Under Ladders

Superstitions are kind of weird to me. Yet, though I put my trust in God, I still think twice before walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella indoors. It seems powerfully odd to me that a well educated, perfectly intelligent being like you or me would think these old wives’ tales have some power to change our lives. 

Telling Your Fortune

I feel the same way about horoscopes. Things come true — not because some writer at a newspaper somewhere sees it in the stars, but because the power of suggestion makes things happen. A horoscope predicts nothing, yet they make us look for those things to happen. I refuse to read horoscopes, even for entertainment, because suggestion is so powerful. (Plus, I don’t need to meet a dark handsome stranger.)

Your Future Is Bright

Our minds are so powerful that carefully implanted suggestions can control us. Recently, I was reading a book about sales that revealed a technique called “future pacing,” where you make a suggestion early on about something that is going to occur in someone’s future, and then, later on in the process, it becomes their idea. I for one don’t want anything so badly that I have to manipulate someone into buying something with some subtle technique.

Credible Leaders

Suggestion happens in our lives, no matter how much we think we have control over ourselves. It starts with how strong the credibility is of the person suggesting something. If I trust someone, respect them, and think they have lots of answers, I’m more likely to listen to their suggestion and make it happen.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid™

Suggestion can be used for evil or for good. Though hypnotists say you cannot be controlled and won’t do anything you don’t want to do, I suppose I’d say that too if I were trying to make a group of people feel comfortable with what was about to happen to them. Of course we’ve seen historical examples of mass hypnosis, such as the tragedy of Jim Jones’s followers and their mass suicide. 

Walking on Fire

On the good side, someone implanting positive ideas, perhaps helping you overcome years of bad behavior, can be a benefit. Tony Robbins comes to mind. I was reluctant to attend one of his events because I didn’t want a dose of positive thinking alone. Convinced by a friend, I went anyway, and as a result overcame some things in my head that were controlling me. Now I recommend him. I’ve watched Robbins change people’s stories in about 10 minutes, unsticking them from stories that had controlled them all their lives.

Overcoming Bad Habits

We need suggestion. We need guidance. And usually we don’t know we need it. For instance, I just returned from a weeklong painting workshop with David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw, two amazing master painters. I knew they could teach me something, but I had no idea that they would implant new concepts into my brain that overcame years of bad habits. Interestingly enough, their teaching technique, which I was initially bothered by, turned out to be the best possible thing for me. They made me struggle before showing me how to fix things, so when the fix was revealed, I understood it more deeply. The result was a shift of thinking, helping me let go of things I thought I was doing right. And I fought it, I didn’t want to let go — yet with their leadership and suggestions, I embraced what I originally resisted.

There are four stages of awareness:

Unconscious Incompetence: This means you are unaware of your lack of skill and proficiency. For instance, maybe you’re a terrible driver and totally unaware of it.

Conscious Incompetence: You are aware of your lack of skill, yet still don’t become proficient. You know you’re a bad driver, but you keep being a bad driver.

Conscious Competence: You are able to use a skill, but it takes a lot of effort. You’re now a good driver, but you have to think about it at every step to make sure you’re driving well.

Unconscious Competence: Performing the skill becomes automatic. You’re now a good driver and you don’t have to think about it.

Many of us spend the better parts of our lives in a state of unconscious incompetence. We’re unaware of our shortcomings. Yet the goal is to become aware and make the necessary changes to go through the stages. First, find out you have a problem, then work to fix it. Practice it, even if it’s uncomfortable, and then master it.

In the workshop I went from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence. And if I keep practicing, maybe I’ll get to the level of taking the principles I learned into every painting I do until I can do it in my sleep.

Live Aware

Rather than living my life unaware of my shortcomings, I want to know I have them. I want to become aware, and then fix them to the point that they are no longer problems. This is why I am continually suggesting people push themselves out of their comfort zone to learn new things. The result is learning about yourself. It’s also why, in spite of being a fairly busy guy, I took a week out of my year and away from my business to improve, and it’s why I created things like the Plein Air Convention and the Figurative Art Convention so people can be exposed to things they don’t know. 

Have you ever heard someone boasting about something, and you’re internally shaking your head and thinking, “They have no idea how wrong they are.” That’s because you’re consciously competent and they are unconsciously incompetent.

That’s why suggestion is so powerful. We turn to others to give us guidance and direction, hoping they can offer something that will change our lives. Sometimes we turn to evil not knowing it’s evil, and sometimes we turn to something with the hope that it’s good.

The Power of Discomfort

The best thing we can do with our lives is to get uncomfortable, and to spend our lives staying uncomfortable. I was really intimidated the first time I went to Russia. I was afraid because of things I’d heard or seen in movies and on the news, yet I did it anyway, and it opened doors to a whole new understanding of art, the world, and so much more. It resulted in new lifelong friendships, and exposure to things I’d never otherwise have seen.

You don’t know what you don’t know. But you have to know there are so many things you don’t know that could be life-altering for you. The key is to try things that make you nervous, and things that take you out of your comfort zone. It’s amazingly freeing, and it will truly enrich your life.

Stop Being Stuck

We all get stuck, but we are unconsciously stuck. I’m stuck in areas where I don’t know I’m stuck. I go online and buy random courses I have no interest in and knew nothing about, and I watch them on the treadmill in the morning. I also listen to random podcasts, and I find myself learning things I didn’t know I needed to know.

Be random. Try new things.

Be adventurous. Try things that make you uncomfortable.

A life of adventure awaits those who embrace discomfort.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m putting myself way out of my comfort zone this year, working on projects I never believed could happen. I’m making my first trip to China, on a seven-city speaking tour, meeting with top artists, visiting top art schools, and doing a little painting along the way. I’m excited but also intimidated. Yet I’m sure I’ll be more worldly as a result, and I’ll meet some amazing new friends. 

In the interest of awareness, I should let you know that our May Plein Air Convention & Expo is the biggest and most popular ever. We’re almost out of seats already — I think when I last looked we had 125 seats left, which is not very many. (Last year at this time we had 300 seats left.) I met some people this week who said, “I want to go, but I don’t think I’m good enough.” Please know that we all embrace new painters because we were all new at one time. We have people who will work with you, and you can sign up for our pre-convention Basics Course, headed by Carrie Curran and several instructors who will walk you through everything you need to know to join the plein air movement. Get out of your comfort zone, put the ego aside, and do something for yourself.

You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This2020-01-10T14:46:14-05:00
5 01, 2020

How to Grow Wings

2020-01-02T11:26:04-05:00

It’s ironic. We spent two weeks to get sun and warmth, but instead got clouds and rain. Today, waking up in Austin, the sun is shining, the temperature is warm, and the glow of golden light greets my morning, putting a big smile on my face.

Last week during the storms, the rain, the dark clouds, and the high winds, everyone was hunkered down, staying inside as much as possible, trying to stay warm and dry. Yet as I looked at the sky from inside, I noticed some giant birds were taking advantage of the high thermal winds, frolicking about like surfers who had found high waves. 

Instead of hiding out in a tree, they were soaring more than ever, taking advantage of what the rest of us thought were bad conditions. I could have watched them for hours.

A Call for Help

Last week I received a message on social media from a man who said he’s been watching me for years. He runs a business and asked me for some time so I could offer him some advice. According to him, “I’m amazed at how much you get done and want to know how you do it.” I’ll tell him it’s about growing your wings.

A Mega Yacht

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to take a ride on a mega yacht owned by one of the wealthiest men in America. We got to know him because his yacht was docked across from the houseboat we were staying on, which he also owned. 

Know Thyself

It’s easy to be impressed in a situation like that. Riding on a multimillion-dollar yacht, hearing about his racehorses, his classic sports car collection, his dozens of businesses, some of which are household names, and his jets. It’s also easy to allow yourself to feel small and insignificant for not having accomplished that level of wealth. This man had unbelievable financial success, but did he have wings?

Chasing Wealth

When I was a young business guy, it was great wealth that I wanted. Our society has drilled that into our heads: Success is stuff. Lots of expensive stuff. And I spent years chasing stuff and finding there was never enough; someone else always had more. In comparison to this guy, I could maybe have afforded one chair on his boat. Nothing more. 

But that is a dead end game for me. Maybe some people are cut out for it, but it was not until I let go of it that I started to feel my body lift off the ground. It’s when I started to grow my wings. The more I let go, the more I lifted off. 

The Magic of Purpose

Wings grow from purpose. And when you grow wings, you begin to lift off. The more purpose you get, the more good you do, the more you reveal your true heart, the higher you will soar.

It’s like the more you give, the more you get. For instance, there is a principle called tithing, meaning giving a percentage of what you earn to do good things. It can also be a percentage of your time. And the more you give, the more you end up getting.

You see, wings are about letting go. We tend to cling tightly to things, to money, to what we have … yet the minute we start letting go of those things, we start to soar. 

You won’t find this in business books or books about success, yet it is one of the greatest principles of success. 

Purity of Heart

Of course, some try to game the system … meaning they give more just to get more. But that lacks purity of intention, and when it occurs, they will get some lift, but they won’t soar. When your heart is right, when you’re doing things for a grand purpose and making it all about others, your wings will take you to play in the winds overhead.

Chasing Generosity

Once I let go of the foolish idea of chasing wealth for the sake of wealth, and instead chased generosity and the idea that my life needs to be devoted to helping others, the skies opened up, the wings came out, and I’ve been able to soar to do more.

That should be a slogan … Soar to do more.

Goodbye, Self

When we let go of self, when we stop worrying about ourselves and start doing more for others, we’ll be dripping with reward. Your heart will be the happiest it’s ever been — but it can also lead to financial reward if your intent is pure.

Soar More

Last week I talked about happiness and never letting things or others define what makes you happy. But if you can engage others in your life in your bigger mission, you’ll soar more, and you’ll help them soar. For instance, my employees have a bigger purpose knowing that we take 10 percent of our company earnings every year to build a house for the homeless shelter in my town. We’ve built several now, and it changes lives. 

Getting Lift

True encouragement will also give you lift. Surround yourself with people who believe in you even when you have doubts about yourself — people who truly can be the wind beneath your wings. We all need that. We can fly without it, but it’s better when you can share it with others who believe in you.

When you grow wings, some will want to help you grow them bigger and help you soar higher, but others will want to cut them off or weigh you down. You have to be willing to embrace those who encourage you and ignore those who want to see you fall. 

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury

Don’t Wait for Perfection

People want to make things perfect before they take a leap, but perfection does not exist. Tiny efforts lead to bigger wings. Find something you can do that will use your dreams to help others, or just jump in and volunteer somewhere. It’s also one of the best ways to overcome depression. You get a rush of dopamine when helping others and when you stop being selfish.

I believe we all have wings, and they will come at the right time. But you can’t wait for them. They are waiting for you.

“Wings are freedom only when they are wide open in flight. On one’s back they are a heavy weight.” —- Marina Tsvetaeva

The Death of Self

If I could do just one thing for my kids to secure their future, it would be to help them understand that selfishness is the road to ruin. Selfish may get you great wealth, but if you want a fulfilling life, it’s about being selfless. The death of self is the beginning of life. It’s taken me decades to learn that and get my own wings.

It’s not about how much I can do, it’s that when I have wind under my wings, and I see that others are benefiting, I cannot do enough. You’ll also find that to be true.

Imagination 

Stop being self-focused or career-focused and instead use your imagination to discover how you can leverage your skills and career to help others. Then, and only then, will you truly get your wings.

I wish I had discovered this decades ago. Looking back, others tried to tell me, but I thought I knew better. Still, that resulted in me spending my life learning powerful lessons that made me ready to receive my wings when it was time. 

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”  — Muhammad Ali

What about you?

Have you grown your wings?

Are you focused on generosity?

Can you soar more?

When you have wings, all your aches and pains and problems become secondary. 

Go soar.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last week, I received three different e-mails from people who said, “I feel like you wrote this especially for me.” This happens to Laurie and I a lot at church — we feel like the sermon was just for us to hear. Though these Coffees are just life lessons, not sermons, if you know someone you think would enjoy it, or maybe someone struggling to get some wind under their wings, maybe you could pass this along and they will subscribe for free. And if you’re not a subscriber, I hope you’ll consider it.

Today I’m getting on an airplane, but not for business for a change. I’m treating myself to a one-week workshop in painting from masters David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw in Scottsdale. One of my personal deliverables for 2020 is to be a better painter, which excites me, so I’m launching my year with this in mind. Yes, it’s selfish, but it will help me soar in other areas of my life. I’m also signed up to study with another artist later in the year.

How to Grow Wings2020-01-02T11:26:04-05:00
29 12, 2019

The Happiness Myth

2019-12-27T12:42:44-05:00

Fierce winds are blowing, flags are flapping, palm branches are bending, and the boat is rocking back and forth beyond a gentle pace, yet not too uncomfortably. 

A thick layer of gray-blue clouds covers the big sky, and in the distance rows of condos are lined up on the beach like soup cans in the pantry. Boats of all kinds surround me, including mega yachts owned by celebrities, though we’ve had no celebrity sightings. We’re here in North Palm Beach, living through the holiday break in a marina, aboard a boat. 

Grateful for the Break

I’m feeling very grateful to be here in warm weather, even on a blustery and windy day, able to sit in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, having time in close quarters with our kids, being able to reconnect with other family, and getting extra time with each of them. As I said last week, I’m doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about life and happiness.

No doubt we all want to be happy, but too often we look to others or to things or events to make us happy. Let me give you some examples…

  • If I get that promotion and more money, I’ll be happier.
  • If I just get a new car, I’ll be happier.
  • If I just get a bigger house…
  • If I get better vacations…
  • If I get all this stress off my back…
  • If I meet someone new….
  • If I just get another degree…

In my striving for lifelong happiness by chasing things, changing circumstances, working to get better, I’ve realized nothing I do is going to make me happy.

Less Is More

Most people I know who make more money continue to live on the edge, have lots of debt, and are not any further ahead. Instead of putting more away when they get a new job or a raise, they just buy more stuff … better cars, bigger houses. Then they are in the same unhappy boat they were in before.

And most who achieve the things they want realize that those things don’t make them happy at all. (Oh, maybe there is a momentary thrill.)

Seduction

I think back to a time I wanted a new car. I wanted that fancy blue convertible so badly I could taste it. So I bought it, and it was a thrill for the first couple of weeks, but after that, it was just transportation. It did not make me any happier, and I would argue it made me less happy because I had a bigger lease payment.

Humility

Today, I drive a 2002 Honda Element. I bought it because it was my ideal paint car … I didn’t have to worry about getting cadmium yellow paint on the leather seats of my Volvo (which happened). And every time I get the desire for something new and shiny, I think about how little I drive, how much I love my car, and how I have three kids going into college and I don’t need anything else to create financial pressure. 

I have an acquaintance who is a billionaire and drives a 12-year-old Buick because he is practical and doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone.

So if things, changes, events don’t make me happy, then how do I get happy?

Changes Alone Won’t Work

I’ve realized that if I’m not happy now, then changes won’t make me happy. What I’m focused on is living with joy, knowing that no matter how good or how bad things are, my joy is always present. Even when things are tough, when life throws difficult challenges, that joy remains in my heart. 

Joy itself should be the goal — not hoping some new thing will make you happy.

OK, then, how do I get joy?

Joy comes from gratitude. Being thankful for what you have, no matter how good or bad your circumstances are. Being thankful that you still have breath, that you still have life. 

Have you ever seen sad stories on Facebook or met people who are in terrible circumstances who make the best of them and are living with joy?

That’s what I strive to be.

Challenge Your Brain

Don’t get me wrong, we should want to be the best version of ourselves. We need to take ourselves to higher levels to challenge our brains, and we owe it to ourselves to strive for excellence, to play the game at the highest level. But if you’re doing it to find happiness, I don’t think you’ll find it there.

Being You

Joy also comes from being your own person, being who you truly are. I tell my kids that the minute you cross the line to doing something sleazy or dishonest or inappropriate, you live on the other side of that line. It may be a small thing, but the next time, you’ll rationalize a little wrongdoing again, and it will grow and grow until you’ve lost the trust of others, and you may end up in jail. They always say that once-innocent people end up in prison because they tell themselves, “It won’t matter, it’s just a dollar, no one will notice.”

Being your own person means living on your own terms, no matter what they are. If you’re not meeting your own terms, you’re crossing over the line against yourself.

Resolutions Are for Amateurs

In a couple of days we’ll celebrate the start of the year 2020. Instead of making a bunch of resolutions that will be broken, how about just living with gratitude and joy on your own terms? When you live like that, everything else will fall into place and you’ll be more successful in your life than you ever imagined. 

Find joy in each moment of each day. Be grateful for where you are and what you have. Forgive those around you no matter what, because not forgiving means living in chains binding you to your anger. Let go, and live on your terms.

What about you?

Are you chasing happiness? 

Do you find joy in today, in the now?

Are you grateful for where you are now?

Are you forgiving to others?

There is no better way to start 2020 than with joy in your heart.

Happy 2020 … see you next year.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Close your eyes for a moment and ask yourself this question: What is something I’ve always wanted to do, but have not done?

What comes to mind?

Now, listen to the judging in your head: “Oh, I could never do that.” There is usually some reason.

It seems to me if you have always wanted to do something, if it’s the first thing that comes to mind, you should find a way to do it in 2020. Roadblocks are only meant to keep the amateurs off the road. People who want things never listen to the voices in their head telling them what’s not possible. They never let the reasons things cannot be done get in the way. I believe in you. It’s your turn. Nothing is impossible.

Almost every time I’m outside painting, someone approaches me and says, “I wish I could do that, but I don’t have any talent. I can’t even draw a stick figure.” To me, that’s a cry for help, and I believe I can teach anyone to draw or paint. Anyone, even you. I put together a simple system for those people. It will teach you things most art teachers don’t teach, and I believe you will have success (unless you don’t try it). People who read my social media posts (follow me at ericrhoads on Facebook — though I have no room for more friends, according to them — and @ericrhoads on Instagram) say they wish they could travel the world painting like I do. The first step is learning to paint. The rest will come. I have a free lesson at www.paintbynote.com, a system I came up with to learn using the principle of musical notes. Try it. Don’t give up when you get frustrated — frustration is the signal that you’re about to have a breakthrough.

The Happiness Myth2019-12-27T12:42:44-05:00