18 02, 2024

The Cure for Selfishness

2024-02-18T08:13:21-05:00

Cake everywhere! 

It was in their hair, in their ears, and all over their clothes. 

Laurie and I decided to celebrate the first birthday of our triplets, Grace, Brady, and Berkeley, by laying a plastic sheet on the floor and letting the kids dig into a birthday cake. It was a giant mess as they grabbed handfuls and stuffed cake into their mouths. It was their first real exposure to sugar, so they got very wired very fast. Afterward, the bathtub had a ring of grease that took lots of scrubbing to clean up. Though it was really a bad idea, it was a lot of fun to watch and made for great photos (I’ll post some on my social media).

This past Friday, our little babies turned 22. So Laurie and I flew from Florida to Austin to celebrate with them. This time the cake went on a plate and had 22 candles. 

Now that our kids are working and/or in college, we don’t get to see much of them and each moment is precious, which is why we went to the trouble to fly in for the special day. Once they have their own lives and families, it will be more difficult to gather them. 

No Kids, Please!

When I first got married at age 25, not much older than they are now, I did not want kids. Instead I wanted to be free to travel the world and do what I wanted. But time changed my desire to have children, once I stopped believing every day was about me. And though it has been the hardest work my wife and I have ever done (harder for her than for me), it has been the most rewarding.

Good and Bad All at Once?

How is it that one thing can be two opposite emotions at once?  Parenting is both horrible and joyful, at the same time.

Horrible moments like when all five of us got the flu, and we had to figure out a way to care for three sick kids and ourselves when we could barely lift our heads off our pillows. Or when doctors misdiagnosed them with a deadly disease and were about to put them through three years of drug “cocktails” to save them. When we insisted they be tested again, the doctors humored us, but discovered they were wrong. We’ve had horrible moments like numerous trips to the hospital, calls to doctors, calls to EMS, dealing with school bullies, difficult teachers, and some tough school years. 

We’ve also had some expensive moments, like three sets of Big Wheels, then three trikes, then three of the next size of trike, then three small bikes, then three bigger bikes, and then bigger and bigger and then scooters and wagons and every other imaginable contraption until we got to cars. Then it was three college tuitions at once. We’re still writing those checks.

Or frustrating moments like having all of our tools disappear, or finding moldy candy bars stuffed in the deep recesses of their disgusting closets. Or having to repeat ourselves 50 times and still having them forget to do things.

Not Good for Landfills

The years have been a blur. We don’t remember a lot of it. Triplets kept us very busy. We once calculated that we used over 16,000 diapers. We did three science fair projects a year for several years. Then there was homework, band, after-school activities, and so much more. It was exhausting. And we only had three the same age. I can’t imagine what it’s like for families with four or more kids, all different ages. 

Even Bad Days Are Joy-Filled

Yet the last 22 years have been filled with joy. It’s been the most incredible experience of my life, more incredible than traveling the world and meeting important people. I would not trade anything for the joy and pain of parenting. We would both do it all again, including the sleepless nights, the tears and fears, because the joy outweighs any challenge we could face. And we’re realizing that parenting never stops, it just changes. We have a lot of new things to look forward to in the future. 

The best cure for selfishness is to have kids. I was really selfish, but kids took all of that away.

The best way to learn to love is to have kids. There is no love like the love of your children, and there is no way to explain it to someone, but once they have kids, they always agree. 

The purpose of Sunday Coffee has been to express my thoughts, my ideas and ideals, and to share moments about life that might serve my kids well in the future, if and when they ever decide to start reading these. So today I dedicate this missive to my children in honor of their birthday. 

Being Selfless

For those who don’t have kids, don’t care to have kids, could not have kids … joy is found by serving others. I think that’s why parenting is such a wonderful experience — because it’s selfless. Seek places and people you can serve and you’ll have a very fulfilling, enriched life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: We had a massive number of people sign up for our Plein Air Convention before our Valentine’s Day price increase. Thanks to all who plan to join us. 

There is still room for our online event called PleinAir Live, coming in March. It’s a great way to experience plein air and learn all about the lifestyle and the process while staying home.

The Cure for Selfishness2024-02-18T08:13:21-05:00
11 02, 2024

Are You a Dream Weaver?

2024-02-10T19:26:25-05:00

Coming to a dead stop in her flight across the sky, an eagle dives straight down to the water and scores a sizable fish with her massive golden talons. She has no fear. She does not think about what might happen if she fails, if she hits the water wrong and crashes. She is focused on her sole purpose. Getting food. 

“Do the thing you fear to do, and keep on doing it. That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —  Dale Carnegie

Some of us are born with no fear. 

That’s not me. I have fear of a lot of things. But I never have feared starting a business, even from a young age when I made lemonade stands and sold candles, and over decades of business startups.

The Gift of Youth

When you’re young and naive, you don’t fear life as much. You have not yet seen the repercussions of doing doughnuts in the parking lot, racing down the highway at top speeds, or daring to dart in front of a speeding train just before it hits the crossing.

I did all those things. I was strong, confident, and I could never die. 

Sadly, others did die. I had four classmates in high school who were driving drunk and were hit by a train. Three of the four died.

And as we grow older and wiser, we have more stories to tell of others whose reckless pursuits did not go well. That helps us mature.

When we start up a business for the first time, we have never experienced the difficult days — the decades of experience that make us exercise caution and play the “what if?” game.

At a young age, we have nothing to lose. Even if we lost our life savings, how much could it be? And we know we can easily make it back again.

No Pressure

It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have no spouse or partner, no kids, no mortgage, and no pressure. Once you have those things to consider, reckless pursuits are dampened by fear of loss. 

The joy of parenting includes watching my kids make reckless decisions, like jumping out of airplanes, even though I begged one of them not to do it — a dear friend urged me not to let my kids do it after the painful loss of a child. 

I, too, was an adrenaline junkie until I got married and had kids. 

A New Chapter

A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons lost his job. I was not unhappy about it because he was never happy in that job, did not love the way he perceived he was being treated, and he was making almost no money. But of course we worried that he needed to get something else quickly so he could pay his rent. Plus, he is like me and can’t work for others. He rejects authority, as I do.

So he and his friend decided to start a tree service. He put out the word and got a customer to pay them a couple thousand bucks for a project the first day.

Beaming with Pride

For the first time in a long time, I saw pride of accomplishment in his face, and he was determined to get other customers by making flyers, knocking on doors, and making posts on Nextdoor.com and Facebook Marketplace. 

He has no fear.

Proud Papa

You can imagine how proud I am of my kid when he is launching his own business and got his first customer, and for the first time in his life, generated money from his own brain, his own labor, not getting his money from a job or a parent, but from a customer. 

What Experience Tells Me

Of course, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “This could be tough.” It may have been beginner’s luck to get a customer, and the others might not come as easily. And of course, it was not long till he was discouraged because other customers were not jumping in the boat like the first one had. 

Yet he continued doing all the right things to market and promote his business. And he’s learning just how hard it is, but still he has no fear. He is confident he will figure it out, and so am I. And once he has had a taste of business success, he’ll never have a job working for anyone else again. 

The Power of Encouragement

I knew this would not be easy, and my first temptation was to talk to him about all the things he was not thinking about … like insurance and taxes and safety and 900 other things business owners have to think about. I could have told him all those things, but I bit my tongue. Instead I told him I had confidence in him, that I knew he would figure it out, and that he is doing all the right things, and that I was proud of him.

The Power of Discouragement

People are fragile. If someone they love and respect tells them that they don’t believe in them, or gets overly negative about everything that could go wrong, they will often stop and never try again. I’ve seen it far too many times in life. When people stop trying, they always wonder what could have been.

A Discouraging Word

When I was about 11 and told my aunt I wanted to get into radio, she told me it was a bad idea, that radio people were poor-quality people, that it was not a good industry to be a part of and I should pick something else. Instead of swaying me, it made me determined to prove her wrong. “One day I’ll be successful and show her,” I said to myself. I was passionate, I had found what I loved, and nothing was going to get in my way. And ultimately, my dream came true. I got into radio at 14, had my own show, worked on top radio stations, and even ended up as an owner of radio stations and radio-industry magazines and conferences. But what if I had listened to my aunt? I would have missed a lifetime of wonderful experiences and friends. 

You Can’t Make a Living as an Artist

I can share countless stories of people whose parents told them to pursue something other than art, because they “couldn’t possibly make a living.” I have stories of people who allowed their parents to influence them and spent an unhappy life in some other industry before coming back to art and finding their joy. I also have stories of people who proved their parents wrong and became successful and made more money than they ever imagined (even though it was never about money).

Don’t Squash Dreams

Be a dream weaver, not a dream destroyer.

If I had known all the difficult things I would face in business startups, I probably would have backed out. Getting your teeth kicked in is part of the growth process, and though it still happens on a regular basis, it hurts less every time, and the benefits outweigh the difficult stuff.

Encourage people. Build them up. No matter how much you see that they might be in for a tough year or two, let them find out for themselves. Though your instinct is to protect them, we have to let them experience the tough stuff too. We grow from adversity.

What I Discovered

Most of the people in my life are dream destroyers. I’ve launched 20 or 30 businesses or business products over the decades that I was told would never work, were likely to fail, were stupid ideas that no one would buy. I even did research that told me something would fail, did it anyway, and had huge success. It’s important to understand that someone with passion or an idea has a vision others can’t see. So no matter how much you don’t understand it, or even if you think it’s already being done elsewhere, give them all the positives and none of the negatives unless they ask. Even then, be thoughtful about not destroying or discouraging them. 

Besides that, nothing ever ends up the way you envision it. A good entrepreneur will pivot with the needs of the market. 

Stories of Success

The world is littered with failures, but it’s built on successes. Every startup person will tell you they had more discouragement than encouragement, and that sometimes it was one person believing in them, and offering ideas or help, who made the difference between success and failure. You can move mountains when you know others believe in you.

What dreams did you not pursue?

Did someone discourage you? Did you do it anyway or did you listen to them? Do you have regrets?

Don’t do it to others. Build them up. Give them encouragement. Help them see even bigger visions. With your encouragement, they might change the world.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Over two decades ago, I started PleinAir Magazine. But I almost didn’t because so many people told me it would fail. I ran it for two years and it did fail, and then they said, “Told you so.” But I believed so deeply in it that I found a way to bring it back, and started the Plein Air Convention. Again, people told me not to do it. Yet it’s been wildly successful. Thank goodness I did not listen.

The 11th annual convention is taking place in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this coming May.

A few years ago several people cornered me and said, “You always do your conventions in the West. Why not bring it east?”  I told them that the majority of attendees come from the West and that our fear is that if we hold it in the East, those people may not come. And if they don’t, we would have a financial disaster that could kill the convention.

Their response was, “We’ll make sure every plein air painter from the East comes, so it won’t matter if people don’t come from the West.”

So I took a chance, booked a facility, and we’re holding our first convention east of the Mississippi. Will it work?

So far, the West is winning.

What I mean is that there are more registrants from the West (in other words, they are coming anyway), but the East is not doing its part. Don’t get me wrong, we have hundreds of people coming from the East. But unless we can see more participation from the East, it could impact future decisions about coming back that way. 

So the challenge is on. Who will win?

If you’re a plein air painter in the East, the driving time to the convention from most of the U.S. is less than a day. This is your opportunity to prove the East has just as many plein air painters as the West. 

If you’re thinking … “I’ll do it another year,” please know we may never be this close to you again. We have four pre-convention workshops: one with Joseph Paquet, one with Indian artist Amit Kapoor, one with pastel artist Aaron Schuerr, and our Essential Techniques Day for beginners, which is a great way to learn the whole plein air thing.

If you don’t know anyone, come anyway. You’ll make friends.

Oh, and the price goes up on Valentine’s Day. So sign up today. www.pleinairconvention.com

If you’re thinking, “I’ll attend the online version of the Plein Air Convention,” we are NOT doing that this year. But if you can’t come to PACE, you can still attend PleinAir Live, coming up in March. This has top masters teaching plein air, but it is not the online version of the convention.

Are You a Dream Weaver?2024-02-10T19:26:25-05:00
4 02, 2024

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?

2024-02-03T13:48:26-05:00

The rumble of rockets soaring through the air and the sight of giant balls of fire in the sky never seem to lose their excitement here on the Space Coast of Florida, where I’m spending much of the winter. They say a big one will make your teeth chatter, something I’ve yet to experience, but a massive rumble and sonic boom are felt with each launch, just 11 miles from my dock. With two or three rockets going up a week, we set our alarms, even in the middle of the night, to experience each launch. So far there have been 10 this year that we’ve been able to view from our dock.

The Rockets’ Red Glare

When friends come to visit, we love watching their jaws drop in amazement when we visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The size and scope of these machines is mind-boggling, as is the tech behind them, and it takes thousands of people to make them fly. Clearly Elon Musk and his team possess something special, doing things others have been unable to accomplish, like landing a spaceship (which we had the pleasure of watching this week) or reusing ships that previously would have become space trash. Of course, later this year NASA’s Artemis mission will take man to the moon again. 

One Small Step

When I was a kid, I watched the moon landing from the National Boy Scout Jamboree at the national park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I was a reporter for a local Indiana news outlet and won a prize as the most ambitious scout reporter there. I thought by now we would be living on the moon. But at the moment, the closest I can get is to do my own moonshot.

Have you considered your moonshot?

Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis has famously coined the term “moonshot,” meaning the big thing you do in your life that seems impossible to achieve. 

I’ve always thought that if you’re going to live a life, live it with gusto, try to do things that significantly change the world, and live boldly in pursuit of big ideas that seem impossible.

What does YOUR moonshot look like?

Tap into your big dreams, the things you always thought you would do. Then ask yourself, “What about that frightens me? What feels unobtainable?” Then ask yourself, “What else could I do to make it even more spectacular?”

Break It Into Chunks

They always say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. If you take your giant goal and break it down into small, easier-to-obtain chunks and manageable objectives, it’s easier to track your progress and not be overwhelmed. Sometimes moonshot ideas are so big we can’t do it alone. Who else could you work with who shares a similar vision? Collaboration is a great way to get things done more quickly. 

Expect Things to Turn Out Differently

Whatever you set out to do, it won’t end up exactly the way you envision it. So keep an open mind, and don’t be so set in your ways that you miss better ways of accomplishing your goal. You have to be willing to experiment, and to adapt when you hit obstacles. Expect and embrace obstacles as growth.

Be a Risk-Taker

Not everyone can go to the moon. Only those who are willing to take the risks get the giant rewards.  And stay committed — never give up. I have a moonshot project I’ve been working on for five years. I keep getting kicked in the teeth and discouraged, and I am not letting go. I will find a way. You can too.

Your moonshot does not have to be about space. It’s about ideas so big they seem impossible, ideas that change your world and hopefully the world around you.

What big idea do you want to pursue?

What’s stopping you?

I want to remind you of something I said last week: My father started a company at 70, another at 80, and another at 90. All were moonshots for him. He never told himself he was too old. You’re never too old or too young. Dream big, and execute.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

Eric Rhoads

PS: In spite of Covid being over, our online events designed for Covid times are still getting massive worldwide audiences and continue to be strong. My next one is about landscape and plein air painting, called PleinAir Live, and it’s coming in March. I’ll see you there.

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?2024-02-03T13:48:26-05:00
14 01, 2024

One Thing to Solve Every Problem

2024-01-13T18:06:55-05:00

If my memory serves me, Florida is supposed to be warm, sunny, and a good place to escape to during winter weather. It’s not any of those things at the moment. But I suppose it’s all relative, because, in spite of low temperatures by Florida standards, it’s a vast improvement over most of the country, which is suffering with record lows and giant storms. 

The flags on my dock are blowing at full speed, driven by intense high winds. The sunrise was hard to notice because the sky is dim and overcast, and the air has a chill. Yet I love the smell of salt air and the sound of pelicans, ospreys, and cranes flying over the choppy, splashing water. Chilly or not, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Vacation Is Over

Today is a bit of a somber day, but also one to celebrate. Is it possible for two conflicting emotions to be trapped in my brain at the same time? My kids leave us today to return to college, which is sad. It’s been fun having them around. But it means our empty-nester routine can go back to normal, and we won’t have to deal with dishes left in the sink and stocking the fridge with mounds of food for starving college-age appetites. Still, it’s all met with mixed emotions.

Tear-Filled Goodbyes

It’s a joke in our family: Daddy’s going to cry again. I tear up a little when the kids or other family members leave. I always have. But somehow it helps to reframe the situation to consider all the benefits of having them leave. 🙂

Hanging a New Frame on the Wall

Reframing is a concept I wish someone had taught me years sooner. Being able to manipulate my own thinking has been helpful, because doing it lets me gain a new perspective.

For example, I could never seem to grow my company beyond a certain level. I always looked at my business as a publishing company, and as long as I thought of it as publishing, I seemed to fall into the trap of only selling ads and subscriptions. My first reframing was to tell myself I was also in the events business. By doing that, I started to consider things I’d not previously considered, like creating conferences. The result was a massive increase in my business. 

Later I added “travel” to my reframe, and I broadened my business into travel services like painters’ events. And when I hit a wall, I reframed my business as a direct response marketing company, which impacted how we sold products. This was revolutionary. So whenever I find myself stuck, I search for a reframe.

A Classic Reframe

It’s so easy to fall into traps. Edison famously said that he hadn’t failed 10,000 times, he’d just found 10,000 approaches that wouldn’t work. This reframe allowed him to persevere until he found answers, long after most of us would have given up.

Reframe Away Stress

In 2002, my company, RadioCentral (one of the first Internet radio services), blew up, and my own board of directors fired me from the company I founded. Though I could have told myself I was doomed, I reframed it as a new opportunity to do work differently. My last day of work was the day my triplets came home from the hospital, so I reframed that I could now work from home and be a dad, being there for my wife and kids. It melted the stress away and made a huge difference.

Reframing Addictions

Writer and cartoonist Scott Adams talks about reframing drinking by simply asking himself, “Why would I put poison in my system?” Every time he was tempted to take a drink, he would tell himself he was about to pour poison down his throat. 

The Classic Reframe

I’ve heard it a million times. “No one ever says on their deathbed, ‘I should have worked more.’” This reframe works great when you’re a workaholic, like I used to be, or when you’re guilt-tripping about whether you really need to work on a weekend.

Of course, the deathbed can be used to reframe other things, like stress. “Is this going to matter when I’m on my deathbed?” No, of course it won’t. Whatever it is won’t even be a speck on the radar. Stop worrying.

Sleepless Nights

A couple of weeks ago, I was having some issues in my business, and I found myself lying in bed with my head spinning about the problems. Then I remembered something my dad said he used to do. He reframed by saying, “Stress only keeps me from thinking clearly and leads me to worse decisions.” So he gave up worry and stress. 

If Dad was having a sleepless night, he would get out of bed, write down everything he was worried about on a tablet, then go through the list one at a time: “Can I do anything to solve this problem tonight?” If he could, he did. But most things had to wait, which allowed him to reframe: Worry only disrupts sleep, which impacts your ability to deal with things properly in the morning.

Though these little tricks seem overly simplified, they are very effective at tricking your brain to overcome the things that are bothering you. 

What areas do you need to reframe? Will these things matter in two weeks? In five years, or 10 years, or at the end of your life? Probably not.

Flip the Switch

Sometimes reframing is so powerful that it’s like flipping a switch, turning a problem off or revealing an opportunity.

What is your biggest problem today? Reframe it.

Reframing the Economy

I have lots of artist friends who tell me they are not selling any artwork because the economy is bad. Others I know reframe it and tell themselves, “This is the best time to advertise because there are fewer people advertising. As a result, I can steal everyone else’s customers. And for those who aren’t buying now, I’m branding myself at a time when I can brand more easily and effectively because there are fewer advertisers. When things change, the people who can’t buy now will seek me out when they are ready.” 

It’s a brilliant strategy, and it’s been proven to work. Kellogg’s was launched during the Great Depression. Post, king of the cereal category at the time, ignored Kellogg’s because they believed no one could take away their market dominance. So Post did no advertising while Kellog poured it on. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg’s had the number one market share, and Post has not caught up to this day. 

Ask yourself: 

What do I need to reframe?

Where do I find myself stuck?
Where do I continually have drama in my life?

What things bother me that shouldn’t?

Reframing is a great way to overcome any issue.

Eric Rhoads

During the pandemic, I reframed my fear. “How am I going to survive? How will I meet payroll?” Business had come to a complete stop. Then I started reframing… “People are scared to death, what can I do to help them? My people are not busy, I might as well do some things to keep them busy, entertained, and help them overcome their fear.”

Showing Up

First I launched a daily YouTube program called Art School Live. I broadcast free art lessons with other artists every day of the week for seven months. After seven months, I reduced it to five days a week, and it has gone on since and continues to this day. It was showing up when no one else was, and I ended up reaching millions, building my YouTube subscribers to over 100,000. And it helped my business in other ways. In fact, because of it, my artist retreats are selling out four or five months in advance, and the Plein Air Convention has only 41 seats left, five months in advance.

A Painful Day

In the first week of COVID shutdowns, we had 95 percent of the Plein Air Convention attendees cancel, and we refunded everyone’s money who asked. It was painful, but it was the right thing to do. But rather than saying we couldn’t have a convention, we reframed it; we would start doing art conventions online. This resulted in launching our online events. The income from those events saved our business.

The End of a Good Thing Did Not End

When COVID was over, all the experts said online conferences were over. But instead of stopping, we reframed them as online conferences for people who were unable to travel, who were at home raising kids or taking care of someone, and for those who couldn’t spend the money for an in-person event. The reframe saved the events, which continue strong to this day. As a matter of fact, our next event, Watercolor Live,  is January 24-26. If you want to learn watercolor, you should at least come to our Essential Techniques Day for beginners or as a refresher.

Every problem or challenge can be addressed with a reframe. 

One Thing to Solve Every Problem2024-01-13T18:06:55-05:00
11 01, 2024

Your Countdown Begins Now

2024-01-11T11:47:10-05:00

Dolphins frolic in the water with their fins bobbing up and down, right beside the dock. Looking down into the water, shading my eyes from the reflection of the warm morning sun, I can see a stingray slowly cruising along the sandy bottom. The flag blows in the breeze, just enough wind to keep it steady. 

Driving the U.S.A.

Earlier in the week I set out to drive from Austin to the central coast of Florida, where I hope to spend part of the winter, escaping “cedar fever” season in Austin. That’s an allergy almost everyone gets after three years there that can cause flu-like symptoms for the first couple of months of the year. Those are also the coldest months, making time away even more appealing.

Pioneering Virtual Work

Thirty years ago, my company had an entire floor of an office building in West Palm Beach. One day one of my team members, Chuck Renwick, asked if he could work remotely because all his work was done on the phone and via e-mail (new technology at the time). He wanted to live in the Carolinas. I agreed to give it a try, and it worked so well that when our lease expired, I downsized the office from the whole floor to a small corner, asking everyone to work from home. For decades, I’ve been able to work from anywhere with no obligation to a fixed location, and that’s why I’m able to spend time in a remote location this winter. 

A Specific Plan

In 2002, when our triplets were born, I was fired from an early-stage Internet radio company I’d founded in San Francisco, as the company went down with the Twin Towers and the economy. Though upsetting at the time, seeing my dream crumble was a chance to reevaluate what I wanted my life to look like. 

What did I love about my last few years, and what did I not love? What did I want my life as a dad to look like? What were the things I wanted to make sure I did? What did I want to avoid? 

There is nothing quite like a kick in the teeth to get your attention. 

Though I’d been having the time of my life, living a dream after inventing something that could change the world of audio forever, I also discovered some things about myself that I did not love doing. And now that I was free, I had a chance to reinvent myself.

Reinvention

What if everything you had going for you came to a sudden stop? You’ve lost your income, and the things you’ve been working on for the last few years have been taken away. What if you could never do what you do now? Where would you turn?

Some people have to have things end badly before they realize what needs to change in their lives. We’re so busy keeping the merry-go-round moving at high speed that we can’t see that we’re dizzy and not enjoying the experience anymore. 

What needs to be reinvented in your life?

The magic of the week between Christmas and New Year’s is that things slow down, and the gift of the new year, beginning tonight at midnight, is that you get to make some resolutions. 

The countdown has begun. You have today and probably tomorrow to discover some things about yourself that need to change. And you have a fresh start to begin implementing them. 

Hopefully you won’t be forced to make hard decisions, but this is a chance to make some adjustments to eliminate the things you know need to change.

Broken Resolutions 

How many New Year’s Days have come and gone when you made resolutions and did nothing about them? How much longer will you tell yourself things need to change but do nothing? 

Here are some questions. The first thing that pops into your head is probably what you need to change. 

What needs to change regarding your health?

What needs to change regarding your diet?

What needs to change regarding your family relationships?

What needs to change regarding your spirituality?

What needs to change regarding your marriage?

What needs to change regarding your job?

What do you least look forward to doing?

What do you want to do more of?

What have you always wanted to do but never gotten around to? 

What do you hate about your life now?

Who do you need to spend more time with?

Who makes you happy?

Who makes you sad?

Who do you need to remove from your life?

If you were told you have three months to live — but you would have perfect health till the day you die — what three things would you do? What is the most important of the three?

What have you always wanted to do but fear?

What do you see yourself as, but you’ve never made it happen?

Here’s a tip:

Be detailed and specific in your answers.

And whatever comes up on your list, ask yourself, item by item, if you believe they can happen, 

The things you tell yourself probably can’t happen are likely the most important ones. 

Now ask yourself: If they could happen, what would have to change to make them happen? 

Add those things to your to-do list. 

Typically the biggest things that have not happened are the things we tend to tell ourselves are not possible.

But how do people build skyscrapers, invent rockets, and change the world?

They have fear, too. They have simply found ways to control it and not let it stop their dreams. 

What I Want for You

I set a giant, unreachable goal about three years ago. I wanted to teach one million people to paint. 

When I set the goal, it seemed impossible. So I lowered it to half a million. I lowered it again to half that, then half again. I ended up with a goal that I would teach 10,000 people to paint. But even then it seemed impossible. So I told myself it might as well be a million. 

I set the goal, and I announced it publicly so I’d be accountable. But I did not believe it. Yet after a couple of weeks of telling myself daily, “I am teaching a million people to paint” (not “I’m gonna,” but “I am”), it started happening, and things started falling into place. 

My brain paved the way. Total views of my YouTube channel have reached several million. 

I want you to know that you have the ability to overcome any obstacle, to do things you currently believe are impossible. 

I believe you can do impossible things. I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Sometimes just knowing someone believes in you is enough for you to begin believing in yourself. 

But impossible things don’t happen until action is taken. Every small step toward the big dream is a step in the right direction. Any step toward the goal is courageous. 

If you make your list, pick the number one thing on the list and take action toward that thing every day, using focused time toward that goal, you will hit it. If you break down big, impossible steps into small, bite-size steps and knock them down like bowling pins, you will crush any impossible goal. 

“Small plans do not inflame the hearts of men.” — Napoleon

You can do this.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This message is spread worldwide to over 90 countries and hundreds of thousands of people. I’m honored that you open your e-mail every Sunday and thankful for all of you who forward messages to friends and family.

Only a tiny fraction of you live near me in Austin, Texas, but we’ll be at one of five services today (probably the 11 a.m.) at Austin Ridge, our home church. We hope to see you there. You can find it online at www.AustinRidge.org.

Your Countdown Begins Now2024-01-11T11:47:10-05:00
11 01, 2024

Rethinking the Impossible

2024-01-11T11:46:40-05:00

The high-pitched bird whistle was one I did not recognize, yet a quick glance out the window revealed a huge osprey sitting atop the dock on the water before me. Moments later, he made the sound again, and then, with giant wings spread, he swooped down into the water and came up with a fish in his beak while making a loud whooshing sound. It was one of those unforgettable moments here in paradise on the Space Coast of Florida, where I will be spending part of my winter this year. I feel fortunate to have designed my life to work from anywhere there is a good Internet connection. And as we find ourselves traveling, we realize how little we really need.

My grandmother Luella used to say that as she aged, the years passed by like minutes. I can remember it seemed like school years would never end, when I was in school and when my kids were in school. But now my years are so packed with planned activities, we go from one event to another, and suddenly it’s time to start a new year and a new cycle of events.

Though I made a lot of plans and goals for the year, I’ve still not completed my planning process. My goal is to actually get it done this week so I can move on to other things.

Planning Time

As I alluded to last week, the most important part of planning is thinking. Asking yourself questions. And though I have planned thinking time on my calendar every week, I’m finding myself questioning my motives. 

Why do I do what I do? 

Do I want to continue doing it? 

Do I want to continue repeating the same things over and over, or am I ready to abandon some old things in exchange for some new ones? 

These are tough questions, because removing something successful might mean taking something away that my clients love, or it might mean losing revenue we need for survival. 

Yet the idea of adding more new things is overwhelming to me and to my team, who are already overwhelmed. 

So I have to ask myself this … knowing what I know now, if I were starting over, would I do the same things I’m doing today?

If not, what would I do differently? What would I change?

 

What would I not want to do anymore?

Creatures of Habit

We buy the same brand of cars from year to year because we like them, we’re comfortable with them, and it’s easier because we know we can trust them; we know what to expect. I have friends who bought a new house in the same neighborhood rather than trying a new area. 

Though we may be questioning the known, staying put and repeating the same things week to week and year to year is easier than making change and leaping into the unknown.

Far too often, we’re in careers based on decisions we made when we were too young to make good decisions. Think about how immature we were at high school or college age, when we fell in love with something that became our career. 

Would we pick that same thing today, knowing what we know now? Knowing what else is out there?

Stuck on an Old Dream

I spent decades in a career that was based on a passion I developed at age 12, and though I’m less involved, I am still linked to it today. Also, I continue to be passionate about painting, as I have been since almost three decades ago. But do I do it because I’ve invested so much into it, become so established and secure in it? Or because I am still as passionate as before? 

These are the kinds of things I find myself asking.

If change were not forced upon us, would you and I ever change? 

One friend got fired from a job after a long career in her industry. She would have retired in it, but instead found herself disconnected, unable to get employment in that industry because of non-compete contracts and because of her age. Reluctantly, she grasped for something, anything she could find, and it turns out she loves her new direction more than anything she ever did in her career, and wants to spend the rest of her career doing it.

So how do we make change if change isn’t pushed on us? 

Most of us don’t make change unless it’s dropped upon us like a nuclear bomb. Even then, we cling to our comfort zone, trying to get something close to what we know.

But what if you were forced into something and it turned out to stimulate you more than anything you’ve done in your life? 

What Holds You Back?

The first answer is to look at the boat anchors wrapped around us, the biggest being financial security. If you knew you could leave your current career for something that would make you happier, but you had to take a 50% cut in pay and move out of your existing nest, would you do it? I don’t know if I would.

A few months ago I talked about tapping into our subconscious mind. If I had to do something else and could not do what I’m doing now, what would it be? 

The answer coming into your head is probably the correct answer, if you catch it before you start judging it and coming up with all the reasons it must be the wrong answer.

What Should I Do Next?

I asked myself that question recently, and what came to my head was to become a stage speaker, to help people craft better lives, kind of like what Tony Robbins does. The other thing was to create a general interest podcast, interviewing smart people in areas that have nothing to do with what I do now. 

Will I do them? I’m not sure yet. Probably not, if the pain of losing what I’m passionate about is too severe. The upside would have to be bigger and better, and I’m not sure it would be. And my head automatically defaults to all the reasons it’s a bad idea… needing to start something new from scratch, not having financial security, and not seeing all the people I’ve grown to love at my events. These are the kinds of strings that we are comfortable being tied down with.

What Should You Do?

I’m not suggesting you do anything about any of this, but I do think it’s healthy to keep asking the questions. I also think that some of us face “reality” questions: Do I have the time, health, or energy? Frankly, I don’t think those things would stop me from pursuing something I love. After all, all the bad things that we predict could happen might not. So deal with them when they do. But don’t stop living because of fear of what might happen. 

A Great Example

I saw recently that Kentucky Fried Chicken was formed when Harlan Sanders was in his sixties. I had a great mentor, my own father, who forced himself to do something fresh and new about every decade. He started a new business at 70, and then another at 80, which he worked on till he was in his mid-90s while he was reinventing himself for the next chapter.

My friend John told me he was upset with his dad, who invested in a new shopping center when he was 80, because John ended up having to deal with it when his dad died a decade later. Though he was annoyed because he felt his father had no business making such a commitment at that age, it gave his dad something fun to do, it made money, and it kept his father mentally engaged. I think it was a great idea.

The thought of stopping, enjoying the fruits of my lifetime of labor on a boat or a La-Z-Boy chair, isn’t of interest to me. I want to be busy, emotionally and intellectually stimulated, and use the brain I’ve been given as long as it’s willing to keep operating. 

Dying at Your Desk

My friend Frank Covas, a broadcaster I loved and respected, an inventor who saw tremendous success, was always reinventing himself, loved life, and loved working. He did not die in a nursing home alone and unvisited, he died at his desk, at 2 o’clock in the morning, working passionately on some worthy project. When he learned he had a disease that was going to kill him, he and I sat down, he looked me in the eye, and he said, “This time, it’s gonna get me, there is no escape. I don’t know how long I’ve got, but I’ve got to get busy because there are things that need to be done that only I can do.” I loved that.

If you want clarity … write what you want someone to say about your life at your funeral. Read it out loud. Is it enough? Do you have regrets? Is there more you intend to do? 

Today is the perfect day to start filling in the blanks and answering those questions.

Eric Rhoads

This probably sounds lame to most people, but when I started PleinAir Magazine, I told myself I wanted to turn plein air painting into the next big sport, helping others discover the joy of painting, and painting outside. The mission was not to make money. Money usually follows when big change happens. Today, two decades later, there are more people worldwide painting outdoors than ever. The PleinAir Podcast has millions of downloads. There are hundreds of plein air events today, when there were only a handful when we started, and PleinAir remains the #1 selling art magazine nationwide at Barnes & Noble stores.

When I started Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, I was disgusted because the art world was snooty and it was not embracing the young realists who were doing work every bit as good as the Old Masters. I made it my mission to make art approachable, and to expose the work of these artists and help others discover how to do what they do. When we started, there were only about three or four places to learn how to create realism. But the students of those schools started their own schools, and now a third generation has started schools, resulting in a substantial number of places teaching academic realism. Plus we have had Realism Live online, and an in-person conference.

I did not launch these to make money. In fact, I lost money for years, knowing I needed to play the long game. I launched them based on a big vision for what could be. 

My next big vision is to change the way art is taught and learned. Too many people never do it because they believe that natural-born talent is required, which isn’t true. We’ve created over 700 incredible art instruction courses with PaintTube.tv, and we’ve trained many thousands with events like this month’s Watercolor Live online conference. And of course we’ve planted seeds for millions with our daily Art School Live YouTube channel.

Though there is more to do to optimize everything we do, the reality is that there are more hills to climb, more people who have a burning desire to change their lives and live dreams they may not think are possible. 

You have more in you. Make 2024 the year you make things happen.

Rethinking the Impossible2024-01-11T11:46:40-05:00
24 12, 2023

That Christmas Feeling

2023-12-22T11:28:06-05:00

A flood of orange light splashes on the red Adirondack chairs surrounding the fire pit behind my Texas ranch house, making them glow orange-red. The bright green grasses are also glowing in orange. 

Sitting on the red cushions of my creaking old wicker couch, the warmth of the sun rapidly removes the cool from the overnight air, making for a perfect short-sleeves-and-shorts day in the middle of winter. On days like this, I still love Austin — but when the cold comes, I fully intend to escape to get closer to the equator. Yes, I’ll admit I’m becoming a snowbird, running as fast as possible from the cold, which I no longer care to endure — though I’ll put up with it until the holiday passes. It feels more like Christmas when it’s cold or snowing. But after Christmas, I’m ready for the tropics.

Celebrating Together

Today, all the kids are back home, college breaks have started, and I’ll proudly sit in the congregation at church singing Christmas carols with my kids at my side. I live for moments like this.

Christmas Cards

When I was a kid, we were all encouraged to sign a stack of family Christmas cards. I’d write “Merry Xmas” and sign my name, until my mom saw it and said, “We don’t ever want to X out Christ from Christmas.” Whenever she abbreviated it, she would write “Merry C-Mas.” I still do this today, though I’ve long given up on sending Christmas cards. I still love receiving them, and I especially love reading people’s Christmas letters. As hokey as they can be, you can’t get every detail from Facebook, and they somehow give me that Christmas feeling..

The Great Tree Debate

Right after Thanksgiving, we went out and got a tree. Every year there is a debate about whether it’s time to get a fake one. After all, real trees are more work — watering them, and sweeping up when the needles fall, plus later we have to drag it out and put it by the road for pickup. It doesn’t seem very environmentally responsible, either. But when we tried to sell the concept again this year, the kids reminded us that the trees “are grown to be cut down, and they then turn them into mulch. It’s ecologically sound.” So once again, we resisted plastic needles. 

Creating Cherished Memories

I could have insisted on a fake tree, but part of Christmas is about making memories for the family so they can cherish Christmases past. Traditions are important. Christmas ornaments the kids have put up over the years, and ones from our early marriage and our own childhoods, always go on the tree. The box of ornaments is really a memory stimulator. I wish I had my parents’ ornament boxes — they would be filled with treasures and memories.

Danger! Daddy on a Ladder

The day after Thanksgiving, I got up on a ladder, hung the Christmas lights around the eaves of the house, and put the decorations out front. Though the kids have not acknowledged it, it’s expected and part of what we do at Christmas. Our traditions include a tacky plastic angel with  fiber optic wings that my mother gave to the kids. The other tacky thing is my favorite singing lamppost — it sounded like Bing Crosby. (It used to sing carols, but that part no longer works.) We also put out the tinfoil 1960s Christmas tree from our early marriage. We have three nutcrackers and stockings by the fireplace; when I decided to put the nutcracker statues in a different place, I was reminded, “They don’t go there, they go here.”

The Order of Decorations

Nothing can be out of place. A ceramic nativity scene made by my wife’s grandmother goes by the front door every year. The Christmas village goes on top of the grand piano. The dining table is decorated exactly as it has been the last 20 years, and once in a while we’ll add something new, trying to start a new tradition. We often hang stockings for dearly departed dogs, too, but there were too many stockings to put them all out this year. 

Do you have favorite decorations from your childhood? Mine was a little white plastic church music box that would play “Silent Night” as the doors opened. I think one of my cousins ended up with this treasure. 

New Traditions

Recently, when I was offering marriage advice, I mentioned that families carry their family culture with them at Christmas, and it’s important to honor your mate’s traditions that differ from your own. But I failed to mention that it’s also critical to create your own family traditions that will live on through your kids.

What family traditions have you created?

Speaking from the Stairs

On Christmas morning, before we open our gifts, the kids take turns reading Luke 2 through 20, the story of Christmas, just like I had to do while sitting on the old oak stairs at my grandparents’ house on West Wildwood Street back in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I used to hate it, because I was eager to open presents, but then it became tradition, and I’ve done it my entire life. My kids too used to hate it because, like me, they wanted to open presents, but it was a great reminder to put God first in our lives. We even have a seat at the dining table for Jesus. We put out a plate and everything (He doesn’t eat much).

Christmas Is a Story of Faith

On occasion, if I mention anything about my faith, someone will reach out and ask me to stop doing it and suggest that I will lose them as a reader. My intent is never to offend, and I’m not trying to change anyone. I want to be respectful of everyone. I usually respond by simply saying, “This is who I am, I mean no harm to you or others. I respect you, I hope you’ll respect me.” I even say “Merry Christmas.” 

In 1 Peter (ERV) it says, “You may suffer for doing right … don’t be afraid of the people who make you suffer; don’t be worried, but keep Christ holy in your hearts. Always be ready to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have, but answer them in a gentle way with respect … then people will see the good way you live as followers of Christ, and those who say bad things about you will be ashamed of what they said. It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong.“ 

What I Want for Christmas

When asked what I want for Christmas, I cannot think of a single thing. And rather than buying me something, I’d rather everyone spend that money on someone who needs something. A kid who needs a toy or a sweater, a mom who needs groceries, a dad who needs a little help. This is a time when many people need more than they have. Rather than spending excessive amounts on things we don’t need, let’s spend excessive amounts to make Christmas special for someone else. 

The Gift of Self-Esteem

I was talking to a homeless man one day who had been on the streets for over 12 years. He was shocked that I talked to him, because most people turn their eyes away. He said something I’ll never forget. “I’m here by choice, because I made bad choices. But it’s not just money or food I want. If you can’t or don’t want to give, I don’t expect you to do it, but don’t look away. It does me a world of good when someone looks me in the eye, gives me a smile and a wave. People forget that we need human connections too. You’ll smile at a stranger walking down the street, but you won’t smile at someone who looks different, is in rough clothes, or is dirty. We need that smile more than you know.”

That Christmas Feeling

There is a spirit about Christmas. Things slow for many of us, and as we get closer to the day, we start thinking about the people we love and care about, and it makes us gentler and kinder. But there are others who don’t see that, who might be unloved and needing to feel the Christmas spirit. And for those of us who give only at Christmas, don’t forget that others need that spirit year round.

I hope tomorrow is the most special Christmas ever. Embrace those you love, remind everyone about those who can’t be with you, and pay tribute to the value of family, no matter how insane they may be. The bond of family is deeper than any other. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: This message is spread worldwide to over 90 countries and hundreds of thousands of people. I’m honored that you open your e-mail every Sunday and thankful for all of you who forward messages to friends and family.

Only a tiny fraction of you live near me in Austin, Texas, but we’ll be at one of five services today (probably the 11 a.m.) at Austin Ridge, our home church. We hope to see you there. You can find it online at www.AustinRidge.org.

That Christmas Feeling2023-12-22T11:28:06-05:00
17 12, 2023

The Dark Days of Christmas

2023-12-15T16:56:58-05:00

The smell of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies fills the air and the colors of Christmas are reflecting off the wall as the lights blink on the tree, as though to the beat of the Christmas carols playing quietly in the background. Seeing the tree, breathing its scent, and hearing the music fills my heart, probably because of so many wonderful Christmas memories. 

Already, some wrapped boxes have appeared under the tree; no longer do the boxes have to suddenly appear in the morning after Santa leaves packages while we sleep. No more long nights of assembling bicycles, no more wrapping marathons. Now that the kids are college age, we can take our time and do things at our own speed rather than assisting the man in the red suit. Yet we still put out cookies and milk for Santa, and the nativity set remains lit all night, highlighting the Christmas star. 

An Unexpected Tragedy

Yet there is a dark cloud looming in my heart, since I heard that a good painter friend took his own life last week. I’m not sure exactly how to process it because this was a man as jolly and spirit-filled as Santa, always fun to be around, always thoughtful, and ever encouraging. He was as brilliant an artist as any. Apparently he had been suffering from severe depression.

Part of what bothers me is that I missed it. 

I had not been in touch for a while. We last spoke during a telethon where I co-hosted and he was a guest. Speaking beforehand, he seemed as normal and happy and engaging as ever. There were no outward clues. 

Looking Back

I’m kicking myself for several reasons … the first being that I never had a chance to say goodbye and let him know how much he had impacted my life and career, and how much I cared for him. Of course I could not have known, so I kick myself for not having taken the time to touch base recently. I suppose maybe there is something I could have said or done that might have made a difference.

I’m sure others who were even closer are asking themselves the same thing. Yet we cannot beat ourselves up. 

A Dark Place

The reality is that depression is a very dark place, which most of us, myself included, do not fully understand. Anyone can be affected by depression, and it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a medical condition to be overcome.

So what are we to do?

I think it starts by being an active listener, and not ignoring things people say that might be clues that they are reaching out for help but don’t know how to ask. We should not judge or overreact, but simply listen. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Be empathetic. And, of course, encourage anyone who seems to be troubled to seek professional help. 

My heart goes out to my friend’s wife, family, and close friends. He had more friends than most of us will ever have, and I guarantee there will be lines out the door at his memorial service.

The Emotional Trigger

As you and I enter the holiday period, it never hurts to remember that the holiday is an emotional trigger for many of the people we know and love. I can remember being alone one Christmas and wishing someone would invite me to something. I did not feel comfortable asking because, well, Christmas is family time.

Who can you include in your celebrations this Christmas?

How can you help others this Christmas?

Who needs to hear from you?

This event is also a stark reminder to me that I need to reach out and talk to my friends more often. The downtime at Christmas is a good time to start touching base. And it never hurts to ask, “How are you doing, really? Is there any way I can help you?”

When I was a kid, my dad invited Raymond McPeak to every Christmas dinner. I never knew any different; he was always there, Christmas and Thanksgiving, until the day he died. My dad met him in the Merchant Marine when serving in the Philippines, and though Raymond was 20 years older, they became great friends, probably because they were from the same town. He lived alone and came home from his job at the Post Office to an empty house every day of his life. He was never married, and was never in a relationship. He was simply a loner. And my guess is that he looked forward to every major holiday. My grandmother did the same thing; her widowed friends were always at her house every Christmas. 

Our job is to take care of each other, to care for those who don’t have what we have.

Now you have your marching orders for this Christmas. Give someone something to look forward to. And listen to them, carefully.

Eric Rhoads

Another great gift is the gift of art … giving someone lessons on how to become an artist. We have some wonderful holiday specials at www.painttube.tv.

The Dark Days of Christmas2023-12-15T16:56:58-05:00
3 12, 2023

White Dresses and Lace

2023-12-01T18:01:45-05:00

Instead of the sound of rustling trees, rain hitting the tin roof of my long Texas porch, and the chorus of a flurry of birds hanging out in my twisted oaks, I’ve awakened to the slow low rumble of of an elevator, the rattle of an ice machine dropping ice into a cheap plastic bucket, and the knock on my hotel room door and shout of “Housekeeping!”

I’m in Dallas. Yesterday we attended the wedding of the son of two of our favorite friends. It was a perfect day, and it’s fun to see a child we watched grow up become a man and a husband. We wish them well.

Why I Hate Weddings

This wedding was beautiful in every way. I don’t regret attending a bit. In fact, it was loads of fun and I spoke to some interesting folks. But there was a time when I swore I would never attend another wedding in my life. I avoided weddings for over two decades. 

A Rough Moment

When I was a young radio DJ in Miami, I supplemented my income as a wedding photographer. I’m not sure how many weddings I photographed, but it was one too many. My final wedding was the one I screwed up. No matter how many backup cameras, sets of film, and plans for disaster, that time was the perfect storm, and something I did ruined most of the photos. I don’t know if it was a bad batch of film, a processing mistake, a bad light meter, poor exposures, or human error, but I had the displeasure of showing up for the viewing at the family home. 

The anxious bride was on my right, the parents were on my left. Stuttering and stumbling with fear, I had to show them the two dozen photos that turned out OK, and the hundreds that did not. The result was not pleasant. I was loudly berated by the enraged father of the bride and was kicked out of the house. Of course I gave the couple their money back, but I’d botched the photos of their special day. It was one of the toughest days of my young life. I was so mortified that I canceled all the other weddings I had scheduled and swore I’d never do another. And for years I refused to attend weddings because it brought back such a difficult memory.

Looking Back

In hindsight, I should have gotten back on the horse and continued. I was pretty good, well paid, and very entertaining. And I had lessons to learn that would have come in handy in future years. But I was too immature, and pain avoidance was all I wanted at that time. I should not have allowed one angry customer to discourage me. (I’m lucky I didn’t get sued, but then again, all I had was my 72 VW and some cameras.)

Photographer to the Stars

Picture this. It’s 1977, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is the number one album worldwide, and the Bee Gees are at the top of their game. Their sound engineer, Carl, was an icon in the recording industry, and he fell in love with the receptionist at the radio station in Miami where I was working as the night DJ. The couple hired me as their wedding photographer. So I showed up at the beachfront park in Miami to learn that the wedding included the Gibb brothers … all of the Bee Gees, and their little brother, Andy. Here I am, posing some of the most famous people in the world in wedding photos. It was a little intimidating.

At the reception Robin Gibb invited me to sit with them and invited me to an afterparty at their house. I politely declined, but kicked myself later; I should have attended. But I had to go on the radio later that night — and I was so insecure that I did not feel deserving. In hindsight, someone could have filled in for me on the air. 

Thankfully, those wedding photos turned out perfectly. 

My Best Marriage Advice?

When I got married, all the older couples were giving me their best marriage advice, but it fell on deaf ears. And I resisted the urge to take the young couple aside at the wedding yesterday because anything I had to say would also fall on deaf ears. There are days when I wonder how even my wife puts up with me. Here’s what I wanted to tell them, but didn’t.

  • Love changes. I always heard this, but never believed it would happen to me. You go from that euphoric feeling of being in love to a level of mature love. The changes usually start about year three and peak at around year seven, which is why those are the most dangerous times for a marriage. Mature love is so much different. You care as deeply, probably more, sometimes less, but as the euphoria wears off, you get closer to real life — kids, jobs, mortgages, problems and challenges, what to do with your money, how to raise your kids, the impact of your faith, etc. It’s actually better, but it’s easy to look back at the feeling of early love and crave it. If you know this will happen, you’re less likely to do something stupid trying to regain that feeling.
  • Up till now you’ve been living with campaign promises, and now that you’re married, all the pretending will slowly disappear. One friend of mine had never seen his wife without makeup until after they’d been married for a while. Another reported that he no longer closes the bathroom door and no longer hides passing gas. You’ll start seeing the real person behind the actor or actress you’ve been dating the past few years. Don’t let it shock you. Embrace the fact that the real person is better than the person running for office.
  • The person you marry will change, and you will change. Ten years out, they won’t be the same person. Twenty or thirty years later, they will have changed dramatically. That’s not a bad thing. It’s like fine wine; we all mature. Again: Embrace change.
  • The moment you get married, you’ll discover people want what they can’t have. You become more attractive. There will always be shiny objects who will try to grab you when you’re vulnerable. Don’t ever put yourself in a position to take advantage of it.
  • You’ve both been on the hunt … seeking the perfect mate. And you developed a lot of habits you now need to shed. You’re used to trying to win, to conquer. Now you have won the best prize of all, so put your conqueror behavior aside. It’s not even cool to flirt with others. Just understand you have to lose the habit or it could lead you to big problems.
  • Speaking of shiny objects: If you shed one marriage for another, the things you don’t like about your previous mate will tend to show up again and again. I have this on good authority from a friend who has been married five times and finally admitted HE was the problem all along.
  • You’re a team now. Partners. You’re used to making your own decisions, but you can’t do that anymore. All major decisions require both of you to agree. Don’t dominate. Be a true partner. Things will go smoother.
  • Your money isn’t your money anymore. You share it unless you’ve made specific arrangements otherwise. This was a hard one for me. I used to buy things without input, or I’d buy them anyway, even after input. I slip into that behavior once in a while still, but these decisions should be shared.
  • Try to agree on who does what up front. Don’t just assume that she will do the cooking and dishes or stay home with the kids. Don’t just assume he’s the one who is going to work to support everyone. Figure this out before you get married.
  • Don’t think you can change their mind after you’re married. Make sure you talk about every possible scenario, and if the person you’re with says they don’t want kids, or want to work when you don’t want that, take heed and listen. Have the difficult discussions. Get premarital counseling.
  • The “D word” is never an option. Agree up front that no matter how bad things get, you’ll never threaten divorce. You’ll think about it hundreds of times in your marriage when things are not going your way or when you have rough patches. Never make it an option. If before you get married you’re thinking, “If things don’t work out, we’ll simply divorce,” don’t get married. You’re not committed.
  • You’re not going to be easy to live with. Whatever you’re whining about because it’s their fault is 50 percent your fault, you’re just not seeing it. You’re in this together.
  • When you’re upset, don’t start name-calling. Remember, some things will resonate for years, and some things you can never take back. If you’re angry and about to say bad things, you’re allowed to say instead, “I’m angry and might say the wrong thing, so let’s continue this discussion in an hour” or “tomorrow.” But do always go back to resolve it.
  • Don’t keep bringing up old arguments over and over. You get to bring it up one time, not every time you get angry. Get over it. We all make mistakes.
  • Honesty is important, but there are some things you should never share with your spouse. If it’s something that might haunt them forever, keep it to yourself.
  • The number one reason for divorce is people feeling as though their mate is not paying attention to them anymore. Most divorce happens between year three and year seven, or after couples become empty-nesters. When you were campaigning, you worked really hard at showing them you care. When that goes away, your partner no longer feels special. Find ways to keep the attention fresh and new and show that you still care, even if you’re married a hundred years.
  • If you’re going to take sides, side with your spouse, not with your family or parents. Doing anything else is a quick road to division. Even if you disagree, suck it up and support your mate. You’re not married to your family.
  • Communicate about what you each need, daily or weekly. Live up to it.
  • If you’re getting married for financial security or to escape your parents or to get away from an ex, run for the hills. Those are stupid reasons. Marrying for money is empty once you realize that all the money in the world, all the stuff, won’t make you happy.
  • Communicate up front about your faith. It never seems like a big deal if you don’t agree, until you have kids. Then suddenly it matters and you want to raise your kids the way you were raised. Conflict will arise. And it might not be healthy to confuse your kids.
  • Christmas, birthdays ,and major holidays hold family traditions. We used to get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, my wife’s family got the tree Christmas Eve. I wasted a lot of time and energy debating these cultural things, and there were lots of hard feelings. Decide in advance.
  • Most men change significantly between 25 and 35. Most women change significantly between 20 and 30. What you want and need and who you are will change. Wait it out if you can. But if you can’t, you need to be willing to live with what each of you has become. Growing apart isn’t an option. Stay committed. You can get through anything. Even arranged marriages end up with people coming to love one another over time.
  • Addictions destroy relationships. Take it very seriously if your spouse is giving you clues about your addictions. Listen and change.
  • Make it clear up front that you will never tolerate physical abuse of you or your kids — or emotional abuse. Put him or her on notice that the first time they get physical is the last time they will see you. There are no excuses, and no apology that would ever be enough. If you love someone, you don’t hit them, ever, or threaten to.
  • People who give up who they are and what they love resent it. Respect the passions of your spouse and make room for them.
  • Don’t clam up. Say what needs to be said, no matter how painful

Nothing is ever perfect. The movies sell perfection that does not exist. If you don’t expect perfection, you’ll be a lot happier.

I’m looking forward to the day when my kids find their soulmates and I can have them ignore my advice. But at least I’ll feel as though I tried. 

Happy Sunday,

Eric Rhoads

PS: A note to my bride. I know when you see this list you’ll realize that I’m aware of the things I should be doing that I’m not doing. I’ll try harder. I know I’m hard to live with, I know I drive you crazy, and I know I do stupid things. Still, I adore you. You’re as beautiful as the day I married you, smarter than I knew at the time, and your advice has been valuable and helped me in ways you cannot comprehend, even though I was often resistant to it. Thanks for being my partner in life.

PS 2: Though I love Christmas, I hate the pressure of shopping and gift-giving. I love to give people what they want, but I don’t love buying things not knowing whether they will like them.

I still don’t know what I want. I honestly can’t think of a thing, yet people are asking. But surprises are wonderful. The best gifts are the ones you make.

PS 3: It all clicked when I stood in front of Anders Zorn’s watercolor paintings in Sweden. Then I went to the home of Stanislaw Zoladz and saw watercolors that I couldn’t believe could be made by a human being. So I’m painting in watercolor and gouache more than ever. I’m loving it. It has given me a fresh perspective on painting, I’m learning and growing in new ways, and I’m having fun experimenting. This week I copied two Zorn masterpieces. I did one that I’ve spent five nights painting.

What I realized through all of this is that I never could do what I’m doing had I not attended Watercolor Live online last January. When I find challenges I don’t know how to solve, I’m able to pull the answers out of my head because they were taught to me during that four-day event. It truly does change you; I’m living proof. As the host, I can’t watch every segment. But there is something to this immersion-training thing. 

Reward yourself with a ticket. www.watercolorlive.com Yes, you can do it even if you don’t think you have talent. Oh, and it’s a great Christmas gift.

PS 4
Other cool gifts 

White Dresses and Lace2023-12-01T18:01:45-05:00
26 11, 2023

The Power of Hope

2023-11-25T20:09:43-05:00

Upon returning from her adventure, going back to Kansas with a click of her heels, Dorothy uttered, “There’s no place like home.” I feel the same. After being away for several weeks, visiting Sweden, Spain, and Florida, I have returned to my long wooden back porch at my Texas ranch house, looking out over the arid plants, twisted and gnarly oaks, and distant purple mountains, enjoying the crisp morning air and the remaining vibrant hues of autumn.

I’m still basking in the gift of Thanksgiving, having had the triplets home, gathered around our table, and feeling as though nothing ever changed and no one ever left. And I’m comforted that each is doing well and finding their way. Yet today, everyone heads back to their roles elsewhere, and we start our quest to get everyone back again for Christmas. Yet I can’t help but reflect on the Thanksgiving spirit that still lingers in the air. A spirit of gratitude, of togetherness, of compassion, and most importantly, of hope.

I can never articulate it, but it’s as though someone sprinkled magical fairy dust on me, starting about last Tuesday. Suddenly, I was consumed by true gratitude for the people in my life. I had clearly launched into holiday mode on Tuesday and had a hard time focusing on work on Wednesday, though final year-end planning has to get done.

The Power of Hope

Hope, that resilient flame that flickers even in the darkest of times, is what I find myself drawn to today. Hope, the driving force that propels us forward, that motivates us to believe in a brighter tomorrow, a tomorrow filled with possibilities and the promise of a better world. Some days it’s hard to find hope when you track what is happening in the world, yet I have faith that mankind always finds its way and settles its issues. When I see the spirit of Thanksgiving spread across my deep network of friendships, my confidence in mankind is renewed. 

Lessons from Thanksgiving

In the aftermath of Thanksgiving, as we bask in the warmth of shared meals and sleepy tryptophan-fueled couch napping, along with the joy of family gatherings, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But amid the chaos, let’s not forget the profound lessons Thanksgiving has imparted — lessons of gratitude, kindness, and the power of human connection. What if we were all more grateful every single day?

Hope: A Guiding Light

These lessons, like the gentle rays of the sun, have the power to illuminate our lives, to guide us through the darkest of times, and to remind us that even in the face of adversity, there is always hope. Hope is not just a fleeting emotion; it’s a powerful force that can transform our lives. It’s the belief that things can get better, that we have the ability to make a difference, and that we’re not alone in this journey.

A Journey of Hope

As we navigate the ups and downs of life, let’s seek out hope like a precious lighthouse, guiding us toward a brighter future. Let’s nurture it with our actions, with our compassion, and with our unwavering belief in the inherent goodness of humanity.

The Power of Human Connection

Remember, hope is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s the continuous act of choosing to believe, to persevere, and to make a difference in the world. It’s having faith in our fellow man, and understanding that deep down, everyone means well and has purpose. Conflicts are driven by differences, fueled by people feeling as though they are not being heard. All conflicts can be resolved by listening. Seems naive, doesn’t it? Yet it’s the foundation of settling everything.

Spreading Kindness

So, as you go about your day today, let the spirit of hope guide your steps. Let it inspire you to reach out to those in need, to spread kindness wherever you go, and to believe in the limitless possibilities that lie ahead. Instead of that cold, hard shell we often put on when passing a homeless person, judging them for begging on the streets, perhaps we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and be grateful that it’s not us or a family member, understanding that this person is someone’s son or daughter, struggling with bad choices or uncontrolled circumstances or the inability to cope. I’m sad to say that I’ve experienced seeing someone I love be homeless, and it is a helpless feeling because you know that at some point, they will have to pull themselves out of it, even after so many attempts by others to rescue them. Yet everyone can use a friend and a helping hand.

Creating a Better Future

For it is in the depths of hope, in the resilience of the human spirit, that we find the strength to overcome challenges, to build a better world, and to create a brighter future for generations to come. And as the Christmas season officially begins and people are showing their greed by fighting over big-screen TVs in Walmart, let’s all keep the spirit we’ve captured this week, carrying it through Christmas and into the new year. And as we think about resolutions for the soon-to-be-coming new year of 2024, let’s remember that the spirit of generosity and giving should fuel us each day — and it will, if we allow ourselves time to let that spirit consume us.

Happy Sunday, and may the warmth of hope fill your hearts and homes.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Time away and reflection have brought me to some new and frightening places, because my thoughts have pushed me out of my comfort zone and are driving me to pursue some new things in the coming months. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I think it will be a good thing. I like the idea of change for the sake of change. I don’t want to be the man who lives to be a hundred and has repeated the same year, the same things, a hundred times. I want to live each year as its own, with its own unique experiences. No more Groundhog Day. Every day, every year, fresh and new. Like I said, I can’t tell you what it means or what it is, but I’ve had this feeling before and I feel change coming. Stay tuned — it’s going to be an interesting year.

PS 2: One project is to write a new book, different from my last two, which were different from one another. This one is broader, with deeper purpose. It’s started, and will continue to progress until it’s done. Honestly, I don’t want to do it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to examine my life and my theories. But I know I can help millions of people by saying what others haven’t said. I have no interest in repeating what’s been said before and copied hundreds of times by others. I have a big vision for this, and I look forward to seeing what happens.

PS 3: These last few weeks of the year are the most important of all. Not just because of the spirit of the holidays, but because what you decide now, plan now, and begin to implement will determine the direction and success of your year. Time spent now will make a big difference because, as you know, the minute the year begins, it’s already over. As I look at all the gurus on Instagram who give everyone all the advice about how to be rich or successful, few if any ever mention the most important part: planning. If you could pick one giant thing you want to have happen and two smaller but important things, what would they be? Can you measure them, so you know when you’ve accomplished them? If you lay those things out, then lay out 50 steps toward each one, then throw those steps in your calendar, you will hit it. You can do this in one day, though it deserves more thought and time than that. What if you took the time and got that done so you hit the ground running in 2024?

PS 4: Remember this. If you think 2024 is going to be a bad year because of the economy, the election, wars, or other things, you’re exactly right. On the other hand, if you think it’s going to be a great year, possibly the best year in your life, you’re also right. You have the choice. It starts with what you’re believing and ends with who you’re listening to. No one else has the right to tell you that you’re going to have a bad year no matter what you do. Don’t listen unless it’s constructive or helpful. 

PS 5: I don’t have actual numbers because so many people receive this when it’s forwarded, and I don’t really care how big or small the audience is. But I know this. If you received one thought, one idea, one bit of encouragement, or some value out of reading this, sharing it might be a gift to someone else who needs those things. Who do you know that needs a rudder in their life? You know what to do.

PS 6: This weekend tens of thousands of people got some great bargains during our Black Friday sale on art instruction streaming videos. According to our stats, they are already opening them and viewing them, and gradually, as they watch, they are being transformed into artists, or better artists. Even those who don’t believe they have what it takes. I want that for you because most of us need something other than work and kids or grandkids. We need something that is our own, expressing our creativity. Those deals are still out there at www.painttube.tv. These make great gifts too.

PS7: And if watercolor is something you are destined to master, join our Watercolor Live worldwide virtual conference in January by signing up now at www.watercolorlive.com

The Power of Hope2023-11-25T20:09:43-05:00