21 05, 2023

How to Be an “A” Player


The sun streams through the window waking me. At first I’m feeling lost, out of my routine, until my brain catches up and realizes I’m not home, but away in a strange bed. A glance out the window treats my eyes to billowing clouds, streaks of sunlight and distant snow capped mountains. I’m desperately searching for a coffee maker, and will probably have to get dressed and go to the lobby.

My family and I  landed here in Colorado last night, and today is the culmination of two years of preparation by dozens of people on my team. It’s the beginning of a five day learning, painting and friendship adventure, called the plein air convention.

Yesterday was the start of a two day Lori Putnam workshop, which continues today, and today is an essential day for plein air beginners. Then at 4 pm, the big show opens and it will be my busiest week of the year. 

Why I Dislike Weddings

When I was a wedding photographer, I discovered a thing I called Wedding Letdown. Brides would spend a year or more in preparation for their big day, and then in a few short hours it was all over. They are no longer the center of attention, there is nothing to plan, and the only thing between that ending day and normal life is a honeymoon. I too experience this letdown when its all over. A week of joy, friendships and wonderful people, then back to life as normal. Its something to celebrate,  but also can be bitter sweet. But we’ll see how I feel next week at this time if I have the energy to get up and write. 

A Big Dream That Almost Did Not Happen

I love this week for a lot of reasons. Its the result of a big dream, which everyone told me would never happen. My accountants told me that launching a convention with the return of PleinAir magazine would be the death of my business and sure bankruptcy. So everytime I show up, I remember that it almost didn’t happen. 

After many decades of managing stress, I rarely ever get too stressed anymore, but I do want to make sure everyone has a wonderful experience. Yesterday I met with our team, our volunteers, and it’s in their hands now. I just have to do my part, and hope that I’ve given people the experience of a lifetime. 

Earlier this week I was talking to my son Berkeley about his upcoming internship at a company in New Zealand, and I told him what my dad told me at his age.

Advice I’ve Never Forgotten

Though I had “kid” businesses like lemonade sands and candle making, when I got my first job, my day drew a little chart and he said, “sit down with your boss and ask them to define their exact expectations of you. Then he drew a line and said, “this line represents their expectation.”

Always do more than expected, always over deliver. If you fall below their expectations, you’re not a good employee. If you meet expectations, they will be happy with you but you’ll be the same as every other employee who is meeting expectations. But if you always do more, take on more, ask what else you can do, you will stand out above the rest.

Of course my teenage mind said, “but I don’t want to stand out, I don’t want to be better than the other employees, otherwise I won’t make any friends.”

His response was spot on.

How to Stand Out

“There is a chance that people who do below expectation will eventually  lose their jobs. If you spend time with them, you become them, because we become like the people we spend time with. The others will keep their jobs, and though you may feel you’re making them look bad by doing more, the reality is that if you don’t do that, you’ll never see the next opportunity.

He explained that “as a boss, I’m always looking to see who is exceptional. Some people are A players, some are B and C players. An A player thinks differently and can do 80% more than a B player without a lot of extra effort, because they think before they act. A B player can do 20% more than a C player, but both either don’t think or they simply don’t care.

He went on to say “surround yourself with people who are better than you and you’ll become like them. They are all good people and no one is better than anyone else, but some are better at their jobs. 

A Surprised Boss

So I did what he recommended. I sat with my new boss and asked him to define my expectations of me. “No one has ever asked me that question,” he said. Then he proceeded to tell me. Then I said, “What can I do to be a better employee?” His response, “no one has ever asked me that either. I think just do a great job and if you see something else that needs to be done, do it. 

Rapid Growth

I was in a pretty crummy job at that radio station, but I managed to over perform, get everyone to like me because I was always helping them, making them look better, and before long they were recommending me for other jobs. I eventually got my break to go on the air. Then I kept trying to get better, and I ended up with better jobs at better radio stations until one day I was in a big city in a great job on the radio. That led me to station ownership by the time I was 25.

A Budding Superstar

Years ago I hired a young guy for my mail room. Tom Elmo would come in and say “Ok that’s done, what can I do now?” He kept doing it, then he just figured things out on his own. Today he is the top guy running my company and we’ve worked together for about 31 years. He gets it.

Someone said that the key to success is showing up. I agree that is half the battle. But showing up isn’t enough. Doing more makes you more valuable, and soon you become invaluable, then opportunity flows to you. I tell my kids that the bar is low. Showing up will put you ahead, but if you really want to go further, become an A player. Find out what needs to be done and how to do it faster, and better. Be like Tom.

Ask Yourself How to Improve It…

If you’re going to do anything, ask yourself. What can I do to make it better? What can I do to give people a better experience? What do they want and how do I give them more than they want? 

That’s the goal this week and always. And when things get stale, it’s time to reinvent and compete against yourself to make things better than your already high standards.

Easy Advice to Those Willing to Listen

Life on TikTok and Instagram is filled with muscle bound perfect people driving Ferraris and going on luxury vacations. Many are selling the idea of extreme wealth and get rich schemes. Most are selling snake oil. But learning these foundations will do more good than most of the strategies being blurted out so you’ll give them money. The simple act of forwarding this email to someone starting their career or struggling with their career can make a difference. I had the benefit of a dad who filled my brain with little things that make a big difference. My goal is to share to help others live excellent lives. My mantra is to over deliver.

Advantages Come to You

When you focus on trying to figure out how to be the best, and when you deliver, you’ll give yourself advantages others will never receive. Some people think that they should not do more unless they are paid for it, but what they don’t understand is that you are paid for it. It may not be immediate, but instead of saying, “pay me more and I’ll do more” you’re showing what you’re worth and it will eventually be recognized. And even if you’re not, you’ll know you did your best, or you’ll reevaluate yourself and ask if you could have been better at what you do.

Life is filled with opportunity. Opportunity favors those who step up and find a way to overdeliver. 

It’s my hope that my team and I over deliver this week. Keep us in your prayers.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The people teaching at the plein air convention are some of the best painters on earth. If this had existed a hundred years ago, Monet and Degas would be teaching on our stages, and the people teaching on our stages may go down as being famous a hundred years from now. This is a rare opportunity, and though I hope it lives on beyond me, there is no guarantee. This is a special moment in time, something that has never happened before in history, and may never happen again. If I were you, and I lived within driving distance of Denver, I’d grab the opportunity to be here.

How to Be an “A” Player2023-05-20T18:50:40-04:00
14 05, 2023

Thought Love


The sky is glowing an iridescent blue like a Maxfield Parrish painting, with twisty silhouettes of tree branches reaching high to patches of leaves. A slight swaying in the trees draws my eye to the distant gay mountain, where a few stars glow in the still-darkened sky. Morning has broken.

In my junior year of high school, I was somewhat lost and confused. I had one interest only, being a DJ on a local college station with no listeners, populated by nerds like me who loved the idea of being on the radio even though we were talking to the wall.

Grades were never my strong suit, and college wasn’t on my radar because a career in radio was already my plan. I loved the attention, and stardom, in the form of radio, was what I was looking for. 

But Carolyn Parsons had a different vision for me. She was my Humanities teacher, in a class that I struggled with. She was as hard on me as anyone ever was. “Get your act together, Rhoads, you’re better than this,” she would say. Though my star may have been shining among my friends, nothing I could do would please “Mrs. P.,” who was known to be the toughest teacher in the school. 

She pushed and pushed. I felt hassled and abused, but she did not let up. I even told my parents, who did nothing. Dad would say, “Son, be the best you can be. Listen to the people around you, and try to see their perspective.”

For the end of the year, we were to have a major project, something to present to the class. We each got half of the class time over about 15 days. I needed to come up with a poem, a story, or something, but I could not. But Mrs. P. would not let up.

“Surely you can do something well, Rhoads. You need to find it.” But I had no idea what it would be. The pressure was on — I was on in a week. I had already seen many other presentations. Some were great, others not so great, and the bad ones got hammered. I did not want that embarrassment.

One day it came to me … what do I really love? I love audio, I love music, and I love photography. So I decided to come up with a multimedia slideshow. Simply put, a slideshow set to music. 

I worked feverishly to take photographs that were artsy, that told a story, and set them to the Cat Stevens tune “Morning Has Broken.” Shots of sunrises, sunsets, graveyards, sad people and happy people. Everything had a yellow theme to it, as if silhouetted before glowing yellow skies.

I fine-tuned, practiced — and I was scared. But at presentation time, I pulled it off. The lights were low, and I looked up to find Mrs. P. standing and clapping, with tears in her eyes. I had broken through.

Her tears were probably not about the quality of my presentation; they were a celebration that her toughest, hardest-to-deal-with student had come through. 

She changed my life forever by finding something within me I didn’t know I had.

I dedicated a book to her many years later, and I sent it to her with a note about her impact. I never saw her again, but she lives in my heart as the woman who cared enough to badger me to live to a high standard.

Carolyn Parsons wasn’t my mom. But she played a significant role, seeing things in me others did not see.

In today’s culture, where everyone needs a trophy, her methods might be frowned upon. But there is value in pushing people to some breaking point where they find themselves. Otherwise they may never get there.

Today, as we honor moms everywhere, we need to remember that we all have different styles and approaches. My mom never pushed me, but she nurtured me. My dad encouraged me. But others in my life stood up to play roles that they saw needed to be played in my life. It’s a community effort to raise children. I think we sometimes forget that.

I would have turned out OK, but Mrs. Parsons challenged me, and pulled out a creative side. I’m sure it would have been easier to let me fail. Instead, she cared enough to push me.

Motherhood isn’t always about nurturing. A great mom (or dad) always sees things we can’t see in ourselves. Sometimes they nag and push and tell us to brush our teeth. But it’s not about clean teeth or clean clothes, it’s about self-discipline that impacts every detail of our lives. 

Being a dad isn’t easy, either; we have our own role to play. And I have huge respect for those who juggle the job of being both mom and dad. I often lose respect for those who bail out and leave their kids to figure it out on their own. No kid deserves that. There is no room for selfishness when raising children; one hangs in there, no matter what. But that’s an unpopular opinion today. Anything goes.

Today, as a tribute to your mom, think back to the times she annoyed you, pushed you, and held you to higher standards … and be grateful. Being a mom isn’t easy, and being tough isn’t popular, especially when you’re on the receiving end. But it’s so necessary.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Eric Rhoads

P.S. My mom died three years ago this week.I miss her and my dad daily. Embrace the ones you still have, no matter how much fault you can find with them. One day they’ll be gone.

Next week I’m off to host the Plein Air Convention in Denver. People ask if I’m excited, and the answer is, “Absolutely!” Can’t wait. See you there?


Thought Love2023-05-13T15:44:21-04:00
7 05, 2023

The Seasons of Living


Massive thunderstorms pounded our metal farmhouse roof. The rattling sound was overwhelming, but this morning the sky is clearer than usual, the birds are happy after their bath, and it’s a stunning day filled with wildflowers and the scent of beauty in the air. There is a big debate in my mind whether spring is my favorite season. What I love about spring is the rejuvenation, the beauty that comes after the harsh cold. And I love spring fever, when we’re all eager to wear shorts, flip flops, and sunscreen. 

I flash back to winters in Indiana that I thought would never end, times when we struggled with the ice, the cold, the dark gray days, dead car batteries, cars sliding off the road and getting stuck in snowdrifts. I could never get warm, and we couldn’t wait for spring to appear.

Experiencing Winter

Recently I’ve watched friends and family experience their own personal winter. Tough times of fighting disease, unexpected tragedy, family trials, addictions, financial or legal troubles, and losing cherished family members. I often feel guilty that I’m experiencing spring when they are suffering. But we all tend to cycle in and out of good and tough times. I too have gone through my own endless emotionally gray days, wishing for them to be over but so consumed I could not see the sun breaking through the clouds in the distance.

And though I never welcome those times, I anticipate there will be more of them. Starting two years ago last week, we experienced a season of winter, losing my dad, my mom, my cousin, my aunt, and my uncle. It was a brutal winter.

Please Don’t Die

When I was a child, I was so enamored with my dad that I constantly worried that he would die. I could not imagine life without him. I don’t know why I thought about it so much, but every stage of my life, I worried, and I told myself I could never get through it if he did die. It was a little boy’s obsession that continued into much of my adult life. It was totally unfounded and illogical, and I don’t understand why it had such power over me for so many years. 

Yet when my dad did die, it was horrible, but not as horrible as I had imagined it would be. Maybe because he was ready, and he had lived a full and valuable life up to age 94. I had spent years worrying about a winter that was not as awful as I had anticipated. 

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Time and experience allow us to look back and see our mistakes, and our wins and losses. I regret having spent countless hours worried about things that never happened, preoccupied by what might happen. And though there is value in being prepared for worst-case scenarios, there is no value in worry whatsoever.  

So I decided to remove worry from my life. I rarely worry even at times I probably should. My attitude is that I’ll deal with the bad things when they happen, not before. Time is too precious for worry. I’m trying to trust God more. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

A Painful Lesson

After horrible winters that seemed endless, the sun always began shining again, and I look back on how I managed to get through the winter and came out stronger in the end. Looking at trials as important lessons also reduces worry, and I no longer cling to things. In fact, I crave change, because whenever I am stressed about change, things always end up better once the change is made.

Worry less. Stress less. Accept change. Know that trials and tough times all come with important lessons that make us better. 

What would you change?

If I had to change anything, as I reminisce about the past, I’d let go more, control less, realize that it’s important to allow others to make mistakes, and my preventing them from making mistakes does not make them stronger people. And I’d look for more ways to build confidence in others and help them overcome their fears. We all need to know that others believe in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Growth does not happen without running the race, struggling to get to the finish line, and experiencing pain. 

The Sun Always Rises

I don’t mean to make light of any terrible thing you’re experiencing at the moment, but know that there is sunshine on the other side of winter and that you’re strong enough to weather the biggest challenges. You need to know that someone believes in you, and that we’ve got your back. Sometimes we have to step on the carnage of pain and loss to get to a higher mountain. It may not be pretty, but the view is better at the top.

Growing Up the Hard Way

My dad once said to me, “Son, you never really grow up until you lose your father.” My dad was in his mid-60s when my grandfather passed, and my dad seemed pretty grown-up to me. But now I know he was right. There is a freedom that comes with knowing you have no one to rely upon but yourself and your Maker, and it sets a path for a whole new you. 

Whatever you’re going through at this moment: You’ve got this. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: This may sound silly, knowing that Sunday Coffee is widely distributed. But I’m truly there for you. I know you won’t reach out frivolously, but if you need help and I can offer it in some way, please ask. I know what it’s like to have no one to turn to. 

PS2: I’ve grown to really love Carl Bretzke, a painter friend I interviewed for the Plein Air Podcast last week. I like him because he is real; there isn’t a phony or insincere bone in his body, not a mean thought in his mind. I wish I lived closer by; I’d wanna hang out all the time. I learn so much from his wisdom.

When we were talking, he brought up that he had attended nine of 10 Plein Air Conventions, and he was eager to attend the one coming up in May in Denver. I was surprised he had attended that many times, and I asked him why he keeps coming back. After all, he is a highly accomplished and successful artist.

His answer was unexpected, but just demonstrates how the best always want to get better. He said, “I come back primarily to see my friends, most of whom I met at the convention originally. But I attend every demonstration, because I always learn new things about painting from every one of them.” Having a curious mind serves him well. The best never rest; they always strive to learn more. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you there. (www.pleinairconvention,com)

And if pastel is your thing, Pastel Live is coming up this summer in August. This is the best we’ve ever done. www.pastellive.com.

The Seasons of Living2023-05-06T16:25:20-04:00
23 04, 2023

Do You See What I See?


Do you pay attention to light? This morning I woke up a little after sunrise, and the sun was slamming the sides of the trees outside my window with colorful warm light in the early glow. Parts of the tree were in shadow, while little spots were illuminated with color. Little twigs and leaves popped out against the dark purplish distant background and lit up like little firecracker explosions.  

In the distance I see the silhouettes of trees in front of a brightly lit pasture of glowing greens and slight reds against the fog. The morning dew reflects little moisture bombs on every blade of grass, making them glow with light.

Golden Hour

Years ago I was attending a broadcast convention, walking down the streets of Boston with friends, when the golden hour approached and illuminated the sides of the brick buildings with a pink-orange glow. The clouds above were gleaming with yellow. I stood and marveled at the light, but when I pointed it out to my friends, they just said, “What is it we’re supposed to look at?” At that point I realized I had been given the eyes of an artist, and that my friends weren’t likely to appreciate what artists see.

It wasn’t always that way — I’d never noticed light and color. But a couple of years after I started painting, I saw everything through new eyes, and life became even more enjoyable.

My first instinct this morning was to rush to my easel to capture what I saw for that fleeting moment, but alas, Sunday Coffee calls.

Sometimes I think we’re appointed to our roles and the way of seeing the world that goes with them. We develop a bias that influences everything that enters our brain. 

Playing the Hits

When I was young and on the radio playing the hits, my bias was radio and music. Somehow my radio-colored glasses impacted how I saw the world. 

What is your bias? 

“Bias” can have a negative connotation, when in fact it’s simply a filter. I look at the world and ask how I can paint it. If I’m into woodworking for a season, I may ask how I can build it. If I’m practicing medicine, maybe it’s how I can heal it?

People are often critical of others because the others cannot see what they can see. It even says so in the Bible:

And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Luke 8:10

Rose-Colored Glasses

If we like what we see, we want others to experience the world through our filter. I wanted my friends to see the color, but they first needed to develop an appreciation. They expressed no interest and probably thought I was nuts.

How much better would our relationships be if we tried to understand the filters of those around us?

We can be dismissive of others because we feel we’re so well read, and we pity others who don’t grasp what we’re saying. 

We can destroy a lifetime relationship because we don’t bother to dig deeper to understand and listen more closely. 

Seeing Color Differently

Many years ago I took a class from artist Camille Przewodek. She would point out colors she saw and paint them, but I could not see them — until she taught me how to see by making me toil over hours of painting colored blocks in sunlight. Suddenly I could understand what she was trying to say. I put in that effort because I had interest. But how much effort do I put in to understand my friends, those I meet, or the needs of my own family?

I need to listen more carefully, not only to the words, but the filter behind the words. 

How many times have you felt something was off, and you ask if everything is OK, and you hear “I’m fine.” But the body language says, “She’s not fine.” You can choose to accept it, or peel back the onion a little more. 

People want to be heard and understood. 

How would you rate yourself on your hearing? I’d probably fail the test. 

Listening with Your Eyes

Recently a discussion with an employee stood out because I was hearing everything was fine, but I was seeing it wasn’t. I could have let it go, but I sensed that I needed to probe gently. One layer at a time, I discovered the employee was unhappy, thinking about leaving because she wasn’t being heard. She cared deeply and was not feeling as though I was doing something that needed to be done. By tuning in, listening carefully, not being eager to have all the answers, I was able to resolve the situation. But I almost didn’t go down that path, because I was busy, focused on something else, and not hearing. 

Where are you not hearing?

What is your pride or ego preventing you from hearing? 

Who in your family, or who in your life, needs you to hear them, understand them, and hear things from their perspective? 

Are you truly listening?

Eric Rhoads

PS: The next time someone says something that makes you recoil, ask yourself this: Am I respecting them? Am I automatically ruling them out because I don’t buy into what they are saying? Is this something I need to understand more? Should I listen more deeply and try to understand?

There are things in my life I was never receptive to that I later embraced.

There are also roadblocks in our heads, because we don’t see ourselves in these things. But what would change if you opened up to listen and explore? What if instead of telling yourself, “That’s not for me,” you instead say, “I wonder why this person is trying so hard to get me to pay attention to this. Maybe there is something they understand that I can’t see. Maybe I need to open myself up to exploration before ruling it out.”

PS 2

Are you listening to yourself? To your heart? Or are you letting other things cloud your decisions about what is good for you?

There was a moment in time when I was introduced to painting. I was interested, but I lacked belief that I could do it. So when an opportunity came up, I came to a crossroads. If I had listened to the negative noise in my head, I would have turned left. Instead, I went the other direction, even though I was uncomfortable and afraid. 

That single decision at a crossroads changed my life forever. Not only did it help me see the world through the eyes of an artist, it helped me launch a whole world I would never have anticipated. A world where we were able to create art magazines, newsletters, retreats, conferences, video training, online events, and so much more. 

Turning left would have taken me in a different direction. Turning right actually resulted in helping millions of others discover how to see the world through the eyes of an artist. It’s helped them become part of something bigger, part of a community, and it appears to have enriched their lives. 

When you feel your heart tugging, listen. It may be God telling you something that will allow you to enrich your own life and the lives of others. 

I’m stubborn. I want to control everything. But I’ve learned that I have control of nothing. I have to listen, I have to ask for guidance, I have to pay attention to those little voices in my head. Yet I have to decide which voices are for good and which are for evil.

Thirteen years ago, that little voice told me to relaunch PleinAir Magazine. I had closed it years before because it was bankrupting me. I was broke and out of money. So I changed its name to Fine Art Connoisseur, and we survived. (I’m also passionate about realism.) 

When that voice told me to relaunch it, my advisers told me not to do it. They told me I would be bankrupt. It was a bad business decision. But my heart was tugging at me. And it was tugging at me to launch a convention with the relaunch. Again, my advisers told me not to do it. 

It was like going to Vegas and laying all of my life savings and all my efforts in business on red, spinning the wheel, and hoping I’d win. 

Thankfully, things worked out, and now we are about to celebrate 10 years of the Plein Air Convention (keep in mind, we had to cancel two different years). 

COVID came along, and in one day, we went from having 1,200 people signed up for the convention to having almost everyone cancel. Again, it almost killed my business. We had to refund all the money, but the hotel was still insisting on being paid. Plus we canceled our FACE event and the hotel decided to sue us for breach of contract. It cost us a fortune to resolve that. And we got hit with $50,000 in credit card fees. The little voice told me that it would not be right to deduct the fees from the refunds. So we got stuck.

We were hanging on by a thread. Our response was to launch online virtual conferences, and it saved us. Otherwise our ability to help out the plein air world would be over, and there would be no more Plein Air Convention, no more PleinAir Magazine, no more Fine Art Connoisseur, no more anything. 

We dodged a bullet.

Thankfully, a lot of people have signed up for the Plein Air Convention, but we’re not yet at our pre-COVID numbers. If you were one of those people who signed up, canceled, and has not come back, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider joining us. This is the last time we will be in Colorado. 

And if you’re new to this and want to understand the plein air lifestyle of painting outside, making friends, and being challenged and creative, consider coming to find out what this is all about. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started — you’ll see all the things you’ll want to buy at the convention — you’ll watch hundreds paint together in amazing beauty, and you can choose to paint along or not. You won’t regret it. 

You might be saying “someday,” but if everyone said someday, someday would never come. Last year a woman told me she had been meaning to come for years, but never got around to it. She told me she was so thrilled to be there, it was much better than she anticipated, and she had a great time and made lots of friends. And I’m glad, because I heard from her husband that she passed away unexpectedly a few months ago, and that he is happy she decided to go. 

If your heart is telling you to do something, listen and do it. There is never enough time, there is always something else you have to do, there is never enough money, conditions are never perfect. If your heart is telling you that you need to be there, you need to find a way. pleinairconvention.com


It’s amazing what gets into our heads. I used to travel most of my year. Yet I have not traveled too much since COVID. I did do my annual June Adirondacks and Fall Color retreats, and I did take a group to New Zealand. But for some reason I’ve been telling myself I need to cut back, travel less. 

On Tuesday I decided to travel to Las Vegas to see one of my key employees receive an award of major importance from the Broadcast Foundation. I received their Broadcast Pioneer Award a decade or more ago, and Deborah Parenti was due to receive their Broadcast Leadership Award. I wanted to be there. 

But as I was packing, I found myself reluctant to travel. I found myself looking for excuses not to go. But I went.

Not only did I make her special event, I reconnected with people I had not realized I missed seeing. It was a rewarding experience, and I found myself meeting new people, including some people I needed to meet, and some I hadn’t known I needed to meet. 

Our heads can be a deep, dark place, and we can end up ruminating on things that simply are not true. Had I not gone on this trip, I would have missed out on some very rich experiences. I’m glad I went. 

I want to take a second and tell you about Deborah Parenti. She had applied for a small role as conference coordinator for our radio division. She must have called me 30 times, and, yes, I found it annoying. But once she got me on the phone, she was amazing, and I immediately was drawn to her. So, a little reluctantly, I hired her.

Deborah is that person who always overdelivers. She cares deeply about the success of those she encounters, and she always accomplishes more than humanly possible. She is so good that I decided to back away from that division, which was my baby, and turned it over to her, making her president of the division. It was one of the best decisions of my life. She is very deserving of the award. She truly is a leader. 

PS 4

At the award ceremony, there were awards given to a couple of people who have passed on, including Rush Limbaugh and my friend Jim Thompson, a broadcast leader. Listening to acceptance speeches from friends or family, I had a moment of clarity. Life comes down to a couple of sentences when someone is honoring you. “He did this and that with his career, started this or that company, and helped these people by working with this or that.” 

In the past I’ve written about writing your own obituary in advance, so you can get clarity on what you want to accomplish in your life. This was an eye-opener for me, because I realized I’m not giving back enough, I’m not helping enough people. I don’t think life is about the companies you founded or the jobs you held, it’s about the people you helped. I realized I need to do more. I’d love your feedback on what I can be doing to help others. I’ll listen. But if I do it, I may not talk about it…

PS 5

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” Matthew 6:14

I don’t want my name on a building. I don’t want to talk about my giving, I don’t want others to know what or how much I give. I do tell my employees part of it, because they need to know we have a bigger mission than just showing up at work. But otherwise I no longer share it. 

There was a time when I’d want to announce it with trumpets, but I realized that if I did that, my giving might not have been pure and for the right reasons. I don’t want to give so that I look good (though my ego tells me I should). I don’t want people to like me or pay attention to me because they think I’ll be a big donor. So I remain silent. Laurie and I pray about where we can help, and we seek to make a difference.

We are often critical of organizations, churches, ministers, etc, about asking for money. I think it’s healthy to remain skeptical. But last week in church I heard this message that was so powerful, I think everyone should watch it, because it’s not about what you give but what you receive when you give. https://austinridge.org/sermons/what-do-you-get-out-of-giving

Do You See What I See?2023-04-22T13:24:17-04:00
9 04, 2023

What’s on Your Radar?


This Texas ranch house is shaking with the thunder that seems almost continuous from the massive storms. Water is pouring down in buckets as I sit dry and well-protected on the long wooden porch. Finally I can take a deep breath without inhaling pollen spores, since they’ve been dampened down by the rain. My heart is filled with joy, not only because of this day, but because I try to find joy even on the most difficult days.

Easter Memories

This morning my mind took me back to 5311 Indiana Avenue, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A little brown house my parents bought for $50,000 (today its value is $233,000). It was a model home for a new neighborhood called Woodhurst. 

We would color eggs in the little kitchen the night before with my mom and dad. My brothers and I would wake up on Easter morning and have to find our hidden Easter baskets, and then we would become energy bunnies after eating most of the chocolate in one sitting. Then I would put on my little bow tie and my red sport coat, and I’d strap on my hidden James Bond 007 gun holster under my jacket and head to church. The problem, of course, is that it’s hard when you’re young to sit still and listen any time. But after a basket of chocolate, it’s doubly hard. 

Easter Orphans

After church, we would usually go to my grandparents’ little house at 317 West Wildwood, the house my mom lived in when she was in high school. (There should be a plaque, because my grandparents and my mom were saints!) At all holiday meals, there were always “orphans” invited, usually family friends who were alone, widowed, or visiting town. Raymond MacPeek was always there. He served in the Merchant Marines with my dad and was always single. And Dellia, an old lady who was our other grandma; we’d known her since we were born. She used to live across the street from my Grandmother Rhoads, but when her husband and kids were killed, she was left with nothing, so my grandparents gave her a room and supported her for the rest of her life. I wonder if I would be so generous.

I feel like I was raised well by good people. They were not wealthy, but they were rich. They had hearts of servants. Their radar was always searching for people in need, people they could help. They were not selfish people; they always seemed to put themselves last.

What does it mean to serve?

I’m trying to learn this, trying to lose my sense of self and put myself last instead of first. I want to serve my kids, I want to serve my wife, I want to serve my friends, my community, and the people who support me in so many different ways. 

Lose Yourself

My recent realization is that most conflict in my life comes from my selfishness, needing to be right, making things about me or my needs. How would we change if we put others first, before ourselves?

Look for Opportunities

Someone told me something recently that I had never considered… “Be on the lookout for opportunities to give.” At first it did not resonate with me, but then they said, “When listening to others, ask yourself how you can help them. What do they need?”

Too much of my life was focused on “How can I get them to give me something?” It used to be that way for me in business … how can I get someone to buy, how can I get someone to do what I need done? But an amazing thing happens when you flip your script away from your needs and totally focus on their needs. 

It does not have to be about giving money. It can be about giving time, advice, experience. 

My therapist friend tells me, “The best thing for depressed people is to volunteer to help others. Suddenly they forget about their problems and come to life by serving.”

Listening Closely

Two weeks ago, I put serving more on my radar. Every time I talk to people I am looking for clues to how I can help them. Just last week a friend told me he had a family member involved in starting a new church. I could not stop thinking about it, so I asked him to introduce me to his family member and I called, asking how I could help. It turned out she was having a specific problem that she did not know how to solve, and though I could not solve it, I knew who could, and made an introduction. I had no idea what the need would be, but I just assumed they might need something.

Try it for just one week.

Starting today, listen for where you can help. Then offer to help. Offer to serve. See what happens. I was amazed at how much joy I felt when I looked at everything with the intent of helping others.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I hope you have an awesome Easter today!!

I mentioned that I had a 007 holster I would wear. When I grew up I wanted to be a spy like James Bond. I had a toy secret briefcase with spy tools, and I had toy listening devices. It all seemed very glamorous. It does not appeal to me today; I wouldn’t make a good spy because I’d blurt out everything the first time I got caught. 

I can remember my first James Bond movie, but I never imagined I’d ever meet a “Bond Girl”! I just learned that Jane Seymour was one of the early Bond Girls, so I’ll meet my first Bond Girl ever when she comes to Denver to attend the Plein Air Convention & Expo next month and help us celebrate our 10th birthday. I hope to see you there to work on your painting skills and to celebrate with us.

What’s on Your Radar?2023-04-08T13:54:40-04:00
2 04, 2023

The Urge to Fight


Nature’s colors are beyond anything any artist is capable of reproducing. The color harmony of this morning’s sky, filled with peach, pink, purple, green, yellow, and gray-blue. The spring greens on the twisty oaks, and the thick carpet of blue flowers, this year the best I’ve ever seen them.

I feel blessed to stare out at the backyard, the distant view, the deep lavender mountain, during a moment of perfect peace. I look forward to my quiet time when others still sleep, when it’s just me, my thoughts, and my faithful dogs.

Trying Something New

Two weeks ago, I tried something new. I decided to celebrate spring by asking people worldwide to join a broadcast from my backyard. I called it a global “paint-out” — a gathering of artists to paint. I invited some friends and ended up with about 30 local artists painting in my backyard, while we saw people all over the world watching and painting together. Suddenly the art world is flooded with paintings of one scene. 

Chainsaws Galore

Doing a live event always has its challenges. Millions of tree branches were downed in the recent ice storms, and cleanup will be a yearlong process for many. And that means the quiet of this beautiful spot is interrupted by a symphony of chainsaws in all directions. For two days before the event, my neighbor, owner of a very large property, had a whole crew sawing away, so noisy I could not think.  

Out of the Blue

When my producer came out to do a practice setup, he mentioned that the sawing was going to be a problem and would be picked up on the mics, which of course I had anticipated. So I walked over to the tree guys, got the name of their boss, and made a phone call, putting me in touch with the owner of the property by text. In a series of texts I mentioned two concerns: the possible change of our view, which could result in us looking into his home (and him looking at ours) and the noise during the broadcast. 

My first text was not well received. He would do whatever he wanted to do, these are his trees. The tone, I thought, was overreacting and inappropriate.

My first reaction was to fight back, because bullies need to be challenged and not allowed to be bullies. But I took a deep breath and did not write what I first wanted to write. 

Instead, I paused and said a quick prayer for guidance. I did not want to have a reaction rooted in my ego. Instead, I prayed for the man. I heard “Love your neighbor.”

My dad used to say you never know what’s going on in someone’s world. If they are having a bad reaction to something, it may be because of other things going on in their life. 

In Another Man’s Shoes

I don’t know this man well, I’ve only met him one time, but I know he co-owns one of the world’s biggest companies, has tens of thousands of employees, and lives in a pressure cooker environment. He has to make tough decisions every day, and the last thing he needs is some neighbor blowing up his texts with another problem to solve, probably in the middle of a meeting. And who knows what else is going on with his family or his health?

So my response was firm, but in a nice way, not allowing him to bully but also loving and understanding. And the outcome was positive and unexpected. 

My ego wants to fight. I don’t want to be told what to do. I want to be right all the time. But had I gone down that path, I would be at war with a neighbor. Instead, the situation was defused.

Does this sound familiar in your life? 

Communication is one of the hardest things to learn. It’s always easier to just slam someone or be the bull in the china shop. But the breakage is high, and often irreparable. 

Bad Reactions

Looking back, I can see dozens of times when my reaction was too harsh, or I was too rushed to take proper time to respond. Usually I was not being mindful of what others were going through or how they might perceive what I said.

Too many times it’s been a harsh e-mail, other times an e-mail or text not intended to be harsh, but taken that way. And the breakage has, in some cases, never been repaired. 

“Take a deep breath,” I tell myself. Say a quick prayer and pray about the situation. And pray for the person you think is doing you wrong. Because when you do that, you are bound to see a perspective you had not considered. 

Vulgar and Hurtful

I was once communicating with someone by text when suddenly he laid into me, saying some horrible things. It was the worst encounter I can ever remember in my life. It was vulgar, hurtful, and shocking. I honestly did not know how to respond. And I don’t remember now how I responded or if I just went silent. But a few days passed, and an unsolicited apology came in, stating that the man was an alcoholic, had fallen off the wagon, and had anger issues when he drank. It took a big man to admit that, and to apologize. And I said a simple thank you and have had no contact since — because, I suppose, I assume it will happen again. (And this is why it’s dangerous and foolish to drink and then get on your phone.)

Ego Out of Control

We are imperfect humans who often have a high opinion of ourselves. “Don’t you know who I am?” has been uttered by many of us far too many times. “I need to speak to your manager now!” “I’ll own this place!” “I’ll never be back!” and other silly things we utter in anger like spoiled children, usually to powerless employees at the restaurant or store we’re visiting when things don’t go well. Or we lash out on Zoom calls or drop F-bombs in meetings. 

Stupid Management Tricks

I used to think, “My way or the highway.” I used to be the manager who had to have my way always, and I’d lash out when it did not happen. I’ve disrupted people’s lives by firing them on the spot when they were angry and stirring things up. But, thankfully, I grew out of that. Sometimes I want to do it, but I bite my tongue and try like crazy to be patient. And if appropriate, I’ll talk to them later, when I’m calm, to use it as a learning moment. 

What if instead of reacting, you pause? Rather than firing back with a scathing e-mail, you tell yourself to wait 12 hours? What if rather than getting back or getting even, you simply stop, say a quick prayer, and try to see their side? What might they be going through? 

The Biggest Loss You’ll Ever Know

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is to lose myself, lose my ego. Ego can be good because it can push you to do great things, but it’s also one of the most destructive forces on earth. If we can lose ourselves, focus on the needs of others, look for ways to love the unlovable, we’ll see new things open up in our lives that we never imagined possible. We can either be impressed with ourselves and try to impress others, or put all that aside and just be loving to everyone. I’ve never said it’s easy, but it changes your heart, changes everything about your life, and makes life so much easier. 

Ultimately, my event still had the sound of chainsaws. For whatever reason, someone along the way decided to keep them going anyway. And another neighbor had a leaf blower going. It may have made the broadcast less pristine, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin an otherwise perfect day. 

If someone ruins my day, I can live with it. My goal is to not ruin someone else’s day. What about you?

Eric Rhoads

PS: The global paint-out was a big success. We had about 4,300 people sign up to watch or paint along, and we had people around the world taking part. It was fun, and different, and I learned a lot from it. I learned that I miss being around people; having local painters here at the house was wonderful. As a result, I can hardly wait to be at the Plein Air Convention, and a reunion of old friends and new.

The Urge to Fight2023-04-01T16:14:09-04:00
26 03, 2023

Happy Accidents


If life had a soundtrack, I’d be listening to the quiet strum of soft guitar music as I sit here on my back porch overlooking the Texas hills on this pre-sunrise morning. Distant hillside homes, towers, and blinking lights are softened by the fog of this humid, almost-warm morning, waiting patiently for the sun to reveal what’s in store for the day.

For over a decade, this porch has been my muse, my quiet place, allowing me to stare into the distance inside my mind and gather my abstract thoughts. It’s where I sit when I feel lost, where I sit when I feel the need to escape, and where I sit to find myself. It’s where I create, where I write, where I ponder each day.

A Backward Glance

Looking in the rearview of life, it sometimes starts me wondering what lies ahead, what will keep me engaged, excited, and driven. What more can I do? What needs to be done that hasn’t been done?

Do you ever wonder about those things? 

Where will you and I find new ways to change lives, to improve lives, to help others live their dreams? It’s a question I often ask, with no answers.

Answers always come with the right questions. 

Being Random

Though I’m a big proponent of mindset and life planning to create the most ideal life possible, it’s also important to allow for impulse, and random left turns. Think how boring life would be if we actually did everything exactly according to plan.

Last week I was meeting my son for dinner in a part of town I was not familiar with. Since I had some time to kill, I just started making random turns down roads I’d never driven, and I found it invigorating. Discovery took me past businesses and shops I’d never seen that I now intend to visit, and to parts of town I otherwise would have missed.

Happy Little Trees

There is also value in what the late artist Bob Ross called “happy accidents.” Though he was referring to a mistake in painting that turns out to be worth keeping, it’s those random and unplanned moments that keep life interesting. 

My dad used to say, “No matter what you start out intending to do, you almost always end up doing something completely different.” That’s because things drop in our laps that are more interesting or appealing.

Being Lost

As a young teen I was lost, and the pressure of trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up was mounting. Nothing appealed to me, until one day I was accidentally invited by a friend to watch him do his radio show. After an hour, I’d found it so exciting that I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. 

Of course, I didn’t do that the rest of my life, because other things caught my interest. 

For instance, I never set out to be a publisher. Until one day I had a meeting with a magazine I’d advertised in, and walked out as the new owner. And I certainly never had any intention of becoming an artist or an art publisher until those opportunities dropped in my lap. 

I have no idea what’s next, but I have no doubt something new will drop in my lap and keep life interesting. It might be something related to what I’m doing now, or it might be something completely different. I want to keep an open mind, because the minute life gets boring, I need to find new stimulation and interests. That might mean a new hobby, or a new business.

Stop Pressuring Yourself

As you know, I have triplets, aged 21, and they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Yet I try to remind them, just try something, because your ultimate direction will drop in your lap once you get exposed to some new things. You are likely to change anyway. It’s true for them, and it’s true for most of us.

The key is to find things that interest you that you could become passionate about. Because life is too short to spend your precious hours doing what you don’t love.

I suppose this has a lot to do with your personality. I don’t think I could do one single thing, day after day, for my entire life. Others are just fine with that.

I also tend to chase shiny objects, which sometimes works out and other times distracts me from what I should be doing. Yet it’s who I am.

Are you the type of person who can find one thing and stick to it forever? 

Or are you someone who likes new and different things?

I’m not looking for anything new. I love what I do, and I enjoy most days. But I remain open to what might pop up next. That’s why I read things that are outside my areas of interest, why I try to learn about things I didn’t think I’d be interested in, and why I will take random classes about random things, and it’s why I like to move every few years. Doing so keeps my brain elastic.

The odds of finding new things increase when you put yourself in situations where you’re forced to discover them. If we get stuck in a routine, it’s hard to come across something fresh.

The key is curiosity.

Are you curious?

An ideal life is filled with little hidden surprises. Though many happen by accident, most will happen when you look for them.

Are you looking?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes I’m Mr. Butterfingers. Though I pride myself on understanding tech, somehow I messed up and did not send Sunday Coffee last week. I did not even realize it till I heard from some of you. Oops. Please accept my apology. Just think, I could have slept in. 

PS #2; 

A couple of weeks ago at my PleinAir Live online event, a woman told me she attended because someone her husband knew had told him about my daily Art School Live broadcast on YouTube, where I have different people teaching art every day at noon. She tuned in, and then heard about our virtual conferences. 

What she said brought tears to my eyes. “My life has changed since discovering these broadcasts and online events. I wasn’t a very good artist, but now I’m much better, all because someone was generous enough to tell my husband about something I might like.”

That’s a great example of a random accident, followed up by taking the steps to try new things.

The most fun of the year, though, is our Plein Air Convention & Expo. It was once called “The Woodstock of Plein Air.” It’s coming up in Denver in May. You can learn about it at www.pleinairconvention.com.

(While we’re here, these are the reasons you should NOT attend PACE. 

  1. I’m too old and feeble. I’ve given up. 
  2. I don’t want to actually be around people yet.
  3. I’ve been before. What could I possibly learn?
  4. I’ve learned everything I need to learn.
  5. I can find better things to do with my money … like beer and pizza.
  6. I don’t need new friends.
  7. I don’t want to make art history by being part of the largest paint-out in history.

Don’t want to go? Buy a scholarship for a young person under 30 who is dying to go.

Just buy the ticket, then let me know and I’ll find someone who wants it desperately.)

Happy Accidents2023-03-26T08:01:22-04:00
26 02, 2023

Anger Consumed Me


A warm breeze kisses my skin as I am at last able to return to the old porch without the need for a blanket or a jacket. Brightly colored purple blossoms ignite the spring trees, and tiny buds indicate soon-to-return Texas bluebonnets that will carpet the ground in blue. Spring is here, finally. 

I’m blessed that we have a short and usually mild winter here in the center of the Lone Star State, only a couple of freezes and one massive ice storm to deal with so far. And though winter is my least favorite, I love living in a place where seasonal change occurs. Being able to open the windows and sleep with fresh air, no heat or AC, is among my favorite things.


Of course, summertime is the ultimate. So many summer memories occupy space in my gray matter. Each summer my grandparents would hop in their new Chevrolet (my grandfather traded his in every year) and we would make the full-day drive to Tennessee. They always packed a picnic, and we often stopped to visit other family members along the way.

Get in the Car Now!

At first, I was resistant when they would ask me along, because summer was a time to hang out with my best friends, to ride to the shopping center on our bikes, and to see what kind of trouble we could get into. But I had no choice in the matter. And once we got to Tennessee, I had some of the best summers of my life. 

Country Breakfast

My second cousin Larry was a year or two older, and we got to share a bed. We would stay up late talking and telling stories. I got up with him at 5 a.m. to help him work the farm. We would feed the chickens, milk the cows, clean out chicken coops (the worst job ever), and once the chores were done, we would come in for breakfast about 7. My Aunt Ruth would make fresh cornbread, fried potatoes, and fried chicken for breakfast. Her preparation included going to the yard, grabbing a chicken, and dressing it, which is a polite way of saying she cut its head off and plucked its feathers. We didn’t get to eat like that at home.

Skinny Dipping

Larry knew all the great spots, and we would hike to a giant waterfall and skinny dip in the cold rushing water, standing up with the water gushing over our heads. We would walk to neighboring farms, visit friends, make forts in the woods, and whittle. The big competition every night was to grab an apple from the tree, pull out our pocket knives, and see who could peel an apple with one continuous peel. The men would sit around on the porch telling stories while the women were making a dinner of more fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans and tomatoes. 

Glowing with Joy

I could not be happier. I was with my cousins, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents. Grandpa Garrett was a preacher who founded several churches, and he raised songbirds on the side to make a little extra money. My Great-Grandma was about the sweetest person I ever knew, and she was truly interested in me.

A Litter of Puppies

One summer I had the added bonus of a litter of little black puppies. I’d lay on the grass and all nine of them would lick my face. I couldn’t stop laughing. But the hardest part about going home was leaving those puppies behind. On the day we were leaving, I begged my grandparents to let me take my favorite one back with us, and somehow they must have secured permission from my parents. The dog was probably not properly weaned, and he whined and was sick most of the way home. I named him Whiny, but later we renamed him Pepper.

Boy’s Best Friend

All young kids should have a childhood companion like Pepper. He was at my side constantly except for school. He was an outside dog because my dad didn’t want a dog in the house. Yet Dad was the one to let him in on his first cold night. Pepper lived in the house from that point forward.


One day my brothers and I were out playing basketball in the driveway (required lifestyle in Indiana) when Pepper took off chasing a loud car. He had a bad habit of chasing cars that we were not able to break him of. As this car raced down the road, Pepper was on its tail and barking. Suddenly the brake lights went on, the driver swerved over, and he intentionally ran over our dog. Pepper hobbled back to the driveway and died in front of our eyes. I cried for weeks. I can remember being in 7th grade, holding back the tears. I had lost my best friend.

My oldest brother knew the driver, who was a bit of a “hood” (the negative term we used at that time), and he went to his house and confronted him. He just laughed and said it was time to teach that dog a lesson for chasing cars.

This may have been my first real dose of reality, a moment when I realized that not everybody was loving and friendly. It’s the first time I can remember being disappointed in humanity.

Time for Revenge

I had never been so angry. I just wanted to get revenge. But my grandmother sat me down and said, “You need to forgive that boy.” She said, “We don’t know why he is the way he is. We don’t know why he has so much darkness in his soul. Instead of getting revenge, you need to pray for him.” I refused. I did not want to. And I stayed angry for a long time.

But once I did forgive him, something changed inside of me. It was when I first realized that forgiveness is for our own good. And it made me want to reach out and help him.

Like you, I could fill up pages where people disappointed me, hurt me, hurt my family, and made me angry. But no matter how hard it is, I forgive them. Then I try to understand what they might be going through. What made them do what they did.

What about you? Did someone hurt you badly?

Have you forgiven them?

Anger eats away at us. I have friends who have carried grudges and anger for decades. I know families who don’t speak to one another because someone hurt someone’s feelings. Yet why would we distance ourselves from those we love most just because they said something wrong? We all have bad days. We all have a slip of the tongue. 

Jailbird Joy

For decades I hated this one kid who used to bully and beat up on me in school. He was flat-out mean, and he ended up in jail. When I first heard that, I celebrated. Yet years later, I was at an all-male event called Promise Keepers, and they asked us to think about people we held anger toward. I realized I was holding anger toward this kid for probably 30 years. I did not even realize it, but he was the first person to come to mind when they asked who we thought of.

I forgave him that day, and all that internal anger was erased. Who knows what the negative impact was on my own state of mind and health because I was holding anger?

If there was someone who wronged you, who would it be?
Who else?

Make a list.

It’s one thing to just tell yourself you’ve forgiven them, it’s another thing to bow before God and ask Him to help you forgive that person. It’s so powerful, it’s life-changing. 

Now, reverse it.

Ask yourself, “If there was someone I may have hurt, who would it be?” It’s even more powerful to realize you’ve wronged someone and need to ask for forgiveness. If you can ask them, write them, tell them, it’s healing. If you can’t, at least deal with it within yourself.

Life is a grand experiment. Maturity comes from a series of stupid mistakes that don’t get repeated.

I made some horrible and selfish decisions when I was young, when I was a young business owner who was a little too impressed with himself, and I still on occasion say or do things I regret. We have all done it. Move on. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And ask for forgiveness.

Holding a grudge is like being chained to a prison wall. Forgiveness breaks the chain.

Now, get on with it. You may have some work to do.

Eric Rhoads

PS: It completely blows me away knowing that someone who is broken, flawed, and who has hurt others and done bad things can be completely forgiven, and once forgiven, it’s gone forever and never brought up again. This is what faith in Christ has done for me. Whenever I say something about that, people complain, some will cut me out of their lives, others will unsubscribe or unfriend me. Yet if I offered a cure for a horrible disease, people would welcome it, not reject it. The cure is in a simple prayer, which I’m happy to share privately when you reach out.

When I was a kid, I’d stay at my grandparents’ house, in the front bedroom with the fan in the window. Between the windows hung a painting that my grandmother’s sister had painted. When I learned that Aunt Ruth was an artist, it made me want to be one too. Decades later, that painting became mine. I drove to Tennessee one last time, taking my mom for a visit to see her aunt and uncle. I took that painting with me to show Aunt Ruth and to tell her how much I loved it, and I got my picture taken with her holding it. That painting is one of the most cherished paintings in my collection. I only wish I knew where all her other paintings ended up.

Whether they knew it or not, the influence of my artist aunt, and my artist mother, opened a door for me that has made me the most grateful I’ve been in my life. No one knew all the art things God would place in my lap because of the small seeds planted at a young age.

In just two weeks I’ll be hosting our fourth PleinAir Live conference online for anyone wanting to learn or get better at painting. Today, I want to dedicate it to Aunt Ruth. I think if she knew what happened as a result of that one painting hanging in the front room, and all the lives that have been touched and people taught to paint, I think she would be a little embarrassed, but pleased. Who knows, maybe this is the seed you need to explore what you can become. 

Anger Consumed Me2023-02-25T15:25:45-05:00
19 02, 2023

Accidental Dreams


A beautiful brown buck, with a giant rack atop his head, gracefully feasts on the downed tree branches left over from the big ice storm a couple of weeks back. The remaining trees sway to and fro, and dim light with a slight touch of pink fills the sky over the distant hills, which I can see even better since the storm cleared some branches out of the view. 

I sit here in this soon-to-be-warm moment reflecting on my past, deeply grateful for each experience, including those that did not work out as I had hoped. 

Reinventing Radio

In 1998 I wrote an article in Radio Ink, my radio industry trade magazine, predicting that one day consumers would get their radio and TV online. The feedback on the article was negative; in fact, I just about got laughed out of the radio industry. Yet for some reason, I had the ability to see down the road. I was so consumed by this concept that I started a radio industry conference about the future of the Internet and its impact on the industry. Though it was successful because people wanted to know more about these new things called websites, they could not buy my vision that people would listen to radio online. 

Lunch With a Soon-to-Be Billionaire

Later that year I had lunch with Mark Cuban at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. Mark had started a company called AudioNet, and it was putting ball games online. I told him my vision that music radio would one day be online as well, and he encouraged me to “go for it.” 

A Boys Scout Is Always Prepared 

After a few weeks of refining my idea, I picked up the phone and called Tom Toy, an old Boy Scout buddy I’d heard was a venture capital guy. I knew nothing about raising money because I’d built my publishing business one sale at a time, with no borrowed money other than a small loan from my dad. 

Hold, Please

When I told Tom my idea, he said, “Hold for a second. I want to get someone else on the call.” Soon I was pitching my idea to another guy on his team. And then they said, “Can you be here Monday to do a presentation?” So I pulled out my best PowerPoint skills and built my vision for a company I called RadioCentral. My concept was to do thousands of niche radio stations for interest groups, and to do every radio format of music. 

Quickly Intimidated

I flew to San Francisco and found myself entering a big conference room with about 10 people sitting around the table. I told them that the future of radio and TV was the Internet, and that RadioCentral would be like a newsstand in audio form, with radio stations operated by people for specific interest groups. 

To my surprise, they said they had interest but wanted me to define my presentation more. “Come back next week after flushing out the financials,” they said. “Show us how you’re going to make money and create value.”

A Trip a Week for Seven Weeks

I returned the following week, and each Monday for seven weeks. Keep in mind, I was running my business while flying weekly to San Francisco from West Palm Beach.

On the seventh week they announced that they were giving me a million dollars to start, and more would come based on progress. 

Our Money, Our Town

When I said I’d get started right away, they insisted I move to the San Francisco area. “Our money, our town,” they said. I argued that I could build it in Florida and have much lower costs, but they knew I needed to be where they could coach me, have me meet with other people who could fund us further, etc.

Defying Physics

Without going into exhaustive detail, I launched the company, managed to hire a team of 50 people, and we invented something that was not physically possible. In fact, when I interviewed engineers provided by a search firm, every one of them told me that what I wanted to do couldn’t be done. One guy I interviewed, Rich Sadowsky, said, “It’s not possible to do this — but I’ll find a way.” 

I hired him, and months later we had invented a way to do the impossible. In fact, he filed a couple of patents, and we ended up with a system that everyone uses today. The impossible was possible.

Launch Finally Comes

We ended up launching dozens of radio formats, and we were doing radio for some of the biggest brands online at the time; we did branded radio for EarthLink, About.com, and several others. But I was swayed away from my idea of radio broadcasters in niche categories. Of course, years later, Apple launched podcasting, exactly what I had pitched five years earlier, though they had a better way of doing it than I had. 

Long story short, we launched, had clients, and even sold some advertising. We raised more money. And then two towers in New York were downed by aircraft, investment dried up, and the company was shut down. 

A Lost Decade

I spent years licking my wounds, looking back at what should have been and telling myself, “If only…” “If only I had been one year earlier, we would have gone public and I would have been a billionaire.” “If only” was stuck in my head, and I became risk-averse, depressed, and defeated. Sadly, it took me close to a decade to recover.

Lessons Learned

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Once I had enough time and perspective, I realized I had learned so much, and that I went for it. The mistake I made is that I did not get back on the horse when I got knocked off. I wasted lots of good years whining about what could have been instead of moving on to the next big thing.

When have you been knocked off your horse? Have you picked yourself up or stayed stuck?

Where have you wanted to “go for it” but not taken action? When you went for it and failed, did you try, try again?

Crawling Into a Hole

Bruised egos and painful experiences sometimes make us want to just curl up into a fetal position because things that were supposed to work out did not. I’ve lived it. Thankfully, I eventually went for it again and came up with something that has given me the deepest, most rich life I could imagine.

People With Zero Vision

When I first told my industry and my friends about my plan, they told me all the reasons it was a bad idea. Had I listened, I would not have lived some of the most important lessons of my life, met some of the best people of my life, and developed technology that became a standard being used today. 

Visionary People

I did not listen because I believed in my idea. And, though my business failed, I lost a lot of other people’s money (which I felt awful about), and ultimately I did not hit it big financially, decades later I have the satisfaction of knowing I was right, that my vision has come true with things like podcasting, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, Apple Music, and others. I’m not suggesting for a moment I invented those things, but I went to San Francisco to do similar things that no one had yet done. 

I was not alone in this vision — others started about the same time, and while some of us did not succeed, others did. I met a young man at a party who had just started this thing called YouTube. Another had started Pandora. Another had started Napster, which revolutionized the world of music. I met dozens of others, including the two founders of a startup called PayPal. I even met two 19-year-old guys who had started a company called Google. They all had  revolutionary ideas. They all went for it. Some succeeded, some became the most influential people in the world, while others failed. But everyone learned important lessons. 

Beyond Bitter

I was bitter for years, but I’m no longer bitter. Maybe I was just too early, maybe I did not work hard enough or fast enough, maybe nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome. And, in hindsight, I needed to learn some important lessons. Sometimes it’s necessary to get your teeth kicked in. There is no reason to be bitter when lessons are learned. It took me too long to realize that. And because I had failed, I stopped taking big risks and following up on other ideas. That was my biggest mistake.

When are you going to go for it? Live your dream? Follow your vision? Take a chance?

Failure is an important part of the process of going for it. The odds are stacked against you. Go for it anyway. Again and again.

Billionaire John Kluge once told me at lunch that he never made big money until after age 70. Most of his friends had retired to play golf. He kept trying. HIs best advice to me: “Keep pitching.” So if you’re thinking it’s too late, stop thinking that. And if you’re thinking you’re too young, stop thinking that. 

There is no time clock. If you’re breathing and can communicate, no matter what age, if there is an unfulfilled dream, you need to go for it. No matter how impractical, no matter how impossible. 

It’s better to try and fail than never to have tried at all. And your odds of success increase substantially when you try.

Go for it.

Eric Rhoads

And now, the rest of the story…

The morning of the 9/11 tragedy, my pregnant wife and I sat watching in disbelief, knowing that I was supposed to be in that building that morning. Had I been there, I would have missed watching triplets be born, with 11 people in the OR assisting us. I would have missed so much. 

This week Grace, Brady, and Berkeley turned 21. It’s been a tornado of activity, years of band practices and ball games and school meetings, and stress over tests, graduations, COVID, boyfriends and girlfriends, happy times and sad ones. Fears, bullying, tears, laughter, vacations, Christmases, and 21 birthday celebrations. 

I was fired from my own company, and my last day of work was the day our first child came home from the hospital. That was God’s perfect timing. I was needed at home, and I’ve worked from home every day since then so I could be there. 

I often get asked if they are the same, since they were born triplets. But they’ve revealed their own unique personalities and interests since the day they were born. The past 21 years have been the most special journey any man could ever hope for. I’ve seen more joy in my life than I ever expected, along with more pain than I ever expected. I consider myself deeply and richly blessed to have been here for this 21 years. 

These Sunday Coffees were designed to be a diary of thoughts to share with my kids when they are old enough to appreciate it. I hope they someday find it. And my advice to them … go for it. Follow your dreams. Ignore roadblocks.

On another note…

When Laurie got pregnant, she could not stand the smell of paint in the back bedroom where I painted, so I took it outdoors. Had I never been in the Bay Area for that company, I would never have discovered plein air painting, which led me to publishing PleinAir Magazine, which led me to creating conferences, videos, retreats, and so much more for artists. One of those events, PleinAir Live, an online conference about landscape painting outdoors and indoors, is a result of those early days. I’m grateful I can live the dream of helping others discover how to live their dreams. I hope to see you there this coming March. 

Never wonder what would have happened if you had taken a left turn instead of a right turn. You are where you are supposed to be, and there are lessons you are supposed to learn. Had I never gone for my dream, the dream I’m living today would never have happened. 

Accidental Dreams2023-02-17T20:23:50-05:00
12 02, 2023

Which Side of the Battery Are You?


Glowing pink is radiating up to the gray and purple morning sky, against the silhouette of distant rolling hills. The morning sun signals hope for the day. Gray-green broken branches fill the ground, in piles the size of houses, left over from last week’s ice storm. A brisk breeze shakes the trees as if to test the strength of the remaining branches.The sound of a flight to who-knows-where tumbles in the sky above for a brief moment. 

Each day when I awaken, I start with hope. I hope it’s a good day. I hope I do good work. I hope I’m productive. I hope I am a good example to others. When I open my eyes, usually at the request of the whining dog in the crate on the other side of the room, I place my bare feet on the ground and I rub them back and forth. It’s a routine I’ve done for decades, and to me it’s like revving my engine. It builds my energy and sets the tone for the day. It launches me!

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Last week a friend commented to me, “You’re always happy. What’s your secret? Life can’t be that perfect.” It took me by surprise, because I’d never really stopped to think about it. 

What is my secret?

Bad Days Bounce off Like Bullets off Armor

The reality is that life has its challenges. And they never really stop; there is always some drama somewhere. Yet rarely, if ever, does it faze me. Though I was severely rattled when my teenage son had a heart attack and nearly died, I remained fairly composed and calm.

If I had to come up with an answer, I’d say that I’ve spent far too many days in my life worked up, worrying, stressing, and it never seemed to make a bit of difference, other than making me feel unhappy. Now my answer is, “Trust God. Everything is beyond my control.” If I can control the outcome (rarely), I take the necessary action. Otherwise, I roll with it.

A Man-to-Man Talk

Years ago, I fell in love with a girl at a different high school. She was my first love, and we were inseparable for a few years. I grew close to her family and her dad. One day, he asked me for some of my time. We sat and he challenged me. He said, “Eric, you have everything going for you. You’re likable, you’re smart, you’re creative, but I don’t think you’re very happy. In fact, I think you’re very negative.” I was shocked because I’d considered myself a positive thinker. He went on to say, “I can’t support my daughter being with you if you continue down this path. And if you continue being a negative thinker, you won’t live as long as you should, and you won’t live a happy life.”

I was stunned. 

He coached me about what he had observed and how I should consider overcoming it. He recommended that I read “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “Think and Grow Rich,” and he encouraged me to set out each day to think positively. 

Keep in mind that I grew up with a positive-thinking dad, who had taught me most of these lessons. But it took an outsider to get my attention. And, that one “little talk” changed my life forever.

Meet Mister Negative

Earlier this week I met a guy who’d wanted to talk with me. I resisted because he had been negatively badgering me online. I don’t like to be around negative people. But, I told myself that I needed to talk with him, though I did not know why. The conversation started out negative. He told me all the reasons why things were bad, why his business was bad, what things were not going well. It was hard to hear, and I wanted to jump through the phone, grab him by the shirt, shake him and say “can’t you see that your life isn’t going well because you’re not expecting it to go well.?” But I was polite, I encouraged him, gave him some ideas, and ended the call.

That’s Easy for You to Say

I used to lecture my dear old friend Chris. I liked him, but I’m not sure why, because he was like that kid in the Charlie Brown comics that always had a cloud over his head. One of the most negative people in the world. I had countless discussions with him about his negativity, and things would change if he would just think positive. But he told me “its easy for you, you’ve had a great upbringing.” His pain from his past seemed too big for him to overcome. He was stuck in negative mud.

Are you stuck in negative mud?

Pay close attention to your conversations this week. Are you talking about all the things going wrong or all the things going right? Are you whining about things you have to do or celebrating all the things you get to do.

Focus on Strength

Author John Maxwell is the guest pastor at my old Florida church sometimes. He says that having a positive outlook on life is crucial for happiness and success. He encourages people to focus on their strengths and to see the good in every situation, instead of dwelling on negativity and failures.

Thinking Calisthenics

As a recovering negative person, I know you have to retrain your brain, and it does not happen fast, and it feels uncomfortable because negativity makes negative people comfortable. They feel better about themselves when they can find problems with others. But to train your brain you have to resist negativity at all costs.

Don’t default to the grey cloud of problems. Seek the side of hope and encouragement.

Mister Spin

My friend Bob is the ultimate spin master. No matter what anyone says to him, if it’s negative and even if the negative thing you’re saying is true, he finds a way to spin it in a positive way. He’s better at this than me. And it has served him well. Everyone loves being around him.

Accepting Blame

We almost never want to accept ourselves as being our own problem. We want to blame others, blame outside influences. I get it. But it does not serve you well to do this. So listen carefully to the tone and messages of your words. Listen to your thoughts. Are you sewing with golden threads of positive or black threads of negative? The choice is yours.

Don’t Beat On Yourself

I’m a pretty positive person but even I have wallowed in self-pity and negativity when things have not gone my way in the past. But doing so only prolongs the pain. I finally learned to move on, don’t look back, don’t beat myself up, and focus on the future and the good things. 

What’s your spin?

I don’t mean to be flippant, or dismissive of your pain, your circumstances. Life is hard.

Survival Strategies

I once met an oncology doctor at a party, and I asked him the best way someone can survive cancer. I was surprised by his answer, which seems very unscientific. “The moment I reveal cancer to a patient I can tell if they will survive or not. If they have a positive attitude and say, I’ll beat this, they survive longer, and often beat it entirely. If they are negative, and immediately say they are not ready to die, they never last long.”

There are not a lot of choices in life. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we react and respond to them.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Eric Rhoads

PS: How did we get this far into the new year already? Time has accelerated it seems. 

I’m really jazzed that I have the opportunity to introduce people to the plein air painting (outdoor painting) lifestyle and teach them how to do it. More people painting outside is a great thing. My next live online event is called Plein Air Live, and its happening next month. Hundreds have already signed up to learn from the great masters of our time. I’m positive you won’t be negative when you attend. 🙂 www.pleinairlive.com

Which Side of the Battery Are You?2023-02-10T19:24:17-05:00