26 06, 2022

Chasing the Dream Life


Two large loons are swimming at the edge of the dock. Their cry echoes across the lake, bouncing off the distant shore, where the deep green pine trees are softly covered with morning fog, making them a pale bluish-gray color. A hawk flies overhead, and it’s so quiet you can hear the whoosh of her wings and her loud call as well. Not to be diminished, a tiny dock spider spins its web across the seat of the Adirondack chair next to me. 

Though the birds, the streaks of sunlight, the beautiful views may not be there for my pleasure, they bring pleasure just the same. I can choose to ignore them or to embrace their beauty. 

Type A

For decades I’ve been a hard-charging, “Type A” personality, working endlessly to help others find what I have to offer, and often chasing shiny objects, often in pursuit of the things the media tells us will create happiness.

Five Hot Cars

Looking back, I can recall gurus standing in front of their five-car garages, each door open with an expensive car in every slot. They would stand beside their jets and tell us that this can happen to us, too. And I bought into much of it, often buying a course to refine my skills.

Looking at the Mirror

I too wanted the trappings of success. I even created cutouts of the things I wanted and plastered them on my mirror, looking at them daily. And remarkably, most of those dreams came true. One expert told us to go to the car dealer, pick out the car we wanted and get a picture sitting in the driver’s seat, then paste the picture up on the bathroom mirror. Instead, I took an ad from a magazine and glued my photo onto the car in the ad. Every day, I told myself, if I sell this radio station one day, and if I make at least a million dollars, the first thing I’ll do is to go out and buy that Porsche 911.

A Dream Realized

When that day came, I went to the local Porsche dealer and could not believe how expensive the car was. Not wanting to blow through all my money, I began the search for a used one, eventually finding the exact car of my dreams at a fraction of the price. To this day I can remember the feeling of hitting a goal, the feeling of accomplishment for working so hard, yet being proud that I was practical by not buying a new car and losing 20 percent in depreciation. 

After a few weeks, my Porsche was just transportation, and I soon found I had my eye on the next cool car, the new BMW 7 series sedan. Soon, I had that car too. And before long, it too was just transportation. 


I used to drive through Palm Beach and see the mega mansions and tell myself, “Someday I’ll own one of those.” I’d see the excessive display of wealth, the spending, the cars, yachts, jets, jewels, and clothes, and I found myself wanting more and more. But I could not keep up. As my dad used to say, “Son, someone’s always got a bigger boat.”

A New Focus

Then one day Laurie announced that she was pregnant with triplets. I was suddenly the happiest I can remember being. My focus changed from being a hotshot to being a practical dad with looming college bills (for triplets). So we sold the nice cars and bought two simple Hondas. That was 20 years ago, and I still have one of them. 

My self-image had been tied to what the media said was success, but I realized that it was an empty vessel.

You Are What You Think

I’m a big believer in positive thinking and manifesting things (along with a plan and the associated work), and though I feel fortunate to have experienced hot cars, and even life on private jets, I’ve thankfully discovered that’s not where my happiness lies. King Solomon even talked about it — as the richest man in the world, he was never satisfied. 

Back to the Birds

That brings me back to the birds on the dock and the importance of knowing what truly makes you happy. For me, it’s about the beauty of nature, about deeply enjoying the people I love, and deepening relationships with others. 

Things happen for a purpose. Had I not experienced the chase and not experienced the things I thought would make me happy, I might still be chasing them. I’m thankful that I eventually arrived where I am.

Service to Others

I’m no longer a hard-driving Type A. Though I work hard, it’s because I love what I do, and my goal is to be of service to others, to help them live their dreams, to be their servant. Since I started with that attitude, my happiness level has soared. It has taken me decades to discover that happiness is found in service to others. 

Where does your happiness lie? I’d love to know what you’ve discovered.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Recently when cleaning my garage, I threw out things that I had craved to own. Mostly cool electronic gadgets, cameras, computers, speakers, etc. I can remember wanting these things, saving the money to get them, only to discard them for the next big thing. There is no better exercise than throwing out the things you once thought were important. Now, before I buy anything, I question my purchase. Do I need it? Will I be throwing it out in three years? 

My joy isn’t dependent on anyone else, but I gain great joy from other people, which is why tears were shed when we said goodbye at my Adirondack artist retreat with about 100 friends and new friends that ended a week ago yesterday. Every time I tell myself I’m only going to do it one last time, but I get such joy from the people that I can’t wait to do it again.

My next artist retreat, Fall Color Week, is coming up in October. I can hardly wait. It’s already sold out (there is a waiting list), so others must also see the joy.

I do have some space on my lifetime bucket list painters’ trip to New Zealand, though not much. That’s happening in September, so it’s already time to book flights. If you are on the fence, it’s best to decide now. 

In case you missed it, we have a brand new newsletter called Pastel Today. The editor, Gail Sibley, has been at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) conference this week in Albuquerque (it’s a great organization and event). If you want the free newsletter, join us at PastelToday.com. And if you really want to grow as a pastel artist or learn about it, we have Pastel Live online, coming up in August. It’s a three-day event with the top pastel artists on earth, plus an optional Beginner’s Day.

Chasing the Dream Life2022-06-26T01:01:13-04:00
11 06, 2022

My Personal Secrets Revealed


A bright pink salmon-colored sky is glowing, with the black lace of pine trees silhouetted against its brilliant color. The lake is mirroring the sky, not a ripple in sight. The silence is beyond any level of quiet I’ve ever experienced. This is the true definition of peaceful.

In the late 1800s, the Hudson River School painters were criticized for their brilliant sunrise and sunset paintings because the coal-smoke-filled skies of New York made such skies unbelievable. Yet, as I sit here on the dock of my Adirondack home, I’m a witness to confirm such brilliance exists here in this 6-million-acre protected park. The air is so pure I find myself taking deep breaths more frequently.

A Boat Ride Away

Just minutes from now, after coffee on the dock, I’ll put on my jacket and put the first ripples on the glass-like lake as I make my way across to a small, winding river through the weeds and woods to the next lake over, where I’ll pull up to the dock at Paul Smith’s College. That’s where I’m hosting my 11th annual artist retreat I call the Publisher’s Invitational. I’m hosting about 100 plein air painters, who will paint the incredible scenery here for a week.

No More Invitation Required

I started this event after some painters told me they rarely get a chance to simply paint side by side because most events involve a sale and competition. My event used to be invitation-only till the demand to attend made it clear invitations would no longer need to be issued. Now anyone who wants to come can come. (Quietly, I do an actual “invitational” with a small group of high-level painters at a different time in the summer.)

At the beginning of the year, when I was rethinking my priorities, I came to some conclusions about my personal operating system. My priorities have changed since I’ve seen so many good people disappear in the last couple of years. Because I get lots of questions about how I have such energy and how I manage to accomplish so much, I thought I’d share this.

    1. Spiritual health

      If my walk with God isn’t strong, then everything else is out of balance. I make a point to read my Bible every morning before I open any email or social media. I spend time in prayer many times daily. It’s not about earning favor (which isn’t possible), it’s about praise and thanksgiving.

    2. Health trumps everything

      My goal is to optimize health, keep my immune system strong, maintain high standards of mobility, and keep my energy high. This includes walking fast, interval and weight training most days, supplemented by daily walks (up here the woods make for amazing walks). I study nutritional and longevity trends, take lots of the latest supplements (including NMN, which is revolutionary), and I get my blood tested at least four times a year. I maintain a mostly vegan diet along with some fish, and I try to live as stress-free as possible.

    3. Mindset makes a huge difference

      Friends my age and younger are winding down. I’m winding up. I’m just getting good at the things that have taken me a lifetime to learn, I don’t want to stop now. I want to see what’s possible. My friend John Kluge, who became the richest man in the world, told me, “I did not really figure things out till I was 65 or 70. When my friends were retiring, I was just getting started. Keep pitching. Never stop pitching.” I carefully guard my self-talk, and I realize that I have more to give, so I don’t ever want to tell myself there are limitations or restrictions.

    4. Family and friends matter most

      I take more time for my family than ever, realizing that my kids are growing up and leaving home. I have lessons I need to teach them, and they have lessons to teach me. I’m trying to invest in my family more deeply and let them know they are loved.
      I’m also investing more time in friendships. I’ve had too many recent instances where my last phone call or visit with someone was the last time I’d ever be able to visit with them.

    5. Help others

      What can I do to make life better for others? What kinds of experiences can I give them that may become lifetime memories? How can I use what I’ve learned and earned to help others? How can I coach others? How can I help others live a better life?

    6. Live for experiences and play 

      Life boils down to special moments and memories, most of which are created. My goal is to live as richly as possible by creating experiences and moments for my family, myself, and others. I want to travel more and take others along on the experiences. I want to play more, spend more time on the things I love, and experiment more with new things (for instance, I’m teaching myself 3D design and printing, I’m learning other mediums like pastel, watercolor, and gouache, and I’ve been doing woodworking, building my own new easel design). 

    1. Challenge myself

    Unchallenged people become dull and lifeless. I want to be curious, set no limits on what is possible, and push myself to accomplish great things. It’s not about money (though that’s often a measurement device), it’s about doing what cannot be done, inventing what can’t be invented, creating what can’t be created. 


    1. Be a nice guy no matter what

     I self-identify as a nice guy. My goal is to listen better, get to know others at a deeper level, be truly interested, and to be a nice guy. I can’t say I’ve always lived up to this, but I’m trying harder than ever. I want to be nice under pressure. I want to be the person I’d want to meet, someone who cares deeply about others and their stories.

    1. Life is about learning

      I’m eager to learn. I want to be better at the things I know, I want to learn about things I don’t know, and I want to discover things from others that can make me a better and more interesting person. I try to read daily, I take courses online (I just got certified in NLP, for instance, and I’ve been learning self-hypnosis), and I’m seeking things outside my lane to keep my life interesting.

    2. Finish well

      My dad finished well. He lived to 92 and died in his own home, and had a lot of people who loved him for who he was, not what he had. His life, family, friendships, interests, and relationship with God were rich up until the end. Upon his passing I heard stories from others of his friendships, where he went out of his way to make others feel special, to help others in need. He never talked about it. I don’t like to talk about what or where I give, who I help, or everything I’m up to. Some things are best executed silently.

Have you ever created your own personal operating system?

Don’t copy mine, come up with your own. Chances are you have it in your head. Put it in writing — it provides clarity and acts as a reminder that life is far from over.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Today is our first day of painting at my event. I’m excited to paint with everyone and start catching up or getting to know them.

Speaking of experiences, I’ve just made our reservations to fly to New Zealand. I’m taking 50 to paint and tour, and I think we’ve got a few seats left, though if you want to go, we need you to book soon so you can book your flights. You can learn more at www.paintingnewzealand.com.

My next artist retreat is in October in Maine, and it’s almost already sold out. I think there are a handful of seats left (we have limits on how many rooms we can get). www.fallcolorweek.com

PS2: Love pastel? Last August when I held Pastel Live online, I got inspired and started painting in pastel. I picked up lots of ideas from top artists at that event and I’m loving the qualities I can get from pastel that I can’t get from other mediums, including high, vibrating color. I’m very excited and committed to pastel and am pleased to announce that we just launched a new, three-times-a-week pastel newsletter with Editor Gail Sibley. You can get it free by going to https://pasteltoday.com/newsletter/. Check it out.

My Personal Secrets Revealed2022-06-11T22:18:14-04:00
29 05, 2022

Finding Joy in Dark Times


The best night’s sleep ever occurred last night, with all the windows open, the curtains blowing along with the cool breeze, and a wonderful 65 degrees. This morning I peeked out the bathroom window to see a red cardinal perched on a branch singing its heart out. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie, living in a perfect world. Of course, after a cup of coffee and a check on social media, reality strikes. Perfection isn’t possible. At least I had a great night of sleep to improve my focus and attitude, letting problems bounce off my chest like projectiles bouncing off Superman. 

Walking on Air

I have to admit I’m still on a high from our big artists’ convention in Santa Fe last week. It was the first time in almost three years that our family of artists has been together, with the surprise of hundreds of new people joining for the first time, and hundreds of others joining online. I knew I missed it but did not realize just how much it was missed, because my energy comes from being with other people. I had not realized how low my batteries were and how being with hundreds of others who share the same passions would give me a much-needed full charge that can last me another couple of years. Hopefully, we’ll all be together at this time next year in Denver. 

Cutting Loose

My wife and kids went with me for the first time to the convention. I wanted the kids to see what dad does for a living. They worked, helped out where possible, and found out about my 5 a.m. alarm so I can teach marketing at 6:30, and my midnight bedtime after entertaining people in my suite till the last person leaves. It’s a full day, it’s exhausting, and I would not change a thing.

But it was especially eye-opening for the kids, age 20, who maybe have never seen someone work so hard. And it was not just me — my amazing team worked from early morning to late night as well. They all deserved a chance to cut loose in our closing party. We were all dancing fools. It felt good.

Different Batteries

Arriving home, I was energized, but my wife and my daughter needed some extra sleep, because, unlike me, this activity drains their batteries and their only hope of a recharge is a quiet room, sleeping in or reading a good book. I’m told different personality types have different ways to charge their batteries. It’s evident in my own life and the differences between us.

How do you recharge? 

It’s All About Joy

For me, joy recharges my batteries. It may be the joy of being with people I love, maybe the joy of a party or dancing, the joy of being in my studio or being outdoors painting, the joy of travel to exotic places and seeing beautiful scenery, the joy of hanging on the couch with my kids doing nothing together, or even the joy of a great phone call connecting with an old friend. I also get lots of joy out of taking a creative idea and turning it into a product or a business, and at the convention I got a lot of joy out of coaching artists on their marketing and showing some of the vendors some things that were obvious to me that could improve their products or businesses. Sometimes my joy comes in the form of a special passage in my morning devotional time or a special moment in prayer.

Being Deliberate

Joy can be accidental, or it can be deliberate. But I’ve found that most of my joy is deliberate, seeking it by following certain routines or orchestrating special moments. It can come if we wait for it, but why wait if you can feed your soul deliberately? Some of my best moments of joy came from things my parents did to create memories.

The hard part is finding joy during the most difficult times. How do we find joy at times when we’re suffering and hurting? The answer lies in seeking it, looking for it.

Finding Joy in Pain

When my dad died last year, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. Yet, in spite of being sad and depressed, my nature is to seek out the positive side of things, to look back on the memories, or to understand that he is now in a place with nothing but joy, where no pain or depression exist.

One of My Worst Moments

As a young man, I can remember being devastated over the loss of the love of my life. I could not get out of bed, I laid in a fetal position, I cried for days, I was not sure I wanted to live. I knew I was the most depressed I’d ever been, and I was not sure how I’d pull myself out of it. And I could not imagine not seeing her again. It was horrifying, and once I pulled myself out, which took over a year, I swore I’d never go through that again. It crossed my mind to avoid falling in love again so I’d never have the pain of loss. In that situation I got on my knees, prayed, and asked, “Why me?” And the thoughts I had made me understand that there was a plan for me, and that I’d not appreciate it without experiencing pain. It made a huge difference in my outlook. Years later, knowing what I know now, I’m so happy I did not stay in that relationship. I’m so much happier now, and I’d not have my incredible wife and kids had I been stuck in that relationship mud.

At the convention I was speaking with a friend who told me about a devastating year of pain and business problems. When I started to console him, he stopped me and said, “No, Eric, you don’t understand. This resulted in the most important lesson I may ever have learned.”

Outlook changes everything. It seems overly simplified, but it has a huge impact. There are lessons in every moment of pain. Seek them and you’ll find joy.

What’s going on in your life at this moment that is causing you pain?

What is happening when you’re asking, “Why me?”


Tough Love


As a child I used to wonder why my parents were so hard on me at times, why they made me suffer without the things I thought they should give me, why they disciplined me. It was because they cared deeply, and they knew I needed to learn lessons that I was too blind to see for myself.


Instead of “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?” and, “What can I learn from this?” 


Whatever you’re going through now, no matter how hard, how devastating, it has another side. Seek it. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I want to thank all the people who showed up for the Plein Air Convention for the joy you brought me with your presence. We had some people cancel at the last minute because of the news of fires in the area. Yet we had mostly clear skies and incredible painting every day during the convention, and we had what some say was the best convention yet. It sure felt that way to me.

PSII: At the convention we revealed that we’re going to Colorado next year. We’re painting in some amazing places like the Garden of the Gods and the Rocky Mountain National Park, plus some other places nearer to Denver, where we’re holding the event. 

Because I always offer attendees a chance to get our best price ever if they get their ticket during the Plein Air Convention, we have 58% of the seats already sold. And before COVID, our Denver convention had 1,000 seats sold. Our limit is only 1,200 seats. That means there are only about 500 seats left, and I suspect they will go fast, especially with what we’re going to announce in the next week or two. If you’re thinking of going, book it now to make sure you have a seat. It’s our 10-year birthday bash, which means there are lots of things we’re going to do to celebrate. It’s not the one you want to miss. 

PSIII: Next week I’m going to take a few days off and drive to the Adirondacks. My big artist retreat is June 11-18. It’s a week of painting together with about a hundred others. We paint all day, play at night (music, cocktails, and more painting), and we stay on campus on a beautiful lake. There are about nine seats left. I’d love to see you there. I think this is the 12th year. I’m not sure how many more years I’ll do it. If you’ve always wanted to come, I hope you’ll do it. Upstate New York is stunning, the Adirondack Park is protected and about the size of three National Parks, and the beauty is unexpected and stunning. I’m especially fond of painting waterfalls, and there are lots of them we paint every year.

PSIV: Our next online virtual conference, Pastel Live, is coming in August. It’s all about pastel painting. I’m really getting into pastel lately, and I’m doubling down on pastel at Streamline. We’re going to make a major announcement about pastel this week (that is not about the conference). If you want to attend, we have a free webinar called The Future of Pastel with me and Gail Sibley. I think you’ll be pleased. 

PSV: I’m told this week is the last week to register for Paint New Zealand, my private painting trip to see and paint the sights of that amazing country. I’m guessing this will be the only time we do it because there are so many other places I want to take people. I think there are about eight seats left (of the 50-seat limit). It’s the trip of a lifetime, and I think you need to get signed up ASAP. 

PSVI: People have been begging me to return Fall Color Week to Maine one more time. This is our fourth time there, and we’re staying inside Acadia National Park. We always pick the peak of fall color, and the scenery is amazing. In fact, most of the Hudson River School painters painted there too. Join me. I think there are 12 seats left. 

Finding Joy in Dark Times2022-05-26T19:39:09-04:00
13 05, 2022

Two Paths to Choose


Massive winds bend the thick trunks of scrub oak trees until it seems the roots will soon rip out of the ground. Birds fly against the wind, working extra hard to move from branch to branch, and the heat would be overbearing if not for the winds.

I love nature, I love lightning, thunder and storms, even high winds … up to a point, until it becomes unsafe. In fact, I once rode out a hurricane in my car, stuck bumper-to-bumper in Central Florida as me and millions of others were trying to escape to safety up North. No cars flipped, but they were all rocking back and forth, bounding on their tires. It was more intense than any Six Flags ride and lasted for a few hours. Other than cowering in a basement corner waiting for an oncoming tornado, I think that is the most frightened I’ve ever been.

The Struggle

Looking back on childhood, I’m grateful for experiences that made my brothers and I stronger. I’m grateful my parents let us struggle and did not solve every problem for us.

As a parent, my temptation has been to tell my kids what to do at every turn, trying to keep them from pain. But pain is healthy, and we should save our controlling nature for those times when their lives or safety are actually at risk. Otherwise, skinned knees and wounded hearts are part of growing up. 

Our job as parents isn’t to clear the path for our kids but to get the kids ready for the path. Letting go is probably more important than control.

Go Ahead and Sleep Late

I want my kids to learn to be independent. For instance, one of my sons has a full-time job, and, like many, has not learned to manage his time. Plus he loves to stay up late, sometimes till the wee hours. Knowing he has to be at work at 6 a.m., I could call him and suggest he come home. And in the morning, I could go upstairs and wake him. But unless he experiences the pain of an unhappy boss because he is late or misses work, he won’t learn. So, in spite of my temptation to help make things smoother, I let him fail.

Do Your Own Laundry!

When I was a kid, my mom did our laundry and cooked our food, but she made me cook every week or two, choosing the menu for the family. We had lots of fried bologna and mashed potatoes. But at least I could survive if I had to (which came in handy once I left home.)

Laurie made our kids start doing their own laundry at about 7 years old. My daughter told me many kids come to college having never done their own laundry. She’s been doing it for more than half her life.

My natural instinct is to answer questions, step in and control situations, and blather on about lessons that need to be learned. But I have to fight my instincts.

What about you?

How were you raised?

Did your parents allow you to make mistakes, or did they control every outcome?

When my boys were in Cub Scouts I read a book called The Dangerous Book for Boys, which emphasized the importance of danger and adventure. Too many of us won’t let kids climb trees because we fear broken arms, but the book says that we need a sense of danger, we need to do things to help us build our confidence. (My daughter was as much about danger as my boys.) So while other moms and dads were preventing danger at the park, I was encouraging it. Though it was against my instinct, it’s important.

We’re not perfect. We paved too many paths and spoiled our kids in some ways. Thankfully, we didn’t try to control every moment. As a result we have confident, independent kids (sometimes too independent).

Are you paving a path or letting them make their own path?

The most important lesson for me as a parent is to let go. 

Step in only when it’s a matter of life or death. If they screw up and get arrested, I won’t bail them out. They need to learn. If we solve every problem, they’ll be looking to our solutions into adulthood.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Winds are pushing wildfires in New Mexico, which has discouraged a few people from attending our Plein Air Convention, which starts on Tuesday the 17th. Thankfully, I’m told that things are fairly clear in Santa Fe and our group is in no danger. If we do get an especially smoky day, we’ll simply paint together inside if we can’t go outside (unlikely). I’m bringing my entire family (triplets and their mom) to the convention this week to work. I hope you’ll come, or at least watch online.

This September it will be springtime in New Zealand (sounds like the name of a movie). I’m taking a group of 50 to the most amazing scenery on earth for painting. (Some come and don’t paint, they just tour or take photos.) I have a few seats left. www.paintingnewzealand.com

This June I’ll be painting with about a hundred friends at my 11th Publisher’s Invitational artists’ retreat in the Adirondacks. We’re going to some of the EXACT spots painted by the Hudson River School painters. In fact, we’re staying and painting in the exact location frequented by Winslow Homer. One price includes room and meals (yep, a week where you don’t have to cook or clean!!). www.paintadirondacks.com

Two Paths to Choose2022-05-13T15:20:56-04:00
6 05, 2022

Your Favorite Lifetime Memories


The sun is streaming painfully into my eyes. It’s bright and brilliant orange, kissing tree limbs and the tops of grasses as it makes its way to me. I tip my new 10-gallon straw cowboy hat down over my eyes to find shade.

This morning’s heat is intense. Today will be a candle-melter, and not good for the chocolate bar tucked between the seats in my car. I may come back to a bowl of soup.

Walking on the deck in my pointy-toed boots, I hear the sound of cowboys about to go head-to-head in a quick draw. The only things missing are spurs and a six-shooter. I’m not normally a cowboy kind of guy, but I love watching it on Yellowstone. It makes me want to pretend.

Finding the Impossible

In 1980, two days before my first wedding, which was to occur in my parents’ backyard on a lake, I decided it would be cool to surprise the bride with a ride down the aisle in a horse and buggy. “But where can I possibly find a horse and buggy?” I wondered. Nothing was in the phone book, and the Internet did not exist. So I started thinking about where there might be an abundance of buggies. I got in the car, drove out to Amish country, and started looking for farms with buggies. I’d stop, knock on the door, and tell them what I was looking for. Though people were friendly every time, these were tools they needed for their farms or to conduct their lives. And the more doors that shut, the more determined I was to find a horse and buggy. I had set my mind on it, and I was not going to stop looking. 

Down the Road

The next stop, a nice farmer told me that a cousin down the road had just taken delivery on a new buggy that had never been used. Soon I showed up at his door and explained my desire to make the wedding special. I told him I wanted to decorate the buggy with flowers and bring my bride down the aisle with her father. I offered to pay him, though I did not have much money to offer. He started thinking, and I felt a rejection coming, but instead he said, “I have a friend with a truck. I’ll deliver the truck with the buggy and my finest Tennessee Walker to you two hours before the wedding on Saturday. The only payment I want is a photo of the bride in the buggy.” We shook on it. 

A Liquid Chuckle

No one knew about this surprise, so we unloaded the horse and buggy, I decorated it with flowers, and right before going down the aisle, it was sprung on my wife-to-be. Soon, as I was standing at the front, “Here Comes the Bride” was played on an accordion. Next, the carriage with the bride slowly trotted to the side of the crowd, who gasped in awe. She walked up, and we were married by a minister who was an old family friend. After the ceremony, we sawed a log together, an old German tradition to signify working on life’s struggles together. One of the most memorable moments was when the horse took a leak in the middle of the ceremony. Everyone chuckled.

I can remember that day in great detail. 

Dueling ’Vettes

Just this past week, two friends of mine flew from their home in California to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they picked up two amazing new Corvettes. They then drove them across the country side by side, stopping at all the fun tourist attractions along the way. Not only was it a lifetime dream to own a couple of cool cars like that, they ended up making a memory that they say is one of their best lifetime memories ever. They could have easily bought the cars at a local dealer, but instead they built a memory.

Though memories are often accidental, life is about orchestrating memories. Where would we be without family vacations, celebrations, and special moments?

Thumbs Up

My dad taught me about memory-making by example. My head is filled with childhood memories of camping in our Airstream; getting stranded on a narrow mountain pass to Vail, Colorado, and hitchhiking into town; and having the convertible top slashed and all of our things stolen. We camped along Lake Erie across from Cedar Point, we boated and skied, we learned to sail, we even did Power Squadron courses in severe weather, and we often went to the amusement park. But memories did not stop there.

Sitting in a Circle

Many years later Dad built a tepee on his property, and we would have dessert there when guests were in town visiting the Adirondacks. We would sing around the campfire, bang drums, and tell ghost stories. That tradition will continue now that Dad is gone.

Ring the Breakfast Triangle

My father also built a tiny cabin with a wood stove and nothing inside but a table and chairs. It was called the Trapper Cabin, was decorated with antiques and old animal skins, and the first or last morning when visiting his house (called a camp), he would put on his chef’s hat and cook eggs, bacon, and pancakes for visiting guests. It was a tradition that lasted 30 years and made lots of memories.

Traditions and memory-making are hard work. Looking back, I realize just how hard my parents worked to create memories for us. It was worth it. So many people don’t have a lot of memories.

The Most Important Yet

Consider that this may be the most special summer ever. Many of us have been distanced from our families, unable to travel, and now that we are free and can see them, it’s a time to make special memories. Especially knowing things could change without notice and we might not have a chance to make more memories.

What memories will you make for yourself and your family this spring and summer?
Where can you go? 

What can you do?
What new traditions can you create?

It’s worth the effort. When everything else is gone, our memories last forever. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last weekend I made memories with a dozen or so painters, painting together in Utopia, Texas. We painted on private farms and saw some stunning scenery! Thanks to Guy Morrow for organizing it. We’re keeping you in our prayers.

Some of my best memories have taken place at the painters’ events I’ve created. I’ve made hundreds of friends and a handful of best friends at events like the Plein Air Convention, which is a gathering of hundreds of artists who come to learn, paint together in a beautiful spot, and play (May 17-21 in Santa Fe). I have memories of painting in amazing places with them, and memories of silly stage moments like Plein Air Wars, the game show we’re doing on stage this year. We still have seats (highly unusual because normal years were sold out at this point), and for this year, we are providing an opportunity for online attendance since some cannot make it to Santa Fe. www.pleinairconvention.com

When I was in my early 30s I went to the Adirondacks for the first time. The area became my photography muse, and later my muse for painting. Its beauty is unique, unlike any other place in America. There are 6 million protected acres of stunning scenery. I’ll be making memories and friendships there in June when I hold my annual spring artist retreat. There are no lessons, just painting and play with old and new friends all day for a week. We have lots of fun, and at this point we have a handful of seats left. It’s all-inclusive, one price for lodging, meals, and the event. www.paintadirondacks.com

Memories will also occur painting in New Zealand this September. I have a few seats left. www.paintingnewzealand.com

Your Favorite Lifetime Memories2022-05-06T17:48:16-04:00
1 05, 2022

An Out-of-Body Experience


Buckets of BBs fall over my head onto the tin metal roof. The sound is deafening as gushes of water drop from the sky and make the roof vibrate with energy. The building shakes as monumental thunder roars overhead, the kind that is so deep that the sky rumbles and the earth moves as if a missile slammed into the ground nearby. Yet I sit here on the porch, covered and dry, feeling secure in my old Texas country ranch house where I can step back and observe the storm from safety.  

Watching a storm from afar, or from a place of safety, gives you a much better perspective and state of mind than being pelted with wind-driven raindrops. If only we could look at our personal storms with the same perspective.

Recently I heard someone say the difference between successful people and those who are not so successful is how they perceive and deal with their problems. 

Have you ever had problems so big, so thunderous, that they become all-consuming?

I can remember problems that were so big that I could not sleep, that I was pacing the floor, all my muscles were tense and I felt pressure in my chest, and my eyes were tear-filled because of my fear. 

Stress Is Death

Any doctor will tell you that stress like that is a killer. And if I had continued on the same track, it might have taken me early. But once I discovered how to deal with problems, my life changed. 

One word or sentence can trigger major stress, so whoever wrote “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was a well-meaning liar.  

Dreams Destroyed

I can remember a few choice words from my partner decades ago that threw me into a tizzy. The news completely defeated me and instantly destroyed my dreams. I had big dreams, and a big plan to achieve them, and suddenly a few words pulled the rug from under me. My hopes were gone, and there was nothing I could do. Everything suddenly changed. I thought my world had come to an end. I was depressed for weeks and fully consumed by my stress and angst. Today as I look backward, I realize it was the best thing that ever happened to me in business. But I could not see it at the time.

If you look backward, do those giant all-consuming problems still feel as big, now that they have passed?

Was all the worry and stress helpful?

Can You Read the Label?

Perspective is a wonderful thing. My close friend author Roy Williams often talks about the view from “inside the bottle” versus the view from outside. When you’re inside, you can’t see what others see. You can’t read the label.

I’ve since discovered that one key to problem-solving is to step outside the bottle. If you can gain perspective and distance yourself from the problem, you gain clarity of thought instead of confused, cloudy, frantic, “my world is ending” panic.

Our Worst Day Ever

When my son Brady had a heart attack at age 17 and nearly died, we were frantic, helpless, and of course our minds were taking us to dark places because we were given information that led us to believe he might not live through the night, and because we overheard the paramedics say, “He’s gone” (listening by phone as they tried to revive him). You can imagine our horror. 

During that time, while speeding to the hospital, I remember telling myself, “Remain calm somehow.” It was clear that this was the worst that could ever happen as parents. 

“Remain clear-headed,” I told myself, assuming we might have to make some very tough decisions. Knowing everyone else around me was screaming out in pain, I felt as though I could actually make things worse if I had to make rash emotional decisions. Thankfully he lived and has the prospect of a long, healthy life. 

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.”  — Robert Schuller

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

After a lifetime of business and problems, I look back on my prayers for help, and I’m grateful that most of those prayers were not answered. Thankfully, God’s wisdom for what we need is better than our own. People ask why bad things happen to good people, and the answer is that sometimes He needs to get our attention, help us trust more in him, and help us understand that what we think is good for us isn’t.

I’ve come to look at problems as gifts, as lessons, as challenges, and in many cases as opportunities. 

How are you looking at problems?

What is your biggest problem?

Take a moment to think about it.

Write it down. 

How you think about problems will define how you arrive at solutions. But also, how long you think about problems is important.

Thinking Time

My mentor Keith Cunningham has taught me to take “thinking time” on every problem, to write down a hundred solutions to every problem — and also write down what I’m doing to cause the problem. Problems are often symptoms of a bigger issue.

It’s easy to come up with five solutions to a problem. But the first five or 10 are usually the easy answers. When you dig deep and force the discipline of a longer list, that’s where major solutions are discovered.

A woman I recently met told me about coming close to death and having an out-of-body experience, looking down on her surgeons. What if you could look at problems like an out-of-body experience, where you’re looking at a problem from the outside?

Try it. It changes everything.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Not only does May bring showers and flowers, it’s bringing the entire plein air painting community together for a much-needed reunion. Now that COVID has been declared officially over in the U.S., join me in Santa Fe for the Plein Air Convention & Expo, May 17-22  (or starting May 16 for those coming to the Kevin Macpherson pre-convention workshop). Can’t make it? We just added online attendance, and we have brand-new details here.

PS 2: As soon as the convention is over, Laurie and I will drive to the Adirondacks to get ready for the Publisher’s Invitational painters’ retreat. This is my 11th, and it’s loads of fun to treat yourself to someone else doing cooking and to go painting every day. Learn more here. 

PS 3: If you’re looking for something really exceptional, join me on a painting trip to New Zealand in September. I’m very excited. So far, we’re a little more than half sold out. It’s limited to 50 people. Here are the details.

PS 4: Pastel Live, our online pastel conference featuring the top pastel artists in the world, is coming in August. I’ve been doing lots of pastel painting lately and I really love the gift of learning something new. Being self-taught isn’t what it’s cracked up to be — learning from top pros is such a time-saver. www.pastellive.com.

PS 5: I hope that someday people look back and say, “Eric and his team are known for providing access to the very top artists in the world and creating high-quality training with them.” The latest is a new video from the legend Michael Coleman. Check it out. It’s soon to be our best seller for the year.

An Out-of-Body Experience2022-04-29T12:03:41-04:00
22 04, 2022

Seeds That Grow Into Oaks


Giant oak tree branches are swaying gracefully like ballet dancers, but fiercely, as spring comes roaring in like a lion. As I open the old screen door, the springs squeak like fingers on a chalkboard. Then there’s a loud, abrupt slam behind me, amplified by the wind. 

Green specks of pollen have covered every square inch of the newly painted back deck and the old wicker couch. I dust off the couch, making for a cloud of green and a quick sneeze, and sit here observing dancing-tree entertainment during this gray overcast day in hopes of some sprinkles to feed the wildflowers, which are hiding their beautiful heads just under the blades of grass, waiting for nourishment to come.

Spring always excites me as it leads to summer, my favorite time of year.

One of the great joys of my life was spending lots of the summer at my grandparents’ old clapboard house at 317 West Wildwood Street back home in Indiana. It too had a squeaky screen door that would slam loudly.

Because I grew up in a single-story ranch house, it was a lot of fun to stay at my grandparents’ home. They had two stories, a basement, and stairs, so I used to slide down the banister or run from the top of the stairs down to the basement and back. I’d bang on the keys of the antique Packard piano, then I’d slip into the small kitchen to watch “Mema” making sugar cookies with pink icing flowers and green leaves. I can still taste their sweet flavor.

Hot Indiana summer nights were brutal, but sleeping in the middle bedroom with a fan in the window somehow made it tolerable. I loved the humming sound of that old 1940s fan; it was very soothing and is a sound I’ll never forget. Combined with the sound of cicadas outside the window, it was the perfect noise to induce sleep.

Great Taste

Though it was never spoken of, my grandparents must have had a great love of art because their house was filled with art prints, mostly from the 18th century. In fact, one of the first Old Master copies I painted was a self-portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun (1755–1842) with her daughter. I never knew why I loved that painting so much, yet decades later, cleaning out my grandparents’ storage unit, I found the prints that were hanging in their house during my youth. One was a print of that very painting. It’s no wonder I was drawn to it.

Real Art

Depending on which cousins or brothers and sisters were staying at the house, I’d sometimes get moved to the front bedroom. There between the windows was a beautiful original oil painting of a deer by a stream. I used to stare at it as I went to sleep, it was so soothing. As an adult, I found out that my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Ruth Goad, was the artist. Suddenly finding out there was an artist in our family filled me with joy. It also might explain why my mother was so drawn to painting.

A Plein Air Pioneer?

I’m told my aunt set up her paints on location at that stream to paint the scene, which, if true, would make her a plein air painter like me. Maybe at some subconscious level, that’s why I became a plein air (outdoor) painter.  

One of the jewels found among the prints and other curios in my grandparents’ storage unit was my aunt’s painting, which probably hung in the front bedroom for more than 50 years — and since I discovered it, has been hanging in my house for more than 25 years. I consider it a family treasure.

Planting a Garden

Whether intentionally or not, my grandparents planted seeds that impacted my mother, me, and probably my brother who became an artist. Art around the house planted seeds. The piano planted interest in music.

The seeds they planted run deep. Family stories, important life lessons, family recipes, how to grow incredible tomatoes, and more.

At Easter dinner last week, I told my family about my great-grandfather Joseph Samuel (Sam)  Garrett. As a small boy I used to visit him and my great-grandmother Lucinda Range Garrett at their farm in Armathwaite, Tennessee, near Jamestown. 

At 8, I’d have to clean chicken coops, shuck corn, and sometimes milk their cow. My grandparents lived in a home they built themselves (my grandfather and his cousin helped as boys). I can remember my grandfather had an old shack on the property, and the inside was filled with canaries in cages, which I assume he raised to supplement his income as a preacher. I can remember the deafening but pleasing sound of a thousand canaries while I watched him care for them.

A Country Preacher

Grandpa Garrett preached down the road at Mount Helen Baptist Church, a tiny white country church. A plaque on the wall with his portrait, painted by Aunt Ruth (his daughter), said that he had gone all over the region on his horse, preaching the Gospel and starting churches. I don’t recall how many, but it was impressive. Maybe 12 or 16 churches, which is no easy task. He is buried near Mount Helen Baptist. 

Sharing Lessons

Over Easter dinner I told my kids about the impact of that one man. Today, my family, my kids, my cousins, their kids, distant cousins and their kids, our families, are Christ followers because of this man. But more impressively, hundreds of lives were changed by those churches he founded and the revivals he held. Now, five or more generations later, the work of a single individual has impacted thousands of lives. 

I reminded my kids that they too can impact thousands of lives, in their own way. 

Our world is filled with stories of people who made a difference. Some became leaders of countries, others wrote books, music, or movies impacting millions of lives, and others made heroic efforts that made a difference. Some simply made their impact by being great parents.I wanted them to know that they should never consider themselves too small to make a difference. That everyone has a contribution to make if they are willing to step out and make it.


Thirty years ago, while in the radio industry, I decided some other opinions needed to be expressed about how the industry should operate. So I started a magazine, started editorializing in every issue, and after about a year of being seen, started to see the weight of my words affecting an entire industry. I was not sanctioned or appointed, I simply decided I had something to say that might make a difference and became a self-appointed publisher.

Leaders do not wait to be appointed or noticed, they simply step in at a time when they believe they can make an impact or be helpful. If they wait to be noticed or invited, nothing great will ever happen. We have to learn to speak up for ourselves and share our passions.

Count the ways you have made a difference in other lives.

In what ways have your roles, your ideas, or your contributions made a difference?


People need to know that they don’t need permission or an invitation to step up. When they see a need, they need to fill it. When they see an injustice, they need to point it out. When they see an opportunity, they need to grab it.For some of us, it’s simply making a difference in how we train our kids. For others it might be starting a church or an organization. For others, it means changing the world.

Chance favors only the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur

Though we may not set out with specific intentions, there are rare moments that present themselves. A prepared mind may not have a plan, but a prepared mind is always looking at everything as an opportunity to make a difference. So they leap out and grab the golden ring of opportunity when it presents itself. 

Split-Second Opportunity

While consulting a radio station in Utah, the owner and I were discussing the renewal of my contract. The owner said he didn’t think he would renew because he was going to sell the station. I said, “I’m so confident that I can make this station a success, I’ll buy it from you. Name your price.” Though I was bluffing, he called my bluff, and I ended up raising the money and buying the station. 

How Did THAT Happen?

While visiting the editor of a radio industry trade magazine to complain about my lack of advertising success for my Giant Boom Box mobile studios, the editor confided in me that he was not mailing out the number of issues promised because the owner was no longer committed to the magazine. So I went across the hall and requested a meeting with the owner. When the owner told me he wasn’t committed because the magazine was losing money, I told him I’d buy it from him if he would let me make payments based on profitability. I walked out of the meeting with a handshake to buy, and I’ve owned that magazine for over 30 years this year.

None of these things were planned. I never had a plan to go into radio ownership, till I grabbed it. I never had a plan to start a radio industry business publication, till it presented itself in a split second. I never intended to get into the art world or become an artist, until an opportunity was exposed. Yet by always being on the lookout for opportunity, and always listening carefully, I boldly grabbed opportunities, not knowing where they would take me. That’s the key to having a prepared mind.

Where will you carry your influence? 

In what ways will you change the world or those around you?

Are you prepared to grab unplanned opportunity?

I have confidence in you.

Eric Rhoads

P.S. My dad died a year ago this past week. Looking back on the very busy last year, I realize I used the need to be busy to deal with my grief. There is nothing quite like sorting things, moving boxes, and emptying houses and garages to keep your mind off grief. But last week on the anniversary, it hit me like a Steinway dropping out of a sixth-story window. I miss him terribly. I miss his great advice and his great stories. I realize I’m very much the man I have become because of him. I’m sure the same was true of him and his parents and grandparents. It was he who taught me how to be alert for opportunity because I watched him grab it all the time. I’m thankful for such a great mentor.

Dad read Sunday Coffee every week and would call me with ideas on how to expand on what I had written. He was encouraging and told me to never stop because my job is to encourage others and help them gain confidence in themselves. It’s what he did for me.

I also learned to be prepared for the best and the worst. I’ve avoided a lot of freight trains running over me and my business because of his training. The only reason I’ve survived the negative impacts of the pandemic is because he taught me how to change on a moment’s notice and come up with creative solutions fast. He would always say, “You can’t take a lot of time to make decisions in a crisis.” He would tell me, “Make a decision and move fast.”

Coming up on May 17 I’m holding my first live convention in two years. I had to cancel two Plein Air Conventions and one Figurative Art Convention and a few artist retreats and trips. So I am grateful we can hold the convention in person. And lots of people are coming.

But I’ve also heard from lots of people who want to be there but cannot come because of their circumstances. So last week I announced that you can attend the convention online. We will broadcast our main stage and offer it at a reduced price. Already people are signing up. This is a great example of pivoting at the last minute. I hope you can join us at www.pleinairconvention.com.

I should also mention that I announced a New Zealand painters’ trip, and it’s already half sold out. If you want to go this fall (springtime in NZ), visit paintingnewzealand.com.

Here’s what else is going on….

We’ve just launched our 12th Annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition. Head over to PleinAirSalon.com to see how you can win $15,000 for your art.

Our next virtual event, 
Pastel Live, is happening in August. About 40% of the people who attended PleinAir Live have already signed up. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun! Check it out at PastelLive.com.

Seeds That Grow Into Oaks2022-04-22T13:30:21-04:00
8 04, 2022

How Will You Accept This Challenge?


I feel like I’m living a scene from a James Dean movie … it’s so hot that everyone has stripped down to the bare minimum, they are fanning themselves, and sweat is rolling down their hot red sunburned faces. Texas heat isn’t for the faint of heart. Our springs are short here, jumping right into the heat of an early summer. The ice in my cup has melted and the outside of the glass is sweating and my sticky fingers keep slipping off the keyboard. 

Have you tried to buy a bag of ice lately? A bag of ice has doubled in price. And it seems like the cost of everything is rushing out of control due to scarcity, supply chain issues, and just plain inflation.

Child Labor

I remember the stories my dad would tell me about the Great Depression. He was just a child, but he had to work to help support the family, and they had to rent out the home they owned in order to survive. They moved to my Great-Grandfather Rhoads’s farm out on Illinois Road, which was 88 acres. Even though they grew much of their food, they barely survived.

Inflation is not necessarily an indicator of a coming depression, but it is having a serious impact on the cost of goods, making living more difficult for all of us.

I hear a lot of chatter about these things lately, and part of that chatter is people giving themselves excuses to fail. 

Not-So-Great Expectations

I’ve already heard people telling me they expect the current situation to have a negative impact on their business or on their lives. I’ve encountered artists and galleries who tell me they are expecting this to be a bad year. Meanwhile, I’m hearing from others who tell me that business has never been better.

There are facts we cannot change, but there are attitudes we can change. The attitude needs to be: “I’ll succeed and thrive no matter what outside circumstances exist.”

The Worst in My Lifetime

2008 was a pretty dire situation. The economy had crashed, big companies like AIG and Lehman Brothers had failed, and spending had slowed. During that time in the art world, I watched businesses react negatively, leading to their demise. Simultaneously, I watched others double down on spending, building their businesses bigger, especially when their competitors were not spending on advertising. I even saw a new gallery launch and quickly grow, taking away the customers the others would have had if they had not operated with a shrinking mindset.

The New King

During the Great Depression, there was a giant shift in a lot of categories. Post was the dominant cereal brand, with something like an 80 percent market share. When business got bad, the board decided to stop all advertising. Suddenly a new startup called the Kellogg Company came on the scene. They went after Post, promoted heavily, and spent big ad dollars. To Post, this was a gnat they thought they could swipe away. Kellogg would never touch them, because they were too big to fail … they thought. So they did not react and didn’t keep their ads going, because they wanted to save money. 

By the end of the Depression, Kellogg had taken the lion’s share of the market and become the leading cereal company. Post became number two, and to this day has never regained its dominance.

Mindset made the difference.

The Kellogg Company could have said, “Bad time to start up. Let’s hold back.” Or they could have said, “Let’s start out small and see what happens. if we grow a little, we can spend a little more money.” Instead they went full speed ahead. It took courage and confidence and a “never say die” attitude. It worked.

How is the current economy impacting your mindset?

Are you planning to succeed no matter what, or will you shrink yourself to failure?

Mindset is the starting point. Courage is important, as are creativity and willingness to find a way, and willingness to work harder than ever. Often others stop working as hard because they think working harder won’t make a difference. 

Time for Change

A little-known fact is that there were many businesses that thrived during the Depression. Many of those companies chased new opportunities when they saw dominant players lay low and stop promoting. They had to be creative and find new and different ways to promote their businesses, and they had to step up and do some things that were frightening (like spending on advertising). But many survived, and many thrived.The key is to have a Churchill mindset … “Never, ever, ever give up.”

And it starts by making up your mind, by telling yourself, “No matter what is happening in the world around me, I will find a way to survive and thrive.”

What will you do? 

How will you respond?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Feeling like a caged animal, unable to leave home for two years, I am thrilled to be free and able to hold my Plein Air Convention this May. In fact, we just got BREAKING NEWS that the State of New Mexico has lifted all restrictions, so we are no longer being told to limit attendance. And there is no longer social distancing or masking required (you can still wear a mask if you wish). This is great news, and may result in a massive number of people signing up. I’ve even decided to NOT raise the price on April 17 as planned and will wait to raise it on May 12, allowing everyone a chance to get the low price. You can sign up at www.pleinairconvention.com.

One person who is coming told me, “I am not going to let gas prices or travel costs or anything get in my way of getting out. I’ve missed this, and I don’t know if they will lock us down again.”

Here’s what’s happening at my company Streamline at the moment…

Our 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo is quickly approaching and we’ve just learned that ALL restrictions have been lifted and more seats have opened up! So sign up now to gather with your fellow artists in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico for our first in-person event in two years! Study with the plein air masters, get discounts on art supplies in the Expo Hall and paint with over 500 of your fellow plein air enthusiasts. Sign up now at PleinAirConvention.com.

We’ve just launched our 12th Annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition. Head over to PleinAirSalon.com to see how you can win $15,000 for your art.

We are going to New Zealand again! Our last trip in 2017 was a huge success so we’re doing it again. Join me and 45 other artists in painting some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. PaintingNewZealand.com

Our next virtual event, 
Pastel Live, is happening in August. About 40% of the people who attended PleinAir Live have already signed up. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun! Check it out at PastelLive.com.

How Will You Accept This Challenge?2022-04-08T12:19:44-04:00
2 04, 2022

Letting Go


The scent of concord grape soda fills the air as purple Texas mountain laurel trees are in full blossom. Bare twisted live oaks with thousands of tiny twigs are starting to sprout little brilliant green buds. Following a brisk wind, the air is fresh as I deeply fill my lungs to enjoy the arrival of spring and the sound of songbirds. I keep filling up the bird feeders to support my local bird choir (and a few dozen random squirrels). A small aircraft flies overhead — the view of the blossoms from the air must be a beautiful sight.

Any pilot will tell you that when flying a small airplane, if you get into a spiral dive, you don’t even really know it. You can’t feel it, and can only tell from your instruments. If you try to control the airplane at that point, you won’t be able to, and holding on to the controls only makes things worse. A Death Dive

When I was a child, my dad went into such a dive, and in spite of all his training, he wanted to control the aircraft. But in the back of his mind he remembered something he had read in a classic book called Stick and Rudder that said when this happens, simply let go.

Imagine spinning out of control, in a steep dive, only a few seconds to make decisions before you slam into the ground, and having to give up control. But let go he did, and the plane corrected itself just seconds before he would have crashed. Once the plane was corrected, his altitude was less than 200 feet. His life was saved by doing the opposite of instinct and letting go. And I’m thankful he did, because I had my dad my entire life until last year.

No Control

Last week while we were in church, our pastor said something that reminded me of my dad’s death dive. He was talking about things we cannot control, saying that sometimes we simply have to trust God to resolve things. He talked about how hard it is to let go, but that sometimes our attempts at control only worsen the problem.

Control Freak

Being a control freak, which is a natural direction when you build and own a business, letting go is the hardest thing to do. Yet people cannot grow when you “mansplain” every answer. The same is true with kids. If they don’t suffer a little, if they don’t have to figure things out, if you rescue them at every turn, they leave the house unprepared. 

What are you trying to control that isn’t working?

Those of us who think we’re in control need to understand that we are not, not really. We simply cannot solve every problem. And sometimes the best solution to a problem is to let go and let it work itself out. Like letting go of the controls in a plane, this is counterintuitive, but it often provides the best possible result.

No one likes to be controlled. Especially me.

Mr. Big Shot

When I was 25, I bought my first radio station. The day we closed on the station and I took over, I walked into the big beautiful manager’s office and thought, “What have I got myself into?” I had no idea what to do or even how to behave. So I did what I had seen from some of my mentors and what I had seen from “typical bosses” on TV. I became a control freak. I started barking orders, being demanding, and trying to show who was boss. I even fired a couple of people on the spot for insubordination, humiliating them in front of others. I did not listen — I knew all the answers.

A Sad Day

One day we faced a tragedy, when a fellow employee died suddenly. It hit me and everyone hard, but because one of the managers had been engaged to this employee, and another manager had been overly demanding the day this person died, there was a lot of anger and guilt. Within 12 hours of this person’s passing, those two managers resigned and got all of their people to resign. Suddenly I had only two employees left. In hindsight, I realized I got no loyalty because I tried to control everything. It wasn’t working.


I’m lucky to have learned that lesson early. I had to learn the proper way to manage people, which is to pull and inspire, not to push and fire. There are legends about people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, who are said to be screamers. I think people will put up with more when working for a brilliant visionary. The rest of us mere mortals need to manage by inspiration, and I had to learn how to stop controlling every little thing and let go.

Perfection Is the Enemy

There is a saying I learned when running my tech company, RadioCentral, in Silicon Valley. “Perfection is the enemy of greatness.” In other words, deliver — and don’t wait till something is perfect to deliver it. You can always make adjustments and changes after you launch. My mentor Keith Cunningham disputes the idea that “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” He insists that it should be “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly” because we won’t do things if we’re waiting for perfection. We have to learn to do things, and we’re going to make mistakes along the way, which is OK. What he is talking about is letting go.

In what ways is control getting in the way of your success in your family or work?

What’s the worst that would happen if you let go?

In what ways is controlling hurting yourself, and your relationships?

How would you feel if you could just let go and wait to see what happens?

It took a lot of mistakes for me to discover this. It’s why I’m calm, why I tend not to stress or worry much, and why I believe everything will work out. Maybe it will work out now, maybe later, maybe years from now, or maybe I have to wait for eternity for correction. But things are out of my hands and in God’s hands. Knowing that gives me peace and reduces my need to control everything.

Like anyone, I play “what if” games in my head. What if this fails, what if this doesn’t work out, what if the kids don’t turn out OK?

Let go. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I have to admit I had a few tense moments after receiving a call from the people who run our convention hotel for the Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe. “I’m sorry, but we can’t let you have more than 750 people. We’ll be required to spread out the seats in the auditorium.” 

After two years of cancellations and no income from my most important income source, I was hoping to get something coming in again. Prior to COVID we had 1,200 people attending. And though they may change their minds at the last minute, for now, I’m only allowed 750 people. So I have only about 97 seats left. 

If you are planning to come to this festival-like celebration of plein air painting, the world’s largest paint-out, and four stages of lessons over four days from the top landscape artists in the world, I’d recommend you book one of those 97 seats this week. May is coming up fast.

I know you’re eager to be back with people again. I know I am. I hope to see you there. 

Wanna come and paint?

Spring and fall are my busiest times of year. Soon after the Plein Air Convention I’ll head to the Adirondacks for the summer, and I’ll hold my Publisher’s Invitational artist retreat for a week up there. It’s a week of just painting, and one price includes your room, meals, and the event. It’s a blast, and all levels of painters from beginners to pros paint together. We play a lot, have music, paint portraits at night (optional), and it’s summer camp for painters of all ages. I’ve become very close to lots of people who attend. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

Let’s go paint in New Zealand

Clearly my Russia painting trip had to be canceled, so we replaced it with a 50-person trip to New Zealand. It’s a premium trip, and it will be amazing. And we hit NZ in springtime, when it’s green and flowering. Of the 50, I have 30 seats left. Come join us.

Here’s what’s happening at my company Streamline at the moment…

We’ve just launched our 12th Annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition. Head over to PleinAirSalon.com to see how you can win $15,000 for your art. 

We are going to New Zealand again! Our last trip in 2017 was a huge success so we’re doing it again. Join me and 45 other artists in painting some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. PaintingNewZealand.com

Our 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo is quickly approaching. We’ve only got 97 seats left so sign up now to gather with your fellow artists in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico for our first in-person event in two years! Study with the plein air masters, get discounts on art supplies in the Expo Hall and paint with over 500 of your fellow plein air enthusiasts. Sign up now at PleinAirConvention.com

Our next virtual event, Pastel Live, is happening in August. About 40% of the people who attended PleinAir Live have already signed up. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun! Check it out at PastelLive.com

Letting Go2022-04-02T09:39:20-04:00