9 06, 2024

The Biggest Monument in the Graveyard

2024-06-08T13:07:46-04:00

The loons are calling out with their soothing cry as they float by on the calm, glass-like waters that reflect the brilliant pink sunrise and the tall pines surrounding the lake. Baby hummingbirds the size of quarters flit about, frolicking in the air and diving from the nest as they try to pass their flying test. 

I’m once again perched on my dock on a hidden lake, deep in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. My home here, built in 1848, is only accessible by boat, and hasn’t changed much since it was built. This is my happy place. Each day here is a gift, and I know summer will fly by fast, just like this year has. 

Road Trip

The drive from Texas was long, lots of sitting, and as the passenger, my three days of travel were filled with impromptu naps from high-carb fast food along the way. It’s cathartic. I didn’t work much other than an occasional e-mail. I never “just sit.” But I didn’t even try to be efficient with my time, like every other moment in my insanely busy life. But on this trip, I don’t even listen to audiobooks, I simply stare and think as America goes by from the passenger side of the car.

The Lure of Private Jets

Driving past some airport somewhere, I gazed longingly at some parked private jets, thinking for a moment what a joy it would be to skip airports and airlines and four-day drives to transport old dogs, and be able to just walk onto our own airplane with the dogs and arrive in a couple of hours. But that’s for busy billionaires, who, like it or not, are missing out on the random encounters with kind people in the breakfast rooms of roadside hotels and at gas stations across America. Driving is my chance to see and experience this great country between Texas and New York, seeing decrepit, falling barns off back roads,  crumbling industrial brick buildings in old cities, and thousands of beautiful working farms along the way. I would not trade it for anything. It’s good for my soul and renews my faith in America.

A Highway Island

As we got on a highway near the end of our trip, I noticed something strange. Off in the distance stood an old Civil War-era cemetery. Though I could barely see it, a few hundred feet away, it was overgrown, appeared to have no access road or entry, and had a highway built all around it. Most of the grave markers were short headstones barely keeping their heads above the weeds, but there were a dozen or so taller headstones, and a few towering monuments reaching for the sky. Yet nestled between a highway and farmland, the cemetery can’t be reached even to be mowed or maintained. 

“What’s the purpose?” I remember thinking. 

Even the tallest, most impressive monument in this lost cemetery is drawing no attention. The names are not visible, which I’m sure was not the intention of the families who funded these monuments. A couple of generations saw those names before the graveyard was eventually abandoned and a highway built around it. Though I could see the towering monuments as I passed by at 75 mph, I could not read the names. Someone worked hard and spent substantial money for their loved ones to stand out and be remembered. Of course they couldn’t have anticipated an interstate highway. Yet even if the monuments were accessible, would anyone read them or know who is buried there?  

A Monument to Himself?

I watched an old friend go through this. He came from a prominent, mega-wealthy billionaire family. When his parents died, he was obsessed with building a memorial that would stand out in a cemetery of other prominent people. I remember him spending over two years working with one of the best-known and hard-to-get architects of the time. I’m guessing he spent millions on this marble monument to his family (which he now occupies as well). He attacked the project like he attacked his business, doing everything right.

But who will see it? Will it matter once a couple of generations pass? Does it matter now?

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

I recently read that most of us will never be remembered beyond two generations. Imagine all that effort to become a Kardashian, working so hard at being famous, and realizing it won’t matter 75 years from now. Two generations from now won’t even be able to read their lifetime’s worth of Instagram posts. 

I remember my great-grandparents, but barely. I have fond memories of my parents and grandparents; I know many of their stories and family legends. But I know little about my great-grandparents, and I know nothing other than the names of a few generations before them.

From Fame to Unknown

Very few of us will ever be known beyond two generations — and that’s true even for most of the great movie stars, sports figures, authors, artists, and business celebrities. The other day I mentioned someone famous from my youth and my kids had to look on Wikipedia to know who it was, yet that person was a household name when I was a kid.

Here’s to the Outliers, the Rebels

The only people whose names survive longer than two or three generations are the outliers. Steve Jobs is likely to be remembered fondly, like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, or Issac Newton, but I doubt if Apple’s Tim Cook will be remembered the same way, in spite of his genius as the new head of Apple. Hemingway is an outlier. Van Gogh and Vermeer … outliers.

I’ve stood at the graves of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo in France. Neither was famous during his lifetime; both died as unknowns. They became famous due to the lifelong efforts of Theo Van Gogh’s widow, Vincent’s sister-in-law, who made Vincent famous 40 years after his death. He never even got to know how important his work would become.  

So if being remembered is unlikely, what should our legacy be?

I suspect that Van Gogh did not set out to be famous. Instead he set out to paint what was in his heart, in a style that moved him, in spite of the criticism he experienced. He painted for himself. He lived the way he wanted to live, as tragic as the story seems. 

If getting famous is your thing, I think you should go for it. Being famous opens a lot of doors and gets you invited to the best parties and gets you into the best restaurants. But if you want to be remembered forever, you need to be an outlier. That means you have to do something different, be innovative, and do something no one else has tried. 

But for the rest of us, our life purpose is different — different for each one of us. It’s less about long-term fame, and more about making a difference somehow. 

I used to wonder about my purpose. I always wanted to serve my God, and my family, but when I chased money, I discovered that it was an empty chase. It was not until I realized my purpose was helping others find their purpose that everything changed for me. I’ve never been more happy, knowing that I’ve potentially helped someone discover something in their life that made them happy. And I guarantee that two generations from now, no one will care.

But one way we can all live on is by the generations we influence. If I can help pull someone out of their bad circumstances and help them live a better, happier, more fulfilling life, then I’ve served my purpose. If they then go on and help others find what they found, they will impact future generations, who will impact future generations. Maybe your name won’t live on, but your ideas could touch families for generations to come. 

I’ve come to understand that legacy isn’t about being remembered, it’s about touching others, who then carry the torch forward to others, who eventually will do the same. Whith is why it’s important to teach, and train future generations, and to help people find a better life.

What is your plan?

Eric Rhoads

PS: A giant part of my mission is to put people together, to help them make lifelong friends, and to help them discover the joys of painting outdoors. Last night about 90 of us gathered for our opening dinner and orientation at my 13th annual Publisher’s Invitational Adirondack retreat. All of us are staying at Paul Smiths College of the Adirondacks, and we’ll paint together all day every day in some of the most stunning scenery in America. We sit up at night and play music, sing, and paint portraits, and we make deep, lasting friendships. We wish you were here. But since that’s not possible this year, there are still a handful of seats available for my fall retreat, called Fall Color Week, which is in Carmel-Monterey this fall. 

PS 2: Back at the turn of the century, when people would graduate from college, wealthy families sent their young men (mostly men at that time) on the Grand Tour before they started their careers. The idea was to help them become educated in life abroad, to broaden their horizons, and to expose them to the great artists and museums so they became more interesting people. 

The one place that was considered a “must” first stop on the Grand Tour was Venice, Italy, not only because of its rich culture and beautiful architecture, but because of its incredible art experiences. It was the one place every artist wanted to visit and paint, attracting virtually every important artist throughout history. And it was not only an attraction for artists, but also those who love and appreciate art.

Each year for 12 years now, I’ve hosted a fall Fine Art Trip along with Fine Art Connoisseur Editor Peter Trippi. These trips are legendary because of the impossible access we provide our guests, with private entry to museums, private homes, and artists’ studios. Our storied past runs deep with unheard-of private visits, alone inside the Hermitage or in the Sistine Chapel. Even the wealthiest people with the biggest Rolodexes could not arrange the kind of experiences we’ve been able to provide. 

This year we decided to focus on two important aspects of the Grand Tour: the hidden treasures and secrets of Venice, as well as those of Verona, which is rich with art experiences but barely known as an art treasure city. Once again, we’ll be opening doors, trading on deep relationships, and providing an unheard of experience in this region. It promises to be life-changing.

In the past we’ve opened up these trips to a sizable group. One trip required two buses to visit some of our treasures. But we’ve since realized that large crowds are a bar to intimate experiences. Therefore we’re limiting this group to 30 people, or 15 couples (though singles are welcome and encouraged).

We’re going this fall, and it will be a great opportunity to escape all the election drama that occurs every cycle, and yet we’ll be home in time to vote. You’ll experience treasures you did not know existed, and you’ll become the most interesting person at Christmas parties this year with stories of art others will not have experienced. At this stage we’re just opening things up, and we’re already 25% sold, and there are many “regulars” who tend to come but who have not yet signed up. If you’re at all interested, this would be a good time to visit www.finearttrip.com to explore. This is a very elegant trip where everything is of the finest quality, because it’s your Grand Tour.

The Biggest Monument in the Graveyard2024-06-08T13:07:46-04:00
19 05, 2024

How to Make a Spectacular Life

2024-05-19T07:17:22-04:00

I’m yawning. I’m groggy. It’s very early, the sun is not up, and the house is shaking from a thunderstorm overhead. I made my way out to the coffee machine, and here we are together this morning, warm cup in my hands, trying to wake up.  

When I was a child, I would sit in the garage with the door open, watching the rain and the thunderstorms. I felt safe inside, but I loved the sound of rain and storms. When I was a young adult, I used to dream of one day sitting on my porch with a tin roof, listening to the rain. Today, I’m sitting safely on that porch, watching the rain come in sheets, feeling the ground shake with the thunder, and listening to the pellets of water hitting the tin roof. Sheets of water are pouring down the hill toward the river in the gully. Yet I’m dry, safe, and happy as a clam. At least till I have to load up the car and head to the airport. 

Lightning Strike

One time I went to Tennessee to see my grandfather’s sister Aunt Maxine, who lived on a farm in Armathwaite. I sat in the front room of this tiny 1800s white Victorian house, looking out over the storm. “It’s too dangerous to sit on the porch,” I was told, because the lightning could be so bad. Though I still thought I’d rather be on the porch, I changed my mind when a bolt struck the giant hickory tree I was looking at. SLAM!!!! CRACK!!! It cracked so loudly — I’ve never heard such a noise. The light flashed so brightly my eyes were burning. I could feel the heat inside the house even though it was a cool summer night. The tree was split in half and then started smoking, though I don’t think it caught on fire. It was a good lesson in the force of nature. 

I was blessed with a great childhood, a great upbringing, and people who cared deeply. And I have wonderful memories, along with some moments I did not fully understand at the time.

Wear a Mental Helmet

“Be careful what you put inside your head,” my grandma used to tell me. “Once it’s there, it never goes away.” And I used to think she was wrong when she would suggest we not go to the movies, or listen to the radio to hear “the devil’s music,” because it was going to influence us. In fact, listening to that music may have played a role in pushing me to become a rock ’n’ roll DJ. I used to think what she was saying was utter nonsense, and I spent over a decade on the radio playing the hits.

Now I’m not going to rant about rock music, which I happen to love. I typically don’t rant about anything. But I have discovered that she was right about one thing … what enters your head never leaves. And with enough repetition, you might start becoming what you see or hear.

You Can’t Unsee Things

Last year at the Plein Air Convention a man asked what my daughter was studying at Baylor, and I mentioned her interest in psychology and forensics. He told me, “I did forensics at crime scenes, and I don’t recommend it. You can’t unsee the things I’ve seen, and they haunt me. They never leave you.” He said, “In that job you realize how much evil there really is. If I had my life to do over, I would not do that part. You really lose faith in mankind when you see the things I saw.”

My Love for Cowboys

I never really wanted to believe the narrative about what you put in your head, but I was really getting into the show Yellowstone. I loved it. I fantasized about being a cowboy. I bought some boots and a hat. And the more I watched it, the more I loved it. I wanted to visit the area, buy a ranch, and live the rest of my life on a horse. That is, until one day when I encountered a problem with someone, and my first instinct was to react violently. Fortunately, I caught myself before my reaction got me in trouble. And I started thinking, “That’s not me. I don’t ever react with violence.” But the more I started thinking about it, I realized that watching all the violence had played a role in my reaction. So I gave up the show cold turkey and never watched it again.

Maybe people will say that I’m weak if I’m that suggestible. I’m OK with that. 

Avoiding What I Don’t Want to Become

I’ve made the realization that the negative things and the positive things we input all play a role in our subconscious mind. Though I’ll sound old school, I even realize that if I watch movies where every other word is an F-bomb, I’ll catch myself almost using such language, even though I’ve made a commitment to myself not to swear. I don’t feel the need to stay current with the culture, so if I’m watching something that is heavily f-bombing, I’ll turn it off. The same is true with things that have lots of sexual scenes. I’ll turn it off because I want to be respectful to my commitment to my family and my wife. I know, sounds very old-fashioned. Right? 

What You Think About Matters

No matter what you imagine, there is a very strong likelihood your subconscious or unconscious mind could find a way to make it happen. For years I dreamed about the house with the tin roof and the big porch, and it eventually came true. I never set it as a goal, and I did not even consciously think about it when looking for a house, but I ended up with it somehow. Is there a possibility that where you see yourself is where you’ll end up? There are lots of scientific debates, and you can find people supporting both sides of the argument.

What Some Believe

According to author and speaker Vishen Lakhiani, the key to getting what you want, to controlling your outcomes, is a step-by-step process of entering a theta state (the state you’re in when you first awaken), looking upward at an imagined screen and seeing what you don’t want. For instance, seeing what you hate about your circumstances or situation. Then you switch to a middle “screen,” showing yourself taking action to find a solution, without thinking about what that solution might be. Then you switch to a screen to your far left (the position of the eyes matters, according to Lakhiani) and imagine yourself in the place or situation you want to be in, living the life. I don’t have any evidence that this is true, but I like to think it could be. 

Other “experts” have also suggested imagining yourself in the situation you’d like to be in. They say that telling yourself, “I’m gonna be a millionaire,” won’t work, but telling yourself, “I am a millionaire,” will work. It’s hard to know if any of this is right.

Here’s what I do know. What I think about, what I see myself doing, tends to come true. What I pray about tends to come true. The more specific my prayer, the more effective. As a result, I’m very intentional about what I’m thinking or praying about and what I need to avoid thinking about. What about you?

What has worked for you? What have you thought about so much that it came to pass?

What negative things have you imagined that came true?

Would they come true if you had not imagined them?

Scientists know if you’re speeding down the road at 70 mph and you tell yourself, “Don’t hit that tree!” you’re much more likely to hit the tree. So they suggest you tell yourself, “Go through that opening,” rather than, “Don’t hit that tree.” You have a better chance of survival. Where you focus matters.

Is there evidence? I’d love to see more science on what really happens. Others claim there is ample evidence. I’m still skeptical. But I do have anecdotal evidence from the small circle of people I surround myself with. The negative thinkers tend to get negative results. The positive thinkers tend to get positive results. 

One day I may look back and say it’s all hocus-pocus, but I don’t think so. It seems there is something to it. I don’t think it’s about luck, it’s about being deliberate. Being deliberate is a conscious decision, versus allowing things to float in and find a home. When I’m traveling to a meeting or event, I imagine a positive outcome, and things usually go as I imagine them. I often rehearse a meeting, imagining what they say and what I say, and I see things going well. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how positives or negatives have impacted your life and your relationships.

Eric Rhoads

For a year I’ve been envisioning the largest Plein Air Convention in history. And when I board the plane today, I’m going to imagine a successful convention with a lot of very happy customers who have had their lives changed for the better. I will think through every detail and imagine a positive outcome, including how my team will perform and how the faculty will perform. Will it happen? I expect it to. I’ll let you know. The convention starts tomorrow.

Soon after the convention I’ll be hosting 100 artists for my 12th annual artists’ retreat, the Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks. I’m looking forward to seeing you there. I fully expect the last few available seats to be sold.

When Covid hit and we were flooded with cancellations, we reinvented and launched virtual art conferences online. When Covid was over, it would have been easy to tell myself they would soon fail, but I envisioned them being as strong as ever and even growing. The result was positive, and these online events have continued successfully after lockdowns ended. I think the expectation matters. The next online event is in September, Pastel Live, then Realism Live in November, and Watercolor Live in January.

How to Make a Spectacular Life2024-05-19T07:17:22-04:00
12 05, 2024

Being the Glue

2024-05-19T07:10:17-04:00

Slam! Crunch! A 1950s-style ceramic bowl went crashing to the floor, spreading milk and Cheerios all over the red-and-white speckled linoleum. Suddenly laughter broke out.

It’s hard to know if I really recall my first memories, or if they come from family stories or old photos. My first memory of my mom has me sitting in a high chair as an infant, grabbing my bowl of cereal and putting it on my head like a hat. I can still remember my mom laughing. 

My second memory is of us standing in front of our house, me being held in my mom’s arms, and watching our garage burn to the ground. I can still feel Mom’s tears.

Life is about the dash. In my mom’s case, the dash came between 1927 and 2019. My mom passed five years ago this past week, on May 7. I miss her every day.

What you do with the dash is what matters.

The dash is all about moments and memories.

Last week, I attended the funeral of my Aunt Phyllis, my dad’s sister and my last aunt, and though it was somber, the memories that flooded back with the stories told by my cousins were priceless. She lived her dash well.

A friend, Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED conferences, always says, “I live my life by the number of summers I have left.” Summers being a metaphor for those special times when we go out of our way to do special things.

He, too, is thinking about the dash.  Making sure the remaining summers are special.

More Funerals?

After the funeral, one of my cousins said… “We need to do this more often.” She did not mean a funeral, but having all her brothers and sisters and cousins and friends together. 

Family reunions serve an important purpose, but as families become more spread across a small world, reunions don’t come as frequently as when they are at the farm down the road. 

Oftentimes our parents are family glue. 

We gathered at my dad’s place every summer with most of the family. We showed up at his place at Christmas, and when we lived nearby, it was chicken dinner every Sunday night. All were invited.  

My dad learned that from his parents, who learned it from his grandparents. 

When the glue wears out, it can no longer hold a family together, and that responsibility falls on another family member. All too often I hear tragic stories of families no longer getting together. That’s been the case in our family since my dad passed. He would be heartbroken, as am I. But people have busy lives and live in faraway places.

The True Meaning?

I can’t answer all the questions about the meaning of life in this brief note, but as I look back on my own life, only a few work-related memories matter, and all of those are about the people I worked with or met, or an occasional business trip. 

But family memories, travel with friends and family, and time with friends or family are all that matter to me, other than my relationship with God. 

Put the Fun Back in Funerals

Funerals are the kick in the butt we need to realize that time is short and that if we’re not deliberate about a well-designed life, and going out of our way to create memories, we’ll one day look back and say… “I spent my life in my La-Z-Boy watching TV” — or surfing social media, or playing video games. That’s not life, that’s merely existence. 

Today, as we honor our moms, the best way to honor them is to keep family coming together and creating memories, and spending time with our moms if they are living. Being with family is what they would want.

Are you a pinball, or a car following a roadmap? Make a plan for the life you want to live, and make it happen. Only you can do it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This is special for me today because we are expecting all three of our kids home to celebrate their mother, my bride, the love of my life. The thing we want most is that warm blanket of family around us, wishing it would last longer. This week is a double celebration — my wife and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage tomorrow. 

Once our moms leave us, Mother’s Day is hard, but the first one without her is the hardest. I just learned this will be the first motherless Mother’s Day for a friend who recently lost his mom. And it will be the first for my cousins. I feel your pain, your emptiness. Moms have always been there for us, and we don’t fully appreciate them till they are gone. Today, if you have your mom, give her a giant hug and just hold on and don’t let go. It’s a gift to both of you.

PS 2: The biggest event of my year starts on May 20 outside of Asheville, North Carolina, where we will hold our annual Plein Air Convention, a gathering of over 1,000 painters from all over the world. This is my other family. We all become very close, and this event is not just about learning and growing from top master artists, it’s our Thanksgiving, a chance to break bread and be with old and new friends. I don’t think there are any seats left, but if you go to the website, try joining the waitlist, something may have opened up. It would be fun to have you there.

Being the Glue2024-05-19T07:10:17-04:00
1 05, 2024

Take a Bow

2024-05-01T19:28:50-04:00

Fields of trees filled with pink and white blossoms lined the walkways through Sakuragaoka Park, which is like Central Park for Tokyo. Massive crowds of people treated blossoming cherry trees like movie stars, flooding around to take photos and selfies. Women were wearing colorful spring kimonos; it’s a tradition around graduation time to be photographed with the legendary blossoms, and in some areas men too were dressed in traditional robes. It was like a scene out of a movie.

Unfortunately, the blossoms had not reached their peak, and our group of 35 artists hit them a little early, so the trees that were in blossom got more attention than those that were still bare. A return to the same park on our last day was a different story. Everything was in full bloom, and the scene was one of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. It was what I imagine a walk through heaven to be … walls of color against flowing streams and beautiful temples. 

Transformation

We went to see Japan to visit its temples, see its iconic sign-filled streets, and experience the colorful scenery, but we left transformed, and mesmerized by the culture.

Before going, everyone I met who had been there before said, “It’s indescribable, but I’d live there if I could.” It seemed odd to me, but now I understand.

I’ll not tell the story of our trip now (you can read it here), but I fell in love with the culture and the people.

But why? What was it that was so different from other beautiful places I’ve visited?

Big and Clean

The metropolitan area of Tokyo is home to 41 million people, larger than the population of the entire state of California, yet there are no visible social problems. Most big cities struggle with the sheer size of the population and are prone to chaos and filth. Yet during my visit, I did not see a single piece of trash, nor did I see a beggar or a homeless person. We ended up in some areas and neighborhoods one might think could be dangerous, yet not once did we feel unsafe. Though I suppose dangerous areas exist, I never saw evidence, even outside the tourism bubble.

Though I’ve not researched this, I’m told there is simply almost no crime. And that is rooted in how the Japanese raise their young, and in their immigration policies, which make it difficult and sometimes impossible for non-Japanese to move there. 

Trash-Free

The first thing I noticed is that there are no trash cans. We went to a local food market, filled with thousands of hungry people, yet when I had a paper plate left over, I walked up and down the street to find a trash can. There was none. When I asked, I learned that everyone is responsible for their own trash. You stick it in your pocket and take it home to throw it away. 

Though rooted in a 1995 incident when a terrorist hid a bomb in a trash can, resulting in a new policy on trash management, most of the cleanliness is based on societal responsibility. It would simply be rude to ask someone else to deal with your trash problem. 

What I loved most about Japan was its respectful culture. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T 

I’m walking down the hall in my hotel when the maid at her cart stops, steps out, and fully bows to me. I in turn stopped and bowed to her. After picking something up in my room, when I encountered her a few minutes later, we both bowed again. And subsequently dozens of times over the course of our stay.

Everyone bows to everyone. Everyone is respectful to everyone, to the point that you actually look forward to encountering someone you can help.

And there is no tipping in Japan. The one time we attempted to tip someone for helping us in a difficult situation, that person refused to accept it.

P-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N

Precision is another part of the culture. It’s not enough to put things away; the people focus on doing things properly. For instance, lining up all the shoes on the floor so they look perfect. If giving a gift (a major part of the culture), they are interested in the aesthetic of precision and beautiful wrapping. Every shelf in every store is pristine and perfect, and the package design of most products is done with excellence. People in our group were taking pictures of candy and cake boxes because they were so beautiful.

I’ve come to understand that Japan’s lack of crime or dirt comes from the idea of honoring others, feeling the need to be obligated and responsible to others, and going out of one’s way to be helpful. 

What if we were more like that?

What if we took more personal responsibility to go out of our way to help others? 

What if we showed our respect for others?

What if we made sure everything was pristine because we wanted to please others?

During part of our tour we visited the Holbein paint company factory where they make all their water-based products like watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and water-soluble oil paints. They took us through the entire factory, showed us how the paint was made, and even ran a line of paint for us to experience it firsthand. Not only was the experience eye-opening, the experience was about precision and cleanliness. In other factories I’ve visited I’ve seen rusty old machinery and trash on the floor, but at Holbein things were perfectly maintained, well painted, clean, and operated with perfection. 

Can You Say Kodawari?

Steve Jobs used to talk about a Japanese term that was about making things beautiful and perfect, inside and out, even the inside of the machine that no one ever sees.

I’ve since learned there is a concept called kodawari, which sums up Japanese culture. I found this definition online.

Kodawari ( こだわり in Japanese) means the pursuit of perfection. It is passion, persistence, commitment, and attention to detail. It is so beautiful because, once you have truly connected to it, one word can be a placeholder for an entire world view.

The key to kodawari is that it is personal in nature. It is partially rooted in pride, but not the petty kind. It is the kind of personal pride that you feel when you are alone and you know that you did your best. It comes from that deeper presence inside your head that watches you and knows when you are cutting corners. Whenever you ignore this discipline, you feel weaker, and when you engage with it, you feel stronger.

Such discipline is not rooted in some grandiose scheme to impress others or to achieve external validation. It is your personal standard, and it is how you foster self-respect. While you appreciate the beauty it creates along the way, you also realize that you never fully arrive anywhere. You can always be better. 

I’m sure there are lots of invisible problems or issues I did not see in Japan, but I love this idea of doing things well, being the best you can be …  just because. Knowing perfection isn’t possible, but striving for it in everything you do brings you closer to it.

I experienced this everywhere in Japan. Even public restrooms had automated electric heated toilet seats, and the stores had more variety and excellence than any stores I’ve ever experienced. 

From what I can tell, it starts with respect for others, which drives us to do the best possible for everyone we encounter. Not because they can do something for us, not because they are more important than we are, but because all humans deserve our respect and our best.

That’s why I encourage you to take a bow.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One my first day back doing my daily YouTube show, Art School Live, someone wrote in the comments, “You look 10 years younger.” I joked that I’d really slipped away for plastic surgery, but my more youthful look was rooted in getting away from stress and gaining a new perspective by visiting a new place. I recommend it.

At the end of our trip, I asked our attendees to tell me the best part, and everyone said it was the people they met on the trip and spent the time with. I love seeing people connecting and making friends through the things we offer. I agree that the people were the best part.

I love meeting new people and being thrown into a situation where we are together 12 hours a day for a week and a half. You can’t help but make friends. And I love when artists meet artists. I live to help others make these kinds of connections. The next chance to experience this is at our Plein Air Convention this May, which is down to less than 40 seats left.

My next international trip with a group is the Fine Art Connoisseur Behind the Scenes art collector trip this fall to Venice and Verona, but I’ve not yet decided where my next international painting trip will be.

Another place to get to know people is at Paint the Adirondacks (17 seats left), my spring painting retreat this June, and at Fall Color Week (27 seats left) this September.

You deserve to reward yourself with something to look forward to … a trip, a workshop, or an event!

Take a Bow2024-05-01T19:28:50-04:00
28 04, 2024

Memories in a Mini

2024-04-28T09:49:13-04:00

If this were a reality show and there was a camera on my face in the car, you would see every possible emotion. One minute I tear up, the next minute I’ve got a look of joy on my face, while another moment shows disappointment or disgust.

I flew into my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, yesterday to attend the Monday memorial for my Aunt Phyllis, who left us recently. And I’m driving all around town in my best friend’s Mini Cooper, going to places where memories were created.

Ouch. I still remember the pain. That’s the spot where I ran into a tree limb while playing football with my friends. It punctured right below my eye and came close to blinding me.

That corner is where a mean kid beat me up and stole all my Halloween candy. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have dealt with it a lot differently.

On the same corner, I also get a big grin because it’s where I set up my lemonade stand every summer to raise money for muscular dystrophy. It was a half mile from my house, because I figured a busy street and a place easy to pull over would sell more stuff. I didn’t just have lemonade, I had a variety of drinks and snacks. 

Ohh, that’s the church with the weird roof that comes all the way to the ground. I remember getting kicked off for playing on that roof.

Hmmm, that’s where that mean kid lived who bullied me in 7th grade. I lost a lot of sleep over that, which seems foolish now.

Cool … there is our old house at 5311 Indiana Avenue … I wonder if they would let me dig up their backyard to find a time capsule my brothers and I planted there in 1965?

Oh, that’s the park where I made potholders.

This is the home of the kid who intentionally ran over my dog and killed him.

There is my grandparents’ old house where we used to swing on the front porch.

The memories are endless, and every possible emotion is flooding me this weekend. And when I see my cousins at the funeral tomorrow, more memories will be brought back as tears are shed. Funerals are for the living, and I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ll probably never see again.

Seismic Shift

I’m sure my parents, and their parents, and multiple generations before them, had a moment like this, where they realized …  their parents’ generation is entirely gone. Now we’re the next generation to go.

I’m not exactly sure what to do with that information. But if I look back on the last couple of decades, it’s a reminder that time travels incredibly fast, and I need to make the most of it.

If I were reading this at a young age, I’d roll my eyes and would not even consider thinking about these things. They are a lifetime away, till you awaken one day and find yourself there. 

Short Spurts

If I look back on the eras of my big projects … companies I’ve started, brands I’ve started, or other big projects … I realize that things tend to come in five- or 10-year spurts. So whatever project I take on today will probably eat up the next five or 10 years. 

When you think of life in 10-year segments, you really only get a few opportunities, unless you change jobs or careers every couple of years. But if you do that, it’s hard to go deep. 

So what will you do with the next segment? 

Most of us, myself included, tend to operate like a pinball machine. You get launched, then you bounce from thing to thing until you make a win, get a couple of points, or you fall into the gutter and get relaunched again … until you run out of turns. 

That’s why the question is so overwhelming to ponder. How will I get the most possible life experience, joy, wonderful adventures, and build memories in the time that remains? 

Last week we announced our new Fine Art Connoisseur Behind the Scenes Art Trip to Venice and Verona. This is our 12th year doing these trips, and a handful of the people who have come on every trip have now aged out. Many of them made their first trip in their mid-60s or 70s. Though many regulars will still sign up, and though new people sign up all the time, one person who has been on every trip says he no longer has the stamina to do the walking through museums, another can’t walk at all, and another has decided no more international travel for him because it’s too difficult. For some these changes were predictable, for others they were sudden and unexpected. Opportunity is here one minute and gone the next. We need to grab opportunities, never saying, “There’s always next time.” “Always” does not exist. 

Wakeup Calls

Though it’s never pleasant to go through the grief of losing an aunt or uncle or parent, these tough moments in life serve the important purpose of disrupting our routines and making us aware that time is short. In my case, if things like this did not serve as a reminder, I’d probably never make any change. But things like deaths or anniversaries wake me up … “What do you mean Fine Art Connoisseur is 20 years old? It seems like we started yesterday.” 

So what will you do with your next five years?

Will you be deliberate, or will you just go with the flow?

A life lived deliberately is filled with rich experiences. A life left to chance is risky.

Though we don’t have much control, we can mostly pick and choose what we want to spend our time on, what we want to strive for, and the experiences we want to have.

Time Is Running Out

The other day I was told I have to get my pilot’s license before my next birthday. That’s not much time to do something I’ve always wanted to complete. It turned out not to be true, but it is stimulating me to take action.

Make Some Decisions Today While This Is on Your Mind

If you were granted only five more years on this earth, no matter what age you are, how would you make the most out of those years?

Where would you start? What would you prioritize?

What have you always wanted to do?

Don’t worry about what is or isn’t possible. Set the goals first, then you’ll find a way to make them happen.

I want to try living in Italy. How am I going to make that happen?

I want to go around the world and paint. When will I do that?

There are things out of my control … like I would like to have a bunch of grandbabies and have them know me as adults. Right now my kids are still focused on getting their lives started, and that’s not yet on their radar. But there are things I can impact.

Let’s start planning and dreaming now, because like it or not, your time will expire when you least expect it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When I awoke from blacking out in a near-death experience, there were two things that came to mind. The first was spending more quality time with my family. The  second was going to Europe or somewhere exotic at least once a year for the rest of my life. At the time, I did not know how I was going to do it, because I could not afford it. But by setting the goal and allowing creativity to flow, I came up with a way. That way was the annual Fine Art Trip.

Because of all the perks I receive as an art magazine publisher, such as meeting curators at museums, getting private tours of museums on days when they’re closed, visiting artists’ family homes and studios, it crossed my mind that I need to share these experiences and contacts with other people. By developing these behind-the-scenes trips, we’ve been able to help others experience things they could never set up on their own, no matter how wealthy they are. We’ve taken people into a place where only the pope and presidents have been permitted, as the first private group allowed. We’ve had the Sistine Chapel to ourselves. We’ve been in the home of Alphonse Mucha’s 90-year-old daughter-in-law to see his private family collection of paintings, which had never been shown or seen. And we were the last to be able to get a private viewing of Mucha’s Slav Epic paintings before they were confiscated by the government of Hungary. We’ve watched famous paintings be restored, we’ve had famous paintings handed around for our group to hold in their hands, we’ve had experiences that no one could arrange on their own.

Our group has become a family, and it’s painful when someone drops out. We’ve all made a point to go out of our way to be there to reconnect each year. And when new people join, they become a part of our family. Fast friendships are made.

I’d love to invite you to become a part of this special group. It’s for people who love and appreciate art and want to learn about it and see it on a deeper level. Sometimes one person in a couple is the art lover and the other goes along for the friendships. This is a moment when you are treated to the finest hotels, the most incredible restaurants, and an exceptional touring experience in addition to all the art experiences.

We did Venice before, in 2012, and we might repeat a few must-see highlights, but we’re going to see some amazing art and experience some incredible memories in Venice and Verona (an art-rich city that’s not on everyone’s radar). All of this is curated by Peter Trippi, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur, and myself. We open our “Rolodex” so you meet the finest people in the art world.

And though this is not a painting trip, I’m planning a three-day pre-event trip in Venice for those who want to join and paint.

You can learn more at www.finearttrip.com.

Memories in a Mini2024-04-28T09:49:13-04:00
21 04, 2024

When Pushing Backfires

2024-05-01T19:29:50-04:00

Mourning doves are cooing to greet the red sun rising over the horizon of water that reflects the pink sky. My morning greeting is never the same, and it’s one I never tire of. The doves play their flutes, providing music as I sit in my Adirondack chair on the dock. 

If you’re new, my routine is to write from my soul each Sunday.

“You need to tell the world about Sunday Coffee. Why aren’t you marketing it more? After all, you’re a marketing guy,” said an acquaintance of mine who suggested I could grow Sunday Coffee much bigger by being promotional.

“I’m trying something different this time,” I said. “I’ve spent my whole life marketing things, and I decided that since this is very personal, I’m just gonna see what happens.”

I think he muttered something like “Fool!” under his breath, or at least it seemed he was thinking it.

Giving In to Growth

Now this might sound very unlike me, but I stopped keeping track of subscribers when I hit 150,000 a few years ago. I decided that I did not want to know anymore because my ego might get in the way, and that might change my intentions. I don’t write with the intent of growth.


I honestly don’t know how many people read this letter, or how many people forward it. I don’t want to know, because I just want it to be organic.

Angel Wings

Sometimes you have to allow something to be carried forward by the wings of angels and quit trying to control everything. Instead of effort, Sunday Coffee is a reversed effort. Have you ever heard of the Law of Reversed Effort?

The Master and His Student


A student approaches his martial arts teacher, asking, “How long will it take me to become a master in martial arts?”

The master replies that it will take 10 years.

Looking frustrated, the young student says, “I want to master martial arts faster than 10 years. So I’ll work harder than anyone else, and I’ll push myself to practice more hours every day. If I do that, how long will it take?

The master replies, “20 years.”

Don’t Try Harder

The Law of Reversed Effort was coined by author Aldous Huxley, who said, “The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed.”

Is this true? You decide. 

When you’re on deadline pushing to accomplish a creative task, you become less creative because of the pressure.

When you’re feeling the pressure to meet the perfect partner, you rarely find someone. Yet when you give up and stop trying so hard (as I did), the perfect mate falls in your lap.

When you try to force yourself to fall asleep, what happens? You stare at the ceiling for hours.

Sahil Bloom, who introduced me to this concept, says that top pro athletes call this the “85% rule.” A runner will try to run at 85% because it keeps her looser, more fluid, and it feels effortless. When she tries to run at 100%, her muscles tighten, she may cramp up, and it slows her down.

So instead of pushing everything, when you start focusing on balance, you can actually achieve more.

No one can sustain pushing hard all day every day, and when they try, they burn out and become less effective. 

Yet when you focus on balance, things flow better. You thrive. 

Go with the flow. Stop pushing.

A Ball of Stress

This week I was coaching an acquaintance who said she had not taken a vacation in several years, and was working all the time.

When I said, “How’s that working out for you?” she said, “I’m about to explode. I don’t know how much longer I can take it, but if I let go, things will fall apart.”

I asked her … “Have you ever flown a kite?” If you pull the string too much and too often, the kite dives and crashes. If you hold it too loosely, it loses control. The key to kite flying is perfect balance. It turns out that is the key to everything, including work.

I then told her about my billionaire friend who takes 26 weeks a year to spend on his yacht. He once told me he became a billionaire because he took time off for thinking and relaxing. During that time he does not check e-mail, does not take business calls, and even stays off social media. He said his company creates such high pressure that if he did it all day every day, he would explode. 

Though it’s counterintuitive, my ball-of-stress friend will find herself more productive if she takes more time off. 

Let Go

We have to be willing to let go and stay balanced.

Ever heard “Less is more”? How about  “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”?

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink. When you try to sink, you float.” — Aldous Huxley

Ease over struggle.

Huxley also said, “In all activities in life, the secret of efficiency lies in an ability to combine two seemingly incompatible states: a state of maximum activity and a state of maximum relaxation.”

Have you heard of people working themselves to death? Have you encountered people who worked so hard that their health suffered? Things go better with balance.

Pushing Too Hard

For years I pushed to get a project accomplished, but doors kept slamming in my face. I decided to let go and see what comes to me. No effort isn’t the answer, but expecting a result but not pushing for it constantly might be the right middle ground. I assume the right answer will flow into my arms soon.

Hot Driving

Years ago, a friend borrowed my Porsche for a weekend. It broke down. When it was towed to my mechanic, he said, “Your friend must have driven this car for over two hours at over 100 mph. The engine isn’t built for that. It destroyed the engine.” 

It cost me thousands to repair. 

How would your life be if you stopped pushing so hard? 

How would your relationships improve if you stopped pushing so hard because you care so much?

What if letting up made you more effective?

Take your foot off the gas once in a while and let your momentum take over. When doors keep closing on you, take the hint and stop trying to force things to happen. 

Pressure and hard driving isn’t always the answer.

Eric Rhoads

PS: A golf pro once told me I was swinging too hard. I used to line up to the ball and hit it as hard as I could. “Lighten up. Don’t hit so hard, just align the club with the ball.” Suddenly, without the force, and with ease,  I made my best drive ever.

I’ve banged my head against the wall far too many times. When learning to paint, I put myself under tremendous pressure, working really hard. But I was not getting better. When I finally stopped caring so much, things improved. 

Speaking of painting….

I do this event in May every year where we gather artists together to learn and paint. I take over a giant hotel or conference center, set up five stages, and this year I have over 70 top artists as my instructors and coaches. It’s great for beginners or experienced pros. And we all paint together every afternoon. This year, we’re holding it right outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you want to attend the Plein Air Convention, this would be the year. See you there … or not. I’m not gonna push.

When Pushing Backfires2024-05-01T19:29:50-04:00
17 03, 2024

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships

2024-03-16T16:01:51-04:00

The sound of strong winds blowing is kinda eerie, like something out of a horror movie. Winds are causing a slight bend in the poetic palm trees, and the water is splashing against the dock as whitecaps fill the choppy water in our view. A morning walk on the dock felt like hurricane force against my wet jacket. Spring really is roaring in like a lion. 

I can remember spring days growing up. We would go out in short sleeves at the first sign of warmth, even though it was still very cold. But we didn’t care, because we were so tired of the frigid temps. The first sunny day was an invitation to pretend it was summer. I was always ready for winter to end — but of course it would get cold again and often snow as late as May or June. 

Last week, when I was in Austin, the bluebonnets were already thick and lining the roadways with a carpet of blue, while orange “Indian paintbrushes” were adding color against the blue. Pink trees were in full blossom, and bright green buds were already coming out.

Seasons have always been a metaphor for life. Spring is a fresh start. 

The cycle starts with spring … new birth.

Then summer … life.

Fall is aging.

Winter is decay and death.

The leaves fall and rot, and fertilize the soil. And the cycle of life begins again.

What Needs to Be Flushed Out?

Though we only get one chance at the cycle, what in your life needs to be flushed out with winter? 

What needs to be reinvigorated and rebirthed with spring?

Have you ever looked back on the mistakes you’ve made in your life and wished you had a second chance? 

Is there still time?

I think about relationships I’ve botched that could still be salvaged. Things may have gone bad because of a heated moment or an out-of-control rant. I’ve given up on people from my past because of their behavior in these moments — or perhaps my own, if I’m willing to admit it. 

But what if you were to be forgiving of a bad moment and give that person a second chance? What if you were to ask forgiveness, to offer some grace? 

Am I holding onto a grudge because of my pride or ego?

Am I thinking, “They need to apologize to me. They wronged me, I didn’t wrong them.”

What if you did do them wrong, but you’re not willing to admit it?

I can think of a few times when I felt I clearly was right and others were wrong, but I’ve realized I was really the problem. It can take a big person to admit that.

Thinking back to some great relationships that ended, do I miss them, or am I being indignant because they made a mistake? 

Is it possible you were the problem?

Is it possible they have changed?

Is it possible you were both having a bad day?

People change, people mature, people grow.

Is it time to plant a new seed?

Who are the first people who come to mind when you think about relationships gone sour?

Who do you feel is being unreasonable with you? Who feels you are being unreasonable with them?

I have a few people I’ve written out of my life who I loved and missed, but who had disappointed me. My ego got in the way of continuing the relationship because I perceived they’d hurt me in some way.

Are you willing to heal wounds, forgive them? Or just try to repair the relationship, not expecting an apology?

It’s spring. Let’s bring new life to old relationships that were once good.

Families should never be divided, no matter what. Families are all we have.

Friendships don’t have to end, and can become stronger by adding a little humility and grace. 

Let go of your pride. Relationships are more important than being right.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Later this week, I’ll be seeing spring from a whole new perspective as we make our way to Japan to experience the cherry blossom season. We’ll be hosting a group of plein air painters to tour and paint Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for almost two weeks. As a result, the next couple of weeks will be “Best of Sunday Coffee.” But if you wish to follow my trip, I’ll be posting on Instagram (@ericrhoads)  and  on Facebook at /ericrhoads.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships2024-03-16T16:01:51-04:00
10 03, 2024

If I Were King of the World

2024-03-10T08:50:49-04:00

Gray-blue silhouettes of mountains and trees fill my vast view, as fog accumulates like piles of snow, cresting layer after layer of mountains against the pink sky in the distance. The morning is silent, and the mighty scrub oaks are completely still, paused like a dancer at rest once the winds of music stop. 

Being in this empty Texas house alone for a week is a gift. Not because I don’t miss my wife and family, I do, but because silence truly is golden.

I’d returned to Austin a week ago to host my most recent virtual learning event for artists, leaving my wife and daughter to go off on their own for spring break, providing another gift … Mommy-daughter time. 

Pumped Up

I’m feeling invigorated, not only from the high of having helped tens of thousands learn to paint and gain new confidence in themselves, but from thinking time alone with no clanging pots and pans, no barking dogs or barking newscasters. 

How did I choose to fill my free evenings after long, exhausting days?

Play Like No One Is Watching

I played my guitar and sang out loud at the top of my voice, as if no one was watching, because no one was. I then played my grand piano as loudly as I wanted, without fear of disturbing others who couldn’t escape it.

I took an online course on a marketing topic to sharpen my skills so I can offer fresh marketing ideas for artists when teaching at my convention. Then I did the planning homework required.

I read through a few bound editions of The Studio art magazine, published in the 19th century, from my collection of every issue ever produced. 

I painted in my studio, finishing a giant birch tree painting that may be one of the best I’ve ever done, and then debating whether to keep it in my family collection or send it off to one of my galleries. 

I wasted Super Tuesday evening watching the news like a horse race where I already knew which horse would win.

But the best part was thinking time, which is otherwise hard to come by because of my calendar, which tends to move me every few minutes like a chess piece in the game of business. 

Thinking allows me to see into the future, to play out what happens next, to think about where I am versus where I want to be, and how to fill the gap. 

When I Become King

If I were king of the world, I’d require thinking vacations for every person on earth, away from their work and busy work, away from their chores and obligations, and cast into a quiet spot uninterrupted for a week once a year, with no partying, no sleeping in, no going out. Isolated, alone, nothing to fill the time, no internet or media available. Complete disconnection, not filling even an hour a day doom scrolling or e-mail trolling.

It would not matter if they were retired, working, or just starting out. Most of us spend less time thinking about our future and our quality of life than we do on social media every day. 

Within a year of my new world of thinkers, the world would become a better place. People would be happier because they’d be focused on happiness first, which would make them kinder and less self-centered. Their work would be more fulfilling, because they would abandon what doesn’t make them happy in exchange for something that does. And they would be less likely to make money-centric decisions, because money is what people think will buy them happiness, but once you have it, you just want more. 

King Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes (which is filled with incredible practical life and business advice) and said the more you get, the more you want, but it never brings happiness because happiness isn’t defined by things. 

How much time are you spending on yourself, planning your life?

How much time are you wasting on social media?

This week I learned I can place a limit on my social media use on my phone, after realizing I wasted four hours scrolling the other day when I could have been productive. So now I have a 15-minute limit.

What if, for today only, for just one hour, you go somewhere quiet. No media, no phone, no music. Just a quiet spot. And ask yourself…

Am I as happy as I could be? If not, what would change that?

What have I not yet done that I’ve always wanted to do?

Start asking a lot of questions. Make a list of questions before you head to that quiet space, and then don’t just rely on the first three answers you get. Dig deep for 10 answers. Don’t operate on autopilot, use your brain.

If you do it right, that one hour will make you want to spend more time, until you figure it out. It might take a lot of time.

We are creatures of habit. We often run like robots acting out a computer program. But how much original thought do we have when it comes to the quality of our life experience?

Life is like a rocket. A massive amount of thrust pushes you into the air at 4,000 miles an hour. The flight is short, then it’s over. Time escapes like air from the Titanic. Then time runs out.

Ask yourself, if I died tomorrow, what are the things I’ve been meaning to get around to doing that I never got done?

Why have you not done them? Chances are it’s time, money, or fear. 

Why are those things still on your list? Do you really want them, or are you clinging to something from your past you THOUGHT you wanted to do but no longer really want? Of course, if these things are still important to you, why wait one more day? 

Life Is Over Fast

Sometimes life seems meaningless. It’s here and gone. What you do with it might not matter to anyone but you and your family. Why bother at all? I think we were given this rocket ride, and our responsibility is to spend that time creating experiences. 

What is your main purpose in life?

Will you feel OK if you never check that box?

In business I learned an important lesson the hard way. Do your homework up front. Study and be prepared. Yet in life we just kinda show up and don’t really prepare for it, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do … living well, living with purpose.

I used to spend more time reading the instructions to put an Ikea table together than I spent on my life, and the result wasn’t very good. No one taught us this important lesson, to think about and implement a life plan. Yeah, maybe we went to college to become a professional something, but how is that working out for you? 

Are you living your dream, or working to help someone else live theirs?

Give it some thought.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Giant thanks to all the people who joined me from 20 countries and 48 states this week. I love serving you. I’ll see you all next year or at the next event, which is our Plein Air Convention.

PS2: Soon I’ll be blasting off for Japan. I probably will run some repeats while I’m gone, but I’ll be posting pictures. If you do not already follow me on Instagram, please do @ericrhoads.

If I Were King of the World2024-03-10T08:50:49-04:00
3 03, 2024

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!

2024-03-02T14:39:48-05:00

Each morning, as the sun blasts through our east-facing window, I’m treated to a colorful sunrise over the water, with the silhouettes of palm trees. It’s better than any alarm; it tends to get me up a little earlier than normal, and boosts my dopamine immediately. 

Upon waking, I walk out to the deck of our bedroom just to take in the beauty of the morning, marveling over the sun sparkling on the water, the warm breeze, the foggy blue distant islands, and the warm air kissing my skin. I’m feeling inspired. 

The Hunt for Inspiration

One of the reasons I travel so much is because I’m always on the hunt for beauty and inspiration. To me there is nothing quite as wonderful as getting out of my comfort zone, walking on cobblestone streets, changing foreign money, eating local and regional foods, and being unable to understand the language fully. It’s not only a vacation, it’s a mental break and a chance to feel invigorated. 

Last October, after our annual fall Fine Art Trip, I was totally inspired. Though this is a collectors’ trip, visiting lots of museums behind the scenes, artist studios, and collector homes, in my free time I always sneak away to paint en plein air, even if it’s after dinner and late at night under the streetlights. 

Inspired by Artwork

It’s hard to imagine this because so few in the world have ever experienced it, but I’ve been in the Prado, one of the most important and busiest museums in the world, having it all to myself and my small group, and no one else in the building. 

I can walk up to important paintings with no crowds and no pressure to move, and study them in depth. In one case, after seeing every painting in the museum, I kept returning to this one painting, over and over again. It captivated me, and I kept seeing more depth in it as I studied it. And after taking dozens of close-up photos, I’ll return home and try to copy parts of it as a learning experience. 

I gain tremendous inspiration from gazing at endless artworks by the world’s great masters in top museums. 

The Gift of Travel

I feel extremely blessed that I get to travel as much as I do. In just a couple of weeks, I’m leading a group to paint cherry blossoms in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan. Then in May I’ll be painting at the Plein Air Convention in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in June at my painters’ retreat in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, where I’ll spend my summer. Then I’ll host another Fine Art Trip in Europe (to be announced soon), and my Fall Color Week retreat in Monterey and Carmel this year. 

Gasping for Air

An important lesson was bestowed upon me by living the life of an entrepreneur, never able to come up for air, spending months on end working from sunrise till midnight, and then experiencing levels of burnout, depression, and lost relationships. Something had to change.

Sometimes it takes a kick in the teeth to stop bad behavior and reinvent yourself. The new me, I told myself, was not going to work weekends again, was going to travel to Europe at least once a year, and travel to paint with friends. 

The life of a workaholic is a dead end street, no matter what the books tell you. Life isn’t about working, it’s about living. Work becomes about providing enough fun tickets to live the life you dream of. It took me a couple of decades to shed my bad habits, my bad moods, and my work addiction to start living life.

Are You a Living Zombie?

Sometimes we feel like the walking dead … commuting to work, putting in the required hours or late nights, being workaholics, involved in endless projects and mind-numbing meetings that seem like Groundhog Day.

Are You  Burning Out?

Burnout and being stuck happens across all jobs and industries. It seems like we’re working hard to support our families, yet our families wish they could see us more, even if it means having less. It’s a trap too many of us fall into, convincing ourselves we’re “doing it for the family.” One friend recently said his wife told him, “If you think you’re doing this for the family, think again. If this continues, there will be no family for you to come home to.” 

So how do we break out?

Start with what you hate. While most people tell you to focus on goals, goals are of no value if you have to do things that make you miserable. Make a list of the non-negotiables, then start building a plan to unwind all the things you no longer want to do.

Instead of goals, make your dream list. “If I had all the money and time in the world, and no restrictions, what would I do?”

Do that. 

Even if it takes 10 years to figure out how. If you don’t do it, you’ll continue to burn out. But if you have a plan and know you’re working your way to freedom from the things you hate and toward the things you love, you’ll have hope. Hope with an action plan removes burnout.

Near Death

A near-death experience gave me instant clarity, from which I made my list, set my dreams in motion, and found a way to do them.

Be There

Science has a lot of recent research that says when you imagine yourself IN something, you find a way to become it. If you constantly tell yourself you’re miserable … you’re IN misery. If your brain is living your dream, it will find a way.

I could not afford to go to Europe once a year. My brain found a way once I started making that part of who I am.

BE where you want to be. Don’t tell yourself, “Someday I’m gonna.” Tell yourself you are there. 

Sometimes being delusional is the best thing to motivate your brain to find a way to climb out of a bad hole.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Tonight I’ll board a big bird and fly home to Austin, where I’ll be hosting PleinAir Live all week. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year because I see so many lives transformed. You are joining me, right? Be a DO IT NOW person, and you’ll move closer to your dreams.  

Stop Living Like a Zombie! Stop It!2024-03-02T14:39:48-05:00
25 02, 2024

Stunned by My Bias

2024-02-24T14:55:45-05:00

The flags on the dock are blowing sideways as a strong wind pushes the waves into whitecaps. The birds overhead are doing acrobatics with the wind, diving in for fish and hovering in place. Schools of fish are scurrying to avoid becoming bird food. It’s wonderful to wake up to a flurry of activity.

Going Deep

One of the joys of my life is having deep conversations with friends, especially smart ones. Over the past five years I’ve become close to a doctor I was going to who is one of the smartest and most tuned-in people I know. Not just tuned in to medicine, but tuned into the latest research and trends, and also very aware of trends in business and in marketing. We’ve had some amazing conversations over the years. This week he and his wonderful family visited us for a couple of days and we had the opportunity to sit up late at night to pontificate about all of our interests.

A Shocking Moment

During our conversation, I was talking about some of the frustrations or roadblocks I experienced in my business. Then he asked me a very point-blank question: “What is the very best way to grow a business fast?” I paused, pondered it for a moment, and gave him my answer. In fact, I was emphatic about my answer being the only way.

A moment later he chuckled and said, “The only way? You are dead wrong. In fact, there is current research about that topic, and you’re not only wrong about it being the top way to grow a business, the way you’re suggesting isn’t even on the radar of top businesses. You have a major blind spot — a bias.”

Though it was all light and fun, it was one of those moments of clarity when I had to realize and admit he was right. I do have a bias about the way certain things are done. Though I had considered the thing he suggested, I had no idea it was proven to be more important than what I was suggesting.

My friend had called me out. Not to be critical, but as good friends do, to point out that my bias was blinding me, and probably impacting my results.

I was flabbergasted. 

Discovering My Bias

I would never have considered that I had a bias. Yet the more I pondered the idea over the following days, the more excited I became, realizing that there was something new to me, something I was not doing that could make a major difference in the growth of my business. And because he opened a new door in my mind, I started asking myself about other things I thought of in only one way, realizing that I had biases in other areas of my thinking.

Finding out was exhilarating and brings me new hope.

Stuck in Our Ways

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve done something the same way for so long, you’re shocked when you learn there is a new and different way you had never considered? I love to see people light up when I point out things their smartphone will do that they have been doing wrong for years. One time someone pointed out the little arrow on the gas gauge of my car, which is an indicator of which side the tank fill is on. I’d been driving for four decades before someone pointed it out. How had I not seen it all these years?

Meaningless Routines

We all have a bias about the way we think, the ways we do certain things, and we run on autopilot more than we would like to admit. I pretty much showed up at the office and followed my routine the same way every single day … that is, until a book I just read pointed out that there is a better way. At first I resisted it, but then after some thought, it was a game-changer.

I don’t know how to discover my own bias. I think we’re all blind to them. But the first part of discovery is about realizing they exist, examining everything you do, and asking, “Why do I do it this way?” I have routines I started 30 years ago that I do the same way.

Brain Games

A great way to challenge your brain is to force yourself to do things differently. For instance, I realized that I have a pattern that the washcloth follows every day in the shower. So I switched hands, which was very uncomfortable and almost overwhelming to my brain. Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. Close your eyes and walk backwards, or sideways. These little brain games can be invigorating, but also help rewire your brain to try new things differently.

Break habits. Go to a different grocery store. Visit different restaurants. Don’t order the same things in the places you always go. Don’t go home the same way, try new roads. Try to write or comb your hair with your opposite hand. Stimulate your brain.

I learned a good lesson this week. Surround yourself with people who are willing to challenge your assumptions. 

Runner No More

I was telling my doctor friend that the Mayo Clinic told me 25 years ago that I had to stop running because the pounding was pressuring a nerve, and if I continued, I’d be paralyzed for life. My friend pointed out that they used to believe that, and that the science has since proven that not to be true. Yet I held on to that assumption and advice for over two decades, when I could have revisited the assumption just a few years later and discovered I could be a runner again. I’m more than a little irritated with myself for not revisiting this.

Avoid Eggs!!

What are you not doing today because someone told you it was a bad idea? Remember it used to be a bad idea to eat eggs and fat? And now science has proven that it’s healthy. That’s why it’s important to read and be willing to accept what you know to be true. My doctor friend told me that almost 100% of the things doctors believed 30 years ago have since turned out to be wrong. Who knew?

I’m a little embarrassed about how stuck I’ve been. But it’s a good reminder to listen to others, read like a madman, and check all assumptions at the door and keep an open mind to new possibilities.

What is your bias? 

What are you still believing?

What do you do because of something that was told to you decades ago? Has it changed? 

Dig deeply and you’ll find a bucket full of bias you did not know you have. I know I did.

Eric Rhoads

PS: An artist friend of mine said “never” when I asked if he had ever done plein air painting (painting outside in nature). In fact, he reacted violently: “Why would I ever do that? There are bugs, the light is always changing, and you have to deal with the mud and the rain.” He had a bias about something he had never done. I urged him to try it and he said no several times, but finally I convinced him to go out and paint with me. “This has been the best painting day of my life! Why didn’t you make me go out sooner?” SInce then he has become addicted and it’s his preferred way to paint. His bias got in the way.

For those who want to learn plein air painting, I highly recommend it, because you get to be outside, and you get to see light, shadow, color, and form in ways you can’t see painting from photos. And it’s very social, and it’s fun to travel the world painting with friends (I’m going to Japan soon with friends to paint cherry blossoms).

You might like my online event called PleinAir Live, coming up March 6-8. If you get your seats reserved before midnight tonight, you’ll beat the price increase. Sign up today. It’s 100% guaranteed. If you watch the first day and think, “It’s not for me,” I’ll refund all of your money. Register at www.pleinairlive.com. Especially if you can’t make it to the Plein Air Convention this year!

Stunned by My Bias2024-02-24T14:55:45-05:00