It could be a horror movie. Fog so dense I can barely see my hands in front of me. The cold air hitting the warm water has made the lake completely disappear. Gradually, as the sun peeks out, I can see a soft silhouette of trees, and then, as the fog burns off, the water becomes visible. Then some hint of color appears in the trees, until the fog has completely lifted.
Years ago, on a morning like this, before I ever had kids, my dad would come and wake me to get out early in the boat to shoot photos of boats and camps in the mist. We would cover ourselves in layers of jackets, venture into the freezing air, and capture some of the best photographs ever.
One August morning I remember him waking us early to tell me we had six inches of snow overnight and we needed to get out and photograph it before it melted off. It was gone two hours later, but I got some of the best photos I ever took on that day.
Life as Rhoads kids had a lot to do with waking up early for an unplanned adventure. In summer of 1964, Dad came in and said, “We’re leaving on vacation in 30 minutes. Get packed.” He didn’t say where we were going, but we ate a quick breakfast, threw our bags into our old blue Oldsmobile, and a day or so later, we were at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. I can still remember the moment we pulled up at the hotel. I had never seen a doorman before. And every moment and exhibit at the World’s Fair is as clear to me as it was on the days we spent there. My favorite things were the “Kodak Moment” signs showing you the best places to take shots of the exhibits, like the mid-century modern buildings (where I fell in love with architecture and design), the giant globe, the Space Park, the GM exhibit of future cars, the Bell Systems futuristic video phone, and the Westinghouse Time Capsule.
It was also my first memory of falling in love with art, as we visited the Frick Museum and I saw a giant painting of sword-fighting pirates. That’s pretty cool to a 10-year-old.
Cooler Than Anything Ever
The World’s Fair was the coolest thing I had done in my little life at the time, and I still am amazed at the number of concepts seen there that have come true today. It expanded my mind about what was possible, and since that time I’ve wanted to be one of those people who invented cool stuff. I also wanted to be an architect because the designs at the fair and in New York were unlike anything I had ever seen.
My fascination with cool things and innovation has lasted a lifetime, and the most important discovery I’ve made is that it’s rare that others can see your vision. In fact, they will mock you, laugh at you, and call you crazy. Then they will shoot you down and tell you all the reasons it’s a bad idea, all the reasons it will fail, and all the reasons no one will want it. The other discovery I’ve made is that you have to force your vision to happen in spite of all that. If it’s left up to others, even co-workers, big things may not happen.
What have you done to go against the tide lately?
Money Is Irrelevant
Greatness isn’t about becoming a billionaire. Becoming wealthy or a billionaire may be a byproduct of greatness, but it’s rarely done with the money in mind. Success follows ideas that change lives and make life better. Money sometimes follows. Sometimes not. But money is irrelevant.
What’s relevant is that you embrace and chase your wild dreams and that you never let anyone rain on your parade.
The Stupidity of Fear
I can give you three examples of ideas I had 20 years before anyone that I did not pursue because people I respected told me what I was thinking defied physics and was not possible. If I had been willing to pursue them, and fight for a decade or two, I too would be a billionaire now. I have since learned to listen to my gut.
I can also give you examples of great ideas I didn’t pursue but that others later came up with — that were complete failures. Yet in each case, I felt as though they were doing it wrong. Maybe my way would have succeeded?
Not Arrogance, Confidence
People often accuse people like Elon Musk or Thomas Edison of being arrogant, when in fact they are so driven by their vision that they become very sure of themselves. When you’re sure of yourself, you can take the football across the goal line no matter what obstacles are in the way.
We humans on this earth need to know that each of us possesses the skill to take anything impossible and make it possible, no matter our age, our circumstances, or our disadvantages. Meeting with a scientist one day, I was told that what I wanted to do defied physics — yet it was later done and proven possible. I’m not a scientist, I don’t “do” physics, but sometimes those of us on the outside can see ways to do things because we don’t know they can’t be done.
Yes, It’s Impossible. So What?
When I started my Internet radio company in San Francisco in 1999, a search firm lined up a couple of dozen interviews with top engineers. Each told me what I wanted to do was impossible. One told me it was impossible — but he would figure out a way. We did it, made history, and our tech is in use in every streaming broadcast in the world today.
The limits you face are hiding out inside your head. I can remember discussions with an uncle who was brighter than all the engineers on earth. He had hundreds of brilliant ideas, yet when I asked him why he never pursued them, he told me there were other, more qualified people, and he was living what he was meant to be doing. His head was getting in the way of his changing the world. I’m not critical, he was doing what he wanted to do, yet I felt he could have changed the world in big ways with his ideas.
What We Need in School
There are no college, high school, or trade school courses teaching our students the most important principles of success. We should be teaching our kids that the impossible is almost always possible, that mindset impacts everything, and that the cards you were dealt do not have to be the cards you play. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it’s hard to face resistance, criticism, and ridicule. So what? I can think of harder things than that — like showing up every day for a job you hate.
Greatness has no limits. When these ideas come into your head, they should not be ignored. You’ve been selected to receive the idea, and it’s up to you, not anyone else, to follow up if you believe in its value to the world.
You’re Too Old
The other issue that gets in the way is this lame perception of age. I blossomed late, I’m better than I ever was, and I can do things today I could not pull off three or four decades ago. Do you think I’m going to let someone dictate to me that something isn’t possible because I’m well seasoned? No. The accumulation of experience over decades is just the thing to make you the right person. And the things most proven to contribute to longevity are an active brain, an active body, and an active social life. Why sit around wasting all those years of experience?
You’re Too Young
Youth is also a frequent excuse. “I’ll do it after college” is what I sometimes hear. Yet a young man I met had an idea in his high school science class for a technology to detect pancreatic cancer early, and has changed the world of medicine. He was 15, and is now on his way to being a billionaire before he’s 30.
World-changing may not be about putting man on Mars. It might just be your role in the local art association, and applying your skills to help them reinvent. My friend Mary Longe, a former powerhouse PR and marketing executive, has made Plein Air Chicago a formidable organization. She’s working full time while retired, and loving it.
Ideas are a blessing. They are not for your entertainment; they are a combination of all your experiences, unique to you. Embrace them. You too can change the world.
PS: One of the ways I want to change the world is by teaching a million people to paint. Since I set that goal, I’ve aggressively been driven to hit it so I can then make it bigger. The goal is meaningful to me because learning to paint was life-changing for me. It opened my eyes and my heart in new ways, and I want others to experience that level of joy.
Because of COVID, I started going “on the air” daily at noon ET on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube Live, to help you and others keep their heads out of the disaster of the pandemic and, now, the other things shaking our way of life. I also started doing free video samples of the hundreds of videos we’ve produced (daily at 3 p.m. ET). We had already seen over a million views by day 22, and today is day number 186 without a day off. I don’t know if we’ve reached a million different people or if we’ve taught a million to paint, or if it’s lots of views by fewer people. Yet the goal remains important to me.
When I was young I painted with my mom at the dining table at 5211 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When I was 10, I was exposed to real painting. When I was 40, I decided I wanted to paint, but I had no self-confidence and I believed talent was required. Now I paint for fun, my work is in a gallery, and I continue to learn and grow. I’m living proof that you can learn to paint even if you think you can’t draw a stick figure, and I’m going to prove it to you.
If you invest four days of your time, or even one day of your time, in my Realism Live online virtual art conference, where we have brought together the biggest artists in realism, you will be taking the leap and learning the important principles you may not learn at some rinky-dink art class. This is the real deal, and I guarantee it. If you attend one full day, and do not think you learned enough to get you moving in the right direction, I’ll refund 100% of your money.
This event will help you, it will help the artists we’re bringing in (artists are having trouble getting by right now), and it will help us. This event will help my business survive when all of our in-person events have been cancelled. And if it’s not right for you, let us know by the end of day one, and you get your money back. It’s a great offer because we have great confidence it can teach you the principles you need to get started. You can be new to art (Beginner’s Day suggested), or you could be wanting to take it up again, get to the next level, or get to the highest level. You’ll see top painters painting and drawing, giving instruction and tips, and you can watch replays again and again (especially if you can’t make the dates).
I would not say this just to make a sale … but this four days is life-changing. Take a few days off and pursue the dream of art. You’ll never regret it.
I was shy, I lacked confidence, and I didn’t believe in my ability to learn to paint. I was graced with a man by the name of Jack Jackson who convinced me to give him just one day, and if I liked that one day, come back for another. One day at a time. In one day, he changed my life. Today I operate an art-related publishing business that trains artists, informs and educates collectors, and teaches artists to sell their work. And best of all, I’m passionate about painting. It’s all because I took a small step and committed to one day. If you commit to my one-day beginners’ class, that’s the step you can take. If you want to add more later, you can. But one step, with a no-risk money-back guarantee — you have nothing to lose but one day. And you may gain a lifetime of painting. It’s life-changing. Sign up at RealismLive.com.
There are 95 days left in 2020, and you can take a disaster year and make it the best year of your life by signing up today. Don’t let anything get in the way of your happiness and joy. Nothing.
Happy Yom Kippur to my Jewish friends.