The scent is heavenly. I breathe deeply and take in the perfume of spring. After a couple of days of light rain, the roadsides and fields are filled with blue and orange wildflowers. My own property is filled with little white flowers and spring greens. Bees are buzzing with delight, preparing the sweetest honey you can find. Spring is so welcome after a tough winter.
Speaking of inhaling, on Saturday Night Live back in the ‘70s comedian Steve Martin used to say “Let’s get small,” which was code for getting high. We all snickered.
During the early coverage of the travesty in Ukraine, I felt small and helpless. Though giving money was an option, I felt like money alone was not enough. But I could not think of anything else I could do to make a difference. And the things I did think of required someone with more connections, more money and clout than I had on my own.
Unfortunately, I was thinking, “I’m too small to make a difference.”
Do you ever think too small?
I’m too small to take on this project.
I’m too small to make big things happen.
I’m too small, so important people don’t care what I have to say.
Our culture tends to idolize people who are big … big CEOs, celebrities, sports figures, pundits, musicians, actors, etc. When they speak or issue a press release, everyone pays attention.
Therefore we assume that big things are left for them to do.
As I was pondering what I could do as someone who was small, I started thinking big. “What if I could write a song and call attention to Ukraine?” I asked myself.
The battle inside my mind was ugly.
One side of my brain was telling me all the reasons it would fail. The other side was offering me possibilities. I had to make a split-second decision. Would I be small, or would I think big?
The outcome was a song title, “Tears for Ukraine,” and some lyrics. But what do I do next?
I sent it to one of the few recording artists I know personally, someone who is known regionally but may not be a national name.
“See if you can do anything with this,” I said. “Maybe we can help a lot of people by keeping this at the top of everyone’s mind.”
Of course I’ve spoken of this before, but so much has happened since. Within 24 hours Bill Craig and a friend, Mark Jacobson, revised my lyrics, recorded a scratch track to see if I liked the direction of the song, and then recorded a full studio recording with the group Elsie Binx. (You can hear it here.)
That was about three weeks ago. For two weeks, it was the number one download by radio stations for most of that time. And it started receiving airplay on radio stations across the U.S.
That was cool. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. But what more could we do with it?People Who Know People
So I reached out to some people who knew people who knew people. “Let’s re-record it, like ‘We Are the World,’ and get a bunch of stars together to do it.” Keep in mind, I don’t roll in those circles. The next thing I know, it’s catching on. One big star started reaching out to other stars. And, as of today, there is a big possibility this will happen and be recorded by a bunch of big artists.
Going Latino Too
Then I thought we should record a Spanish version for the Latino audience, and one introduction led to another, and we have been in dialogue with a major Latino star. A discussion began about getting a bunch of top Hispanic stars to record it together.
I don’t know what will happen, but the progress made has been much more than if I had told myself to stay small and not think big.
I’ve been watching two documentaries this weekend, one on David Geffen, the billionaire media mogul, and one on Frank Sinatra. I learned a lot from both, but the one thing that we don’t think about is that they too were small, unknown, and went for years without any success. But because of their hard work and tenacity, and thinking big, they became giants.
In the two documentaries, each of the men had a moment where they had to make a choice. Be small or think big. Both thought big, and pursued their idea with all of their might. It changed their lives and careers forever. And when they got to one level, they kept thinking bigger, which resulted in getting to another level.
No one who ever got big had it happen by accident. In fact, the bigger you think, the bigger your results will be. I’m picturing supplies and help going to tens of thousands of people who need help, because of this song. (We made a pact not to personally accept ANY money on this project.)
The Battle in My Brain
My small-thinking, negative brain told me, “You’re not a songwriter. Why are you wasting time on this?” It told me I was not qualified, it told me that I needed to stick to what I know, it told me I was too old, it told me people would mock me. But my positive brain said, “Go for it, take action now, see what happens.”
The Movie That Never Was
When I was a teen I always wanted to be a film actor, but I never pursued it. One day about 15 years ago I was browsing Craigslist and saw tryouts for a student film. I told my wife I was going to go and try out. She suggested there were probably better things I could do with my time. Upon arriving, with a line of people around the block, all trying out for three parts, I started to think I was a bit out of touch myself.
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You
When I arrived at the desk, a lady handed me a script and said, “Memorize these parts, and come up when we call your name.” Here I am competing with a couple of hundred professional actors who know how to do auditions. Suddenly my name is called. I read the lines in front of the producer, director, and all the other actors staring at me like, “What’s this guy doing here?”
“Thanks, we’ll call you if there is interest. Next?”
Impossible. How Could This Be?
Just as I’m getting ready to leave, a lady taps me on the shoulder. “We need you to read for a different part. It will just take a minute.” I read the lines, and they took me aside and said, “You’ve got one of the three parts.” A week later, I was filming a short film for three nights, all night.
As I mentioned, it was a student film, but it was being supported by a major director trying to help serious film students, and it was he who insisted they give me the part. The film never got released, but I learned a lot about myself and about acting. And I learned that you can’t listen to your negative brain, no matter what you’re up against.
I love to read biographies about exceptional people with exceptional lives, and they always talk about the negative brain and how it almost kept them from success. These are not people with special advantages. They all started small, and had struggles, but they thought big to pull themselves to the next level.
Are you getting small or are you thinking big?
The bigger you think, the more unrealistic it all seems, yet big dreams conquer worlds. What world will you conquer? How will you change the world?
We all have negative thoughts and doubts. Push them aside and start thinking big.
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7
PS: I’m thrilled to hear stories of families and friends getting together for Easter for the first time in two years. I hope this is a special Easter filled with love and hope. And though bunnies and eggs and chocolate are part of the way we celebrate, especially with kids, it is the resurrection of Christ that is celebrated on this day.
Here’s what’s happening in Eric’s world these days…
No Restrictions for the Plein Air Convention
We received great news this week. The state of New Mexico and our hotel, Buffalo Thunder, are no longer restricting attendance at the Plein Air Convention & Expo and no longer requiring masking or distancing. We had been told to limit to 50 percent attendance, but now we can return to normal. Though it’s only a month away, you still have time to grab a ticket and a room. We intend to celebrate especially well this time as we get the family of painters together for the first time in over two years. You can register at PleinAirConvention.com.
Painting Together in Mid-June
I’ve got about 30 seats left for my Adirondack painting event this June. It’s a week of painting with old and new friends, for beginners or experienced pros. No workshops, just painting the stunning 6 million preserved acres of the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. You can learn more at PaintAdirondacks.com.
Join Me in New Zealand
I’m taking 50 people to New Zealand in September to paint and tour. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So far 20 seats are sold. Visit PaintingNewZealand.com.
My fall retreat in Maine is starting to fill up. We can accommodate just 100 people. We will paint in Acadia National Park and in the entire Bar Harbor area. Our lobster dinner is legendary!
Learn more at FallColorWeek.com.
Thank you for writing this song and having it recorded. It’s powerful indeed and so well done. I love your weekly column as well – look forward to it every week. Thank you!
Congratulations Eric. The song is BEAUTIFUL and I did shed tears as I listened to it. So sad and unnecessary. The people are so brave. I pray every time I think about them or hear another clip on the news. God’s ways don’t always make sense to us.
Yes, I think too small most of the time.
Thank you for your writings and all the wonderful things you do for artists and others. God bless and keep you. This world needs a multitude of people with your vision and ambition.
I was a day late getting to Eric’s Sunday Coffee. “Tears for Ukraine” brought tears to my eyes. I am going to forward it others, want many to hear and know what a PHENOMENAL person Eric Rhoads is. Mahalo.
I am speechless! I love how you just lifted that ceiling and the result of this instance is “Tears for Ukraine!”
Any chance I could be successful in thinking big? So big that I might be able to attract you to share your positive and inspiring message(s) with the Northern Virginia Arts & Crafts guild’s 50th Anniversary? We would benefit and grow and triple and more the investment you make to our guild. By reaching out to Involve our entire community, to share in a celebration that goes beyond ourselves, we could inspire and encourage and truly show the depth of the heart of artisans. This is a serious request. I hope that you will respond to this “ small person” who wants to think big!
Thank you for all your inspirations week by week!
Just read your Sunday Coffee post. Your story certainly aroused something in me. I’m appalled by what’s happening in Ukraine, and, for some time, I’ve been asking: What can I do? How can I think big? No answers at this stage, but you’ve inspired me to keep looking for answers instead of just saying, “Well, I’m just one person. What can l’il ole me, in l’il ole New Zealand, do to help a whole nation?
As well as being an artist, I’m also a writer, and recently, going over some short stories I’d written some time ago, I came across a piece I’d written, about an exodus of displaced people in Africa, and the hardships of being homeless through no fault of their own. Rereading the story, I was struck by their similarities to the people of Ukraine. Now,I’m wondering if there’s a think big project hidden somewhere in there for me. So, now the BIG question is: Can I use that story to help Ukraine? Suggestions welcome.
Outstanding message of reaching out and taking your leap into your dreams.
Beautiful Happy Easter and Blessings to you and your family. God Bless
I love the song and how you think.
Very good, Eric.
It was several years ago when my daughter was struggling with school. She is on the autism spectrum… One of my long time design clients was also a dear friend for years and I often talked with her about school difficulties. So, I was a bit down. Then a few days after we had met I received a card from her. It was a store bought card…I still have it. (framed on my wall!) There was flower on the front and a mosquito.
What did the card say?,…….”.If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. ”
Thanks as always for the pep talk. Easter Blessings to you. Loved my time last June in the Adirondacks. Have a great Plein Air convention and Adirondack trip and New Zealand and wow so much. See you in Pastel Live in August. Linda Klenczar, Michigan
Tears for Ukraine is a beautiful tribute to a brave people. Be sure to send this to President Biden in addition to sending it to everyone in both the Senate and the House.
Wonderful to hear that your music project for Ukraine is a success!
Music one more creative talent on your checklist. Have you ever thought of writing a creative novel?.
I always enjoy the Intoductions to your Sunday Coffee where your sitting on the porch with your coffee, describing the sensations of the morning and your beautiful illustration of the nature surrounding you. …using words to paint nature’s palette on a Spring morning and a creative novel waiting to be born.
You are a good man Eric.
I was thinking that streamline Art has so many wonderful artists and a huge audience, maybe an silent auction. I’d love to bid on any one of those paintings. Then the proceeds go to Ukraine in some way. Just a thought. Kay
I Lear a lot from you every time I read this column.The song is moving. I was at a point of giving up on my painting dreams and some of my fellow artists jumped in and bolstered me with encouragement. Today, I have learn not to let rejection define me. I am so glad I didn’t listen to that voice of fear inside me. It is a powerful voice, but believing in myself drowned out that fear. It has been a wonderful journey. Keep sharing your wisdom.
Well Eric I enjoyed our morning coffee and the message of don’t think small. It’s nice hearing your thoughts. I’m thinking big with this brain aneurysm I have. That it’s healed. I know how things used to get frustrating but that’s not worth it. You are what you think. see you next Sunday. Bill I’m going to listen to what you put together concerning your song.
Thanks Eric, I’ve been a pastel artists for over 60 years, but recently I’ve been rejected from two pastel competition s. Feel a bit small, it’s raining here in Nova Scotia, guess it’s a good day to get back to painting, can’t go out plein air, which I love, weather is slowly getting better, hopefully I can get out soon. Thanks again. Rae
Your Sunday posts are always encouraging and inspiring!
Happy Easter to you and your family. Your column is our Sunday morning go to for which we give thanks.
Thank you so much for sharing the song Tears for Ukraine. I live in northern Canada 🇨🇦 and had not heard it. Bless you, Lana
I look forward to Sunday Coffee as much or more than all of the other art info – which I love.! What an unexpected pleasant addition to the week!
Your insight and thoughtful words always inspire. Your drive and motivation make you a great role model. Thank you!
You are definitely an exceptional person Eric, your biography reads like an encyclopedia.
A wonderful initiative to write a song for Ukraine.