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.