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.