Distant layers of rolling hills are barely visible this foggy morning, each layer lighter and bluer than the one before. A lone light on a hill in the distance shines brightly against the gray background, making me think that me and the person in that house are the only people awake this early. If I knew Morse code, I’d blink a good morning message. Everyone else is sleeping, and though I enjoy my alone time, I’d love to have a chat with someone over coffee about now. The sleep has left my eyes, and I’m caffeine-infused and ready for action.
In Search of Sunshine
Stillness surrounds this morning, and the calls of birds are heard from the limbs above, telegraphing from tree to tree. The shiny wet ground is covered with rotting leaves left over from fall. Small green sprouts are pushing their way out of the soil in search of sunshine to nourish them, and will soon reveal a blanket of wildflower colors. Brilliant bright green buds are peeking out at the very tops of the otherwise bare-limbed trees. And nearby, fields of bluebonnets have carpeted the hills in purples and blues. I look forward to the two weeks each year that bluebonnets blanket this state. Perhaps today I’ll drag my easel out along with some extra tubes of blue and purple.
Blankets of Gray
Growing up in Indiana, where snow drifted to six or eight feet, early signs of spring were as welcome as a long-lost relative coming home after years away. We embraced spring with a giant hug, and though it was still cold, we would take a blanket out to the park to bask in the sun because we couldn’t wait for the warmth to come. Anything other than a gray day was a welcome sight. I tend to be a fair-weather painter, though rain and snow are two of my favorite things to paint.
An Army of Painters
Soon, as winter fades, an army of plein air painters will emerge to capture the beauty of the season. In just a few weeks, several hundred of us will gather for spring training in San Francisco so we’re tuned up for the season. If you see a painter along the side of the road, toot your horn happily to celebrate their presence. If you hear of a plein air event, make a point of visiting to learn more. But be careful — we’re finding lots of people who go to events to watch end up as painters. You might come away with a new passion.
Early Decisions That Stick
Passion is a funny thing. At age 14 I fell in love with radio broadcasting and made a decision to become a broadcaster at that age. This year I celebrate 50 years in the radio industry. I’m no longer on the air (though I do a plein air podcast), but my passion remains strong to this day.
One day as I held one of my babies and looked up at a full moon, his first words, as he pointed upward, were “moon stars and the sky.” As a toddler he wanted to become a scuba diver/astronaut, and to this day his passion is to go into space and be one of the people to colonize Mars. And though I would miss him desperately, I don’t want to rain on his dream. Instead I want to encourage it as my parents encouraged my dreams. As a child I dreamed of being an artist, a businessman, and a radio guy. That’s the life I live today.
The more I talk to people, the more I realize that more often than not, people are doing things they dreamed of as children. It’s usually motivated by something specific. For instance, I met a young doctor who pursued medicine because his dad died at an early age and he did not want anyone else to go through that pain.
Watch Your Words Carefully
Sadly, I’ve also encountered people whose dreams were discouraged as foolish, who chased what they were told to chase instead of what was in their hearts. Though we want what’s best for our kids, who are we to know that their dream isn’t right for them? I’ve probably met hundreds of artists who told me they took on other careers and were miserable until retirement, when they finally decided to chase their dream. Most were discouraged by their parents or family members because we have this incorrect belief that all artists starve. For the record, I can name dozens of millionaire artists, and a lot more who make a great living. Not that it’s all about money. Like anything else, there are those who strive and succeed and those who strive and fail, which is more about persistence and lifelong learning than it is luck. Most just give up too early, or don’t know what to do and don’t know how to find what to do, which is why I’m passionate about helping artists learn how to live their dreams.
What would happen if we all became encouragers? How would the world change if more people were doing what they loved instead of what they are “supposed to do”?
What would have happened to you if you had been encouraged more?
There Are No Limits
As a child I was continually told that there are no limits, that I could do anything I dreamed. The things I’ve not accomplished on my dream list are only because of the limits in my own head. And though I can’t will myself to be a 7-foot basketball player, there are examples of short players who beat the odds and broke records.
If you and I could each touch seven people this week with a random unexpected word of encouragement, we could have a massive impact.
And as these things go, when people GET encouraged, they tend to GIVE encouragement because they see how good it feels. This could snowball.
Mining for Gold
Be sincere. Look for something you see in someone and send them a note … tell them how much you appreciate them, how much they mean to you, and why you believe in them. Something I learned in IBM training decades ago is that after giving a compliment, it’s best to tell the person why what you’ve complimented means something to you.
If you and I did this once a day, every day for the rest of our lives, we would feel better, others would feel better, and we could impact a lot of lives.
We all have emotional bank accounts. One compliment deposits 100 points. One negative comment withdraws 1,000 points. We may think we’re being practical and helping, but people who have more withdrawals than deposits have self-esteem problems and lack belief in themselves.
Hundreds of people have told me that one single word of encouragement has changed their lives. Sometimes all it took was for one person to believe in them when they didn’t believe in themselves.
What deposits will you make this week?
Have a great Sunday.
PS: Last week I was in an office-building restroom and there was a worker in there who was hunched over, miserable, and clearly hated his job. I noticed that he was ignored as people came through. I also noticed how good the restroom looked, so I walked up to him and said, “I just want you to know that every time I come in here, this restroom is the cleanest restroom in town, and it’s always perfect. I want you to know that there is nothing worse than heading to a meeting and having to deal with a dirty restroom, but when it’s clean, it makes you feel better about yourself. You may not hear this enough, but you are making a difference in people’s lives. Thank you.” Then I handed him an unexpected tip. He got a big smile on his face, a gleam in his eye — which teared up a bit — his posture straightened, and he thanked me. Everybody wants to have pride in their work. Let’s show some appreciation wherever we go this week.