A bright pink salmon-colored sky is glowing, with the black lace of pine trees silhouetted against its brilliant color. The lake is mirroring the sky, not a ripple in sight. The silence is beyond any level of quiet I’ve ever experienced. This is the true definition of peaceful.

In the late 1800s, the Hudson River School painters were criticized for their brilliant sunrise and sunset paintings because the coal-smoke-filled skies of New York made such skies unbelievable. Yet, as I sit here on the dock of my Adirondack home, I’m a witness to confirm such brilliance exists here in this 6-million-acre protected park. The air is so pure I find myself taking deep breaths more frequently.

A Boat Ride Away

Just minutes from now, after coffee on the dock, I’ll put on my jacket and put the first ripples on the glass-like lake as I make my way across to a small, winding river through the weeds and woods to the next lake over, where I’ll pull up to the dock at Paul Smith’s College. That’s where I’m hosting my 11th annual artist retreat I call the Publisher’s Invitational. I’m hosting about 100 plein air painters, who will paint the incredible scenery here for a week.

No More Invitation Required

I started this event after some painters told me they rarely get a chance to simply paint side by side because most events involve a sale and competition. My event used to be invitation-only till the demand to attend made it clear invitations would no longer need to be issued. Now anyone who wants to come can come. (Quietly, I do an actual “invitational” with a small group of high-level painters at a different time in the summer.)

At the beginning of the year, when I was rethinking my priorities, I came to some conclusions about my personal operating system. My priorities have changed since I’ve seen so many good people disappear in the last couple of years. Because I get lots of questions about how I have such energy and how I manage to accomplish so much, I thought I’d share this.

    1. Spiritual health

      If my walk with God isn’t strong, then everything else is out of balance. I make a point to read my Bible every morning before I open any email or social media. I spend time in prayer many times daily. It’s not about earning favor (which isn’t possible), it’s about praise and thanksgiving.

    2. Health trumps everything

      My goal is to optimize health, keep my immune system strong, maintain high standards of mobility, and keep my energy high. This includes walking fast, interval and weight training most days, supplemented by daily walks (up here the woods make for amazing walks). I study nutritional and longevity trends, take lots of the latest supplements (including NMN, which is revolutionary), and I get my blood tested at least four times a year. I maintain a mostly vegan diet along with some fish, and I try to live as stress-free as possible.

    3. Mindset makes a huge difference

      Friends my age and younger are winding down. I’m winding up. I’m just getting good at the things that have taken me a lifetime to learn, I don’t want to stop now. I want to see what’s possible. My friend John Kluge, who became the richest man in the world, told me, “I did not really figure things out till I was 65 or 70. When my friends were retiring, I was just getting started. Keep pitching. Never stop pitching.” I carefully guard my self-talk, and I realize that I have more to give, so I don’t ever want to tell myself there are limitations or restrictions.

    4. Family and friends matter most

      I take more time for my family than ever, realizing that my kids are growing up and leaving home. I have lessons I need to teach them, and they have lessons to teach me. I’m trying to invest in my family more deeply and let them know they are loved.
      I’m also investing more time in friendships. I’ve had too many recent instances where my last phone call or visit with someone was the last time I’d ever be able to visit with them.

    5. Help others

      What can I do to make life better for others? What kinds of experiences can I give them that may become lifetime memories? How can I use what I’ve learned and earned to help others? How can I coach others? How can I help others live a better life?

    6. Live for experiences and play 

      Life boils down to special moments and memories, most of which are created. My goal is to live as richly as possible by creating experiences and moments for my family, myself, and others. I want to travel more and take others along on the experiences. I want to play more, spend more time on the things I love, and experiment more with new things (for instance, I’m teaching myself 3D design and printing, I’m learning other mediums like pastel, watercolor, and gouache, and I’ve been doing woodworking, building my own new easel design). 

    1. Challenge myself

    Unchallenged people become dull and lifeless. I want to be curious, set no limits on what is possible, and push myself to accomplish great things. It’s not about money (though that’s often a measurement device), it’s about doing what cannot be done, inventing what can’t be invented, creating what can’t be created. 


    1. Be a nice guy no matter what

     I self-identify as a nice guy. My goal is to listen better, get to know others at a deeper level, be truly interested, and to be a nice guy. I can’t say I’ve always lived up to this, but I’m trying harder than ever. I want to be nice under pressure. I want to be the person I’d want to meet, someone who cares deeply about others and their stories.

    1. Life is about learning

      I’m eager to learn. I want to be better at the things I know, I want to learn about things I don’t know, and I want to discover things from others that can make me a better and more interesting person. I try to read daily, I take courses online (I just got certified in NLP, for instance, and I’ve been learning self-hypnosis), and I’m seeking things outside my lane to keep my life interesting.

    2. Finish well

      My dad finished well. He lived to 92 and died in his own home, and had a lot of people who loved him for who he was, not what he had. His life, family, friendships, interests, and relationship with God were rich up until the end. Upon his passing I heard stories from others of his friendships, where he went out of his way to make others feel special, to help others in need. He never talked about it. I don’t like to talk about what or where I give, who I help, or everything I’m up to. Some things are best executed silently.

Have you ever created your own personal operating system?

Don’t copy mine, come up with your own. Chances are you have it in your head. Put it in writing — it provides clarity and acts as a reminder that life is far from over.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Today is our first day of painting at my event. I’m excited to paint with everyone and start catching up or getting to know them.

Speaking of experiences, I’ve just made our reservations to fly to New Zealand. I’m taking 50 to paint and tour, and I think we’ve got a few seats left, though if you want to go, we need you to book soon so you can book your flights. You can learn more at www.paintingnewzealand.com.

My next artist retreat is in October in Maine, and it’s almost already sold out. I think there are a handful of seats left (we have limits on how many rooms we can get). www.fallcolorweek.com

PS2: Love pastel? Last August when I held Pastel Live online, I got inspired and started painting in pastel. I picked up lots of ideas from top artists at that event and I’m loving the qualities I can get from pastel that I can’t get from other mediums, including high, vibrating color. I’m very excited and committed to pastel and am pleased to announce that we just launched a new, three-times-a-week pastel newsletter with Editor Gail Sibley. You can get it free by going to https://pasteltoday.com/newsletter/. Check it out.