Life Boiled Down

An early morning sailor takes advantage of high winds as their antique boat darts back and forth across the lake with the grace of a ballerina, changing directions suddenly as the old tea-stained sail captures the orange morning light against the purple distant mountains. It reminds me of life, sailing gracefully in one direction till the wind runs out, and then a necessary pivot to capture the wind takes us in new directions. The Great Cleansing When we lose a loved one, as I did this spring, we tend to think deeply about their life and our own, in hopes of being more or less like the ones we lost. And with loss comes responsibility — in this case, clearing out his lakefront summer home, where he had accumulated things since 1987.  Here, Bidder Bidder Because we are putting his home up for auction on August 14, my wife and I (mostly her) have been working feverishly to getting move-out ready and getting the home ready to show, so we don’t have to sort through old boxes under pressure of a closing date.  Yesterday, and all last weekend, I had the pleasure of going through a garage full of boxes,


The Art of Being Uncompromised

The warm colors of morning glow make the pine tree sing in orange and pink, in harmony with reflections on the water and the light show in the clouds. The air is so humid you could cut it with a chainsaw, which makes the color of light especially pleasing. Sunrise on the dock is especially wonderful as I deeply fill my lungs with fresh, pine-scented Adirondack air. Moments pondering life from the dock are my favorite. Living is like a racetrack driver on a high-speed track, making countless subtle corrections to avoid crashes and make it to the end of the race. Which is why I find it a good idea for us to re-evaluate ourselves from time to time.  Evil Thoughts Have you ever caught yourself having thoughts about things that, if you were to act on them, mean you would be seriously compromised? We all have some random evil thoughts, but maturity means not acting on them. But where exactly is the line? To be compromised has different meanings in different situations, but essentially it means you’ve caved in on your ethics. The CIA would say a spy being compromised means they have been found out. Testing Our


A Moment of Clarity

Breathe … that’s what I tell myself as I take in the fresh Adirondack air as I do my yoga stretches on the dock to the sound of the loons and the quiet rustle of leaves. It's the perfect July morning, and a day that will be filled with the smells of grilled burgers and exploding fireworks. Happy 4th. I truly appreciate our independence and freedom.  Have you ever had a moment when you wake up to complete clarity? Ever carried the weight of something on your shoulders for years, and suddenly found it released? The true purpose of life is about lessons that strengthen us, make us better, make us more well rounded and experienced. But sometimes those lessons knock us on our butts. Living a Dream A few years ago I was telling a story to a friend about my experience with a company I had founded in Silicon Valley. When I started the company, I was living the dream. I was mingling with superstars in the midst of the dot-com boom, people who today are household names. I was in the middle of the action, living the dream. Dream Destroyed So what could possibly go wrong? As


One Unexpected Secret to a Powerful Life

Thomas Kinkade-like window lights glow in romantic little cabins across the lake on this dark, rainy morning. Wood stoves warm the air as smoke dances from old red brick chimneys.  The lake is still, glasslike, and the only sound is the peeping of hungry baby robins in the nest in the rafters of this old screened porch. It's a morning for a warm sweater, thick socks, and an extra hot cup of coffee. Finally, after several intense months of difficulty, I’m able to sit here, relax, and reflect. A week has passed since the end of my annual artists’ retreat in the Adirondacks. To shake things up a little this time, and to celebrate our 10th year, we held a grand closing party at a classic Adirondacks “great camp” (a term used for giant homes usually built in the late 1800s),  followed by a world-class fireworks display on the lake overlooking the mountains.  In reality, these extras are not necessary. No one expects them. So why bother? Special Moments The reason for extra effort and expense is that the people attending will never forget those special moments. Hopefully, as they look back over their lives, those will be special memories


Words of Wisdom

Rich, deep blues fill the cloudless sky, surrounded by massive ancient growth cedar and pine trees. The mirror we call Spitfire Lake is a perfect reflection, not a ripple in sight.  Distant log cabins on the lake are starting to fly their flags, an indicator that people are coming in for the summer. Soon this quiet spot will see an occasional fisherman, some sailboats and water skiers. Signs of summer are upon us. Not only is the lake reflecting, but I find myself reflecting on my father, with this being the first Father’s Day I’m unable to make a call, send a gift, or see him in person. Not a day has gone by since his passing in March that I haven’t started to e-mail or phone him to share something, only to realize they don’t have e-mail in Heaven.  My Guest Today I thought about the best way to honor my dad on this day, and since I’ve talked about him a lot in the past weeks, I asked myself what he would want, or what he would say, if I had asked him to be a guest writer. This, I think, is what he would say to you,


The Gift of COVID

Imagine for a moment a cathedral in the sky, filled with stained glass, backlit by the sun. This morning’s sunrise is so brilliant, so color-rich, it could not be reproduced by the greatest stained glass craftspeople, the most brilliant painters, the most skilled photographers. The great painter Thomas Cole was accused by a newspaper of having made up the colors in his Adirondack paintings because such colors “did not exist in nature.” Of course, the reporters were in New York City, which was filled with coal smoke and soot, and the Adirondacks then, as now, were pristine and unpolluted. Ancestors Sat Here As I sit in an authentic 1890 Adirondack chair, on the dock originally built in 1860, the sunrise I’m seeing is exactly as our forefathers would have experienced it in this place as they, like me, drank their morning coffee. We are accompanied by a symphony of loons, spring birds, and the slight sound of breezes rustling through the birch leaves above. A Big Day For the last three decades, I’ve described a place that is indescribable. Growing up in the Midwest, a million miles of protected state park was never on my radar, and I find few


When Struggle Meets Comfort

Deep silence and heavy fog engulf this historic Adirondack lake. The lonesome and eerie call of the loons echoes off the distant shore, creating a beautiful harmony. The skin on my bare feet meets the moisture of the fog surrounding the dock, and my arms are covered with goosebumps from the brisk morning air. I’m in my happy spot, and these happy moments with loons, fog, distant purple mountains, and the gentle slosh of water nudging the old wooden dock are the reason I have gone to the trouble to be here each summer, without skipping a single one, for 30 years. The Adirondacks are my muse, a place I started out not wanting to love because it meant accepting change and giving up a three-generation family home on a lake in Indiana. Now our presence here is three generations, and hopefully more to come. The Long Trip The journey was an unusual one this year. My boys and I left Austin on Monday, flying to Florida to assist in the cathartic process of purging my dad's home of his belongings. We loaded his car with a truckload of old family heirlooms, like the 1890s-era camera he used to start


Finding Greatness Inside

I jumped suddenly as my bare feet hit the hot wooden porch, spilling a touch of my coffee. I was lifting my feet up fast, on and off, making my way to the carpet under the couch so my feet could cool down on this hot Sunday morning. The sun is burning hot, the sky is warm, the air is muggy, and I’m ready to find a cooler spot to spend my summer. Though I love Texas, it takes a special breed to live in the about-100-degree temps that will soon make up every summer day. Hopefully, by next week I’ll be sitting on the lakefront screened porch, listening to the loons proclaim their territory. My Texas friends think I’m a wimp for escaping the intense heat, which they say builds character and strength. But, like most, I’ve spent a lifetime building character. Beyond Our Control There is no doubt, though, that adversity, challenge, and difficult times make us all stronger. Nothing good would ever happen to us if every moment were smooth sailing. Many of us would not be where we are without being forced into circumstances beyond our control. And some of us, probably very few, intentionally put


Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Gnarly twisted oak trunks are bending over as if to pick up a lost leaf from the spring grass. Leaves are making a shuffling sound as they move violently and are pushed out of their comfort zone in the strong wind. Dark, almost purple clouds, are billowing over the distant blue mountains like Indy race cars competing to get to the finish line. My ears are filled with the whistling of winds coming from different directions … like a chorus of flutes. I’m reminded of “In Like a Lion” as spring makes its way to the backyard of this tin-roofed Texas ranch house. I’m out on the back porch, coffee close at hand, and happen to look down the entire length of the porch. There’s another one at the front of the house. It, too, runs the entire length of our home. I never want to take these porches for granted. Imagine This... When I was about 30, I dreamt of owning a house with a big porch, a tin roof, and a view of a mountain. Now, here I sit, many years later, living that dream. Years ago, when I was first introduced to the Adirondack mountains in upstate


The Magic Formula for Life

Spring birds, like a symphony of high notes, along with the bass notes of mourning doves, create a spring song like no other. Bright spring greens fill the trees and the ground below, accented by deeper green cedar pines. As I look down, I notice the boards on the deck of the old porch have peeling paint, a reminder of summer projects ahead. All around, spring is my favorite season… that is, until summer, then fall and winter. Thank God for the variety. What I like best about spring is that it's a season of hope, and it’s hope we all live for. It comes in different forms, but, unlike a magic lantern, Santa Claus, or possibly-unanswered prayers, our hope, in many cases, is in our own hands. Stop and think about what you hope for. There are clearly things we can hope for but can rarely affect personally, though we each need to do our part if we can clearly see the role we should play. Two speakers at my father’s services recently, recalling memories of my dad, repeated his mantra, which is exactly the one I grew up with. He would say… “If you don’t think you can,


Feel the Joy

Mourning doves coo like a soft flute from the windows of Mrs. Holland's sixth-grade music class at my old brick elementary school. An orchestral arrangement of tweets seems to play mockingbird from all directions. And bright orange streaks of light kiss the tops of rogue bushes and twisted tree trunks. Tiny buds of future daffodils sneak out of the rich dirt, ready to reach for the sky and please the eye. Going Home I’ve not been in my hometown in early spring since I left there as a teen about to start my life elsewhere. Though I tend to make a brief appearance every couple of years, this weekend's visit is a rarity. This homecoming is a grand sendoff for the man whose last name I bear, providing a chance to reconnect, possibly one last time, with cousins and family acquaintances who share our grief. The silver lining in this dark cloud is making renewed acquaintances, hearing stories we’ve never heard, and seeing people we’ve not seen since “you were this high.” Deep Freeze While making arrangements, one of my dad's lifelong buddies pointed out that we have been frozen in time. His son, now 42 with kids, is stuck


Bright Light on a Dark Day

Dark clouds are billowing over the distant green pastures. A rickety old fence manages to keep the longhorn cattle from walking into the dirt road, which only sees an occasional truck each day. It’s the middle of nowhere, and I’m here in the camper for a much-needed break to simply relax for the weekend. I might slip out and paint the fields of bluebonnets. Following our big online artist convention, PleinAir Live, which was an intense four days after even more intense days and months of advance preparation, I was exhausted. But instead of sleeping in the following day, or sitting on the back porch, or playing in my art studio, I had to face something I’d rather not face. Boarding an airplane, Laurie, the kids, and I flew to Florida, knowing we would be spending the next few days saying goodbye to my dad and being at his bedside. Big Changes in One Month When we left there a month ago after spending almost four weeks taking care of Dad, who was up and in good spirits and alert, we returned to find him shutting down. He was barely able to talk, and, though we were only able to


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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