You May Be Uncomfortable Reading This

Scratchy wool socks and a worn old sweatshirt don’t seem to be enough to warm my chilled body this morning. We had a temperature drop from our unseasonably warm winter last night as clouds billowed through the sky at the speed of a freight train bringing carloads of cold as its cargo. Yet tradition is a must, and unless it's unbearably cold or hot, writing you from this long old covered porch overlooking the 40 acres behind me is my one superstition. Coffee and thoughts are always better here, in the secure comfort of my special spot on the squeaky wicker couch. Walking Under Ladders Superstitions are kind of weird to me. Yet, though I put my trust in God, I still think twice before walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella indoors. It seems powerfully odd to me that a well educated, perfectly intelligent being like you or me would think these old wives’ tales have some power to change our lives.  Telling Your Fortune I feel the same way about horoscopes. Things come true — not because some writer at a newspaper somewhere sees it in the stars, but because the power of suggestion makes things happen.

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How to Grow Wings

It's ironic. We spent two weeks to get sun and warmth, but instead got clouds and rain. Today, waking up in Austin, the sun is shining, the temperature is warm, and the glow of golden light greets my morning, putting a big smile on my face. Last week during the storms, the rain, the dark clouds, and the high winds, everyone was hunkered down, staying inside as much as possible, trying to stay warm and dry. Yet as I looked at the sky from inside, I noticed some giant birds were taking advantage of the high thermal winds, frolicking about like surfers who had found high waves.  Instead of hiding out in a tree, they were soaring more than ever, taking advantage of what the rest of us thought were bad conditions. I could have watched them for hours. A Call for Help Last week I received a message on social media from a man who said he's been watching me for years. He runs a business and asked me for some time so I could offer him some advice. According to him, “I’m amazed at how much you get done and want to know how you do it.” I’ll


The Happiness Myth

Fierce winds are blowing, flags are flapping, palm branches are bending, and the boat is rocking back and forth beyond a gentle pace, yet not too uncomfortably.  A thick layer of gray-blue clouds covers the big sky, and in the distance rows of condos are lined up on the beach like soup cans in the pantry. Boats of all kinds surround me, including mega yachts owned by celebrities, though we’ve had no celebrity sightings. We’re here in North Palm Beach, living through the holiday break in a marina, aboard a boat.  Grateful for the Break I’m feeling very grateful to be here in warm weather, even on a blustery and windy day, able to sit in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, having time in close quarters with our kids, being able to reconnect with other family, and getting extra time with each of them. As I said last week, I’m doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about life and happiness. No doubt we all want to be happy, but too often we look to others or to things or events to make us happy. Let me give you some examples… If I get that promotion and


’Twas Was the Sunday Before Christmas…

Often in the middle of the night, I’ll awaken, get up, and realize I’m in a strange place. Yet another hotel room in this road warrior life. Before mobile phones and smart watches, I’d sometimes roll over, call the front desk, and ask where I was. Hotel rooms blend together over time, and sometimes you simply forget where you were when you checked in the night before, especially on a tour of 10 cities in 20 days.  This morning I immediately know I’m not home, but it’s no hotel room. Instead it’s our annual Christmas journey as a family, living aboard a houseboat in a marina in Florida. It’s a tradition we’ve followed every Christmas for years.  Splash Splash The water is splashing against the sides of the boat, ever gently rocking it, lulling us to sleep. Though quarters are tight, it brings family closer and away from our home distractions of homework, housework, studio work, and office work. It’s a break we all look forward to, but the best part, of course, is time with family, a treat we don’t have as often as we would like. It’s also a treat for our good friends who use our home


Perspective and Pain

The old screen door slams behind me and the boards under my feet creak as I walk to the old wicker couch, whose basket weave also makes a sound as the weight of my body sinks into the red cushions. My cozy gray fleece jacket is all I need; the morning is pleasant enough to return to the porch. Beaming strongly into the yard, the orange-colored sun silhouettes a giant buck and his Christmas tree of antlers as he slowly grazes the smorgasbord of natural treats in my yard. The distant mountain is a light purple gray against the bright yellow-white sky. Last week, I disappeared. I’m sorry I was not there for you. But I had a good reason. I am the father of teenagers, after all. Sage Wisdom Advice comes as needed, as I alluded to recently in Butterflies and Angels. One friend, Dr. Dave, swooped into my life last week, as if knowing I’d need his advice soon. I had been talking about a stressful week at work when he told me that our natural tendency when we’re going through stress or crisis is to sleep less, drop our routines, eat poorly, and not take good care


Butterflies and Angels

The crunch of crispy leaves under my feet leads me into my cozy warm art studio, which is backed up against some massive pine trees and at the base of a small hill. The fireplace on the porch is flaming furiously, the wood sounds like snap, crackle, pop, and the scent of smoke is soothing. Yet writing on the porch had me blowing into my hands and wringing them too much to stay warm as my fingers hit my cold keyboard, so I’m here in my studio.  Color hits this part of the country late, and this week is our peak week, just before most of the leaves flutter to the ground in high winds. Speaking of fluttering, we all know butterflies exist, but what about angels? Have you ever encountered random angels who drop into your life at just the perfect time?  Drop-In Visitors I can tell you I’ve never seen an actual angel with wings, the kind described in the Bible. But I’ve had angels drop in, serve a purpose, and go away. Have you? I have also experienced people who fly into life, dazzle you by bringing the beauty of big smiles at a time you need


Slaying the Dragons in Your Head

Streaks of yellow light are streaming toward me through thick purple fog and silhouetted gnarly oak trees. I shiver as I try to extend my porch time once more before winter. Warmth hits my goosebumped skin as the light increases, and the sides of my old cabin are washed with a rich red-orange glow.  Stage Exhaustion Last week exhausted me — being on stage, using my voice more in one day than in most months, giving and getting hugs from enthusiastic artists, wall-to-wall meetings between stage time, entertaining our VIP guests and faculty in the evenings till the wee hours. And exhausting as it was, I feel like the luckiest man alive to be able to serve others and give them a special week of high energy, learning from the best artists in the world, and time with old and new friends. Joy and Exuberance A recent realization has been that my art is bringing people together, and even if I have to put my ability to do paintings on hold so I have time to do things like last week’s Figurative Art Convention & Expo, it’s worth it to see the joy and exuberance in the faces at FACE.


How to Live Your Dream

Flickering, crackling, and the soft smell of burning wood come from the old fireplace, tucked away in a tiny sitting room at the hotel here in Williamsburg, Virginia. The decor is Early American — pineapple-patterned wallpaper, old brown furniture, and portraits of presidents. It’s quiet here, most guests are not yet awake, and no one has discovered this little reading nook. I hear the occasional distant ding from the service bell at the front desk, done to call the bellman like in the old days. Going Back in Time My morning walk brought me back to another time, a different era. This old town made up of original buildings from the Revolutionary War era is tightly closed up, but later will bustle with tourists and kids who will march alongside the red-coated soldiers. Later will be the smell of baking bread from the bakery, whose old brick oven uses real fire. The candy maker will be handing out samples, and you can go into the tin shop to see cups being made, or the print shop as they make reproductions of old Revolutionary War posters one sheet at a time, with moveable type. It’s truly a place every family should


The Power of Catalysts

“Hello, darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again.” — Simon and Garfunkel That tune from the 1960s is ringing in my head as the silence penetrates the darkness. The air feels soft to me; the normal sound of leaves playfully waltzing with their partners is muted, as if under a soft, thick blanket.  Goosebumps appear on my skin as I wring my hands for warmth and await the sun, which is to be an hour late this morning, as if it slept in, cozy and comfy under the covers. She peeks through the distant branches as a muted pink, barely touching the edges of the twisted branches visible from my back porch. Her appearance has awakened a tweeting symphony as the fog lifts from my sleepy brain. I wipe my crusty eyes as my warm coffee plays its role in bringing me peacefully into yet the gift of another day, for which I’m grateful. Each day is a gift, each hour to be met with enthusiasm and never wasted, as one will someday be our last. Simon and Who? When Paul Simon wrote that that song, “The Sound of Silence,” in 1963 and 1964, it opened the


The Grand Purpose of Beauty

Porches are like portals. Spending time on a porch can be recovery time, relaxing time, thinking/pondering time, and time to take our thoughts to other places. Time here on this porch in Austin, which overlooks distant hills of grass, gnarly scrub oak trees, and faraway cattle, is always a special time, and it’s good to be back after a couple of weeks away in France and Scotland.  In the summer I write to you from an old screened-in octagonal porch overlooking the lake that has hosted conversations for over 120 years. Each porch brings out something special in its visitors, and each inspires thought. A Grand Experience This past week I stood briefly on the porch of a grand estate, Gosford House, that makes Downton Abbey feel small. The old stone porch of this house, finished about 120 years ago, overlooks 5,000 acres of Scottish countryside and the sea. We stood there in the freezing cold as a troop of bagpipers marched before us, playing pipes, drums, and flutes in harmony as we said farewell to Scotland and our annual Fine Art Trip. Tears welled up in my eyes with the beauty of this old tradition and the experience of


The Joy of Transformation

The faint sound of bagpipes filters through the brisk, moist air as the sun makes a hazy entrance on this brisk Edinburgh morning. A peek out my hotel window feels like Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, but it’s the real thing … we’re here as part of our annual Fine Art Connoisseur magazine art trip for four days of viewing the best art in Scotland. We spent last week in Provence and the French Riviera, walking in the footsteps of many great artists and learning more than we ever expected. It was invigorating spending time with art and great friends. Overnight Change One thing I found eye-opening is that many of the great artists were not always great  — and each had had a moment of transformation. Many had gone from average and the expected style of their time to a new style and approach almost overnight. But how? What is it that causes us to make the different decisions that often transform our lives? Not only did we see countless examples of artists who transformed their art, we learned about others who transformed their conditions. How is it that someone who is in a horrific situation becomes able


Supercharge Your Brain

Like art, the tweets of birds are an international language that all can interpret, though I swear the little yellow birds that frolic in the old stone birdbath here on the porch are tweeting in French. Breathing deeply, I take in the cool air and the view of the mountains that were made famous by Cezanne, who painted frequently near this very spot — an old yellow farmhouse with shadows of olive trees playing on its stucco walls. Looking down the long outdoor hallway, covered with vines held up by old wrought iron lamps, I can see the village awakening and begin to hear the sound of church bells in the distance. I’m here with my fine art group at a stunning five-star hotel, Domaine de Manville, deep in the countryside of Les-Baux-de-Provence, France. Deep Gratitude It’s hard to wake up in a place like this without feeling tremendously grateful. I’m not only grateful for the opportunity to be here, to lead and spend time with this group of friends and see all the art treasures in the area, I’m grateful for how being here changes my perspective and disrupts my comfort zone. Scrambled Brain Though we’re all pretty comfortable


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