Your Favorite Lifetime Memories

The sun is streaming painfully into my eyes. It’s bright and brilliant orange, kissing tree limbs and the tops of grasses as it makes its way to me. I tip my new 10-gallon straw cowboy hat down over my eyes to find shade. This morning’s heat is intense. Today will be a candle-melter, and not good for the chocolate bar tucked between the seats in my car. I may come back to a bowl of soup. Walking on the deck in my pointy-toed boots, I hear the sound of cowboys about to go head-to-head in a quick draw. The only things missing are spurs and a six-shooter. I’m not normally a cowboy kind of guy, but I love watching it on Yellowstone. It makes me want to pretend. Finding the Impossible In 1980, two days before my first wedding, which was to occur in my parents’ backyard on a lake, I decided it would be cool to surprise the bride with a ride down the aisle in a horse and buggy. “But where can I possibly find a horse and buggy?” I wondered. Nothing was in the phone book, and the Internet did not exist. So I started thinking about


An Out-of-Body Experience

Buckets of BBs fall over my head onto the tin metal roof. The sound is deafening as gushes of water drop from the sky and make the roof vibrate with energy. The building shakes as monumental thunder roars overhead, the kind that is so deep that the sky rumbles and the earth moves as if a missile slammed into the ground nearby. Yet I sit here on the porch, covered and dry, feeling secure in my old Texas country ranch house where I can step back and observe the storm from safety.   Watching a storm from afar, or from a place of safety, gives you a much better perspective and state of mind than being pelted with wind-driven raindrops. If only we could look at our personal storms with the same perspective. Recently I heard someone say the difference between successful people and those who are not so successful is how they perceive and deal with their problems.  Have you ever had problems so big, so thunderous, that they become all-consuming? I can remember problems that were so big that I could not sleep, that I was pacing the floor, all my muscles were tense and I felt pressure


Seeds That Grow Into Oaks

Giant oak tree branches are swaying gracefully like ballet dancers, but fiercely, as spring comes roaring in like a lion. As I open the old screen door, the springs squeak like fingers on a chalkboard. Then there’s a loud, abrupt slam behind me, amplified by the wind.  Green specks of pollen have covered every square inch of the newly painted back deck and the old wicker couch. I dust off the couch, making for a cloud of green and a quick sneeze, and sit here observing dancing-tree entertainment during this gray overcast day in hopes of some sprinkles to feed the wildflowers, which are hiding their beautiful heads just under the blades of grass, waiting for nourishment to come. Spring always excites me as it leads to summer, my favorite time of year. One of the great joys of my life was spending lots of the summer at my grandparents’ old clapboard house at 317 West Wildwood Street back home in Indiana. It too had a squeaky screen door that would slam loudly. Because I grew up in a single-story ranch house, it was a lot of fun to stay at my grandparents’ home. They had two stories, a basement,


How Will You Accept This Challenge?

I feel like I’m living a scene from a James Dean movie … it’s so hot that everyone has stripped down to the bare minimum, they are fanning themselves, and sweat is rolling down their hot red sunburned faces. Texas heat isn’t for the faint of heart. Our springs are short here, jumping right into the heat of an early summer. The ice in my cup has melted and the outside of the glass is sweating and my sticky fingers keep slipping off the keyboard.  Have you tried to buy a bag of ice lately? A bag of ice has doubled in price. And it seems like the cost of everything is rushing out of control due to scarcity, supply chain issues, and just plain inflation. Child Labor I remember the stories my dad would tell me about the Great Depression. He was just a child, but he had to work to help support the family, and they had to rent out the home they owned in order to survive. They moved to my Great-Grandfather Rhoads’s farm out on Illinois Road, which was 88 acres. Even though they grew much of their food, they barely survived. Inflation is not necessarily


Letting Go

The scent of concord grape soda fills the air as purple Texas mountain laurel trees are in full blossom. Bare twisted live oaks with thousands of tiny twigs are starting to sprout little brilliant green buds. Following a brisk wind, the air is fresh as I deeply fill my lungs to enjoy the arrival of spring and the sound of songbirds. I keep filling up the bird feeders to support my local bird choir (and a few dozen random squirrels). A small aircraft flies overhead — the view of the blossoms from the air must be a beautiful sight.Any pilot will tell you that when flying a small airplane, if you get into a spiral dive, you don’t even really know it. You can’t feel it, and can only tell from your instruments. If you try to control the airplane at that point, you won’t be able to, and holding on to the controls only makes things worse. A Death DiveWhen I was a child, my dad went into such a dive, and in spite of all his training, he wanted to control the aircraft. But in the back of his mind he remembered something he had read in a classic book


There Is No Time Like Now

Little tiny buds are peeking out of the flowerbeds and grass. Brilliant green is starting to come out of the otherwise dead-looking trees, and the warmth of the sun and longer days are strong indicators that spring has arrived. Bluebonnets are covering local roadsides, and soon, maybe today, I’ll be out painting them.Like spring, I love the reckless unbridled passion of youth and its boundless hope as we bud and blossom into adulthood to take us to our careers and our purposes. As a young budding entrepreneur in my 20s, I was filled with passion, hope, and giant dreams. But I was also smart enough to know I did not know it all (though there were times when I thought I did). So, to grow my skills, I went to a seminar and saw the legendary insurance billionaire W. Clement Stone (1902-2002) . At the time Stone was probably 70 and filled with incredible wisdom and energy. He was the first motivational speaker I ever saw.Desperate and in DebtI remember Stone talking about his plight growing up, his circumstances of being extremely poor. His dad died when he was really young, leaving the family with a lot of debt, so to supplement


See Through Your Filters

Peacefully, I sit staring out at the gnarly oaks, twisting and moving in all directions. In the distance, a barely visible gray mountain and a dull white sky. Soon sprinkles begin, and the mountain disappears as the clouds move toward this old porch overlooking the vast Texas land. Suddenly, I’m disrupted by barking dogs, tearing off my red wicker couch to chase a rogue squirrel who dares to dart into their territory. Sniffing and barking, they look aimlessly around, not understanding the squirrel went up a tree. It’s entertaining the first time it happens, but by the fifth time, it’s a little disruptive. The Camera Lens Years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I supplemented my radio DJ income as a wedding photographer. I had studied under Rocky Gunn (1940-1983), who was considered one of the best. He taught me a ton of techniques to make spectacular and interesting photos, one of which was the use of filters. For instance, I had a filter that made the photos look dreamy, another that colored the entire photo in a color like red or blue, another that made the sky darker. Anyone who knows photography knows filters. But most of


How to Put Excitement in Your Life

Brilliant lime green blades of grass are popping up among the old dry winter grasses here at my Austin, Texas, property. Little buds are starting to force their way through the dirt, and if we’re lucky, some colorful spring flowers will soon decorate our flower beds. Warm bright sunshine is providing nourishment to my light-starved soul, which is ready for winter and frigid temperatures to take a vacation for about eight months.An Exhausting but Fun WeekIf you see a typo or two this morning, forgive me. I’m dragging. Exhausted from hosting four days of 8-plus-hour days on a live stream for our PleinAir Live event, which had a massive audience of landscape artists. We had over 30 top instructors doing demonstrations, and people tuning in from all corners of the earth. If you were a part of that group, I deeply appreciate your participation. I’m totally ready for a vacation. Maybe I’ll be spontaneous and take one.You Wanna Go Where?Decades ago, when my wife worked for an airline, spontaneity guided a hectic travel schedule. Though I was busily starting my business and working 17-hour days, seven days a week, if my wife got a weekend off or a long weekend, we


Seasons of Passion

Bright light burns into my retinas as I step on to the back porch in my bare feet. The sky is intense, shining brightly after days of gray soup, sleet, and ice. Goosebumps pop up along with the hairs on my bare arm as I leave the warm air inside to be assaulted by the cold outdoors. Yet hope for a warmer day and early signs of spring are on today’s agenda.I Met a GirlAs a young teen, probably 14, I saw a girl at a party, and she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. I watched and stared until I got up the courage to ask her to dance, and we danced to “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Slow dancing, with a beautiful girl, was something that had never happened to me. The feeling was incredible. Soon my mom was dropping me off at her house — supervised, of course. I remember one day, after a harsh winter, at the first sign of spring, probably 50 degrees, we walked to a local park and laid out on a blanket looking up at the sky, celebrating the return of warmer air and sunshine. The park was filled that day with


What’s on All Our Minds

Goosebumps rise on my cold arms, though I’m covered with a cozy green flannel shirt, a sweater, and a blanket draped over my shoulders. The sky is dingy gray, one giant cloud with a slight hint of blue popping out in the distance, providing hope that maybe spring is making its way to us. Sleet drizzles from the sky, building up icy patches on the dry brown winter grass that crunch under my feet as I make my way out to my studio across the yard. Upon arrival my hot cup of coffee is barely warm, but the cranked-up heat inside is welcoming. Sadly, there are people in this world who are not having a cozy morning. This week I communicated with Vera Kavera, who is a pastel artist living in Ukraine. I had reached out to see if she was OK, and though she was, she was clearly frightened. She told me the first morning she awoke to the sounds of bombs. No human, no child, none of us should ever have to experience that kind of fright. As you know, I avoid political topics because everyone has an opinion. But today, I can’t write this little note without


What’s Uncomfortable But Good For You?

Bam, Slam, Crash! Startled out of a cozy dream, I jump out of bed and quickly look out the window to see a plastic patio chair flying across the backyard like a reckless pilot in an air show, banging into the gnarly twisted oaks, bouncing off the rocks, and bumping across the weeds until it gets stuck at the back fence. The old screen door is slamming repeatedly as the wind moves it. The trees are rattling and swaying fiercely. You can hear the wind howl like a coyote. Perhaps spring really does roar in like a lion. The Four Seasons There is something profound about the seasons and their relationship to life. Spring is new beginnings and birth, summer is life, fall is old age, and winter is the freeze, the end. As I think about spring, I cannot stop thinking about new beginnings, about the excitement of seeing what blooms in life and in business. The seeds get planted at the start of the year, when we set goals and resolutions and the flowers will pop up soon. I love everything about new beginnings. I love change, even though it's our nature to resist it. I love to


The Time is Now for Legacy

The Time Is Now for Legacy Warmth is the first thing I feel as I step out to the long covered back deck of this Texas ranch house. Sun is blasting my eyes, throwing hot orange against the tree trunks, and the tall blades of grass are casting long shadows. But it won’t last long and will be gone before I finish. It's been a while since I’ve come to you with something fresh and new. Thanks to my team for setting up the repeats to fill in during a brief illness. Happily, I’m 150% back, filled with energy, and my brain is on fire with all the things I want to do in ’22. Two Weeks Straight I often suggest two-week vacations to my team members. Some like to do that, others like to take a week at a time. In my own case, it takes me a week to relax, and then that second week is to play while relaxed. The same thing happens if you’re stuck in bed. You lose the stress and see your mind open up. Ali, my very overqualified assistant, will tell you the conversation after every time I take some time off. “I’m