Have you ever been somewhere so quiet, you can hear only a slight ring in your ears? As I walked through our old lake house, it was so quiet, my steps were amplified across the wooden floor. When the door slammed behind me as I entered the old octagonal screened porch (built in 1894), the slam startled me because there was no other noise. No water lapping, no boat sounds, no birds tweeting or loons looning. It truly is the sound of silence as the lake is enveloped in fog, so thick I can’t see more than darkness across to the other shore. It’s just me, alone with my thoughts.
A Caring Artist
Last week after one of my daily shows, I was talking to artist Gabriel Stockton about a problem that needed to be solved with an obstinate person who was being difficult. He said, “I just speak light, and I look for gold in every person. I speak love, and beauty.” He then told me that his goal is to do this with his children. “Imagine how much confidence they will get if we stop speaking about their flaws and start speaking about the gold in them.”
I immediately flashed back to a seminar exercise from some years ago: “Reach out to three people every day and tell them something nice about themselves. Then sit back and see what happens.”
You already know what happens. People love to hear how much they are appreciated, how good they are. And, if you do it enough, they want to live up to it.
The Other Side of the Coin
The opposite is also true. If you’re always pointing out people’s flaws, they don’t feel good about themselves. And, if it seems to be the only way to get attention, will they act out by doing bad, instead of good?
Naysayers may argue that people need correction, they need to know where they stand. I don’t disagree, but what if you wrap it in gold? Years ago I was taught to find something wonderful about a person to start that conversation. Then deal with any issues, and then find other things to make them feel good about themselves. I guess you could call it a gold sandwich (with poop in the middle).
A Good Listener
Years ago I met a man who became one of my oldest and dearest friends. I would sit in his office and talk with him for a couple of hours, and I’d leave feeling really great about myself. It took me a while to realize that he rarely talked. He was truly interested in me, and he only spoke to ask more questions. “What a great conversation,” I’d tell myself, when in reality, it was me doing all the talking.
It’s All About Me
Someone I know pointed out that at cocktail parties, no one ever asks about her — all people want to do is talk about themselves. My response: If you want to have great conversations, ask people questions about themselves, and they will like you more. But you won’t get to talk about yourself much. (Though we all love it when someone is truly interested.)
This is about speaking gold.
How much gold are you speaking?
Are you dominating conversations, or are you truly interested in others?
Are you interrupting people, stepping on their words so you can insert your thoughts, or are you listening with intent to hear and understand?
Are you helping people get the recognition they think they deserve, or are you looking for ways to make yourself feel better by tearing them down?
How would your life change if you focused on speaking gold to everyone in your life … family, kids, grandkids, friends, co-workers?
I’m not suggesting being insincere or being the person who tells people what they want to hear to get something out of them (we all experience that). But being someone truly interested.
A friend on the lake complimented my son Berkeley last week, saying, “He listens with his kind eyes. He truly is interested.”
Will you try it for a week?
My guess is that everyone will feel better about themselves, feel better about you, and you’ll get more bees with sincere honey than insincere lemons. And imagine how others will be lifted up with your intent to speak gold.
PS: As we age, we develop, we grow and learn, and hopefully become better humans over time. Life is a series of micro-corrections, and one goal is to get better at speaking gold.
What about you?
Twenty-five years ago I did a speech about 25 things to be more successful. Out of the blue this week, someone I do not know contacted me and told me she had my list of 25 things from that speech posted on her wall, that she read it frequently, and that it helped her change her life. She contacted me because she recently moved and misplaced my list. She asked me to send it to her again because it was so helpful to her. I scoured my hard drives and e-mails with no success. So I told her that not only did I not know where to find it, I probably have changed so much that I’d have a different list of things today. This of course got me thinking about what those 25 things might be. I’m still thinking about it.
One thing I would say today is that success cannot be defined by anyone other than you. We spend too much time focused on the success others tell us we should chase. At one time I may have defined success by the things I had accumulated. Once I accumulated many of those things, and I realized they did not make me happy.
One thing that makes me very happy, and that would be in my top 25 today, would be that there is real gold in focusing your life on helping others. It’s pretty hard to feel pity for yourself when you are spending your life making the lives of others better.
The other thing I’d add to my list would be the incredible satisfaction you get when you are stretching your brain. They say most billionaires read two books a week. Once I became obsessed with learning, I became more interested in myself (and hopefully others), less bored, and more invigorated. For instance, I’m obsessed with growth as a painter. Getting good isn’t enough; getting to higher levels is gold to me. And learning things I’d known nothing about has brought me great joy.
For instance, because of the pandemic, we launched online conferences in watercolor, pastel, and some other subjects. I primarily paint in oils, but because I was the host, I attended these events, and because I felt obligated to make sure I was practicing what I preach, I discovered how much I love watercolors and pastels, how much they have made me better even in my oil painting, and how I now feel more confident because I can do more than just one thing.
Tomorrow, I’ll leave the Adirondacks, return to our soundstage in Austin, and on Wednesday I’ll begin hosting the Beginner/Refresher day of our Pastel Live online event for hundreds of people — bigger than ever.
If you want to get out of your comfort zone and learn to paint, or try something new, pastel is the perfect place to start because it’s like crayons for adults, only with professional materials. I have engaged the very top pastel artists in the world to teach, and we have attendees and faculty from several countries.
But tonight at midnight is the last chance to capture the current price. After midnight it goes up substantially. Sign up. You’ll not regret it, and if you do regret it, just ask by the end of day one and I’ll refund your money.
Also, I had three last-minute cancellations for New Zealand, and I just filled two of them. I can fit a couple more people in for this trip of a lifetime. If you already have a passport, we still have time to get flights. Simply go to www.paintingnewzealand.com.
Thank you so much Eric for your wise words! It was a great article and a timely reminder of how to improve our lives and the lives of others. I do have to remind myself to listen better, and I know how good it feels when someone really shows an interest in what I have to say. I remember an uncle who I enjoyed seeing when I was a teenager and just discovering life. Years later, I realised I enjoyed seeing this uncle because when he spoke to me, he was genuinely interested in what I had to say. I look forward to reading your articles and learn something every time!
Yes, helping others is so rewarding. Often, I don’t feel like I have a lot to give, but I try. Mostly I try to give encouragement in the FB groups I am in. If I think it is useful, I pass on art tips or information that I have learned. “Passing out the gold’ reminds me of the format for critiquing: say something good, say something bad, say something good.
Happy Sunday! Thank you for sharing your gold with us again. I truly am looking forward to the day you publish a collection for the world to learn from and enjoy. Sowing and reaping comes to mind and also treat others as we want to be treated and even further in I am reminded all of us saint or sinner was made imago Dei – in Gods image and we should extend the respect due Him to all no matter how difficult it may seem at times.
Hello Eric.. I loved this from your August 2020… Entitlement has destroyed family fortunes, destroyed cultures and countries, and kills initiative. On the other hand, encouragement, self-belief, and the pride of accomplishment, combined with struggle, is what makes a success.
Well put and kind regards Keith
I enjoyed your musings very much. pure golden advice. Kind regards Keith
Love reading your post … thank you
PLEASE REMOVE me from your mailling list……
Thank You Eric for being the cream in my coffee on Sundays! Truly inspirational!
I really admire all the work you do to help others learn to be a better artists. Thank you so much for this post about “Passing Out Gold”. It really makes a difference in everyone’s life if you say positive things to others instead of pointing out their flaws.
As an Art instructor, I know my students are very delicate when I evaluate their paintings. First, I point out all the great things about their work, and then I suggest a few items to make it even better. Many of the students leave the class with a smile on their face and a great painting!.