The high-pitched bird whistle was one I did not recognize, yet a quick glance out the window revealed a huge osprey sitting atop the dock on the water before me. Moments later, he made the sound again, and then, with giant wings spread, he swooped down into the water and came up with a fish in his beak while making a loud whooshing sound. It was one of those unforgettable moments here in paradise on the Space Coast of Florida, where I will be spending part of my winter this year. I feel fortunate to have designed my life to work from anywhere there is a good Internet connection. And as we find ourselves traveling, we realize how little we really need.

My grandmother Luella used to say that as she aged, the years passed by like minutes. I can remember it seemed like school years would never end, when I was in school and when my kids were in school. But now my years are so packed with planned activities, we go from one event to another, and suddenly it’s time to start a new year and a new cycle of events.

Though I made a lot of plans and goals for the year, I’ve still not completed my planning process. My goal is to actually get it done this week so I can move on to other things.

Planning Time

As I alluded to last week, the most important part of planning is thinking. Asking yourself questions. And though I have planned thinking time on my calendar every week, I’m finding myself questioning my motives. 

Why do I do what I do? 

Do I want to continue doing it? 

Do I want to continue repeating the same things over and over, or am I ready to abandon some old things in exchange for some new ones? 

These are tough questions, because removing something successful might mean taking something away that my clients love, or it might mean losing revenue we need for survival. 

Yet the idea of adding more new things is overwhelming to me and to my team, who are already overwhelmed. 

So I have to ask myself this … knowing what I know now, if I were starting over, would I do the same things I’m doing today?

If not, what would I do differently? What would I change?


What would I not want to do anymore?

Creatures of Habit

We buy the same brand of cars from year to year because we like them, we’re comfortable with them, and it’s easier because we know we can trust them; we know what to expect. I have friends who bought a new house in the same neighborhood rather than trying a new area. 

Though we may be questioning the known, staying put and repeating the same things week to week and year to year is easier than making change and leaping into the unknown.

Far too often, we’re in careers based on decisions we made when we were too young to make good decisions. Think about how immature we were at high school or college age, when we fell in love with something that became our career. 

Would we pick that same thing today, knowing what we know now? Knowing what else is out there?

Stuck on an Old Dream

I spent decades in a career that was based on a passion I developed at age 12, and though I’m less involved, I am still linked to it today. Also, I continue to be passionate about painting, as I have been since almost three decades ago. But do I do it because I’ve invested so much into it, become so established and secure in it? Or because I am still as passionate as before? 

These are the kinds of things I find myself asking.

If change were not forced upon us, would you and I ever change? 

One friend got fired from a job after a long career in her industry. She would have retired in it, but instead found herself disconnected, unable to get employment in that industry because of non-compete contracts and because of her age. Reluctantly, she grasped for something, anything she could find, and it turns out she loves her new direction more than anything she ever did in her career, and wants to spend the rest of her career doing it.

So how do we make change if change isn’t pushed on us? 

Most of us don’t make change unless it’s dropped upon us like a nuclear bomb. Even then, we cling to our comfort zone, trying to get something close to what we know.

But what if you were forced into something and it turned out to stimulate you more than anything you’ve done in your life? 

What Holds You Back?

The first answer is to look at the boat anchors wrapped around us, the biggest being financial security. If you knew you could leave your current career for something that would make you happier, but you had to take a 50% cut in pay and move out of your existing nest, would you do it? I don’t know if I would.

A few months ago I talked about tapping into our subconscious mind. If I had to do something else and could not do what I’m doing now, what would it be? 

The answer coming into your head is probably the correct answer, if you catch it before you start judging it and coming up with all the reasons it must be the wrong answer.

What Should I Do Next?

I asked myself that question recently, and what came to my head was to become a stage speaker, to help people craft better lives, kind of like what Tony Robbins does. The other thing was to create a general interest podcast, interviewing smart people in areas that have nothing to do with what I do now. 

Will I do them? I’m not sure yet. Probably not, if the pain of losing what I’m passionate about is too severe. The upside would have to be bigger and better, and I’m not sure it would be. And my head automatically defaults to all the reasons it’s a bad idea… needing to start something new from scratch, not having financial security, and not seeing all the people I’ve grown to love at my events. These are the kinds of strings that we are comfortable being tied down with.

What Should You Do?

I’m not suggesting you do anything about any of this, but I do think it’s healthy to keep asking the questions. I also think that some of us face “reality” questions: Do I have the time, health, or energy? Frankly, I don’t think those things would stop me from pursuing something I love. After all, all the bad things that we predict could happen might not. So deal with them when they do. But don’t stop living because of fear of what might happen. 

A Great Example

I saw recently that Kentucky Fried Chicken was formed when Harlan Sanders was in his sixties. I had a great mentor, my own father, who forced himself to do something fresh and new about every decade. He started a new business at 70, and then another at 80, which he worked on till he was in his mid-90s while he was reinventing himself for the next chapter.

My friend John told me he was upset with his dad, who invested in a new shopping center when he was 80, because John ended up having to deal with it when his dad died a decade later. Though he was annoyed because he felt his father had no business making such a commitment at that age, it gave his dad something fun to do, it made money, and it kept his father mentally engaged. I think it was a great idea.

The thought of stopping, enjoying the fruits of my lifetime of labor on a boat or a La-Z-Boy chair, isn’t of interest to me. I want to be busy, emotionally and intellectually stimulated, and use the brain I’ve been given as long as it’s willing to keep operating. 

Dying at Your Desk

My friend Frank Covas, a broadcaster I loved and respected, an inventor who saw tremendous success, was always reinventing himself, loved life, and loved working. He did not die in a nursing home alone and unvisited, he died at his desk, at 2 o’clock in the morning, working passionately on some worthy project. When he learned he had a disease that was going to kill him, he and I sat down, he looked me in the eye, and he said, “This time, it’s gonna get me, there is no escape. I don’t know how long I’ve got, but I’ve got to get busy because there are things that need to be done that only I can do.” I loved that.

If you want clarity … write what you want someone to say about your life at your funeral. Read it out loud. Is it enough? Do you have regrets? Is there more you intend to do? 

Today is the perfect day to start filling in the blanks and answering those questions.

Eric Rhoads

This probably sounds lame to most people, but when I started PleinAir Magazine, I told myself I wanted to turn plein air painting into the next big sport, helping others discover the joy of painting, and painting outside. The mission was not to make money. Money usually follows when big change happens. Today, two decades later, there are more people worldwide painting outdoors than ever. The PleinAir Podcast has millions of downloads. There are hundreds of plein air events today, when there were only a handful when we started, and PleinAir remains the #1 selling art magazine nationwide at Barnes & Noble stores.

When I started Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, I was disgusted because the art world was snooty and it was not embracing the young realists who were doing work every bit as good as the Old Masters. I made it my mission to make art approachable, and to expose the work of these artists and help others discover how to do what they do. When we started, there were only about three or four places to learn how to create realism. But the students of those schools started their own schools, and now a third generation has started schools, resulting in a substantial number of places teaching academic realism. Plus we have had Realism Live online, and an in-person conference.

I did not launch these to make money. In fact, I lost money for years, knowing I needed to play the long game. I launched them based on a big vision for what could be. 

My next big vision is to change the way art is taught and learned. Too many people never do it because they believe that natural-born talent is required, which isn’t true. We’ve created over 700 incredible art instruction courses with, and we’ve trained many thousands with events like this month’s Watercolor Live online conference. And of course we’ve planted seeds for millions with our daily Art School Live YouTube channel.

Though there is more to do to optimize everything we do, the reality is that there are more hills to climb, more people who have a burning desire to change their lives and live dreams they may not think are possible. 

You have more in you. Make 2024 the year you make things happen.