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.
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. Dozens, probably hundreds, told me it was a life-changing experience, the best of anything they had attended, and that they got more than they expected. I feel like I’ve done my job.
Comparing notes with a friend recently, we both determined that life is better when we’re changing the lives of others. Though it used to be about the money for me, it’s now about the gold … the golden glow in people’s hearts when they experience change, when they have a revelation or an aha moment. I live for those moments, and that encourages me to find ways to give more.
And for every convention session, panel, demo, or other event people could attend, there were that many and more personal interactions where I felt I was able to coach and counsel people who had lost their way, who needed someone to point out what they could not see, to offer clarity where they had none. The two things they all had in common were self-doubt and being too hard on themselves.
Life on Override
Beating ourselves up, negative self-talk, and insecurity are the games we play in our own heads. I play them all the time, even though I was raised in a positive environment. It’s a self-preservation mechanism rooted in our reptilian brain. It’s natural for the mind to protect us, and it’s unnatural for us to override its protection. Yet overriding is the only way to escape those voices and build an awesome life.
What do the voices in your head say to you?
I wanted to understand what mine were saying, but most of the voices tend to be at an unconscious level. So I made a point of writing them down every time I noticed one. I knew I had head trash, but no idea just how much.
Then I took the list and asked myself, “Is this true?” and, “If it is true, can I change it? How?” I also asked myself, “What would be a better thought I can substitute?”
Have you ever had something come out of your mouth and you didn’t even know how or why? I also started writing down my automatic responses to others.
The Monsters Are Hurting You
Those are the monsters lurking inside your subconscious mind, and they are blurted out, as though they were natural responses to protect you. But instead of protecting you, they are hurting and limiting you and others.
If you do both of these exercises for a week, you’ll learn more about yourself in that week than you’ve learned most of your lifetime. Just pull up a notes app on your smartphone and write down every negative thought whenever you catch yourself thinking or saying them. It’s almost better than therapy.
Ever hear someone say, “I find myself sounding like my mother when dealing with my own kids, even though I swore I would never say those things”? That’s the instinctive monster inside, most of which was implanted generations earlier and passed along.
You get to be the lucky one. You can break the cycle.
The weak never break their chains — the strong break them. It starts by telling yourself you can overcome any possible obstacle, no matter how difficult, and that the ability to overcome anything lies in your head.
Are You Tired Yet?
The other good news is that the weak can become strong. All it takes is getting sick of the results you’re getting now and being determined to overcome the voices in your head.
We all tell ourselves stories and lies. We all live a certain percentage of our lives in a fantasy world. Those lies cause the drama in our lives, our families, our friendships, and in our own heads, preventing the best possible life from happening.
“Oh, Eric, I don’t deserve the best possible life,” you say? That’s the first monster to slay. Of course you deserve it. Why wouldn’t you? (More monsters will come out about now.)
Slay the dragons in your mind, and you’ll live the life of a true dragon slayer.
PS: Words simply cannot express the gratitude I have for the people of the FACE convention. We had a faculty filled with generosity to serve others, attendees who were on fire with enthusiasm and energy, and I feel like the most hugged man on earth (one of the perks of my job, I guess). Thank you for allowing me to serve. Well over half the people attending signed up for next year, which is unheard of this early for a convention. We are very excited about seeing you in Baltimore next fall.
Tomorrow I’m off to a week in New York for our annual Radio Forecast conference at the Harvard Club, and then to Washington, D.C., where I’ve been invited to offer my opinions to the commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission. If we don’t talk, have a wonderful Thanksgiving — though I fully intend to report next weekend before the holiday. And if you have a chance, invite someone to Thanksgiving who needs a family to spend the day with. No one should be alone if they don’t want to be. It’s something my parents did every year on Thanksgiving and something we try to do.
Oh, and if you encounter someone who needs a jolt of Sunday Coffee, pass it on.
Thank you so much for your weekly blog. I know that writing it takes time and commitment. I appreciate that you provide both. I read your posts each week and always come away with a useful perspective.
Last week, I was buried, deeply, within a situation at work that had me questioning my place in the organization and if I was the best fit. I had previously been feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the tasks at hand when the situation arose to have an even greater impact on my future workload. I spent two days living in a fog of self doubt (mixed with a dash of self pity.) Your statement of “Slay the dragons in your mind, and you’ll live the life of a true dragon slayer. Start today.” was the catalyst that I needed for a paradigm shift. Making a list of my self talk, worries, and tasks helped me to frame my next steps. The simple words had a powerful impact. I moved from exhaustion and despair to a sense of self control and direction. The shift allowed me to feel that I am able to tackle my work with renewed purpose and sense of personal value.
Thank you for your words, impact, and efforts. They make a difference.
I second Robert Kenny’s suggestion about making some dvd’s of special FACE sessions available for purchase.
I also relate to and resemble Catherine K’s comments about coming to painting later in life and my hopes and pland going forward.
Was an artist at age 6 years, with recognized drawing talent ( a local newspaper wrote of “Billy the Boy Artist”) wherein a second grade teacher mistook my classroom Disney drawings as fone by my first grade teacher. I went on to win some annual state-wide MSPCA poster contests. However, a sixth grade experience with a horrible day of substitute teaching by the High School art teacher caused me to decide there and then to not “go on in art” and to vow to never take art classes with her in H.S. Although I continued to “someday want to try painting and I often read art books, magazines and bought materials, it was 40 years before I took up an adult ed class on beginning painting. It changed my Life! I have now been painting for 30 years, occasionalky have sold by “word of mouth” but I continue to seek the information, inspiration and confidence provided by Eric Rhoad’s productions of videos and writings!
Unfortunately, travel to FACE was not something I could do and not likely soon.
However,…Thank you Eric ( especially for your story of “tears on stage” at FACE, which I related to) and I look forward to further inspiration!
Thank you Eric.
I enjoy Sunday Coffee every week. But this week was truly special. It made me feel as if I was at FACE and not here in England, 5000 miles away. I am starting to make art after a break and your comments are the shot in the arm I needed.
Thank you for what you do.
Oh yes indeed. I listen to testimonials before I go to sleep. I love to hear others joy coming to know Christ. It amazes me that my good thoughts become clouded by humm SATAN. I suppose it’s the nature of this fallen world. I am going to take your advise and write these stupid destructive thoughts in my notes. But I want to follow up with Jesus. Finding scripture from His Word.
I love your writings Eric! Thank You so very much. Safe passage onto New York and have a good time. Blessings and here is a virtual hug from me.
Eric – I really enjoy your Sunday words of wisdom, to me if we all would take the time to look at life that way, the country, world and each individual would be better. I have wanted to attend past FACE events, but difficulty in travel prevents me from doing so. So I have a request – have you considered recording the sessions and making them available for purchase, I have been an amateur figure artist for quite a while, and have my own small studio in the Black Forest of Colorado. Would like to improve my ability to do figure in nature paintings, but sure could use a bit of guidance (actually a lot).
If this is a possibility, please let me know, I am sure this would allow many, many artists to learn from you and your great line up of seminars
FACE 2019 really was amazing for me and I learned so very much. My brain is still trying to sort through all the tips and ideas. But the most important thing I picked up, I think, was that there are a hundred different ways to paint, bring art to the world and say the things that need to be said through our art – and none of them are wrong! Finding, as you called it, our tribe…the people who love painting and drawing people… just to know they are there is truly life changing. It endorses me.
I am one of those folks who did register for next year and I am so excited we will be in Baltimore next year – a city I have only driven past but never visited and yet one that I know if full of a rich art history, schools, galleries, and artists.
I did not hug you, sadly, but I will make a point of reaching out to do that next year. It just seemed like an odd thing to do after decades of working in a field that did not permit touching other humans who were not immediate kin. But more than once, I found tears of hope in my eyes thanks to the honest open sharing I experienced at FACE.
As an artist coming back to painting rather late in life, I may not reach the levels of the faculty members before my mind or body gives up, but I’m going to give an honest go. I find great peace inside when I paint (previewed by great angst at each blank canvas) but as soon as paint hits the palette, I’m focused again, and I love it! My friends and family seem impressed with the work I do and I’ve sold enough that I am at least breaking even this year even with the investment in FACE. So, I think I am on the right track.
I am so thankful that you have been willing to give of yourself and your staff has been willing to follow you on this journey, this vision. Thank you to you all.