Each morning, as the sun blasts through our east-facing window, I’m treated to a colorful sunrise over the water, with the silhouettes of palm trees. It’s better than any alarm; it tends to get me up a little earlier than normal, and boosts my dopamine immediately. 

Upon waking, I walk out to the deck of our bedroom just to take in the beauty of the morning, marveling over the sun sparkling on the water, the warm breeze, the foggy blue distant islands, and the warm air kissing my skin. I’m feeling inspired. 

The Hunt for Inspiration

One of the reasons I travel so much is because I’m always on the hunt for beauty and inspiration. To me there is nothing quite as wonderful as getting out of my comfort zone, walking on cobblestone streets, changing foreign money, eating local and regional foods, and being unable to understand the language fully. It’s not only a vacation, it’s a mental break and a chance to feel invigorated. 

Last October, after our annual fall Fine Art Trip, I was totally inspired. Though this is a collectors’ trip, visiting lots of museums behind the scenes, artist studios, and collector homes, in my free time I always sneak away to paint en plein air, even if it’s after dinner and late at night under the streetlights. 

Inspired by Artwork

It’s hard to imagine this because so few in the world have ever experienced it, but I’ve been in the Prado, one of the most important and busiest museums in the world, having it all to myself and my small group, and no one else in the building. 

I can walk up to important paintings with no crowds and no pressure to move, and study them in depth. In one case, after seeing every painting in the museum, I kept returning to this one painting, over and over again. It captivated me, and I kept seeing more depth in it as I studied it. And after taking dozens of close-up photos, I’ll return home and try to copy parts of it as a learning experience. 

I gain tremendous inspiration from gazing at endless artworks by the world’s great masters in top museums. 

The Gift of Travel

I feel extremely blessed that I get to travel as much as I do. In just a couple of weeks, I’m leading a group to paint cherry blossoms in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan. Then in May I’ll be painting at the Plein Air Convention in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in June at my painters’ retreat in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, where I’ll spend my summer. Then I’ll host another Fine Art Trip in Europe (to be announced soon), and my Fall Color Week retreat in Monterey and Carmel this year. 

Gasping for Air

An important lesson was bestowed upon me by living the life of an entrepreneur, never able to come up for air, spending months on end working from sunrise till midnight, and then experiencing levels of burnout, depression, and lost relationships. Something had to change.

Sometimes it takes a kick in the teeth to stop bad behavior and reinvent yourself. The new me, I told myself, was not going to work weekends again, was going to travel to Europe at least once a year, and travel to paint with friends. 

The life of a workaholic is a dead end street, no matter what the books tell you. Life isn’t about working, it’s about living. Work becomes about providing enough fun tickets to live the life you dream of. It took me a couple of decades to shed my bad habits, my bad moods, and my work addiction to start living life.

Are You a Living Zombie?

Sometimes we feel like the walking dead … commuting to work, putting in the required hours or late nights, being workaholics, involved in endless projects and mind-numbing meetings that seem like Groundhog Day.

Are You  Burning Out?

Burnout and being stuck happens across all jobs and industries. It seems like we’re working hard to support our families, yet our families wish they could see us more, even if it means having less. It’s a trap too many of us fall into, convincing ourselves we’re “doing it for the family.” One friend recently said his wife told him, “If you think you’re doing this for the family, think again. If this continues, there will be no family for you to come home to.” 

So how do we break out?

Start with what you hate. While most people tell you to focus on goals, goals are of no value if you have to do things that make you miserable. Make a list of the non-negotiables, then start building a plan to unwind all the things you no longer want to do.

Instead of goals, make your dream list. “If I had all the money and time in the world, and no restrictions, what would I do?”

Do that. 

Even if it takes 10 years to figure out how. If you don’t do it, you’ll continue to burn out. But if you have a plan and know you’re working your way to freedom from the things you hate and toward the things you love, you’ll have hope. Hope with an action plan removes burnout.

Near Death

A near-death experience gave me instant clarity, from which I made my list, set my dreams in motion, and found a way to do them.

Be There

Science has a lot of recent research that says when you imagine yourself IN something, you find a way to become it. If you constantly tell yourself you’re miserable … you’re IN misery. If your brain is living your dream, it will find a way.

I could not afford to go to Europe once a year. My brain found a way once I started making that part of who I am.

BE where you want to be. Don’t tell yourself, “Someday I’m gonna.” Tell yourself you are there. 

Sometimes being delusional is the best thing to motivate your brain to find a way to climb out of a bad hole.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Tonight I’ll board a big bird and fly home to Austin, where I’ll be hosting PleinAir Live all week. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year because I see so many lives transformed. You are joining me, right? Be a DO IT NOW person, and you’ll move closer to your dreams.