In the middle of a deep sleep and a wonderful dream, suddenly the quiet is harshly interrupted by the sound of the whining that wakes me up. As I let the dogs out for the morning, the brisk cold air hits my skin and rapidly awakens my otherwise sleepy state of mind as a perfect, richly colored orange glow sits at the horizon and its light bathes the trees in color. I may have preferred to sleep in, but when the dogs get me up early, I always get to see the sun come up. It’s a beautiful sight I never tire of seeing.

The other day a friend asked me, “What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?” I paused, thought deeply, and said, “I’ll have to get back to you on that. It’s a tall order.” And it is, because I’ve been blessed with so many people in my life to offer advice. My dad always offered amazing advice and ideas on business, as did a few of my mentors. 

I’ve been thinking about this topic all week, because it’s not easy to determine what was the best advice ever.

What about you? What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Where did you receive it?

The great advice and lessons I’ve received in my life came from unexpected people at unexpected times, from books, from attending tons of speeches and lectures, from reading lots of articles, and from mentors. Being curious, asking questions, is a magnet for advice, some good, some not. 

There is more than one thing…

I can’t land on just one piece of advice, and I can’t land on whether it should be about life or business, but here is what I came up with:

If you set out to make money as your only purpose, you’re likely to fail. If you set out to help people, solve their problems, and put them first, the world truly will beat a path to your door.  

Do what you love. Once you’ve done things you don’t love, you can realize the importance of sticking with what you do love. Try lots of things — you’ll be surprised to learn things you think you’ll like, you won’t, and things you don’t think you’ll like, you might. Finding your passion may take years, but once you find passion, you’ll be deeply fulfilled.

Shortcuts can seem like a good idea, but you really don’t grow till you get your teeth kicked in a few times and learn lessons you can’t learn from shortcuts. I never wanted to hear that when I was young, but it turned out to be important.You will have temptations through much of your life. By defining the guardrails in your life, what you’re not willing to do, you won’t give in to the temptations.

Everything you do boils down to your reputation. Protect it with your life. Operate at high ethics always, and if you make a mistake, admit it fast.

Most people are like a pinball — they bounce from place to place. But when you have goals aligned with purpose and passion, you’re more likely to hit them. Goals are your GPS; everything else is a detour. Do something toward your goals every single day, no matter what.

Focus on outcomes with everything you do. What is the outcome needed from this phone call, this meeting, taking this time? What are the outcomes people need to improve their lives?

Rehearse everything you do. I rehearse meetings, phone calls, and anything that is important to me to succeed. I always rehearse them going the way I want them to go, and more often than not, they turn out the way I want them to.

Nothing worth doing is worth doing poorly. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it as if you’re the best in the world so that you push your limits beyond excellence.

Be a world changer. Sometimes little things can change the world. Make the world better with the time you have on earth.

Fear is a natural instinct designed to protect you, but face your fear, no matter what. Each time it gets easier, and each time you take a giant leap forward.

Embrace mistakes. For every good thing I do, I make dozens of mistakes first. Mistakes are lessons to correct our next steps.

You can’t change the world without a solid work ethic. Work harder than everyone else, work smarter, study more, take risks, and don’t expect magic to drop in your lap without effort. Success is sweeter when sweat is involved. When you’re exhausted, keep going. Rich life experiences don’t come easily.s

Listen carefully. You learn more from asking questions than trying to be the one with all the answers. 

Embrace criticism. You might learn something, or it might tick you off so much that it drives you to launch the next big thing.

Eradicate negativity from your own head, and remove negative people from your life.

Love haters. When you’re doing good things, haters will start showing up. And love your enemies. 

Find a strong life partner who will encourage you, support you, but also challenge you. Don’t discount their ideas and thoughts just because you think you know better. They often know you better than you know yourself, can see shortcomings you can’t see, and can see things you are too blind to accept or recognize.

I Hate Advice!

I’m not proud to admit that when I was young and a little too sure of myself, I thought I knew it all and was not eager to take the advice of others. Little did I know that advice can be life-changing in many ways. It was gaining experience that helped me realize I could not do it all on my own and I needed to embrace advice.

I’d love you to comment about the best advice you’ve ever received. I’m guessing you have a lot you can teach all of us.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Recently I was talking to someone I met through a friend. He told me all about his business and his passion for what he did, which I thought was wonderful. But when I said, “What do you do for yourself when you’re not working?” he paused, thought about it, and said, “Absolutely nothing. I’m either working or watching the news, maybe reading from time to time.” He told me, “I have no hobbies.” 

Though it’s none of my business, I told him my story. “That used to be me. I worked all the time, I had lots of stress, and I spent the rest of my time numb, doing mindless things. But I started looking for more. When I discovered painting, it changed my life. I was no longer bored. If I painted, all my stress melted away. And when I was being creative in other ways, I was happier.”

His response was that he had no talent and did not get the “hobby gene.” I then told him that I’d felt the same way, didn’t feel I could ever do something like paint, because I had zero talent or ability. But I had discovered that it’s something anyone can learn, much like following a recipe. It’s not about talent. It’s about finding a good teacher, sticking with it during the early stages when you’re really struggling, and eventually producing better and better paintings.

It changed my life so much that I ended up making most of my work related to art. 

Why am I telling you this? If you or someone you know needs more to life, needs a hobby, needs to reduce stress, I guarantee I can teach you or anyone to paint.

One of the best places to start is at my January Watercolor Live online event. It’s got a Beginner’s Day for basic principles, and then three more days of the top watercolor masters in the world teaching. And if you attend and don’t feel you got your money’s worth on day one, I’ll refund your money.

This would be a great gift for you (or for some folks in your family), and you’ll never look back.