The house is rattling as though bombs were going off nearby. Flashes of light are frequent and get more in sync with the thunder as the storm closes in. Pellets fall upon the tin roof above the old porch, making a deafening sound, and water streams everywhere around me except for this one dry spot.
When I was about 8, I visited Tennessee with my grandparents, and we were at Aunt Maxine’s farmhouse. Staring out the window at a storm, I heard a loud CRACK that shook the ground, and I could not believe my wide eyes. The thick old oak in front of the house was instantly split in half, just a few feet from my window. For perhaps the first time, I had a realization of the power of storms, and just how fleeting life can be.
I can remember being afraid of storms as a child. Growing up in Indiana, tornadoes were a fact of life, and their devastation was beyond anything I could fully comprehend. As a child I was a worrier; I had ulcers because I worried so much, and I was totally afraid I was going to be a tornado magnet. Every time I’d hear the alerts on WOWO radio, we would all go to a corner of the house, or in later days to the basement, awaiting our destruction. It was frightening.
Then one day, for some reason, as clarity came, I realized just how silly my fear of storms was. I had moved out of the tornado zone, and though I was not going to walk in the wide-open spaces waiting for lightning to hit, in one moment in time, my perspective switched and my fear went away.
Today, sitting here in the midst of a fierce storm, I have the strength and perspective to respect it but not fear it. Instead of fear, I am comforted by the loud rumbling of thunder, and I am encouraged by the nourishment the buckets of rain bring. And often storms blow away the pollen and bring cleaner air.
Once my fear went away, I could enjoy the show.
Storms Serve a Great Purpose
I’ve found that in life, and in business, there is a need for storms. I learned a good lesson a couple of decades ago. In the radio industry, a new leader came into an organization that promotes radio. Though I liked him very much, and got to be friends with him, others thought he was brash, somewhat arrogant and obnoxious, and a little harsh.
Because I was always writing about people like him for my radio magazine, I asked him about it. His reply made me realize his true importance and his perspective.
He told me he made his living as a hired gun. He was hired by the board to clean up a mess that had been built up over decades of management problems. The organization had become filled with people who expected to be paid yet did little. There were too many staff members for the mission of the organization, and there was a lot of legacy of “the way we do things around here” and not a lot of innovation. The organization was fat, tired, lazy, and set in its ways. His job, he told me, was to clean things up.
At first, I could not understand why they hired this guy. He was a bit of an embarrassment to the organization when he spoke at conferences and events. He did not have the gentle, presidential feel other leaders had had. Instead he was brash, loud, and boisterous.
Saving the Day
But the role he played saved the organization. Once he had done his job, he moved on. He told me, “I’m here to do one thing. I have no intention to stay on to operate things. Once I’ve got things cleaned up and I do all the unpopular things no one else wants to do, once I have the team rebuilt and the money under control, I’ll be gone.”
And that is exactly what happened. It took him several years to get things under control, get rid of the deadwood and hire stronger and better people, and get things back to normal. He was the storm.
Storms Are Everywhere
Over my career I’ve seen storms come into companies, into churches, into politics and other organizations. Their role is to clean things up and get things under control, and do a great reset.
How Storms Work
Cleanup people start with a learning period. They come in to get to know the people, to know the organization, and to understand things in depth. That takes time. Then, in spite of the friendships they’ve made, they start trimming trees and removing the dead wood. Firings occur, and retirements are implemented. Then these people move into a reinvention phase. They start to train those who are keepable and willing to learn and grow, and they bring new people in. They clean up the books, stop the reckless spending, and refocus the organization on its core mission. And once everything is under control and proven to be operating well, the storm clears out, the air is fresh and clean, there’s no more thunder, and the sun returns.
An Insider’s Perspective
Had I not gotten to know this guy, I’d not have understood the storm in advance. I had no idea how screwed up things were. I only knew how things appeared from the outside. Once I understood, it made perfect sense. There are people to this day who think this man was a loud, obnoxious, clumsy hack, never seeing that he saved the organization and its future.
That’s why I’m always talking about being willing to embrace adversity — because there is always a silver lining to every storm.
Storms come into our lives in many ways. Sometimes there are phases in our lives where we have to become our own storm. Sometimes others can’t do it for us, but we can.
I can recall moments in my life where things were not going as well as I hoped. I had friends who were not good for me, who did things that were not up to my standards of ethics, yet I continued to hang out with them because they were friends. But there came a point when I realized (with the help of my wife in many cases) that these were people who did not contribute to my life. Instead, like branches that needed to be pruned, they took too much energy. They were not healthy relationships.
Not “You’re Fired”
Did I pick up the phone and say, “You’re out of my life”? No, I’d never be that unkind. I simply called less and less and then we grew apart and I disappeared. Though I was drawn to them, maybe because it was exciting or because they did things I would never do, I came to a point where I knew they were not good for me. And though I loved them, I knew if I kept talking to them or spending time with them, it would continue to be toxic. So I just had to go cold turkey and discontinue.
Do you need storms in your life?
Do you see the need for storms in your family, in your work or business, or in your community?
Are there storm-makers you’ve seen, and you never before understood that their purpose was to blow out the dead wood and do a reset?
As a child afraid of storms, I did not have the balance to understand just how important storms are to the earth. Once I flipped the switch in my mind and embraced storms instead of fearing them, I started to enjoy them.
What switches do you need to flip?
What things frighten or bother you?
What would happen if you changed your perspective and tried to imagine why storms could be good for you?
Being human, I tend to cling to my old ways. I’m stubborn, and I often don’t see how changing my perspective is not giving up my identity. Yet flipping the switch to see things differently always serves me well, and takes away the fear.
The Switch Is On
There are times when I can’t flip a switch, when I can’t seem to find another perspective, when things look dark and frightening, and in those cases I simply have to tell myself that God is in control. What’s the worst that can happen then? It seems to make everything better.
2020 was a storm. It blew through and changed everything. Your world changed. Your circumstances and possibly your income changed. It was hugely frightening. Yet, in many ways, it made our lives better. There may be some more storms in 2021, but soon, it will have blown through, and the light will emerge from the dark and ominous clouds.
Have faith. Embrace storms.
PS: Without the storm of COVID and needing to survive, I never would have come up with my daily broadcasts at noon and 3 p.m. Eastern. We’ve been at it nonstop since March, and as of Friday, celebrating 289 days. (I’m on every weekday at noon Eastern and can be found on Facebook and YouTube (@StreamlineArtVideo) with rebroadcasts on other platforms. And at 3 p.m. daily, seven days a week, we’re putting up one-hour segments of the art instruction videos we’ve released over the past three decades. Join us.
Had it not been for the COVID storm, we would never have created our live online teaching events like Watercolor Live, which is coming up in late January. It’s four days of the world’s leading watercolor artists teaching and a chance to learn from the best. We have a Beginner’s Day if you’re new, and three more days of the best in the world teaching online. The price goes up January 20. You can learn more at www.watercolorlive.com.
Sorry for posting twice but now that I just read the two posts before mine, I have something more to say. First, I find it very disingenuous to put out harsh criticism anonymously, with no accountability, no signature–very much like wearing a full-face mask. And second, I want to compliment you on Plein Air Magazine….we finally have a publication that speaks directly to the artist who wants to grow and learn. I particularly love reading the words and ideas directly from the artists themselves. Because of that, I sometimes follow new artists and add them to my favorites list. Not only is this a beautifully rendered magazine, but it is head and shoulders above the competition in real information. I have enjoyed this magazine so much so that I have cancelled my other art magazines subscriptions and recently signed up for three more years of Plein Air Magazine. What ever you are doing, Eric, keep doing it. It’s working. And many of us are grateful.
Eric, I have tremendous respect for you for putting this out. Be well and safe. God Bless!
You shameless, lying scumbag.
Everything out of your mouth is a lie. Almost every article/column you have ever written is a flat out lie stolen from the legitimate experience of someone else, or even a movie.
This column is a thinly veiled attempt by you to justify Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow a legitimate election. Everyone who really knows you has watched you cozy up to political filth for decades.
Just like Trump, all you have ever cared about is yourself. You are a terrible painter, and an even worse human being who cons artists into thinking they will actually get somewhere if only they are willing to throw a bunch of money at you. You are one of the worst things to ever happen to representational art, and plein air painting BY FAR. You have done irreparable damage by trying to corrupt every aspect of the legitimate art world, from events to galleries to art influencers. You could care less about promoting great work and skilled artists who truly advance their mediums – you only promote those who are willing to throw money at you in hopes of becoming something more than their ability will ever allow them to be.
You know what the artists on the plein air circuit call you behind your back? They call you the used car salesman. They loathe you, but are too afraid to tell you what a bottom feeding piece of trash you are to your face. They really need to get over that, because you are fraud and a joke.
Whoever “anonymous” is, should go back under the rock IT came from. It is dark, a liar, and a two-bit hack doing the bidding of Its master.
Having recently learned and subscribed to your Sunday Coffee time writing, I was so enchanted with your writing, I read them all from the beginning.
Don’t stop writing!
Don’t stop listening to the voices that speak positively to you in your head as they seem to have given you great and wondrous ideas.
Thank you for all you do!!!
This is absolutely disgusting. A thinly veiled endorsement of an attempted coup on the United States government.
Not at all surprising. You are a conman, a charlatan, a snake oil salesman, a used car salesman and an opportunist. You prey upon the hopes and dreams of others just like your hero, the current president. Each week you write about supposed events in your life that are taken directly from popular culture – appropriated by you to make your own point. Claiming that you were a part of major events of which you took no part. You are a liar.
With each and every blog post, email and advertisement, you tell others that if they just buy this one thing from you, they too can be what they’ve always wanted to be. You tell them that the key to success is not hard work, but through advertising – advertising in your magazine and on your platforms. You tell them that if they buy, they too might one day be featured in you magazine, on your Facebook page, at your convention, or even win awards.
You don’t tell them that your promises are empty. You don’t tell them that appearing in your magazine means nothing. You don’t tell them that your magazine is mostly given away in order to drive up distribution numbers. You don’t tell them that no one reads the magazine other than other artists with dreams. You don’t tell them that the artists appearing at your conventions don’t get paid. You don’t tell them that you bribe judges of competitions to award the artists that buy advertising from you. You don’t tell them that most of the artists that you promote don’t make a living as an artist. You don’t promote the artists who buy into this. You promote only yourself.
You associate art with money and fame. You associate art with winning or losing. You associate art with buying and selling. You are the Donald Trump of art.
Thank you for your message today Eric. Very heartfelt and appreciated.
Count me out. Please unsubscribe me from this thinly veiled attempt to justify the coup that took place in the US this week. Traitors, all.
I know how sensitive you are to people’s feelings,and I believe that to be one of your greatest attributes.I want to commend you for what you wrote on Sunday’s ( Jan. 10, 2021) coffee with Eric.Yes, we all went through that storm of 2020, and most of us , see the light peeking through those ominous clouds.
However, at this exact moment I am realizing that for our family , “ we” will have to hold on to hope a bit longer as my wife chose to honor her brother’s request, to care for him through an extreme illness.Thus causing my wife and I to be apart for two months.
Thank you Eric, for writing those words that has ultimately renewed my strength to weather the storm that is upon us.Prayers and faith in God will get us through.
So true about “storms” and cleaning up “messes”! I’m really enjoying your posts/emails.
This is a very good example of a “hidden message”. Being a God fearing patriot, not a Demo or Repub, I apply all the positives of this piece to
what is happening and on the verge of happening in our government and the world. It has taken God’s using a few patriotic individuals
a long time and enduring a lot of abuse to put the pieces together. I pray daily that God will open the eyes of enough of our fellow
citizens to the real TRUTH. It is there and is being, and will be exposed in God’s own time. Patriots have taken a real beating, but I am
aware that Satan can take the truth and make it ugly, but if we keep our eyes on God, we can see through his deception. May God
use more of us in healing the damage that has been done to our people and our nation. Thank you Eric. I just hope I did not misread
you in this piece!
I so appreciate your ability to Know The Lord is in Control of all storms! I agree with you and at 60…looking back things He planned always worked out better for me no matter the difficulty…I learned to TRUST THE LORD MORE…
BLESS YOU AND YOUR COMPAN
Thank you for your thoughtful and well expressed storm analogy/ commentary on the covid-19 and governmental turmoil we all face in our country today. You are a source of peace and calm. Please continue expressing your ideas, we need your insight.
Thank you, Eric Rhoads. I have been sitting here for the last few months and have actually enjoyed the peace and time for reading that I didn’t seem to find after retirement. Reading more was on my list of things I wanted to do more of once I didn’t have the obstacle of a job taking most of my day. Your thoughts on not hanging onto people has hit home with me. I have found now that we are self-distancing, I don’t miss many of the things I have been doing and events and meetings I thought were important. They aren’t. My quiet time, here at home with no one making me feel guilty for not participating in something, is just what I want and actually need to be content and happy with my retirement.
I have no interest in the Sunday coffee emails. I would rather use the time for my own creative endeavors.
Eric, I want you to know how very much I look forward to reading your column every Sunday. You have an ease with words and thoughts that I connect with when I read your messages. I taught Interior Design for close to 25 years in three major colleges and universities, and words were as important to me as the projects the students produced for a grade. I had a marvelous mentor at Michigan State where I received my degrees, and your words remind me of how much I learned from Dr. Mary Shipley.
Thank you for bringing pleasant memories to my attention again.
Thanks you. So true. There is so much new to deal with in these times that it is difficult & threatening to adapt & live & learn. The stresses of climate change, starvation, & immigration to survive & loss of jobs are worldwide. This weeks’ storm shined a light on the desperation & anger that exists. I love what another commenter said ” Keep doing what is right, be kind and forgiving to others and learn and grow all you can. Steer away from negativity and pursue the positive.”
Thank you for your very timely and touching commentary today. Nicely done. I especially relate to your story as I grew up in Kansas and experienced many a storm. Tornado season had to be taken seriously. I never thought I was necessarily afraid of them until I moved to Colorado and the threat was removed. Somehow I hadn’t expected the relief and realized I could breathe again. And truthfully, when I experience a thunder storm today, I smile. It actually warms my heart. Yes, these storms do have a silver lining. Well stated.
Thank you. It’s very well written and although it will take time to clean these duel storms, we will. These multiple storms have shown us have shown how much we love our country and the people in it.
Beautifully written. Ultimately, God does work all things for the good of those who love Him, to those called to His purpose, as Romans 8:28 reminds us. Look for the good. Seek the truth. Follow the Light. Find joy.
Thanks for sharing all the art & artists this past year.
I think you have encapsulated a lot of things in this thoughtful message. You continue to provide relief in difficult times. The videos you provide got a lot of people to focus on art, their craft, and provided an opportunity to escape for a time the pandemic. Thank you.
This was one of your best , it is about our present period of our life’s.now let’s paint!
I too afraid of tornadoes from a toddlers Aunts would tell of the tornado they survived as a child on a Iowa farm, and that’s when they came out with black and white Wizard of Oz in the Theater. I ran running out of theater.
Yes, many storms in my 77 years of life, the last my husbands passing 2019.
Your article hit it right on. Thanks for sharing.
Great article ..expresses clearly the purpose and personality of Trump. Heartfelt wisdom in such a time as this. Thanks for clarity in this time of confusion. I posted this on FB…it will encourage many.
I appreciate your calm and insight. It’s refreshing, it’s common sense and hopeful. For me I have seen so much hate in the last 12 years; I can’t express how thankful I am that there is not one ounce of mean or negativity here. I look forward to my Sunday, Coffee, bagel and your article.
I loved it and I think you had a little of the Trump storm in there. Very insightful. He did amazing scary things for this country but of course he had a drain the swamp attitude. “There are people to this day who think this man was a loud, obnoxious, clumsy hack, never seeing that he saved the organization and its future.”
Thanks! I needed that!
I want to thank you for all you have done this year, the daily lessons, the moral support and these wonderful articles on Sunday. I love to pass these emails to my friends and children
Rejoice! We have a bright future! Keep doing what is right, be kind and forgiving to others and learn and grow all you can. Steer away from negativity and pursue the positive. The worst thing in all of history already happened, a long time ago, and it was a storm that heals us.
This is the most amazing thing I have ever read. I am grateful for your courage and I like so many Patriots stand with you. You have renewed my strength to endure what’s left to come. The Best Is Yet To Come. ❤️🇺🇸
All that changes is the type of storm that arrives. This time its covid, sometimes it has been people, sometimes its health disruptions and still others the opportunity came in the guise of losing millions overnight. Any one of them can take you down but its up to you learn the lesson and get back up.
I once had a friend who cleaned up companies like eric describes, people hated him and needed him in equal measures. He had very tough skin and took both praise and condemnation equally, most importantly he knew when to move on.
Artists have the advantage of knowing how to create so reinvention should not be that difficult. Forever looking back will not likely produce the life experience you want.
living in the moment enables one to stand back and observe the storm while allowing change without undo resistance or trauma.
I like your articles. I am a born again Christian and your words resonate with what the Lord has been speaking to my heart. God uses storms so He can clean out what needs to be cleaned out and draw us closer to Him.
I love reading your Sunday comments now! We seem to be on the same path. Storms pass, and we come out into the Light on the other side.
Thank you. I need the encouragement you provide in life and in pursuit of learning to express myself through art. Sunday coffee brings a sense of calm in a crazy world.
Thanks, Eric!. I needed that talk today. I can’t change the storm and I can;t change many of the things I worry about. When I paint I only think about the painting so….painting today! My philosophy: No mistakes, only lessons!
Hello, Eric! This post is brilliant. It says so much about many of our current situations. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your faith.
Loved today’s Email. Great words of wisdom. I forward to several friends. Thanks for writing.
I love to read your article, you are 100% correct. Wait for the storm