Little tiny buds are peeking out of the flowerbeds and grass. Brilliant green is starting to come out of the otherwise dead-looking trees, and the warmth of the sun and longer days are strong indicators that spring has arrived. Bluebonnets are covering local roadsides, and soon, maybe today, I’ll be out painting them.

Like spring, I love the reckless unbridled passion of youth and its boundless hope as we bud and blossom into adulthood to take us to our careers and our purposes. 

As a young budding entrepreneur in my 20s, I was filled with passion, hope, and giant dreams. But I was also smart enough to know I did not know it all (though there were times when I thought I did). So, to grow my skills, I went to a seminar and saw the legendary insurance billionaire W. Clement Stone (1902-2002) . At the time Stone was probably 70 and filled with incredible wisdom and energy. He was the first motivational speaker I ever saw.

Desperate and in Debt

I remember Stone talking about his plight growing up, his circumstances of being extremely poor. His dad died when he was really young, leaving the family with a lot of debt, so to supplement his mom’s dressmaker income, he started selling newspapers on the corner. But money was tight, and there was never enough. Mr. Stone talked about how he was trying to figure out how to make more money selling papers to survive, and how he had the idea to enlist his friends and get them selling papers for him on commission. At age 8 or 10, he was supporting his family and bringing in more income than his mother.

Before long he started selling insurance, and just about 20 years later, using the same principle of getting others to help him multiply his income, he managed to get a thousand people to sell for him. That gave him enough money to start his own insurance company, which had a billion dollars in assets by 1979.

Leverage Is Critical

Stone told us that he learned about leverage because of necessity. Even though everyone had told him he could not survive and could not support his mom and family at such a young age, he worked smart instead of just working hard. 

I remember him saying that no matter how hard he worked by himself, his income was limited because there were only so many hours in the day and only so many newspapers he could personally sell. And it wasn’t enough to solve his problem. His needs were high, so he had to figure out how to get more money while working the same number of hours. Again, he was a kid of 8 or 10, enlisting other kids to sell papers for him.

A Rare Billionaire

Stone became a billionaire (unheard of at the time) by setting high goals and figuring out how to overcome the time it would normally take to hit those goals. His lessons in youth set the tone for how he did business in his 100 years of life.

Most of us who set goals, myself included, set a goal for five years out, and figure out how to ramp up over the years to hit that goal. Stone said his success was based on compressing five years into one year. 

“Everyone will tell you it’s impossible to hit a five-year goal in one year, and to them, it’s not possible. But you can do it now if you simply figure out how to leverage others to hit it faster.”

Standing on stage in front of a giant auditorium of people, he had us chanting: “DO IT NOW!”

What are your dreams? 

What are your goals?

Is there a way you can achieve those dreams this year?

Are you telling yourself it’s impossible? 

I don’t claim to be as mentally strong as Stone, and I’m certainly not a billionaire, but his philosophy has helped me throughout my career. “What can we get done this year instead of waiting a few years?” I’ve been known to say. And I’m often accused of pushing too hard to get things done early. Now you understand why.

A Series of Questions

When I catch myself saying, “There is no way I could do that this year,” I try to stop myself and ask, “How is it possible to do it anyway? If I had unlimited resources, could I do it?”

Stone taught me that “unlimited resources” is the right way to think about crushing a goal in less time. Start there, then ask yourself how you can get those resources now. Then, if it’s super expensive, ask yourself how you could get those same resources with less money, or no money.

“Most people stop asking themselves questions too soon. They simply stop with the fact that it’s impossible. But keep asking more questions, and more on top of those, and even more until you figure out a way. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Drill down till you find answers.”

My mentor Keith Cunningham likes to say that all the answers are in the questions, and that if we all spent more time thinking, we would save a lot of time with answers that often speed up our progress.

What about you?

A Major Goal Accomplished

A couple of years ago I declared that I wanted to teach a million people to paint. “But how do I reach a million people?” I asked myself. My answer was to buy advertising. But then I told myself I could not afford it. So, once I came to that conclusion, I asked how I could do it for free or with a low investment. The answer that came was a daily Facebook/YouTube live broadcast, which during COVID reached far more than a million people. (In fact, I was in Mexico last week when I was stopped on the street by a local man who watches me on the Internet.)

If you pose the questions, the answers will come. If they don’t come, ask more questions. Eventually the impossible becomes possible. 

Belief Trumps Doubt

  1. Clement Stone told a room of a few hundred people that some of us would go home and do it now, and the rest of us would never believe it’s possible and may never realize our dreams.

But those who do will live rich lives with a lot of satisfaction, having lived their dreams.

His advice: Do It now. Find a way.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The pandemic kicked us all in the gut. In my case, my business was on life support, my live events were canceled multiple times, and I’ve been anxious to bring them back. Thankfully, the Plein Air Convention WILL happen this May in Santa Fe. That is great news because we can get the gang back together. The bad news is, I’m being restricted. I can only have 750 people because they still want us to socially distance. So, by the time we add up the people who are registered, the faculty and staff, as of today, I have exactly 97 seats left. 

If you’ve always wanted to go or are planning to go, I highly recommend you grab your seat and hotel room now. 

Here’s what’s happening at my company Streamline at the moment…

Our next virtual event, Pastel Live, is happening in August. About 40% of the people who attended PleinAir Live have already signed up. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun!