The rustic boards under my feet squeak as I make my way across the porch to the little wicker couch with bright red cushions. The wicker also squeaks as I sit down and place my coffee on the table in front of me, which has a little glass arboretum with small cactuses growing inside. It’s a warm spring morning, and the birds entertain me while distant neighborhood chickens make sure we know they can sing too.
A big yawn fills my face as my arms stretch out. I stayed up till about 1 a.m. working in my man-cave studio. Sometimes I go there just for silence, other times to read. I read a great book the other night called Beyond Genius: The 12 Essential Traits of Today’s Renaissance Men by artist friend Scott Griffiths and his friend Eric Elfman.
I was fascinated by the book because it profiled great Renaissance men in history like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton (yes, all men; they are coming out with another book on women), and great living Renaissance men like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria (who lives about a mile from me), and others. For the first time, someone had tried to categorize the traits that make these people special. Though it would not be fair to outline all the things they discovered, I thought a couple of the traits might be worthy of some discussion.
Why is it that some people move mountains and do amazing things? How is it that some people can create great inventions, and make multiple inventions happen in their lifetimes? How is it a man like Elon Musk (who also is here in Austin now) can, at his still young age, reinvent online payments (Paypal), create one of the biggest and most disruptive electric car companies in the world (Tesla), put people in space privately (SpaceX), put a new internet up with hundreds of satellites across the world (Starlink), and plan to colonize Mars?
I’d love to be considered a Renaissance man, and maybe in some small way I am, but not in comparison to these greats. So what traits do they have that you and I can adopt?
No Silver Spoon
It’s not unusual for us to think people like this had something special … like rich parents and endless money … but that is not the case. In fact, most grew up poor, some grew up with awful parents, and John Paul lived in his car for six months when starting his business. And why is it that many people who grow up in wealthy families end up doing little or nothing with their lives?
The Same Tools We Have at Our Fingertips
In these cases, each one of them was self-taught. Though some went to college, most did not, but each had an insatiable curiosity to learn, and they spent most of their time filling their brains with new ideas. A billionaire acquaintance of mine reads a minimum of two hours a day and two or three books a week while running multiple companies. It turns out that curiosity is a massive trait they all have in common. They spend their lives looking at possibilities. What is possible? How can I conquer the impossible? What does the world need to make it better? What is the status quo, and how can I challenge it?
Passion and Courage
Courage is another trait these men have in common. They did not let anyone tell them what is and is not possible. What if Elon Musk listened to the naysayers who told him that electric cars were not practical and had never been a big success? What if Steve Jobs had listened to the people who said, “MP3 players already exist — why would anyone buy one from you at twice the price?” These people had a vision and the courage to pursue it. And, unlike others, they never gave up. When you read their stories, you realize that in some cases, they persisted with an idea for 40 or more years, when most of us would have given up at year one.
The thing I’ve discovered about these people is that they have such clear vision that they know the world won’t change unless they do it. They know that the world will not be as good a place without their idea. Thus they are driven.
What about you?
I know that every person reading this had an idea, sometime in their life, that they did not pursue, and they may regret that. Maybe it’s because it was too expensive, or too hard, or not even possible. I’ve given up on far too many ideas I had because of the roadblocks, yet someone else ended up doing them, proving what could not be done was possible. My list is fairly long. But I did not believe strongly enough, I gave up too early, or I simply saw my ideas would be coming, but I lacked the passion. It’s passion for a project that drives it home.
If You Are Breathing, There Is Still Time
I believe you and I still have time to see our ideas happen. Even if you’re on the downward slope of life. If you believe it, think clearly about it, you can find a way to do it, or get someone to do it, so you, too, can change the world in your own way.
Telling yourself you’re too young, too old, too fat, too thin, not well enough educated, don’t have enough money … these are mental roadblocks. Do the Renaissance people mentioned have these roadblocks in their heads? Absolutely. They just keep plowing through anyway.
Not convinced? I dare you.
Will it be easy? No.
Will you fail? You might. So what?
Will you succeed? You will if you never give up.
Let’s not live our lives talking about the one that got away, the dream that never happened. Let’s not live in regret that we did not try at all, or gave up too soon.
You have it in you. Yes, you may have to overcome a lot of things others have told you that pollute your brain and limit your thinking. Yes, you will be uncomfortable. You may have to get up earlier and stay up later. You may have to give up mind-numbing game shows or video games. But you can do this. I have complete confidence in you.
Reach in … pull those dreams back out, and make it happen. I’m looking forward to seeing how you change the world.
PS: Recently I heard from a woman who was stuck at home for years, wheelchair-bound, who told me she always had dreamed of attending one of my conventions, but her health got in the way. Last year she was able to attend for the first time because we came to her, with an online virtual conference called PleinAir Live (which saved my company). We even have a Beginner’s Day for those who have zero experience.
We’re doing the second PleinAir Live, with a bigger global audience and amazing top painters, starting Wednesday. If “I’ve always wished I could paint but don’t have the talent” is the negative self-talk rolling around in your brain, take control of it and attend. Some say it’s life-changing. And since it’s guaranteed, if you spend the money and hate it, you can get your money back if you let us know after watching your first day. Take the bull by the horns and do what you don’t believe you can do. Can’t make the dates or take the time? Replays are available if you sign up this week. Again, we even have a day for brand new beginners with no experience. Then you can watch the event one hour at a time for as long as it takes, in your spare time. Guarantee it beats what most of us are watching on TV. Do this; you won’t regret it. I’ll be your host.
Hi Eric – You will never know how living your dream and working very hard to make a difference in this world means to me and I believe to many people around the world. – I have to plan my retirement future with so many dreams that must still be fulfilled. I will sit down, be positive and pray and plan and I think it will eventually work out for me and others too. – Keep up the good work.
Thank you Eric. I am signed up for the event. However, found out that I have to work on these days. I think I will be able to replay the event. Please let me know if that is so. Thank you, Debbie
when does the plein air conference start? i signed up but haven’t a word. joanne baciocco
T.Y. Eric! Your pep talks are the best! It suddenly came to me (right after I struggled through but triumphed with a painting) that success is stacking up “I DID IT!!”s – one day after the next! See you on Thursday at PAL2 – Can’t wait!!…..
….Oh and may you have every blessing that you need each day, Eric! TY again.
Thanks Eric, as I read this I was thinking what would we do if Eric Rhoads suddenly disappeared? I’m 77 years old and Ive seen a lot of people disappear; some due to just dropping out of whatever group they were involved with or perhaps a job they left or a hobby they were involved in where they had many friends. Then some are gone because they have loose their mortal coils and left this earth. When they are gone they are certainly missed at least for awhile. Some are thought of often and fondly for years by many and some are forgotten quickly and when their name is mentioned you think ‘ oh yes I had forgotten about them . If you left us for whatever reason it would leave an enormous hole in the art world and to many people personally. I know you are not perfect- none of us are as we have been told quite clearly in the greatest book ever written but you have brought a great deal of joy and light to many thousands of people in a time of fear and darkness across this planet. I am not a person who gets depressed and sadly I have to admit I have little patience with people who do but even I found myself this year having several days of not wanting to do anything. So I thank you for the joy and encouragement you have brought to this world. Your hard work and enthusiasm has helped many artists get their videos noticed and earning some money again and in turn that has brought instruction and fun and light into the lives of many others. . So I guarantee if you disappear you will be missed, spoken of fondly for years even if you have just moved on to other ventures but we really all hope you just stay and stay and stay
I second and third and fourth that, Judy!!
Much success with the second Plein Aire Live. I so loved the first one!
At 85 years old I am not seen any more as “having potential”!
Resuming painting after 63 years while trying to retire from Architecture. Your words resonated with me.
PS. have shut my office to attend the virtual Plien Air Live next week.
I shared this with my husband and will forward to my son and daughter–thank you Eric for your energy and generosity!
I would love to do this but I can’t afford it.
Can you just sign up for replays?
I just can’t express how grateful I am for your encouragement. I have shared this with my Son and Grandson. Blessings to you Mr. Eric. I have a few idea’s , I’m going for it. Plus I will order your book today to help on that journey. I’m 58, I can do it !!! I AM WOMAN HEAR ME MEW LOUDLY!! LOL
Can’t wait for conference. Thurs. I have pneumonia but since you come to me in zoom I should be ok! Gave me courage to put work in an art show this weekend on island ( Boca Grand) step after step. I have followed that all my life and created an illustrator agency legacy in my family. Small in terms of the world – big in terms of our lives! So grateful I found the courage… now retired I get to paint loads! Thanks!
What an incredible story Eric. Very inspiring, and I believe so true. I think the world changers are the ones who dared to dream big. Thank you for everything you do. Have a wonderful week.
Many times the world would be a better place if these things (self driving cars and atom bombs, 5-G ) had NOT been invented.
Lets stop and fix whats broken before moving to the new which continues to harm humanity.
You are such a wonderful writer..enjoyed this one for sure..I will pass it on to my son and a couple of nephews..I am an artist/painter…..
if you have a minute check out my website…sandywelch.com
Thanks and I look forward to your next writing…
Sandy Welch xx
Very true, your entire article. Thank you for this.
Kindly consider Alain Picard to your faculty for Pastel LIVE. Very talented artist and instructor. He draws many people. Thank you for considering.
Thank you for this column! I had almost forgotten that I have had a couple of dreams that I made come true. One involved publishing a book of my own poetry (which ended up paying for itself). Another involved getting assigned to San Diego from a midwestern base after joining the Navy; I spent almost 20 years in San Diego, although only 6 years in the Navy. I now have a barely registered dream of getting another book published. Your column reminded me to pursue this dream with passion!! I can do that!! I am 73 years old now, but it is never too late to dream. Thank you again for your “reminder.”