When Lightning Strikes


The sunrise yesterday morning, and each morning in Santa Fe, was brilliant and colorful, and back at home, this morning’s sunrise is equally beautiful but coming up over a different mountain. Santa Fe had long mountain ranges and plateaus of purples and blues; my distant mountain is socked in with fog, making it a grayish blue against a warm yellow sky.

The neighbors’ dog has been barking obsessively at the cattle or deer on their back 40, which borders our little slice of heaven. Finally, silence comes and I can again hear the birds and look at the brilliant new green growth on my scrub oaks. I’m not sure any paint can capture that brilliance.

Click Your Heels Together

The old homestead and my long wooden porch are a welcome sight, and my happy place. I arrived late last night after a week in Santa Fe and a massive celebration of plein air painting, and though I love the energy, the people, the painting, and the place, there is, as they say, no place like home. (But no ruby slippers here.)

When to Click

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicked her ruby red slippers and found her way home from a fantasy world. As a child I was often in trouble with my teachers for daydreaming (though I didn’t even need to click my heels to come back). But there are times when we do need to click our heels. What I mean is that we need to click into action when the time is right.

The Making of Mucha

Years ago on our Fine Art Connoisseur art trip, we visited the home of Alphonse Mucha and visited with his 90-year-old daughter-in-law, who has worked to preserve his legacy and his personal collection. She told us a great “click into action” story.

Inventing Art Nouveau

Mucha is known for being one of the originators of the Art Nouveau style and for deeply influencing Paris and the world with this style of art, but, like most, at one point he was struggling and virtually unknown. But all that changed in an instant. One event changed his life.

Random Opportunity

On Christmas Eve 1894, actress Sarah Bernhardt decided she needed a poster for her show. She went to a local print shop, which reached out to all the top artists in Paris to work on the poster, but they all said no because it was Christmas Eve. But she was determined; she needed someone working on it that day. Mucha wasn’t even on the initial list of artists contacted, yet because he was in the right place at the right time, the printer asked if he would do it.

Instant Fame

Though Mucha had plans for Christmas Eve, he dropped everything and volunteered to design the poster because he needed the money. With Bernhardt’s fame and the success of the show, Mucha’s work was exposed heavily, and this new breakthrough design style caught everyone’s eye. Instantly he became very famous, and he was soon the top designer in Paris. Though his paintings were nothing like his posters, his posters made his career. (His painting are amazing and life-changing, especially the Slav Epic, a series of giant paintings depicting the history of the Slavic peoples. Our Fine Art Connoisseur art trip group was the last to see them before they were seized by the city of Prague in 2011; the paintings are now on tour in Asia, over the objections of the artist’s family.)

Hello, Is This Eric?

When I was a DJ back in the early 1970s in Miami, I frequently spoke to this one groupie who would phone me every night on the request line. We decided to meet one day and became fast friends. (No, we were not dating.) I soon moved stations, and when I became the music director, I needed an assistant. Because she was still calling me, I asked her if she knew of anyone, and she volunteered.

A Star Is Born

She got the job. In her spare time she asked one of the DJs to teach her how to be an air talent, but no one actually considered putting her on the air. Yet one day, I needed to fill a slot and all my extra people had the flu. So I asked her if she could think of anyone and she said, “Yeah, me.” Though I did not think she was ready, I had no choice, so we put her on the all-night show. She was an instant hit and became a big star who ended up with a full-time job on the air. She eventually became a star in Houston and built an amazing career. What if she had been shy, or didn’t step up even though she wanted to?

A Giant Change in My Life

When my partner Jerry and I had a radio consulting company, we were hired by radio station KEYY in Provo, Utah — an unusually small market for us. But we took it in hopes of getting the rights to program their new Salt Lake FM, which was coming on in a year or so.

While I was in town consulting, one day I was talking with the owner about whether we would be getting the FM contract he had promised. He said, “I’m not very convinced that you guys are going to do a good job with that station, so I think I’m just gonna put it up for sale.”

My response? “I’m so convinced that we’ll be number one in the market overnight, I’ll buy it from you. Name your price.”

Bluffing to Show Confidence

Of course I was bluffing, to show him confidence that we would succeed. But his response was unexpected: “OK. The price is $1.6 million, and I’ll give you 90 days to come up with the money.”

Still bluffing, I said, “You’re on.” We shook on it, and I suddenly realized I had just committed to buying a radio station. Months later I was the president of a new broadcast company that had a Provo and a Salt Lake station, and soon I put one on in New Orleans. Frankly, I was so naive, I didn’t know that should have been impossible to pull off.

Accidental Magic

My career has been filled with accidental magic, taking me to opportunities I never would have considered. Twenty-eight years ago I was in New York to complain that my ads in Pulse of Radio magazine were not working, and when I met with the owner he said, “I’m not committed to it. I think I’ll sell it. Wanna buy it?” I said yes, then had to figure out how to structure a deal to make it work. That’s how I ended up in publishing.

How I Lost $130 Million

I’ve got just as many stories of things I foolishly passed on that turned out to be amazing. In one case I would have held a small percentage of a company that later sold for $6.6 billion. But I had nothing because I turned down an opportunity that came to me. My share would have been worth about $130 million. Instead, my closed-minded answer got me nothing but a story.

Being Ready

The point of all this is that there are opportunities put in front of each of us. We are not looking for them, they are not anywhere close to our plans, they sometimes require fast, impulsive decisions, and the opportunities often disappear as fast as they came. Often they will seem inconvenient, difficult, or impossible.

Shiny Objects

Though I’m big on goals and planning, I’m also big on shiny objects and on listening to your gut to grab opportunities.

Listen for Opportunity in Everything

In fact, since I turned down that big opportunity, which would have cost me nothing but some ad space, I try to listen very carefully to the vision of others and not instantly think I know it all and I know it won’t work. Instead, I tend to jump on lots of opportunities.

Lots of Accidents

The best things that have happened in my life have been accidental. An accidental meeting with my wife. Accidentally meeting a guy at a state fair who had a product I remarked on, and that made both of us a lot of money. Accidentally getting into publishing. Accidentally getting into art, and accidentally stumbling into the early realism movement and the plein air painting movement. This isn’t all about business, it’s about life.

I’m not recommending drifting along and waiting for things to happen. You need movement, which is what will expose you to things you’ve never considered.

Bigger and Better Than Your Own Plans

The key to all of this is keeping an open mind, knowing that things will come along that won’t be a fit, but might be better and bigger than anything you had planned, and having confidence in yourself to know when to say yes and when to say no.

What about you?

Can you think back to things you jumped on that were unexpected and turned out well?

Can you think of things you passed on that you wish you had not?

Caution to the Wind

No matter what your position, your circumstances, your age, or your financial status, opportunities and decisions will come your way — and I believe these things are placed in our lives for a reason. In some cases it’s a temptation that is not good and only a distraction, but in other cases it’s something that you need to do. You’ll know the right ones because they will speak to you. You just have to be willing to listen and be willing to throw caution to the wind.

It Sneaks Up on You

You don’t know when or where it will come. It might be a happenstance meeting or a conversation in line at the grocery store or coffee shop. I was just given a major opportunity I’ll be announcing because I met a fellow at a cocktail party in New York and happened to asked a question about his business. It may turn out to be the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

Don’t Seek It. Just Know It When It Comes

I don’t spend a lot of time looking for those kinds of random opportunities. I find if I force it, I don’t get the same results. Yet if something comes to me randomly and hits me between the eyes, I jump on it with all my heart.

Helping Veterans

A couple of weeks ago, before the big Plein Air Convention, artist Dennis Tyson approached me about his dream to teach veterans how to paint. He knew of my goal to teach one million people to paint. So I jumped on it fast, and that very week I announced our new program as part of the Plein Air Force to enlist people to teach veterans. A year from now we will have trained hundreds and maybe thousands. This is a great example of something that will do good that has nothing to do with business.

Today is a good time to think about missed — or captured — opportunities, and to plant a seed in your mind to be on the lookout and ready to jump when opportunity strikes. And when it does, simply click your heels together and you’ll be transported to a new and exciting place.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I try to remain very humble, but I cannot help but be excited about how well the launch of my new book went this past week. My writing hand is a little cramped from personalizing so many books. Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy at the convention. I am truly humbled by your embrace.


  1. Christina April 22, 2018 at 4:57 am - Reply

    As philosopher L. Ron Hubbard says: “Nothing succeeds like insouciance.” You are definitely one hell of an example of that. I love your stories.

  2. Carolyn April 22, 2018 at 6:23 am - Reply

    I don’t think there are any accidents.

  3. Barbara Bodin April 22, 2018 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Here I sit with my Sunday morning routine (Gregorian chants and a latte) while checking my email. Your email was unexpected and perhaps the “opportunity charge” I needed! I’ll be looking forward to it next Sunday.
    I am going to change things up in looking for opportunities, making a goal to participate in as many art events as I can. And I did promise to teach a vet to paint…getting on that this week. Will send progress report soon.

  4. Mark Garkow April 22, 2018 at 7:52 am - Reply


    Thank you for the encouragement to take that leap of faith when the good opportunities present themselves. As a Christian, I know that God is always on the move and has great plans for my life. However I have missed so many of these opportunities because I was either distracted, too timid or just failed to see the wonderful, future blessing waiting ever so briefly before me. Thanks again for the nudge to be alert and take that leap!

  5. Joseph Murray April 22, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Good Morning Eric !
    In Vietnam we used to salute every morning by saying :”Good Morning America” with emphasis . We were lonely, afraid, yet still proud to be serving America and Democracy . The American populace did not know of the sacrifices of American Veterans and as you have heard or seen –many of us came home to rebuke and being spit on etc . Imagine how you might feel if you lost several friends in that ugly war and came home to that . Many Veterans from Viet Nam are still suffering today as a result of what happened during the war . I served in the Air Force from 1962 -1968 . I cam back home bitter and angry but decided to enter college with the help of the GI Bill . It was a Godsend for me . While in college I was a Marketing Major and had zero interest in art previously . In fact I thought you had to be a bit different or even queer to be a artist . How wrong I was !
    There was a requirement to take a 2 hour class in the art area before graduation . I took Sculpture by chance–not knowing anything about it . A angel appeared in my life (Ralph Haskell deceased). I approached him and said I knew nothing about art and had no talent but would like to get a C out of his class . He looked at me intently and said, “Who are you to judge whether you have any art talent or not ? Others make that judgement . Come to my class with a open mind and heart and let’s see what happens .” I did that . Loved the class and his mentorship . One day before the semester ended he came up to me and said, “you are not going to believe what I have to tell you .” I said ,” Let here rip.” He told me I had more talent than most of his art majors and that I definitely needed to pursue the arts in some way .” I laughed . He intently looked me in the eye and said, ” yes I know you are a business major and will utilize those skills and make a living but what is going to happen to you when you suddenly become vulnerable to being washed out at age 50 and be replaced by some young person out of college ?” I had no reply and thought about that for some time . Long story a little shorter–I decided to take more art classes while at college . For 20 years I experimented with watercolor in isolation . Developing my own style or approach . After that time frame I decided that maybe my art was worth showing to others . Did that . Now fast forward another 28 years that I have been painting and you have where I am at now . I have a studio and show regionally around the United States .
    Here is my point to you and your new endeavor with Veterans . Talk about a group of people looking for a place of peace for their soul–they are ! Who cares if they become proficient or a great art talent–they will be expressing their soul and that is what is important . I think you are going to be amazed at how many Veterans you will transform their lives and its importance . Go for it ! It is very important to do !

    Joseph Murray
    Wayuga Art

  6. Helen cissie jones April 22, 2018 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Loved sante fe and the conf. And demos and the great “ atmosphere”. In more areas than one. Thank you Eric for my Third conf. God has gifted and Blessed you, nothing by accident. I loved the Loaves and Fishes for the homeless. I helpthe homeless here in Florida, we have many.
    Love the Veterans possible program, I am of that generation. I want to help at our V.A. How does one begin or do I contact Dennis.. I also have a 17 year old wonderful granddaughter living with me who is very interested in volunteering. Where do I start. Thank you again
    I first met you at Old Lyme , Connecticut when the western painters came east. Hope to revisit that. I recently went to Cartersville for a similar event with Matt Smith, Len Chmiel , Ralph Oberg and others at the Booth museum.
    Consider coming East again, I will not go to San Francisco, need more Regional opportunities. May God continue to Bless your Many Endeavors and give you Grace and Vision. I continue to paint when possible. Thank you for Inspiring all of us.i have been a subscriber since the very beginning after you placed a paper on the picnic table that said anyone interested in a magazine on plein air painting.

  7. JoAnn & WM.D. Mullins April 22, 2018 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Eric: It has been stated “Things Don’t Just Happen” “They Happen Just”.
    My husband and– our meeting– was a ‘so called accident’ – NOT-
    Our three children was a so-called accident- NOT-
    We have been in several businesses that were no accident.
    We enjoyed ‘Your Writing” tremendously today.
    We both had ‘chill bumps’ on our arms as we read your message.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing some of your history.
    We look forward to more of your messages.
    JoAnn and William D Mullins

  8. Gina Murrow April 22, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    How can I buy a copy of your book?

  9. Joe Bastida Rodriguez April 22, 2018 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Everything you said is true regarding living a life full of positive accidents. I can only add begin with positive intent to make a difference in people’s lives. Living the lifestyle as an artist is a blessing, but it takes faith n action. Hope to attend next year’s Convention. Wishing you continued success in all your creative endeavors!

  10. Virginia Blackstock April 23, 2018 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Your article is great and fun to read. I look forward to more. I have read 2 of your Plein Air Magazines cover to cover. Beautiful, and amazing how they have helped to explode and spread plein air painting. Montrose Center for the Arts has an Ad for our 2nd Plein Air Festival July 17th to 20th 2018, to paint the wonders of Western Colorado from the San Juan Mountains to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It will be a week long celebration of the arts with Josh Bean Workshop, Frank Francese Demonstration and a Quick DrawTo enhance the Plein Air Festival.

  11. Robyn Niblock April 23, 2018 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Before the Santa Fe convention I received an email asking if I wanted to save on years of beginner frustration.
    It mentioned a class for beginners held at the convention and I had decided to jump at the chance. Then I read the email closer and was saddened because the class was part of the ‘whole ‘ convention. I didn’t have a thousand dollars plus for the convention, but I could have managed the special class for those like me. So years of frustration are all I can afford.
    I hope maybe the next one can have a stand-alone class for newbies…😊
    Thank you…Robyn N.

  12. Debbie Meyer April 23, 2018 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Oh sooooo well said Mr.Eric !!
    Take the leap!! 😏

  13. Kristin Ashman April 25, 2018 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Really enjoyed this! As a creative person (but not artistic…or so I thought) …in the past year, I’ve become a new artist and inspirational blogger! All from leap of faith actions that I felt called to do! Thanks for the inspiration!!
    And if you want to try the Veteran Plein Air Force in Fredericksburg, TX …(as a daughter of a Veteran) I’d be willing to help!

    Find me:
    And on Instagram @foundblessings

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