Your Unintended Influence on Others


If you listen closely, everything has a rhythm. This morning I hear the up-and-down rub of a boat tied to a dock, the lapping of the water, the high-pitched tweeting of distant birds, and the rumble of a float plane flying over, seeking a place to land … all to the same beat.

Minutes ago, I glanced up to see a bald eagle, wings spread wide, claws down, swooping in to catch her fishy breakfast, which was flopping its tail trying to escape.

The distant mountain is mostly covered in shadow cast by the yellow ochre and Payne’s gray clouds above it, showing little spots of brightness where the sun seeps through. The island of pine trees is being blasted with pink morning light as the pines stand tall at attention.

Here at the lake, the dock I greet you from this morning is the center of activity. It’s where neighbors are greeted when they tie up their boats, it’s the first place people walk to when they arrive by car, it’s where we sit for morning coffee and evening cocktails, and it’s where all the kids play. We feel blessed to have one more summer in this special place.

Standing Under Waterfalls

Pondering my week of catching up after a week of painting at the Publisher’s Invitational paint camp, I have to admit it was hard to get back into the rhythm of work after spending those days standing before incredible scenery, climbing over giant rocks, and sitting alongside rushing waterfalls with my brush in hand. I completed 16 paintings for the week, most of which will be headed off to the galleries, though some will be framed in birch bark frames and hang in our little cabin.  

It was also a special time because my son Brady painted beside me the entire week and my other son and daughter helped with setup and registration. One attendee said to Brady, “When you get older, you’ll realize just how special it is to have time with your dad.” I hope he feels this way, I certainly do. I hope it sticks with him for his lifetime. I keep telling the kids that many of the people they are meeting are famous or soon-to-be famous artists, and that one day they may look back and realize what a great opportunity they had. Brady was out painting and joking with everyone, which I loved to see.

I often try to be very deliberate with my kids and the lessons I’m teaching, but there is so much that occurs through their own observation. Though I did not try to be different in any way when around my 83 artist friends last week, it crossed my mind that my interaction with others is unintentional training for my kids.

Yes, Your Thoughts Matter

When I was a kid my dad used to make me put on a suit, go to trade shows, shake hands and greet people, tell them about his products, and he even had me attend meetings. Instead of sending a message of “sit quietly in the meeting,” several times in every meeting he would turn to me and say, “What do you think?” Not only did it make me feel special, it made me pay attention so I did not get busted and have to say, “Uh, Dad I wasn’t listening.” And I learned a lot.

Following in Family Footsteps

The influence of those around us makes such a huge impression that we often pick things up by osmosis, it seems. Why do the daughters and sons of a police officer or firefighter often follow in Mom’s or Dad’s footsteps? First, their parents are their heros. Second, it is what their parents talk about and love. Third, they interact with their parents’ co-workers. When it comes time to make up their minds in their own lives, it’s pretty easy to choose what they know, what they’re comfortable with — as it is for all of us.

Though my brothers and I all had opportunities to follow in our father’s footsteps and go into his business, we all did our own thing, which means we’d been taught to follow our own muse, be curious about things we were interested in, and do what we loved. We all worked full-time in his company every summer, yet we each chose a different path.

No Fear

Dad’s influence trained me to have confidence in business. I probably never had as much fear as most people who have stepped out to start a business because I had been around his meetings and business calls and tough decisions my whole life. I became an entrepreneur like my dad and an artist like my mom. Her influence was equally strong.

Guess Who’s Watching

Last week, when I was with my kids around the other artists, it struck me that my behavior will become their behavior. It’s not what I say, it’s how I act. It’s the way I look someone in the eye when they are talking, the big smile and hugs when I see someone for the first time in a long time. It’s the respect and time I give others, it’s the way I react to a joke or someone saying something inappropriate. These are all signals of who I really am, knowing my kids are watching. Guess where I learned them? Like it or not, our behavior gets passed along, whether it’s good or bad.

Someone Else’s Hero

But it’s not just our own kids who learn from us. Sometimes you and I are someone else’s hero. The ways we behave with others in our jobs are often being picked up and implanted in people we are unknowingly influencing. I was often influenced by or learned from the moms or dads of friends I spent a lot of time with. What about you?

This may not work for you, but my goal in life is to help others see things in themselves that they do not see. I want to help them see their strengths, and if I’m pointing out weaknesses (which is rarely productive), I try to do it with love.

Just like the deliberate lessons for kids, we need to be deliberate about helping others see what they cannot see in themselves.

Why I’m Down on Facebook

Facebook has made me very disappointed in much of the human race because there is so much negativity. So many people will say things in a post that they wouldn’t say to your face.

What if you and I did a little experiment?

What if, instead of piling on with hurtful comments, you and I looked for opportunities to build others up? We may not agree with their stance on issues, but we can still find something good to say. Maybe they are throwing negative darts because no one ever compliments them.

What would be the impact if you, me, and the 100,000 people reading this today said three nice things to other people, in person or online, each day for a week — building up instead of tearing down?

A funny thing happens when someone says something nice. It changes our demeanor. And it feels so good that we sometimes want to pass it on.

Do the math.

Three positive comments a day to three different people: 7 days x 3 positive comments = 21 positive comments in a week. 21 x 100,000 readers = 2.1 million positive comments. That’s just one week.

What if you did it for a whole year? 21 comments x 52 weeks = 1,092 x 100,000 readers = 109 million positive comments.

And if each person reading this forwarded this to just three people who did the same thing, we would impact a group of people as large as the entire population of the United States.

And a little secret: You’ll feel better if you compliment someone sincerely three times every day.

Appreciated, Not Angered

I’m convinced more than ever that Facebook could become the downfall of society, bringing out our worst, not our best. People in our world need to be appreciated instead of angered. If we each found something positive and meaningful to say each day to three people, you and I alone could improve our world because people who feel appreciated are happier people.

I appreciate you.

Have a great Sunday.


Eric Rhoads

PS: Someone reading this has been telling a lot of people about my new book. I want to thank you. Turns out that people who own small businesses and big ones, people in all walks of life who make their living with their businesses, have been reading it and implementing it. Even though the book is about marketing art, the marketing principles apply to every business. I want to thank you for making it soar. I owe you one.


  1. Susan Nicholas Gephart June 24, 2018 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Right on Eric!

    I teach with positive reinforcement, zeroing in on a students accomplishments. I believe this builds confidence for taking risks and learning through discoveries in a safe atmosphere. I would say my parents were a huge influence and that rippled though my teaching ways as a mother to my three children. Today my son Nicholas turns 35. So proud of his accomplishments as well as my two daughters!

    Seeing our children thrive is our greatest accomplishment and master piece!

    Wishing joy to you Eric!

  2. Kimberly Sebrey June 24, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Good morning Eric,
    Once again another great post! I too am not a facebook fan and I don’t have one.. I often get sneered at by people because I don’t have one.. there are way too many negative vibes floating around.. I love your idea of paying it forward in such a simple way!! So heres my 1st one today.. Thanks Eric you do such a fantastic job at all the ways you influence people keep up the great work!1

    Sincerely .. really!
    Kim Sebrey

  3. Jill Stefani Wagner June 24, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Eric, Love this post on EVERY level. Its so easy to get caught up in negativity, whether it comes from inside our out. But its just as easy to focus on the positive, to give positive affirmations to others AND yourself. Its a win-win proposition. I was lucky to be raised by parents, especially my father, who told their three daughters that they could become whatever they dreamed. That wasn’t the common advice for girls in the early 70s, but we believed him. We all followed in his footsteps and became honorable entrepreneurs of successful companies. After that, I fully believed I could become an artist…and I did~
    You are what you think….and also what you pass on to others.

  4. Betty Jean Kennedy June 24, 2018 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for these Sunday Coffee with Eric emails! They are beautifully written and set a positive tone to the day.

    I accept your “challenge” to offer at least three sincere and positive comments to three different people seven days a week. Being on the watch for the opportunity to say something positive and encouraging to others will inspire me to focus on the best in them, not what I see as their “faults”.

    Social media seems to have given people permission to express the worst and crudest comments to others. A major injection of positive and encouraging interaction with others (especially those with whom we disagree!) is certainly needed. And, the added benefit to ourselves is to become a more positive and joyful person!

    Thank you for sharing your love of art and inspiring others through your emails and magazines!

  5. JOHN BUXTON June 24, 2018 at 7:57 am - Reply

    This world is NOT the wonderful world of our youth (and I am a lot older than you ). Truly Morals and Respect for others has flown out the window of time. Even so , our appreciation of this world we inhabit is what we make of it … as you well know.
    We are blessed to be painters of beautiful things .. if we choose to see them. There are many many negatives all around each of us , if we choose to dwell on them. DON’T !!
    The world is still wonderful … believe it. PAINT IT !!
    Let the squeaky wheel squeal . But remember , throwing water on it or ignoring it does not work as well as a tiny bit of oil.

  6. Joanne June 24, 2018 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Thank you Eric for becoming a part of my Sunday morning. I am not currently a plein air painter but have ordered a subscription to Plein Air magazine and have been following what is happening regarding the convention in San Francisco (and the adventures in Santa Fe). Perhaps a new adventure! Thank you for inspiring, encouraging and affirming. Cheers Joanne

  7. Dolores (Dee) Martella June 24, 2018 at 8:12 am - Reply

    I had time this morning to finally read your message….usually we are rushing around getting ready to attend Mass.
    great message..good luck to your Sunday morning chats…can’t promise I will always find to read them!

  8. Sue Shoemaker June 24, 2018 at 8:24 am - Reply

    Thank you Eric! It is the little things that count! I appreciate the encouraging words to be a positive influence. It is too easy to be mean abd hateful in our society. We,need to choose the higher road!

  9. Suk I Lee June 24, 2018 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Good idea! Three complements to three different people each day, Do the math…very powerful. I am going to do it starting today, 6/24/2018, Day 1. One of my church members told me about your weekly writing. Thank you for taking time to write inspirational articles. It must take tremendous time, like a pastor writing a Sermon. Can I count this as one???
    Love your article.


  10. Dorey Schmidt June 24, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Eric, once more you have echoed the thoughts and feelings of this septuagenarian retired interdisciplinary professor! Thank you again for the clarity and universality of your art and human involvement!

  11. Lana Smyer June 24, 2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Thank you for your time that you take to write this column. I enjoy it greatly.

  12. Liz Damelio June 24, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for your insights. No one gives us a life handbook on how to raise our kids or be a good spouse or good neighbor other than what we learn from our folks or through our own spiritual belief etc.. It is hard to know if we are doing the right thing with the ones we love and deal with every day. We can only follow our own moral compass and look how our kids turn out or how others treat us. I do believe as you do that for the most part our example is the most important part of our influence on others. There is a lot of competition for our attention by the media which is designed to create intrigue. Thank you for reminding us of our value to each other in your column!

  13. Joellyn McSorley June 24, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    I love your emails!! They are so inspiring!

  14. JEANCARLO Montjoy June 24, 2018 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    hi Eric it me Jea\carlo your friends I agree with you my father doses not allow me to have friends and when I put some like that like right now I talk from the hart not using my head and when I moved to Florida I used to live in Maryland and I had the opportunity to me people I was quiet type in my teen, when in high school I met a girl by the name violet Manavis I wanted to stay in touch me and her were in a agree but my dad was not. HER MOTHER SAID IT WOULD BE OK AND WHEN I inhere WROTE ME PLEASE UNDERSTAND THEIR DAY WHEN I MISS HER SO MUCH!!1

    for your attention it feel good to talk Eric RHOADS
    I enjoy talk too you

  15. Linda Bumstead June 24, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    I often, give compliments to people everywhere, a drive in order taker, if it merits, I tell them they have a nice speaking voice, or compliment folks on their eyes, smile, laugh, clothing, jewelry, etc. I call them “word bouquets”.

    But a rude person, such a cashier who seemed rather pained that I had a months worth of catfood small cans, rolled her eyes at me….I couldn’t resist, I have some devil in me, I responded by saying, “It’s relly good over noodles.” Boy, her next look, was one of she didn’t know what to think.

    Have a good day! Linda Bumstead

  16. Stephen Burke June 24, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    World Ambassador, Captain! That’s what I’m talking about.

    I miss you, already, my fellow artists, and the fly fishing.

    Best regards,


  17. Kim Minichiello June 24, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    I appreciate you! Thank you for all you do for the art community!

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  19. Pat Gauthier June 25, 2018 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I really enjoyed your Sunday morning post. I’m taking it to heart and going to be more positive towards others. Sometimes I can be negative without realizing it. I had a good day yesterday I sold four paintings. Actually it was a good month 6 paintings have left to be in new homes. All of these people said to me they really loved my work and that made me feel appreciated and confidant, sometimes when I haven’t sold anything for awhile it raises it’s ugly doubtful head that I’m not going in the right direction. Anyway I want you to have a really great day.

  20. GALLAND FRAGAL Francoise June 25, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Love your way of thinking Eric! and you sure are right! I use to think and act like you back in the States? Here it’s different, they like sad reminders, such as wars, and sad things? Besides here, more money problems, less opportunities?
    In US I find people pushing up up, helping you? so great! Here they grab you down!
    I really enjoyed living and goind on a Campus, as I always say, those are my best souvenirs, with people I met.
    My daughter, son in law, and grant son are working and living in PA., and I am very happy for their future life.

    Thank you for your uncouragements Eric, take care. Love for every one of you!

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  24. Marie Jenkins June 26, 2018 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    I love your positive attitude and that you share it. Too many people don’t understand how it can build their lives..

  25. Virginia Blackstockn June 27, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Bravo. I very much appreciate you, and all you have to say in this and other letters. We need more vocal Erics in our world.
    Thank you for this solid, great read.
    Have a good day, Virginia

    Live Simply, Love Generously, Care Deeply, Speak Kindly
    Leave the rest to God.

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  28. Susan Johnson July 1, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I agree with you Eric. Facebook can be an horribly negative place; I often ‘unfollow’ folks because some remarks are such anchors in life. I remain on Facebook in order to work with a charitable organization as this is their only platform (Awesome Breastforms, check it out…they are truly awesome). I have become a member of several watercolor groups also on Facebook whose rules include no negative, political, or hateful remarks and I find much beauty there. What you put out into the world is what you become. Thank you for reminding us that others are paying attention. Gandhi said it best: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

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