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.