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2020 Vision
By Eric Rhoads
We are living in interesting times, and each of us has experienced something that is a part of history, a time future generations will look back to through our eyes. Though I knew most of my great-grandparents, I don’t have too many memories of their stories. But grandparents offered many a tale, family lore, tales of struggles and interesting times.

The Great War

I can remember my Grandfather Walter telling stories about World War One. Not so much stories of war, but life in the army. I can remember sitting at the little yellow 1950s breakfast table in the kitchen of my grandparents’ Webster Street house as he told me I needed to learn to eat faster. “In the military, they gave us only about five minutes to eat, and if you don’t eat fast, you won’t get enough, and you won’t know when the next meal is coming.” Yes, he converted me to a fast eater because I was too poky.

Al Capone Days

My other grandfather used to tell tales of living in a boarding house in Chicago during the Al Capone days. I seem to remember him saying that Chicago at the time was like the Wild West, with people getting gunned down by mobsters in broad daylight. I don’t know if he saw it or read about it, but it sticks with me.

Dot Com

Today we hear stories of the “dot com era” of the Silicon Valley boom, when money was being thrown at companies and speed was needed to go public. Billions were made, and legends were created. I remember being so excited about it that I wanted to be part of it.

A Big Win

Knowing nothing about raising money, I got on the phone with an old elementary school friend I had reconnected with as a result of a reunion. He was a venture capital guy in the middle of Silicon Valley and had been involved in some legendary companies. I told him I had an idea and had no idea how to get it funded. That call turned into a conference call, a quick flight out for an in-person meeting, and then multiple flights. The end result was that my idea was funded, we moved to San Francisco, and we were in the middle of a historic time. I met with people who became legends or funded legendary companies, including the founders of Google as it was just getting started, Napster, before it was ever funded, and others. I’m sure I could bend your ear about those interesting times if you were ever to ask, and maybe one day I’ll be blessed with some curious grandchildren to listen.

Stories for the Future

Imagine being alive to tell your grandkids about a special time in America where you experienced something like the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, or more recently the Vietnam War or the Iraq War.

Living History

We are living in one of those times now. Our lives will go down in history. We have spent most of 2020 in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. From it we’ve learned about ourselves, our families, our government, and what people are willing or unwilling to tolerate. We’ve learned about fear, about anger, and we’ve experienced a change in our culture. We’ve seen things in our streets we could never have imagined, we’ve watched our lives change, and we’ve gained or lost trust in others. As a result of 2020, we will never be the same. And, I suspect, one day some curious grandchildren will hear the stories of 2020 from us.

I could cling to the stories of my grandparents for hours, but what was sometimes missing were the lessons they learned. Maybe they shared them and I missed it.

Topsy Turvy

Here we are, having lived through 2020. We’ve had our world turned upside down. We’ve discovered that some we trusted cannot be trusted. We’ve learned that others we never suspected were capable of it would become patriots or heroes. We’re wondering who to believe about matters impacting our way of life. We’re hearing contradictory messages about science from equally credible people who disagree. Everything has been turned upside down.

There are millions of stories. Some will be stories of disruption and destruction, others of lost family, others of lost businesses. We’ll hear stories of wild and unexpected success along with stories of devastation.

This week before we enter a new year, perhaps a new era, we’ll write our stories about 2020.

If you were to write your 2020 story, what would you say?

How will you say 2020 treated you?

What lessons have you learned that you can share with your future offspring?

I’d like to think that in 2021, we’ll get beyond 2020, see the sunshine of success again, and soon it will seem like a blur.

Though I suspect, just like the Great Depression affected the behavior of an entire generation, we will think differently forever as a result of this year.

How will you think differently?

What will you DO differently?

I look at restaurants that have been around for decades going out of business. The great 21 Club in New York, which brought me lots of lifetime memories with friends, is going away forever. What could they have done differently? Maybe nothing, because the restaurants were forced to shut down.

Rethinking Everything

You have to believe it will make people rethink leases on buildings, and wonder if the next business won’t require a building. It will make people rethink savings. A steady cash flow that continued week to week for decades wasn’t enough to keep some in business, because they had not saved enough to sustain them through something unexpected.

I’m wondering how many will want to work from home forever, who will no longer be out in the community. How many will never live in a city again due to the fears of experiences like civil unrest and basic supplies being unavailable?

How to Get My Attention

Though I don’t want to make light of tragedy … tragedy was the only thing that got my attention enough to fast-track things I’ve talked about for years but never done. I don’t think I realized just how vulnerable my income was, and had I not made some fast, radical decisions, I’m not sure I’d be able to write about it today.

That’s why it's important for all of us to look at the lessons.

Though many things were out of our control, what could we control?
What could we do differently?
How could we have been more prepared?

This pandemic wounded many, destroyed many businesses, but at the end of the day, if we ponder the lessons, we’ll all be stronger for the unexpected next time.

Yes, we’re living in interesting times, and there will be stories to share and lessons to learn. What will you take away from this tough year that will make you stronger and better?

Eric Rhoads, Publisher
PS: When this thing first hit, I could not believe it. Cancellations to our events started pouring in like fish biting the line the second we put it in the water. Thankfully, we never spend money we have not earned, so though we were afraid, we were able to make the refunds. Everything in our business got hit, and we had to call an emergency meeting and make some cuts in salaries and people. It was painful. We hoped it would end and we would not have to cut deeper. But it did not end.

Thankfully, the team spirit kicked in and we innovated some survival ideas that turned out to save us. Though our business would not be as good by the end of the year, we managed to survive. We were saved by our virtual conferences.

Now, as we enter 2021, we still don’t have answers about our live in-person events, and so we continue to innovate. This January we have Watercolor Live, a virtual conference offering teaching from the world’s best watercolor painters. So far registrations are strong, so this, and some other innovative new ideas, might carry us through 2021.

More than ever, this has made me get on my knees and say prayers of thanks for the friends and customers we’ve made who have stepped up to help us through this. I’m very grateful for you, and I hope we’ll continue to live up to your expectations so you’ll continue to support us through this.

But we want to support others as well. To the extent you can, buy some art, buy some courses, buy some of the training artists and galleries are offering. We need them to survive. And, though I care about all businesses, including those big ones that provide local jobs, give your support to locally owned businesses that you want to see survive. Dine in or take out, but if we don’t step up and help them, they won’t be here in the future. We need them, but first, they need us. Leave a little extra tip if you can, order a little more for lunch the following day. Every little bit will help.

Though Amazon got lots of my gift money this year, where possible, I tried to support the local businesses so I could see products in person. I think I paid $30 more for a gift than it cost on Amazon, but it was worth it to help the local business. I hope you’ll do the same.

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Who Is This Guy Eric Rhoads?
Eric is the founder and publisher of PleinAir magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine (both on newsstands nationally), author and host six of Art Marketing instructional videos and has a blog on Art Marketing, and is author of the Amazon best seller Make More Money Selling Your Art. He produces newsletters American Watercolor, Fine Art Today, Plein Air Today and RealismToday, Creator of; The Plein Air Convention, The Plein Air Salon $30,000 Art Competition, The Figurative Art Convention & Expo, Plein Air Live, Realism Live and Watercolor Live Virtual art conferences. Art instruction video with Streamline Art Video, Liliedahl Art Video, Creative Catalyst Art Productions, and Paint Tube.TV (art instruction on Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV) and host of several painting retreats: Fall Color Week, Paint Adirondacks and PaintRussia, plus an annual collector Fine Art Trip, Rhoads hosts a daily art broadcast on Youtube and Facebook (search Streamline Art Video). He is a plein air , landscape and portrait painter with works at Castle Gallery. He is also heavily involved in the radio industry as founder of Radio Ink, as well as Radio and Television Business Report, the Radio Ink Forecast Conference, Podcast Business Journal, and the Radio Ink Hispanic Radio Conference. He is the author of a best-selling book on the History of radio; Blast From the Past: A Pictorial History of Radio's First 75 Years. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his bride Laurie and they are the parents of triplets. Learn more at or see Everything We Do.

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331 SE Mizner Blvd.
Boca Raton, FL 33432
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