Enjoy this third of a four-episode series on reinvention. Peter McGraw and guest co-host Lily Rains talk to Rolonda Watts, a reinventionist (a term she invented). Rolonda’s approach to reinvention focuses on pursuing the positive – and asks to follow your dreams. If you are looking for a wake-up call, this episode is it.
Listen to Episode #59 here:
Rolonda The Reinventionist
If you’re looking for a wake-up call, this episode is it. To be honest, I don’t think I can do a good job summarizing this extremely fun conversation. I’m so energized by my guest, Rolonda Watts and guest co-host Lily Rains. Rolonda lives a good life as a single for now and as a reinventionist, a term she invented, hence why she’s the third guest in a four-episode series on Reinvention. Rolonda’s approach to reinvention focuses on the positive and an ask to follow your dreams. I think you’ll enjoy how she and Lily hit it off. Frankly, once we get going, they don’t need me. I hope you enjoy the episode. I certainly did. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Rolonda Watts. She is an author, comedian, voice actor, talk show host and host of the podcast Rolonda On Demand. Most relevant now, she is a reinventionist and the creator of Rolonda’s Reinvention Retreat – Come Grow with Ro!. Rolonda, we’re joined by our return guest co-host, Lily Rains. She is our reigning F-bomb co-host champion which is something that we were talking about beforehand. Lily is a storyteller, arts educator, crafter of needlework, and maker of homemade ice cream. Though solo, Lily loves to be part of an ensemble with a shared goal, be it on a softball field, in an escape room, getting a play movie or TV show made. There’s a rumor that she’s been working on some voiceover work. This is Lily’s third appearance in Solo, magic number three. Welcome, Lily.
It’s so good to be here.
These two are already fast friends. They were already bonding.
We lucked out because Rolonda’s friends apparently with everybody including the guy in your business center.
There was a guy trying to print something in the business center and overheard me talking and he goes, “I don’t mean to be eavesdropping.”
It started as Peter so respectfully asking this guy like, “After you print your thing, would you mind ever so softly closing that door behind you?” He was like, “I don’t mean to be eavesdropping but.” Do you want to hear some synchronicity?
Tell us a little.
I buy my neighbor’s old twenty-year-old RAV4. I love this car. It’s my most favorite car I’ve ever owned in my entire life. I’ve driven her across the country a couple of times and I named it after the mom Ro and then I was offered an opportunity to do a radio play. I was like, “Do I do it? Do I not do it?” It’s because I would have to drive back out to LA and it turns out the timing worked out perfectly and the character’s name is Ro.
This is called synchronicity. There are no mistakes in life. The Law of Attraction, all of that.
That’s my goal in life. To live one magical day, strung together by more yeses, lead to yeses and lead to synchronicity. It’s all of it.
A string of yeses and a string of Ros. You’re living a good life, Lily.
I’m going to interrupt this love fest for a moment to get this show going. This the third installment of a mini-series on Reinvention. As you can tell from Ro’s bio, she is an ideal guest to bring this home as our third expert. I want to step back for a second. I had been working on this model. I would call it a new narrative for single people. I’m using the three Rs and these are my Rs so people can disagree with me about them. The first one is to recognize our domestication. That is to recognize that the world wants us to behave in a particular way. It’s going to give us norms and rules, reinforce some behaviors and punish other behaviors. One of the things that the world wants us to do is to couple up forever.
I believe that that is over-prescribed. Some people are meant to be coupled up and other people not, or only be coupled up for a little while in their life and not for all of their life. We are here to celebrate being single for now or forever. That brings us to the second R, an act of rebellion. A rebellion against those norms and rules, to deviate, be unconventional, atypical, and step away from those. We have three people on this podcast who are doing that.
The last R is when you are recognizing your domestication or rebelling against it. It affords you opportunities to behave in ways that are good for you that allow you to live the best life you can but this requires an act of reinvention to change your life in whatever way you deem is important in order to live that good life. As I like to say, being single affords you time, energy and resources that you might normally be putting into that forever type relationship. I have been looking for inspiration for the audience and then looking for ways to think about reinvention. With that, I’m going to ask you, Ro, how did you become a reinventionist? Did you invent that term?
I did invent that term and trademarked it. I felt that it was a word that explained who I am. Back in the day when people, especially women, we’re supposed to be in a box. I was dreaming outside of being a news reporter, journalist, or producer back in my news days. I even had dreams of going to Hollywood and doing the acting. People thought I was crazy. They were like, “You’re unfocused. You’re schizophrenic. Something is wrong with you.” I’m like, “No. God gave me a lot of gifts and my gift back to God is to use them correctly.” That didn’t make a lot of sense yet, I saw people who were so unhappy where they were. Whether it was in a relationship, job, or themselves, change was something that they desperately needed to embrace to have a fulfilled and happy life, but nobody was inspiring them to do that.
They would look at me and go, “Ro, everything you do, you love.” I said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to be happy on this earth.” That means change. You have to embrace change whether it’s in yourself because either you change or the world’s going to change for you and you’re going to have to. I started Rolonda’s Reinvention Retreat to talk about facing change, embracing it, facing the fear and doing it anyway. How do we deal with worry, doubt, fear and that type of thing? People were like, “I’m into this but I don’t quite get the reinvention thing.”
Skip to COVID. Everybody understands what reinvention is. Everybody came running to my retreat, “Can you help me?” I think this is a beautiful time. It’s something I’ve always embraced because quite honestly, I get bored very easily. I can’t imagine having a job for 34 years and getting the gold watch. That has never been part of my plan. I want to be an actor, I want to write, report news and interview people. These are all of my great skills. It would be a travesty for me not to tap into my capabilities, abilities, desires, greatest loves and give that back to the world. We have so much within us.
There’s that old saying, “If you don’t go within, you go without.” This reinvention thing or life thing is an inside job. It’s about finding your happy spot, greatest gifts and tapping into who you were as a kid. That’s where we find a lot of our clues. People get so stymied and so stuck by what the neighbor is going to say, what my mom is going to say. My father told me I should always be a salesman. How can I possibly be a painter?
This is part of that domestication.
I want to pause for an applause.
Thank you, Lily.
I want that to be my alarm clock. I want to wake up to hear you say that.
If you think about it, let me be your alarm clock. Let me come here and wake you up because most of us are walking around in a stupor in an unhappy funk. It’s about reinventing some part of your life. I spoke with somebody on my podcast who is a famous journalist who is turned veganist. Talk about reinvention but under COVID, people are talking about their health. How can I be more immune? What can I do to be better prepared for the next health crisis? Reinvention happens in your eating and your health. It happens in raising your children, how we are hiring people in our offices and how we’re looking at people who don’t look like us.
Reinvention is how we look at how the law should treat us, how our government should treat us. This is a time of the most massive reinvention I have ever thought I would ever experience. I’ve been around a while and I’ve seen a lot but I think I’m beginning. Think about how new and fresh the world is going to be once people embrace change. It’s not what happens to us, it’s the labels, pictures and stories we give the things that happen to us that tell what quality of life we’re going to have. We live everything in our stories. If you don’t make those delicious, good stories then you’re going to live nightmares all your life. Nobody wants to do that.
That’s part of this reason for giving singles a different narrative, a different way to think of the world than the one that’s being placed in their laps. You said that all of these things are hurting. I want to talk about that and this. One of the things is this idea of the polymath or generalist, the person who dabbles a lot, who has hobbies and businesses. I have this saying which is, “I want to do it all.” I feel sometimes a little rushed because I’m like, “I got to get this in. I only have X more years on the planet. I want to do it all.” In a world that in some ways a reward specialization, when it may come to a business and economic success, but the world rewards generalization when it comes to a breadth of experience, gaining new skills and learning about the world. This requires the starting and stopping process.
I don’t like generalities. I love being a specific item on the list of things in life. I love being the reinventionist. I love being Rolonda by one name. I love being specific. I don’t like the generalization. General is you go to your job 9:00 to 5:00, you do what your mother told you to do, you come home, eat your dinner, go to bed, kiss the kid if you’re lucky, go to sleep, get up and do it all over again. Why don’t we add a little more jazz to life?
When I thought of a generalist, I thought of you have this toolbox versus the one person who walks around with a hammer and everything looks like a nail. For example, you’ve done standup comedy. I’ve seen you performing on video and so on. It’s like, “You can turn the dial-up on the comedy when you need to.” My guess is at times you can turn the dial up on being more of a therapist or a coach when you need to.
Peter, you bring up an excellent example of where reinvention helps. We all have a story. Where were you when the bomb came down at COVID-19? I was moving from LA to New York. I had shipped all of my stuff to New York. I was here to sell my house and get out of here on March 28, 2020. I’ve been here since March 13, 2020. I was on my way to do a comedy tour. We were going to kick it off. On April 20, 2020, we’re going to do a Cannabis Comedy Tour. I was going to do a big performance at the Gotham. My comedy career was kicking off. That was one of my reinventions and then COVID went up. I had to reinvent again. I looked at a friend of mine and I said, “I’ve reinvented myself twenty times. I got to do it again.” She said, “That’s life.”
I started thinking, “What can I give?” I can’t leave. I’m at an age where I have done so much. I’ve met so many people and I’ve learned so much. It’s my time to give back. How can I be of service? How can I use my gifts that I enjoy of service? I started Rolonda’s Reinvention Retreat. I started my voice acting masterclass because I had a lot of people in my reinvention retreat saying, “I don’t need to figure out what I want to do. I’ve always dreamed of doing the voice acting that you’re doing.” My reinventionist insisted I start a masterclass. I’ve never taught a class in my life. I’ve got students who have already got animation auditions and audiobook auditions.
They are their demo reels. I’m looking at people who have turned their lives around because of doing something they love to do. Being in loving, trust and care, I hope under my class, they’re well on their way. Who knew? I never dreamed I would be doing that but because the universe put it there for me to do it, it created another avenue but I was open to reinvention. If you open your mind and you ask for help, this sounds real woo-woo, but I believe that if you ask the universe to show you the way. I do a lot of meditation and quieting my mind because my world is so crazy. I’m running my mouth half the time, I need to learn to be quiet and listen to a little bit.
We’re all podcasters, speakers and teachers. There are times where we have to get more information from the universe so that we can serve better. This is a time where you try it. Do that thing you’ve always dreamed of. I was listening to Bob Proctor and he brought up a great example. He says, “People aren’t thinking as they should. People need to think more and they need to dream more. Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’ He didn’t say I have a plan or strategy. I have a book to keep. Start with your dream.”
One of the saddest things that happen is we get so bogged down by what we believe are the realities of life that we forget what is real in life. That is the day-to-day, staying positive, being grateful, not understanding that you don’t have control over everything, but you’ve got control over your gifts and what you can do with your art and skills. We’re at a time where we’re going to have to count on ourselves more than the outside forces. Everything you’re going to find is an inside job. It’s in you waiting for you to notice it.
With that, I have to say the benefit of being older is that you now have the years to reflect back upon and understand why you said yes to that job at the X-ray center, pulling coffee, why you met those people or went to that dinner party. All the things that the 25-year-olds who are thinking that they know everything coming out of college or getting whatever job that they might be fighting for, they think that security is exactly what they want because their lives have been in flux and then cut to fifteen years later, they’re like, “Oh shit.”
The wisdom that you’re sharing and the gratitude that is exuding off of you for having that experience, that comes with age and more experience. Where were you when this happened? Do you remember the 100 Years War that we had in the Middle East, the 100 Hours War that we had? Do you remember the Cold War? Do you remember where you were during 9/11? Do you remember where you were when they shut down the country because of COVID? These are events that we can now share with the other people who were alive at that time. Those are markers for us to then reflect back to, “I was too young, I was a kid, or I was in the middle of my career and the entire building came down.”
When I talked to my reinventionist who are your age, Lily, I remind them of their jaw dropped to their chest. I say, “When I started in the news business, I was an anchorwoman and investigative news reporter in New York City for many years on ABC, NBC, Inside Edition. There were three networks, ABC, NBC, CBS. That was it. There was no MTV, Hulu, Doodly Doo and Fox.” Fox and Lifetime were these little piddly stations coming up.
If you had to change the channel, you had to get up off the couch, walk across the room and turn the dial.
I remember when you had to wait until the TV heated up for ten minutes and when the TV went off at 12:00 MN and hash would come on after they played the National Anthem. Lily, when young people like you come along and say, “I don’t know how I’m going to make it.” I sit back and say, “Don’t even waste time with me like that,” because you have the internet. There’s so much available. I tell people my age, that too, who are stuck in that, “I can’t deal with this technology.” “Get on YouTube and learn the technology. Get Lily over to your house every Saturday and pay her to teach you something, old lady. Get in the game.”
I like this idea of if you’re not happy with your life, change it. I have to ask this because one thing that I know is the change is difficult for a variety of reasons. The most prominent reason is something called the status quo bias. It’s fueled by what we call loss aversion or the negativity bias. When someone contemplates a change to start a new career, leave a relationship, get in shape, move to a new city, or travel the world, that means that that person has some good things that are going to come of it but there’s going to be some bad things that come of it because change is difficult.
Psychologically, for the average person, losses loom larger than gains. That is the negative things loom larger on our emotions, psyche, and thoughts than gains do. That leads us to have to work extra hard to make a change. That’s the first thing. The second one is no one ever teaches us how to make a change. The first thing is you have to overcome your natural bias to keep things the way they are. The second one is you need to figure out how you’re going to make this change because every change and reinvention requires different skills. I want to hear from you, Ro, if there’s something universal about it.
There are those who stand by the fact that we are the only species on Earth that don’t have a natural habitat. If you look at all the animals, the eagle, squirrel, fox or coyote, everything’s got a natural habitat. They blend right in. They do the stuff. The beaver does the dim. The bear does the cave. We are the only species on earth that has the blessing, gift, ability and challenge to create our own environment. I say challenge, not burden or problems. We are the ones that can create our own world.
We have the masterminds to articulate the world we want to live in. Few people take the time to hear what they desire in life. When they say, “I want this,” they usually say it by, “I hate this. I hate my job. I don’t like this. I hate my wife and kids.” That’s not how you move to the next place. Focusing on what your dream world would like, “I would love to have kids who did well in school and I’m going to do everything I can to support them. I would love to have a wife who paid attention to me every once in a while.”
You’re putting in the universe what you want, instead of bringing all the negativity that you’ve already got compounded upon you. You must reinvent the way you speak to yourself. You must reinvent your language and your word choices. I don’t let my reinvention to say the word problem. That’s the word that’s not allowed in my Reinvention Retreat. It is called a challenge. When you say, “I got a problem.” Feel how that feels to you and then say, “I got a challenge today.” That brings out that spirit in you. You got to get your fighter spirit back on.
I am so not a sports person at all but I was so touched by Kobe Bryant and the legacy that he left, even for those of us who don’t understand one thing about bouncing a ball or putting it in a rope. He talked about the Mamba mentality, “Getting that ball in that hoop, no matter what.” I talked to some of the basketball players from the Women of Troy. We talked about pivoting in life. That’s what they do to win the game. How can we pivot and win the game? What is that mindset? This is a time and I embrace it myself.
I’m totally transparent about talking here to work on yourself during this time. People are like, “Let me work on what’s my next job.” Work on yourself, you’ll figure the rest out. From Wednesday to Friday, I bet you, you have nothing to do. Go pick up Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, go read a little of Les Brown, or listen to a few of Tony Robbins’ speeches. Listen to some more of the podcasts that Peter and Lily have done here that are so resoundingly positive and embracing change. Ask yourself the questions. If I could have my life perfectly, what would it look like?
Dr. Maya Angelou was my auntie, not by blood, but a very close friend. Every Thanksgiving, we spend at her house, the holidays, the whole bit. I remember I used to say, there were times I was going through it in my different careers. I love being a reinventionist, entrepreneur, and artist. Let’s face it. You have good stretches and you have bad stretches. Gary Vaynerchuk, who I love, the cyber guru says in his words, “Entrepreneurialism sucks because you have your good days and your bad days.”
Here’s the thing. It’s not the end goal that is the key. It’s the process. Lily, as you talk about me being a woman of a certain age, I have learned that it’s not the end goal because when you get the end goal, you’re going to be looking for the next thing that’s going to take you through years. It’s the process. What are you learning about yourself when you hit that time when that person said no to your script? What’d you learn about yourself? What’d you decide to do? Fold up, go home, throw it in a drawer, say screw him, and go on about your business or did you say, “Here we go. I’m rolling up my sleeves. Did you put on your pirate?” You put on your pirate no matter what.
I love everything that you’re saying. I want to say that when I mentioned the gratitude of age and the years, that is we’re all in the same ship or at least in the same sea pirating our lives. In fact, I moved in the middle of COVID and have completely taken an uproot from my hometown. I have pirated my life. That is how I’ve been calling it for the last handful of months.
Is that right? You’ve been saying that.
That mindset, Lily, is the difference between being shipwrecked, lost at sea, or marooned. You claimed “land ho.”
I said, “I’m going to go meet some new mermaids on another coast.”
You’ve got your Treasure Island.
Everyone is like, “Do you know where you’re going?” I was like, “No, but I got my parrot on my shoulder. I’ve got my gut, my knowledge and all my maps in my brain. I’m going to fucking go in my Ro.”
I did a production speak. A bunch of Broadway producers and actors in Broadway did this whole audio called an Immersive Audio Experience 3D experience. These are people who have reinvented their talents from Broadway. They miss you, audience. They don’t have the big overtures and all of the things that Broadway gives us. They put it into audio. A group called Resounding, they did Dracula and we did Treasure Island. I pried pit the pirate. I play three different pirates. Men talk about reinventing yourself as an actor, I can play but so much at this age. As a voice actor, I can play everything from a sponge, screwdriver, pirate, and mat. It’s finding new ways that you can exude. Lily, I’m grabbing you to my voice acting class.
I’m enjoying this. As someone who tends to over-talk on his own podcasts, this is a welcome respite for my audience. Rolonda, what do we expect from Reinvention Retreat? I’m already getting a glimpse at it. One is I can see the motivation and inspiration. I’m pumped up with your positivity. I like the term unapologetic. I like that about clearly how you live your life. I can see how that’s beneficial to the folks who do your retreats. The other thing that I see is there’s a focus on positivity. You are pursuing dreams, not avoiding nightmares.
This focus on using the right language. You’re using positive language rather than negative language. We’ve got this idea of motivation, inspiration and positivity. What else do you do? What else does someone get from this retreat besides getting pumped up? You’re not a motivational speaker. You have the tools that you have. What are some of the things, for the audience, who is totally pumped up who’s starting to talk like a pirate and they want to plan their first international trip? They want to pursue the life that they were meant to lead. What are the initial steps?
The first thing you do is go to Rolonda.com and save your seat for Rolonda’s Retreat. It’s a free webinar. When you give me your email, I can send it out when I’m about to go live. We do a whole live thing. I have a great group of folks, a lot of repeat attenders. I call them my RRAT, Rolonda’s Repeat Attender Team. I did my talk show in New York and I said, “It’s the only time in New York you want to be called RRAT.” People keep coming back. That’s the initial thing. It’s free, and community building thing, we’ll pick a subject, we’ll talk about it for an hour and a half, and ask questions.
A lot of my students will have an idea, a book that they’re thinking about, or a podcast that’s haunting them and they don’t know where to begin. They don’t know where to start. We have a workshop group that we do. I only take about 10 to 12 students so that we can focus on each of their dreams, desires, and exchange ideas. Much like a thought leadership group or a community group to help each other. There are some people who know exactly what they want to do whether it’s to start a new community and social media.
I had a young person who was binary and wanted to start having a voice in the community. We got her set up in social media, started building her community, and talking a lot about the courage that it takes to make this change. I’ve helped a young woman who had sewing skills, had never done anything but needed some extra change. I said, “What is your passion?” She said, “I love my grandchildren.” The next thing we knew, we started a baby bib company for her online. She wanted to do hats and clothes. I said, “No. Let’s start it simple at first.”
A lot of times, having somebody to talk with, to bounce ideas with, we’re so isolated. I know enough people in this business of broadcasting and entertainment to know who to call for you. If I don’t know, I’ll find out but for the most part, it’s the people who need somebody to not judge them. A lot of people won’t even say, “I want to start a class online.” People will go, “Why are you wasting your time online?” They don’t want to hear all that. This is what I say to my reinventionist, “Whatever you do, do not be the world’s best-kept secret.” You drive by graveyards. Peter, I’m sitting out there going like, “Look at all the inventions that are there in the ground. Look at all the books that never got written or the poetry that never got sewn.”
There is a saying, “Don’t die with the music inside you.”
When I wrote my novel Destiny Lingers and Dr. Maya Angelou read it, she eventually endorsed it. I wasn’t sure I was scared. I didn’t know if I could write but here I am, I’m a writer for God’s sake. I studied English and journalism at Spelman in Columbia, but still, I had the doubts and the little devil in your ear. She said, “Don’t you let the story die inside of you.” That blew me away. I sat down at the computer and I wrote that because she haunted me. Sometimes, it takes a little mastery. Do you know how mamas and aunties do? They make you feel guilty if you don’t get to work.
What a beautiful balance between you have to go within in order to create anything to identify who you are but you also need to be in community.
What we’re creating is a safe space where people who quite honestly didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about come running in saying, “You’re here too. We’re all in this together. We might’ve come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.” We make it happen. It’s a joy that the universe, God, or whatever gave me an opportunity to be able to inspire, teach people, and help them along the way, asking the right questions, and making sure you have accountability. When I talk about retreat, I break down the letters as an acronym. We say R stands for recreation. If you look at that word in a different way, it’s recreation.
It should be fun. E is Enthusiasm. I love the word enthusiasm because the root is Theos, God. When you were enthusiastic about something, that’s going to happen. If there’s something you can’t stop thinking about, it’s already done. Get with it. It’s waiting for you. God believes in matching grants. Meet him 50/50. He gave 50 to you, what are you going to do? You got to do the work. That’s the other thing.
People dream and forget they got to do the work. This is a 50/50 deal. What steps are you putting into place toward your dream? What are the six things you’re going to make a list of that you’re going to wake up in the morning and do? What you don’t get on that list, you put it for the next day. Is it going toward your goal and dream? Go shopping at Target is not helping you become the voice actor you want to be.
As I like to say, “You want to create more than you consume.” Going to Target is an act of consumption. It’s not an act of creation. If you can forego that trip instead of write, paint or make.
Unless it’s a focus trip with a list, that’s going to give you the tools that you need to get your shit done.
If you’re going to go get a hammer and a screwdriver in that toolbox that Peter was talking about, then that’s one thing.
What does E stand for?
There’s R for Recreation, E for Enthusiasm, T is for Testimony. Your story is everything. I have so many people who come to me telling a story of what the fire they ran out of but that’s your testimony. When you become great and successful, you’re going to tell about that time. Do you know why I became a voice actor? I’m Professor Wiseman on Curious George. I do LEGO’S, Madagascar, Judge Joe Brown, Divorce Court, Wells Fargo, McDonald’s and everything. It was because I had given up my talk show. I moved to Hollywood to be an actor. It was something I’d always dreamed of doing since I was a kid, but there weren’t opportunities for little black girls in the ‘70s coming out of college.
I fell in love with journalism and took that route. I reinvented myself. After I did my talk show, magazine news, anchoring and report in the news in New York City, I finished my talk show and I said, “I finally am free. I’m not hung up by a contract. I don’t have anything tying me down like a lot of people don’t. I’m going to Hollywood. I’m going to take a chance.” If you don’t risk in life, you don’t live. I’m not going to be 100,000 years old sitting on a porch going, “I could have, would have, should have.” I could’ve been a contender if I’d only tried. Don’t let any sentence in your life start off I should have.
One thing about living in Los Angeles that I love and some people find it annoying but I find it uplifting is it’s a City Of Dreamers. People come to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams. They may not be successful and most of them aren’t. It’s a tough business. Nevertheless, those people will not sit on their porch in their later years going, “I could have, would have, should have,” because they tried it. There’s going to be no regrets on that side.
There are ambition and hustle in LA and New York. I moved to the Twin Cities here in Minneapolis during COVID, but there is a different pace, pulse and hustle.
Let me tell you something. As much as the pulse and hustle in New York and LA are what they are, they’re not that way anymore. Everybody’s got the same trotting life.
I will say that the people in my community in both LA and New York, they are far more active. Granted I don’t have the years of friendships for this new locale but when I ask people like, “What are other people doing right now?” They’re like, “Everyone has a career. They didn’t rebel. They stuck out with the thing that they’re practical.” The practical and the following along is not as prominent in those bigger cities although I will say that it is a trap because there is a rat race. You’re on a track on a larger turntable. There is a bit of, “I’m a producer so I’m doing this,” and, “I’m an actor so I’m doing that.” “I’m a director so I’m doing this.” You still have to buck against that system. The rebelling happens wherever your record is.
In business, they call it being a disruptor. It’s being rebellious but to disrupt something, who’s to say, me, as a little black girl, from Winston-Salem North Carolina can’t be all of these things? Back in 1959 when I was born, nobody expected me to be an anchorwoman on WABC-TV. No one expected me to anchor the news and be a senior corresponded on Inside Edition. Nobody expected me to own seven houses. I disrupted everything that was expected of me and I will continue to do that.
I want to ask about that. All three of us have a little bit of that. We’re living a life we weren’t supposed to live. I reflect on how I should be managing an enterprise rent-a-car. If you plugged all the things in my life as a young man into an algorithm, it would have spit out. I would do it well. It’s not that I’d be bad at. I will good and instead, I’ve live this magical life. It has its challenges but most of the challenges are homegrown. I create my own along the way.
Peter, you’re so engaged in life. I’ve been following you before you asked me to do this show. I’ve been listening to some of your stuff and following you in some social media places, but you are so engaged and curious about life. It’s almost like you gulp it up. That has a lot to do with the stuff that drives you. Nobody can tell you to sit out and be quiet in the corner if they tried.
For both of you, Lily and Ro, what was it like? Why is it that you were able to break out? Why was it that you were able to hit the third R that we’re talking about?
It takes a lot of chutzpah, bravery and courage. Dr. Maya Angelou says courage is the greatest of all virtues because without courage, you can’t exude or exhibit any other virtue with consistency. You can’t be kind and love with consistency. I think it’s consistency, showing up and doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s accountability. That’s the A in my retreat. The other E is Enthusiasm and Execution because nothing happens without massive action. The last T is for Triumph and test and your final testimony. A triumph is a great thing.
I come across as confident and I’m okay with that, but I’ve always defined myself more as curious and courageous. With my stories, the stories that have happened to me because of me regardless of whether or not I wanted them to, I had natural anger and a natural sense of right and wrong. I’ve had some shitty things happen from early ages that set me into a space of like, as though I were not outside my body but outside the system that was okay with letting shit go and called it out. I was like, “I’m sorry, what?” Even being that person who called it out was enough to set me on a completely different course.
Even something as simple as, “I had long blonde hair that was past my tush when I was two years old.” I’m a little ballerina. I ran away from the preschool to go dance in the local ballet studio that was next door. Everybody wanted me to be a little cute blonde girl who was quiet and a dancer. My mouth was like, “Fucking hell.” Right out of college, I moved to Chicago and I’m working at a theater company. The managing director is like, “I want you to be my assistant. I want you to be an associate. I want you to help run this. You’re such a girl next door.” She kept talking but I don’t remember hearing anything else because you said girl next door. There’s something always been about like, “What is it that was expected on me?” and me going, “Yeah, but why?”
I don’t know about you but I don’t like being told what to do. I grew up with an overbearing manipulative mother who did everything she could to get me to behave in a particular way. I swallowed it because I was a good son. When I went off to college, I was like, “I am through with that.” That’s when my life blossomed and the real Pete started to come out. I wanted to pivot this conversation and talk about some different types of reinvention if I may. In a previous episode called Solo Thoughts Episode Five, I talk about this model that I have for living a good life.
It has these two elements to it. It has the foundation and it has the flourishing part of it. I want to go through this briefly. If the two of you want to comment on different types of reinvention associated with it. On the foundation side of it, it’s your environment and your look like your home. We think about make-overs in this way. Your health, are you getting sleep? Are you eating well? Are you exercising? Do you feel good? Are you energized? Your wealth, are you pursuing financial freedom? Are you being limited by your debts or your lack of income?
The last one is your team, as I like to call it. Your relationships, personal and professional. Maybe some people need to get jettisoned or you need to develop some stronger ones. You need to repair some relationships because solos need a team. We don’t have the one, we have the ones. Once you take care of the foundation then you can move on to growth, to flourishing. That can happen variety of different ways. I won’t go into all of it. For example, you may lean into your creative work as a writer, artist, or even as an entrepreneur, which is a creative activity.
You may be lean into meaning, you’re helping to change people’s lives Ro is in terms of helping them reinvent themselves. You have a purpose-driven life. You decide to do something that’s focused on achievement. I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro. I’m going to run a marathon. I’m going to build a business, I’m going to get a degree that I’ve always dreamed of doing and so on and so forth. When you’re approaching these reinventionist, Ro, where do you see their reinventions? Is it happening on the foundational side of things? Is it happening on the flourishing side of things? Is there a difference?
It starts happening in their mind. It starts with, “Let me be very self-aware and very transparent with myself that I am either happy or I’m not happy.” “I either want to continue this path when the cloud is up and continue this job or I just lost this job and I’m glad I did anyway.” It’s a lot of self-awareness and self-reevaluation in such a time of change. One of the things that we need to do a lot more of, myself included, is checking in to see if we’re okay. Are you happy in this relationship? Are you happy being single? I’ve heard a lot of my single friends say, “After this thing, I am never going to be by myself again.”
I hear a lot of people who say, “Thank God I’m by myself. I don’t know who I could stay on being up in these situations.” I happened to be on that list. It’s a time of reevaluation. I don’t know how many there are but there are going to be some people who say, “My life is so intact. I can keep it like this.” I don’t know anybody like that but there may be people who are happy. Nothing has changed for them. They are happy where they are. Most of us have been hit with if we weren’t changing, if one cog in the wheel of the family changes, everything changes.
Are you seeing these things more on the side of people being focused on taking care of business with their body, health or relationships? Are you seeing these folks who are like, “I got this stuff worked out but I want to live a bigger life?”
I’m finding that a lot of people are waking up after a few months of not having done one thing for their body. There are some people are feeling back pain or sciatica from sitting too long. You’re starting to see the responses to this lack of response to a natural light. Many of us are getting weights at home. You couldn’t even find weights around, stationary bicycles at home. People are making a change to get more active. Also, eating. One of the things, particularly for the black community, since we were so hard hit by the COVID is what are we doing in our culture that can help prevent the next health crisis? Are we eating right? Are we going to the doctor? What are the choices we’re making? You’ve got more black and brown people turning to veganism now more than ever before. These are things that are changing. You may have people who have decided or I want to be a worker on the front line. These are our heroes’ side.
These are people looking and leaning into the meaning part of this whole thing.
It’s not only an internal job all the time. Sometimes, we’re influenced by what we’re seeing outside. Some of us have become more generous, empathetic and compassionate than ever before. A lot of us have changed our hearts so much in terms of the political unrest, social unrest and health unrest that we have no other choice, but to be heartfelt people. It’s not somebody else anymore. I became part of the unwanting list of people who lost somebody during COVID. I lost a very dear friend of mine. I can’t believe this ball of fire isn’t around us anymore. In two weeks, she was gone.
It is heartbreaking to hear other people talk. I don’t know which is more heartbreaking, the loss or the complete opposite which is people saying, “I knew someone who said it was having a cold.” They’re completely disconnected from what the worst part could possibly be and the worst option might be. I’ve had a little bit of everything. My heart goes out to you and it makes me so mad when I hear other people say, “I’ll get it. It’ll be fine. It will be like a little bit of a cold.”
You were talking about that idea that people moving towards the front lines. There’s all this positive news about the vaccines and their effectiveness. Tens of thousands of people volunteered to be part of those studies. They were willing to say, “I’m going to take some risk for the greater good.” Half of those people are in the placebo condition. They’re not even getting the potential benefit of it and they deserve our applause.
There are so many heroes that are coming out of this. As much as we’ve seen the hardness of human nature, we’ve also seen some of the most beautiful aspects that we’ve never witnessed before in human nature. It makes me put a cry but I can’t believe the people who wake up every day to clean out the bathrooms in public places. I can’t believe the people who wipe vomit, spittle and poop off people every day who are dying. It’s amazing what we, as human beings, are capable of.
We want to live the best life but let’s be the best people we can be. Let’s be the best friend, best family member and best neighbor. I know my neighbors every night at 8:00, we’re banging the pots. We’re looking out for each other’s mail. We’re knocking on the door, “Are you okay? I hadn’t seen you in a couple of days.” This is an aspect of life that COVID is trying to teach us. This is such a horrendous curve but it’s such a learning and a glorious curve when we see how we come together.
It’s prompting the positive change that you’re pursuing with the work that you’re doing, which I’ve seen Lily pursuing since I met her. We started doing this show together and we have become friends. I’m missing your holiday party which makes me sad.
My Chris Pine party. Rolonda, I decorate my tree with pictures of Chris’s and I call it my Chris Pine.
Who is Chris?
Chris Pine, I also have a wreath of Franklins hanging on my door.
In 2021, you have to do Douglas Firs.
Lily likes her puns. You two are going to be friends after this. The last thing I want to cover is I want to talk a little bit about your solo journey if you’re willing, Ro.
Why not? It’s become a whole comedy routine.
Tell us a little bit about your single life. Clearly, you’re making the most of your moments as a single person on this planet.
It blows me away that I wrote a romance novel because I look at my real life and I go, “What the heck happened?”
You have a dream and you wrote your dream. You didn’t write Ro end.
I tell people I’ve been waiting around for Mr. Right for so long that I’ve become the man I wanted to marry. I was married when I was very young and had a big wedding with 1,000 people and all that stuff. I’m not the girl who’s dreaming of the wedding. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I also know how difficult relationships and marriage are. I don’t know how people do it. I personally enjoy being single right now. I’ve had a lot of boyfriends. What do you call it? It was more for publicity with James Brown. James Brown popped the question to me live during my show.
He asked me to marry him. It was all publicity stuff but I’ve been known for my proposal. The ‘90s were a hot time for Rolonda. For instance, in these times of COVID, I wake up in the morning, stretch, roll over. I’m happy. Nobody’s asking me to make them coffee or bacon and eggs. Nobody’s asking me to get anything for them, do anything for them. I love my life. That doesn’t mean that I’m not open for some amazing person to walk in because I know that’ll happen.
You’re single for now person.
Yes, and I’m proud of it. I had somebody the other day say, “You can’t be telling the truth. Nobody can be happy being alone.” I was like, “I love my life because I have it to myself.”
Can I give you some statistics for that person?
Is it me or the person coming?
To tell this person who says they can’t believe that you can’t be happy on your own. In the United States, 128 million single adults, 28% of households are solo. Half of single adults are not interested in dating. You are not by yourself. It’s much more the norm. The world is not talking to these people. They’re not listening to these people. They’re not serving these people. These are people who are working on the front lines, building businesses, creating new knowledge at universities, artists, and making music. These are the creatives fueling the world oftentimes and contributing in ways.
Single people volunteer more. They give more of their money to charities. They’re more generous. There is a false narrative in the world where married people are good and single people are less good. It’s complete and utter bullshit. On top of that, if you get married, there’s a 35% chance you get divorced. Of those people who don’t get divorced, not all of them are happy. The way that we measure success in relationships with longevity is a perverse metric of measuring the goodness of a relationship. You can play this tape to your friend and tell him or her, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
A lot of the people that I know who are together are not happy. It is a blaring example of why I stay where I am. Even if you go out, you’re the single girl and you’re out with all the couples, most of them are not happy with each other.
In fairness, you go through phases as anybody does. I’m very lucky as a solo. I get to be moody in my own shit. I love the smell of my shit. That’s why I love myself. I’ve worked very hard to love the smell of my shit. I get there moments when we’re at a dinner party, you’re like, “You’re in a cul-de-sac of unhappiness.” That’s fine. There’s the longevity of you’ll never be happy. You didn’t take responsibility for your personal happiness. Therefore, you’re blaming it on everybody around you. The closest person to you is your spouse. The next closest person to you is whoever’s sticking around that I don’t want to hang out with those people anymore.
My single girlfriends are like, “Let’s get back in the dating game. Let’s get on the dating sites.” We can talk to people, people aren’t trying to jump your bones immediately and you can get to know people. It’s like, “I don’t wait until the cloud lifts and I can see somebody in person again.” Nobody is thinking about swapping spit and getting all close to people.
When it comes to meeting a new person to be romantic with, I need to be able to trust your judgment. There’s a lot of things that are attractive to me, not just your physical container, but I want to see you moving through the world in space. How do you interact with other things? Until then, I need to have a conversation with you. There’s building trust in other ways and that slow going, which is why I’m like, “I might start dating and pushing for screen time coffee dates.”
People are setting up dinner dates, having wine, cheese and chit-chatting with each other.
There’s nothing wrong with going for a walk with someone outside.
There we go with reinvention again. Reinvention is all about not giving up on life’s abundance, adventure of life and newness of life at every turn. A lot of my reinvention talk is for people my age who don’t think they have worth anymore, they have anything to offer that nobody thinks they’re going to be important anymore. I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” You know more than most people walking on this earth. Look how much you have to share, give, and take your time to do.
We should end on that note. Trust me, I’m tone-deaf so I won’t be able to tell the difference.
We’re going to end it on a love note.
I like this idea of approaching reinvention from the perspective of abundance. If you focus on a world with an abundant mindset, you’re able to build things. It’s not a fixed pie. We can grow the pie. One of the great benefits of being older is that we have the experience. We get to understand and know who we are. When you know who you are, you’re able to know what your true dreams are, to use your language, Ro.
Speaking of couples, I have a lot of wives who come to my Reinvention Retreat and say, “I have lived my life supporting my husband, making sure he got to the job on time with his lunch and his hot coffee. Now, he’s retired and I have never stepped out on my dream. It’s my turn.” We help people do that too. The cross generations that I have, I have 30, 40, 50, 60-year-olds, everybody has something to offer to each other and everybody realizes their value I hope in the time that we spend.
You said couples. I want to mention famous partnerships in history. You’ve got RRATs, Rolonda. RRATs are to your pirate life as canaries are to coal miners.
Lily, we need to do something about women pirates. There were about nine famous women pirates but that’s a whole other journey.
Gina Davis, you and me. We got six more. Let’s get on to the adventure.
Peter, we love you. Thank you so much. This was such an important conversation and you’re having good juicy conversations about solo, not so solo, duo and trio.
There are so many people in the solo.
How to navigate through life.
Thank you, Rolonda.
- Rolonda Watts
- Lily Rains
- Rolonda on Demand
- Rolonda’s Reinvention Retreat – Come Grow with Ro!
- Solo Thoughts Episode Five – Previous episode
- Destiny Lingers
- Think and Grow Rich
About Rolonda Watts
Rolonda Watts is an author, comedian, voice actor, talk show host, and host of the podcast Rolonda on Demand. Most relevant to today, she is a Reinventionist and creator of Rolonda’s Reinvention Retreat – “Come Grow with Ro!”
About Lily Rains
Lily Rains is a storyteller, arts educator, crafter of needlework, and maker of homemade ice cream. Though solo, Lily loves to be part of an ensemble with a shared goal: be it on a softball field, in an escape room, or getting a play, movie, or tv show made.
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