Your best ability is availability. What good is being dependable and likeable if you’re only available half the time. If you’re never ready then there is little opportunity to ever put those great qualities to use. I recently devoted episode 7 of my podcast to these traits because to “stay ready” means never having to “get ready.”
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rio Rocket.
Rio is a multi-hyphenate film, television, and voice actor who has a recurring role on the ABC TV Series For Life and motivational spokesperson for Lowe’s companies. He also hosts the hilariously funny career growth, professional development podcast Design Your Decade.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Once upon a time in the galaxy of Queens not too far away — was a boy adopted by his great-aunt and great-uncle. That boy was me and oh boy there wasn’t a dull moment in my childhood! Summer birthday parties with pools, barbecue grills, Motown music and slip and slide. Oh, that slip and slide! One of earliest memories of learning from other people’s mistakes when an overzealous neighborhood friend of mine wanted to slip and slide first, before we learned it was meant to go on grass and not concrete. He slipped but did not slide at all…ouch!
I had this creative side that revealed itself early as I was able to draw before I could even write. My favorite comic book heroes were Wolverine and Batman. I thought when I grew up I could be Logan by day and Batman “by knight” — pun intended. Didn’t know much about budget restrictions back then.
I immersed myself into comic books, cartoons, kung-fu movies, action-figures and first-gen home videogame consoles. Things that are now considered pop culture but back then were simply what kids were into. I became interested in music and learned to play five different instruments growing up. I became involved in the music industry but found myself gravitating toward finance and investment banking becoming a stockbroker. I lived the events you saw in the film Boiler Room. I got into the business exactly ten years after Jordan Belfort so I only heard stories about the events of Wolf of Wall Street from the guys who survived that wild ride. Since history only repeats itself I decided it may be time to transition out of that business.
Through a series serendipitous events I found myself back in the creative space again. I sent myself back to college to study graphic design, commercial art and marketing, and web development. Through establishing a solid sustainable business in this industry it allowed me to get involved in acting and performance arts. So look at me now. I find myself right back in the space I’m most comfortable and naturally gifted.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
No matter where you go there you are. A quote attributed to Confucius and a number of sources for its variations. Finding myself back in a creative space just as I began as a child, the adage is so true, you can never truly escape your true self and what embodies who you are as a human being. You also can’t escape eating just one homemade brownie or slice of cheesecake so I do my best to abstain. There’s a lesson within a lesson there.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The novel Batman: Knightfall (1994) was the first novel I’ve ever read based on a comic book character. It made me realize the depth and fragility of the human condition. The combination of the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the film The Great Gatsby (2013) is an incredible ‘hustle hard’ but don’t stare too long in the rear-view mirror or “you’re gonna crash baby” story. It’s one big life lesson wrapped in glitz, glamour, passion, vice and excess.
I just recently finished watching the AMC series Breaking Bad now on Netflix, I know I’m late as heck, but all I can say is wow. I mean…just, wow. The acting performances, writing, storyline, pacing of the story and even finding out there was coincidentally a real life Walter White operating at the same time the series was airing is mind-bending. It taught me that all it takes is little steps and once something is set in motion and gains momentum it can take you anywhere good or bad.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
In 2019, before the Pandemic, I was working on the set of the ABC series For Life starring 50-Cent, a name that needs no introduction, Nicholas Pinnock of Mandela: The Prison Years and Top Boy, Indira Varma of Game of Thrones and Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Hassan Johnson of The Wire and Brooklyn’s Finest. Season one filmed without a hitch. I also was traveling down to Charlotte, North Carolina performing as motivational spokesperson for Lowe’s Companies three times a year.
In addition I filmed a pilot for a series Alter Boy, several commercials and a good deal of voiceover work. I planned to build out a video portal with a friend Rosann Santos for professional development to help college graduates, new employees and middle managers move upward in their organization. Think of it as a Netflix for career growth or a Masterclass.com that focused on only one career aspect — upward career trajectory.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Since the video portal idea required a number of people to be in same space and the quarantine made filming on a set in 2020 a risky or even impossible option, I decided “Hey, why not just make it a podcast instead.” I built out a home studio with professional equipment and soundproofing. Rosann and I brainstormed over subject matter, episode ideas and structure, and “boom!” the Design Your Decade podcast was born.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I almost gave up on the idea because the infection rates during the 2020 quarantine were just alarming and the news cycle was negative as you know what. I’m sure you remember. I almost considered giving up on the idea and then it hit me. The number of people listening to audio books and podcasts rose dramatically because everyone was sheltered in place at home. So I thought that would be a great platform to deliver our message and embark on our Design Your Decade: Journey to the C-Suite adventure.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going fantastic! We initially released several trailers, started a YouTube Channel, and an Episode 0 to explain what the podcast was about. A month or so later, we dropped five episodes on the same d*** day as our marketing so eloquently puts it (laughs). Since those are based on “The Five Pillars of Success,” it made more sense to release them all at once. Currently we are on a normal weekly schedule releasing new episodes every Friday.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Although there are many people who helped me along the way, I have to go all the way back to the beginning for this one. Knowing my parents couldn’t raise me, my great-aunt adopting me at birth is the single most important thing that ever happened to me in my life. I hold eternal gratitude to her for that. Her decision shaped my entire life and it happened without me even being cognizant about it as it was happening. Without her will to do so there’s no telling the direction my life would have gone. If you’re crying right now, don’t hold it back. Just let it out. You’re only human. Now smile because life is good and there’s always something good waiting for you around the corner.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
So the initial idea of Design Your Decade was to be this very serious Masterclass-esque platform for people to take inventory of, learn and develop their career skills. We’re talking about video presentations with us wearing office attire and suits looking directly into the camera and being oh so very serious. I was thinking at that time how you must eventually get serious about life to excel in your career. I mean, your career is in a way “your life,” right?
But as it evolved into just a podcast, my zany sense of humor wanted to do something a bit different. Life is just too serious these days. Especially in these times people need to smile more, laugh more and feel good about the future. There is a need to be entertained while being educated. My idea was to inject humor into the podcast. A lot of humor. More than my co-host, Rosann, ever expected (laughs). But once I fleshed out the ideas and put it into a cohesive structure she was on-board with it. Each episode begins with a skit related to the topic and subject matter, has a Top 5 list mid-episode and ends with the HTOTD (Health Tip of the Day). Something that lends itself to my voice acting talents and allows us both to be creative, have fun, entertain and educate.
The project now has become something that I describe as a Career Comedy/Professionally Funny Development podcast. But keep in mind that we both offer serious career coaching and professional development services. Rosann handles more of the corporate side and I handle more of the creative side. Don’t worry, we won’t laugh at you or speak in character voices during a coaching session — unless you pay us to.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
When I was first starting out I wish someone told me that:
1. A brand is more than a logo. When I first studied logo design in college I believed that’s all there was to a brand. Over the course of time I learned that a brand is an experiential promise that every time the public interacts with the company or individual, that the experience will be unique and unforgettable. This was especially the case when I branded myself as an actor. Just like your performances, your brand is the extension of you as an individual that leaves an emotional aftertaste which determines what people will think of you.
2. Thought leadership is not just about innovative and bold thinking. It’s also about adaptability and knowing how and when to pivot. As I have learned to pivot from online video portal to podcast for Design Your Decade, being a leader clearly requires foresight in the modern era.
3. Cultivating the client relationship will always be the key to retention and growth. Because no matter what industry you’re in, it’s always more time and cost-efficient to retain clients than it is to get new ones. We’re in season two of ABC For Life. It’s not like you have to audition again. Once you’re in the show you’re in the show until something happens to your character and you’re no longer in the show. Your relationships with your fellow actors, the writers, directors, producers and the network are incredibly important.
4. Dependability and likeability will get you far, very far. Being dependable and reliable is one of the most important qualities within an organization. It’s trust and a promise that you’ll do what you said you’ll do, when you said you’d do it, to the best of your ability. There are people who are depending on you for many things, some you’re not even aware of. In regards to likeability, when you mention someone’s name, the first thing that is always mentioned is how liked the person is. So I approach all of my projects with a high level of both qualities.
5. Your best ability is availability. What good is being dependable and likeable if you’re only available half the time. If you’re never ready then there is little opportunity to ever put those great qualities to use. I recently devoted episode 7 of my podcast to these traits because to “stay ready” means never having to “get ready.”
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I just turned it all off and took ashwagandha daily. Seriously, that’s it. Well, I suppose I can consider that “defense,” let me see if there’s is anything else I can think of. On “offense,” I stayed in the gym, kept close and in contact with family and friends, and kept busy with my projects
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Right now, we need massive action in developing our personal skills, work skills and mindfulness in order to establish work/life balance. We’re falling behind as a country in cranking out productive people with well-developed career skills and excellent interpersonal skills. Between digital communication replacing face-to-face interactions and the social distancing aspect of the quarantine, we seem less human and less compassionate in our approach. Even through Zoom you will still need good interpersonal skills. In an era where humans are losing jobs to Artificial Intelligence, you’ll need as many honed and well-developed soft skills, hard skills and leadership skills as possible to remain employed and employable in the workplace.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Please tag Lebron James, Bryan Cranston, Jordan Peele, Sonia Sotomayor and Chris Evans. I would love to interview them on the podcast, talk about projects that can change the world or just chat it up.
How can our readers follow you online?
Listen and Subscribe to the Design Your Decade (DYD) podcast on the following platforms:
Listen, laugh and learn some stuff.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!