Why Kindness?

Rhonda Ross

Episode Summary

Emmy-nominated actress and Grammy-nominated singer Rhonda Ross joins Jaclyn to unpack the journey to gaining emotional independence, the impact of taking control of your own life, and power of thought to create your reality.

Episode Notes

Emmy-nominated actress, Grammy-nominated songwriter, and motivational singer, Rhonda Ross joins us to discuss how her journey through emotional hardship shaped who she is today. 

This podcast is one of the many ways we live out our organization's mission to educate and inspire people to choose kindness. Visit our site kindness.org and sign up to become a part of our global community which spans more than 100 countries. It's free to join and when you do you'll be the first to get access to our latest research, tools, and even episodes of this podcast. Let's build a kinder world, together. Contact us at podcast@kindness.org or on social at @kindnessorg

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Episode Transcription

Rhonda Ross



Why kindness?

Because it makes a difference.

For connection.

Kindness can change lives.

It's contagious.

The science says you'll be glad you did.

Kindness is... the key to a healthier, happier world.

Jaclyn: Why kindness? While no one answer is the same, one thing is clear. Kindness is something we all know, but do we know why it matters?

I'm your host, Jaclyn Lindsay, co-founder CEO of kindness.org, and you're listening to Why Kindness?

Hello, friends. I am truly honored to welcome this guest to our Why Kindness podcast episode today. Rhonda Ross is an Emmy nominated actress, Grammy nominated songwriter, and motivational singer who helps people feel better through the power of thought. I know we can all use that. As the only child between Diana Ross and Motown founder Barry Gordy, Rhonda is quick to acknowledge the luck that she was born into having two of the world's most influential people as her parents.

However, partly as a result of comparing herself to them and their accomplishments, Rhonda felt constantly controlled by what other people expected of her and what they said to and about her. For years, she painfully struggled with insecurity, self-esteem, depression, and feelings of being unfulfilled.

Finally, Rhonda embraced the power of thought and kindly released others from the burden of making her happy as she took that crucial first step to feeling better. Now through her invigorating music, impactful workshops, and inspiring keynote presentations, Rhonda empowers others with tools and strategies to activate, implement, and strengthen their resilience through the power of thought so they can feel better. No matter what life throws at them.

I can't say enough about how excited I am to unpack all of what you've heard and more. And with that, I'm going to say welcome Rhonda to the Why Kindness? podcast episode. Hi Rhonda. Thank you for being here today.

Rhonda: Oh, thank you for having me. I'm so looking forward to our conversation.

Jaclyn: Me as well. Let's get into it. So we always start with this big question. Why kindness? What would you say to that?

Rhonda: It's so interesting because, uh, I've been thinking clearly about this over the past few days as I, as I, got ready for this interview. And I don't think it's a stretch to say that in the space of unkindness, lives the seeds of unfairness, abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia, all the way to war and genocide.

It sounds like, to many of us, kindness is a luxury, an afterthought, um, a nicety, um, a cushion that it would be lovely to have, if and when I have the time for it. But I really do think that without it, we are, we as a, as, individuals and as a, as a global macrocosm are moving toward these things that I mentioned earlier, these, these really horrific things that I mentioned earlier.

Um, What was so fascinating to me in these last few days, and we will continue to unpack that this in our conversation, but what was so fascinating to me is, uh, the work that I do, I've been doing for the past, uh, 20 years and, uh, I really saw it as a way to help first me and then other individuals that I knew.

Uh, but through thinking about the concept of kindness for this podcast, it dawned on me just how, how far reaching the power of thought is. Yes, it makes us feel better, but how that reverberates was so, was so fascinating to me over the last few days.

Jaclyn: Yeah, thank you. And you've gotten right into it.

You know, I think the idea of kindness as this antidote, if you will, to so many of the horrific things we're seeing and yet how personal it is. Your own journey, uh, you know, that we, we heard a little bit about, and I, I want to just dive into with you. It's a reminder of no matter what you're born into, no matter what you have, a little, a lot, kindness is understood. It's personal. And unkindness is something we can all understand.

Rhonda: What I noticed as I was as I was preparing, is that I, for me, needed a definition of kindness and I started thinking about it and talking about it within, uh, my community of, uh, thought power practitioners. I have a community where we come together and we have these kinds of conversations and, um, and as we were dissecting it and investigating it, we distinguished it from niceness.

Kindness, in my, uh, definition, is different than being nice. It's different than being polite. It's also different than being, uh, even compassionate and empathetic. Those are important things too, but kindness seems to be different than even those. And in one of the ways it's different than those is that those feel like they are feelings or states of being, where kindness seems to be tied to an action. And then we discussed, well, what kind of action? The action, again, in my opinion, of helpfulness. But then we said, you can take helpfulness to a place where it stops being kind. You overstep. 

I feel like kind does have to do with being helpful, but helpful in a way that the person you are helping is requesting and wanting, and within the boundaries that feel safe for that person. And not overstepping their, um, autonomy and sovereignty.

Um, my husband's, uh, family has a lot of blind people in it. Um, um, visually impaired people. And I am, um, I have, we've been together 30 years, so I'm, uh, very much in that community and I, I guide, and I, I, I just, I spend a lot of time. So, I was in New York, and uh, saw a blind woman crossing the street, young woman, in her 20s. And I went up to her and I said, can I help you cross the street?

And she said no. Uh, I don't remember, I must have asked her a second time, and she went off. You know, how dare you, you think I can't do anything, you know, you're so rude, you're so ugh, all of this. And I said, oh no, no, no, no, I think you've misunderstood. Uh, all of my in-laws are blind. And she said, well I hope you treat them with more respect than you just treated me.

And I'll never forget. Because...to me, I was being kind, but I had somehow overstepped. And, uh, and encroached upon her sovereignty, autonomy, independence. And so kindness is helpful with, to me, the definition is to be helpful. It's an act of helpfulness. Within the, uh, boundaries of how somebody wants to be held.

Um, I think that's really, really important.

Jaclyn: Yeah.

Rhonda: Um, because I do think, like the example with the blind woman, people can very easily, um, I'm being kind, I'm being kind, I'm being kind, and, and push past. And, and it becomes unkind.

Jaclyn: Yes.

Rhonda: It becomes unkind.

Jaclyn: And that tightrope, I think, that's the tension, right? Because your intention was to be helpful.

Rhonda: That's right.

Jaclyn: And to be kind. You saw someone. You had empathy. You understood maybe through your in-laws what she was going through. But her interpretation was that encroachment or you weren't aware that she could do it on her own. Wow.

Rhonda: Correct.

And I will, I will preface with, I'm a big talker, so if you, if you haven't noticed already. So that leads me to the work that I do with the power of thought. Um, I asked myself again in preparation for this, when is it that I find myself being unkind, non-helpful, uh, overreaching? 

And it's when I feel personally at risk. When I feel that my needs to feel better, to feel happy, to feel safe, to feel at peace, um, when, when my needs to feel those things that I want to feel are tied to your actions. And now I have to get you, to behave a certain way, so I can feel okay. I see reverberations of this within families, partners, uh, parent children on either side of the political aisle, in war.

There is something that you are doing, in my opinion, that makes me feel this way, this way, this way, not safe, not secure, uh, afraid, all of these things. And so the work that I do, that I, I, I discovered, uh, 20 years ago when I was, um, all the things you mentioned in the introduction. When I was struggling with the outside world behaving in a certain way, and I thought, making me feel a way that I didn't want to feel.

And I wanted to control them and change them and make, make them behave differently. Of course, that's impossible. What I realized is, if I could figure out a way to feel better without them changing at all. It would give me, um, a foundation from which now my needs are met. I met them from myself. I no longer need to control you.

I no longer need to encroach upon you. I no longer need to, um, um, manipulate you. And, I am no longer feeling encroached upon, manipulated, controlled by you. It's my opinion that if we, as individuals and as a global macrocosm could do this, So much kindness would be unleashed, into the world.

Jaclyn: I love this. So the summary would be relying on yourself in a way for your own.

Yes. Okay. So that's what I'm looking for. So emotional independence. And then was this the 20-year-ago experience? Did you figure this out on your own? Like, what was that discovery? To get you from there, where you were, all that you were going through, to now today, to be able to speak in this incredible, informative way.

I want to understand what you were going through emotionally to unlock all of this, because I know there are listeners right now that are there. They're back there, they are struggling with this or they're seeing it. They know the change needs to be there. They're working on themselves. So I'd love to hear what that personal experience was for yourself and, and how did you start to unlock these discoveries?

Rhonda: Yes. Thank you. Uh, I was, uh, almost 30 years old. I had been on a television show that, had a successful run on a television show that had come to an end. So I was unemployed. I, um, had moved from New York to Los Angeles, in search of work. I was newly married and already experiencing infertility. The infertility would go on for 12 years.

I was in the first two, three years of it. Um, or maybe maybe longer by then, um, I was watching My sister, Tracee Ellis Ross, watching her star rise while mine stagnated. Um, I felt alone. Um, I felt scared. I felt angry. I uh, I felt that no one saw my value. I started to question my value, as an artist, as an actress, as a singer, as a human, as a woman, as a mother, a wannabe mother, as a wife, and I found myself cycling down.

There were days I didn't get out of bed. There were days I didn't wanna get out of bed. I watched TV all day. Um, just, it was, it was easily my darkest point. I blamed everything around me for it. Um, And yet I knew that I couldn't control any of it. I couldn't make the agents give me a job. I couldn't make my body give me a baby.

I couldn't, uh, I couldn't, I, I had no control over the circumstances of my life and I wanted some. That's the best, I wanted, I, I wanted to find a way, to feel better. To feel better, I thought I needed everything else to change in order to feel better. Um, but Through an acting teacher who's also a beautiful spiritual teacher. Um, and her recommendations of books I should read, I started reading, so many different authors who talk about the power of thought. Um, everyone from Norman Vincent Peale to, oh, now I'm going to blank, right? Eckhart Tolle or Pema Chödrön or, um, I mean, there's so many. I'm, I'm, I'm blanking right now, but, um, so many books.

I started reading and reading and reading and pulling out and distilling the different lessons that they had and what I realized that they all had in common was this idea that the one thing we all get wrong. Which is that we think that things happen to us, and then we have, uh, a feeling about what happens.

So, you miss the bus, and you feel angry, whatever, whatever, whatever the thing is. The thing happens, and then it's tied inextricably to a feeling. What these books said, and all these teachers said, was that there is a space between what happens to us, and what we feel about what happens to us. And in that space live our thoughts about what's happening to us.

And it's actually our thoughts that are triggering those feelings. Uh, those feelings are evidence of our thoughts, not of the facts. That was a, that was the huge realization for me.

Jaclyn: I have goosebumps. I've never heard it put like that.

Rhonda: And when I realized, Oh. It's my thoughts. And that thought is why I feel bad. But I'm the thinker of my thoughts. So I can, with practice, start to shift those thoughts. Now, does it change the events? It doesn't. But does it change how I feel? It does. And the whole reason I want the events to change is so I can feel better. 

And so if there is something I can do. Uh, uh, uh, something that just happened to me the other day, I was flipping through social media. I saw a meme. The meme said something like, when your children are young, um, teach them, I don't know, to be organized. Clean up their room. Something. And, you know, this will be important when they become adults. Well, I have a 14-year-old, who does not clean up his room. And so, I saw the meme, and then within seconds, I felt anxious, irritable. I was in a bad mood and I actually had to sit for a second and say, what just happened? 

It would be very easy to say, I was triggered by that meme. But what really happened was I saw the meme and I had some thoughts and the thoughts were, oh my god, I didn't do that. Oh, my god, it's too late. Oh, I have let my son down. God, I'm a really crappy mom. Um, now he's in trouble. Now he's going to have a harder life because of something I didn't do. Um, because of a mistake that I made. I make all, I make lots of mistakes. Um, all of those thoughts happened. That, quickly, to lead me to these feelings of, as I mentioned, irritable, uh, sad, um, anxious, all of that.

It's so easy, in our, in our culture, we point to the thing. Don't, I want to make a law that says you're not allowed to put those memes out anymore, because those memes make me feel sad, but that's not what happens. When I can take responsibility for my feelings, because I know that they are evidence of my thoughts, my thoughts.

And I have the ability to shift those thoughts. Now, I don't have to overreach. I don't have to go back to you, you, you, you and you and tell you how to behave, what memes to put out, what things to say, what things not to say. I don't have to do any of that to you because I no longer feel that your behavior is putting me at risk.

I'm protected by me. I have emotional independence.

Jaclyn: Emotional independence. 

Rhonda: Yeah. My feelings are, are mine and mine, mine to manage. And, uh, and you can go do you, you can do all, right, you can do your memes, you can, you can not cast me, you can, you can, you can do, you can do all the things that you do.

And I'm still okay. And because I'm okay, I now don't have to attack you.

Jaclyn: Right, right. So the application, like I'm thinking about how this plays out in your life, whether it's your circle or with strangers or society at large. And the idea is that your own emotional independence allows you to be strong and secure.

Rhonda: That's it.

Jaclyn: And, and therefore you're not projecting anything onto others, and maybe that projection when people lack the emotional independence, that is the thing that begins the fighting, the hating, the divisiveness, because we're putting-

Rhonda: Yes, that, that's why I started with the question, when am I unkind?

I'm unkind when I feel like something you have, or something you are doing, I need to either stop you from doing it or I need to get that thing from you because I need it. You know, I had this image, um the other day of, you know a group of us are underwater and there's one snorkel, that we're sharing.

Yeah But when you have it, I need to get you to give it to me in time, right, for me not to drown. So, or suffocate or whatever the thing is. So, um, so I need to, I need to manipulate you. I need to trust you. I need to, um, um, maybe snatch it from you or maybe I placate you so you give it to me. I mean, there's all these things I have to do to make sure you give me the snorkel in time for me to breathe.

But what if I either have my own snorkel, or what if I have developed gills of some kind? Amazingly now, what you do with the snorkel, I'm okay. I have independence, right? I have emotional independence. I'm okay. And that is how, uh, to answer your question, how it shows up in my life. I take responsibility for my thoughts creating my feelings.

So when something happens and things happen, because life is all about things happening. And everyone out here is uniquely their own person. They can do, say things that I don't like, but if I then in that space where my thoughts are can then manage my thoughts and then shift them, in any necessary way, so that I can get my footing back under me, so that I can feel better. And, and stay regulated, if I can do that, then, then I'm not dependent on you, and I don't have to then go manipulate you. 

So it shows up in so many ways. I mentioned it, you know, something small like that meme the other day, but it shows up with my son. Uh, when he gets to behave as he wants to behave because he is a human being, um, it doesn't, tie to my feelings, right? Um, or with my husband or with friends or, or, or, um, there's all kinds of things.

I watch what those thoughts are.

Jaclyn: Okay. So in the, in the snorkel analogy, one thing that I was thinking about, it would be fear or panic. So I, I am fearful I will drown. I'm panicking I will drown. And now my life feels like it's hanging in the balance of your willingness to do this thing for me. How does power of thought play out with fear?

Because I think a lot of what's driving the things, these big things we're hitting on. Fear, fear of other, fear of unknown, fear of uncertainty, fear of feeling, fear right like all fear of not having love, not having life given, not surviving, not getting the next job, it's big, it's small, and so curious how this exercise plays out in those, those moments, um where fear is driving you.

Rhonda: I'm so glad you asked.

Uh, fear is a big one. Um, for those people who are listening and watching right now, um, we can see how we can think of thought that is a fearful thought right now. Anything. I'm afraid of X. I'm going to give you an example. Here we go. From this morning. How about that? My 14-year-old, uh, we've, we've, I told you we're bicoastal, but he's now going to school in New York and he's taking the public bus and he takes it early in the morning before 7 am.

And, uh, this morning, and I track him on my phone and this morning, I noticed that he overshot his, his, bus stop by a block. And so I texted him. I said, did you miss your stop? And he said, um, that he wanted to go to the Dunkin Donuts on the other block. Well, that's not, you know, New York, the safety changes from block to block.

And that's not a particularly, where he gets off usually is fine. Where he got off today, not so fine, especially at that time of the morning. Um, so, okay. So here we go. He did something and I got afraid, right? Um, what I had to do was take a step back to that space between what happened and my feelings, my fear.

And I had to say, what are the thoughts? What are they? That's the, oh, there's so many first steps. I was gonna say the first step. The crucial first step is acknowledging that there is this space. The step after that is really, really feeling and acknowledging those feelings. I'm afraid. I'm afraid because my boy is out there on his own for the first time. I'm afraid that I didn't teach him what he needs to know, and I'm afraid that something's going to happen. I'm afraid. Okay? And, and feel it. 

The next step is to go back to those thoughts that, um, those feelings are evidence of those thoughts. So what are those thoughts? What are they? So I sat with it for a moment and I said, similar to what I just said a second ago, I, I'm, I'm afraid I didn't teach him. I'm afraid he could walk into danger. I'm afraid he doesn't know. Um, uh, I'm angry. Also, some of those feelings are angry, that I didn't teach him that he doesn't know. Why doesn't he know? So I have these thoughts. So first I have to find the thoughts and, and detangle them, pull them apart.

This one thought is, I didn't teach him. This other thought is, he should have gotten off at the right stop. Um, but mostly the biggest thought there is, he's not safe. So now I found it. He's not safe. That thought is what is triggering the fear. He's not safe. Well, nobody's going to feel good with a thought like that.

I don't care who you are, where you are, what the situation is. My loved one is not safe will always lead to a terrible feeling of fear. So then I asked myself some questions. Is it true, that he's not safe? No, that's not necessarily true. Then I asked myself, what if it was true? Would that be okay? Oh, that's a big one.

But you know what? I believe he could take care of himself. I believe he's smart. I believe he would, would, would, would, would keep his wits about him, even if he walked into an unsafe situation. So maybe it's okay. And, assuming that it doesn't go too far, maybe that moment of unsafety will actually teach him something more than any words that I could give him would, right?

And then the third question is, how is it, how is this thought that I'm having not true? I, I, I'm a spiritual person, so I believe he's guided. Um, I believe he's smart. I believe in the, in the kindness of strangers. So I find those other, I, I, I investigate that thought that scared me. I investigated.

And I investigate it from a space of what's real. I don't just say, he's okay, he's okay, he's okay. I don't do that. I don't push past my thoughts. I really look at them and I really investigate them. And then through that, I can start to find some thoughts that feel better, that helped me feel better. I call those thoughts, I N T's, intentionally nourishing thoughts.

And they're, and they're thoughts like, he's going to be okay. This is part of growing up. Walking into the wrong neighborhood, um, the dangerous part of the city, is part of learning. It's part of maturing. Yes. I know how to do it. I also, also, ooh, this is gonna teach him to, to feel it, to have his antennas out, right?

To feel, have his instincts. I got my instincts. I can walk past a person and be like, Oh! That didn't feel safe. Or someone can say something and say, Oh, that didn't feel... So I want him to trust himself, not just me. But he's been my baby, so I've been dragging him along, and I've been doing all the work. Now it's time for him to do the work.

So I find these nourishing thoughts, these intentionally nourishing thoughts. And I think those, and what I did was I texted him while he was, 'cause he has two buses to take. So the first bus he overshot, that's when he did the Dunkin Donuts thing. Now he was on the second bus and I texted him and I really should read to you what I... I should find it. I'm gonna find it. Give me a second. 

Jaclyn: Give us the wisdom. 

Rhonda: I texted him. I texted him and I said, You are safe and smart, my son. You, I need my glasses. You have taken care, you are taken care of by divine spirit, always. Um, all you have to do is follow the guidance that is always within you.

That's what I texted him. Instead of, Are you crazy? I told you not to go over there. Don't you go to that. Don't you know you could get in trouble? That Dunkin Donuts. No. No. You're a. Instead of that. Which was my first thought. With my first reaction. That was my first reaction, but I had to back it up and say, is it what he did or is it my thoughts?

So that is the way it shows up in my real life.

Jaclyn: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. And I think I want to also celebrate, that you have a son after it sounds like a very long journey through infertility. So that's amazing. Um, and is there anything in that journey that you had to navigate where, yeah, like where you could share with us what it looked like.

And I don't even, I imagine the whole thing would have been showered with navigating it through kindness for yourself and what you were going through in your body and um, I just would be curious anything that you could share around that and congratulations.

Rhonda: Uh, thank you. Uh, he's, he's absolutely the love of my life and I've enjoyed every minute of 14 years, it went so fast, but I've enjoyed every minute.

Um, uh, yeah, you know, um, it's a practice. This thing that I'm talking about is a practice. Um, I call them thought habits. They are things that you have to do all the time, um, in little things and big things. And when it came to those years of infertility, um, the beginning of those years of infertility, I didn't know this, uh, this work at all. 

Um, and I was just at the mercy of, um, whatever doctors said to me. I was at the mercy of whether or not my body conceived that month. Um, I was at the mercy of watching other people get pregnant and have babies. Um, it would bring me to my knees. Um, literally bring me to my knees. Um, so I was at the mercy.

And it was, it was slowly, uh, through those years that I started to take, take responsibility over what I was feeling. Um, and, and yes, it was, it was, it was, uh, some things are easier to do it with than others. And, um, and I do recommend when people start on this thought-powered journey. When people come into my community and they're new, I, I recommend starting with things that are not the biggest thing in your life, because it's like, um, never having jogged and then you're going to, you know, try to run a marathon.

So start, small. Start with the guy who cuts you off in traffic, right? Start with those things because the big, big things, they take more practice. Uh, but yes, it was uh, it was a um, it, it, it, it took a lot. It's, it's, it's a hard thing to be any age, but I started in my 20s, um, um, wanting to conceive and, uh, and feeling like it should have been so easy for me. I was in my 20s and it went all the way through, I mean, I was 38 by the time I gave birth. 

Um, and, um, and yeah, I had to, I had to walk myself through the thoughts. I had to say, it looks like I'm not getting pregnant, so I'm sad, angry, all of those things. But there were these thoughts in between. 

I'm not good enough. Um, I'm not worthy of it. I'm doing something wrong. I, I even had a doctor who said that to me, you know, well, it's not that hard to get pregnant, you know, how are you messing this one up? Or something like that. But yeah, but my point is how, how, how unkind is that? But, but still even still, if I could have, which in the moment I, I couldn't, I didn't, but if I could have looked at what thoughts I, I was having in that space. I could have taken that and moved, shifted that. 

Even though his intentions, I don't know what his intentions were, but even though his, his actions were not kind or compassionate, right? Um, the kindness, oh, and this is what I wanted to get to. You said being kind to myself.

We gaslight ourselves. We... Tell ourselves that we're not feeling what we're feeling, that we shouldn't be feeling what we're feeling, that we have no right to be feeling what we're feeling. And so much of the key to the work that I practice and that I, I, I, I share in my, in my community, is starting with feeling it, accepting it, the feeling, allowing the feeling. It does so many things. 

The first thing is. Um, it gives you a baseline, so you can know if this work on your thoughts, the shifting of your thoughts is actually moving your needle. It's actually making you feel better. You can't know if you're feeling better if you didn't see where you started. 

But, but, the more important thing, or the thing that, that I find so exciting is when you realize what you are feeling and you accept it, and allow it, and just sit with it, and feel it. It's as if you are giving yourself a hug. It's as if you're saying, Oh, Rhonda, you're terrified. I get it. I get it. You're hearing yourself. You're allowing yourself to be heard. Um, and, and, and seen, and acknowledged. You know? During those years of my infertility journey, I didn't do it at first, and I slowly started to.

First place to start, it's okay to be right where you are. Right where you are. And now that we know where you are, if and when, you want to start to shift it. You have the power to do so.

Jaclyn: Thank you. I'm just, so many ways I want to go, but I'm also sensitive, um, to time. So I have a few more things I'd love to hear from you on when I think of your journey and the work you're doing when you think of your own life, was there any work that had to happen first of healing from the past, in order to operate in the future of, of this new way of power of thought driving you? 

So was there any reconciliation, restoration, work to be done on applying it to what you came out of, or what you came from, and how that narrative informed who you are today?

Rhonda: I participated in therapy and all of that. I like that. As you can see, I'm a talker and I love investigation and exploration and I love it and I've done all different types of forms of it. But what I have discovered with this particular, um, modality is, it's a, it's happening right now. It's a great compliment to talk therapy or other kinds of therapy.

It's a great compliment to that. But it's happening right now. Right now I'm having the feeling. Now, I might have had a feeling when I was five, and the now feeling might be tied to the feeling that I had when I was five. But I'm having the feeling now. And so, I can shift it now. I'm having the feeling now because I'm thinking the thought now. And so this particular, one of the reasons I gravitate toward this is because again, it empowers me to do something about it now.

And There's an instantaneous, um, movement, emotional movement from it, right now. So, um, so I don't have to wait to get the appointment with the so and so, and I don't have to, I can do it myself and I can do it now. Um, and yes, of course, everything we've lived informs where we are right now. But it's, but we're right now, we're right now, and so I can do it right now.

So that, to me, is exciting and feels, uh, powerful. I use that word a lot. I, I like knowing that I have the power to feel better. That it's not in anybody else's hands, well-intentioned or otherwise. It's not in anybody else's hand. I, I, I wrote a song called, Nobody's Business. Um, the lyrics are, ain't nobody's job to make you happy. Ain't nobody's job to pull you through. Ain't nobody born to give you sunshine. That light's inside of you. Ain't nobody gonna seek your freedom. Your heart will see you through. You're the one to choose how you're feeling. Ain't nobody's business if you do. And, That's where I live from.

Jaclyn: I love it. Thank you.

Yeah, I, I um, you answered the question definitely. And I think it came for me and my, the genesis of kindness and kindness.org, is so tied to my five-year-old story. It's so tied to little Jaclyn and all that I saw and experienced both the kindness and unkindness and my motivation is, is so linked to that and yet I've had to do work to understand the narrative of today.

So I want to give acknowledgment and affirmation to who I was, what I've been through, the journey of that child. And I also want to rest on the present and allow myself to look toward a better world and a different future. Um, and it's, balancing. It's like, it's holding so much, but I think what you've said has really helped me clarify it in my own mind.

And I hope for many, um, if not everyone listening for their own journey. So thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Um, I'm curious if there are any other pieces that you think would be so important or essential to share from your own journey. Um, we'll, we're, we're kind of moving into, we'll do some rapid fire and we'll close with choosing kindness together, but I really love to just open it up.

Um, your presence, your perspective is a gift and I'm cherishing everything. I'm soaking it all up. And, um, I just want to hold space if you feel like there's any other messages or things that would be so important to talk about with your work and as it relates to a kinder world.

Rhonda: Thank you. Thank you. Um, I think kindness, as we talked about, starts with us as individuals.

It starts with us. Taking responsibility for our own, um, feelings, uh, emotional independence. And when we do that, we let the rest of the world sort of off the hook. Which is also a form of kindness. It is, it is not us trying to manipulate everybody and make everybody, uh, uh, conform to our whim, uh, and our will.

Um, we are independent. We have our own snorkel. Um, we have our own power to, to self-regulate, to feel better. Um, and if I have that, and you have that and he has that and she has that, then maybe we're not clawing at each other, in the same way. I feel that the unkind clawing is coming from a space of desperation of I need and you don't, I need to make you give me.

Jaclyn: Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you. Um, thank you. Thank you. Okay. So now is where I just ask a lot of quick or questions and you just give me your quick response. You're like gut feeling, um, okay. Define kindness in one word. Yeah.

Rhonda: Okay. So I'm, I want to say, emotional independence. It's kindness. Um, but I want to say, um, the word respect is coming to me.

Jaclyn: Love that.

Rhonda: Respect. And, and, and both directions. Self-respect.

Jaclyn: Yes.

Rhonda: And respect. That's what's coming to me.

Jaclyn: Okay. All right. So we'll hyphenate emotional independence as one word and then respect will be our, um, no, I love that.

Respect. We never had anyone say that.

Rhonda: That, maybe it's respect, through emotional or because of, I don't know, whatever. Um, yeah.

Jaclyn: Okay. Um, your first memory of kindness or a memory of kindness.

Rhonda: A memory of kindness.

Jaclyn: Yes. Yes.

Rhonda: No, nothing is coming to mind. But, but for some reason, um, I, I was born in here in Los Angeles and for some reason when you say, you know, early memory, I'm seeing myself, I'm seeing myself outdoors with flowers.

You know, like I'm trying to see what happened in that moment, but that's immediately what comes to mind. Um, my, my mother's there, my father, Bob, who he's, my other father, I got two fathers. Um, he's there. My siblings are there. Um, kindness. I, you know, it, I've gotten so clear on the, on what, how I'm defining that, that maybe that's what's tripping me up.

But, um, but, uh, but for some reason that, that space is coming to me.

Jaclyn: That's beautiful. But the gift of just being with family, you know, beauty, nature, togetherness.

Rhonda: That's what keeps coming up for me. 

Jaclyn: Yeah, okay. I'm excited to hear your answer to this one. If kindness were a song... 

Rhonda: I'm scared.

Jaclyn: No, no, you're going to be great.

If it were a song... What is the song, um, uh, that you know or that you think of when you think of kindness?

Rhonda: Well, outside of the song, I just, I just, uh,

Jaclyn: I was gonna say that might be the winner, actually. 

Rhonda: Yeah, yeah. That really is, that, that's my answer. The song is called Nobody's, Nobody's Business. It's on YouTube, it's on Spotify.

Um, and it really is about emotional, um, independence. And, um, and kindness, and kindness, uh, both to yourself and because of that, to others.

Jaclyn: Yeah, okay. Yeah. And what are you listening to right now on Spotify or whatever, wherever you get your music?

Rhonda: Yeah. Uh, I, uh, gosh, I'm listening actually to a lot of, just a broad range of things, but most recently I was listening to gospel. I was listening to, uh, Kirk Franklin and Ty Tribbett and, and these, these, um, these invigorating, inspirational songs that serve for me. As INTs that, that say to me, everything's going to be okay, everything's going to be all right. Um, and, um, and trust and believe and, and all of this.

So, uh, I think music has the ability to, um, to, to, to serve as an INT, the music that I make, um, are, are INTs reminding me of my power and my ability to shift. And the music itself helps me to shift, uh, my thoughts. And so, um, yeah, so just, just, that's the most recent music I was listening to.

Jaclyn: Gospel. Thank you for sharing.

Um, and what book are you reading? If any.

Rhonda: I, no, no. Yeah, yeah. I'm a big, I'm a big listener. And, uh, and I was actually going to say to you, I've been listening to books in the last couple of days more than, um, uh, more than, than listening to music. But, um, yeah, I, uh, I, the book that's on my bedside right now is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Yes. So good. So good. And he's talking about physical habits. Um, um, but everything he says, can easily relate to thought habits. And so for me, it is just incredible reading. And also I've just started, I have to say, I've just started, uh, build the life you want. Arthur Brooks, Arthur Brooks, and Oprah. Oh, um, it's just come out and, uh, and I've just started it.

And he, he too, he's talking about the, um, uh, the science of, um, of happiness and so much of what he says is exactly tied to, um, uh, to the work that I do. He talks about happiness being a direction, not a destination. And I said, that's what I talk about when I say feeling better, you don't have to feel the best you've ever felt in, you know, in your whole life, but how about just a little bit better?  Um, so it's a, it's a direction. So yeah, so, um build the life you want an atomic habit. 

Jaclyn:  All right, I'm going to check, um, build the life you want out. The first thing we did, Rhonda, when we were launching was look at the link between kindness and a self-happiness, your own happiness.

Rhonda: Of course.

Jaclyn: So that was the first research we ever conducted.

Rhonda: Yeah. Wonderful.

Jaclyn: And, and discovered, of course, no surprise, but it was so validating that kindness has a significant effect on your happiness. Um, yeah, we've used that as a bedrock for so much of the work we do. Um, if you could get everyone in the world to do one kind act.

What would be the act?

Rhonda: Oh, I'm, I'm, you know what that is. The one kind act would be, take responsibility over your feelings through over your, over, over your thoughts.

Jaclyn: Yes. Okay.

Rhonda: That's what I would say. If everyone could take responsibility of, over their own thoughts and let that lead them to feeling better.

It would be a, it would be an incredible world.

Jaclyn: Yes. We should put a power of thought day out. There's like a day for everything. You know, a day for, when everyone commits and says, I'm gonna try this. It is a practice on this day.

Rhonda: Yes. It's a practice. It's a practice, Um, but so is, you know, brushing your teeth.

But we all do that, so it's something, to have to do it over and over again. I think also this culture is very much looking for the magic bullet, I do it once and then I don't have to do it again, but that's not how that's not how, how we're built.

Jaclyn: Right. So our first season were sponsored by our partners, Verizon.

We've been in a long standing, like a long running campaign, a call for kindness with them, which is really about the reminder of action and, uh, the role kindness plays and how we can all be called to choose it and practice it. Um, and so we love ending the show with taking action. And so the idea is that you would think about someone that you'll call and tell them what they mean to you, why they matter to you, why you're grateful for them.

Um, so we, we've had some people do it in the moment and if you're comfortable, we can do that. If you want to tell us who you're thinking of and then you can commit to do it and we can always report back on it, whatever you're most comfortable with.

Rhonda: How wonderful. Um, uh, yeah, I, I'm going to, um. I'm going to do it afterwards, but I'm going to tell you what I'm going to do.

Jaclyn: Wonderful.

Rhonda: Um, yeah. So, uh, I have, uh, I will say, I think my, uh, I'm happy to say that I have a, uh, practice of really staying in good contact with my family and friends, uh, and letting them know how I feel about them. Um, that's something that, that I do. And I'm proud to say that I do. Um, and what I'd like to do for this moment, Is to reach out to someone from my power of thought community and, um, specifically this woman, um, that I have on my mind has been struggling with the fact that, um, her late teenage daughter, uh, 17, I believe, um, has been diagnosed with like mental health issues and She's now feeling this, this feeling afraid and anxious and um sad, scared and um, and what I'd like to do with her is, is help her to find what those thoughts are um, all of the different thoughts that she may be having and um investigate them, ask those questions about them, um, and then find some INTs that she can replace them with, um, so that her feelings in the moment, in the now, will shift.

And so I will, I will, um, commit to doing that, um, after, after we're done here.

Jaclyn: Amazing. Um, I, um, I'm glad she has you. And, uh, yeah, has an outlet and someone who will help her through that because that's difficult for any parents. Thank you.

Rhonda: It's very, very, very, very hard.

Jaclyn: Thank you so much for joining us on this week's episode of the Why Kindness? podcast, sponsored by our friends at Verizon.

To learn more about everything you heard today from our wonderful guests, definitely check out our show notes. We hope you're leaving this episode inspired and reminded that every kind act truly does make a difference. We'd love to hear how you're choosing kindness in your day to day. We write back to every email, so let us know what you think.

And please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This podcast is one of the many ways we live out our organization's mission to educate and inspire people to choose kindness. Visit our site today at kindness.org and sign up to become a part of our global community, which spans more than a hundred countries.

It's free to join. And one of the many benefits includes being the first to get access to our latest research tools and even episodes of this podcast. We are so excited to get you involved in building a kinder world. Please tune in next time as we continue to explore this big question. Why kindness?