We had the good fortune of connecting with Ron Ovadia and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ron, what role has risk played in your life or career?

Taking risks is essential to success. The time-honored axiom, “The greater the risk, the greater the reward,” might sound like a cliche, but it’s true. When we take risks, we stretch our comfort zone. We explore new areas and explore new parts of ourselves. And yes, we also become more vulnerable to stumbling in our journey, which is okay. Because we often end up finding new and better ways to do things. Risks fuel our passions and help us imagine new possibilities. And yes, it also makes us more susceptible to what some might call “failure.” But I believe in my heart there is no such thing as “failure.” We only fail if we fail to learn the lesson. From taking risks, there are always lessons to be learned. We also learn what we value most, what we are willing to take risks for, and what our real boundaries are. Thomas Edison, one of our greatest inventors, was a big risk-taker. He had no issues with the risks and supposed “failures” he had. He would say, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Taking risks also means you are “all in” on something, putting your cards on the table, and declaring yourself 100% to a project, to a career, to the vision of your business—to life itself. We must welcome the risks of each experience and know that whatever comes from it, we will be richer for the experience.

How has risk played a role in my life? It has allowed me to take chances and follow my heart when it was leading me in a direction I didn’t fully understand. It helped me reconnect with my music career in my early 20s and take a job at Disney in the midst of an emotionally tumultuous time of my life. There I found myself as a songwriter, not only writing the script for the preeminent ride at EPCOT Center, Spaceship Earth, but also pitching a song for that ride that became an enduring theme park classic. I had no idea when I looked at that blank piece of paper and started to work on it where it would take me, but I tried to honor my passion and risked stepping out of my comfort zone. With that experience, I found a new path—not one that was clearly outlined but was unfolding right in front of my eyes—all from being true to myself and true to the words of author Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned in order to have the life that is waiting for us.” Yes, that life will be waiting for us.

Another risk? When the pandemic hit, people recoiled, and with good reason. My music producer closed his doors to all production work, I was left with a song I wanted very much to produce, about “Heroes of the Front Line” (essential workers during the pandemic), but no place to produce it—or so I thought. 

Suddenly, I was put in in touch with a Nashville producer who produced songs remotely. This was all new to me, as I was used to being intimately involved in production. But these challenging times demanded a new approach, and a new door opened. I was so pleased with the song, I wanted to do a companion video, and sure enough this producer introduced me to a videographer 3,000 miles away. But of course in this day and age of online connections, miles mean nothing. We produced a video, and through this new connection I had also found someone to build me a website, which help solidify my identity as a songwriter. So important! I was so thankful that when I finally met my new associate, I wrote a song in his honor, “Nothing Like a Friend,” which he sang and produced. All of this from not letting the pandemic close doors, but rather open new doors I didn’t even know existed.

How many of us have had second thoughts, or regrets, about not doing something out of fear? Not following a career path or taking a job? Not undertaking a creative project or consummating a potential relationship? Not realizing that sometimes we only get one shot at something! In the course of our lives, we get many opportunities to seize the moment, to change course—so many, in fact, that it can be difficult to know which ones to act on. But those moments quickly pass, and before you know it, opportunities are missed, and one can be left wondering what they might have missed.

Risking can be scary, it’s true. Fear of the unknown is a natural human trait. And don’t think I haven’t strayed from my path because of fear. I have! But I’ve always managed to overcome fear and find creative outlets, whether writing songs, documentary films, speeches, or ad campaigns—or doing what I am doing now, “Keynote Concerts,” a combination of motivational speaking and performing my own songs. This is a career I started after “retiring” from my work as a creative brand specialist and copywriter. Note that “retirement” is in quotes; it’s a foreign word to me. There are few risks in retirement. I prefer to keep finding new challenges and taking more risks. And what I’ve discovered along the way is, the more risks you take, the less they even feel like risks.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I write songs, many of which focus on social issues or topics that have meaning beyond the music itself. I am most proud when I can write something that inspires someone to be more conscious, present, or caring, I got to where I am by never quitting, doing it “One Step At A Time” (one of my songs), even though admittedly I have had creative lapses along the way. It comes with the territory. But I have tried never to lose my dreams and vision, knowing that ideas surface when they are ready to and doors open when they are meant to open.

I have overcome challenges by looking at them not as obstacles but as opportunities—for insight, growth, and striving to be better at what I do. One more thing I’ve learned along the way? The value of good friends. They keep me going when I get stuck.

What I would like the world to know about my brand is that I care and feel deeply about everything I write about and create. I want my work to make a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s writing a song dedicated to the Ukrainian’s struggle to survive or the need to overcome hate and the divisiveness that is so pervasive in our world. Most of all, I want people to know that I believe we are all in this thing called life together, and we must we respectful of one another and, together, always look for constructive, bridge-building solutions. 

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

Where would I take someone who was visiting? Well, let’s start at the ocean, which is close to where we live. There is nothing quite as liberating as the vast and shimmering Pacific. Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove would be our first stops—the resort at Montage and the lookout point at Crescent Bay perhaps being the highlights. We like the main street of Seal Beach, which has our favorite seafood restaurant. I would then take them up to L.A. (50 miles north), starting with Venice Beach, a great spot to get a look at all the boardwalk vendors and a feel for the locals. And we’d end up at one of my favorite spots, Farmers Market, where we could have some French food. Then, the Gem and Mineral Hall at the Natural History Museum in L.A., one of the hidden gems in L.A. Our L.A. trip would possibly conclude at the Eataly, in Century City, a collection of shops, stands, and restaurants—all things Italian. I love Italian, and I might even take them to our favorite place back on the way back to Orange County—a family-owned restaurant that puts the high-end, she-she Italian place to shame for its simple, delicious, and affordable food. Where else? I’d check the program the Orange County Performing Center and, depending on who’s performing, we might take in an evening show. If I really wanted to give them an extended treat, I’d proceed up the coast, through Santa Barbara and Cambria (Fiscalini Ranch Preserve!) to our first destination, Pacific Grove, one of our two favorite towns in California—the other being Mendocino, which feels like you’re in Cornwall, England. (I’d include a stop at Muir Woods, in Marin County, a magical spot.) And we wouldn’t want to miss the sights in San Francisco, my favorite city in this country—or even hop on a plane to Santa Fe and be transported back in time and into Native American culture, which I treasure. Add Bryce Canyon to the list, an other-worldly experience with its amazing rock formations—the largest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) on earth. I love being a tour guide when I’m not trying to find my way around a creative project or three!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

What a great question. I will try to avoid doing what some award-winners do at the OSCAR, which is thank a laundry list of people—I certainly could. To be sure, many people have contributed to my journey, and I have probably let all of them know along the way how much gratitude I have. Gratitude is a gift for someone else who has given you with the gift of support, and it feels good to remind them—and to remind myself.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a creative village to nurture an individual in his or her creative path. In no particular order: Let’s start with Dan Koffman, an eccentric artist who lives on an island in Washington and is always a voice of wisdom and perspective. Howard Seller, a former English department chairman whose feedback, sage advice, and true friendship have always steered me in the right direction. Pauline Corse, my first journalism teacher in college, who took me under her wing when I couldn’t really fly on my own. Grant Maloy Smith, a singer-songwriter, video producer, and my website guru who has given me a presence in the marketplace. (Yes, the guy who inspired me to write a song about my feelings for our friendship.) Marty Rifkin, my music producer, who always manages to take my piano-vocal songs and turn them into productions I can truly be proud of. Ron Grant, my former songwriter partner who died prematurely—an inspiration and arguably the most creative person I have ever met. And yes, Key Parker, my first lyric-writing teacher who never pulls any punches in her critiques. She’s made me a better lyric writer, albeit with a little blood spilled along the way, Also, the Academy of New Music Theater, which helped me hone my lyric-writing chops even more. And Robert Tucker, a lifelong professional speaker who helped give me some key tools in my public speaking career. Last but not least, my wife, Jackie, who always helps make my songs better, clearer, and more authentic. She comes from a Persian culture rich in poets, and she has a poetic voice in her writing and in her heart. On many things I have written, she probably deserves a co-credit (as she reminds me!). There are also many heroic individuals who have modeled the kind of qualities I most admire. Nelson Mandela is at the top of that list. Another one is Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli music conductor who had the audacity to bring young musicians from Arab countries, the Palestinian territories, and Israel together to play concerts because he believed instruments of peace were better than weapons of war. For the moment, that music has faded into the background.

Organizations? I’m big on social organizations that have inspired me as a human being even more than as a creative artist: David Miliband’s International Rescue Committee, which spearheads humanitarian relief efforts worldwide. Chef Jose Andres and the World Central Kitchen, which provides meals for displaced people in war-torn areas. Doctors Without Borders. The work of all three of these organizations helps define my social conscience, which is reflected in many of the songs I write.

There are others, too. My mom, who has long been a champion of my efforts, and certainly the many “fans” (i.e., Liz, Vera, Allan, Les, Victor, David, Patty, and my brother Dan) whose encouragement and insight give me the energy I need to want to continue to create.

Website: www.ronovadiamusic.com | ronovadiaspeaks.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ron-ovadia-57b32312

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheRonOvadia/

Youtube: Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/ronovadia Youtube: https://soundcloud.com/ronovadiamusic

Other: Website/music: www.ronovadiamusic.com Website/speaking: www.ronovadiaspeaks.com

Image Credits
Photo of me at piano: Zoran Usoric Ron in red shirt: Jackie Ovadia Ron & Clinton: Les Miller Ron in corporate look with coat and yellow shirt: Walter Urie Ron Photo with goat: Jackie Ovadia

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