Saturday, September 12, 2009


On September 11, 2001 at approximately 8:45am EST, America was changed forever when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower and hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower at approximately 9:05am EST; hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 hit the pentagon at approximately 9:30am EST; and hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, PA, which is about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Fast-forward eight years and here we are, September 11, 2009. The memories are as vivid today as they were that day. I was in Pittsburgh, I just started in a VP of Marketing role three months earlier and my office was in a high-rise in downtown Pittsburgh. I was being the good girl that day and decided to take the bus. I remember it was about 8:45am when a colleague said that the World Trade Center had been hit. I think those of us not in NYC or closeby were thinking "yeah, right". I remember getting on line and just having my eyes glued to the computer or the TV when I finally got home. I remember immediately calling my husband, who was in Livermore, CA at the time - it was before 6am there - and I told him to turn on the TV and be safe! My drama didn't end there. Because we were in Pittsburgh and Flight 93 was so close to Pittsburgh, and our building was practically next door to the US Steel building, the largest building in downtown Pittsburgh, our building was evacuated. In fact, the entire downtown was evacuated, and it took me 3 hours to get back home.

I listened to a lot of radio yesterday and there was a lot of reminiscing of that fateful day. I was listening to KABC and Joe Scarborough had someone from MSNBC on who was working for Bloomberg News at the time. The most eery thing he said was that he was texting people in the World Trade Center that day about financial matters and what was going on immediately after the hit - many of those people perished. Wow, it makes me think a lot of the "drama" in my life is just white noise, and just doesn't matter.

I remember exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001. So, for this post, I decided to ask some friends how they remember 9/11 and this is what they shared...

Mark Kinsey Stephenson - "My alarm clock went off and the radio news turned on. As I blinked my eyes open, I heard the announcer mention something about New York City under attack. What immediately came to mind was Orson Welles and that this prank wasn't funny, so I wandered over to the TV, flipped on one of the local LA channels and from that point through the rest of the day became horrified, watching and praying. I was also grateful that my dear friend, Camille Renna, from NY, was no longer alive to witness it."

Julia Flint - "I had just moved to LA, and I was working for a company in Connecticut. I tried to dial in to their computer that morning and couldn't get through. Then I tried to call them and all the phones were down. Then I tried to call other friends in Connecticut, same thing. (I have family and friends in NY and CT.) I turned on the news, just as they ran the footage of the first plane. I didn't understand what was happening. The newscasters didn't either. It was all a jumble of information. Frankly, I don't remember what happened after that, as I went into some sort of shocked panic. It was a day that changed our lives forever, from our traveling methods, to removal of some of our rights as citizens, to an implied (whether admitted or not) racial profiling, to anger at gov't officials, to that pervasive fear. But it also brought our country together, at least for a time (I will never forget being in New York shortly afterward -- the feeling of humanity/unity was overwhelming)."

David Dean Bottrell - "For some reason, I didn't turn on the news that morning, so I didn't hear about it until I was in my car and happened to turn on the radio. It was about 8:30 PST. At first (with no visuals) I didn't believe it. Planes had hit buildings before and the buildings hadn't collapsed. It wasn't until I got home and saw the footage that it became real."

Caroline Bielskis - "Although this day is marked with an event that has led to much negativity (pain, fear, hate, anger...), it is also marked with many positive things! Birthdays, for one. And, in 1906, Mahatma Gandhi initiated 'Satyagraha‘, which formed the basis of the modern non-violent resistance movement. In 1989, the ‘ Iron Curtain‘ between communist Hungary and Austria opened, paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall."

Neil Hunt - "I was at work, at first we thought it had been a light aircraft that hit the towers, then when we heard a second aircraft hit, we all thought what the hell was going on"

Lindy S. Hudis - "I was still in bed catching up on my sleep, as I had a night job at the time. The phone kept ringing and ringing and I had no idea what was going on. Then, my husband, Steve, told me to turn on the tv and I did and could not believe what I was seeing."

Margaret Chaidez - " I thought it was a commuter plane at first. I remember the whole day and how the world slowed down for a week."


"My cousin was killed in the Pentagon that day. He would have retired from the army in another 3 months. It really is ironic that he had received a purple heart in Vietnam only to die while sitting at his desk on American soil." - Johnny Dam

I think everyone I have talked with about 9/11 says the same thing - they were so amazed to see how strong we were as a nation and how we came together and helped each other. It shouldn't take a tragedy of this magnitude to bring us together. Let's love and protect each other, always.

Do you remember what you were doing on 9/11 or have a 9/11 story of your own? Send it to me. I would love to hear what touched you that day.

Peace and love to all of you!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Follow Up

Happy September. Gosh, can you believe it. September is kind of a renewal for me - getting back to the task at hand after the summer break. The only summer break I took was time from my standing tutor students. Yes, I tutor. My favorite subjects to tutor are Math, English, biosciences (like Biology and Chemistry), History, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and prepping students for their ACT and SAT tests. My life as a tutor in the summer is similar to that of a teacher - when there is no school, there is relatively little teaching or tutoring. I say relatively little because I still managed to have two new students during the summer - the ones that wanted to get a head start on tricky topics or refresh before they start classes. I love to tutor - my fulfillment is helping a student to learn and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they are learning. This week I will start working with my standing tutor students again. The new school year starts - it's time to renew dedication to learning. I'm also looking forward to the new tutoring opportunities I will have.

That was the only summer break I took.

As Susyn, the actor, I didn't take a break. As actors, we constantly are working our actor craft and actor business. We are entrepreneurs - we are the ones that make it happen so we have to work hard - learn and practice what we learn; AND be present. My daily goal is do at least one thing for my actor craft and at least one thing for my actor business. In addition, I try to follow Coach Jim Valvano's very poignant advice - to laugh, think and cry and do it daily.

As an actor, being present also helps me see the many opportunities that I might miss if I wasn't present. An actor also must focus on their actor business. I am an actor because I love being an actor and getting paid for what I love to do - act. To be paid, I have to search out opportunities and before I can be paid, I must develop and cultivate relationships. Cultivating relationships is the only way to sustain your business - and this applies to any business. This is especially true in the entertainment industry, which is a very project-intensive and entrepreneurial industry.

In my opinion, the guru of relationship-building is Keith Ferrazzi. I have been following him for a long time. Read his blog. Once there, check out his new book, "Who's Got Your Back". In one of his recent blog posts, Keith says that following up is the way to stand out from the crowd, it is the key to success in any field. There is a lot of clutter in any industry. To stand out, we have to be unique to get noticed. So, follow up.

Ideas for following up? When you meet someone at an event, do you send them a note 24-48 hours after meeting them? Do you send thank-you notes to casting directors or agents you meet to thank them for meeting you? Do you follow up submissions to industry peeps (agent, CD, producer, director, fellow actor, etc.)? Social media is a great follow up tool - do you forward info or show praise or gratitude for an interesting comment to individuals you met through Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.? Email, Internet, phone, face-to-face are all great follow-up touch points. The keys to follow-up are timeliness, consistency and brevity.

So, does following up work? My answer is one word - absolutely. Here's a recent story for you. I have been lucky so far in my acting career to have had multiple agents. The majority of my agents have come from my following up on submissions that I have sent. There is a set of rules in the entertainment industry - started by who, noone knows - one of which is to not call to follow up. Rules? My stance is to break the rules - you have to be unique, while being professional, to stand out from the crowd. Anyway, this summer I wanted to switch agents so I did my research of agents I wanted to target, sent my headshot and resume along with a "to-the-point" cover letter. I paced myself - I sent my submission packages in a 3-week span. As a result, I was called in from the cover letter but my plan was to follow-up with every agent I didn't hear from. I made those calls, again I paced myself so I didn't overwhelm me! I actually secured more agent meetings and I ultimately signed with a great agent who I wanted to be with and who gets me (actors remember two things about agents - (1) they are a business partner, not a be-all-end-all solution -- you still have to run your business, success is in your hands, and (2) sign with an agent who gets you and you get them -- the relationship must be win-win). So, did I do anything special in the agent meetings? You bet. I researched everything I could find about the agent prior to the meeting and I again referred to Keith Ferrazzi - make the meeting about them and find out what's important to them and what's going on in their business. The meetings were good. The meeting that I had with the agent I chose was great - the connection we immediately had was great. The connection is the key to a great meeting.

It has been proven that we get ahead faster and more effectively by following up. But, we have to be strategic about following up. I have a plan on who I want to meet and I target those individuals. Otherwise, I would not have a focus, get overwhelmed and be ineffective. Start small. And, remember the rule of 7: it takes at least 7 times to "touch" your contact (or buyer) to gain trust and ultimately be in a position to sell. This is where the follow up comes in. And, remember that snail-mail, email, Internet, social media, telephone, face-to-face are all great channels you can use to follow up with someone. Be unique. Mix it up. Remember to be professional, and not a pest.

As a tutor, I'm also an entrepreneur - I have to generate business all the time and I am not able to do that without following up. So, again, it's all in developing and cultivating relationships.

The follow up is first about gaining trust, not getting what you want. Getting what you want happens after you make it about them.

So, remember, ultimately it's all about who knows you, not who you know.