Panamanian/American actor, Deborah Lee Fong is known for her critically acclaimed performances. An entrepreneur at heart, she has over 30 years of experience in Acting & Dancing and has played lead roles in several movies. In this interview, she shares details about her career and her future plans.
Deborah, Thank you for talking with us. You have over 30 years of experience in Acting and Dancing. Tell us more about your tryst with Dancing and Acting?
I suppose it started with my first trip to Broadway, as a child, to see Oliver. I was intrigued by the production, the music and of course the company of actors who made me believe I was in a different place and time. In my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be a part of that world.
My career has taken lots of twists and turns, and careers; life does that to you. I am fortunate and grateful to be where I am in my life. It has been a dance woven between familial commitments, maturity, and patience. You start out pursuing your passion and along the way, there are entanglements, not necessarily negative, just events that take you on a different journey.
I was introduced to the theatre through dance and drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse children’s program where I attended classes every Saturday from elementary school up until high school. I also modeled for the ILGWU for several years and had tremendous fun walking the runway with my mom.
When it came time for high school, I auditioned for the High School of Performing Arts on 46h Street in Manhattan and was accepted. High School was an incredible time – studio every day, meeting talented young people from all the boroughs. (I grew up in Queens so Queens was home, the other boroughs not so much, lol) We were teens, with all the angst and traumas of teen years and we were also neck-deep in absorbing the details and discipline necessary to nurture our interests.
It is a time I look back upon with great wonder and affection for the patience and wisdom I received from many of my studio and academic teachers. Nothing is ever perfect, and there were difficult episodes in high school and during my teenage years, in hindsight, PA was one of the best decisions of my life. The lessons learned there have served me well throughout my entire life. And, many of the friends I made in high school are still close friends today.
Upon graduating from high school, I had my eyes set on one particular school and they put me on their waiting list. I declined offers from two other very fine schools, and waited for the letter saying I was off the waiting list and on the accepted list. However, it was not to be. I was kind of stuck. At the time I received the disappointing news, I was in Mexico City visiting my father who had relocated t from San Francisco. So, I figured I might as well try university life in Mexico, I was there and it made sense to me. I was accepted into the United States International University – lived with my dad and my stepmother and siblings and started my college life. It was all academics, I did well but I missed the creative process, the daily explorations of self and creativity. It just so happened that my university had a School of Performing Arts (kismet) division in San Diego (USIU SPA). I auditioned and was accepted.
Apart from skill, your field of work requires perseverance. These days, how easy or difficult it is for young actors to get a break?
Talent abounds and perseverance is still a critical factor in pursuit of crafting your skills and having the opportunity to practice them. Focusing on a result, like “the break” can be frustrating and self defeating.
You recently appeared as Agnes in the production of “Secret Santa”. Tell us more about this experience.
Agnes is everyone’s office mom. Kind, sensitive, and just a little overprotective of her office mates. She is the person who calms bruised egos and builds you back up! I really enjoyed Agnes.
Urbanworld Film Festival is one of the largest competitive film festivals. How was your experience in the recently held Urbanworld Film Festival?
It was really terrific and very satisfying. Outstanding talent sharing time and space, what can possibly be better than that?
You have played critically acclaimed roles in several films. Which is your most memorable role so far?
Several years ago I participated in an evening of readings and I had the honor of reading letters from survivors of the Greenwood Massacre. I carry that experience in my heart and soul.
What suggestion would you give to young aspiring actors?
Advice is a tricky thing. What I want to share is that while my journey as an actor did not follow a straight course, I know that my heart never let go of the need to be creative. I found different outlets for that creativity and developed some new skills along the way. I think it’s important to remain flexible, receptive to new opportunities and trust your instincts.
An Interview with Michael Eisenga – Former Mayor of Columbus and Entrepreneur
Michael Eisenga is a commercial real estate investor, entrepreneur, and proud father of three boys. His wide range of skills includes commercial real estate investing, property management, assisting living facility operation, leadership, strategic planning, public policy, and community outreach.
We recently interviewed him to know more about his life including his entrepreneurial journey.
Michael, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
My best days at work are when I arrive, and essentially, everything is running smoothly. And when I’m checking into things and following up on things, everything just seems to go like clockwork.
My days that aren’t so great at work are the days when big decisions have to be made. And sometimes they’re big and important decisions, and there’s not a lot of time to make those decisions. I never like to be in a position where I feel like I have to be rushed to make a decision, but unfortunately, things like that happen. Or if there’s some type of other crisis
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
What I like is to be able to focus on is the big picture and vision of the businesses and how we’re going to continue to expand, improve ourselves as far as the services and the cares that we’re offering, how we can make the facilities we have better. Then also, looking at opportunities to maybe expand and grow the business as well.
When it comes to your business, what was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
I think that moment for me was when I transitioned from being a small business owner, where I was essentially doing all of the jobs to being able to delegate. I realized that I had delegation skills to bring other people on board to do the day-to-day operations with me overseeing them, which allowed me to focus on, as I said earlier, the overall vision of the business and growth opportunities, and things like that.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
I would say the most important part of my professional journey was my decision to become self-employed. When I initially started my mortgage banking company, that’s when I first became self-employed. And I had worked for others up until that point. I was concerned—I had never been in that position before. I was in my 20s at the time, and I thought, “Boy! Am I going to have the drive and ambition to wake up in the morning and go to work because it’s me?” Before, I’ve always had to make sure I show up to work because I had a boss. And if I didn’t show up to work, I’d be in trouble, and I could eventually lose my job.
I felt confident about the industry and the business that I was opening, and I knew it would be successful because I understood it. But when you’re taking that leap from being an employee to being a self-employed person—and I hadn’t taken the leap yet at that point to be an employer—I wondered how that would work out and if I’d be successful in that kind of a role, which I was.
What risks is your company facing?
The biggest risk right now with assisted living is really where you are located and doing good market studies gearing toward the private pay residents. Because if you miss the mark on that, you may be forced to take a lot of the public pay residents. And while we certainly want to see that everybody has a nice place to stay, the public pay managed care companies that administer those programs are continuing to cut rates. In fact, I’m dealing with one of the providers right now who’s trying to cut our rates again, too.
Eventually, we will probably have to just phase-out of the entire public pay scenario because there’s just such a difference between what they’re willing to pay for a resident compared to what our private pay people are paying. It can’t be justified. It’s not feasible to take off that kind of a loss on your units. That is probably a risk.
I think there’s always some risk with regulations. As time goes on, it gets to be more and more costly to meet those regulations. I’m always concerned about being in a business that’s heavily regulated by the government because you always hope that the government is going to keep regulations that are feasible and rational. But you never know.
That’s essentially what brought down the mortgage industry. When I first got into it in the mortgage industry, there probably weren’t enough regulations, and there were abuses that took place. And as a result, however, the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other, whereby it made it to the point that the business is not profitable anymore. A few big people out there are doing a lot of volume, and they have the connections. But what they really did was they knocked the small operators and the medium-sized operators to a large degree out. And even the large operators are not making a lot of money; they’re taking on a lot of risk for the business they’re writing, and there’s not a lot of margins. It’s become a commodity business, and commodity businesses are never very profitable.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would probably try to do what I’m doing right now but just on a larger scale with expansions. Looking at larger properties, I may even look at getting into some additional industries that I may have some interest in that could piggyback on what I’ve already been doing. But I guess right now; it’s not something that I’ve thought a lot about because no matter who you are, you don’t have unlimited resources. So that would probably be a direction I’d go.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I get into the swing and the flow of things, usually during a business day, especially if I have a time crunch, where I’m trying to get something put together for a meeting or forwarded on to a third party to take a look at. I can’t think of anything specifically. But that does happen, and then all of a sudden, you realize that the day is almost over, and you might be at work a little longer that day just finishing it up.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work, I have three boys, and I spend my time with them. I share placement with my ex-wife, so if I don’t have them all the time, I spend time with friends and family, dine out, do some traveling here and there. I’m kind of a movie buff. I like to watch movies. I like to play cards; I like to swim. That’s what’s keeping me busy outside of work. I enjoy going to events. I’ve hosted fundraisers; I go to fundraising events and things like that.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
In the past, when the mortgage company was open, I made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I mean, we did mortgages that lowered people’s payments and gave them extra money every month. And sometimes we saved them tremendous amounts of money every month. I mean, that was gratifying. We were able to get people in homes that maybe wouldn’t qualify someplace else.
In the assisted living industry, we make a big difference. We provide housing at an affordable price to people who need assistance. But yet, in many cases, they’re still very capable. But it’s a lot cheaper than going to a nursing home, and it’s a lot cheaper than having somebody at your house 24 hours a day. We provide services on top of that. We provide meals; we provide activities; we provide care. So we’re providing a nice place for our residents, but we’re also providing peace of mind for our residents’ families. So that’s a good feeling.
Then, of course, I look at the people that I employ. I’m providing them with opportunities and employment, and a paycheck. So I think that makes a difference to a lot of people.
An Interview with Joey Klein, Founder and CEO of Inner Matrix Systems
Joey Klein is the founder and CEO of Inner Matrix Systems, a personal mastery training system for high achievers. He is the author of “The Inner Matrix: Leveraging the Art & Science of Personal Mastery to Create Real Life Results.” He has been interviewed by Self Magazine, INC.com, Yahoo Finance and NBC. Klein has coached leaders from some of the world’s top companies, including IBM, Coca Cola and the World Health Organization.
We recently got the opportunity to interview Joey.
Joey, Thank you for talking with us. For someone who helps others achieve their personal best, every single day must be a satisfying day. However, tell me about your best days at work.
The best days at work are when I get to execute my art — personal development and transformational work — and make a difference in people’s lives, whether working one-on-one with people or with an audience. I like doing what I can to be able to see lives change. Those are definitely my best days.
Your clients come from different backgrounds and are generally high achievers. In your view, who are high achievers? Also, What does your training system focus on?
Our clients are high achievers, looking to get an edge inside what they do. A high achiever is anyone looking to do what they do in the best way they can, whether that’s an entrepreneur running a large organization, or a mom or dad wanting to master parenting in a particular way, and everything in between, from pro athletes to artists.
Our training system focuses on developing what drives our choices, decisions, and actions, which are our internal mechanisms, our emotional intelligence, and our thought strategies, etc. We train people to manage their inner game to perform at the level they want to achieve.
Helping others achieve their goals must be a great reward in itself. However, what was your biggest “aha” moment?
My biggest “aha” moment was when, after years of training people, I realized I couldn’t train people the same way I was trained. When I studied with my mentors, it was extremely intense. They were very direct and, what I would call, extreme high intensity. That level of intensity trained a resilience and capacity that supported me to create extraordinary outcomes for myself. When I started training people at the request of my mentors, I brought that same high level of intensity and expectations to the space. And when people opted out of training with me, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand why they didn’t show up for the training that would lead to the outcome they had named for themselves.
That type of training does not scale well. My mentors were training only a few people at a time at that level of intensity. It never occurred to me that there were so few of us because we were the only ones willing to show up for that type of training. I was trying to take the same intense regimen that worked in a small group of people willing to be up to it and have it work for hundreds of people at a time. And when you’re trying to build a company in that space — when you have a 10% retention reality — that’s not great. It doesn’t work out. What I realized is, although many of us are driven to be high achievers who want a better life, not everyone has the desire to be trained in an intense way. I learned to meet people where they are at and to give them the next step based on wherever they are in their own development. It was a game-changer.
This new way of training is much more enjoyable for me. I realized that few people are ready and willing for the type of training I had. But if you meet people where they are and nudge them along the way, they often learn how to drive at that all-out intensity.
What has been the most important part of your journey?
The most important part of my journey has been learning the difference between developing a high-capacity heart — in other words, cultivating my love of training people by developing their capacities — and the idea that this would easily translate to professional success.
I love training people and supporting them to develop themselves to create what they choose for themselves. However, this on its own does not create a business. Early on, as I developed my training system, I started studying business and realized I needed to develop a high level of capacity and aptitude for it if I really wanted to change lives and do what I love doing at scale. To have a large impact and influence the lives of thousands of people, there needs to be a structure in place.
The skillset and the aptitude necessary to build out business structures, team cultures, and operational systems that can deliver a product or a service at scale is the thing that makes impact possible. Taking on an intensive study of business, entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, and all of the logistics that make a business run, work, and grow is what makes the impact that we have today possible. Without that, we could still have an impact, but it wouldn’t be as big as what we’re after. And while there’s nothing wrong with an intimate impact, you’re only influencing the lives of 50 or 100 people as opposed to thousands or millions.
The training industry has seen a surge in so-called ‘experts’. But not everyone provides quality training. In that context, what risks is your company facing?
There’s a great documentary out on Netflix right now called the Social Dilemma, which talks about how people don’t know what real information is anymore. Often, it’s “fake news,” so to speak. The internet gives us more access to each other than we’ve ever had before. But, because anybody can engage these platforms or put information out on them, the public is having a harder and harder time distinguishing between a quality product or service as opposed to a non-quality product or service.
When it comes to the arena that we play in, which is training emotional intelligence and thought strategy techniques, we are in the space of optimizing human performance from an internal reality. There are so many people inside the coaching or “training industry” who present well but simply do not know what they’re doing. They may have taken a weekend course to learn skills to train or coach someone, but they have never actually executed with real people or have real outcomes to leverage. Competing with this — making the distinction of how we’re qualified and why we’re different from this inundation of people simply hanging their shingle out and calling themselves personal development experts — is one of the biggest challenges that we constantly work with. We always invite our clients to engage “healthy skepticism” when engaging our training or any others. Engage the training and really lean in, and if you are able to see outcomes that you’ve named for yourself begin to happen, then continue.
We’re not the only great training company out there; there are others. But there are many out there who are not only going to miss the mark but are probably going to cause negative effects as opposed to positive ones. The unique part about IMS is that we’re a proven training system that is not reliant on a one-off experience or individual but a process designed to create self-reliance.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
There are two things I would do. Number one, I would look to market at scale. Many companies that win out don’t win because they have the best product or service out there. They win out because they’re in front of everybody regularly, and they have the resources to do that. There are lots of fast food companies that aren’t in existence today because they make quality food; they exist because they’re in front of everybody. Their marketing is really present. So, letting everybody know that we’re simply available would be a game-changer.
The second thing, because I don’t only want to make money — although that needs to be what every business does — I would put those resources towards education and support to anyone willing to engage. I think everybody deserves to have access to education and developmental support if they’re willing to engage it. Many people in the world would love to have access to education and training to develop themselves to live a better life, but they simply don’t have access to it.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I think this is the way I strive to live every day. If I’m at work and we’re in a strategy session, I lose myself in it. I don’t know what time it is. Thirty minutes could go by, or three hours could go by. I regularly have to have somebody let me know it’s time to go on to the next thing because I’m fully engaged with whatever I’m doing. If I’m surfing in the ocean, nothing else exists. Because nothing else can exist. I love to do activities where it demands that I am not anywhere else because I find that’s where I find the greatest fulfillment. I think we tend to find the greatest fulfillment when we are fully present with what we’re doing.
Most of the discomfort and suffering that we experience is often related to being somewhere else. We are not present with life as it’s happening right in front of us. We’re usually focused on the past or focused on the future. Either on something that we don’t want to happen or avoiding something that has happened and wishing that we had something that isn’t there anymore. I think I strive to live that way where I lose myself in whatever I’m doing at the time.
Apart from training individuals and groups realize their true potential, what else do you love?
My favorite thing is being in nature. That can be skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer, and hiking in the woods. Anything active going on in nature, I’m all in. And making time to be with my girlfriend is also on top of the list. She loves going to nice restaurants, or even Netflix at home is always great.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
The biggest way I make a difference is by giving people access to naming the life they want to live as opposed to the life they feel is available for them. Giving people access to the belief and the ability to name the life they want, but then following that up with how to bridge the gap from where they are in life to where they want to go. That, in my mind, is the transformational journey.
Creating a paradigm shift is the way I think we create the biggest service. We offer the greatest benefit to people by showing them how to create a paradigm shift where we can look at our reality half a degree differently. That gives us the ability to see what’s necessary within ourselves and our environment and to go from where we are to where we’d like to go. Often, the answers are right in front of us; we have the information within us. It’s usually a small adjustment but a necessary one that needs to happen to change perspective, giving us access to possibility.
An Interview with Digital Designer Kim Baschet
Kim Baschet is a French Digital Designer who has helped businesses build and strengthen their online presence. He has a particular interest in motion and has successfully conceived movement and transitions for all the products and websites he worked on to create a smooth and spirited experience for the users.
Kim, Thank you for talking with us. Please describe your journey as a Designer
I always loved illustration as a kid, so it started from there! I was drawing all the time. As a really empathetic person, I gravitated to design over time. I wanted to make things that looked great but also could serve people. I loved learning design software, as it allowed me to iterate, fail, retry, and finally produce something that I was really proud of. It gave me the freedom to explore my creativity! I studied at Gobelins in Paris and got a Master’s degree in Interaction Design.
Gobelins is a top school, so it was a really competitive process, but it was definitely worth it. It was amazing to meet, learn from, and collaborate with so many other like-minded people. After graduating, I worked for both agencies and studios in Paris before moving to San Francisco to work at Upperquad. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some talented people and work on some large brands such as Google, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, DELL, Le Monde, GE, and Warner Bros. I am now an Independent designer. My next project for Google made in collaboration with Instrument will launch in April, so keep an eye out!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear design?
Concept, Aesthetic & Usability. An important part is visual, but Design’s purpose is to be intuitive and communicate effectively.
How important is movement for you as a digital designer?
In digital design, movement is key. It guides the user from one screen to another. Motion makes an interface react with actions. These reactions can even convey as much information as words. With motion, I can create a delightful transition that accompanies the viewer from one place to another. It also can increase originality and elevate a brand’s image.
What are some of the software/ tools that are must for any modern-day designer?
Figma is a powerful tool that allows designers to team up and collaborate with development teams. I really recommend learning it. At the moment, it might be the best software for great workflow in interface design. With these remote times, it’s becoming the main tool of many tech companies and agencies worldwide. Motion tools are becoming essential as well.
Programs like After Effects or Principle can help a designer communicate their intentions so much better, whether it be for interactions or just pure aesthetics.
You take an active role in the interactive design community as a judge for Awwwards, CSS Design Awards and The Webbys. Tell us more about that experience.
It’s a great experience to be a judge in these international awards competitions alongside many talented and renowned people. More specifically, I get to vote on the Site of The Day’ and ‘Agency of the year’! It pushes me to do a deeper dive into the elements of great sites. In turn, this feeds back into my own work and inspires me. There are many cool projects out there, and it’s great to take them in every day and be an active part of the design community.
You have worked with a range of clients. With whom did you enjoy the most?
Well, I couldn’t pick one. I love all the projects I did with Google, like AI Responsibilities, Jigsaw type, and Scam Spotter because I get to create a playful style that resonates with me. I used my whole skillset on these projects, including conception, UI design, illustration, and animation.
Another project that’s worth mentioning is Le Monde’s website redesign. For this project, I worked with data from millions of users. I had to find solutions for a global audience while redesigning the site.
You have also been involved in the creation of Santa Tracker. Tell us more about Santa Tracker and the overall experience of its creation.
Santa Tracker is a website with holiday-themed games presented by Google. I worked on this project for 4 months with Upperquad. From the conception and workshops with the client to the design of the website, microgames, and final launch. I was able to collaborate with some very talented coworkers and illustrators. I started by building a whole new brand guide, so the Google team could implement the system we created across all touch-points.
From there, we work-shopped with the client and conceived new ideas for Santa’s Village. A part I particularly enjoyed was leading the design and 3D for a WebGL game called Snowball, a 3D interactive winter playground. The experience was a challenge because I had to create a 3D universe consistent with the 2D style. It was a success and the project was nominated for Best Visual Design by the Webby awards.
In your view, what’s the future of Digital Design?
The future of the industry will move a lot faster because things are easier to build with these new tools. With prototyping and “zero” development tools evolving (even 3D/WebGL one), designers can create more things autonomously and move quickly to testing. It will probably create new trends that evolve quickly and push the boundaries of creativity.
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