The Perils of Pamela Yellen

Dale Carnegie wrote,

If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Vintage Movie poster, “The Perils of Pauline—The Abduction, 6th Episode in 2 parts”—from 1914

Did your grandmother ever tell you about The Perils of Pauline? The Perils of Pauline was a 1914 series of feature films about an energetic and naive young woman who traveled the world, running into mayhem and misadventures.

Vintage Movie poster, “The Perils of Pauline—The Abduction, 6th Episode in 2 parts”—from 1914

Sounds kinda like the script of my life.

This is Chapter Three of my untold story. You can read Chapter 1, The Elephant and the Circus, here. And go here to read Chapter 2, about The Ugly Halloween Mask.

Launching My New Career

Where were we? Oh, yeah. So, I had hauled myself across the country and found a coach, Somers White, who helped me design a fabulous business plan. The teensy weensy problem was that this brilliant plan required me to do the one thing that terrified me the most. No, I’m not talking about parachuting out of an airplane while blindfolded. In my mind, this was something far worse.

My personal source of terror was speaking in public.

I was fine with one-on-one conversations. Even talking one-on-two or one-on-three was okay. But put me in front of a bunch of people staring at me waiting for pearls of wisdom to spew forth? I’d rather get a root canal with no Novocain, or go bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, or—okay, just about anything rather than speak in public.

But my brilliant new business plan demanded it. Ugh! Once I had settled on a career of consulting and speaking to the financial services industry, I realized I better get over my paralyzing stage fright very quickly!

Life has a way of taking interesting twists and turns. Often, it’s not clear where our paths are taking us until much later.

Don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars!

I started moving into my new career, making contacts and worrying about how to get through my public speaking phobia. The artist I’d been representing, Marlene McGoffin, told me I could use more self-esteem, and she invited me to attend a workshop about building self-esteem, led by several women from Los Angeles.

As Marlene told me about the workshop, I realized I didn’t know exactly what “self-esteem” meant. She said, “Well, if you’re going to go to the workshop, you better list three results you want to get from it. Otherwise, don’t go.”

So, I grabbed a pen and scribbled this down:

  1. I want to be able to speak without fear—to any size group.
  2. I want to be in a loving, harmonious relationship—with my soul mate.
  3. I want to be able to look in the mirror and like—if not love—what I see.

Honestly? As I wrote them down, all three of those goals seemed impossible!

Getting comfortable with public speaking seemed as far-fetched as learning to swim in a school of ravenous piranha. Finding a great relationship seemed as likely as winning the lottery. And liking what I see in the mirror? Only if I lost my eyesight completely. Like many women (and men) I know, all I could see in the mirror were what I perceived as flaws—and I was sick and tired of feeling yucky about myself!

But I attended the self-esteem workshop, and it was very powerful. I can’t explain exactly what happened, but shortly afterward I began experiencing dramatic shifts in all three of the areas I’d written down.

It was really amazing how several things started happening at once.

“Do the Thing You Fear and the Death of Fear Is Certain”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Soon after that workshop, the Phoenix chapter of the American Cancer Society heard about my record-setting bachelor bid at the Sarasota, Florida, chapter—yes, my infamous open-the-circus-in a sequined-bodysuit-riding-an-elephant date. The committee asked if I would speak about my experience to help inspire the women who would be attending the upcoming Phoenix “Bid for Bachelors” event.

I said “Sure. I’d be happy to help. How long?”

“Five minutes.”

“No problem. How many people?”

“Five hundred.”

“Five hundred? Uh. …” My breathing stopped and my heart started doing the cha-cha.

But I wasn’t going to back out on this good cause. I jumped in with both very cold feet.

Later, they told me my talk went well. They told me I was fun and articulate. They told me I got a standing ovation. I honestly don’t remember a single thing about the experience, except that I was focused on not passing out.

But I had faced my dragon and survived! So I was off and running and ready to launch my business!

Life Beyond the Dragon

I started calling insurance agency managers in town, offering to do a three-hour seminar for their agents on how to find prospective clients. My proposal was to do the seminar for a discounted fee, with the understanding that if the agents got value from my session, the manager would write a letter of recommendation and refer me to other agency managers within their company across the country.

That simple strategy worked like gangbusters! The agents loved my presentation, and I soon had a dozen letters of recommendation—plus introductions to every agency manager in the country for those companies. My new business was launched out of thin air! Woo-hoo!

Within six months, I was invited to speak at the national meeting of my target market’s association. Over the next few years, I spoke three times at the Million Dollar Round Table, one of the most prestigious sales organizations in the world. Once, I even addressed them in my bathrobe! (What can I say? It was a 6:00 a.m. breakfast meeting!)

“I’m Looking for Love, But It’s Just Not There”—The Carpenters

The business side of my life was well on its way. And I had learned to be kinder to myself and more confident about my physical appearance. And my love life, which had been stuck in neutral with the parking brake on, began to move ever so slowly.

Years before, I had met—and later married—a brilliant man I met at the age of seventeen during my first week in college. Over time, his health deteriorated. He became addicted to pain killers, sedatives and alcohol. I eventually realized I couldn’t stay in that relationship. My husband was on a path of self-destruction and would have taken me down with him, except that I ended the marriage after 13 very trying years.

Having been with the same man since my first week of college, I had never really been on my own. So I naively jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I began a relationship with a man I later discovered was an alcoholic. Once I extricated myself from that unhappy relationship, I decided I would either be in a loving, harmonious relationship, or none at all. Besides, by then I was discovering that I truly enjoyed my own company. Yes, my self-esteem had grown that much!

“What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love”—Jackie DeShannon

I attended a number of singles events and did some dating. But no sparks flew. And honestly, dating is a lot of work! I was getting tired of getting all dolled up to meet guys who I would discover were not the least bit interesting to me. I decided to take a break.

Around that time, I started receiving mailers about a dating service. (This was before Internet dating took hold.) The dating service followed a model much like eHarmony does today: You fill out a profile about your personality and values, then the service matches you with people whose profiles match yours.

The pitch I got in the mail invited me to complete and mail in the profile. The letter promised I would find it interesting to see “what it revealed” about me. (That alone was a good enough reason to send in my profile, right?) I filled out the profile just for a lark, curious to see the report. I assumed it would come in the mail. But it didn’t.

Instead, I got a telephone call from the service, telling me they really needed women my age, living in that part of Phoenix, to meet the demand from the men in the area. Could they come out to my home to show me how the service works?

I explained I was not actively looking to find a mate. I was merely curious about the personality report they promised. I also told them that, as someone in sales myself, I would never waste another salesperson’s time. And there was absolutely no way I was going to join their program!

The phone representative wasn’t easily put off. She listed a handful of reasons I should listen to the presentation. Finally I gave in, saying, “But please let your salesperson know I’m not going to buy. If he still wants to come out and waste his time, okay.”

“Take a Chance on Me”—Abba

When the salesman arrived, he launched into a 90-minute, exceptionally well-crafted presentation about the merits of the dating service, and he had a good answer to every objection I gave him. When I asked the price of the service, he said it was “only” $1,500 for a one year membership, and wouldn’t that be worth it if I could find the man of my dreams. I told him there was no way I was going to fork over $1,500 when I wasn’t even interested in dating!

He left, unsuccessful in his mission to make a sale. (Hey, I had warned him!)

About ten days later, I received another call from the service. “We are desperately in need of women like you in the service. Would you join if we discounted the rate to $100 for two years?” Let’s see: $1,500 for one year, or $100 for two years. Hmm. … Isn’t that a 97% discount?

So I said, “Sure,” figuring that if nothing else, I would get some good stories if I ever decided to write my autobiography.

Shortly after that call, the dating service started mailing me one or two referrals each month. Over the next few months, I met five or six of the referrals for lunch. They were all really nice guys, and they all did seem to have a lot in common with me. The service was doing its job, all right, but there weren’t any sparks. I firmly believe there must be chemistry, even on the first date, so no second dates followed.

In December 1989, the service sent a referral to a man named Larry Hayward—the man who is now my husband, my best friend, and the love of my life. Larry sounded fascinating just based on the way he described himself on the referral form. He didn’t try to “sell” himself. In fact, he was pretty casual about the whole thing.

That was refreshing! For the first time since joining the dating service, I was really looking forward to meeting one of their referrals.

“My One And Only Love”—Frank Sinatra

When Larry and I met, we clicked on all levels. We were truly matched in so many ways. In fact, we’ve become real believers in this kind of “third-party selection process” for people looking for mates.

Larry had two previous marriages that had ended badly. His reason for joining the dating service was that he realized that on his own, he wasn’t attracting the right kind of woman. It was time to let the experts do it for him, using a scientific and tested method!

The two of us have been together ever since.

Larry worked the night shift at the post office. But he soon quit his job to work full time in my company. His talents complemented mine, and the company’s revenues soon began to grow as a result of our partnership.

We got tired of the heat, traffic and the crazy sprawling city Phoenix had become. We realized we could run our company from anywhere we wanted—and this was well before working from home or running a business without a building was common. We decided to relocate to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we still live today.

For several years, Larry and I had a blast traveling around the country and throughout Southeast Asia together giving business seminars. Eventually, the constant traveling—often four or five different cities in one week—got tiring. Then after 9/11, with all of its new security restrictions and regulations, traveling became a grind.

We decided to do more telephone seminars from home and package our expertise for sale as recorded training programs on CDs, accompanied by printed materials. Larry held my hand (so I wouldn’t tear out my hair) while I wrote two books, both of which became New York Times best sellers, and we’ve weathered a number of life’s crises together. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in business or in life.

“Magic Mirror, on the Wall, Who Is the Fairest One of All?”—The Evil Queen in Disney’s “Snow White”

So what about that third seemingly unattainable goal I had written down, the one that said, “I want to be able to look in the mirror and like—if not love—what I see”?

I’m getting there! I can look at myself in a full-length mirror, without worrying that the mirror will crack—or crack up.

I still don’t love having my picture taken for publication, but mostly now it’s because I don’t want to go to the trouble of getting my hair done and other stuff like that.

But I actually am more pleased with my appearance today than I was when I was a mere child of 30 … or 40.

I’ve also come to gauge my worth by who I am and the contribution I make to the world, rather than by what I look like.

I didn’t know that it was possible to reach those three goals, when Marlene McGoffin urged me to write them down. I plunked down cash for that workshop with absolutely no assurance it wouldn’t be a waste of money I couldn’t afford to waste.

But in that instance, as in so many other times in my life, I listened to my instinct. I followed my gut.

And I remember what personal development teacher Les Brown taught me …

Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”

So what’s the moral of this story?

  1. What you want the most is often just beyond what you fear the most. (That’s one of life’s little ironies!) Don’t let your dragons scare you away from who you can become.
  2. It’s smart to get help from the experts, whether it’s your career, learning to feel good about yourself, improving your finances, or even finding a mate!
  3. Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition. Be willing to say “yes” more often than “no.” If I hadn’t naively accepted the gig for the American Cancer Society, if I hadn’t reluctantly agreed to meet the dating service salesman, and if I hadn’t enthusiastically accepted the date with Larry, I wouldn’t have the awesome life I enjoy today!

To put it all in perspective, I have to agree with the great humanitarian, Albert Schweitzer:

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

My life continued to take some interesting twists and turns, so check out the next chapter of my story here.

Movie poster: Perils of Pauline, by Movie Goods, Public Domain

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