Pamela Yellen’s untold story (part 2 – the ugly Halloween mask)

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs 

At the end of my circus adventure (if you missed the story about my riding an elephant in a skin-tight gold sequined leotard, you can read all about it here), I returned to Sarasota, Florida. And I have to confess, I was beginning to feel a little restless.

My dating life was non-existent and I couldn’t afford to keep buying men (it’s not what it seems!). I had been working as the sales manager for a specialty publication for three years. Work was fine, but not very exciting and not something that I was passionate about.

All in all, my life was okay. Just okay. Yawn!

This really is me in my ugly Halloween mask
This really is me in my ugly Halloween mask

Then one day, I received an invitation to a Halloween party. Yahoo! It was the next grand adventure I’d been looking for! Because it wasn’t just a party where I got to dress up in costume and maybe meet some new people – it was a party in Phoenix, Arizona. 

My cousin and his wife lived there. I’m sure they sent the invitation just to keep in touch, never expecting I’d take them up on it. But never under-estimate the mischievous schemes of a date-less thirty-something female with a boring job! I decided to surprise them and drop in on the event.

To pull this caper off, I planned to be completely unrecognizable. So I flew to Phoenix lugging along a really ugly, scary mask. (I didn’t wear it on the plane. Even though they didn’t have as much security back then, they never would have let me on the flight!) I practiced disguising my voice during the trip, which earned me more than a few odd looks from other passengers. By the time I rang my cousin’s doorbell, I sounded like Kermit the Frog and looked like a petite Freddy Krueger.

And it worked! Throughout the night, my cousin had no idea who I was until I took my mask off. And as a bonus, I met a bundle of eligible men, six of whom (after I removed the mask!) asked me out on dates! That was more offers in one evening than I’d had in three years in Sarasota.

Phoenix was starting to look pretty good.

When I got back to Sarasota, I gave notice at my job, packed up my stuff, said good-bye to my friends and turned the nose of my car toward Phoenix. Yes, the only people I knew there were my cousin, his wife, and a few folks I had met at the party. Yes, I had no job waiting for me and no clue of what I would do next. Yes, it did seem like a crazy thing to do.

But sometimes the next chapter of life calls so strongly, it’s silly to argue – so I didn’t 

Once I got settled in Phoenix in 1987, I dabbled in a few things – like representing the late Marlene McGoffin, an artist who created magnificent, colorful batik-dyed paintings and sculptures. As I tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I attended scads of networking events and singles gatherings. Invariably, someone would ask me that as-yet unanswerable question: “So what do you do?”

Of course, when I confessed to being in betwixt and between, everybody seemed to have a suggestion for me, everything from “Go back and get an MBA” to “Have you considered modeling?” They suggested I check out Rotary and Soroptimists. But the one suggestion that popped up again and again was, “You should go to a meeting of the National Speakers Association.

Puh –leeez! 

I was the kind of person who had stage fright so bad that I would literally forget my own name and nationality if I had more than three people – say, a grandmother with six Girl Scouts – in front of me. Terrified did not adequately describe my feeling about public speaking. Riding a zipline made of dental floss over the Grand Canyon would seem less scary to me.

But the suggestion kept popping up. Dozens of people encouraged me to check the National Speakers Association (NSA) out and no one seemed to buy my excuses. I finally agreed only so I could respond to the suggestion that I’d been there, done that, and it simply wasn’t for me.

NSA was founded in Phoenix and its local chapter was very active. The meeting I decided to attend featured a top motivational speaker and a man who was a successful coach and consultant.

I was especially interested in the dynamic presentation by Somers White, a former Arizona state senator and international business consultant. At one point, he mentioned that he coaches professionals to determine which niche market(s) would be good matches for them. Then he helps them dominate that market quickly. Perfect! I was a professional without a profession looking for my niche!

After his talk, I approached and asked how much he charged. “I charge $2,500 for a day-and-a-half session.” $2,500! Gulp!

I was sure he was worth it, but I hadn’t made much money since my move. I’d been living off my savings, and I was down to the nubbins, except for the money in my IRA – and I was determined not to touch that. To work with him, I’d have to put his fee on a credit card.

Even back then, I did not use my charge cards lightly. I debated back and forth with myself. But my instincts were practically screaming at me to take this big step forward. Out came the plastic and I made the appointment.

It was one of the smartest moves I ever made 

Somers White helped me see that I had a natural knack for helping others prospect for business. He coached me to figure out an industry where I could dominate, to become the big fish in a little pond rather than getting lost in the shuffle. And it needed to be a market I had affinity for and an industry that had an enormous need for what I could offer.


After a few hours and a zillion ideas, we settled on the insurance and financial services industry. Professionals in those sectors have a huge need for the business-building skills I could provide. My dad had owned an insurance agency and I had once been licensed to sell life and health insurance – a career that lasted for approximately three weeks. (Insurance licenses are like real estate licenses: Almost everyone gets one or the other at some point!)

My connection to insurance and financial services was a bit weak, but it was all I needed. My coach and I spent the next several hours packaging and positioning my expertise. Together, we came up with a dynamic marketing plan to make in-roads into that industry quickly. Brilliant! It was 1990 and I was on my way!

Except for one tiny thing…

Part of our dynamic marketing plan required me to give presentations. In front of people. Out loud.

Me, the woman who would rather face two hungry lions with a particular craving for red-headed females! Me, who would rather eat deep-fried silk worms! Me, who would feel more comfortable running naked down the streets of Siberia in winter – okay, maybe not that one.

How the heck was I going to pull this off? I had to get over my fear – and fast! But I’ll have to save that story for next time…

So what’s the moral of my story so far? 

  1. When life calls, don’t put that call on hold – answer it! It takes a leap of faith to get from “ho-hum” to “wow!”
  2. A really good business coach can often point out valuable talents and gifts that you don’t recognize in yourself. It’s worth the investment!
  3. Do not try to flirt wearing a Freddie Krueger mask. Anyone interested in you in that look probably has a different kind of date in mind…

Read on to find out how a few scribbles on a scrap of paper launched my career and landed me the love of my life!

Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

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