Fearless: How One Financial Expert Faced Her Fear Of Public Speaking

Pamela Yellen and Richard Branson

When you are on a collision course to face your fears in order to achieve your future career goals, what will you do? Do you run and hide, drag your feet and hope things will blow over, or will you dawn your Super Woman cape and address the elephant in the room?

Today’s woman wears many hats and it should come as no surprise that with all of the role-changes, fear and anxiety can be a bit challenging for some. Add to that a career path that is rooted in public speaking and you could have a recipe for disaster as the challenges faced with respect to public speaking are high. Communication, in general, tends to be challenging for women on both a personal and professional level for various reasons, but why do we seem to struggle a bit more with public speaking?

Sweaty palms, a racing heart, or feeling like a frog is lodged in your throat. Those psychosomatic symptoms can be a real bummer and many women never achieve their full potential due to their overwhelming fear of public speaking. To shed light on this common problem, we turned to financial expert and two-time New York Times bestseller, Pamela Yellen, who knows all too well about overcoming the fear of public speaking.

We wanted to know how someone who had garnered enough support to raise $25,000 in funds for the American Cancer Society and was fearless enough to dawn a gold-sequined leotard while riding on an elephant struggled with fear and anxiety that almost halted her career pursuits. “You can be a risk taker and still be afraid to get up in front of more than a couple of people.”

Despite the risks Pamela has taken in her life, it wasn’t until she decided to go in a different direction and develop a more professional career as a financial services consultant and public speaker that she was prompted to deal with her “paralyzing stage fright.” Once she conquered her fears, she went on to help others face their fears relating to financial security and grace us with Bank on Yourself: The Life-Changing Secret to Growing and Protecting Your Financial Future and The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.

To help quell her fears and set her on the path to success, Pamela got busy and ushered in the help of a mentor. When asked if she felt like the mentoring approach and feedback would have set her on a different path had her mentor been a female, she chuckled, “I guess we’ll never know, but I will tell you that I was a bit intimidated by him and he was a very strong, demanding, no-nonsense kind of guy. I think maybe I needed that [approach] at that time.” She also acknowledges her abilities to develop and lead people to reach their potential, developing strategies to avoid foreseeable obstacles, and her natural curiosity to challenge conventional wisdom as key strengths that have contributed to her success.

So what do you do when all eyes are on you and it seems as if the world is judging you? According to Pamela, “You can choose are you gonna sit there and stand there and worry about what they’re gonna think about you or are you going to focus on the fact that you have value to give them.”

Having a clear focus is important when taking on any task, especially something as intimidating as public speaking.Once you choose to change your focus to the value that you bring to your client or an audience, you can begin to approach public speaking differently. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will never have a nervous moment again. Pamela stated she “still gets plagued by a lack of confidence every now and then” but despite a few hang-ups, she has still persisted and has been quite successful in pursuing her goals.

Speaking of womanhood, we would be remiss not to address the obstacles faced by women in addition to the generalized fear many have regarding public speaking. How does one persist when it seems like the odds are stacked against women? Being a woman has made her somewhat of an easier target for negative criticism and has been a cause of hesitancy along her journey.

Given many of the patriarchal norms and stereotypes assigned to women that continue to shape much of society, it’s easy to see how despite all of her success, remnants of fear and anxiety can still rear their ugly heads. There is little doubt that being a woman presents its own set of problems when speaking out and sometimes against the status quo.

When asked about her thoughts on being a woman in such a male-dominated field, Pamela stated, “people attack me regularly because I go against the conventional financial wisdom.” She also offered an inspiring quote from her mentor, Dan Kennedy, “It’s been so profoundly powerful for me ‘If you’re not offending someone by noon every day then you’re not doing much.'” Despite her critics, like a true superhero, Pamela still persists and we are thankful for it.

Switching gears, the interview would not have been complete without garnering some financial advice from the guru herself. Money and financial security or lack thereof can be a great cause of fear and anxiety for anybody. Understanding that a large part of overcoming fear or anxiety involves doing something different, rather it be challenging yourself or learning something new. Pamela’s book encourages you to do both.

With no regard to socio-economic status, age, or income, Bank On Yourself allows consumers to achieve their goals and take control of their financial situation by avoiding Wall Street while challenging financial institutions and their tactics.

While different groups have benefited from Pamela’s books, advice, and financial expertise; by far the group that has benefited the most has been the baby-boomer generation. “I think a lot of baby boomers and women have benefited from my books because the baby-boomers are the ones or the group that no longer has guaranteed pensions from their companies and they’re basically on their own to save for their own retirement.” For those still reeling from the Recession, looking to recover from slow economic growth, or gain financial freedom Pamela advises “if you’re not comfortable with the idea of never being sure that you’ll have you know a certain amount of money for retirement you need to look at safe and guaranteed methods of saving for retirement.”

Rather it is public speaking, finances, or career guidance; no matter how successful, when it comes to certain things, fear and doubt can set in, and if left unaddressed will find a permanent home in our lives. To learn more about some of these safe financial methods and get a free and safe wealth building report, you can visit www.bankonyourself.com.

Response to: “Cash for Kidneys: The Case for a Market for Organs”

Economists Gary S. Becker and Julio J. Elias propose in the Wall Street Journal that they have calculated a system of legal payments for kidney donations that would cut costs and reduce shortages in America.

doctorsThe authors propose a system in which making it legal to pay someone for one of their kidneys is economically feasible on a national scale, while dramatically cutting down the time patients would need to wait for a matching donor. At face value, the proposal sounds good. However, as someone who studies the plight of the most vulnerable and exploitable, I must say that such a system would need to be accompanied by highly stringent informed consent safeguards — probably more stringent than the informed consent envisioned by the authors.

Hypothetical scenarios that are formulated in a “vacuum” where all things are equal often grossly underestimate the ingenuity of the underground business world. Organized criminal activity has an uncanny ability to coerce or exploit the most vulnerable in societies — much like organized criminal activity that exploits business ethics on Wall Street.

According to the authors,

We have estimated how much individuals would need to be paid for kidneys to be willing to sell them for transplants. These estimates take account of the slight risk to donors from transplant surgery, the number of weeks of work lost during the surgery and recovery periods, and the small risk of reduction in the quality of life.

Our conclusion is that a very large number of both live and cadaveric kidney donations would be available by paying about $15,000 for each kidney. That estimate isn’t exact, and the true cost could be as high as $25,000 or as low as $5,000—but even the high estimate wouldn’t increase the total cost of kidney transplants by a large percentage. Read More 

The authors state that “the sale of organs would make them more available to the poor, and Medicaid could help pay for the added costs of transplant surgery.” This statement serves to suggest that a system of legal payment for kidney donations would benefit not just the rich, but the poor. While there is merit to this statement, it is worth noting that the authors’ definition of “poor” involves the word Medicaid.

This qualifier excludes the vast majority of poor people in the world, the very people who would be exploited by illegal organ traders. And, in light of the authors’ statement that “today, the rich often don’t wait as long as others for organs since some of them go to countries such as India, where they can arrange for transplants in the underground medical sector,” I see evidence of the very concern I am here presenting.

The authors’ proposal is very noble and I think that it is worth considering. They are conscientious about weighing costs in a situation that presents multiple moral dilemmas. However, as with any market where there is already evidence that the most vulnerable are exploited, we must proceed with caution.

Milton Hershey School: Interview with Ric Fouad

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview F. Frederic Fouad who is an attorney for a Japanese commercial law practice, but he also uses his free time taking on pro-bono child welfare cases. Last year, Fouad gave a speech at the Harvard Law School on the Milton Hershey School called “Making Bitter Chocolate Sweet”.  The presentation had three main themes emerge which identified poor outcomes for the children in their care, systems failures and policy making that affected the ability to improve outcomes, and  a system of patronage to maintain the status quo to prevent reform and any meaningful changes from being implemented.

As President of Protect The Hersheys’ Children, Inc., Fouad along with other Hershey alumni and supporters have united to increase awareness about their concerns at the Milton Hershey School.  According to Wikipedia,

The Milton Hershey School is a private philanthropic (pre-K through 12) boarding school in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Originally named the Hershey Industrial School, the institution was founded and funded by chocolate industrialist Milton Snavely Hershey and his wife, Catherine Sweeney Hershey. The school was originally established for impoverished, healthy, Caucasian, male orphans, while today it serves students of various backgrounds. Read More

Fouad was very passionate in our discussion about the metamorphosis of the school in which he feels is not in the best interest of the majority of student’s who enroll. Although Fouad states that his personal path ended well, his concerns are focused on the overall outcomes for the majority of children in care. This interview has been separated into two parts, and here is the first part of our interview:

SWH: Can you tell us a bit about your background, and your history with the Milton Hershey School?

Milton S. Hershey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m an attorney with a Japan-focused commercial law practice and do pro bono work in child welfare. I split my time between Tokyo and New York. My childhood was spent in various forms of residential care, including foster care and seven years at the Milton Hershey School.

Hershey provided the first stability I had as a child and led to dramatic turnaround. I went from being the problem foster kid who participated in no school activities and was constantly kicked out of class elsewhere, to Hershey, a place where I found enough structure to turn a corner. I became a distinguished honor roll student, class salutatorian, an Eagle Scout, student body president, and wrestling team co-captain. Then, I went to the University of Pennsylvania where I also wrestled, was in student government, and graduated cum laude. Overall, I feel I’ve had a charmed life and caught some key early breaks despite a less than promising start.

The combination makes me mindful of residential care as an essential component of the child welfare toolbox, and of Hershey’s saving-grace potential, tempered by awareness of the drawbacks too. To elaborate, when you think of Hershey today, with its $11 billion and probably the best frontline staff of any such facility anywhere, whether teachers or houseparents, there is no doubt that just about any child in America could obtain much more materially in Hershey than in his or her own household, other than the 1% class, of course.

SWH: Making Bitter Chocolate Sweet is a reference to the operation of the Milton Hershey School, what was the specific incident that made you decide to champion this cause?

If there was a single trigger, it was returning to Hershey one day, after college, and having an administrator smugly tell me that Hershey had “raised its standards” such that I would not be admitted if I had tried to enroll then. There was no effort even to hide what they were doing; i.e., moving to a kind of “boarding school” model for moderately low-income kids, who would be drawn by the school’s vast wealth, while rejecting kids who had nowhere else to turn and needed Hershey as a true refuge.

In essence, they didn’t want to start with the difficult child who needed a leg-up and help him or her, but sought instead to “recruit” children who had no behavioral issues and who faced minimal risk factors. A lodestar was the introduction of “college scholarship” offers, which were required to entice kids into enrolling when they otherwise would not do so.

SWH: Is the Milton Hershey School a nonprofit, private school, or a residential facility?

Good question! They don’t know, and that’s the problem! But looking at how they try to be all three at once illustrates this, so let’s do so:

In legal terms, the Hershey charity is a nonprofit (501(c) (3)) entity. But the self-selecting and unaccountable board pays itself compensation surpassing the hourly rates of Wall Street hedge fund lawyers. In some cases, the total annual pay for these part-time board positions is over $500,000 and the minimum pay is about $100,000. Compare this with say Harvard University’s board, comprised of vastly more accomplished individuals, but who pay themselves no compensation, as is generally the case in the nonprofit world.

The Hershey board members also appoint themselves and their allies to the lucrative boards of the three for-profit companies owned (or controlled) by the charity: HERCO (the entertainment and resort company); the Hershey Trust Company (a private bank); and the Hershey Company (the candy manufacturer). This heady “appointment power” gives the board the ability to make themselves and their friends millionaires, whether or not they know the first thing about residential care.

Now, the first two of these “for-profit” companies constitute a total sham: these entities are “for-profit” in name only, and the charity should simply divest them, rather than continuing to use them as a self-enrichment vehicle or patronage slush fund. The third one – the candy company – creates a gross conflict of interest. Collectively, all of this breeds a system that attracts the wrong (pay-seeking) people.

However you slice it, those in charge have learned to game Hershey’s odd governance structure in order to enrich themselves and their allies off the for-profit entities, while claiming to be a charity. This lucre is also what attracts the politicians and that’s a worse disaster.

Viewed as a private school, your question’s second category and the role that the charity has basically stumbled its way into. Hershey is failing and misspending money on a grand scale because vastly more kids depart each year than graduate, and loving families have been needlessly destroyed as a result. Over the last 10 years, 2,034 kids were removed while only 1,439 graduated. On average, more than one child is removed from Hershey every school day, resulting in massive dislocation and trauma for the children and families affected. Net-net, it’s arguable that Hershey is doing more harm than good, given these figures.

And when you look at the primary demographic being served today by Hershey “successfully” (i.e., kids who actually stay and graduate), at an annual cost of $100,000 per child, these kids and families would be much better off in many cases if served closer to home. This would keep families intact and provide what the majority of the kids seek anyway; i.e., a quality education, material assistance for households that have very little, and the Hershey “college scholarships” (which are in fact a bizarre bribe used to entice kids into enrolling and remaining enrolled, when they otherwise would not do so).

Basically, low-income children are told that to access Hershey’s free education, clothing, and “college scholarships,” they must also submit to Hershey’s group home environment. This is more often than not the wrong prescription and in any case, it is exceedingly costly.

But viewed as a residential care facility, the third category in your question, the Hershey failure is greatest of all: programs are primitive; enrollment policy is irrational (e.g., foster care kids and wards of the court are not accepted in any meaningful sense); and the children who truly need the residential component the most are also the ones most likely to be expelled, after Hershey policies cannot meet their needs.

Nonetheless, with $11 billion and the best physical infrastructure that money can buy, it is easy to be mesmerized by surface appeal and ignore what’s happening to kids on a systemic basis –which is why one has to look closely at actual numbers.

In sum, it is supposedly a charity –but its board fancies itself to be a for-profit operation, solely to rationalize its whopping pay. It promotes itself as a boarding school for poor kids –but this is irrational, wasteful, and ultimately harmful to kids from loving families who are best served at home.  Its legal/historic mandate is as residential care facility, but it has lost its way in fulfilling this role, and won’t even accept kids from the foster care system in any real sense.  According to Philly.com,

High in concept but thin on outcomes, the nation’s wealthiest school for needy children now says that Springboard belly flopped and will close in June after burning through $40 million to $45 million in capital and operating costs.

It’s the latest setback at the institution that seems in a constant state of construction, rebuilding, and unfulfilled potential.

The free school, with $7 billion in assets and financed with profits from Hershey Co. chocolate sales, recently announced that it won’t hit a widely publicized goal of 2,000 students by 2013 because of weakening income from its endowment. The school had said it would reach that enrollment after a late 1990s public outcry that the Hershey School, located southeast of Harrisburg, was failing its charitable mission to educate impoverished children.  Read Full Article

The board stubbornly refuses to recognize its failures lest it lose its grip on power and wealth. The result is a financial and social catastrophe. At present, not one member of the Hershey board even has child welfare qualifications. Hard as that may be to believe, it is as though they willfully eschew the only skill set that they must have to perform their core duties properly in favor of individuals who will join them in preserving the status quo.

View below:  “Making Bitter Chocolate Sweet: The Milton Hershey School’s Past and Hoped for Future” October 29, 2013 Harvard Law School/Child Advocacy Program Presentation by F. Frederic (Ric) Fouad. Leveraging Hershey charity’s $11 billion to better serve needy children and families via Harvard Law School.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Philly.com

Pope Francis Speaks Against Capitalism and Urges Rich to Share Wealth

Pope Francis has certainly made an impression on the people with his compassion for the sick and less fortunate. However, what has been received as a call for capitalism to share wealth with the poor is not garnering any favor with right-wing conservatives and Wall Street. From the day he was announced as the new Pontiff, Pope Francis has been hailed as a “defender of the poor and a champion of social justice”.

In an article written today in the Catholic Online, author Deacon Keith Fournier claims that Rush Limbaugh is wrong and Karen Finney of MSNBC is nuts for their perception on Pope Francis’ comments relating to capitalism. Fournier writes, “The word capitalism does not even appear in the Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel. In fact, there is nothing new in what Francis says about economics in this document at all”.

In the 84 page document, known as the Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis defines his platform and outlines top priorities for his papacy. Prior comments by the Pope has only focused on the declining state of the global economy, but the document does provide more insight into the belief system of Pope Francis. However, right-wing conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh are making claims that Pope Francis crossed the line by equating “unfettered capitalism” with “tyranny”.

“Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’ and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. … In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money.'” ~  Rush Limbaugh

Pope FrancisPope Francis wrote, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” He also went on to say, “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless”.

Pope Francis praised measures by global leaders to improve social welfare, health care, education, and communication, but he also reminds that the majority of people are still living from day to day in dire circumstances. Pope Francis drew from an analogy of the Ten Commandments stating, “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Maybe the document does not include the word “capitalism’ in its word count, but this tidbit does not undermine the weight of his words and its reception by the people. In November, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz was elected as the leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). According to his biography, Archbishop Kurtz received a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, and he has spent the bulk of his calling working with the Catholic Social Agency and Family Bureau.

In a statement released by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on Kurtz’s election states:

We thank God for the election of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. With his long pastoral experience, he’s a man who is clearly capable of moving the bishops’ conference forward in the vision laid out by Pope Francis. During this time of great excitement and fanfare for the universal Church, the bishops of the United States have a unique opportunity to renew the American Church as a place of welcome for all God’s children and as a tireless protector of God’s gifts in the public sphere, particularly as a defender of the poor and the marginalized. We look forward to journeying together with him in the years to come.

As an organization, we once again renew ourselves in our dedication to the Church. During his inaugural homily, Pope Francis asked all of us to work together to be protectors of God’s gifts. With Archbishop Kurtz, the bishops of the United States and the entire American Church, we plan to do just that.

The election of Archbishop Kurtz, who has diligently served in the area of social services, appears to be more inline with the vision and direction of Pope Francis’ manifesto. What is your thoughts? Do you feel the media has unfairly reported the intent of Pope Francis’ words?

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