How I Thrive: “Life is a song written just for you; Live your lyrics out loud!” with Pam Confer

Ming S. Zhao
Feb 21, 2020 · 20 min read

As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pam Confer.

Pam is an international, award-winning, bilingual professional speaker, jazz singer, business consultant, public relations guru, and sports clay enthusiast. She explodes with confidence — teaching everyone how a simple smile can move the world! Pam is a corporate humorist and master soft-skills trainer. Her open mind, personal stories and amusing training style are unmatched.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Pam! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?.

I have always been intrigued by systems and how they impact people. Whether the systems are families, the workplace, religion, political or social causes, there are always narratives that influence our perceptions and decisions. So, I became a connector — I support the development of corporate social responsibility programs and practices that positively impact the community. I also have a unique, personable approach to training and speaking that fosters meaningful relationships and an appreciation for differences. A lot of this engagement is in Mississippi, where there is a general discomfort with unveiling and owning the state’s rich and complicated history. However, this same history has birthed some of the best musicians, chefs, artists, dancers, thespians, athletes, and famous personalities in the world. Just ask Oprah!

My unwavering tenacity also led me to write, produce and record the anthem “Mississippi Beautiful”. The anthem was officially dedicated to the state’s bicentennial and the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums in 2017, and plays each day in the “Where Do We Go From Here?” Gallery of the MS Civil Rights Museum https://goo.gl/cYSwe7 . In honor of the song, former Governor Phil Bryant proclaimed May 10 as “Mississippi Beautiful Day” statewide in 2019, so that everyone can celebrate diversity in their own way. The debut of a complementing “Mississippi Beautiful” girl scout patch, “I am Mississippi Beautiful” children’s book, and stage play are on the way. I am advocating for synergy like this all over the world. Learn more about my motivation and my music by visiting: www.pamconfer.com .

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

“Destiny doesn’t sleep… so don’t lay her down.” — Pam Confer

In 2013, I was singing on my weekly gig at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson, MS. It was the same night that Frankie Beverly and Maze was performing at the coliseum. Typically, the “stars” stayed at the Hilton when they were in town, and I was very hopeful that Frankie would show up there. Increasingly, my fans began informing me that their “sources” told them that Frankie would be staying at another hotel. Around 11 pm, my fans started tapering off to make their way to the hotel where Frankie was sure to be. I was very disappointed that I would miss him. At a minimum, I would have a vicarious experience after seeing all of their social media posts.

At around 11:50 pm, with a handful of music lovers left in the bar, I started my “thank you” rounds and band member introductions. I looked to my left, and I saw a large group walking towards the bar. It was like a mirage: the closer they approached, the more it became clear that it was Frankie Beverly! What!? Frankie Beverly and his band were headed straight towards me. So, what does a girl do — what does a jazz singer do — when her set is about to end, and Frankie Beverly walks into the bar? She motions, “a one, two… a one, two, three, four…” We played for another half hour, as Frankie Beverly and his entourage ate Wendy’s hamburgers (the bar’s kitchen was closed) right in front of us! Pam Confer played for Frankie Beverly! He was so attentive and supportive. He signed autographs and took pictures with everyone. After my set ended, he talked to me about my show and complimented my style — saying that I reminded him of Rachelle Ferrell. Little did he know that she is my idol.

I have been very fortunate along my music career to be on the same stage with such greats as BB King, Chaka Khan, the late Gerald Lavert, the Ojays, and many others. But, that night was the most memorable of my career as a solo artist. Destiny was looking out for me. View the video of me and Frankie here.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

“When you‘re good at what you do, even your mistakes become achievements.” — Pam Confer

Early in my career, I facilitated a workshop for Toastmasters International, a public speaking and leadership organization. I tend to be very animated. So, there I was up and down the aisles talking about effective gestures and individuality, when I stepped right out of my left shoe. The audience erupted in laughter, and the shoe made a pretty cool prop. Worked for me!

I also remember performing for a wedding early in my singing career. I don’t like to read from paper when I’m on stage, so I wrote the words to one of the songs on my palms (in black ink). Of course, I forgot about it. Since I am “gesture girl”, I was waving and pointing to the sky the entire time I was singing. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me bemused by the “art” on my hands. It was pretty funny to explain.

There is so much magic in connecting with people and creating memories together. Connections become the normalizers.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

“‘Self-rising’ works for flour… not leadership.”

Effective leaders construct an environment of expectations, and motivate others to evolve in that same space. I value humor, differences, personal stories, introspection, self-improvement and self-confidence. I also offer an appropriate exit for those who choose self-indulgence over self-respect. If we are lucky, we get to work with people whose values align with ours. We inspire them to realize their true potential, so that they will want to be the most help to others. When employees lift each another, the whole team rises.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

“Load your confidence. Aim high. Smile wide. Get a little gritty. Then, shoot pretty.” — Pam Confer

In 2015, I entered a clay shooting contest at a conference, and won in the women’s division. The second year, I won again, and I went on to win for the third year in a row! Eventually, I garnered the nick-name “sharp-shooter”, and my newest hobby was born! Clay shooting elevates my being. There’s a serenity that comes with wielding a 12-gauge, over-under, shot gun, and putting all of your senses in motion. Jurassic Park-sized raindrops could be falling from the sky; juvenile lions could be canvassing the grounds; mosquitos could cross the sky like crop planes — and I will still play for hours. Clay shooting requires that you are relaxed, yet intentional; that you are confident, yet vulnerable; and that you have clarity, but are focused and flexible. These characteristics are also everything that a woman needs to thrive.

So, how about those shots of water? It doesn’t matter if it’s cool, cold, lukewarm or hot, I love the way that water makes me feel when I drink it. It is so important to keep your body hydrated. Water activates our body’s filtering system, and everything is processed better. For my friends who do not like to drink water, I encourage them to find a way to make it palatable. I was recently introduced to monk fruit as a sugar replacement. It tastes so good, and a couple of drops make drinking water a sweeter experience. From clearer skin, to a healthier urinary tract, to just plain feeling lighter on your feet, water gives us life.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

“Each day that we live, we have four choices: 1) hurt someone 2) help someone 3) humor someone 4) heal someone. Pick the right three.” — Pam Confer

Waking up each day is more than the physical practice of opening our eyes, inhaling and exhaling. It is also more than the spiritual practice of praying, meditating or centering with a higher force. We must also wake up — our minds.

The late Comedienne Phyllis Dillard once said, “Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” This is hilarious, but if we were to dissect this advice, we would find that we tend to wake up with the thoughts we took to bed. Our minds then attempt to direct our actions like a symphony. Before we know it, we are convinced that our choices are valid, and we assuredly go about our day. Our minds are powerful machines, but we are the coders.

On another note, self-deprecating humor is both a healing and teaching tool, and I’ve got some gaffes for ya. A number of years ago, my sister, Felecia, cooked some amazing lasagna. I asked her if I could have the last piece, and she said, “Yes, just put some water in it.” So, I came back with a plate full of lasagna and water. Turns out, she meant put some water… in the empty pan. This demonstrates two things: 1) that I listen well, but 2) my application process can run amuck.

Oh, the vicissitudes of life! No one is perfect (well, except for Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson). Self-acceptance leads to self-assurance. May we all accept ourselves — the good, the bad, and the quirky.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

“Relish the moment that it all becomes clear.” — Pam Confer

I began writing “Moments of Clarity” in 2013, as a way to reflect on my life’s events. They have become a popular tool that anyone can use to reset and recharge. Here are two that I wrote to empower women:

Moment of Clarity #165: “About that Seat at the Table…”

If you’re lucky to be in the room
and have a seat around the table
then rearrange the chairs you see
and peel off all the labels

Your voice is like the seasoning
on ideas whose time has passed
Wrap your thoughts in confidence
or they’ll eat them much too fast

If you happen to own that table
there’s one thing that is true
Your vision will be much stronger
with different points of view

Before we look around the world
and decide to take a stand
let’s look at the spaces where we thrive
and do everything we can

Moment of Clarity #108: “Friend Tips for Friendships”

(Please check all… they do apply):

__ Offer help… before she has to ask
__ Speak for her… especially when she is not in the room
__ Create pathways… where her roads appear to be blocked
__ Encourage her… even when she is your competition
__ Stand for her… when her legs buckle from pressure
__ Amplify her wins… and redefine her losses
__ Hold up the mirror… when her confidence falls
__ Expect no returns… because the benefit is her happiness
__ Don’t make her wonder… simply make her wonderful

Also, nothing upgrades my mood like music. I will follow music anywhere. I am stimulated by the smoothness and intensity of voices like Gregory Porter, Rachelle Ferrell, and the late Eva Cassidy. There’s a musical kinship and sense of validation that I share with artists that traverse rhythms and melodies, like I do. You can hear these influences in my upcoming album, “Confermation”.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

“Your appearance gives your beauty its voice, but the volume… you can only adjust from the inside.” — Pam Confer

If you’re a woman, and you have never worn a onesie (aka a union suit) around the house, I highly suggest you rush out and get one. There is something about a polka-dot, fleece or polyester-blend onesie that gives you the license to create and detach from the stressors of adult life. Right before I don my onesie, I exfoliate my entire body. Just think about it, the ingredients scour your exterior and sloth off all of the environmental pollutants that you did not invite to the party. Your skin feels like a baby’s bottom, and you feel brand new. I love to continue with a peppermint-based product, like Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, or Bliss’ Fat Girl Stimulating Massage Bar. Philosophy also has a wide of array of bath/shower products that can prompt nostalgia. I love Philosophy’s Gingerbread Man, Bubbly, Fresh Cream, Paradise Girl, and Good Morning Sunshine.

Above my bedroom door, there is an artisan-crafted sign that states, “It Is Well With My Soul.” It is scribed in white lettering, on black painted wood, and is festooned with music notes. I “speak” to it before I go to bed at night, visually recalling my day. I recollect the places and faces, dispositions and impositions, triumphs and trials — I am hopeful that I have lived my purpose in full. I devise a plan to remedy any unintentional consequences of my actions. I resolve that all is well in that moment. Then, I eventually fall to sleep.

The next morning when I rise, I welcome those same words into my heart before I begin to flirt with the reality of the day. Life can activate the challenger or champion in you. That sign over my door reminds me that my soul is always covered.

Now, let’s talk about how highly FLAYvored I am! When I go to the homes of my friends and family members, I bring the best dishes. No, really… I bring the paper plates, cups, and napkins that make the food and beverages mobile. I didn’t get the “cooking gene”, but I am hooked on the Food Network! I am enamored by the warm, spicy and savory qualities (and looks) of Chef Bobby Flay! I watch his shows like I am being held hostage. He is cool, yet competitive, and he is comfortable enough to welcome people into his lane, wish them success… then kick their butts. He is even charming when someone out-wits him with a dish that makes the judges swoon.

I recently attended a dinner party hosted by Food Network’s Chef Carla Hall. She was a hoot and the food was divine. During the dinner, I asked her if Bobby Flay was single, and if she thought that he would consider a Mississippi girl, with an afro. I think she thought that I was kidding. LOL! I wasn’t.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar, what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

“Don’t just FIND your space… FILL it.” — Pam Confer

My favorite platform is speaking, training and singing, all at the same event. This affords me three chances to put a smile on someone’s face, nudge her to pursue her goals, and challenge her to look inward for her truths. Then, she can become the “rock star!”

I love the stage, but I live in the audience. I know that the “light” will follow me there. That’s where the heart beats are, where relationships are formed, and where spirits bind. I want to know where everyone is from, where they work, and how they’re feeling. I introduce audience members to each other, encourage business relationships… and sometimes love connections. I call it “folk-lifting.” We all can do this with the gifts that we have.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

“If you fight your peace… you will win.” — Pam Confer

In the times that I have limited emotional fortitude to handle disappointments, I can easily become provoked by self-doubt — the natural enemy of peace. Self-doubt can cause us to spiral downward, and there are no opportunities on the ground. So, when my world seems to crumble beneath me, I arrange all of the broken pieces, stand upon them, reach high, and allow the sky to unfold. I know that things will start to look up… the moment I do. This has been my testimony so many times.

It is too monumental a task to expect a 24-hour period to yield a completely positive experience. However, we can break up a full day into small joys. I celebrate when someone lets me over in traffic, when someone compliments my hair (on a “bad hair day”), when a baby smiles at me, when I have lots of errands to run and the weather is perfect, etc. Everything positive counts — everything. Joy is a personal experience that we have complete control over. We all can position ourselves around people who make us laugh, who support us, who understand us, and love us. We all can become “joy scouts.”

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

“You will never know if it’s truly your season, if you don’t step outside — of yourself.” — Pam Confer

In 2017, I decided to take a month-long trip to Costa Rica. I wanted to witness the generosity and sincerity of people in another country. I also speak Spanish, and I wanted to immerse myself in the culture. I didn’t know anyone there, and I stayed with a sweet family. Costa Rica is so picturesque, natural, and intimate. The fruit tastes like it’s from a fantasy island.

At an adventure park in Arenal, Costa Rica, I signed up for a team-building experience through the jungle. I was so excited to find out which group or family I would be teamed with to go for the win! Two handsome instructors approached me to give me the news that I was the only one signed up — on either team! Then, they gave me the option to do the team-building adventure… all by myself. You guessed it! Poor Pam decided to go it alone with two attractive instructors. It became the jungle adventure from hell… almost. At each activity, they treated me like I was a member of an Olympic team. They shook the ropes of the withered bridge as I attempted to cross from one side of the jungle to the next. Oh, did I mention that the bridge was made of straw or something, and some of the planks were missing? Then, I had to run up and down 200 concrete steps. I was thinking, “Please don’t let King Kong be up there!”

I also had to tackle a waterfall. My instructors clearly explained how I was to navigate my descent. In my mind, I saw myself performing like an American Ninja Warrior. Instead, it was more like a Cirque Du Soleil show. I bumped into that mountain (with my face and knees, mind you) the whole way down. All I remember is the instructors’ accents, “Lean back, Pam! Lean back!” I did not give up. My bruised team of one crossed the finish line. My instructors were so proud of me, and I felt so accomplished. I was one bold chica!

In Costa Rica, I learned that love is the unifying language, and that I am stronger than I think (although I probably should work out or somethin’). I also learned that you will never know if you are really breathing until you change your atmosphere. I suffer from severe allergies, including almost anything outdoors. So, when I got to Costa Rica and found out that my new home used open windows for air-conditioning, I panicked. Here’s the great news: I did not have one allergy episode the entire time I was there; no migraines, no sneezing or coughing, no runny eyes or nose. In all of my life, I had never experienced pure inhaling and exhaling — physically or emotionally — until I went to Costa Rica! If you can’t breathe wherever you are in your life, go and find a space that embraces you. Your true healing is there.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

“Live a legacy. Leave a legacy.” — Pam Confer

I am fortunate to work and live in my purpose. My family has a unique “love style.” There’s some brokenness there, but we are a musical family. When we sing together, the harmony is restorative, and our bond is fortified.

I am convinced that fathers show their daughters what love feels like, and mothers show their daughters what love looks like. So, I am passionate about changing cycles of behavior in my own family. Since I don’t have kids, I live through the very active lives of my nieces and nephews. The time that I spend with them is so precious. I am hopeful that I am modeling the zest and resilience that I wish for them, as they discover how they will mark this earth.

I also have a sassy maternal grandmother, Annie Lee, who will turn 101 this year! Growing up, I watched her walk around her house dressed like a superstar. She spoke her mind and shook things up for the rights of Mississippi women and minorities throughout her life. These days, she’s stirring peas around her plate, trying to convince my mom, Annie Faye, that she has eaten enough of them, so she can get ice cream and cake. She’s still strategizing. I am, too.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

“Sometimes you have to lick life right back.” — Pam Confer

I had the privilege of studying under an unorthodox spiritual adviser for eight years. She passed away in the fall of 2019. She was my super-energetic, loving “dogter”, Jazzie, and she spent her last moments in my arms.

Here’s her lesson plan:

J: Jump sometimes. Some things you just can‘t walk around or run through.

A: Answer the “No’s” in life with, “I bet you haven’t tried it this way!”

Z: Zoom in on your own life and make sure you are as focused as you think you are.

Z: Zap all the grinches with an authentic smile, and watch them either smile back… or step out of your frame.

I: Invite yourself into every room that you know you belong in, and use the same vigor to exit spaces where you have overstayed.

E: Expect to fulfill your every dream… especially the ones that you create while you’re runnin’ wild, with your eyes wide open, tongue flappin’… and tail waggin’!

In terms of books, “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, MD., is an awesome, easy to digest, motivational parable. It pokes a little fun at our propensity to scowl at change. It’s a handy reminder that, when faced with challenges, we must blink long enough to see another way forward. The take-aways from this book stick.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

“When you’ve got power, you can move within many popular circles. When you’ve got strength, you can move the actual circles… from within. I’d rather have strength.” — Pam Confer

I have consulted in the world of local and national politics for many years. I have also consulted and worked in corporate America, and with varying non-profit and governmental entities. The movement I would start is “Circle-Shifting”, wielding our personal power to influence and move traditional mind-sets and actions. It’s my newest theory.

Below is an excerpt of the three characteristics of the “Circle-Shifter”:

Be Authentic

When a “circle-shifter” enters a space, she is activated by the people — not just the power. If we all are a part of a whole, then each person in the room has to have a unique gift that makes for a complete experience. When we embrace the entire room, it creates a balance that incentivizes even the most cynical person to become a champion for our mission. If people believe that your agenda is to help them succeed, they will follow you, and circles will shift.

Be Bold

Inherent in “circle-shifting” is a disruption of some very strong comfort zones. Being bold means that you might push for some new tenets to be considered along with pre-existing ones. “Circle-Shifters” presume that people are more unaware or fearful than they are malevolent. And, since people fight what they fear, “circle-shifters” should expect some push back. However, the “circle-shifter” visualizes the promise on the other side of the pressure.

Be Ready

A “Circle-Shifter” is guided by a strong moral center. She is inspired by a passion to make things better, not just by her desire to prove a point. The “Circle-Shifter” is prepared to support the newly migrated spaces that she has influenced.

Circles cannot shift without a place to go. When a circle moves, it becomes vulnerable, because it does not have its previous anchors. “Circle-Shifters” pool the strengths of everything and everyone around them and create cushions for their ideas and energy. It will not be easy, but the genuineness, audacity and adeptness must be evident.

With each of the three characteristics — by default — some people will fall into the circle, and some people will fall out. “Circle-Shifters” are very aware of this, and accede to the fact that they might be the one to fall out. “Circle-Shifters” don’t seek the credit, though. They simply seek the change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“It’s Not How You Shine… It’s Who You Polish.” — Pam Confer

You can polish a silver platter so effectively that you can see your own reflection in it. This is also true about our relationships with others. If we invest in the talents of others, we will see our same attributes reflected in them. That way, we both shine.

This original quote reverberates with me, because I spent my junior and high school years in the bathroom — hiding my existence — until the bell rung. Fortunately, I had interveners along my journey who knew that I could excel and ascend. Had they not polished me, my life would be very different.

One day, after I graduated high school in Memphis, TN, the late Rev. Dr. Julius L. Scipio called me while I was washing dishes. When he realized that I had no plans for college, he picked me up on a Saturday morning, and drove me a little over an hour away to Lane College, in Jackson, TN, led by the late President Dr. Alex A. Chambers. On the way, he advised me to take out a loan for school and attend freshman orientation. This 6’8 pastor of my church had a voice that could have paralleled Morgan Freeman’s on his best day. Yet, he was a gentle giant to me — he changed the trajectory of my life. From this one significant intervention came a cascade of blessings. I earned straight A’s my first semester. Financial Aid Advisor Ms. Kaiser called me to her office, and asked me to explain how I went from a 2 point something GPA in high school to a 4.0 my first semester in college. Then, she awarded this girl that she didn’t even know a scholarship. My professors increasingly took interest in both my writing and speaking abilities, but they had to really convince me that I was smart and had the capacity to soar. I entered academic writing competitions and won them. Dr. William B. Garcia, our choir director, groomed each of us for greatness, and expected us to be poised on and off of the stage. He made me alto section leader. New President Dr. Wesley Cornelious McClure could inspire a stuffed bear to visualize his own reality. Under his leadership, I entered pageants and became Miss Lane College, and won awards in the Miss Tennessee pageant. I had no idea that I was a gifted student. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, and my additional degrees are an extension of this grace. There were countless other Lane College interveners, like Paul and Brenda Thomas, Mrs. Baylor, Mrs. Lovelady, Mr. Kirkendoll, William, Jackie and Bishop William H. Graves, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Beta Chi). I shine because of “polishers” of the past and today. One thing we all can do in the present is brighten someone else’s future.

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Facebook: Pamconferbooking

Linked in: Pam Confer

Twitter: @PamConfer

Instagram: @Pamela Confer

www.pamconfer.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Ming S. Zhao

Written by

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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