Be Kind to Yourself – Entrepreneur Patricia Stark Talks to STAC Comm Arts Students

Andrew Dacuba, Editor in Chief

When Patricia Stark graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College, she was introverted and was always her own worst critic. Her first job was a small local cable network that paid $16,000 a year. 

Now, Stark runs her own business, and recently released “Calmfidence: How to Trust Yourself, Tame Your Inner Critic, and Shine in Any Spotlight,” a book designed to help people just like her younger self.

Stark spoke with STAC students in a Q&A “STAC Chat” at the library on Thursday, March 24, where she discussed with students her career, both professional and personal advice, and her new book “Calmfidence.”

Stark told students that her journey to reach where she is now was far from an easy one. For Stark, her first step in the communications field was at a small network called TKR Cable.

It was a hands-on job; despite being new to the field she was not relegated to a minor role, but got experience with directing, writing, editing, lighting, host programming, and live programming.

Stark was grateful for the experience, as by the time she was on-camera talent, she already appreciated all the effort that went into a broadcast from so many fields.

Eventually, her “lightbulb moment” came when she saw a business opportunity. Several executives had to record a teleprompter segment for a broadcast, and Stark noticed how obvious it sounded like they were simply reading off something.

She taught them to read more relaxed and naturally on camera, and was asked by them to come back in the future to help coach teleprompter reads.

From there, she bought a teleprompter, contacted an acting school, told them there was nobody offering teleprompter classes, and was asked to, “come on board.” Over time, Stark grew coaching in the communications field into a business.

Stark says she owes her success in entrepreneurship to a phrase she heard: “everyone is self-employed.”

So often people [at a job] go through the motions, they don’t go the extra mile.” Stark said. “But the standouts are the ones that think of themselves as… I’m really self employed for my own success, wherever I am.”

Stark is glad she went the extra mile, as it set her on the path to start her own business and make her own decisions.

She had her only son, who she called her “miracle baby,” in spite of infertility problems. Stark knew she only had one chance with motherhood, and her business gave her the freedom to be there for all the important moments in his life. 

Stark would include her son as a client in her calendar whenever she needed to be there for him. When somebody would call, she’d tell them “I already have an appointment with a client at that time.”

As she was working on starting her own business, Stark noticed just how many people would come up to her saying they want to be more confident on stage, in front of a camera, or in a job interview. Seeing an opportunity, Stark decided she was going to write a book about public speaking. 

Over time however, Stark came to realize that she wanted her book to have a reach broader than just public speaking; she wanted a book that would have helped her introverted, negative, young self overcome her challenges.

 The title of the last chapter, Calmfidence, became the title of the whole book, and “Calmfidence” became a book about not just public speaking, but keeping a positive attitude and improving communication skills in work, school, or everyday life.

“One of the reasons I wrote the book that I did was because this was the book that I really needed a very long time ago,” she says.

Stark says when she would tell others about the debilitating fear of speaking she used to have, they would tell her, “Oh, thank god. We thought you always walked around just really good at this.”

Stark hopes her book can help people overcome the same fear that she once had. Getting over this fear does not necessarily mean never getting nervous.

Stark recalls interviewing Helen Hayes, one of the most prolific theater actors of the 20th century. Stark was 21, at her first job, and asked Hayes for advice on how to deal with her nerves.

Hayes said, “Honey, if I stopped getting nervous, put me in my coffin, cause that means I’m done.” 

Stark recalls asking her, “what do you mean?”

Hayes told her, without getting nervous, “I would have lost the fire in my belly! I only want to have [those] exciting nerves, those nerves!”

Just as Stark learned from Hayes, she hopes everybody can continue to learn throughout their lives, herself included.

“I hope I keep learning until I’m 103. I hope I keep getting better every decade of my life,” she said.

Now able to help others learn, Stark says she is blessed to have the opportunity.

“It’s a sacred thing for me, and what a privilege to try to help people believe in themselves, and find their voice, and trust themselves. And when I get that feedback from people, sometimes I’ll get emails and I’ll start crying,” she says.

“I had no idea, I can’t believe that I made a difference like that,” Stark says she would respond.

Stark’s advice for finding self trust is to have a positive self image, and think about oneself correspondingly. She told students that, according to studies, 70% of the average person’s self-talk is negative.

Stark says a good way of getting out of this toxic attitude towards oneself is to “Look at your fingerprint.”

There is no one else in this entire world that has this same fingerprint, so no one can touch life the way that you can. So whatever it is that you’re just doing, just put your personal fingerprint on that.”

She also warns against worrying too much about others, and comparing oneself to them.

She says no matter what client she is working with, whether they are a CEO, a celebrity, or an entrepreneur, “10 out of 10 times they all have doubts and fears. They are all struggling with something, everyone is, so just know that that’s a human thing that we all share in common.” 

Stark finds that, in her experience, it is the most arrogant people who cannot admit to these struggles that have the most negative inner voices.

She also urges not letting those doubts, fears, and stresses of life be a detriment. 

“Don’t try to carry yesterday, today, and tomorrow simultaneously, no one can bear that weight,” Stark says.

“But anybody can get through the day. You just wake up each day and say this is a clean slate, this is a new day for me to try again, and let me just get through to tonight. If you can do that one once a day, every day… and be kind to yourself, life will be a lot easier than we make it. Because we make it much harder than it has to be.”