Unshakable Confidence From The Streets To The Boardroom With Karen A. Clark

The Art of Badassery with Jenn Cassetta | Karen A. Clark | Unshakable Confidence


Karen A. Clark, a true black belt in badassery and a powerhouse of confidence and resilience. With an incredible journey from being one of the shyest kids to becoming a dynamic public speaker, Karen’s story is nothing short of inspiring. Her path wasn’t easy—she faced significant challenges, including the unexpected loss of her husband and the trials of parenting and professional life. Yet, Karen transformed these adversities into strengths, ultimately helping others find their own voices. In this episode, we’ll delve into how she built her unshakable confidence, the powerful impact of her work in confidence coaching and breathwork, and her mission to help women remember their true selves. Get ready to be inspired and empowered by Karen’s journey and insights!

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Unshakable Confidence From The Streets To The Boardroom With Karen A. Clark

Welcome, everyone, to the show. I have a really special guest, Ms. Karen A. Clark. We’re going to talk about that in a little bit. First, I want to share who Karen is. Karen A. Clark is a corporate executive of 38 years in the financial services industry. She is also a confidence coach. She is also a dancer, singer, producer, and actor. You name it. She is an overall badass. Here’s what’s also crazy. Karen is also a grandmother and a great-grandmother.



Thank you for having me. It’s so lovely to be here. I really do appreciate it. I’m an old chick. When you’re an old chick, you fit a lot of things into your life. 

Developing Confidence

You have such a packed life. This is how I know Karen A. I shared a stage with her once and then saw her speak another time. I then invited her to speak at a networking organization I was a part of. I have had the pleasure of hearing her speak three times, and that is why she’s here. I know she’s a black belt in badassery, and we’ll dig into why, but also, she’s the type of person that when you see speak, you’re like, “I want some of that. How do I get some of that? I’ll have what she’s having. Confidence on the menu? Perhaps.” How does someone develop such intense and authentic confidence in such a life?

It has been a journey. Thank you again for having me on. Audience, if you have not read Jenn’s book, you better get it. I bought quite a few of them for Christmas and gave them to friends and family who could use them. I was so pleased when I met you, and I’m glad we have stayed in touch all of this time. I’ve learned a lot from your book. I’ve learned a lot from you. I enjoy your energy and appreciate being with you every time we’re together.

On the confidence tip, I was one of the shyest kids ever growing up. Nobody believes that. Even my best friend in the world doesn’t believe that. My family would tell you I was the kid that was really afraid to speak up. To make things even harder for me, I had to wear prescription glasses in the fifth grade. We lived in Germany. All they had was those black GIs. They had one style and one type of glass. That made me even more in my shell.

It was crazy because I would get on a stage and dance or act in the background. I was never in the front. I was always in the background because I was so afraid. I thought if I spoke up in class or in a group of people, I thought they would see my heart banging through my chest. Even though I’m a brown-skinned girl, I knew they would be able to see because my face would be burning and I’d have little beads of sweat whenever I was about to speak in public. I was so afraid, but I wanted to be much bigger.

When I got to college, I had an experience. I was forced to audition in an amphitheater as part of a class in front of a whole group of people. I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to burn up on that stage, drop through the floor, or die, but I got through it. What that taught me is that you can speak in front of a whole room of people. It wasn’t great, but I got a part and nobody laughed. Nobody was like, “Look at that girl.” It was standing room only for those auditions. It changed my life because I survived. All the things that I thought would happen didn’t happen. That made me so passionate about helping other people.

Public speaking is still one of the biggest fears in the world. Public speaking could be sitting in a conference room with five people. It doesn’t mean an amphitheater or anything. It’s a terribly tough thing to do if you’re a shy kid. I started building my confidence and took all of the dancing, singing, and acting that I had in me and raised it up to my voice. The next thing you know, I could speak in front of people. Theater became my passion. I got lead roles and all of that. 

Public speaking is still one of the biggest fears in the world.

I came to LA and tried to dance, sing, and act my way into superstardom, but nothing was happening without an agent. I had a degree in Economics, so I went to a headhunter and she got me an interview at Wells Fargo Bank. That’s how I ended up in financial services. I never gave up dancing, singing, and acting. In fact, I have a 90-seat theater, and I can dance, sing, and act all I want.

I love that so much. I love what you said about public speaking. It could be in front of five people in a boardroom. We often think public speaking is on a stage with a microphone with hundreds of people. That’s scary to me still every time I get up there. Some folks really have a hard time speaking in front of anyone, getting on social media, and putting themselves out there. I’m sure some of the tips that you’re going to share with us in this episode are about how to do that in the most authentic way for you. Not everybody is a performer, right?

That’s right. Let’s say you’re in your nonprofit committee, your PTA meeting, or your church group, and you want your voice to be heard. It’s so extremely important. It’s not as easy as some people who are adept at it think. I do have a lot of tips. In the work that I do, I also have a partner. Her name is Irina Melkumyan. We combine our work.

I met her.

She does the stress relief and the breathwork portion of our teaching, and then I do the confidence coaching. We call our seminars catch and release because you catch your confidence, and then through the breath work and the stress relief, you release any obstacle that is standing in the way of full execution once you become confident.

The work is deep. I do have some little tips and tools, but here’s what we do when we really dive into it. I help women understand who the heck they really are beyond that 9.5×11 resume or that even smaller bio that people force us into. You go out and you look for a job, or you’re on LinkedIn or you’re presenting yourself and you’re trying so hard.

We’ve tried so hard to fit into that 9.5×11 and shrink it to 1 page. They’re like, “If possible, no more than a page and a half. You better make sure you fit the keywords. Are the keywords that we are looking for are the ones that you have on your resume? If not, you’re not suitable.” Those keywords don’t tell who we are. I don’t care if you have all ten of the requirements of the job. That doesn’t tell who you really are.

When you’re sitting in a conference room and feeling marginalized and those little microaggressions are coming at you all day long, if you cannot gird yourself with who you really are down at the core, then that 9.5×11 becomes you, and you’re shrunken. You are shrunk and you continue to shrink because nobody wants to know what’s really behind Jenn Cassetta and how you got to be who you are.

If you cannot gird yourself with who you really are down at the core, then that 9.5×11 resume becomes you.

If employers understood what women have to go through to show up every day, they’d be paying them top dollar to come work in their company. There are so many sides to us, but we forget about them. We forget about them because we’re trying so hard to get this degree or that degree and fit into this keyword, this resume, and this bio. That’s not what gave you the grit and the guts of who you are.

Women have had to hold this world up from the beginning of time. I don’t care if you have a degree. I don’t care if you have kids. We are still the nurturers of this world. We’re badasses. That’s why I love your book. That’s the perfect phrase. You need to understand. What we do in our seminars is take you through a journey so that you can remember who the heck you are.

When I’m sitting at that conference room table and you are making me feel a little marginalized and a little shrunken, I’m going to remember who the heck I am and I’m going to rise. You may not ever even recognize it, but guess what? I’m so far over your head. I’m so far up here. I’m going to walk out of this conference room feeling like a million dollars. I don’t care if my point of view was recognized. I don’t care if I got the W because I still remember who the heck I am and you can’t even understand it.

Do you all understand why you want some of this? There’s this quote that I love, and I put it in some of my keynotes depending on the audience and the theme of the event that I’m speaking at. There’s a quote that Oprah says that’s coming up for me. It’s like, “When you combine your purpose with your passion, no one can touch you.” I sometimes have women stand up and say, “No one can touch me.” It’s when you remember who you are. 

Remember Who You Are

That’s part of the passion and purpose. It could be a lot of things, but it’s important to remember how powerful you are. That’s the work that you’re doing. Catch and release. I love that phrase. Your part is the catch. We want to go to catch and release and do it with you live, but can you share one little tidbit that helps women remember who they are?

Yeah. I take women through an exercise. Let me preface it with this. There may be some women sitting here and saying, “That’s great if you’ve got a great background and all these accolades and you’ve done all these things in your life. What about me? I haven’t done anything.” That’s a self-talk we give ourselves, not each other. We wouldn’t dare. I wouldn’t dare walk up to a woman and say, “That was dumb,” but I say it to myself. I might drop something and be like, “You dummy,” and then I have to self-correct. I do self-correct, but there were years when my self-talk was not complimentary. It was not loving. It was not nurturing.

When I was sitting at that conference room table and I was feeling psychologically beat down, there was nothing to draw on because I also was downgrading, down-putting, and calling myself in my head bad names. I’m calling myself stupid and dumb. I’m like, “You’re not smart. Look what happened to you. You’re not as good as.” We do that to ourselves, so there are no reserves to draw on.

When we get into that seminar, I take women back and make them think and remember, “What are some things that you did that you are extremely proud of, even as a child? Who loves you? Somebody loves you tremendously. Is it your cousin? Is it the neighbors? Is it that little kid? Who do you love? Who do you give to? What are your special qualities that maybe you wouldn’t even tell anybody else but that you really love about yourself? How do you make yourself laugh? What did you promise that little girl when you were young?”

We go through a process of starting to get back in touch with the things about ourselves that are so precious and loving and things we’ve accomplished and done and start to get rid of the negative self-talk. We start to build ourselves up. It’s hours’ worth of a journey. However, we get to the point where we feel free to design our own introduction based on who we really are. It’s not by not the degrees we’ve gotten, by how many widgets I sold for the job, or by how many licenses I have to sell investments. We get back to who you are.

I am Karen A. I love my name. A lot of women named Karen A go by Karen. I’m Karen. I am the Karen A, for anybody else who has an A. I am from the Boldon-Bowen House. I come from two strong families. I am married into the Clark Nation. I’m a giver of life. I birthed some babies. I’m a lover of lands. I’m a philanthropist. I do what I can for causes that I care about, whether it’s volunteerism, sending a few dollars or a prayer, or connecting with the people. I’m a producer. I produce all kinds of stuff, but I produce shows. I have good thoughts. I produce love. I am a thought leader. I am a coach of confidence.

None of that is on my resume, but that’s who I am. Guess what? I can add to my introduction and my accolades. I can design my life and be who I want. I can take all that stuff in the past that nobody else knew about or cared about. Guess what? That’s what made me me. Who are you really? What did you forget about? Let’s dive into that, and let’s get rid of any trauma that is standing in your way of recognizing who you truly are. Let’s deal with that trauma. We go into that, and then we get back to the confidence.

When you walk out, you not only have tools and tips and an understanding of how to get to that place, but you’ve got a supportive community. You also know how to say sustain and maintain that. I’m a very confident person too, but I get beat down by the end of the week. I need to understand, “How do I get that? How do I build that up?” We teach people that.

I love it. When I heard that part of the talk for the third time because I loved it so much, I got up and introduced myself as Jennnifer A Cassetta, mother of cats, writer of books, and a coach of women. The way you can introduce yourself, the way that you can say who you truly are, not just what you do, can make such a big difference in the way you feel about yourself. I love that. Can you tell everyone really quickly how you came up with that?

I can tell everybody. I loved the pandemic. A lot of people didn’t love it. I didn’t like to say when I was in it, “I’m having a really great time,” but one of the things I started doing over the pandemic was watching TV. Prior to it, I was like, “Where’s the time to watch TV?” I felt guilty about that too. By the time you finish everything in the day, it’s like, “I could watch TV right now,” but then, I got to get up in the morning.

Over the pandemic, I could watch TV anytime, like 10:00 at night or 11:00 at night. I can turn on the TV. and I can watch until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It could be 4:00 if I want, even if I have to get up the next day for a meeting or go to work because guess what? I’m zipping across my room in a chair with wheels, going in front of my computer, fluffing up my hair, and throwing on a little lipstick. If you’re tired, then you’re at home at the end of the day. You’re not commuting or anything.

It all worked out, so I started watching the Game of Thrones. I had always wanted to watch The Game of Thrones. I watched it after it was all over, but I had heard so much about it. I fell in love with it. There was a woman, a main character, that I loved in there, Daenerys Stormborn. She was a woman who came from a royal family. The whole family was murdered and assassinated, but she and her brother escaped.

He, the jerk that he was, sold her into being a wife of a king, but sex slave of a king, but she was like, “I’m not going to have that.” She consulted with some of the women in the tribe because it was a whole nother tribe and a whole nother land. She didn’t understand their customs, their language, or anything, but she learned. These wise women taught her, “You can co-opt him. You don’t have to be a sex slave. Co-opt him. Gain his trust.”

They fell in love and she ruled the tribe with him, which was completely unheard of. He ended up dying, and she was relegated to go live in the home of the widows. She was like, “I’m not doing that,” so she escaped. She had to escape. She then built an army and started going across the world, freeing people. She became reborn, freer of men, releaser of chains, and mother of dragons. I was like, “This is amazing.” That’s how I came into it. 

Karen’s Biggest Challenges

I love it. It’s so good. It makes me want to watch Game of Thrones, even though I haven’t yet. This is the part where I remind you what a black belt in badassery is and why I curate these guests to come and share their stories. A black belt in badassery is someone who has overcome probably many, but some big challenges, for sure, and uses that inner strength, that grit, that grace, and all of it to help others rise. Would you mind sharing with everyone and me too what you would say is 1 or 2 of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome on this journey of badassery?

Yeah. I had one really huge disruption in my life. I got married in college and we had both of our children before we graduated. My husband had a four-year-old child when we got married, so we had three before we got out of college.

That’s a challenge right there.

It was completely unplanned, but it worked out. 26 years later, he passed unexpectedly.

Your husband?

Yeah. He had a heart attack. I came home from work and he was gone. That changed everything in my life after 26 years.

I’m so sorry.

I started a new job. Every decision that I made, every thought that I had, and every tribe that I took was impacted because our unit was so close. Our kids and our husbands were so close. We did a lot of stuff together in the ministry and traveling. All of a sudden, one in that unit is gone.

You had no idea it was coming? 

Yeah. Anybody who’s reading this who has had that type of distress action can attest that it takes a minute to get back and figure out, “Now who am I? How do I proceed?” I was fortunate to work for a woman who had a similar experience. She said, “Don’t worry about the HR handbook that says you get 3 days or 5 days when your spouse dies.”

Is that all it is in Corporate America?


You’re joking.

No. I imagine most people probably take personal leave or whatever. That’s how it is. She said, “Don’t even worry about it. Come back when you want to come back.”

Thank God for her.

I ended up staying off for 6 to 8 weeks maybe.

It was still not a long time in the grand scheme of things.

For a life partner, but that was very gracious. I came back after six weeks and I didn’t feel ready. She said, “Go back home,” and I did go back home for a couple of weeks. That was really hard. I had to figure out how I was going to proceed.

You were missing him.

I took breathwork from my partner, Irina, in 2023 and finally dealt with some of that sadness. You can move on, but I finally dealt with some of that missing mess.

The stuff that was still locked in the body a bit.

That’s difficult for anybody. 

Healing From Life’s Takedowns

Thank you for sharing that because one of the things that I ask everyone is, how do we heal from these massive life takedowns? For you, this was many years ago, right?

Yes. It was twelve.

It was several years ago and you’re still processing the leftover grief that’s still in there deep down inside. Breathwork is one of those tools that has really helped. Was there anything else over the years?

I won’t share much. I am writing a book about this topic. My son and I are writing a book together. He was incarcerated a few years ago. It’s one of those things when you’re a professional, you feel like, “I can’t tell anybody that,” but there are professionals who have this situation. The book that my son and I are writing is called Pros and Cons, short for professionals and convicts. I’m writing it so that people like me, men, and women can feel like, “There’s another part of life. It’s something that happened. I don’t have to feel stigma in a corporate environment.” That was hard.

I bet. Would you say that writing has helped you process it as one of those tools?

Yeah. I would say so. My son and I are very close, so it’s also something that is therapeutic for both of us to work through this. The message for anybody reading that has this situation with a son, a daughter, or a family member is life happens. Don’t feel alone, because look at all the people in prison. They are somebody’s kids. There are parents of all of those folks in prison. You’re not alone.

Life happens. Don’t feel alone because you’re not.

It doesn’t mean you have to hide or feel like life is over. In fact, some very good things have come out of this situation. I am a person who believes that all things will work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Whoever your God, your highest power, or universe is, if you are aligned, things will work out.

Thank you.

It’s hard to believe, but this universe is huge. Our lives are dropped in the bucket, but also, however long you live, every second, every minute, and every hour, is an opportunity to experience something new, do something different, meet somebody else, or change a situation. Sometimes, we have to remember that in the midst of a serious issue or problem, it will pass. If you look back on your life, the things that you’ve been through, and the grit that you’ve developed, you’ll probably be okay.

Sometimes, I like to go back to my book, The Art of Badassery. What you’re saying exactly fits into both yellow belt and white belt chapters. In the yellow belt, when we are bouncing back from tragedy, trauma, drama, or life’s disappointments, in order to roll with the punches, which is one of the strategies, you need to find your people to lean on. In order to do that, you have to share your story.

I’m so impressed that not only are you sharing your story in general here on the show, but you’re writing a book about it. That takes such guts and such courage. For anyone out there, I always say this. I’m not saying you have to put all your stuff out there in the world on social media, etc. Share with some people, even if it’s a private group. It could be a private Facebook group. There are always people that have gone through your particular challenge. You’re not the first person in this world to go through that.

You’re creating a community of people that are going to pick up this book and say, “I’m going through this too. Now, I’m not alone.” All of a sudden, when you do that and when you open yourself up like that, you allow solutions and people to show up for you almost. You allow solutions to your problems, support, a hug, a casserole, or whatever it is. If you’re all closed about it and you don’t share, how can you expect those things to happen, those synchronicities and the universe coming up with all these gifts? You even mentioned there’s good stuff that has come from this already. 

Don’t Chase. Attract.

You got to be open. I started meditating a few years ago. I never understood it and never pursued it, but I started meditating. It truly has changed my life, but it also has opened up the door in the world to like-minded people. One of the mantras that I’ve learned from this meditation and this breathwork journey is I don’t have to chase. I can attract to me what I need. It can be very graceful, but you have to believe. You have to be aligned. You have to have a community. You have to be open to putting yourself out there to some degree and to some extent. That requires a bit of confidence.

It is all coming back full circle. I sometimes think this is a show to always wind up talking about meditation because it’s that important to me. I can go on with this conversation for a whole hour about meditation because I’m so deep into it. Can you share quickly what your favorite type of meditation is?

Manifestation, but I’m still learning. In a day, I might do 2 or 3 different meditations. Sometimes, I wake up, go on YouTube, and be like, “What do I need today? Is it productivity? Do I need calmness? Do I need peace?” I go on YouTube and find a guided meditation for that. For me, the voice is really important. I have to like the voice. I’ve been studying the scientific laws of attraction, manifestation, visualization, vibration, and then the brain and body.

I’ve been digging into the science of it all. I do different meditations throughout the day. For me, it is mainly guided meditation. I am experimenting with myself, but it’s not as easy, especially for a newbie. Any of it serves me well. It has provided a focus, a calmness, an assuredness, and a chill mode for me. It’s some whole mellow vibe. I’m going to tell you all something else.

I also want to say to everyone, it’s not too late to start. Karen’s one year into it, and she’s a great-grandmother. No one has any excuse.

I am one year into it and I swear to God it is extending my life. When you can relieve yourself of this stress, which is what meditation does for me since it relieves me of any sort of stress, that extends your life because you then are taking care of your health. Long-term illnesses or major illnesses come from a build-up of stress.

Stress is a killer, for sure. I love this conversation so much. We could have talked about so much, like grief. We could have talked deeply about meditation and manifestation, but I want to get to my Rapid-fire questions and then make sure everyone gets to find out how they can connect with you and maybe come to a catch-and-release day. I know I want to come to the next one that you’re doing. Rapid-fire, are you ready? 

I’m ready. 

What was your favorite food as a child?

Watermelon. It was and still is.

If you could have a drink with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, and what would be in your cup?

That’s hard. I’m going to go with Harriet Tubman. It’s her motivation. That chick was serious.

She was a serious badass.

I don’t know who hurt her way back then, but in the latest movie, she talks about how you have to practice listening for the Divine. That one impacted me.

What movie is this?

It was the last one made about Harriet Tubman. It was nominated for an Academy Award. Cynthia somebody played the lead. It was released a few years ago. I thought that was fascinating.

What’s the drink?

Maybe a gin and tonic.

Gin and tonic with Harriet Tubman. That’s awesome. What’s your favorite personal development book?

It is very simple. I re-read it. It is Who Moved My Cheese? It’s such an easy, quick read. It’s like, “Get back to reality. Nobody owes you nothing.”

Last but not least, what’s your favorite hype song? What do you play?

It’s by Anderson .Paak. I’ve been playing this. I don’t know the words, but it’s got this beat. I’m like, “I should get everybody going and open my show with that.”

Do it.

It’s Come Down.

Thank you. I’ll look it up. How can everyone connect with you? Where are they going to find you?

They can find me at [email protected]. They can connect with me on my website, which is www.TheKarenAConfidenceCoach.com. The easiest way is to look up Karen A Clark because I’m the only one that uses the A. If you look up Karen Clark, you’ll get ten million of them. You’re not going to know which one is me. If you Google Karen A Clark, nobody has caught on yet. Nobody uses the A.

They can also find me on LinkedIn as Karen A Clark. My @KarenAClark Instagram was hacked, so somebody else has my @KarenAClark on there. On Instagram, I am @TheKarenAConfidenceCoach. I’m on Facebook as well. It’s the same thing. Use the A. You’ll find me. I’m going to give one more. People are afraid to do this, but I’m not. (213) 344-9009. Text me. I will text you right back.

You are such a badass. I love you so much. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your confidence. To everyone out there, don’t you want some of that, and/or can’t you remember that you already have it? It’s there. We all have it. It’s inside. Remember who you are. That’s all for this episode. Thanks, everyone.


Important Links

The Art of Badassery with Jenn Cassetta | Karen A. Clark | Unshakable Confidence