Blog > Trends

WEC: Tell fear to get out of the way

By Jason Hensel, Journalist | Feb 6, 2024

Pamela Schuller sometimes barks. That’s because she has Tourette Syndrome.  

“For YEARS, I was so terrified about being in public because I might bark,” she says. “That fear held me back from just living my life and existing as a human with a disability.”

But when she was 15 years old, she attended a boarding school that specialized in children who were different. The teachers signed her up for several classes and workshops, hoping she would discover something she loved about herself. And through improv classes, she found out that she’s funny and loves stand-up comedy. 

Schuller says improv gave her the tools to be in the moment and respond, rather than live terrified of what might happen. It’s about “yes and-ing” a situation, going with the flow and being open to possibilities not yet imagined.

“There is a level of confidence that derives from being completely comfortable responding to what is happening in the moment,” she says. “Improv, at its core, is about meeting people where they are and going from there, without any fear or judgment. Over time, I started giving myself that same grace and embraced my disability. Improv gave me the skills to think, ‘Okay, if I bark, I bark and I will deal with it!’”

Seeing the world differently

Schuller will be a keynote speaker at MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC) in Louisville, May 20-22, and she’s bringing that same fearless energy to her session. 

Titled “F_ Your Fears,” attendees will be asked to define what terrifies them and to confidently confront challenges, telling fear to get out of the way. 

“Hopefully they will laugh a lot, learn some tools for building more inclusive work communities and, most importantly, my hope is they feel inspired to step confidently into leveraging what makes them unique,” Schuller says.

Schuller talks openly on stage about her severe case of Tourette Syndrome and how for many years she hated feeling different. One reason, she says, is that the messaging the world sends about disability isn’t always kind or positive. 

“In my world, the messaging was that I would never be successful, finish high school or live on my own,” she says. “At some point, I decided that I did not care what others thought. While I wasn’t sure what I was capable of, I didn’t want other people deciding for me. I decided to work my butt off and figure it out for myself. That decision was life-changing.”

Schuller goes into more detail about how Tourette Syndrome affects her life in a blog post for Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the acceptance and understanding of others with visible or invisible differences. Tourette’s can be frustrating, hard and painful, she writes, but it can also offer incredible things if she’s courageous enough to accept it. 

“My brain is witty and different (and sometimes widely inappropriate) and I love that about my brain,” she writes. “My brain also has Tourette’s, so I decided to love that part of my brain too. I think Tourette’s adds to my quirk, to the way I see the world differently, to the way I perform, and I love those things about me. And for the record, since identifying that single thing I loved about myself I have since found so many more. And most importantly, I don’t think any of those exist DESPITE Tourette’s.”

Leading through humor

Schuller has performed in every U.S. state and six countries for more than 100,000 people. During her career as a stand-up comedian, she’s opened for Pete Holmes and Joan Rivers, been featured on Netflix and Curiosity stream, written about in the New York Times and the New York Post and has been honored alongside Ed Asner for her work with comedy and inclusion.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a master’s degree in child advocacy and policy. She also has an executive coaching certificate focusing on leadership in the digital age from MIT. Her advocacy work teaches children to be proud of who they are and for communities and organizations to be more inclusive and innovative. 

“Diversity leads to stronger business,” Schuller says. “We are not inclusive because it’s a good deed, but rather we are inclusive because organizations and companies benefit when diverse voices surround the table. We accommodate people so they bring their best selves to their role.”

“I think Tourette’s adds to my quirk, to the way I see the world differently, to the way I perform, and I love those things about me.”

Her favorite tool is to start with the question: “What can we put in place to allow you to thrive in your work with us?” That’s not asking for diagnoses, she says. It’s asking for what that person needs so they can excel in their work.

When it comes to organizations wanting to be more innovative, Schuller says there’s one thing that can help oil that engine: humor. However, it’s less about telling a great joke and more about creativity, innovation, imagination and how humor can aid in all of this.

“Although we want to be careful never to make a joke at somebody’s expense, humor can help with team building, brainstorming, creating a sense of belonging and an overall increased sense of joy,” she says.

It’s that sense of joy that Schuller hopes WEC attendees feel after her keynote address. Joy and feeling connected to each other, because that’s what makes for a memorable event, in her mind. 

“I think it’s all about connection between the attendees and, hopefully, the speakers,” she says. “When people feel connected, they are more likely to be empowered and inspired and take what they learn home with them.”

Pamela Schuller at WEC brought to you by Damon Brooks & Associates LLC.

Sponsored by



Jason Hensel, Journalist

Jason Hensel is a freelance writer based in Dallas.