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Women in Business: Q&A with Sharon Lechter, Author of Think and Grow Rich for Women

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Sharon Lechter is an author, CPA, the founder/CEO of Pay Your Family First and a publishing powerhouse. In 1997, Lechter coauthored the international bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad and fourteen other books in the Rich Dad series. In 2008, the Napoleon Hill Foundation tapped her literary genius and together they have produced two bestselling updates of Hill's work, Think and Grow Rich: Three Feet from Gold and Outwitting the Devil. Her bestselling release Save Wisely, Spend Happily was released in 2013 in partnership with the AICPA. She is also the author of Think and Grow Rich for Women: Using Your Power to Create Success and Significance.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
As a young girl my father would ask me each night, "Sharon, have you added value to someone's life today?" It is a question I still ask myself every night. But later in my life, when I heard someone say, "Leadership is not about what you do; it is about what you help other people do," I realized that my father had ignited this vital leadership skill in me with his nightly question.

We each make choices every day of whether we will be a leader or follower. It is important to know which choice to make.

Since high school I have been involved in groups and charity work and almost always became involved in leadership roles. Sometimes I volunteered, but most often I was "volunteered" or coerced by my colleagues. Never one to avoid a challenge, I would inevitably accept, but I always learned much more than I expected from each and every experience.

Tell us about your new book, Think and Grow Rich for Women.
While the steps to realizing success are the same for men and women, I believe we approach those steps very differently from men. The original Think and Grow Rich was written by Napoleon Hill in 1937 from a male perspective, when all of the titans of business were men. Think and Grow Rich for Women applies Napoleon Hill's wealth-building principles to the lives of modern women, combining Hill's classic 13 Steps to Success with the insights and experience gathered from hundreds of remarkable women--including Sandra Day O'Connor, Angela Merkel, Tory Burch, Mary Kay Ash, Indra Nooyi and Ginni Rometty.

Think and Grow Rich for Women celebrates women who through their wisdom, encouragement and enthusiasm have helped other women and provides a blueprint for women to define and achieve their goals, live their dreams, overcome obstacles, and seize opportunities. I want to replace the "work-life balance" guilt trip that so many women struggle over with the desire to live "one big life" filled with love, family, success, and significance.

But most importantly, I want to change the dialogue--from women complaining about the glass ceiling, the gender wage-gap, and the need for more female leadership... to a dialogue of women celebrating the accomplishments that women have, and are still, making in education, business and as economic leaders. And I want to celebrate the men who are opening more doors of opportunity for women ready to assume greater leadership positions. By changing our dialogue from negative to positive we will see even greater strides in female leadership, and see it much more quickly.

What were the highlights and challenges you experienced whilst writing this book?
The greatest highlight was discovering all the incredible women I write about in the book, the impact they each made on the world and the doors they opened for other women that are still enjoyed today. I was even more impressed by the incredible grace with which they wore their success.

The greatest challenge I had was finding quotes from successful women to highlight each of the success principles. It simply exemplified their impressive grace, because in their humbleness they hadn't sought recognition...or ever focused on fame, by recording "quotable" quotes.

What advice do you hope women take away from reading the book?
My hope is that women will not only be encouraged to define their own personal pathway to success and significance but also join our global initiative to celebrate all women. Let's stop complaining about what is still wrong and start celebrating the tremendous accomplishments that have been made by, and for, all women. In doing so, we will replace negative talk with positive talk and ignite even more positive accomplishments along the way.

And, most of all, my goal is that women will find relief, and release, from the work/life balance guilt trip that so many of us have been on. In finally releasing this self-imposed guilt, may they find true joy from living "One Big Life." It will allow them to generate even more success in the lives they have freely designed for themselves, and in the process, they will become significant and positive role models for everyone around them.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Most of my life, I was the poster child for being "out of balance" and in a constant state of guilt--until I realized that I was imposing someone else's expectations on myself. Then a few years ago, I discovered definitions of the words "worry" and "balance" that made a huge difference in my life. "To worry is to pray for what you do NOT want," and "Balance is the ability to remain in a position without losing control or falling."

When I realized that being "balanced" is unrealistic, meaning you are totally still and not moving (and that in real life we are never still), I was able to break the chains of guilt about being in balance.

Then a dear friend shared her philosophy of living "One Big Life" and it was the perfect way to describe my life. Each evening I review how I have spent my day. If I am unhappy with the choices I made that day, I vow to make different choices the next day. When I catch myself on another worry and guilt trip, I remind myself that "to worry is to pray for what you do NOT want." Instead of seeking work/life balance, I want women to seek ONE BIG LIFE!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest issue, by far, for women in the workplace is a lack of confidence in themselves, and their abilities. As a general rule, women have a harder time introducing themselves as "experts" than men do. While men standing up for themselves may be labeled "confident and assertive," women are often called "pushy and aggressive."

Today, we are at a positive tipping point for women in the workplace. More women are taking on leadership roles in management creating a more "confident and assertive" women-led environment for the women who follow. When more women learn to step up...step out, and stand in their power we will see incredible results.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
There were very few women in my field when I started my career in accounting in the mid 70's so most of my early mentors were men. They were instrumental in guiding me through the man's world of accounting with grace and dignity. In fact, I found that many women in positions of power in those days were not very kind to other women, a fact that thankfully has changed dramatically in the last few years. Peer mentorship through my membership in the Women Presidents Organization has been priceless to me in both my professional and personal life and created life-long friendships in the process.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire all of the women I feature in Think and Grow Rich for Women for their passion, determination, success and the shining role models they have become for the young women who follow them.

I truly admire Sandra Day O'Connor for the incredible contributions she has made for women. As the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, she has been a shining role model for all young women seeking to blaze new paths in the workplace. While considered a fair and deliberate jurist, her mild deliberative manner was backed by her dogged determination to support dispute resolution through civil discourse. Her charity, The O'Connor House, states as its purpose, "Where Civil talk leads to civil action." I know of no other women who has so elegantly, and with humble grace, achieved such tremendous Success and Significance.

What are the next projects you will be working on?
Think and Grow Rich for Women is just the beginning of my global initiative to change the dialogue between women. We will be bringing women and organizations together around the world to celebrate women, what they have achieved, and the important role we play in the economic future of the world. My passion is to support all women in their entrepreneurial endeavors and their quest for financial well-being.

Think and Grow Rich for the Next Generation, will be a book addressing Napoleon Hill's 13 Steps to Success for the younger generation and is scheduled to be released before the end of 2014. It will include success stories and advice from young entrepreneurs so that young people can better recognize entrepreneurial opportunities and seize them in order to create success in their own lives.