Turn fear into excitement. People often ask me if I still get nervous before going on the main stage for a keynote address. My answer is that when I stop being nervous, I should stop speaking because my nervousness comes from my burning desire to say the right thing for the audience that will inspire them to make positive change in their lives. Instead of allowing that nervousness to come out as fear, I transform it into excitement and energy to add power to my delivery.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Lechter. Sharon is internationally recognized as a financial literacy expert and keynote speaker as well as a New York Times Bestselling author, successful entrepreneur, business mentor, philanthropist, and licensed CPA. Sharon is the author of Think and Grow Rich for Women and co-author of Success and Something Greater, Outwitting the Devil, Three Feet From Gold as well as the international bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad and 14 other books in the Rich Dad series and is featured in the movie Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy.
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Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
My oldest son came home after his first semester in college in 1992 in credit card debt. We were shocked as we didn’t even know he had credit cards. The credit card companies were soliciting students on campus with offers for “free money.” I was angry with him…but angrier with myself as I thought I had taught him about money. That was December 1992 and I dedicated the rest of my professional career to creating tools and helping people take control of their financial lives. Now, 27 years later I am still passionate about teaching our children about money and providing cost effective tools to help anyone looking to improve their financial well-being.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Sometimes you must close one door for other doors of opportunity to open for you. Several months after I decided to leave the Rich Dad Company in 2007, I was having an old-fashioned pity party for myself trying to figure out my next move professionally…when my phone rang. It said the White House on caller ID! President Bush asked me to be on the very first President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. I would NOT have received that call had I still been at the Rich Dad Company. When I speak with people who are feeling stuck or wanting to create a new level of success, I ask them to consider, is there a door in your life you need to close, to allow the next opportunity to seek you out?
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At the ripe old age of 25, I thought I knew everything. I was working very long hours in public accounting and was rapidly moving up the ranks of the firm I was with. But I asked myself, “if I am going to work such crazy hours…shouldn’t I work for myself instead of someone else?” About that time one of my clients offered me a position (with equity ownership) in a new company he was acquiring, and I said, “Why Not?” I soon found out why not, as I discovered a lot of accounting problems and inconsistencies in the new company and realized I could not stay there. As Napoleon Hill stated, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
After going away for a few days to think about my next move I returned to find a young lawyer “going through my drawers” in discovery in an ongoing lawsuit the company was involved in. His name was Michael Lechter and it was love at first sight for both of us. We celebrate 39 years of marriage this year. Today, when someone asks how we met, I simply say, “he was going through my drawers!” My worst business decision opened the door for my best life decision.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
After losing my youngest son in 2012, I was devastated, and I realized I was living my life in neutral. I had always played big all of my career, but my grief made me play much smaller. I was just going through the motions. Early in 2018, I thought about retiring and had quite a bit of pushback from family and friends. I decided it was time to REFIRE and play big again, so I created the Play Big Movement to share what I was doing and to encourage others to play big as well. There is a private Facebook group called The Play Big Movement with Sharon Lechter that is free to join where I share what I am doing and have weekly shows talking about becoming number one in your field, living your legacy and creating maximum impact.
In addition to the Play Big Movement, I agreed to write the new book Success and Something Greater with the Napoleon Hill Foundation and Greg Reid, my co-author from Three Feet From Gold. Napoleon Hill was going to use this title on his last book but passed before he could write it so it was a huge honor for the Foundation to ask us to write the book with the same title. It shares stories of many successful people and their magic keys to success, which highlights that success can come in many different forms. Every reader will be entertained, intrigued and inspired to take action in his or her own life by the stories we share.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I write as I would speak to the reader. Too many writers want to come across as experts in their field and focus on “being smart” in how they present themselves through their writing. To become a great writer, you need to focus on the reader and strive to touch their hearts. I often have people say to me, “I felt like you were speaking directly to me. I really needed this book right now in my life.” There is no greater compliment.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Fred Wagenhals has distinguished himself as an accomplished inventor and entrepreneur. By the age of 21, Wagenhals established his reputation as an innovator including a two-man, jet-pumped boat design used in jet ski watercrafts; 1:3-scale, gas-powered mini-cars used in various television shows and films; and, a computerized motor that powered the mechanical bulls popularized by the 1980 move Urban Cowboy.
He founded Action Performance Companies Inc. in 1992 with a vision of creating a Franklin Mint-like company that would merchandise replica die-cast race car collectibles and other motorsports memorabilia. Wagenhals’ company quickly eclipsed his original vision and turned into a one-stop source for motorsports-related consumer merchandise. Under his leadership, Action grew to over $400 million in sales per year and was sold in 2005 for $245 million.
We share the story of how he sold the original patent for the jet ski watercrafts for $75,000 in order to pay his employees and his bills. When asked if he regretted selling for so little when the industry became so huge, his answer was that it was the right decision at the time. It was necessary if he was going to get to the next deal. He was always pursuing something bigger, something better.
Success is a journey…always be thinking of the next deal and look upon each success as a necessary step that will lead you to it.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
In today’s world of instant news and social media, businesses, leaders and influencers must find a way to differentiate themselves from all their competition and engage people in their missions. They need to rise above all the noise. They can do this by defining their Success Secrets or Magic Key. Before reaching the last page, the reader will already be more self-confident, more energized, more focused and ready to ask the right questions. More importantly, they will be ready to take action and realize their own success, wealth and achievement, and in doing so, define and create their legacy.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
It is critically important to build the business around your book. Too many authors expect their publishers to promote the book or expect the book to sell itself. The book is your product. You need to train yourself to be a great speaker to promote the book as well as build the platform for promotion and on-going customer engagement to truly create a bestselling book and become a bestselling author. The thought of “build it and they will come” does not apply to book publishing. Promote, promote and promote then engage your readers to share with their networks through established business systems is how you become a bestselling author.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I read the book Think and Grow Rich when I was 19 but didn’t realize the impact it had on my life until I was in my 30s. Even though it was originally published in 1937 it is just as relevant and powerful today. In 1908, a young Napoleon Hill was charged with researching the elements of success by Andrew Carnegie, then the richest man in the world. Carnegie introduced him to his rich friends so Hill could discover what they had in common. Think and Grow Rich was the result of this project which lasted over twenty years. The book is so powerful because it is not one man’s philosophy, but the thesis of success created from the common traits of the most successful men.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I share rather than tell. Through the use of stories, examples and strategies used by others, my readers can relate to the lessons shared and choose those that they can adopt and implement in their own lives immediately. I also break down the complex subject of money, investing and financial strategies into easy to understand lessons that allow people to break through their fears around money and inspire them to take action to improve their financial well-being.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Start writing. And while you write, get speaker training and build the business around the book. It has never been easier to write a book and build a platform. However, rising above the noise in the publishing world when so many books are being published requires a strategic plan, a business platform and a dedication to Play Big.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. The most successful businesses solve a problem or serve a need. The success of Rich Dad Poor Dad was due to the fact that it was the right message at the right time. People were struggling financially, and Rich Dad Poor Dad presented strategies that helped the reader change their mindset and action steps to improve their financial lives. Reminding yourself of what problem you solve or what need you serve gives you the inspiration to keep going…even when there are difficult times.
2. Turn fear into excitement. People often ask me if I still get nervous before going on the main stage for a keynote address. My answer is that when I stop being nervous, I should stop speaking because my nervousness comes from my burning desire to say the right thing for the audience that will inspire them to make positive change in their lives. Instead of allowing that nervousness to come out as fear, I transform it into excitement and energy to add power to my delivery.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone…that is where the opportunities are found. When I made the decision to REFIRE and launch the Play Big Movement, I knew that it meant I had to be more vulnerable and open up about losing my son. I was not comfortable with showing vulnerability, in fact I stuttered even trying to say the word. But I soon learned that when I shared my story and my devastation from losing my son, I was touching so many peoples’ lives and creating the opportunity for all of us to start healing.
Too many of us get into routine in our lives and stop noticing new opportunities that may be right in front of us. That comfort from routine can transform in complacency. By challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone, into something or somewhere new, you open yourself to discovery…where new opportunities are waiting for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
4. Turn failure and disappointment into learning opportunities and keep going.
Walt Disney was fired at 22 from his job at a newspaper for not being creative enough. His first company was lost in bankruptcy. His first character was stolen by his producer. Studios turned him down when he presented Mickey Mouse saying women would be terrified of a giant rat on screen. Yet he persevered. He went on to be nominated for 59 Academy Awards winning 32, all for his incredible animations. He still holds the record for the most Oscars won by an individual, according to WaltDisney.com.
As I described earlier, I found the love of my life after making the worst business decision of my life. In addition, even though it was a difficult decision to walk away from the Rich Dad Company at the height of our success, I knew it was the right decision to make for me, and it opened the door for the phone calls I received from both President Bush and the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Both calls opened incredible doors of opportunity that would not have opened for me had I still been at Rich Dad.
5. There is incredible opportunity through the power of association. When we started the first talking children’s book company in 1987, we knew parents would be concerned about putting a new technology in their children’s hands. By licensing characters from Disney, Sesame Street, Warner Brothers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which were trusted companies in the minds of these parents, our company experienced explosive growth. Business is a team sport. Find the right business to align with and both companies will benefit as well as their customers.
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. 🙂
Having built three global brands, the talking children’s books brand, Rich Dad, the largest personal finance brand in the world and then being asked to step in to help reinvigorate the teachings of Napoleon Hill, the largest personal development brand in the world, I have been blessed to see how ideas can not only become reality but impact the lives of millions.
While I continue to be dedicated to helping people take control of their financial lives, I am even more focused on helping others learn to create even greater impact by Playing Big. I created the Play Big Movement to help people step out of their comfort zone and find the associations that can help take them and their businesses to a global level.
The Play Big Movement means becoming number one in your field, living your legacy and creating maximum impact.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.