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Author Sahar Paz: “We don’t need more movements ; We need stamina; We need people to continue to find and own their voices by sharing their thought leadership”

We don’t need more movements — injustice to humans and the planet are being handled at a rate faster than ever before. We need stamina. We need inspiration. We need people to continue to find and own their voices by sharing their thought leadership, as a way to hand the torch to those up-and-coming. We have a lot of work to do, we need more voices of impact to fuel the movements that have already begun.

As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Sahar Paz. Sahar didn’t grow up playing house, she played office. At the age of 13, she launched a baby and pet sitting company generating more cash flow than all the lemonade stands in the neighborhood! A natural leader with an active left-and-right brain, Sahar was 25 years old in New York City with a lucrative career in Finance and bored out of her mind. Inspired to share what she learned in business, she pivoted and dedicated herself to feeding the entrepreneurial voice of teenagers by founding Free Your Star Foundation. The nonprofit partnered with low-income high schools in Brooklyn with credit-earning programs written by Sahar herself. Championing the voice of others to help them understand their emotional intelligence and their personal drivers has always been Sahar’s mission. Her book, Find Your Voice part-memoir, part cognitive behavior guide, epitomizes that pursuit. Published in 2014, her message gained attention within forward-thinking organizations such as HBO, Facebook, Whole Foods, and the Texas Medical Center, where Sahar was invited to deliver keynote presentations. After five years on the road, Sahar became the CEO of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, a personal branding agency that focuses on placing professionals on stages to speak. Today, she resides in Houston and has given up pet sitting to play with her dog Rico instead. You can find Sahar on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SaharPaz.

Thank you so much for joining us Sahar! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?

By the time I was 7 years old, I had witnessed my entire existence shift for the worst, a direct reflection of how influential the voice of leadership can be felt on a grassroots level. Before I could articulate my first word, the revolution had already decided that I would have no voice. This left an impression on me, I understood the value of freedom and the power of our voices. As refugees of war, my family relocated to Denver, Colorado in the mid-’80s, as we settled in I bought Wham and Michael Jackson cassette tapes and found a few friends that weren’t turned off by my funny hair and accent. Growing up, I didn’t play house like a lot of the other girls, I played office. I started my first business at the age of 13 a baby and pet sitting company that brought in more cash than all the lawn mowin’ boys on the block. I’ve worked for myself in some manner or another ever since then. My repertoire of businesses includes an accessories line (while I was holding a position in finance), a non-profit, a book titled “Find Your Voice,” and a speaking tour that took me to the offices of HBO, Facebook, and Whole Foods. Today, I’m the CEO of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, a personal branding agency that scales your voice for social impact.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story?

I was a Junior in high school when I was given a copy of The Artist’s Way — I’m forever grateful for flipping through that book and applying some of the practices, like Morning Pages. After experiencing how the focused approach to writing time spurred my creativity.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

It was the fall of 2008 when I leveraged my writing to survive an economic meltdown in New York City. At the time I was blogging, and reposting my thought leadership on MySpace, and it turned out to be the beginning of my personal brand. I leveraged the relationships I had made with my audience into speaking and workshop opportunities, 12 months later I started a nonprofit as an extension of what I was teaching.

When you become the face and voice of your fundraising, your why that built the organization becomes an integral part of your ask for donations. I was constantly asked: when are you going to write a book and share your story with more people? The repetition of this question spurred me to begin drafting my first manuscript, mostly as a creative outlet, I wasn’t seriously looking to publish, until a serendipitous evening in Los Angeles in July of 2012. Speaking on that panel, sealed the deal with my soon-to-be publisher who was sitting in the audience. Meeting her and having a serious conversation about the process of writing, re-writing, publishing a book — then selling it on the road sparked my interest, and ultimately changed my life.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?

One of the first questions I was asked during the publishing process was this: What is the one thing you want the reader to know after they read your book?

I want her to embrace the power of her voice by not being accepting her story.

This answer became the true north for the book (Find Your Voice: the life you crave is a conversation away), as well as, the three-year speaking movement that followed. I wanted women from all walks of life to become emotionally intelligent to trust her voice within, liberating her spoken voice. From 2014 to 2017 I spoke and hosted workshops across the United States, from high schools to yoga studios, to the employees at HBO, Facebook, and Whole Foods!

Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?

When I was in it, I didn’t feel the impact I was making. For two reasons:

First, you’re not going to get rich from a book. You’re going to make money from the adjacent opportunities, like speaking and consulting.

Second, I wasn’t going to see the true effects of my book in the lives of my readers for 2–3 months until after meeting them, and for good reason. The work I was asking the women to do was deep, and it took time to see the results of self-awareness, courage and speaking up in an emotionally intelligent manner. You should have seen their faces during my talks, they were dialed in, not smiling, but thinking, intentionally. At first, I thought they were bored, but a bored audience looks at their phones, I learned quickly they were digesting, they were ready.

All-in-all, my book has set up my business and the trajectory of my career with a strong foundation in three ways: 1. A trusting audience 2. A diverse circle of influence 3. It gives my everyday work credibility. This experience absolutely aligned with my expectations.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.

It was 2018 and I was visiting New York to speak at a conference where I met a producer of the Today Show, she had heard of my book from three different people in her circle — one of whom exclaims buy the book, and she looked at me and asked: How does it feel to know you’re changing lives?

At that moment her position or my paycheck didn’t matter, because we were talking about a stranger I had never met who found her voice because of my words. Honestly, at that moment it soaked in, four years after the book came out, six years after I had written the very first word.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?

In 2014 we were at the beginning of the feminine revolution, today in 2019 we are in the thick of it. In the beginning, the feedback and focus were around finding the courage to speak up and be heard. Today, the audience is more focused on how to deal with anxiety and the pressure of being a woman with a voice. She wants to own the voice she has found and is going back to the resource that helped her in the first place.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?

Saving lives. I know my words saved lives. Women who had held it in so long that it was killing her slowly, literally, found a way to live. Our voices are so powerful, especially on the inside, and when our voice turns against us, it can take us into small and scary places. An unexpected specialty that resulted from writing Find Your Voice became suicide prevention. The most touching work is getting a card from a parent thanking me for helping them with their daughter or a single mom who decided to reach out and ask for help rather than take her own life. I am humbled. It is fuel for my soul to continue to share the hard stories so others know there is more.

Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?

If you want to create a movement you need to be ready for what I like to call static. Change is uncomfortable, for all of us. And together, in this static, is where change happens. If you expect to make a change by speaking to your own tribe, you’re not thinking sustainably. Instead, write with the opposition in mind, take on the voice of the sage, and educate others who oppose you. They may question you, but you control the narrative.

I’ve absolutely lost speaking opportunities because of the transparency in my book. I invited these folks to a deeper conversation, and in one case I was able to turn it around and not only save the speaking gig, but to build a lifelong friendship with someone completely unexpected.

Can you articulate why you think books, in particular, have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Our brain needs a start, middle, and end to process an experience. Why there are so many of us looking for “closure.” Books, our stories, offer the minds of the masses an opportunity to grow their perspective beyond the controlled and curated media branded in their subconscious. We need books. We need words strung together for the instant gratification addicts to know that there is an actual process that must take place to achieve true change. Books become our roadmaps. May we never run out of words to write.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

Understanding that writing the book was only 15% of the pie. It is about using my personal brand and my voice to keep the message and the movement relevant. My book has now become the foundation for all I do, Find Your Voice is a memoir and a course in emotional intelligence, today, I run Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, a personal branding firm with a specialty of getting folks on stages to speak. Now, 6 years later, when I speak about how my company began, I start with my book, I’m still ordering boxes and sales have been steadily increasing.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?

Don’t spend a crazy amount of money on a website you can’t update regularly. You will need to tweak the positioning of your message to stay relevant to society and book speaking gigs that allow you to sell more of your books. Stay focused on how you can leverage your book to continue to make an income, and the true costs of marketing efforts when you’re not able to update your website regularly.

Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)

  1. Start talking about your book and cultivating an audience before you write your first page.
  2. Get a clear answer to this: What is the one thing your reader will know when they’re done with your book?
  3. You’re going to have to speak, but you don’t have to do it for free.
  4. You must have a polished personal brand.
  5. Can you turn your book into a series?

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?

We don’t need more movements — injustice to humans and the planet are being handled at a rate faster than ever before. We need stamina. We need inspiration. We need people to continue to find and own their voices by sharing their thought leadership, as a way to hand the torch to those up-and-coming. We have a lot of work to do, we need more voices of impact to fuel the movements that have already begun.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin @SaharPaz

Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.



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