As a child I wasn't what you would call an overachiever. Being a successful high school student wasn't at the top of my priority list; I was way more interested in being successful in terms of having friends and a social life that was fun. My mother, who owned her own clothing boutique named after me, was very successful. She would look at me and say, "You have something special, and I know you can achieve whatever it is you set your mind to."
In college I became much more interested in academics, thanks in part to a boyfriend who was quite driven to succeed. I had to keep up with him intellectually and I liked the challenge. If someone told me I couldn't do something, I would straighten up and say, "Oh yeah, watch me."
Somewhere along the way I started to set goals for myself. After college my goal was to work and live in New York City. I got a job and worked and saved for nearly two years and I did it! I had my own (not shared) apartment on the Upper East Side.
As I look back, I understand more clearly that setting goals gave me direction and a path to follow. I was still living in that same apartment and working, now married, when I became pregnant with my first child. My new goal was to stay home and raise that child myself. It took a lot of sacrifices, both financially and emotionally, to give up my job. But I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to stand in my way.
When my second child was seven years old I wanted to go back to work. My children cried. People told me it was impossible to get a decent job after being out of the workforce for 10 years. Their skepticism challenged me to go for it. I took a risk and went to work as a legal recruiter, earning only commissions. It wasn't easy; I had so much to learn. But then, I like a challenge.
I worked at that job for seven years and learned so much. It was really rewarding to help other people in their quest for new opportunities. But then I felt a new goal coming: It was time to work for myself. I left my job last month and started my own company.
I believe that leaning in means understanding what you want and going for it. It doesn't need to be defined by anyone but you. I teach my two amazing daughters the same thing that my mother taught me: You can achieve anything you set your mind to. So the questions is, what do you want? Once you know, go get it.