THE BLOG
06/03/2013 06:04 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2013

A Meaningful Life

Christina Mace-Turner

I was a child of the '70s, and for the first half of my life, almost everything I believed about success came from my parents. Both were the children of immigrants, and both valued the choices and comforts that came with wealth. Money was a big topic of conversation in our house: who had it and who didn't; who could make it and who couldn't. My parents disagreed about many things, but on the topic of success they were surprisingly united. Wealth was, if not the ultimate measure of success, a very important component of getting there.

My mother's view of success was tied up in the women's movement and a desire to be part of the professional world. In the '60s, when success for most women meant marriage and babies, my mother decided to go to law school instead. There, although she was one of just two women in her class, she had the potential to create wealth despite pursuing a profession that didn't want her. For her generation -- perhaps by the standards of any generation -- my mother was wildly successful: She had both a family and a career. She also made a lot of money, and that money legitimized her time away from her family; it confirmed the value of her independence.

My father's view of success was more traditional than my mother's. He grew up during the Depression, the son of a firefighter in a poor town in Connecticut. The way he saw it, every dollar he made distanced him from the difficulties and slights of his childhood. The wealthier he was, the more successful he was. He could see his success in the perfectly-tailored seams of his handmade suits and the polished sheen of his leather shoes.

Today, however, the idea of wealth as a measure of personal success seems less relatable to me, more like a logistical achievement than a real triumph. When I'm asked to point to successful women who have influenced me, other than my mother, they are rarely women who have created wealth. Some may be wealthy as a byproduct of what they do, but their successes are defined by the intent that drives their actions, the commitment they have made to the people around them, and the risks they are willing to take to help those who cannot help themselves.

One evening not long ago, a group of women gathered at a friend's home in San Francisco to meet and hear from Shabana Rasij-Basikh, a young woman who recently founded a boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. When the time came for her to tell her story to the women settled in the living room, Shabana stood and paced, unable to contain her energy. Small in stature and soft-spoken, she had been all-but-invisible in the cocktail-hour crowd, but now, speaking of growing up under the Taliban, she had the room's full attention. She described how she and her sister risked their lives each day to attend school, how she dressed as a boy and hid her books, how in the days after 9/11, she saw images of skyscrapers for the first time and was astonished to learn that an elevator could ascend the buildings in seconds, rather than the days of climbing she'd imagined.

Later, reflecting upon Shabana's story, I realized that while wealth was certainly a measure of my parents' success, it was not, ultimately, what made them successful. Their successes (and failures) came instead from realizing a personal desire to participate in the world in a way they found meaningful.

Similarly, my view of success grew from becoming a mother and realizing that the time I spent away from my children had to be meaningful or I couldn't bear to do it. I couldn't just make money for the sake of paying my bills; I needed to find a way to make money while putting love into my work and making a positive impact on the world around me. This is what drew me to technology. With the birth of the iPhone and iPad, I realized that even the most perfect technology needs sharing to be relevant. People must love a product so much that they share it with their friends; their friends in turn must feel equally passionate, so much so that the world's technologists -- a fairly small cluster of companies -- are driven to create similar products for less money that even more people can share.

Much of my professional success has been built on the love and sharing of new technology, but I actually feel most successful when I am thinking about technology as a tool to help others and am able to introduce it to people who are truly making a difference in the world -- the ones working tirelessly to feed and clothe, cure and save other human beings. Technology in the hands of these of people is a powerful success; it's how technology can really change the world.

Women like Shabana -- who speaks five languages and attended college in the U.S., a remarkable achievement in her country, where more than 90 percent of the women are illiterate -- embody this broader view of success, one that has nothing to do with wealth but instead, illustrates the passions that drive us to pursue a life of meaning. In this context, redefining success is an opportunity to consider not only what and for whom we are striving to gain, but also the value of appreciating what we already have.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.

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