Female CEO's message: Stop being successful at the wrong things

I’m a busy CEO, wife, mom, friend, speaker, author—I wear a lot of hats, like all women do. As the result of a life-changing adventure, the non-profit Skip1.org was born and my life was changed forever. From this experience, I’ve come to a bold conclusion: I want women everywhere to stop being successful—at the wrong things.

As women, too often we feel this pressure to be super-career women, super-friends, super-moms, super-wives. That we ought to be bringing home the bacon, while balancing a hundred spinning plates, seems to be the silent message society is sending us.

We feel pressure to be successful at everything, whether it's defined by a reserved parking spot or a corner office or a perfectly kept home or the right brands.

We read books like "Lean In" to figure out how to get a stiletto further up the ladder.


Honestly, I don’t think women need a manifesto on how to be successful, and I'm not worried that they won’t be successful. I'm worried that women are succeeding at things that don’t matter.

I spent a lifetime leaning in for things that don’t matter. As a busy Hollywood talent executive working with actors with the highest honors in the industry, I had the success thing covered.

It took a stranger in my kitchen to turn my well-defined measure of success on its head.

One night at a party in my home, a guest pointed to the photos of two young African kids on my refrigerator that we sponsor through ARM (African Renewal Ministries) as a way to teach our kids about giving and asked, “You fell for that? How do you know that those kids on your refrigerator are real?” She continued, “They might be 40-years-old, and they are just taking your money.”

Her question got under my skin and I knew I had to go to Africa to see for myself whether or not these children were real.

How many people plan a trip halfway around the world to see if their $25 a month is actually going to the face on the postcard?

So I set off on a crazy quest. Once I was in Africa, everything changed. I met my two sponsored kids. They knew me. They really KNEW ME.

Our family Christmas card and photo were actually stuck in the wall of my little girl’s mud hut. In their village, I saw a deep need for basic necessities. Suddenly, academy award nominations didn’t seem so important. My personal measuring stick of success was instantly changed.

I learned they had been living on less than one meal a day before the sponsorship. And the realization that these children might be alive because of the tiny sacrifice my family makes every month hit me like a ton of bricks.

Suddenly, I became frantic to learn more and do more to help children like this all over the world. I also realized that all the success in the world wasn’t going to help these kids. My personal rat race was doing no one any good because I had chosen to be successful at the wrong things.

This new passion for the hurting children of the world gave me the idea to start Skip1.org. At Skip1, we’re changing the way charity is done. Think of it as fast-food philanthropy. Just skip something—a latte, a stick of gum, something small—and instead donate that pocket change to our organization and we’ll use the money to transform the life of a child in poverty.

Starting a non-profit was my way to be successful at something that mattered. But there are so many ways—big or small—to make a difference, and not everyone has the same goals or aspirations.

I urge women to dig deep to discover what they can be successful at that has true significance and give up the world’s measuring stick for their own.

These days, I’m all about skipping the things that don’t matter and being successful at the things that do. Will you join me?