For Barbara Corcoran, real estate expert and star of ABC's "Shark Tank," success is no longer about money.
But the very first time Corcoran felt successful was the day she first made a profit.
"I made $77,000 running my brokerage firm. I had never made a profit. And I thought, 'What do I do with the money?'" she says. "I was so surprised to have the money."
Rather than buy something for herself, Corcoran says she immediately spent the money on two people most important to her: her parents.
"I went out and I bought my mother and father a new car. They had never had a new car," she says. "I had my Uncle Richie and his best friend drive the car down to Florida, put a big bow on the top and park it in the driveway."
"I'm still so pleased with that decision to move so fast on that," she adds.
Corcoran used a $1,000 loan to start her real estate business, the Corcoran Group, in 1973. It took off and she ultimately sold the company for $66 million in 2001. But despite her continued success on "Shark Tank" and beyond — and her ability to continue buying gifts for others throughout her career — Corcoran says that day remains unparalleled.
"Nothing has ever equaled that day when my mother and father came outside, and my Uncle Richie videoed them, and they just couldn't believe they each had a new car. I still can't get over it," she says.
The experience has stuck with Corcoran throughout her career. It underscores one of her most important values: giving back.
"The satisfaction of giving anything is a great satisfaction of living," she says. "It doesn't have to include money. If you do anything nice for anybody, you get a little puff of happiness, and it accumulates over time and keeps you as a nice person and a happy person."
"If you're always grabbing and wanting for you, you are never fulfilled," she adds.
Having held around 20 jobs before age 23, Corcoran understands what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck. But now, as a seasoned businesswoman and investor, she focuses on quality in life, rather than quantity.
She encourages others to focus less on money and more on the values that matter. Money, she says, cannot buy happiness.
"Success for me at this point in my life means great health and great health for my kids and my husband, right? That's the summation of it," she says.
Purchases only offer a semipermanent sense of happiness, she adds. "Six months later, you take it for granted."
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."
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