One of the questions I am often asked is “how to get ahead.”  I thought it might be helpful to share some lessons from top U.S. executives:

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway:  “You follow your passions.  You find something you love.  The truth is, so few people really jump on their jobs, you really will stand out more than you think.  You will get noticed if you really go for it.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks:  “I don’t think it matters how small or how big the task is, if you can do it just a little bit better than what is expected, you will be noticed and rewarded.”

Keith Wandell, recently retired CEO, Harley-Davidson:  “Just stay true to your values and your principles.”

Helena Foulkes, president, CVS Pharmacy:  “So I love to run.  I like to run long distances.  And I think a lot of times making business decisions is like being a marathoner.  In other words, you know what the finish line is that you really want to get to but, along the way, it’s not always pure joy.  There are really hard moments.  But if you keep your eye on the prize, it’s part of what drives you to get there.”

John Gainor, CEO and president, International Dairy Queen:  “I think it’s very important that you don’t want work to be work.  It has to be something that you can enjoy.  And if you find that, you can build a great career and enjoy what you’re doing.  But I think the other thing is equally as important, and that is you need to treat every employee no different than how you want to be treated.  Every person in an organization or in a store, their job is critical.”


Meg Whitman, president and CEO, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise:  “Be clear what matters most.  And what matters most is your family.  There are tradeoffs that you will make, but remember, at the end of the day that is probably the most important group of people in your lives, and that has been true for me from day one.  Do something that you love.  We spend a lot of time at work … if you find yourself in a company where you’re being asked to do something that you don’t think is right or you’re feeling uncomfortable about the leadership and the direction of the company, run, do not walk, for the doors.”

Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO, IBM:  “Never protect the past.  If you never protect the past, I think … you will be willing to never love [it] so much [that] you won’t let it go, either.  Never define yourself as a product and, in fact, I would augment it; never define yourself by your competition, either.  If you live and define yourself by your product or competition, you will lose sight of who your customer is.”

Adam Goldstein, president and COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises:  “Try to stay in one place….  That’s not really very realistic in today’s day and age, but there are so many advantages if you can have a long and fulfilling career at one place.  The relationships that you have with the people are very, very special.  Your knowledge of the business, the industry, the different departments, what’s going on in the company, the lingo – I find it very fulfilling.”

Kirk Kinsell, president and CEO, Loews Hotels & Resorts:   “Don’t take yourself seriously because no one else will.  That points back to my leadership style.  I oftentimes tell people my favorite subject is me . . . and then I explain it to them and say, ‘The reason why it’s my favorite subject is because I invest in myself and understand who I am because I strongly believe I can’t lead.  I can’t work on others unless I know myself.’”

Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors:  “Do something you are passionate about; do something you love.  If you are doing something you are passionate about, you are just naturally going to succeed, and a lot of other things will happen that you don’t need to worry about.”

Eric Schmitt, executive chairman, Alphabet (formerly Google):  “Find a way to say yes to things . . . a new country, to meet new friends, to learn something new.  Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”


Mackay’s Moral:  Learn from the best to get ahead of the rest.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}