The CEO of Walmart was rejected by Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton business schools, but now runs the Fortune 500's largest company. Here are his 3 tips for success



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The executive at the top of the Fortune 500, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, started his career near the bottom.

Although he planned to attend a prestigious business school, he got rejected from Harvard, Stanford, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. When he joined Walmart in 1984, his job was to unload trailers in a warehouse. On his first day, he even rear ended his boss’s car, he told students during this year’s commencement address at the University of Arkansas.

Yet, McMillon persevered, and worked his way up the ranks during a 33-year career at Walmart. Now the CEO of the No. 1 company on the Fortune 500, McMillon says three key learnings helped him make it to the top while maintaining a balanced life.

McMillon’s first tip may seem antithetical to how many view a high-powered executive—especially one running a company with an annual revenue of $648 billion. The advice? Live in the moment.

He once dreamed of starting his own business and inventing a product, but life took McMillon down a different path. He said life doesn’t always work out how you might think, but one thing is true: It moves very fast. 

“I’m wired to think more about what’s coming next than the moment right in front of me. Planning is important, but enjoying the present is, too,” he said.

Because life is fleeting, the Walmart CEO said it’s important to choose a career that “doesn’t feel like work.” His father likely made the wrong choice in becoming a dentist, he said, and it was hard on the family.

Align your job with your passions, and you will eventually find your “happy place,” he advised.

“Life is too short to invest so much time doing something you don’t enjoy,” McMillon said.

The 57-year-old’s last piece of advice was to trust and believe in people. McMillon said on a recent business trip to South Africa he realized that people worldwide have more in common than they do differences, and it’s important to focus on our shared motivations. And when you can, give back to others, he added.

“The things we care about are largely the same. We want our kids to have it better than we do; we want to be loved and accepted; and we want to make a difference,”  said McMillon. “My encouragement to you is to realize that and when you encounter others, assume positive intent, show some grace, and be forgiving.”



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