One of the questions I am often asked involves "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 and CEO, 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."

Helena Foulkes, president, CVS Pharmacy: "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 [another] thing is equally as important, and that is you need to treat every employee no different than how you want to be treated."

Meg Whitman, president and CEO, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise: "Be clear what matters most. And what matters most is your family. There are trade-offs 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."

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 ... 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."

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 Schmidt, 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.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail