It Isn't About A Fancy Diploma: 6 CEOs Who Went To Community College

by John Haltiwanger

Traditional thinking says that if you want to be successful in this world, you need to receive a quality education. It is, quite simply, a fact of life. And our parents and teachers agree -- which explains why they remind us just how important education is every chance they get.

And most people seem to think that receiving a diploma from an Ivy League college is the surest way to get ahead in the world.

We forget that the "quality" of one's university doesn't always determine where we'll end up in the world. It doesn't always ensure a six-figure salary and a corner desk with a view.

So, what if we've misinterpreted what a "quality" education really means?

Education is about so much more than where you go to school. It's true that the lessons we learn are important -- as are our teachers, but many of the most important lessons we learn happen outside of the classroom. Likewise, intelligence should not be measured by where you studied.

Rather, intelligence is the sum of a person's knowledge, inquisitiveness and experiences. The desire to learn and the ability to accept and learn from criticism are perhaps the highest markers of a strong mind.

This is not to say that going to a good and respected university is a bad idea, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is the only path to success. Statistically, you are far more likely to get a job if you go to college.

It's always a good idea to have a college diploma, but it means nothing without passion, drive and vision. If you want something in life, you have to work for it; don't make excuses.

Some of the most successful CEOs in the world are not products of elite universities. In fact, the majority of CEOs of the biggest corporations did not attend Ivy League schools or other selective universities.

Many of them actually attended community colleges. They took what they learned in these institutions and drove their way to the top without the benefit of an elite education.

Despite the stigma attached to it, there is nothing wrong with going to community college. This is particularly true in the present day, as going to college is an absurdly expensive investment that doesn't always lead to employment.

Community college is a practical choice for anyone that either can't afford to pay tuition, or isn't quite sure what they want to do.

Success is about seizing every opportunity that comes your way and knowing how to lead. Thus, strong character is the first necessity in the fight towards the top. As Warren Buffett once said:

I don't care where someone went to school, and that never caused me to hire anyone or buy a business.

These incredibly accomplished CEOs all went to community college:

Walt Disney

Walt Disney, founder of the world famous Walt Disney Company, attended Metropolitan Junior College in Missouri. His company is responsible for some of the most iconic characters and films of all time, and the Disney brand is one of the most recognizable in the world.

George Lucas

Most people know George Lucas as the director of both the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" films. He is also the founder and former CEO of Lucasfilm. Before he became a director, Lucas attended Modesto Junior College and studied anthropology during the 1960s.

Ross Perot

Perot is a former businessman and presidential candidate, although he was never elected. Before joining the US Navy, he attended Texarcana Junior College. After the Navy, Perot founded companies that ultimately earned him billions of dollars and landed him among the richest people on the planet.

James Sinegal

Sinegal, the CEO of Costco, initially attended San Diego City College before moving on to San Diego State University. Sinegal's net worth is now around $2 billion.

Nolan Archibald

At one point, Archibald was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. He is now the Executive Chairman of the Stanley Black & Decker Corporation, which brings in billions of dollars annually.

In 1966, Archibald attended Dixie Junior College. We all have to start somewhere.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, is famous for never finishing college and still creating some of the most innovative technology in history.

Before dropping out, though, he attended a small community college -- De Anza College -- for two semesters the 1970s. Apple's cofounder, Stephen Wozniak, also attended De Anza.

Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons