Olympian shares stage with software company CEO Bill McDermott; both discuss how they overcame profound adversity
For Michael Phelps, the journey to becoming the greatest Olympian in history began with a piece of paper.
“Write down your goals,” he told a room full of Arizona State University students Monday evening on the Tempe campus.
“I was taught at an early age to write my goals down, and I’ve been doing it since I was 11 years old. I put them in a place I could see them every day.”
Phelps discussed his path to glory as part of a presentation on leadership called “The Winning Move” that also featured Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP, a global technology company.
“I went through ups and downs personally, publicly, in the pool. There were times I was more dedicated than not,” said Phelps, who has won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold.
“The great ones do things when they don’t want to. Every day I woke up at 5 or 6 in the morning to jump in a cold pool after being in a nice warm bed. It wasn’t fun, but I had goals I wanted to achieve. It was 365 days a year, 100,000 yards a week.”
McDermott discussed how, when he was a 16-year-old living in Long Island, N.Y., he bought the corner deli he was working at for $7,000. For him, it was a practical move.
“I went from having three part-time jobs to having one,” he said.
Both men have been tested by profound personal adversity. In 2015, McDermott fell down the stairs while holding a glass of water. A shard of glass went through his left eye, and he suffered great blood loss. He lost his eye and endured nearly a dozen surgeries.
“People said, ‘That must have built a lot of character in you.’ It didn’t build an ounce of character, but it did reveal everything about my character,” he said.