Spotlight on Goldman Sachs Olympians: David Fox

12 AUG 2016

As nations around the world unite to compete for the top spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics, we are celebrating Olympic athletes across Goldman Sachs in a new Q&A series. Seven employees will share their journeys, memories and stories from the games and how the experience has shaped their perspectives today. Keep visiting the careers blog for new profiles over the next few weeks.

David Fox works in the firm’s Investment Management Division as the region head for Private Wealth Management in the Southwest and head of the offices in Dallas and Houston. He competed for the United States in Swimming (Men’s Freestyle, 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay (Gold Medal) and 50-meter Freestyle) as a member of the United States Olympic team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Here, David shares how his experience in swimming prepared him for a career in business and overcoming setbacks.

Q: How do you think your experience in swimming prepared you for a career at Goldman Sachs?
David: I really believe that my swimming experience, more than anything else in my life, prepared me to work and succeed at Goldman Sachs. The most important lessons included understanding the relationship between hard work and long-term results, as well as the willingness to focus on the tedious daily habits necessary to make that steady progress. It's very easy to get overwhelmed with where you want to be versus where you are. Unless you can break things down into manageable, progressive steps forward, it can be difficult to visualize and ultimately achieve your goals.

Q: Please share any setbacks or challenges you experienced on your path to the Olympics. How did these impact you and how did you manage them?
David: I'm glad you brought that up, because another life lesson that has carried me forward is how I have dealt with those setbacks and disappointments. Ultimately, I believe that who you become and what you accomplish is a direct result of how you deal with setbacks that life throws your way. I had a number of very different things that impacted me, but one of the most significant happened during my senior year of high school. I was being recruited broadly and was likely to go to college at a big swimming power somewhere far from home, and my father died unexpectedly in a car accident. The sport didn't matter as much to me for a while, and being closer to my mother mattered more. I chose a school that hadn’t been very good at swimming recently, and might have seemed risky for someone with Olympic aspirations.

However, the fact that I stayed home and went to college at NC State ended up being very good for me. My teammates became some of my best friends, I had great training partners, and the coach was a good fit for my aspirations. 

I also endured numerous injuries late in my career that at times required creativity in my preparation and a mental toughness not to let the setbacks discourage me. Having emotional and physical obstacles in a world where you really need to give everything and have everything working right was challenging. Now, looking back many years later, it was actually the struggle along the way that I treasure versus any of the medals or accomplishments.

Q: If you could share a lesson you’ve learned on your journey, what would it be?
David: I think it’s important not to take shortcuts — doing things the right way, even if it takes a little longer, will almost always leave us feeling better and achieving more in the long run. It’s also important to remember that our life will always be full of ups and downs. It is important to try not to let the downs get you too down, and not to become complacent when things are going well. Ultimately, how we handle the disappointments and how we respond when we stumble really does determine who we become and what we accomplish.

Q: What is your favorite memory from participating in the Olympics?
David: The sounds that bring out an emotional response. The roar of 20,000 US fans when I was announced in the finals; the United States national anthem; the sound of the starter’s beep. I can’t replicate the roar of the crowd, but the memory is deeply seared into my mind. The national anthem always brings me back to that special time in my life. Whenever I hear a starter’s beep, I have an involuntary reaction, standing up on my toes, ready to sprint off of the blocks. In different ways, those memories each serve to remind me of the journey I took 20 years ago.

Read more stories from Goldman Sachs Olympians