Olympic Profile: David Fox, Investment Management Division, Atlanta

09 AUG 2011

David Fox, who joined Goldman Sachs in 1999 and works in our Investment Management Division office in Atlanta, competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as a swimmer on the men's US Olympic team. He won a gold medal in the Men's Freestyle 4x100m Relay and competed in the 50m Freestyle. We spoke with him about his Olympics experience.

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 were 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: Can you share a setback or challenge that you experienced on your path to the Olympics? How did you manage it, and how did it impact you?

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 actually was the greatest thing that could have happened to me. I was training with people that I really enjoyed and had a coach that was really right for me. I also endured numerous injuries late in my career that required creativity in my preparation at times 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. And now looking back many years later, it was actually the struggle along the way that I treasure versus any of the medals or accomplishments. You can't always control the place you get at the competition, but you can control the process you put in place to get there.

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. And far and away above the other things, it’s important to remember that life, business, whatever, is always full of ups and downs. You've got to be careful not to let the downs get you too down, and you can't get too confident when things are going well, either. Ultimately, I think how we handle the disappointments, and how we pick ourselves up off the ground when we fail, really does determine who we are and what we accomplish.