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Michael Phelps in the pool

Michael Phelps talked about creating success for yourself and others -- and that shark race

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Not many people can say they’re a 28-time Olympic gold medalist. In fact, most can’t even say they even got one.

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Baltimore native Michael Phelps spoke alongside SAP Chief Executive Officer Bill McDermott at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. It was a presentation on leadership called “The Winning Move" and delved into how they’ve achieved their goals through overcoming personal struggles.

Phelps opened up about his past mistakes he had made that were “very public.” He was arrested twice for DUI in 2004 and 2014.


In an interview with NBC in 2016, Phelps spoke about his arrests. "I sent myself down a downward spiral," Phelps said. "I think it was more of, of a sign than anything else. That I had to get something under control, whatever it was. I look back at that night and everything happened for a reason."

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He got help and checked into rehab for 45 days after his last arrest in 2014. It helped him turn his life back around, and he came out of his self imposed retirement to compete again at the 2016 Olympics. He won 5 golds and 1 silver, becoming the most decorated Olympian ever- even if he did lose against that (fake) shark.

As for that shark race:

I got whooped,” Phelps said at the conference. “That’s a butt beating to me. Instantly after the race I tweeted, ‘Rematch!’ ” For the record, however, Phelps may have been just as upset as you that that wasn't a real shark.

Phelps attributes his success to his focus. “I’ve been writing my goals down since I was 11 years old,” Phelps said.


On the other end of the spectrum, CEO Bill McDermott spoke about creating success not only for yourself, but for others.


As a leader of a company that withholds 80,000+ employees, McDermott encouraged the crowd to stay humble. “The best leaders are the best listeners,” he said.

Headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, SAP is the world's largest software company. The company's mission is to “run simple.”

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They offer a variety of products, including HR services and cloud platforms. Their vision is to “seamlessly connect people and technology, real-time.


“As you get advanced in this leadership game, it’s not just wanting to be somebody. It’s about doing something and leaving your mark on the world,” McDermott said. SAP in recent years has been focusing on building a company culture of inclusiveness, which includes hiring young people right out of college.

After bouncing back and forth regarding life experiences, McDermott and Phelps also hosted a question and answer session, followed by a reception including a meet and greet.


The panel was hosted by basketball analyst Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

“We all have the same tools, we just have to figure out how to use them.”
Michael Phelps

(Credit: Circa Campus contributor, Frankie MClister in partnership with GenFKD)

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