Ted Murphy does not usually tell his clients that he is an Olympic silver medalist, but says that his rowing career has prepared him for the discipline that he applies to his career as a Merrill Lynch wealth advisor today.
Murphy was recruited to row while a student at Dartmouth College, and ultimately went on to compete in the Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta and in 2000 in Sydney. That last competition brought him a silver medal alongside his partner Sebastian Bea. Today, Murphy works to pass some of those lessons along to his clients, who include 40- to 50-something professionals including attorneys, physicians, surgeons and private equity partners.
The road to two Olympics, Murphy says, helped prepare him for the career in financial services he says he always wanted. He became a financial advisor in 2002, and has been employed with Merrill Lynch as a sole practitioner in Mill Valley, Calif., since 2008.
The Olympic fields, courts and pools are a surprising first career training ground for what some athletes have turned into second careers as financial advisors. There's Eric Flaim of Ameriprise, a former speedskater with two Olympic silver medals to his name; John Stollmeyer of Raymond James, who competed in the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea as a soccer player; and David Emma of HighTower, who competed in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France as part of the U.S. hockey team.
"Like a lot of sports, there's no perfection," Murphy says of what rowing taught him that he applies to his career now. "It's a constant job to improve your stroke. Even by the time I was 10 years into it in Sydney, we were making changes in that final week to the way we were rowing."
The path that led Murphy and his rowing partner to those Olympic Games in Sydney was as much about hard work as it was about luck, Murphy remembers.
Murphy competed in his first Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996. At the time, he finished fifth in an eight-man event, which was a huge disappointment. He took some time off, found a job in Boston, but eventually decided to return to rowing for one more try at an Olympic medal.
"I knew that if we had had the right performance on the right day in the Atlanta Olympics, we would have won a medal, and that I was capable of the right performance on the right day," Murphy says.
Getting back into Olympic shape was painful, Murphy says, but cannot compare to what he and his teammate went through in the weeks running up to the Olympics in Sydney.
Murphy broke his rib (a repetitive stress injury) two to three weeks before the Sydney Games, which forced him to reconfigure his stroke weeks before the competition.
Even more troubling, his partner blew out his back that July, which an MRI revealed was two bulging discs. That forced him to rest while Murphy practiced with a spare rower.
After they decided Bea was fit for the Sydney, Bea once again blew out his back on the plane flight to Australia. The ensuing recovery meant that their first race in the Olympics was the 2,000 meter race; the first at that distance that they had done in two months.
On the final day of competition in Sydney, the duo was met with one more snafu: neither of their computers that track strokes per minute, distance, and speed was working. As a result, they were forced to complete the race without them.
"We raced to a silver medal on feel, and that's where all that training comes in, all that practice," Murphy says. "Combine that with the injuries and everything else, that silver medal was a tremendous victory for us."
Competing in the Olympics has left Murphy with lasting memories; particularly of winning that silver medal, but also the opening ceremonies in which he took part in for both of the Games. It still gives him goose bumps, he says.
He will never forget the experience or the lessons learned from being an Olympic athlete that he now applies to his financial career. "It's about that discipline to stay well invested for the long haul, as opposed to worrying about timing the market," he says. "What happens today gives me an ability to learn for tomorrow and really truly believing that every day is an opportunity to get better, to get stronger, to get faster, to get smarter," Murphy says. "If I hadn't believed that and really honed that, I wouldn't have gone to two Olympics."
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