The most decorated U.S. Olympian in history, swimmer Michael Phelps is ready for the next chapter in his life after retiring from competitive swimming following the 2016 Olympics.
Now 33 years old, Phelps has embraced the role of an environmental and social activist through a series of campaigns. One of those campaigns involves a partnership with Colgate on its #EveryDropCounts initiative, which works to teach water conservation practices to address looming global water shortages.
After initially struggling to select a second career, Phelps made progress once he began pinpointing passions outside of the pool. A native of Baltimore, Phelps advised professionals facing difficult career transitions to think about their personal aspirations and develop a step-by-step plan to achieve goals.
“I’ve always done ‘dream, plan, reach,'” Phelps told FOX Business. “That’s kind of how I started my career. You start with a dream, you figure out a way you’re going to get there and you go for it. And if you fall short, it happens. I can’t tell you how many times something has gone not perfect for me and I’ve had to come back to the drawing board. But I think if you want something bad enough, I don’t think anything can stand in your way.”
The partnership with Phelps and Colgate for global water conservation was a natural fit for the lifelong swimmer. Campaign advertisements feature Phelps, along with his two-year-old son Boomer and wife Nicole.
Currently in its second year, Colgate said that the campaign is slated to save up to 50 billion gallons of water on an annual basis. The saving is a result of global education, teaching people to take shorter showers or turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth.
According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the global population could live under “water-stressed conditions” by 2025.
A highly-coveted brand ambassador, Phelps said his personal values have always played a major role when deciding which companies to partner with.
“Everything that I am a part of is something that I’ve always believed in,” Phelps said. “That’s kind of how we’ve done it my whole entire career, where I’ve been able to really express what I want and what I believe in, and I have a great team that goes out there and helps me try to complete these missions that I’m after.”
In recent years, Phelps emerged as one of the nation’s most outspoken voices for an increase in mental health awareness after opening up about his own struggles with depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts following the 2012 Olympics.
Through the Michael Phelps Foundation, he works to educate kids on water safety and has educated more than 20,000 children on pool safety over the last 10 years.
Phelps has no intention to return to competitive swimming, with his community and activist involvement now being his primary motivator.
“That’s the big reason, or one of the big reasons, that I don’t want to come back,” Phelps said. “I would rather save a life or have the opportunity to try to help save a life than win a gold medal, because that’s so much more important to me. As someone who has struggled with mental health for probably the last 10 to 12 years, I understand a lot about it and I understand how scary it can be.”