“From Athlete To Entrepreneur: 5 Work Ethic Lessons We Can Learn From Athletes”, With Ming Zhao & Tarek Nazzal

As a professional athlete, I always have high expectations of my performance, whether it is on or off the field. However, the transition from a professional athlete to a businessperson is not as “challenging” because the qualities and characteristics are aligned in some way. Qualities and characteristics can include discipline, responsibility, and commitment. As a […]

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As a professional athlete, I always have high expectations of my performance, whether it is on or off the field. However, the transition from a professional athlete to a businessperson is not as “challenging” because the qualities and characteristics are aligned in some way. Qualities and characteristics can include discipline, responsibility, and commitment.

As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tarek Nazzal, a soccer athlete and the founder of Nazzal Brothers, Inc. ( an internet marketing agency that serves clients internationally; in North America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born in the United States and lived majority of my life in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. During my 18 years of residing in Saudi Arabia, I would always travel to different countries to pursue my soccer career. After completing my high school education, I decided to promote my soccer career to the next level by moving to the United Kingdom for 1 year. During this time, I decided to take a firm decision by taking a gap year from attending university. What I can tell you is that my parents were not in favor of my decision. However, at the end of the day, I had to do what needed to be done.

What I can say at that time, completing higher education (Bachelor Degree) was the last thing on my mind. I had only one clear objective: To sign a professional soccer contract and live the dream.

I managed to play soccer at a descent level for 1 year, but it came to my attention that some kind of change had to be done. After spending 1 year in the UK, I continued to push for greater ambitions by promoting my soccer expertise to the next level. I made an executive decision by moving to Spain for 2 years, playing soccer and studying at a university. I can tell you from personal experience that doing both simultaneously was not easy. However, having high expectations in life is what kept me going.

After spending 2 years in Spain, it was time to move on and work towards bigger challenges. Therefore, I finally moved to the Greater Los Angeles area in January 2016 continuing my higher education at California State University, San Bernardino and played soccer at NPSL level. During my time at university, I formed an online personal training business named Prime Fitness Consulting LLC, which had some kind of success. However, I took initiative and decided to shut down the business as I had bigger ambitions to pursue. Without a doubt that attending university, playing soccer full-time, and having my own business was a learning experience.

As of this present time, I am currently searching for my next soccer contract and managing the day to day operations for my marketing agency. I am grateful for everything that I have been through as I would not have been where I am today without the ups and downs over the past few years. Most importantly, I am enjoying every single bit of this journey.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?

As a young child, my family demonstrated strong interest in soccer. It was a sport that was brought up every single day. However, I was always an athlete and into playing all kinds of sports, but soccer was the only sport that caught my full attention. It caught my attention not only because I enjoyed it, but because I was very good at it.

Throughout the years, the love of the sport grew on me. What motivated me more than ever were the positive comments that I would hear from family and friends. Therefore, my goal was to make it into the professional ranks, and it was time to make my family proud.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My family is my greatest and dearest fans. They supported me along every single step and continue to support me with my current and future endeavors. My parents knew how hard it was to break into the professional environment and yet they still believed in my abilities. Not for a second they ever doubted me. I am thankful for their support regardless of all the decisions I made because at the end of the day, if we do not make our decisions, we will never learn from our mistakes.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

As a young adult, I would hear so many stories of athletes waking up every morning going for 30-minute runs. Believe it or not, at one point between the age of 15 and 16, I would wake up every single day at 5 AM every morning for a 30-minute run before going to school.

I learned that taking responsibility and putting in the extra work will surely help achieve my goals faster than expected.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?

Every professional athlete has the drive and ambition to grow by setting new targets and objectives. It is very interesting because our determination and drive begins to engrain within ourselves. Therefore, challenges are always exciting!

As a professional athlete, I always have high expectations of my performance, whether it is on or off the field. However, the transition from a professional athlete to a businessperson is not as “challenging” because the qualities and characteristics are aligned in some way. Qualities and characteristics can include discipline, responsibility, and commitment.

What I can assuredly say that being an athlete has allowed me to think greater and bigger than myself. For that reason, moving into the business world was one of the finest decisions I have ever made.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects new you are working on now?

At this present time, I am the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Nazzal Brothers, Inc. Marketing Agency. Taking an active role in my company is an unforgettable journey and a great experience because we are fortunate enough to do business with national, and international clients in various industries. Being able to work at an international scale is exceptional because we constantly learn and adapt to different cultures. One of the most effective ways to continually learn is by taking practical approaches and this is exactly what I am doing. Therefore, I am taking advantage of this exciting journey as long as it lasts.

Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?

Yes, there is no doubt about this. As mentioned previously, athletes learn many different types of skills, such as Leadership, Communication, Interpersonal, and Emotional skills. I am a firm believer that with my experience as an athlete, it has prepared and made me a better entrepreneur in every aspect.

The difference between good and great athletes is very minimal. Great athletes have a unique drive that separates them from the rest. For instance, great athletes perform extra training sessions behind closed doors when no one is watching. Having the ambition to work on your own displays the level of commitment towards the sport. Now the question is, how does it make you a better entrepreneur? It’s pretty simple. Entrepreneurs, such as I, are constantly focusing on ways to improve company operations. Many people do not see the level of sacrifice that entrepreneurs make to run a successful business. A leading example would be working beyond working hours or staying up late till midnight and beyond to ensure future business success.

Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.

One of the leading Work Ethic Lessons would be Discipline. To be Disciplined takes time and effort because it is engrained through experience. It is the idea of taking full control of your decisions at the right time. For example, getting the job done whether you feel like it or not.

No doubt, Consistency is another important attribute that entrepreneurs can learn from athletes. Anyone can reach their level of success through constant hard work, but it takes responsibility and Consistency to maintain the level of success. For example, how long can you maintain your peak performance; a week, a month, or a year? This is the greatest question.

Interpersonal skills are also a very valuable characteristic that plays a major role in both, the sports world and the business world. Interpersonal skills are skills that allow individuals to coordinate effectively through communication. This can be learned and practiced by engaging constantly with your teammates. For example, Interpersonal skills are a critical element for entrepreneurs because it allows the individual to work better with others through communication, such as negotiation and persuasion.

Self-confidence is probably the most crucial attribute that entrepreneurs can learn from athletes. Self-confidence can be described as the ability to trust oneself and their abilities. If there is no Self-confidence, there will surely be no success whatsoever. For example, taking the risk of a calculated decision and believing it is the right choice to pursue that option.

Lastly, the Ability to Work Under Pressure is certainly a skill that many people oversee. Through constant experience, athletes learn to adapt by playing under pressure. This is also the difference between good and great athletes. In the business world, working under pressure means getting the job done before the deadline. Anything beyond the deadline could massively cause a pitfall for the business in the future.

What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?

I would advise every young person to take every opportunity that appears in front of them. Taking the opportunity, whether it results in a positive or a negative experience, is a closer step towards their goals and objectives. Also, my greatest advice would be to accept rejection and take it as a lesson and convert it to a success.

You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I want to share my story with thousands of people to show that once you set your mind towards an objective or goal, it is very possible to achieve. Despite the difficulties that people encounter, it should be a steppingstone to push harder, remain patient, and most importantly, have faith during their journey. One last advice that I want to share with the audience that success is achieved by enjoying every single minute of the journey.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Always have a positive attitude in whatever you do in life. Everyone has the choice to make each day a better day for themselves. Thinking and being positive is contagious, and this will attract every person you encounter. Through positivity, people will automatically feel confident and inspired to be a better version of themselves. I can assure this will make the world a better place.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”

― Roy T. Bennett,

I think everyone needs to read this. As humans, we always tend to overthink and try to control external forces that may affect us in some way. However, external forces are “external”, meaning we have no control whatsoever. I learned to focus on myself because its internal, and all I can say that this has changed my life to the better.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would say Dwayne Johnson. He is a very inspirational, and a hard-working individual that always reflects positivity in everything that he does in life, especially his shift from a professional athlete to a successful entrepreneur.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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