From Athlete To Entrepreneur: Fernando Alvarez of JAG Insurance Group On The 5 Work Ethic Lessons We Can Learn From Athletes
Discipline- It’s important to find a routine and be consistent. When you are in sports, you have team practices, training, etc. Find your version of that in business. Discipline instills confidence and confidence breeds success.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fernando Alvarez.
Fernando Alvarez carried over the passion, tenacity, and grit he learned on the baseball field to the insurance industry. With those qualities at the cornerstone of JAG’s business model, Fernando along with his two partners, have created an atypical model for insurance, forging strong community and carrier relationships. As one of the fastest-growing insurance agencies in the southeast, JAG has been recognized for its forward-thinking approach, high-quality client solutions and growing book of business. In his ‘The Transition: Life After Sports’ Fernando, recaps his journey from athlete to entrepreneur and how those worlds overlap.
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? What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?
My grandmother introduced me to baseball at a very young age. She was an inspiration and encouraged me to follow my dream of playing baseball at a professional level. She fostered my love for the game, which grew over the years and allowed me to be drafted by the Chicago White Sox. My Dad was also essential. He bought me my first glove. He provided me the support and consistency I needed growing up to pursue my dreams.
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?
I still vividly remember playing catch with my grandmother in the yard. She consistently encouraged me to keep practicing, reminding me that I fell in love with the game at first sight. She saw that spark in me, my determination to grow and be successful. She had “un espiritu superior,” meaning a strong spirit. Her words still resonate with me today and my success grew from the seed of her words.
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?
During practice one day while at Dodge City Kansas, my coach, Mike Jones, told me “You look great striking out.” I was confused at first, but it then dawned on me. He was trying to let me know that with one tweak, I could improve my game. That has always stuck with me as it taught me that sometimes you are only one adjustment away from success. Baseball is a game of failure, but each failure is the building block of success.
As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
Preparation- Prepare relentlessly for the situation you are entering. Whether it’s practicing your swing before a game or making sure you’ve done the correct research before a client presentation, it’s the same principle. Prepare and in the moment of truth, you’ll be ready.
Visualization- Truly visualize the outcome you desire. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. It has helped me move forward and no matter the challenge, overcome it.
Positive Attitude- Negative thoughts attract negative outcomes. I wholeheartedly believe that. You must believe you can before you can. Harbor positive thoughts as your thoughts determine your environment.
Become Comfortable being uncomfortable- Whatever your comfort zone is, step out of it immediately. Your comfort zone is a death sentence, as true growth only happens when you’re uncomfortable. Once you’ve accepted that success requires this, you’ll be much better off.
Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful businessperson?
I was playing in the minor leagues for the Chicago White Sox. During a conversation with the coach, I asked him if I would ever make it to the big leagues, his response was “probably not.” It was a hard decision, but I asked for my release. It was granted, and before I realized my career was over, I was on a plane back home to Miami. For the first few weeks, I was aimless. I had experienced a loss but hadn’t processed it yet. It was a painful transition, but in time I healed because I realized that baseball had also prepared me for the game of life. Once that clicked, I was off to the races and began to succeed in my new “game” of insurance.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?
We continue to expand JAG and its capabilities, developing creative solutions and leveraging technology to provide value-added operations We are currently expanding both our risk management and employee benefits departments. Highly attuned to staff member needs, JAG focuses on providing a nurturing and prosperous work environment. Understanding how much time is spent at the office, our firm has recently expanded our space, offering new amenities to our employees, including a fitness area with state-of-the-art equipment, a new dining area and meeting rooms for our producers.
Additionally, I’m also very proud of how The Transition Podcast has evolved. We’re nearly at 50 episodes and we’ve covered a litany of topics that affect athletes whose career has ended and are moving on to their next stage.
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?
Absolutely. For example, as a baseball player, I knew my team supported me, but I went up to bat by myself. It’s the same in business. I surround myself with a great team, but success is contingent on my preparation and skill set. Baseball is a game of failure. It taught me how to quickly put things behind me and focus on the next “at bat”. With this in mind, just as baseball players change their swing, as a business leader, I remind my team of the importance of consistently evaluating their approach and knowing when to pivot. You must fail to learn how to win.
*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.
- Preparation- You can’t control the result, but you can control your preparation. Prepare the best you can for the situation and then let go.
- The importance of rest- We all need to recharge. Do not allow yourself to become burned out. Your brain is a muscle like any other. If you exhaust it with “reps” you’re going to wear yourself out and will not perform at your optimal level. I make sure to get away at least every 3 months to recharge.
- Embrace Failure- In baseball, hitting the ball 40% of the time means you are a guaranteed hall of famer. Do not dwell on your “misses”. Celebrate your wins and when you lose, shake it off and focus on your next “at bat”.
- Discipline- It’s important to find a routine and be consistent. When you are in sports, you have team practices, training, etc. Find your version of that in business. Discipline instills confidence and confidence breeds success.
- Develop love and passion for the “game”- Whatever it is you might dedicate yourself to, make sure you love it and have passion for it. If you don’t then it will feel like work. When you love what you do, it isn’t easier, but it’s much more satisfying.
What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
In the beginning, they must determine what interests them, what they are passionate about and truly commit to whatever that is by seeking mentors that can guide them throughout their chosen career path.
Entrepreneurship one step at a time. Many people want success, but not the pain; however, they go hand in hand. Your commitment must be greater than your feelings. Know that everything you learned as an athlete can be applied to business. There is no finish line; fall in love with the process and success will follow.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In building JAG, we have been able to give others the opportunity to be the best versions of themselves. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a person you helped guide reach a new level of success. Creating jobs and new entrepreneurs is extremely satisfying.
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?
I’d help people understand what their game is, so they don’t compete outside the lines. Meaning, embrace whatever gift God gave you. Don’t let other people’s judgment and fear drive you.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Your thoughts become the expression of your life. It resonates with me because I live it every day. I manifest with my thoughts, and I lived through a period of my life where negative thinking overtook my life. I’ve been on both sides, and I know the power of positivity.
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?
Mark Cuban. We’re both sports guys and I appreciate his no-nonsense attitude. He’s an excellent businessman and I think we could have a very productive conversation.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!