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From Athlete To Entrepreneur: 5 Work Ethic Lessons We Can Learn From Athletes

Milena Regos

In a world obsessed with busyness and chasing success at all costs, we end up burnt out, stressed out, and lonely. At Unhustle, my vision is to shift this paradigm. It’s about finding the sweet spot between doing and real living, embracing a lifestyle that balances life enjoyment with purposeful achievement. This is the future I’m creating with Unhustle—a sustainable, prosperous future for ourselves, our families, communities, teams, companies, and the planet.

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Hi! I'm Milena Regos, the Human behind Unhustle®.



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I was interviewed by Parveen Panwar for his series in Medium and Thrive Global

Below is the interview.

As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, 

I had the pleasure of interviewing… 

Milena Regos is the Creator of the Unhustle® Movement. She’s a rebel entrepreneur, award-winning marketer, and human potential coach for courageous entrepreneurs and professionals ready to take back their lives from the 24/7 “always-on” work culture. An athlete turned entrepreneur (she ski raced competitively in her home country of Bulgaria), Milena realized that her work addiction resulted in chronic stress and burnout. She became passionate about finding the sweet spot between hustle, well-being, and high performance, which led to starting the Unhustle® Movement, a revolutionary approach to how we live and work – a new way of living and working in a fast-moving world.


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?

I grew up during communist Bulgaria, and my parents did everything possible to make sure my brother and I had an incredible childhood despite the regime. This meant taking us out skiing every weekend. We spent four to six weeks at the Black Sea, camping on the beach and learning to be self-sufficient. I honestly think I had the best childhood ever and learned to appreciate the little things, find peace in nature, and believe in my abilities to pursue my goals in life. I lived away from my parents as a child for weeks, always in some ski camp, which made me independent. When I came to the United States at the age of 25 with two bags of clothes, all by myself, I had all the training I needed to create my new life.

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

My mom wanted me to join the ski team so she signed me up for it when I was six.

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 credit my husband with turning me into an even more confident woman. When I first came to the U.S., my English wasn’t that great. I didn’t know the traditions here. It was all new to me. When I met my husband, everything changed. We went on a vacation to Costa Rica and decided to climb Arenal volcano on a whim. I was afraid of snakes and, of course, the volcano erupting. I was in Teva’s and a singlet. We had little water. We may have broken a few laws along the way. It was stupid, really. But his sense of spontaneity, self-reliance, and confidence was contagious. He’s been instrumental in turning me into the confident woman I am today.

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?

Early on my ski career, I wasn’t doing very well in races. My equipment was old. I remember I had these skis where the edges were screwed on. They were rusty. They would fall out of the ski halfway down the mountain. I learned to ski on one ski really well. I didn’t like my coach. Quite honestly, I started to dislike skiing. I was burnt out. Then one day, there was a change, and I had a new coach. She believed in me. She got me better skis. She inspired me to push harder. I started to train harder. I began to see the effects of taking time off from training. I was having fun again. I was skiing better. I started to win races. This was when I realized the importance of a good mentor, a good coach. It was also when I realized that hustling all the time is not beneficial to performance. Believing that I could win a race was part of my battle. Having the right mindset is 90% of the battle in sports, business, and life.

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 businessperson? 

I transitioned at an early age from skiing to business. I started my first business at the age of seventeen. It was a windsurf rental business in Bulgaria and one of the first private enterprises in the open economy. The drive to push and succeed stayed with me throughout my life. This is how I came to the U.S. and how I started my award-winning digital marketing consultancy.

Since I was drawn to fitness and wellness, I worked with brands in the wellness area. Some of my clients included UFC Gym, Crunch, Dr. Weil, Steve Nash, even Madonna’s fitness chain Hard Candy Fitness. I felt good until I pushed myself too much with work and came close to burnout. This was when I realized that I needed to back off and connect more with my purpose in life, and this is how my new business was born—Unhustle. I believe that entrepreneurs need to find the sweet spot between hustle and well-being so they can achieve high performance.

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

Sharing the Unhustle message with the world. The timing is right at the moment to focus on what matters, reevaluate priorities, and design a life and a business that serves your needs. I’m working on revolutionizing the way we live and work, and in that order. We are too focused on work at the expense of well-being and living. Since I lost both of my parents at an early age, I realized how short life could be. We all see it now with COVID-19.

Thanks to technology and fast living, we forget to slow down and appreciate the present. I launched the Unhustle membership program to coach people on how to find more time in their days, improve their health, and scale their business by working less. Living and working in flow is the counterintuitive solution to Hustle Culture.

I just created the Unhustle Morning Practices course to help people get into this flow state. When we take 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to take care of our minds and bodies, we become unstoppable. And this training is how I got myself out of being close to burnout and became a highly productive entrepreneur. I honestly don’t work more than five to six hours a day and accomplish more than before when I was working 16-hour days.

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?

Getting into a state of flow is the common theme between top-performing athletes and top-performing entrepreneurs. I knew how that felt from my skiing days when it was only me, the gates, and the finish line. There were no distractions from the sidelines. I was entirely focused on the run.

When I started writing my book, I got stuck on the first chapter for six months. Then, one day I had a breakthrough. All these practices I’m doing are setting me up for a flow state, but I wasn’t using it to my advantage. I made a bet with my husband that I would finish the book in two weeks. I emailed my editor and told her the same. And I did. I wrote the remaining portion of the book in two weeks.

Being able to get into a state of flow is one way to achieve high performance when stress, distractions, overwhelm, uncertainty are with us every day. All the practices that I’ve done since I was a kid, all my human potential training, all the mindfulness, and meditations are foundational so that I can tap into my body and my mind. When you have clarity, the rest is just execution. When you work with your energy, you can overcome time scarcity.

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. 

Lesson 1: Make Fear Your Friend 

It was a beautiful Baja evening. A few of us had gathered over at a friend’s house to get to know each other better over fish tacos from the white and blue “Baja Bites” road truck that has become a local favorite. A woman walked toward me from the other side of the party, tapped me on the shoulder, and said softly, “Hi, I’m Kristen. Rebecca thinks we should meet. I’ll be over there.” She waved towards the open-air patio with concrete benches and blue pillows.

We immediately hit it off. Kristen Ulmer is a lot more than another working female entrepreneur living in Baja. She’s a badass.

In her past life, Kristen conquered mountains by skiing them. For 12 years, Kristen was considered the best female big mountain extreme skier in the world and the most fearless woman in North America. No small accomplishment. She now translates lessons she learned from extreme sports and real-life, combined with Zen principles into helping people shift their relationship with fear. Kristen’s expertise and experience offer a new way to look at how we approach fear and anxiety by falling in love with fear.

When I decided to pivot from being a highly paid marketing consultant to creating Unhustle, I had my share of sleepless nights. My mind would spin out of control: “How am I going to pay my bills?” “How long would it take before I make enough money to support myself?” “Am I doing the right thing?” “What if I fail?”

I’m not immune to fear, but I have learned how to deal with it. From my ski racing background to immigrating to the U.S., to starting businesses, my mindfulness-based stress-reduction training, and having a consistent mindfulness and meditation practice, the teachings from Mark Atkinson from the Human Potential Coaching Institute where I got certified, I’ve had a lot of help along the way. It’s been a journey. I know now that fear and excitement show the same way in your body, and I use it to my advantage.

And yet, some days I feel it, deep in my gut.

Can we fall in love with the fear and turn it from our enemy to our friend?

We’ve been trained to think that fear is an enemy—that we need to fight it and overcome it. We’ve been socially conditioned to deal with fear by resisting it, ignoring it, avoiding it, or replacing it with love and calm, “spiritual bypassing” like Kristen calls it.

By becoming intimate with fear and learning to embrace it, you can improve your relationship with it.

To fall in love with fear, you can start by practicing the following:

  1. Understand that fear is normal and natural.
  2. Close your eyes. Do a body scan. Where do you feel discomfort? What are the emotional components of what you are feeling?
  3. What is your relationship with that feeling? Are you trying to replace it with something positive?
  4. Honor the resistance.
  5. Spend some quality time with whatever it is that is trying to get your attention. Fall in love with it.

Only by staying present, by being aware of our body, we can move on with our lives when we experience fear and overwhelm.

You can listen to the full podcast episode with Kristen Ulmer on the Unhustle podcast.

Lesson 2: Keep it Simple

We overcomplicate our lives, and our work. Learn to minimize and keep it simple so you can progress. Otherwise, there are too many distractions, shiny objects, new projects that steal your focus. Keeping it simple is at the core of success for so many athletes and entrepreneurs. My path to simplicity started in my wardrobe. Honestly, after decluttering my closet with the help of a professional, simplicity became contagious.

It also helps that “Keep It Simple” is my husband’s motto in life. We minimized our belongings and opened up more time and space for the things we wanted to do in life, such as have more experiences, live between Baja and Lake Tahoe, spend more time with friends, and do meaningful work. When we downsized our material possessions, we upsized our life and our work. I apply this principle every day, from how many projects I work on, to what programs and offers I create, to how I live my life. I’m always on this journey to simplify, and I see the results every day.

Another example of this is Jess Davis, the founder of Folk Rebellion. Jess built a powerful community and a digital wellness movement, but she got too busy in the process. She burnt out. She took a year off the Internet to reevaluate her life. When she came back, she decided to dismantle the company she poured blood and sweat into and to become a company of one. She connected with her values and goals and realized that she wanted to write not to manage a big company. There’s a lot to be said about keeping it simple.

The Boston Consulting Group did deep work into why companies can’t get things done. Organizations are dealing with a problem of more complexity. People waste as much as 60 percent of their time on non value adding activities. The goal then is to strive for “smart simplicity.” It’s the same with athletes. Look at the 80/20 rule and focus on eliminating things rather than adding.

Lesson 3: Work Less, Play More 

We need to put as much emphasis on work as we do on play.

Studies show that when we take time away from work (or training), our performance increases.

An example is Tower Paddle Boards. As an avid paddleboarder, this company caught my attention. The company, founded by Stephan Aarstol, pioneered inflatable paddle boards in 2010 and received Marc Cuban’s “Shark Tank” backing in 2012. This $150K investment by Cuban became known as one of the biggest success stories on Shark Tank. Two years later, the company was named the fastest-growing private company in San Diego. Three years after starting up, Tower was named “one of the most impressive products in the U.S. on the INC 500 and #239 on INC Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S.

You would think they are all hustling, right? Instead of hustling, Stephan Aarstol introduced the five-hour workday policy. The result? Happy team, happy customers, and booming business. How booming? Only a year later, Tower was named as one of the top five SUP brands in the world.

Other companies have started to follow this concept and see success, as well. There’s a big push for a 4 day work week by Andrew Barnes from New Zealand. His experiment with his own company resulted in an increase of productivity of 20%, decrease in staff stress levels down, customer engagement levels up more than 30%, and costs decreasing.

This is one of the main principles behind Unhustle.

Lesson 4: Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is essential. 

A professional big mountain skier, Amy Engerbrtson, told me in the interview on the Unhustle podcast,The hustle pays off, but the hustle is not sustainable.”

Amie hustled hard until she realized that she needed to start taking better care of herself. So, to make sure she’s on top of her game, Amie gets enough sleep, takes time to be grateful for the small things, and eats sourdough toast with butter.

You can listen to the full episode on the Unhustle podcast.

Avoid burnout by taking care of your mind and body. One of the best ways to do so is to make sure you get enough sleep.

Research says that sleep is an essential foundation of good health. It’s more important than diet and exercise.

With 70% of Americans suffering from insomnia at least once a month, insufficient sleep is considered a public health epidemic. Improving your sleep is the first thing you can do to live a healthier life, improve your brain function, balance your hormones, protect your heart, fight fat, and boost your longevity. Sleep deprivation causes a bunch of health problems from diabetes to an increased risk of cancer, not to mention inferior cognitive performance.

Sleep is critical if you want to be healthy, work less and achieve more, and perform as a top athlete.

You can’t get through your days if you are sleep deprived. And you certainly can’t get into a state of flow.

A 10-year old McKinsey study showed that top-level executives who can get into a state of flow are five times more productive. This means you can go to work on Monday and take Tuesday through Friday off. But you can’t do it if you are sleep deprived.

Sleep is the most important health and performance enhancer known to humankind. If you’ve been awake for more than 17 hours, it has the equivalent impact of our ability to focus as having the blood alcohol level of 0.05%, which is the legal limit.

You wouldn’t show up to work drunk. So, why would you show up sleep-deprived?

Lesson 5: High Flow Working and Living 

Kat Coroy experienced complete burnout, which put her in a hospital. When she came out, she was determined to create a sustainable life and business for herself. She quit her corporate job and became a thriving entrepreneur by listening to her body and taking naps when she needs to.

Disagreeing with the whole notion of Hustle Culture, Kat has taken her life and income in her hands.

“You can’t be in a flow state and do your best work when you are tired,” she says.

Kat built one of the most successful online courses on the Internet by working 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., four days a week, and getting into a state of flow to avoid working hard.

If you want to hear Kat’s tips, you can listen to the interview on the Unhustle podcast.

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

Life is better when you have fulfillment at the end of the day. So, figure out your purpose in life and make sure you have fun along the way. Hustle is OK in short bursts, but we need time for other things like real connections, deep experiences, and time alone.

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

I started the Unhustle® Movement to help shift people’s perspectives about what’s important.  Almost every day, someone says to me: “Thank you for what you are doing, the world needs your message” and this is why I get up in the morning.

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. 🙂

I’m currently focused on the Unhustle® Movement, but who knows, maybe I’ll do something different down the road. I feel very grounded at the moment. Until I see a change in society, I’ll continue to focus my energy on getting people to live a healthier and happier life by getting out of this hustle mentality.

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

“Oh, The Places You’ll Go” – Dr. Seuss.

My husband purchased the drawing for me years back, and I see it every day. It reminds me how far I’ve gone so far in my journey and my dreams for a better world.

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