How lessons learned in sports helped this ex-NFL linebacker find big success in business

Some days at work leave feeling like you want to quit.

But for Dhani Jones, a host on CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," chairman of investment fund Qey Capital Partners and an ex-NFL linebacker, that isn't an option. So when he starts to feel tired or spread too thin, he turns to a simple ritual to stay motivated. Jones keeps a note in his pocket that says things like "family," "legacy" or "team" as a reminder of his goals.

"If I get tired, if I feel like I'm about to get burned out, or feel like I just don't want to do it anymore — I look at that piece of paper," Jones tells CNBC Make It. "I say to myself, 'You've got to keep going.'"

It's the discipline of an athlete, and it's a key to success in business, according to Jones.

Dhani Jones
CNBC | Mike O'Hara
Dhani Jones

Jones began playing football in the NFL in 2000 as a linebacker for the New York Giants, and went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles in an 11-year career. (Comparatively, an average career as a linebacker in the NFL lasts around three years, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

In 2010, Jones also became a founding partner at VMG Creative, a digital marketing company. He also hosted a TV show for the Travel Channel called "Dhani Tackles the Globe" that year and launched BowTie Cause, a charitable organization that designs bow ties. In 2011 he published his book "The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around the World Sports Odyssey," and in 2013, he co-founded investment firm Qey Capital, which has so far invested in small and medium companies worth a total of $100 million.

"As an entrepreneur you have to be willing to go the entire distance no matter what," he says.

When hearing pitches as an investor on CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," Jones says he is only willing to back entrepreneurs who have the same level of determination. On the show, hopeful business owners pitch their outdoor adventure products to Jones and his co-stars, Shawn Johnson East and Jeremy Bloom, who can offer investments.

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Jones knows from personal experience how important that quality is.

"One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is that you're the boss. One of the worst parts about being an entrepreneur is that you're the boss," he says. "You have to be mentally committed to 100 percent, 110, 150, 200, 300 percent, whatever it takes."

He also draws on his years in football to approach understanding new companies.

"As a linebacker you have to know what everybody else is doing," he says. The same is true for an investor. "When I think about investing, my brain works a mile wide, two inches deep."

The entrepreneurs however, need to think differently. "I find other entrepreneurs that are two inches wide and a mile deep within their specific area, that's when I know I have a great investment."

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