Lebanon was engulfed in a civil war in 1984. “My father was killed when a rocket bomb hit his car dealership. He was in his office at the time,” Diab said. The dealership was collateral damage, not a target. Diab was just a teenager. He admired his father, who started as a taxi driver and moved up to become the largest used car dealer in Lebanon.
As a youth in Lebanon, Diab was a national black belt karate champion and wanted to continue to study martial arts in America, so he fled the country in the late 1980’s and traveled to Plano, Texas, a karate center. As a 21-year-old immigrant, with almost no ability in English, he cleaned the parking lot at Wendy’s in exchange for a hamburger. He was not qualified to flip burgers at the restaurant. He did janitorial work at a gym in exchange for a cot to sleep on in the basement.
Diab lived in Texas for one year, where he did janitorial work and taught karate at the gym by day. At night, “I rode a bicycle for two hours one way to the library to take English classes.” Through a friend, he was offered a job in California to work at a gas station as a cashier.
While employed in Palm Springs at a gas station, he went to College of the Desert to study English and to a management training school offered by the Shell gas company. He also worked part time, starting at 5 a.m., delivering newspapers for The Desert Sun, and later in the day at the gas station as a cashier. His karate training came in handy during several attempted gas station robberies as he was able to “take them down” until the police arrived.
Today in Palm Springs as a successful entrepreneur owning gas stations, Diab has 25 employees on his payroll, and he plans future expansion of his business and possibly a used car dealership.
His education comes mainly from the school of hard knocks, where he learned to “Chase your dreams… don’t just follow them.” He believes in working hard, usually about 80 hours a week, and dogged persistence.
As living proof of the American dream, Diab said, “Don’t give up, and don’t wait for someone to make it happen for you.”