Babe Ruth always said that every strike brought him closer to the next home run. And I think the same about the success of an entrepreneur. Yes, there are times when you’ll swing and miss and even get knocked down. But if you can get up again and face the next pitch, you’ll learn a lesson you never would have.
In baseball, one of the first things you learn is that, after hitting the ball, you put your head down and run from home plate to first base as fast as you can without letting anything distract you. I use that baseball image as a metaphor for my life and the life of a business.
All businesses ride the rapids. Up and down they go, pulled inevitably by the currents of fate and circumstance. Every company has financial highs and lows, company secrets that nobody knows, disappointments, resentments, ugly moments—and, of course, moments of victory and triumph. No business is a smooth ride. No matter how perfect things might look on the outside, it’s never a true picture of reality. My company was no exception.
When I started my first business, a local Long Island adult men’s softball league, I knew nobody; I was given no breaks; I had no money. Plenty of people gave me every reason why I wouldn’t be successful.
Back then, I was competing against established league owners who had a market monopoly and wanted to squash a young upstart like me. So, when I went to them for advice about starting a league of my own, they told me to forget it, that it was hopeless for a newcomer like me to break into the industry. They were the pros; I was an amateur. I would never find playing fields or new customers—they seemed to have a stranglehold on all of it. My dad was skeptical and told me to stick to selling medical equipment or I’d screw up my life. He also did not approve of me pursuing a professional sports management career or a law degree. All this negativity reinforced the notion that I should just stick to the safe and familiar—and that if I didn’t, I’d fail.
“I wanted to take risks, break with convention, and create something unique of my own.”
Yet the idea of settling for a conventional job and staying stuck in it for the sake of security was not something I was willing to settle for. Living in a comfort zone was not my goal. In fact, it was the antithesis of what I wanted my life to be—I wanted to take risks, break with convention, and create something unique of my own.
What was driving my appetite for success? As you’ll see, my parents eventually split up, and there would be years of financial deprivation when my mom, my sister, and I moved like gypsies from one rental apartment to another. As the bills piled up and my mom worked two jobs just to keep us going, I vowed that this would never happen to my family again. So yes, there was fire in my belly. My passion had also been stoked by the teachers, coaches, and other adults who had underestimated me as a kid. And finally, my drive to succeed was fueled by the desire to prove myself to my dad. Like many other entrepreneurs, whatever drove my hunger at any given time, it made me a determined rebel.
“I wasn’t afraid to fail.”
No matter what my deficiencies, I compensated for them by expecting more from myself than anyone else could possibly expect from me. The high standard I set for myself became my greatest asset. I wasn’t afraid to fail—because I was so hungry to succeed.
The entrepreneurial spirit is about single-mindedly pursuing a vision and allowing nothing to detour from it. That’s the way I’ve approached every business I’ve ever been in: running with my head down and taking one step at a time toward my goal.
Excerpted from Running With My Head Down: An Entrepreneur’s Story of Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose. Copyright © 2019 by Frank Fiume. Published by Greenleaf.