Running with My Head Down: An Entrepreneur's Story of Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose

Running with My Head Down: An Entrepreneur's Story of Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose

by Frank V. Fiume II


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Running with My Head Down is an inspiring guide to personal and professional growth with valuable strategies relevant to entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to lead a happier life. Transformative lessons and business insights include: The Passion Priority: How to transform the needs of your soul into reality, channeling the power of your vision. The Live Your Life With No Regrets Motto: Learn when to take a risk and go all in-banking on passion, not on security. The Entrepreneur Identity Crisis: How to overcome the self-limiting belief that your identity is your business. The Lonely At The Top Syndrome: How to build a solid relationship with your employees without losing your authority; and the secret to overcoming CEO isolation. The Executive Burnout Phase: Identifying the signs of mental and physical overload and utilizing powerful techniques for restoring life balance. The Affluenza Affair: How to recreate the spark in your business in order to feel the same ambition and hunger you once did. The Critics And Crises: How to handle internal company crises and external criticism. The Influence Of Family And Friends: How to deal with a skeptical support network-and what to do when their advice, values, and judgments don't match yours. The Spiritual Awakening: How to expand your self-awareness through a passionate commitment to personal growth and self-care. And More!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626346413
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 536,289
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Frank V. Fiume II is a pioneer in the youth sports industry and the founder of i9 Sports—the nation’s first and leading franchisor of youth leagues and camps. Since 2003, i9 has generated over 300 million dollars—with more than two million participants in 900 communities across 30 states nationwide.

A baseball fanatic and native of Queens, New York, Frank graduated from St. John’s University and began a career as a medical equipment sales rep, though he was determined to pursue his life’s true purpose. So in l995, he created his own adult men’s softball league, ABA Sports. The start-up company quickly grew to over 900 teams in just six years, making it the largest adult sports organization on Long Island.

In 2003, Frank sold ABA in order to create i9 Sports, a business that catapulted him to national recognition and that Entrepreneur magazine ranked as the #1 children’s fitness franchise. Frank has been featured on Fox Business News, HBO Real Sports, and indozens of publications and national news media outlets, including USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and The Wall Street Journal.

Frank sold i9 Sports in 2017 to a private equity firm, but remains a minority shareholder and member of the board of directors. 

He resides in the Tampa Bay area with his wife Nadine, their children Taylor-Marie and Frankie, and their Chocolate Lab Dillon.

 Contact Frank on Twitter @frankfiume

Read an Excerpt



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.


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.


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 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.


Some childhood memories stay with you forever. No matter how many years go by, you still think back to that one moment in time when you felt incredible happiness. For me, it was in the summer of 1973. I was four years old, and my parents took me to Shea Stadium for my first baseball game. On a beautiful, warm, sunny day, we walked the short distance from our nearby apartment through Flushing Meadow Park. I was in awe.

There we were, entering a mammoth, five-tiered stadium that seated nearly 60,000 fans. Flags whipped in the wind atop the stadium, signifying that the Mets had a home game. The building had a checkerboard design painted in Mets' orange and blue — the same colors as the seats and railings. With thousands of fans pouring in, the anticipation and energy of the crowd was electric. For a little kid, it was a magical sensory experience, complete with the smell of popcorn and hotdogs and the sight of vendors everywhere, hawking food, T-shirts, and baseball hats. Could there be a more perfect place? Not to me. It was love at first sight.

As we walked in, I was blown away by the perfection of the manicured field, the giant electronic scoreboard, the billboards in the outfield, and the rows and rows of seats. We made our way to the upper deck on the first-base side. Even now, I can replay in my mind almost every detail of that day. We were so high up that when the players ran onto the field, they looked like little ants. I sat on Dad's lap in anticipation of the action, and then it began. The announcer took to the microphone with his booming voice, and the crowd went wild.

From that day forward, much of my life would revolve around the game of baseball — watching it on TV, going to games, and playing it myself. In fact, my love of the game would affect everything I later did in my life — managing amateur leagues, creating a nationally franchised sports business, and running a corporation.


After that first Mets game, Mom began buying me baseball cards, which became my obsession — especially after my parents' marriage began to deteriorate, around the time we moved from Corona, Queens, to a new house in Nesconset, Long Island. The house was located in a brand-new middle-class neighborhood. Shortly after we landed there, Dad became a fading presence — he spent most of his time at the Manhattan hospital where he worked as a cardiac technician.

That left me, age eight, my little sister Donna, and my mom largely alone — and with my mom extremely vulnerable financially. Looking back, I can now see that my growing fixation on sports was an escape from what was going on at home. In my child's mind, the initial absence of Dad made me feel a deep sense of disappointment, and for the first time, my confidence and sense of security was rattled. A year later, when my parents officially announced their divorce, I was both furious and sad at the same time.

As the first kid in my class to have divorced parents, I instantly became an outcast at school and with my neighborhood friends who perceived me as different. It left me feeling inadequate and unmotivated at school, and I struggled with poor grades. In fact, every year I was barely able to avoid getting left behind. If it hadn't been for summer school, I would have been held back for sure. Those were the terrible school years, as I put it — a devastating memory. I didn't feel my teachers (or my baseball coaches) believed in me. There was nothing about me that was particularly extraordinary, or at least nobody seemed to see it if there was. Everything led back to my parents separating.

But my drive to overachieve stemmed directly from this childhood pain, and without it, everything in my life might have been different: I might not have had the inner drive to prove myself and find my entrepreneurial purpose. In any case, by the time I was ten, I had become more introverted, a kid who was always distracted by things happening at home. Without Dad around, my world felt turned upside down. I'd had a secure and happy early childhood, but I now felt down on my luck. It was as if not just my family life was broken, but I was broken too. Everyone seemed better than me. What saved me from all this domestic drama? As always, it was baseball.


During the summer of l978, the Yankees were my escape in life. In the second half of the season, they came roaring back to force a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox. Bucky Dent's famous home run in the seventh inning put the Yankees ahead of the Red Sox to go to the playoffs — which led to another World Series confrontation versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moments like these were golden.

I wanted to stay up late to watch the World Series games, even though they were played on school nights. Mom wouldn't let me, but each morning I would wake up to see the score, scribbled on a piece of paper, by my bed. (My childhood hero, Graig Nettles, became the star of that series by making acrobatic catch after catch at third base, saving the Yankees and leading them to victory. It was an unforgettable World Series championship that cemented my lifelong love for the New York Yankees.)

Around this time, I started playing a board game that became my new escape from reality — All-Star Baseball. This was essentially a simulation of major league games built around a spinner and player discs (a mix of then current players and all-time greats such as Babe Ruth). I'd play it day and night, creating teams and keeping track of all the statistics. My brain was always churning over the batting lineup, deciding whether the team should steal a base or not, and predicting the outcome of archrival matchups. I loved keeping the statistics and analyzing the probabilities. I would play a full 162-game season with playoffs and a World Series.

All the while, I'd also be watching Yankee games on TV and listening to the play-by-play radio broadcasting team of Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer, and Bill White. I'd even talk like them as I announced the play-by-play results of my game. It wasn't only the scores and wins that fascinated me, but also the storylines about the teams and players. It was total immersion, and I felt as though I had found my calling.

Without realizing it, I was mastering the craft of creating a league. In fact, years later, I realized that I was following the so- called 10,000 Hour Rule — a principle that states that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed for someone to become world-class in any field. It's a key trait among entrepreneurs — laser-focusing on your passion and chasing it with your head down.

My love of the game kicked up another notch when I realized the potential of our spacious, fenced-in backyard. When I was about nine, my baseball-supportive mom gave the OK for my friends and me to tear up our large backyard and turn it into a real baseball field, where we could play Wiffle ball, using a plastic bat and ball. We set to work building a pitcher's mound, an infield, the baselines, and even a warning track in the outfield. We built a dugout using two-by-fours and nails that we stole from nearby construction sites and then used chicken wire to make bat and ball holders. The field looked like something out of The Sandlot, a 1993 American coming-of-age baseball movie.

My backyard became the coolest place to hang out in the neighborhood. I kept statistics for all the kids in the neighborhood, tracking our home runs, strikeouts, and season scores. I was like the Shenandoah Boulevard league commissioner and team owner all in one. And that's how a fourth-grader began his managerial career in sports!


Needless to say, one of the absolute highlights of my childhood was when Mom took me to my first New York Yankees game for my eleventh birthday in September 1979. By that time, she was on her own without my father, so she didn't have much money and we had to sit way up in the upper decks on the first-base side.

But on that beautiful, clear day, there was something magical in the air, and I felt the same excitement I'd experienced at the first game I attended with my parents many years earlier. Just the smell and feel of the stadium was electric to me. None other than my hero Graig Nettles hit a walk-off, extra-inning home run in the bottom of the tenth to beat the rival Kansas City Royals! It couldn't have been any sweeter — the best birthday present imaginable.

Unfortunately, the previous month had proved to be a tragic one for the Yankees as they mourned the death of their captain, Thurman Munson, who was killed at age thirty-two in a plane crash. My friends and I worshipped him, and we were crushed. I'll never forget one of the boys sobbing as though he'd lost a family member. Munson was his hero.

Munson's death also had a profound effect on me because baseball was no longer just a game. It had become an all-consuming passion. My mom knew the game meant much more to me than just balls and strikes. Once I learned its history and traditions and understood who the players really were behind the uniform, baseball became ingrained in my soul. I spent the spring and fall playing Wiffle ball day and night with the neighborhood kids; summers playing Little League Baseball; and winters playing either tackle football — with no equipment, of course — or street hockey.

The next summer I went to a baseball camp, and my mind was blown away when Jim Spencer, first-baseman for the New York Yankees, showed up in uniform! I was in awe of the pinstripes, the reality of a professional player up close; he represented everything I aspired to, the highest standard and work ethic.

After that, if I wasn't studying baseball player statistics on the back of the 700-card set, I was watching the game on TV, playing it myself, or listening to it on the radio, where Phil Rizzuto made the game come to life with his colorful commentary. When the Yankees capitalized on the other team's mistake, Rizzuto would always say, "You make your own breaks." Years later, I realized what he said was true: Great things do happen when you take advantage of the moment, and good fortune isn't just luck; it's knowing how to capitalize on the opportunity at hand.


There came a pivotal moment in my childhood when I realized you could take baseball too seriously — at least some of the parents could.

I was stunned to witness one overly competitive dad in our neighborhood who verbally abused his eleven-year-old son for walking in the winning run at his Little League championship game. This guy was over-the-top — yelling at his son and making him pitch for hours on end to the point of exhaustion as punishment for "losing the game." He was brutal, and he stripped away his son's enjoyment of baseball by turning it into a punishment.

This taught me a huge lesson — parents can get in the way and ruin the joy of the game by over-pressuring their kids. Why do they do it? Some of them were living their failed dreams through their children and had been deluded into thinking their kid was going to play ball professionally. The chance of that was 0.1 percent!

These parents failed to realize that baseball is more than just wins and losses. It's really about having fun and learning how to play the game; winning with grace and losing with dignity. To me, that's the key lesson in playing sports, one that I learned at age ten and would apply years later when I ran my own nationwide youth sports league.


• You expect more from yourself than anyone else could possibly expect from you.

• You're so hungry to succeed, you're not afraid to fail.

• You aspire to the highest standards and work ethic.

• You make your own breaks.

• Great things happen when you take advantage of the moment.

• Good fortune isn't just luck; it's knowing how to capitalize on the opportunity at hand.

• Be ready to take risks, break with convention, and create something unique of your own.



At age twelve, two years after my parents' divorce, reality set in: My mom's slumping finances left us no choice but to move out of our big house in Nesconset. On the last evening before we moved, I remember crying as I walked around my backyard Wiffle ball field, pulling out those two-by-four wooden bases and stuffing them, along with the yellow plastic bats and Wiffle balls, into black garbage bags. I knew full well that there would be no place to put them without a field of my own. It was devastating and a wrenching, painful change that represented another loss in my life.

Our next stop would be a tiny one-bedroom basement apartment in a single-family home in Whitestone, Queens — a definite downgrade in our lifestyle. It was a dark, creepy little place with a noisy landlord living above us. His racket radiated down on us through the cheap Styrofoam drop ceiling, which was anything but soundproof. I felt like my world was falling apart.


Excerpted from "Running with My Head Down"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Frank V Fiume II.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Quest for Purpose ix

Acknowledgments xv

Part 1 1

Chapter 1 Running with My Head Down 3

Chapter 2 Falling Down and Getting Back Up 13

Chapter 3 Crossroads, Wrong Turns, and Feeling Stuck 23

Chapter 4 Embrace Your Future 33

Part 2 47

Chapter 5 Be Ready to Try Something Else 49

Chapter 6 Killing the Golden Goose 65

Chapter 7 A Life of No Regrets 77

Part 3 91

Chapter 8 Life in the Fast Lane 93

Chapter 9 The Big Time 107

Chapter 10 What Really Matters 117

Chapter 11 Under Siege 125

Part 4 135

Chapter 12 When the Top of the Mountain Is Not Enough 137

Chapter 13 The Choice to Sell 151

Chapter 14 Taking Stock 161

Chapter 15 To Love and Inspire 169

Chapter 16 The War Is Over 179

Epilogue: Running with My Head Up 185

About the Author 189

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