Frank Fiume: Founder, i9 Sports & Author, "Running with My Head Down"

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Bio: FRANK FIUME II is a pioneer in the youth sports industry and the founder of i9 Sports—the nation’s leading franchise of youth leagues and camps. Since 2003, i9 has generated more than $300 million in sales, with 2 million participants in 900 communities across 30 states nationwide. A native of Queens and graduate of St. John’s University in New York, Fiume now resides in the Tampa Bay area with his wife of 25 years and their two children. For more information, visit Fiume’s website. Connect with Fiume on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Running with My Head Down is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Question: You write a lot about finding your true purpose in life, but many people never find it at all. How did your passion for baseball lead you to creating a multi-million-dollar business?

FF: It was an indirect route for sure, a total zigzag, which is typical for many entrepreneurs. You never get to the ultimate goal by following a straight line. So yes, I loved baseball, but I wasn’t good enough to become a pro. My very stubborn dad rejected my idea of becoming a sports agent and persuaded me into medical sales, which I hated. But on weekends, I played on a softball team with college buddies, which in turn, led me to create my own softball league. It soon became a booming little business. Eventually, I defied my father and turned my ‘hobby’ into a full-time career. But it wasn’t easy. At first, I was laughed at by my competition. But I never quit. And eventually, I launched the first youth sports league franchise in America. I always tell people—Live your life with no regrets. Take a risk! And that’s what I did. I banked on passion, not on security.

Q: In the book, you describe numerous ups and downs--bankruptcy, corporate espionage, franchisee revolts, lawsuits, national convention mishaps, leadership conflicts, PR flaps, even a stalker. How did you handle it all?

FF: Imperfectly! There were times when my stress levels were off the charts. Nobody who creates a business from the bottom up can avoid that. The more successful you become, the more pressure there is. At each stage, just when I thought I had it all figured out, another curve ball came flying at me. So, I didn’t exactly rise to the top—I crawled my way there, often working 14-hour days, unable to relax even once I got home.

Q: How would you describe yourself?FF: Definitely a Type A personality, competitive, driven and often self-critical. But over the years, I realized that self-care and personal development were critical to fulfillment. So rather than over-eating or working insane hours, I learned to handle stress in a healthier way—exercise, a better diet, and prioritizing my family time as priceless. My wife Nadine, our two kids, and I went on dozens of family cruises, worldwide adventures, and even attended games at every major league baseball stadium. The love and connection from family is the most stabilizing force for any entrepreneur.

Q: In one section of the book, you write about how it was ‘Lonely at The Top.’ What did you mean by that?

FF: Very little has been written about executive isolation. It’s the challenge that no one talks about. So, you’re not prepared for the loneliness that can come along with being a CEO. I remember reaching the milestone of selling our one hundredth franchise. At the celebration party, I felt detached from my own team, no longer one of the guys. I had morphed from buddy to boss. I felt alienated from the very people who helped me get to the top. It was as if I was dropped into an isolation chamber. I’ve since learned that every executive needs a sounding board—a group of peers, a mentor, a coach, and certainly someone like a Tony Robbins.

Q: In your book, you describe going to every one of the Robbins seminars, having a number of breakthroughs that impacted you, even selling your company at the zenith of its success. How key has he been?

FF: There’s no question that without Tony’s wisdom, much of this book would’ve never been possible. He inspires you to push past fear to fulfill your true purpose. Just as he did, I grew up in a broken home, raised by a mom who struggled financially. And I often felt underestimated, rejected and inadequate. I grew up with a hunger to overcome any obstacle, consumed with the need for significance. But that ambition can eventually swallow you up. At one of Tony’s seminars, I finally had an epiphany: My entire identity was defined solely by my company. Big mistake. I realized that my life could no longer be driven by my job or by success. I was ready for a brand-new phase of life, a spiritual awakening that ends the book.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who’s trying to follow their passion?

FF: If you believe it fulfills the needs of your soul, you’ve got to follow it, never dissuaded by the skeptics and naysayers who will inevitably point you toward some safe and secure.

Remember, I spent 10 years in medical sales because it was my Plan B. But looking back now, I would have never created a plan B – it’s a cop-out! Having a fallback plan makes it too easy for you to give up on your true purpose in life, especially when you run into inevitable obstacles.

Q: So, living a life without regrets means…

FF: Always doing what was right, even when it’s scary and it means taking a risk. Especially then.

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