All business and motivational books I read had one theme that continually struck me:
The real secret to success is not talent—but hunger! You’ve got to feel a burning desire within. It’s the part of you that says: “I won’t stop. I won’t give up.” It is determination fueled by creativity. You see it in the incredible stories of pioneers such as Walt Disney, Richard Branson, and the late Steve Jobs. They all had that level of hunger. I did too.
I wanted to create the largest amateur sports league in the country. Like any entrepreneur, I wanted to be independent—my own boss. I wanted to make my own rules rather than conform to somebody else’s. I wanted to earn unlimited income as a result of my efforts, not a salary dictated by some corporation. In 1998, I was working as a sales rep for Pharmacia & Upjohn (now Pfizer), in Tampa. But I wanted to stop making somebody else rich. And I knew that ultimate career fulfillment would only come from growing the league I had already started, ABA, back in Long Island.
My commitment to run ABA remotely while working sales meant a tight schedule. From time to time, I had to fly up to Long Island for a few days to personally tend to ABA business, such as securing ball-field contracts with parks and recreation departments and schools or meeting with umpire groups. During those quick trips, I’d pack my schedule tight. From early morning until late afternoon, I was at full speed, going from one school or park administrator to another. In the evening, I’d scout out additional fields. It never felt like work, which is why I never got tired of doing it. I was totally driven by my determination to beat the competition at their own game—while unbeknownst to them, I was living 1,500 miles away!
While ABA grew, a new goal naturally came to mind. I wanted to expand my softball league into Florida. I was inspired by an article about how the National Football League was launching a kids’ flag football league as an outreach program designed to promote their brand. While the NFL didn’t provide any training or support on how to run a league, they did offer basic rule recommendations and the jerseys, flag belts, and footballs. It was nothing more than a vendor relationship. And although I had never envisioned starting a youth league before, I thought, Why not?
I used my hunger to build momentum. So that summer, I did a little advertising in local newspapers, and I used yard signs to promote the league. Every week I planted forty to fifty signs in the ground near elementary schools, outside fast-food restaurants, in residential neighborhoods, and near busy intersections. You couldn’t drive around the Brandon, Tampa area without seeing my signs.
My pitch, as I explained to callers, was that the game was all about fun, safety, and convenience. “Good Sportsmanship” and “Everyone Plays” became our battle cries. And moms loved it! We registered one hundred kids with ease within a month. My first flag football season worked so well that I planned another one—and not just for the fall, but for the spring too. And would you believe that the following spring, I got six hundred kids to register? How did I do it? I went full throttle, balls-to-the-wall on marketing. I spent upward of $15,000 (using my profits from ABA) advertising on television, sports radio, yard signs, and billboards and newspaper ads. I also expanded our geographical reach into two additional residential family communities in the Tampa Bay area.
By 2000, ABA was generating more money than I ever made in medical sales. It was time to take the leap. I resigned from Pharmacia & Upjohn the next day. It was the most amazing feeling.
I’m not suggesting that everyone take my resolve to quit a job as advice to blindly do the same. Every situation is different. But if you’ve found your life purpose, you can be sure life’s greatest rewards will come if you pursue that purpose—with an insatiable hunger.
Have you ever wondered how it REALLY feels to make it as an entrepreneur?
In Frank’s book, Running With My Head Down, he shares the inside story of how he built i9 Sports from the ground up. It’s a story of perseverance and constant evolution – both for him personally and his business. Frank is grateful that he found and followed his purpose, and his hope is that his story can ignite a spark inside you to find the courage to do the same.