THE BLOG
08/14/2012 04:02 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

Taking an Interview With Jake Steinfeld, Co-author of Take A Shot

The face of entrepreneurship in America isn't just apps and digital start-ups. As Jake Steinfeld, reports in Take A Shot it can also be about starting a professional sports league from scratch. In this case, an outdoor lacrosse team, of all things. Jake, one of the few people in the world whose name is also a signature -- as in "Body by Jake" -- recounts the story of the creation of Major League Lacrosse. It's a roller-coaster ride of wild unpredictability starring not just one, but three unlikely characters. Two of them knew a lot about media -- Jake, and Tim Robertson, the son of a TV preacher. The third, Dave Morrow, a former Princeton lacrosse star, knew a lot about the game, but not much else.

Jake once wrote a book called I've Seen a Lot of Famous People Naked and They've Got Nothing on You! So you can expect that our recent conversation about a book on lacrosse didn't stay entirely within bounds.

AH: This is a book about a lot of things, isn't it?

JS: You bet. Relationships and trust. Entrepreneurship. Passion. And about "no" being halfway to "yes."

AH: But it's mainly about starting a lacrosse league. Who would attempt such a crazy thing?

JS: There was no manual for starting a professional sports league. When we set out on this adventure we just knew we were going to get it done, somehow. And we went after it with relentless energy. Because I knew that American sports fans love hitting, scoring and speed. The sport of lacrosse has all of that.

AH: Why did you write the book?

JS: There were lessons I wanted to share. Plus some myths I wanted to clear up. Over the past 15 years people have come to us saying what they thought happened. Dave will tell you that I had to convince him to memorialize how it really happened, because it's pretty amazing.

AH: Many were skeptical. But your motto is "Don't Quit," isn't it?

JS: I trademarked "Don't Quit" in 1980, and it's been my slogan and what my life has been about since that day. And I really needed it this time.

AH: Yeah, there were a lot of speed bumps. Some were speed mountains. It was surprising that even someone who's a proven entrepreneur like you, got a lot of "nos" from everyone -- investors, advertisers, skeptics.

JS: We got numb to "no." Even if we got a "yes" we would assume it was a "no." But every time we got turned down -- I mean we were 0 for whatever -- we always ate well at the end of the day. We laughed a lot. But we were under siege every day.

AH: How was it different than the other ventures you created from scratch?

JS: The layers. The amount of people. I guess you could sit back and go, "Wait a second, Jake. There's layers in starting any business. There's people in starting any business." I had just never been involved with so much of it. I came from Body by Jake. I had Fit TV, I created my own television shows. It was my way. I never had to really share a vision. At 54 years old, passion has always been a part of my life, but patience hasn't.

AH: The story of you and Dave Morrow, your partner, emerges as a kind of buddy movie. Dare I say a bromance?

JS: Nobody could ever get between us. Trust is everything. And that's the one thing that Dave and I always had. I've been involved in a number of businesses where I brought people in to help me run the company. I don't know them any more. There were contracts and binding agreements and all that stuff, and it still blew up. And with Dave and me to this day it's always been on a handshake.

AH: And he bailed you out a few times.

JS: I did an interview and was asked "Did you really lock a guy in a limo?" I said, "I swear to God." If it weren't for Dave, I'd probably be in jail right now.

AH: You and Dave were opposites in many ways. He was in college when you met, and you were already the Jake the world knows. But you were also completely different personalities.

JS: And that's what made us great. If it we were two of me, it would never have worked. If we were both like Dave, it would never have worked. As an entrepreneur, you have to understand you can't do everything by yourself. The second you start believing that you can, you end up becoming a legend in your own shower.

AH: You loved lacrosse, but knew that it wasn't media-friendly.

JS: The game was very tough to watch on TV. It was slow. It's a very small ball, moves very quickly, the cameras were always pulled back. If something doesn't work on television, then you're in trouble.

That's why I decided to implement the shot clock and the two-point arc. I got the idea because of playing basketball. I'm a big fan. It was a game that I excelled at in high school. I didn't grow past six feet tall and had a good jump shot. You can call Mr. Kohn at Baldwin High School and ask him.

AH: What else did you do to make the game sexier?

JS: Dave redesigned the uniforms to make them slicker, faster looking. Lacrosse is a culture. There's a culture surrounding the game; it's a cool game. Cool guys play lacrosse. And if there are cool guys playing the game, cool girls want to hang around with the cool guys.

AH: The story is literally told in two voices, yours and Dave's. That's unusual for a book like this.

JS: The publisher was against two voices. They said it never works. Even my book agent who I love dearly fought it tooth and nail. For me, the humor is about Dave and his perspective. It makes the book funnier than it otherwise would have been.

AH: Take A Shot is also about Dave's personal success.

JS: Jim Davis {CEO of New Balance} ended up buying Dave's company. Dave becomes the man, which is what's so great. There are very few people I've met who I care about enough that I want to see them succeed.

AH: You've been an entrepreneur your whole life. Read the media and they're our national heroes. But it's more complicated than that.

JS: When it comes to being an entrepreneur -- creating things -- the world is a very cynical place. You have to put the ear plugs in. When you tell someone what your dream is, someone will always bash it. Maybe they believe "Well, if Adam is successful, then that means that I'm not going to be successful because there's not enough success to go around." But don't look at the clock. Stay in the game long enough. Eventually it's going to happen for you.

AH: Is it happening for you in Major League Lacrosse?

JS: We now have all of our games on television, from ESPN to CBS Sports Network to ESPN3. Social media and the Internet have been terrific for us. We've got a long way to go, but every day we're alive we get a little bit stronger. Our audience is young. It is a youth-driven sport. So our best days are ahead of us.

AH: You're a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.

JS: I count the people in the seats and not the empty seats.

AH: Can I bring up the "L" word? Legacy.

JS: Little kids one day will grow up and have a poster of their favorite lacrosse player next to their favorite -- LeBron James or Derek Jeter or whoever it might be. Who would have thought that a big part of my legacy would be about lacrosse and not just about fitness?