A friend of mine introduced me to Frankie Cena a week ago. I spoke with him on Skype and listened to his story. How one person can achieve so much at a young age, against so much adversity blows my mind and he has a lot to teach you in this article.
As a child, Frankie Cena was happy but also underprivileged and unsatisfied. The cooperative housing unit where he lived kept him close to his family and fed his love of the spotlight—sharing a room with his sister, and performing for all the neighbours who’d stick around to hear.
But it also left him wanting more: more for himself, more for his family; more excitement and more opportunity; more chances for him and the people around him to become whatever they wanted to be.
At 26, Frankie’s desire shows few signs of ebbing. He’s the founder of a speech and debate academy, where he works together with his mother and sister. He has over 200 students whom he mentors inside and outside the debate room.
And in a debate circuit traditionally dominated by private schools, Frankie’s student-body cuts across social class, helping diversify Canada’s roster of international award-winning debaters.
He’s tried to redirect his newfound revenue back into the community that made him. Recently, he gave a 2018 dollar New Years prize to a local woman with down syndrome; and another 24,000 dollars in scholarships to several Burnaby students.
But Frankie is also a proud showman. In 2012 he was crowned Mr. World Canada and represented his country at the Mr. World Pageant in 2012—at 5’ 6”, the shortest contestant in the history of any major male beauty pageant.
He went on to win the competition’s talent portion, singing for millions; to co-host Mr. World 2014; and, in 2014, to join the hosting team for the even larger Miss World Competition. In 2017, Frankie was hired to help create and host the all new, Miss World- “Head to Head Challenge” a platform which gave viewers an in depth look at the 120 Miss World Contestants.
Now I can’t say I know anything about these types of competitions but that’s impressive. Between debate, performance, and his obsession with reality television, Frankie’s interests may seem far-flung.
But to him, chasing so many disparate things is just a part of discovering who he is, and doing justice to the people who fought so he could be there.
The advice that Frankie gives that helps so many people around the world is this:
“Whenever one door closes,” he likes to tell his students, “knock it down.”
Here’s what I learned from Frankie:
1. Find Your Passion—Then Chase it Down.
- If you are not in love with what you’re doing, stop doing it. Almost no one has been successful doing something they do not love.
- Love gives us creativity and energy, and the power to be ferociously positive after failure. Frankie has met a billion smart, charismatic people around the world who are doing nothing, because they do not know what they love to do.
- To find their passions, Frankie tells people to do the Eat, Sleep, Poop Test. If when you’re doing something, you don’t think about eating, sleeping, pooping, or anything other than that thing—then that is what you’re meant to do.
2. Cherish Every Person and Every Moment
- When the moment that makes your dreams come true hits you, you’ll never see it coming. So keep your eyes and ears open, always. Cherish, value and engage with every moment and person because you don’t know what they’ll offer you.
- When someone asked Frankie if he wanted to be Mr. World Canada, he had no idea that he’d eventually become the host of that international competition, or a face of Miss World—that’d he’d soon be a presenter for an audience of millions. His only thought was—“Let’s see where this takes me.”
3. Be “That Guy.”
- Give everything, not just what you were hired for. Show that you’re there for the vision, not just for yourself—and that you’re vital to making it all real.
- At Miss World Frankie went above and beyond to do more work, talk to more people, and make an impact on more areas and levels than was expected of him. Those around him knew that he would go above and beyond to meet the needs of the organisation and their collective ideal.
4. Don’t Be a Donald
- The days of arrogant, selfish men, puffing out their chests and exploiting the people around them, are numbered. We’ve learned to see overconfidence for what it is: theatre, dishonesty, a cover-up for incompetence and abuse. Kindness and honesty inspire trust and suggest authenticity. They’ll propel you much farther.
- Surrounded by chiselled, statuesque men, Frankie knew that he probably couldn’t compete, at Mr. World, based on the typical standards of a male beauty pageant. So he did what he knew he could do well: he projected happiness and kindness. He got to know the other contestants, the chaperones, the cameramen, the producers.
“They wanted him back not necessarily because he was the most talented or the best host, but because he had an aura that people had faith in”
5. Learn to Fail Well
- Any failure, in the big-picture of your life, is nothing but a split-second detour. But in our world of instant gratification—of Facebook, of Twitter, of having everything at our fingertips—they tend to take an outsize importance. We get sad and moody and refuse to move on from failure. But you will have a million failures in your life. And if you fall apart whenever one happens, you won’t have much time left to try again.
- Frankie has had to swallow rejection on a daily basis. He has heard “you’re not good enough,” “sorry, not this time,” “close but no cigar”—at debate and public speaking competitions, during X Factor auditions—more than he can count. But if he or his students let those failures slow him down, they wouldn’t have had the time or the energy for any of their victories.
6. Dream Big
- If you limit your aspirations you will limit what you can visualise, and hence what you can produce. And it’s not enough just to dream every once in a while.Dream consistently and constantly—and set your standards so high that you make a habit of being absolutely excellent.
- When Frankie would talk about coaching, he’d claim that his students would one day be the best debaters around. When he’d talk about becoming a singer, he’d tell people he’d be bigger than Bieber. And when he’d talk about hosting television, he’d say he’d outdo Ryan Seacrest. Because he knew that if he didn’t see himself in those positions, no one else ever would.
If you’d like to connect with Frankie then visit http://frankiecena.com/