Nick Gray is an NYC entrepreneur who loves museums, but hates how most museum tours are given. He is the Founder of Museum Hack, a company of private tour guides offering unconventional renegade museum tours.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Nick Made EVERY mistake in the book when he first launched his company, but this was the biggest…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
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- Museum Hack: A highly interactive, subversive, fun, non-traditional museum … We will lead you in Metropolitan Museum of Art
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- Nick’s Website
John Lee Dumas: What’s shaking, Fire Nation? John Lee Dumas here and I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Nick Gray.
Nick, are you prepared to ignite?
Nick Gray: I am ready.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Nick is a New York City entrepreneur who loves museums but hates how most museum tours are given. He founded Museum Hack, a company of private tour guides offering unconventional renegade museum tours.
Nick, give Fire Nation just a little insight. So share more about you personally, then expand upon the biz.
Nick Gray: All right, thank you. My name is Nick, I’m 33 years old, and I hate museums.
John Lee Dumas: I actually just involuntarily yawned. I don’t even know how that happens.
Nick Gray: So I don’t – I don't know. When I go to a museum, the paintings like they’re dead, they are boring, you have to be quiet inside of a museum, and it hasn’t kept pace with the fast, you know, ADD generation. And I had this experience a few years ago where a woman brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on this crazy date and she gave me a private tour, and it completely changed the way that I feel about museums. I realized that I didn’t hate museums; I just hated the museum experience.
My message is I don’t come from an art background, I never – I didn’t grow up in a family who liked museums. But I had this experience, and for me it’s totally changed how I appreciate them and I’m on a crazy mission to share that with others.
John Lee Dumas: Well, I can tell you, Fire Nation, just in our little pre-interview chat, Nick’s energy is contagious, his website, Museum Hack is a really great website. I recommend checking it out. I know the next time I’m visiting New York City, it’s high on my agenda, Nick, so keep your calendar open, buddy.
But before we really dive into where you’re at right now and what you’re doing and why you’re crushing it and XYZ, we tell a story, Nick, we tell the journey of our guests and that’s you today. And yeah, things are awesome right now and you’re moving along, but you’ve had tough times, you’ve had struggles, you’ve had challenges. And I want you to share with my audience, Fire Nation, your worst entrepreneurial moment. Tell us that story.
Nick Gray: As I think about that question, I actually – my heart started racing. Because I got one, nervous to share the story –
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Love it.
Nick Gray: – and two, at the time that this happened it brought me so much anxiety and sleepless nights, and just very much unease. So –
John Lee Dumas: This is a great precursor to the story.
Nick Gray: Yeah. It’s not something that I am proud of. As I started my business, Museum Hack, doing these renegade museum tours, the first employee that I ever hired unfortunately had a falling out, and my biggest mistake or the biggest moment that I ever had of regret was how that sort of fell out. Should I tell that story?
John Lee Dumas: I want like super details. Like I want to feel like I’m that person that you’re letting go, so get into it.
Nick Gray: All right. Yeah.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. So we’re going there.
Nick Gray: Yeah. So when you start a business and when you hire people and when you have employees there’s a thousand mistakes that you can make, and I probably made every single one of them in the book.
But the biggest thing that put me on this road to disaster was sort of dumping a lot of my business operations onto this person, and me just doing all the back end of the business. And I completely lost touch with my company, and when we had a falling out there was just – things to me felt like everything was in shambles, gossip was going around with my employees. And it felt to me like the world was kind of crumbling around. And to make matters worse he went off to start a competing business to compete against me.
John Lee Dumas: So Nick, I kind of want to sit here for a second because you did say you made every mistake in the book. You said if there were a thousand mistakes, I made a thousand mistakes. But the reality is if there were a thousand mistakes, at most you made 999, because one mistake you didn’t make was to start a company that didn’t have a starving audience. And there’s a starving audience out there for your product, for your service. There’s a need – there’s a void that needs to be filled, so you did that right. So you know, let’s look at the bright side there.
Nick Gray: Okay.
John Lee Dumas: But let’s just kind of sit there for a second. Like if you were to go back and be able to start from that day forward, but knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? Share that with our listeners right now who are going through this or are about to start something like this.
Nick Gray: One thing that I would do differently is I would have charged more for my product sooner. You can always go down in price, but it’s a lot harder to go up. And I got advice from people saying you need to raise your prices; I said I don’t think there’s a market for it. I wouldn’t even test raising my prices because I was so afraid of doing it. And then something happened that I had to drastically raise my prices and as crazy as it sounds, I think it actually helped my business.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Yes. I don’t want to go on some $12 tour; it’s probably going to suck. But if it’s a $49 tour, you better believe I’m taking a girl to that because it’s probably going to be awesome.
Nick Gray: Dude, you are exactly right. When I did my tours for free, which is how I started out just because I wanted to get good at them and it was a pure passion project, I would do them for free and people thought that there was a catch. They thought that it was too good to be true, and it was like this whole – and then once I started to charge for them, it completely changed my business. And when I started to charge more, that oddly enough helped it as well.
John Lee Dumas: So there’s a real study that I just read from a book, and it really fascinated me. I think it has a lot to do with what we’re talking about. You know, basically this woman owned this jewelry store and she couldn’t sell these pieces of turquoise that she had for the life of her. She’d mark them at like $50 and she’s like this is a pretty good price. I mean it’s a little pricey, but this is a good piece of jewelry.
So finally she’s like I’ve got to move this inventory, so she scribbled a little note to her employee before she left, she’s like you know, mark these half off and she just put like X2 – whatever it was. And the employee read it as, you know, mark these times two. So she doubled the – the employee doubled the price of it, and the woman came in the next day and like she wasn’t that surprised when she came in at like lunch and the pieces were gone. She’s like oh, so people scraped it up at, you know, half off? And the woman’s like, what are you talking about? They were a hundred dollars each and they were flying off the shelves. And the woman’s like, what?
They wouldn’t buy them at 50, and they were just dying for them at a hundred. So a lot of lessons learned here. And, Nick, I love how you said you were afraid to test the market, and that’s something we can never be afraid of, Fire Nation, never be afraid of testing that market because you never know until you test.
And, Nick, we’re going to tell another story now. And by we, I mean you. And I really want you to kind of stick with the story theme and really take us to that moment. Do you want to share with us one epiphany, one ah-ha moment that you had, you know, that was when you were in the afterhours museum and you were just – for the first time you saw a museum in a whole new light and you’re like, why can’t it always be like this?
Maybe that’s the story you’re going to tell now, maybe it’s not, but whatever ah-ha moments that you’re going to share with us right now, really take us there and then unpack the steps you took after having that moment to turn it into success.
Nick Gray: Okay. Before I tell the story of the ah-ha moment, I have to tell you about my favorite piece of art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I promise it goes together with the ah-ha moment.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. Let’s do it.
Nick Gray: Can I do that?
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, yeah.
Nick Gray: Okay. So imagine the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
John Lee Dumas: Okay.
Nick Gray: You think mummies, what do you think about?
John Lee Dumas: I think pharaohs –
Nick Gray: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: – I think a lot of tiaras – I don't know.
Nick Gray: Yeah. Yeah, tiaras, pharaohs. The reality of a lot of Egyptian art today is that it’s largely rocky, broken and monotone. It’s pretty boring stuff. There’s pharaohs and I love those; don’t get me wrong, but most everything else is, you know, it’s gold – it’s not my cup of tea.
However, my favorite work of art in the entire Metropolitan Museum is this fragmented face that comes from a queen’s statute. And there’s so much mystery that goes into this piece. We don’t know who it is; it’s made out of a material called yellow jasper. And if you’re looking online and you look later, just search for fragment of a queen’s face. And it’s this amazing piece that for me unlocked why art and what museums are.
3,000 years ago – that’s how old this piece is, I have no idea what life was like. I can’t really wrap my head around what life was like 300 years ago, but 3,000 years ago I couldn’t talk to Egyptian, I couldn’t speak the language or read hieroglyphics. But today, I kid you not, every time I look at this piece – which by the way I’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art more than 312 times in the last two years. I count them on Foursquare – that’s how I know.
John Lee Dumas: Okay. You are like the mayor of Foursquare for people that don’t work there.
Nick Gray: Yeah. I’m basically – like I go there all the time; I love to check in. Every time I see this piece I get butterflies in my stomach. I feel these very juicy sensuous lips.
John Lee Dumas: Well it’s funny because I was just going to say this because I have obviously been Google imaging while you’re talking and like these lips are like out of control. I mean these are like luscious, juicy, just full-figured lips, and there’s really nothing else besides the chin. And Fire Nation, I will be putting a picture of this in the Show Knows page, you can check it out. I’ll link to it. But continue, Nick.
Nick Gray: So, those lips by the way, we have no idea how those were created. Like 3,000 years ago there’s no clue – that material it’s made of is called yellow jasper, which is a semi-precious stone. And number one, it was incredibly rare at the time it was made, and number two, it was so hard to work with. On a hardness scale where diamond is a seven and marble’s a three, yellow jasper’s a solid five, possibly a six.
John Lee Dumas: Wow.
Nick Gray: And so to get that crispness and that clarity – no clue how that was made, no surviving examples of the tools, no lasers back then.
John Lee Dumas: Love this. Okay, continue.
Nick Gray: So, I see that work of art today and I feel something. I’m like damn, those are some nice lips, and I think like that’s what a great piece of art is. A great piece of art can communicate through time. 3,000 years ago they didn’t have the Internet; they didn’t have the modern language that we have today. I couldn’t speak the language, I couldn’t read hieroglyphics, but today I can see that piece every single time and I can feel something and it helps me kind of put things in perspective. Museums are encyclopedic collections that have usually 5,000 years of human history. Each of the objects can tell stories and that’s what I try to do.
And the biggest ah-ha moment that I ever had was at the end of one of our tours. A guy from Los Angeles who does music videos came on one of our tours. He said I never would have gone to this museum if it wasn’t for your tour. He said I’d been walking through the museum and I’d seen these objects that are a hundred, 500, and a thousand years old that have withstood the test of time.
He said I’ve seen these objects that are a hundred, 500, a thousand years old, and I look at my own work and I wonder if that will stand the test of time. And here’s what he said – he said, being at the museum has made me want to be a better creator. And for me that’s what it’s all about. I hope museums can inspire people the same way that they inspire me.
John Lee Dumas: Man, say that quote one more time from that guy.
Nick Gray: He said being at this museum has made me want to be a better creator.
John Lee Dumas: It’s made me want to be a better creator. And Fire Nation, let me challenge you, like when’s the last time you’ve seen something or you’ve experienced something that’s made you want to be a better you, it’s made you want to be a better creator, it’s made you want to be a better parent, a better entrepreneur, whatever it might be. If your answer is yesterday, awesome, I’m excited for you. If your answer is, you know, last year or maybe never, then it’s time to go seek out those type of experiences.
You know, this is the life that we’re living right now, like let’s make the most of this. And, Nick, I just love what you’re bringing to life here and, you know, I really want you to kind of take that, you know, really just impactful ah-ha moment that you had, and share with Fire Nation one take away that you want us as entrepreneurs to really make sure that we walk away with.
Nick Gray: There are museums in all cities and towns around the world. I feel very passionately that we can learn through our past. Today I’m so focused in my own life on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and often times I forget about these amazing stories and learning opportunities through history. I, like I said, never took an art history class, didn’t go to museums growing up, but today they provide me such a sense of inspiration that whether you live in a small town or a big town I’d suggest that you go check one out.
My advice would be to get there as soon as the museum opens if you live in a big city especially, to beat the crowds. And most of the staff at these museums love questions and inquisitive visitors.
John Lee Dumas: Right. So, Nick, we’re going to move into what I like to call the 60-second questions. Because you have to some time to expound, but you are under some constraints. And ideally, Nick, I mean you’re 33 years old, you live in New York City, what do the first 60 minutes of your day look like?
Nick Gray: I just started a new habit about two months ago that I’m really enjoying. For the first 20 minutes after I wake up I do not look at any screens. No cell phones, no laptops, no televisions, no Kindles. And I’m surprised how much of a physical challenge that is to myself, especially if my phone is like bleeping a notification light. Some days I’m like counting down that 20 minutes.
John Lee Dumas: It’s dopamine. It’s literally – it’s a proven fact that it gives you some same kind of dopamine sensors that cocaine does.
Nick Gray: I can absolutely believe that. I enjoy that, and I get a positive thing out of not looking at my phone for the first 20 minutes.
What else? I have a green drink in the morning –
John Lee Dumas: Good man.
Nick Gray: – that I mix with a little bit of coconut water, and then I make oatmeal. I make in a Japanese Zojirushi rice cooker, steel cut oatmeal. That is my number one life hack. You set it up the night before, it’s on an alarm and you wake up to this beautiful bowl of steel cut oatmeal.
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Send me that life hack via email, like I’m, going to start doing that. Like knowing that I wake up I the morning to steel cut oatmeal waiting for me, like I go take this nice power walk at 5:30 in the morning; it’s freezing. I come back – even in San Diego it’s cold – and having that waiting for me, that will make all the difference in the world, Nick.
Nick Gray: It’s awesome. Just a quick little note; you’ve got to add a little bit of salt, cinnamon, raisins, dried cranberries, but it’s super easy and it’s so delicious.
John Lee Dumas: Hey, don’t worry. You’re going to send me the whole details after the show. I’m excited.
Nick Gray: Okay.
John Lee Dumas: And I’ll share with you, Fire Nation. What is your biggest strength, Nick, as an entrepreneur?
Nick Gray: As an entrepreneur, my biggest strength – I’m probably just an arbitrage guy that finds Internet marketing opportunities or online hacks and applies them to the real world. Before I did these renegade museum tours I worked selling electronic equipment for private jets and military planes, and was one of the first people in that industry to really use the Internet to market our products. I think when you’re in the same thing today with museum tours, marketing them to a new generation. I think that’s my strength is marketing.
John Lee Dumas: What’s your biggest weakness?
Nick Gray: My biggest weakness is definitely a lack of empathy or – yeah. I’m not too good. I mean I don’t – it’s something that I’m actively working on, but –
John Lee Dumas: Is that like when you vanquish your phones, like you don’t extend an olive branch? Is that what empathy means?
Nick Gray: Yeah. I think empathy –
John Lee Dumas: To be very dramatic, yeah.
Nick Gray: Yeah. I don’t have a good answer for it. I think that I really respect people that are great listeners and that can communicate with their peers and with their colleagues. That is a skill that I am not very good at and I’m working at being better at, but I know as myself, I’m not a good manager and it’s something I struggle with all the time.
John Lee Dumas: Bang. What is one habit that you wish you had?
Nick Gray: Wait, can I just said that when I said that like that was my biggest weakness, you’re like damn, that sucks. I felt you were thinking like, man, oh man, that sucks for this guy.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah.
Nick Gray: And it’s true. It’s something I need to work – do you have any advice on how I can get better at that?
John Lee Dumas: You know, it can be a struggle that I have too at times as well. So I kind of was empathizing with your lack of empathy, which probably makes me have more empathy than you just because I was empathizing with that. But you know, sometimes that quote, you know, walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes helps and that can make a difference. But, you know, that takes time. Let’s be honest. That’s something that a lot of us don’t have.
Nick Gray: That’s a good quote. I like that actually.
John Lee Dumas: So, what’s the habit you wish you had?
Nick Gray: I wish I could meditate better. Everybody’s talking about this Headspace app, and I need to check that out. But that’s a habit that I wish I was better at, and –
John Lee Dumas: Let me add to that actually. So Headspace is a great starter because it’s just ten days, ten minutes. And I say it’s a great starter although like I’m still at day six after three months, but there’s also a great add to it cause Choose Muse. If you just go to choosemuse – m-u-s-e.com, it actually – it’s like a headband that you wear during your meditation and it actually like tests and records your brain waves and activities. So afterwards you can go log into your little portfolio and dashboard and you can see like how active your brain was compared to yesterday.
And for me, like I had to need that, that competitive like actually seeing like I’m getting better. Like you can get better at meditating, but it’s proven like with this Choose Muse app in conjunction with Headspace.
Nick Gray: Leave it to the entrepreneurs to have competitive meditation practice.
John Lee Dumas: Right. It’s such an oxymoron. So, Nick, of all the things you have going on that you’re fired up about, what is the one thing that has you most fired up?
Nick Gray: I just booked a weekend cruise trip for all of our employees to do.
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
Nick Gray: Yeah. I’m super excited. It’s a cruise to nowhere and I’m just excited about that. We’re finally at this place now where we could have a little fun times after a great year. And I used this site called cruisesheet.com, which has like crazy last minute cruise deals. And several of my friends actually like to run their businesses from cruise ships because they get these crazy low rates.
John Lee Dumas: I think I just changed the future location of Entrepreneur on Fire, depending on their Wi-Fi.
Nick Gray: Yeah. It’s like a super – most of my friends – I mean let’s be honest, the Internet situation on boats on the sea days especially, is very expensive and very dodgy –
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
Nick Gray: – but it’s that physical constraint that several entrepreneurs I know have used to write books or develop a new course or just work on new products because they have no choice. I mean you’re at an amazing time constraint, you can’t use the Internet and all of your personal needs are taken care of. Your room is cleaned three times a day, restaurants all over the place – gym – it’s awesome.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, that sounds really awesome. And I bet that Internet thing changes too, for the better or worse to your points, because like with Google coming out with their blimps that are just floating all in the atmosphere like shooting down super high speed Wi-Fi everywhere –
Nick Gray: Yeah.
John Lee Dumas: – I mean that’s just going to become the reality. Really cool stuff. So, Nick, we are about to enter the lightning round, but before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Nick, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Nick Gray: I’m ready.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming a entrepreneur?
Nick Gray: I was really afraid to quit my job. I had the safety and the security of a really cushy position. And it wasn’t until I started – to be honest I started working with like a life coach or an executive coach who asked me some very deep, difficult questions that helped me make the jump.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nick Gray: The best advice I ever received was to double the price of my product. Ramit Sethi told me that and I wish I would have taken it a lot sooner.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome. And Ramit’s right there in New York City; you ever get to hang out with him?
Nick Gray: All the time.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, nice. Love Ramit. Share one of your personal habits that you believe contributes to your success.
Nick Gray: I use an app on my phone called Mailbox to manage my email, and it helps me to snooze messages and not use my inbox as a personal task list. I also make extensive use of virtual assistants and services like Fancy Hands to help me do more with less.
John Lee Dumas: I just love that. You have such Fancy Hands. Like, it’s a great name for a company.
Nick Gray: It is.
John Lee Dumas: Do you have an Internet resource like Evernote that you believe contributes to your success?
Nick Gray: I think we’re mutual friends with Ari Meisel –
John Lee Dumas: Yeah.
Nick Gray: – and his Less Doing, but I love the Less Doing book and that was very helpful to me.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. He was a great recent guest of Entrepreneur on Fire. Definitely check him out, Fire Nation. Just go to Eofire.com, type A-r-i – Ari in the Search bar – boom, pop him right up. And we’ll put Cruise Sheet in there too. I mean that’s a pretty awesome resource.
Nick Gray: Yeah.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend one book for our listeners, Nick, what would it be and why?
Nick Gray: Have you read this book called Mastering the Rockefeller Habits?
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
Nick Gray: I really like that book. That book was so helpful to me in growing my business. I think it’s better for a business that’s gotten a little bit of traction, but it helps you think strategically in a way that I never had thought before.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. Great book, Verne Harnish, actually another past guest of Entrepreneur on Fire, great author, great guest. So Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – great book. And Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I’ve teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at Eofirebook.com.
Nick, this next question’s the last of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter’s taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Nick Gray: I got started with my business by giving free tours for my friends to build up reviews. So if I’m on this island and I’ve got 500 bucks and a laptop, I would become the best tour guide of this island that I could. I would then use that $500 to have a website built and start buying Google Ad Words and set up a Yelp page and a Trip Advisor page. I really do believe in doing things for free until you get awesome and amazing at them for your friends, leverage that for testimonials, and then be the best on the market.
John Lee Dumas: If you want to be, Fire Nation, do. And that just takes doing the actual thing. Nick, let’s end today on fire my friend, with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good-bye.
Nick Gray: At most museums you can do something called a Director’s Audio Tour. I highly recommend that you purchase the audio tour guide at a museum. And then here’s one thing that you need to do that nobody else is going to do, when you get to the museum, don’t look at the art. The first thing you need to do – well, the second thing you need to do is find the café because you’re going to need to go for a coffee or wine break.
But the first thing that you need to do is walk the entire floor plan very, very, very quickly. Walk the floor plan, and in the back of your head keep in mind the pieces that you like. After you’ve walked the whole museum, now go to the café, have a cup of coffee, down a glass of wine, whatever you need. You’re ready to go back and slowly enjoy the pieces that stood out to you.
John Lee Dumas: This is coming, Fire Nation, from a guy who has been there and done that. And Nick, what’s the best way we can connect with you?
Nick Gray: The name of my company is Museum Hack. And on Twitter, I’m @Nickgraynews. If any of your listeners come to New York City I’m happy to give them a cool little deal. We do the best tours of museums in New York City. And it’s an honor to be on this show. For anyone who’s listening that is excited about self-improvement, I think that I’ve learned a lot from museums and they’ve inspired me personally.
John Lee Dumas: Love it. I guess if you just mention promo code Fire of Fire Nation, Nick’s going to make sure you’re taken care of in New York City.
Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with Nick and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to Eofire.com. Just type Nick in the Search bar, his Show Knows page will pop right up with all the links that we’ve been talking about. And of course, if you’re in New York City, Museum Hack is for you.
Nick, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Nick Gray: Thank you very much. Awesome!
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