Scaling Businesses, Exit Deals, and the 2-Hour Cocktail Party with Nick Gray – EP 107

Interview with Nick Gray

C.L. Turner

Scaling Businesses, Exit Deals, and the 2-Hour Cocktail Party with Nick Gray

Nick Gray is an investor, entrepreneur, and author who has started, scaled and sold multiple businesses.

One of his most successful ventures was Museum Hack, which was his unique approach to offering museum tours for people who hate museum tours. It got into the Inc 5000 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. Eventually he struck a 7-figure exit deal, and continues to own 15% of the company.

While Nick could have enjoyed an early retirement, he decided to follow another passion: connecting with people and helping others build personal and professional relationships. After hosting hundreds of parties, he authored The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, which teaches anyone how to build relationships by hosting small gatherings. New York Magazine has described him as “the host of culturally significant parties.”

In this conversation, we go over the lessons he learned from bootstrapping and exiting multiple businesses, why entrepreneurs struggle to find meaning after securing nine-figure exits, and why hosting events is the best way to build your professional network.

Featured on This Episode: Nick Gray

✅ What he does: Nick Gray is an investor, entrepreneur, and author who started and sold two successful companies: Flight Display Systems And Museum Hack. He’s the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, a step-by-step handbook that teaches you how to build big relationships by hosting small gatherings. Over 75,000 people have watched his TEDx talk about why he hates most museums.

💬 Words of wisdom: Without mentors and guidance to help us, we just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” – Nick Gray

🔎 Where to find Nick Gray: Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Key Takeaways with Nick Gray

  • What Nick learned from his entrepreneurship journey selling sunglasses in middle school and bootstrapping a software company in college.
  • Why he believes everybody should work in sales and do an internship in New York in their twenties.
  • How Nick helped his father grow the company he started in his basement to a 75-employee multi-million dollar business.
  • How Nick’s passion project grew into an Inc 5000 business that he sold for 7-figures.
  • His strategy on landing lucrative exit deals that at the same time provide massive value for investors.
  • Why do many entrepreneurs dream of multi-million dollar exits but don’t know what to do with their lives when they land them.
  • The importance of learning from past failures and following the advice of trusted mentors.
  • How Nick built his network by hosting cocktail parties in his studio apartment.
  • Nick’s step-by-step framework for building big relationships through small gatherings.

Nick Gray on Network Like a Pro with the 2-Hour Cocktail Party

Nick Gray Tweetables

“I found that the hack to build my network was that I could get 80% of the benefits with 20% of the work by just hosting a cocktail party.” - @nickgraynews Click To Tweet “Remember that a lot of deals and business opportunities don't come from our best friends, but they come from our network of acquaintances, our weak ties, or our loose connections.” - @nickgraynews Click To Tweet


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Read the Full Transcript with Nick Gray

Justin Donald: All right. Well, what’s up, Nick? So good to have you on the show.


Nick Gray: Hello. Greetings. We’re both in Texas. Howdy.


Justin Donald: Yeah. This is awesome. And in fact, you are a newer transplant to Texas because you spent most of your life in New York City, right?


Nick Gray: Thirteen years in New York, which is crazy to think about, but I love it here in Texas now. But yeah, I grew up in the suburbs, and then I went to school in North Carolina. I moved to New York eventually. I was the ultimate city slicker.


Justin Donald: Yeah. So, why the move? What would compel you to move from, you know, you’ve always had great things to say about New York City. So, what would compel you from moving from such an amazing city to Austin, which, by the way, is also an amazing city, just different?


Nick Gray: So, yes, I love it in Austin. I love it in Texas. I think everybody should live in New York for like a year in their twenties like a study abroad program or something. And it’s great. You know, it’s an interesting, cutthroat, fast-paced city but I’ve just fallen in love with, you know, I bought a car here, I got a Costco membership, I’ve made so many great friends in Austin and it’s just a different pace of life. So, I connect with that a little more.


Justin Donald: Well, there are so many cool things that I can’t wait to get into. And by the way, your comment on buying a car is of note because you didn’t have one the whole time you were in New York. I remember us talking and you’re like, “I’m buying really my first car kind of as an adult.”


Nick Gray: Yes. I didn’t drive. Yeah. It’s crazy.


Justin Donald: And, of course, you ended up going with the great Tesla Model Y. Is that right?


Nick Gray: Yes. I got a Tesla. I love it. It’s great. I’m not a zealot about it, but I also couldn’t imagine driving anything else. It’s nice. It’s fun.


Justin Donald: Yeah. That’s cool. Well, I too am a Tesla owner and I love it. And I can’t believe there is this period of time where I didn’t have one or I wondered if I should get one because once you have one, you’re like, man, this just makes the whole game of driving so much more fun, so much more interesting. I mean, it’s easy.


Nick Gray: It really is. It’s so nice and just simple. That’s really good.


Justin Donald: Well, I’m excited to dig into so much like I feel like there’s so much complexity to you, but at the same time, so much simplicity. And I mean that in so many positive ways so like my praise for you is infinite because you have this amazing ability to host events, to emcee big formal conferences or small get-togethers. And prior to doing some of that, although you’ve been doing that for a long time, you are an entrepreneur and you started a couple of companies and you sold them and you’ve just worn a lot of different hats. And I’d love to explore some of that. But before we get into all those things, I’m curious what you were like growing up and when you figured out, “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur. I should start a business.”


Nick Gray: You know, I was definitely not a popular kid in high school. I can tell you that. And I did not have, you know, I don’t even think I had a girlfriend in all of high school. Hardly in college. I was not always a natural host or an extrovert but the entrepreneurship thing was something. My dad is like a mad scientist, the type of guy who is always tinkering and planning and inventing things. He’s like a salesman who thinks he’s an engineer, which is kind of the worst kind, right? And so, because of that like entrepreneurial nature and growing up in that family, I had just a lot of business projects, whether it’s starting a lawn mowing company and yard maintenance or my father and I used to sell blue blocker sunglasses. I think when I was like in middle school, we’d go set up at the BlueBonnet Festival or something like that and sell these sunglasses for $15 that we were buying from over in China for maybe $4 apiece. And it was a good cash business.


Justin Donald: That’s awesome.


Nick Gray: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Justin Donald: You started young. I love it.


Nick Gray: Kind of a fun father-son bonding from a young age. And then I started a web hosting company when I was in high school. I was making web pages probably in ’96 or so, 1996, really early, and noticed that all the clients needed web pages and web hosting. So, I was a reseller, started that business, and I started a software company in college. That was a terrific failure. That never made any money. I actually ended up moving over to India because I was trying to bootstrap it myself and like hired – it was just a debacle. But I learned so much, but I always had the bug. I think growing up in an entrepreneurial family sort of helped. Was that your sort of similar situation? Did you do entrepreneurship in high school?


Justin Donald: You know, I really didn’t. My family is not very entrepreneurial. And, you know, I don’t even know really how I stumbled upon it, except that I took a sales job really early when I was in seventh grade and realized that, well, at first I was like abysmal at it. I was selling newspaper subscriptions door to door, and I just got to know like it was going out of style. And so, I just couldn’t quite figure out how to do it until it clicked, until I learned how to handle objections and be more assertive.


Nick Gray: Really? How did you do that?


Justin Donald: Well, I think I eventually got numb to the word no. I used to take it super personally, and it would affect me like I carried this weight, like people didn’t like me. And it weighed me down to the point that I had enough people say, “Hey, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with either the product or maybe the way that you’re presenting it.” And I just learned how to get better at memorizing scripts and handling objections, knowing what could come up before it came up so I was ready to handle it. And so, for me, having a strong sales background gave me this confidence that I could do other things. And if you can sell a product or service, you can also sell an idea and that became a very helpful and handy tool for me.


Nick Gray: Just like I said, everybody should live in New York for a year in their twenties. Everybody should have a sales job based on just what you’ve said. Isn’t that crazy?


Justin Donald: Totally. Yeah. I mean, that was a game changer for me and it was a confidence booster. And by the way, even for people that don’t become good at it or don’t end up liking it, it’s still the soft skills are incredible and just learning how to interact with people, learning how to interact with people older than you when you’re younger, that was huge for me.


Nick Gray: Huge. What a great life skill. I know. Have you met a lot of entrepreneurs that have sold those knives from door to door?


Justin Donald: Oh yeah. You know I worked with Cutco, right?


Nick Gray: No, I didn’t know that.


Justin Donald: Yeah. So, I did that. I did that for many years. I paid for all my college doing that. That was my second job. After this job, selling newspaper subscriptions, I ended up selling Cutco while I was in college and then kind of stuck around there and got into management and kind of grew my own operation, my own sales and recruiting arm under the Cutco umbrella.


Nick Gray: Really cool. See, great, great skills.


Justin Donald: Yeah. It’s unbelievable. I do agree with you. I think everyone should have some job at any age. You could be listening to this or watching this right now and have never had a sales job and you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, you should do a sales job. It really is worth it for everyone to go through the process and learn those skills.


Nick Gray: Oh, yeah. I’m even thinking in the personal life about how there’s a little bit of sales in dating.


Justin Donald: Oh yeah.


Nick Gray: That fear of rejection and things like that.


Justin Donald: Yeah. And if you can just learn to get numb to the rejection, then it doesn’t feel as tough when it happens, right?


Nick Gray: Yeah.


Justin Donald: Because it’s inevitable it’s going to happen so you might as well figure out how to not take it so personally. And I think having a sales job is probably one of the best ways.


Nick Gray: I agree.


Justin Donald: So, you then transitioned from kind of like the small-time business operations into a much bigger business. Was your first big business Museum Hack or was that your second business?


Nick Gray: That was the first big business that I started from day one from nothing. The first big business I was involved with is after college. I mentioned that software startup that I did, kind of moved home from India, and with kind of my tail between my legs figuring out what was going to be next. And my father was starting a business in the basement of our home. He had been working on it for years and it was as small as him and my mom and I helped them hire their first full-time employee, and I joined just to help them out for a couple of weeks. And they made aviation electronic equipment used in small planes. And I just thought, “Oh, I’ll just help with the website and marketing for a few weeks.” That turned into a few months, turned into a few years. I ran hiring and marketing and international sales, and we grew it to about 75 employees. Mainly the big thing we made was that map that shows you where the plane is flying across the country in small jets and then had some military stuff and we sold that to a private equity firm in 2006, no, 2014. And that was around the time that I started Museum Hack, which was my next business.


Justin Donald: Okay. So, this is incredible, though, because you’ve had two multimillion-dollar exits. So, you had the one with your dad, with your parents. Now, you’ve got this second one. This one’s all you. So, it’s sometimes really nice to have other people you can lean on that you can kind of give some responsibility to. So, what was it like starting up the Museum Hack by yourself?


Nick Gray: It’s lonely, definitely lonely, and I had a lot of help. You know, I had some great employees with Museum Hack. Our tour guides were just incredible. Museum Hack, by the way, did renegade museum tours. It’s such a weird business and we talk about lifestyle businesses. That was the definition of a lifestyle business, started as a hobby that I did for fun, for friends, and then became really a much, much larger business. But yeah, it was very lonely starting out. I had a crazy story where one of my first tour guides was a little disgruntled and quit to start his own rival business. Tried to steal all my employees, literally having fireside chats with our tour guides to tell them what was going on, why they should stay with me. It was exciting, if nothing else, for sure.


Justin Donald: Wow. And so, who bought your business, Museum Hack?


Nick Gray: Museum Hack was sold in a really interesting way to the then CEO and marketing director. So, it’s a seller finance transaction where they could put zero money down and buy the business from me based, I’m sure as your listeners know, on the future revenue and things like that. So, it was sold to them.


Justin Donald: And then what? So, how did you structure that keeping as much anonymous as you want, but like what do you feel comfortable sharing in terms of the terms? Like, what did you exit with? Was this a full payout? Was this paid out over time? Do you have any royalties today?


Nick Gray: Sure. So, I sold them 85% of the business at the time. I wanted to hold on to 15%, and it was structured to be paid out over five years. So, we figured out how much the business was making each year in profit at the time of the sale. And we basically multiplied that by five and said, “Look, that was my goal to get paid out over five years.” And then there were incentives to them if they wanted to actually accelerate that schedule. It was primarily done. It’s hard to think now of the exact details, but there was mostly all of it was just based on the future guarantees of how the business was going to be able to do. And I remember that the lawyers that I spoke to, right, because this was a very legal dump. The lawyers are telling me, “You’re crazy. You’re not to do this. I can’t believe you’re trusting them so much to give them.” Now, if they were even 31 days late with one of those monthly payments, then the business would 100% revert back to me. But there were still a lot of risks involved with it. But I trusted them very deeply because I’d worked with them for so long, and so I was willing to take that risk there in how I sold them the business.


Justin Donald: That’s cool. And what’s also neat is you’re able to give your business, your baby to someone that cares about it, appreciates it, wants to scale it, and you’re able to do so in a way that helps them afford it. You know, one of the things that I’m very grateful for is the mentors that I’ve had in my life that have kind of shown me ways of becoming successful in business and build wealth. And so, it has been such a privilege to be able to return that favor with people that are in my network that I am helping finance their first business or have their first exit. And it’s a really rewarding thing, isn’t it?


Nick Gray: It’s huge. And without the mentors and guidance to help us, we just keep making the same mistakes again and again.


Justin Donald: That’s right. So, you sold now your second business. I mean, these are multi-million dollar exits, so you don’t have to work. You’re pretty young though. I mean, to retire just seems crazy. But what was going on in your mind? You know, when you and I first met, actually, I had met while you still owned Museum Hack. And so, we had talked about that a bunch. We had met actually at a Tiger 21, the national conference. And I was so fascinated by your business. We were at a cocktail reception just hanging out kind of after the event. And it was, you know, right on that last day and your business was so captivating to me. And then shortly thereafter, I heard that you sold it and it was kind of like, “Well, what’s next? What am I going to do?” And I heard you’re moving to Austin and then we met up when you were here. What was that process like of knowing you didn’t need to work but really unsure of what was next?


Nick Gray: Definitely can be confusing. I think that for entrepreneurs, for people who really have this in their blood, for people that are thinking about business or even being lifestyle investors, you’re kind of never fully happy with the status quo, and you always want something bigger and better. And that is still how I think. I’m not the type to have a multi-million dollar exit and then go buy fancy cars or go do all the crazy things that maybe you think about or that folks do in the movies. So, for myself, I’m always tinkering and noodling. I remember, though, how shocking that was the day that we sold our family business. And by that time of the sale, I had largely moved away from the business to start my new business. The last year, I wasn’t super involved. But because that sale was structured in a way that was a complete 100% sale, it meant that at the date that the money hit and the documents were signed, we just walked away from the business.


And there’s something a little unsettling about one day you have a whole team and 70 employees and you’re in need and there’s meetings and the phones and everybody wants your advice to the next day, there’s nothing. There’s nothing. And your bank account may have changed significantly, but there’s nothing. And I talked before about that, that sort of loneliness. Okay. I’m sure people are like, “Oh, cry me a river. You got so much money, you’re lonely.” But there is something interesting about that. Yeah.


Justin Donald: Well, there’s a lot of truth in that. And this is the thing that people that have never gone through this just aren’t going to be able to relate to. So, some people are going to say, “Oh, boo-hoo about that problem. Such a big problem. You made all this money.” But the reality is I have a lot of people on my show and so many of them are entrepreneurs. They had an exit in some way, shape, or form, most of them pretty sizable. You know, when you think about the Lifestyle Investor Mastermind, probably 60% of the people in the mastermind had some sort of an exit, some small, some medium size. I mean, some are enormous exits, though, nine-figure exits, many people. But the theme is the same, where it’s, “I work so hard to have this big heyday to get a big payout. And then I got it and it felt really cool.” And then the next day, it was like, “Yeah, that’s still really cool, but it wasn’t as cool.”


And then like a month or two later it’s like, “Okay. What am I going to do next? Like, the money is, this is not meaningful. I need to find something meaningful and fulfilling.” And I think that’s what people search for their whole life. But a lot of the time they think that money is going to create that, it’s going to satisfy that longing. And most people don’t realize that until they’ve had an exit.


Nick Gray: I think you’re exactly right. And that’s why probably we see many people who you and I know get involved in things like angel investing and different types of businesses to still have their hand in there. I mean, I’ve talked to people that say, “Look, I’m basically net even on angel investing. I don’t make any money. If anything, I lose money,” but it keeps me plugged in and it keeps me feeling like I’m busy. And so, that is a real thing. But I remember speaking to some wealth advisors and we were joking about, “Oh, look at these problems of being rich.” And they said, “Well, they can joke about it, but they are problems. They’re nice problems to have, but they are still problems.” So, I’m very lucky. Yeah.


Justin Donald: Yeah. Upgrading to better quality problems but you can’t ever for a second say that more wealth solves all problems. It creates a different array of problems, different things to think about, such as entitlement and like where just a lot of people, I feel like they get lost in this number of net worth, that they’re always chasing a higher net worth and wanting to be around people with a net worth. And so, the litmus test or the evaluator of people is the net worth number. I don’t like that. It really is kind of a thing, unfortunately. But the problems that people have when they create and gain wealth are substantial because now when you have kids in the picture, how do you teach your kids about money? How do you make sure that you’re not raising them to be entitled to still work hard but understand the meaning of a dollar? What do you do when you have other family members that are not doing as well financially when, as you know, donating or gifting or lending money to people helping versus disabling, right?


Nick Gray: Yeah.


Justin Donald: Yeah. It’s a whole new set of concerns to work through.


Nick Gray: Well, and it speaks to the value, I think, of the peer groups that you and I have found a lot of benefit from and making sure that we don’t just live in an echo chamber and getting advice from experienced others, from those mentors, how valuable that is, that’s huge.


Justin Donald: Yeah. Well, and you’ve also done well even in public equity, so you’ve done well on the private equity side with your own businesses. You’ve invested very well in the stock market. I remember a handful of years ago, right around the time you first moved here, actually, you hadn’t even moved here yet. You’re like Cloudflare. That’s the stock. Buy Cloudflare, I’m telling you. And there were a lot of people in our network that bought it and made a lot of money.


Nick Gray: It’s a great business. It’s a really, really good company.


Justin Donald: Yeah. So, it’s neat that you have your fundamentals. You know, we talk a lot in the Lifestyle Investor Mastermind about having your investment criteria that you need to come up with your own criteria for you, not for someone else, because someone else might have the thing that you want to get so they no longer need that. So, they’re investing for different reasons or in a different way. And you seem to have always had this strong investment criteria and investor IQ. Where did that come from?


Nick Gray: I have gotten real lucky with my stock picks and I have typically only bought things that I buy and that I know and that I understand. I bought Amazon in 2002 or 2003 because I was ordering my textbooks through college, through Amazon. I was ordering a lot of stuff through Amazon, not as much as I do today, but certainly, I realized like, wow, this is incredible. And the only thing I think that made that investment successful was that I forgot my brokerage account password and I just never could sell it, sort of. But I think buying things that you know is a helpful thing for me. The other thing is I generally just never sell. I’m too dumb to sell. I bought a lot of Tesla stock in 2018 and it was my first really big multiple six-figure investment and I saw that plummet. The value just absolutely got destroyed when Elon was smoking weed and the failed takeover attempt and everything, trying to go private. And similarly, I didn’t sell and that ended up being a 10X investment for me.


So, I’ve seen similar things happen. I don’t know. Maybe my luck will run out eventually, but I don’t buy and trade. So, I’m not somebody that’s trading, you know, buying and selling, buying and selling. If anything, I’m slowly buying over time and I buy about one new company every two years, and I’ll spend the first year researching and listening to all the investor calls and talking to employees. That’s not for everybody. For most people, it’s not worth it with the stocks. Just buy the index funds and do other things that you can have more control over, I think.


Justin Donald: Yeah. I agree. 99% of the world, just go index funds, hands down, if you want exposure. But I would also say make sure that you’re not overexposed to the stock market. You know, the wealthiest people in the United States specifically have about 20% to 25% of their overall net worth in the stock market. Some may stretch it to 30%. And a lot of people, the reason that they even have that part of the portfolio, besides just the asset allocation, is so that they have the ability to leverage it and borrow money for other investments. And so, that’s kind of a unique thing. But a lot of people I talk to, they’re 100% or 90% or 95% in the stock market. And that’s a lot to have in one basket.


Nick Gray: That’s a lot of risk.


Justin Donald: Yes. So, you’re a man of many talents. You’ve got a blog, you’ve got a newsletter that is kind of like your friend’s newsletter, like, “Hey, here’s all the cool stuff going on,” which I think is fantastic. You write for Wikipedia. I mean, there’s so much different stuff that you do. I would love to hear how you got into writing because you just recently wrote a book, but there had to be some things that led up to your joy for writing.


Nick Gray: I’ve lived a very online lifestyle and so similar to writing, and I also share a lot on my stories, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter. I was the first user of the video website called Vimeo. You know, I’ve lived a lot of my life online, and I love having a personal blog on the Internet, sharing things for my friends that I like, and being able to amplify and be a voice to the really great things that I like in life to support my friends. I think that’s just great. I love doing that. And nobody loves to read my blog more than me. I love to read my own blog, of course, but I think in having a website for so long, I’ve seen the value of it. And I encourage all your listeners to think about starting your own friends’ newsletter. You know, it doesn’t have to be, think about when you were growing up, Justin, did your family send out like a Christmas card around the holidays?


Justin Donald: Yeah. We did intermittently but we had family members that were religious about it and we would always get it every year with a nice, long update of what’s going on and you just felt like you reconnected.


Nick Gray: Right? Isn’t that in it? I should write about this. This is a tradition that everybody knows about maybe in America. I’m assuming it’s an American thing. I don’t know where it came from. Everybody knows about it. It is something that happens. Nobody really talks about it but there’s something so special in those annual letters. And I started doing something like that for my friends. Not annually. I would do it quarterly and I just send them just, what’s going on, some fun photos, a cool movie I saw. I tried to add a little more value. So, it wasn’t just about me but it was about great things where there’s a product I purchased, an experience I had, a great book that I read, and trying to add value and send it out about quarterly to my friends on BCC and, wow, I’ve gotten so much value from that. Staying in touch with people. Yeah.


Justin Donald: I was going to say think of the Tim Ferriss’ Friday email but only like chockfull of like a lot more detail and content. I think they’re just fantastic. I love learning like what my friends are enjoying doing or the experiences that they’re having that maybe I’ve never even thought about having before. Like, that is so fun to me.


Nick Gray: Yeah. Speaking of which, you told me about a great place I got to go, I think, in Tennessee and hearing about those from friends is incredible.


Justin Donald: Yeah. BlackBerry Farm and BlackBerry Mountain. So, I’d love to share this. I didn’t get a chance. I don’t even know if I did on my last few podcast but we tried to get out to BlackBerry to one of their properties, either the farm or the mountain every year, and it’s just an unbelievable experience. The food is just to die for, second to none. I mean, this is Michelin star-level food. But then you’ve got this gorgeous outdoors. You’re nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s in Wallan, Tennessee. It’s literally one of the top three rated resorts in the US every year. It’s just incredible. Yeah. And for those with families that, you know, at least BlackBerry Mountain, I think the farm, BlackBerry Farm, also has kids activities, kids camps, and stuff. And so, we’ve done it as a family. My wife and I have done it just as couples. We’ve done it with friends. It’s a blast. So, yeah, if you haven’t been, it’s got to go to the top of your list. For anyone that wants an epic experience, like the highest quality, now it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. And this is premier in terms of like spa, amenities, nature, hiking trails, food experiences, wine experiences, tequila experiences, you name it. It’s just so fun.


Nick Gray: That sounds great.


Justin Donald: Yeah. So, before we segue into your book, something I think it’ll be really fun to talk about is your website,, is one of the fastest websites, fastest loading websites, because you got some hacks, you know some stuff, you got skills and all these different arenas. And so, I just want to give you a shout-out in that because I test it sometimes. I’m like, “Man, this thing loads so fast.”


Nick Gray: Oh, man. Yeah. You know, a lot of websites run off of WordPress and I’m not saying Cloudflare just because I’m an investor, but it does really help to speed up your website. But on WordPress, I use a theme called GeneratePress that has been really fast and it helps things to load. And on my book website, we’ve built that from the ground up using GeneratePress and it scores pretty well. There’s a lot more. That’s a hobby for me. It is something that I love to do and that I’m obsessed with speed. There are some business benefits. Your site will rank slightly higher in the Google search results occasionally if your website is faster. But for me, sometimes that is just a great hobby. I’m 40. I’m single. I don’t have any kids. What else am I going to do besides tweak me and my friend’s website speeds and things like that?


Justin Donald: I love it. Now, is it Elementor supposed to be like the new upgrades that you’re supposed to use? Someone just recently told me.


Nick Gray: That’s a good tool. That’s a website builder. So, it’s a little different than the theme I think. Elementor is a part of WordPress and it helps you to design the layout of these pages and things like that. I think ultimately the biggest piece of advice I could have for your listeners is you need to be thinking about mobile first. A lot of times we’ll make our web pages and we’ll say, “Oh, it looks good on desktop. Let me just look and see how it looks good on your phone.” Only look at your design samples on your phone first. The transition to how many people are going to view your thing on your phone, if they’re not already, there used to be about half and half, but I’m increasingly seeing 70% of my visitors are coming on their phone. And so, really thinking about that phone experience, first and foremost, so important.


Justin Donald: You know, all this cool stuff. You’re just a wealth of knowledge. I’m so glad to have you on the show and I’m most excited to talk about your new book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. What was the genesis for this? By the way, incredible idea. And just this whole, you know, I love hosting parties. We just hosted a really big party a couple of weeks ago.


Nick Gray: Oh, really?


Justin Donald: Yeah.


Nick Gray: Tell me, tell me, tell me.


Justin Donald: Well, I had my birthday party with my family and then I always like to do kind of one with the friends and invite people in. And for the last number of years, we’ve just kind of gone out to a favorite restaurant and done something. This year I said, “Well, I just want to host it at home.” So, we had a whole bunch of our closest friends come in, a bunch of people fly in from out of town, and we just had this incredible event. As you know, we just moved into our home not too long ago. So, it’s great being able to have a place that we could entertain but also be settled ourselves so it was epic.


Nick Gray: Dude, I love that you did it at home. I love that you did it at home. It is such a more generous, intimate, personal experience when you host at home. I talk about that in my book, but kudos to you for hosting.


Justin Donald: Well, I agree. It’s amazing. And I’m going to do it. I mean, because of how intimate it was and just the way just the interactions, the quality of conversation, I mean, I just made the decision I’m going to do it from here on out. So, you’re on to something big time.


Nick Gray: Nice. And yeah, well, a lot of your listeners might be like, “Ah, host at home? My house is not as big as I want. It’s not as clean as I want. It’s not in a good location.” I work with a lot of people that host their first party at home, and that’s now what I’m oddly passionate about and how I’m spending my time. And what most people find out is the size, the condition, the location of your home doesn’t matter. You might think that these impressions and what are people going to think of you? But the very nature of hosting at home, inviting people into your space is such a vulnerable, generous act that any hesitation or premonition that people have from the outside will be washed away when they see that you have the confidence to step up and to gather. So, for anyone listening who might not be doing, “Well, I don’t have a huge mansion like Justin does,” I’m telling you, you don’t need that. I live now in a very small apartment here in Austin. I’ve hosted parties in New York City where I’ve hosted hundreds of parties. I had a tiny apartment, basically, a one-room studio apartment. And even in those places, sometimes it’s more exciting because they’re so packed in and the energy is just electric.


Justin Donald: I couldn’t agree with you more. You know, I rented an apartment right when I graduated from college that was in Chicago. I got a condo in Lincoln Park. I mean, these are really small homes or places that I live. But we threw some really fun parties a little different than the parties we throw today. When I lived in St Louis, I had a place downtown and it wasn’t that big but we threw some really fun parties there. And then same thing, we moved out into the suburbs of St. Louis and then we moved to Austin. Every place we’ve ever lived we have hosted some sort of party. And one of the things I’ve always wanted to do is had like this annual gala or some sort of themed, I don’t know, that needs to be like a themed party, but like an annual party that people just they know is going to happen and they can plan for it. And out-of-town guests can travel in. I just love that.


Nick Gray: I love that idea. And I think what’s really interesting is that today you run these mastermind groups and you have a very large community. And I would guess that you’ve developed those skills through your adult life by hosting these events.


Justin Donald: Oh, 100%.


Nick Gray: And that’s something that’s so special that anyone can learn how to do this. All that it takes is a simple cocktail party to get started. And so, I wrote this book that came about from me hosting hundreds of parties, building a network that helped me launch my last company. I’ve seen so many benefits myself, really never having been a host and then becoming one. And so, I wrote down everything that I’ve learned, and I’ve trained about 65 people how to do exactly the same thing, and they’ve gotten better jobs. This one guy moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and didn’t know a single individual there. Not even a friend he could call for a beer on a Friday night. They moved there because of his wife’s family and he started to host parties and threw out, you know, through a host. That doesn’t happen overnight but after a couple of months, he got an incredible C-level job at this education software business. He’s now a director at this company, and all of that came from people that he met by hosting these events. And so, that’s my new goal and my mission is to help other people get those same benefits I got.


Justin Donald: So, what are some of the hacks on this? So, you’ve got a good contingent of people that are going to read every word in the book. You’re going to have some people who are going to read until they forget that they’re not reading it. And then you’re going to have other people that probably don’t read it. What’s the message that you want to share? Because in talking to you ahead of time, we had discussed like it’s not difficult to throw these parties. It’s easier than people think but most people just don’t know where to start, don’t know maybe how to host or what questions to ask or who to invite.


Nick Gray: It’s huge, right? So, I’ll say the first step because your listeners are very proactive and they want more from life and they’re interested. They’re lifelong learners. So, I’ll tell you that if you’re listening to this now, the first step, even before, even if you don’t know how to do it, the first step is to look at your calendar and choose a date 3 to 4 weeks from today but here’s the hack. You’re going to host your party on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night. You’re going to pick one of those days. Now, why do we pick a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night? Because those are not socially competitive days. There are days when people are going to be available to come by and drop by your party, and that’s what success is. For your first party, you want to have everybody show up. That’s the biggest fear of a new host. Their biggest fear is that nobody is going to show up. And so, a lot of my work involves guaranteeing that over 90% of all the people who say they’re going to come actually will come. So, that’s a huge thing.


Step one is to choose a date. Look at your calendar right now, look at it, and choose a date, a Monday or a Tuesday or Wednesday night, at least three weeks, maybe four weeks in advance. And then by giving yourself three or four weeks, you have a long party runway that gives you plenty of time to invite and fill up your guest list, to buy a few supplies. You know, it won’t cost you more than $100 in supplies. Just some basic alcohol and mixers. Some plastic cups, some nametags, a marker. Once you do that, though, the next hack is that you’re going to check that date and time. And by the way, it’s only 2 hours long. When I host parties here in Austin, I like 6 to 8 p.m. because people do things a little earlier. But in New York, it was 7 to 9 p.m. or 8 to 10 p.m. But it’s only 2 hours long. And what are you going to do as the next hack once you choose the date is you’re going to reach out and send a text message one-to-one to five people and try to get five yeses.


So, I may send a message to Justin as a close friend and say, “Hey, Justin, I’m thinking of hosting a party on Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. on August 27th. If I do it, would you come?” And once you get those five yeses, then your party is happening and then it’s on, and then you can invite some other people. So, that’s the beginning nature of the hack on how to get started.


Justin Donald: I love it. Now, something cool that you still do is you help people. You sometimes will host parties on their behalf. Is that something that you’re still doing?


Nick Gray: I still do. In fact, tonight I’m doing one for my friend, Neville Medhora, who lives here in Austin. And he said, “Oh, man, I haven’t gathered people. You know, I want to do it. I have this brand new house.” I said, “Neville, all it takes is a cocktail party. I’ll show you exactly how.” But the biggest thing I think is you host masterminds and masterminds are actually very complicated and they’re very advanced. And it’s my opinion that most people are better served to start with a cocktail party and then do a dinner party and then maybe try to do a mastermind. But really, a cocktail party is so easy and you won’t mess it up versus dinner. It’s so stressful, you know? It’s like anybody can host a dinner party exactly once and most people will never do it again. It’s too stressful. They’re like, “Ah, that was nice, but it’s too much work.” I found that the hack was that to build my network I could get 80% of the benefits with 20% of the work by just hosting a cocktail party.


Justin Donald: I love it. And you don’t even drink if memory serves me correctly, right?


Nick Gray: That’s right. That’s right.


Justin Donald: So, you host these cocktail parties but you don’t even drink. So, for anyone that’s like, “Well, I don’t drink or my friends don’t drink or some of my friends don’t drink,” it really doesn’t matter. You can host these with mocktails. Have your sparkling water, your spritzers, whatever. Right?


Nick Gray: Exactly. It’s not about the alcohol. It’s about that phrase “cocktail party.” What do we think of? When we hear the word cocktail party, we think lightweight, easy social occasion, somewhat casual, where you’ll meet some new people and there’ll be a lot of little conversations. Here’s the reason why. The phrase cocktail party connotates for people an easy invitation that they’re more likely to say yes to. And all my work is just how can you get people to come? And when you say cocktail party, think about that LinkedIn connection that maybe you have, you haven’t talked to in two years. But if you were to randomly reach out and say, “Hey, I’m getting some friends together,” new and old friends and acquaintances, just have a little cocktail party. That is so much of an easier invite than, “Hey, I would love to have a one-on-one dinner with you.” I don’t know. It’s easy. I’m just all about just trying to make it easy for people.


Justin Donald: I love it. Well, I’m so excited for people, you know, in my community to host their first party. And it’s just been so fun getting time with you and learning like all these different arenas that you have expertise in and skills in. Where can people learn more about you? Where can people get your book? Help us find out how we can support you.


Nick Gray: So, I wrote a couple of articles that I’d love to include in the show notes. One is how to host a happy hour. One is how to plan a networking event. And the other, this is a crazy one but women have really like this, how to host a clothing swap. Little social events like this are so helpful these days. And most American adults haven’t made a new friend in three years. And as we think about being lifestyle investors, remember that a lot of deals and business opportunities don’t come from our best friends, but they come from our network of acquaintances, our weak ties or our loose connections. When you host events like this, you will strengthen your network to get more opportunities. You can find me on my blog, which is, and the name of my book is the 2-Hour Cocktail Party. You can find it on Amazon or anywhere the books are sold online and I’m really proud of it. I’ll give a satisfaction guarantee for any of your listeners who buy it. I’m super, super proud. I think it’s great, it’s a very practical and tactical book. Thank you for getting it. You bought it.


Justin Donald: I’ve got mine here. Mine is on the top of the bookshelf. I notice that you can’t actually see it with the lens here, but I want you to know I got it right there. So, whenever I do my standing events, you can see it.


Nick Gray: Thank you.


Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, hey, this has been so much fun learning about you and who you are and all the cool stuff that you’re up to. I’d love to just let everyone know that if you have any interest in applying to the world’s most exclusive mastermind with savvy investors looking to gain more control of their time and build their wealth by looking at invisible deals, deals that are just not open to the public with preferred terms and de-risk terms and ways to accelerate the returns on the investment, be sure to check out And I want to close the way that I close every single week which is this: What is one step you can take today to take some form of action towards financial freedom, living the life that you desire, a life by design, not by default, one that’s on your terms? Thanks. And we’ll catch you next week.


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