Dream hard and dream long. It’s important to manifest what you want and knock out your goals by writing them down. I used to watch Youtube videos for 6 hours a night watching drummers I aspired to be and put myself in their shoes until it finally happened for me. I used to love watching Blink 182 play TRL back in the day and I always wanted to do the same thing. I made sure to make that happen and when I was 18 got to play TRL!
Nicholas William (Nick) Gross (born July 19, 1988) is a musician, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the Founder & CEO of Gross Labs, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Find Your Grind and Find Your Grind Foundation, CEO of Big Noise, and Co-Founder of Rogue eSports. Nick (also drummer for LA’s alternative pop-rock band Half the Animal) is leveraging his artist relationships as mentors for students through Find Your Grind. They also connect these high profile artist mentors like Pusha T, Will.I.AM and others on the Find Your Grind app to reveal how they turned their passions into careers. The platform offers real-life career experiences with the high profile FYG mentors on Find Your Grind’s podcast, the First Ten Percent, where Nick talks to guests about personal lifestyle paths & journeys.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Nick! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Laguna Beach, CA. Basically the most epic city on the planet to grow up in. Surfing, beaches, activity, it was really an amazing experience. I played ice hockey when I was five years old until about fourteen super competitively in Canada and was the captain of my team for a few years. I slowly phased out of ice hockey and started a band when I was thirteen that ended up having a reality show on MTV called Laguna Beach and we were signed to Sony Epic Records as seventeen-year-old kids. This launched a career in music for me and taught me a ton about what it takes to grow a business. Two weeks before I started at USC I dropped out of school to pursue my passion around music. My father was a finance guy and my Mom was a real estate project manager. Overall it was a really interesting environment to grow up in.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
My first record deal with Sony Epic was that real moment where my hobby turned into a business. Having that foundation in the beginning was huge for me, it allowed me to create my first recording studio in Los Angeles and my first songwriting team where we started to write songs for other artists and getting cuts on major label albums. From the launch of our recording studio, I started my first label and also my first batch of small investments in early stage companies that I was passionate about. I’m talking about super small investments just to get involved in other things and figure out how to offer more value to the artists I was working with. Fast forward a few years later and we have multiple areas of business through my entertainment company Gross Labs. We focus on different silos of opportunities in education, music, animation, investments, philanthropy and more. I really believe in the intersection of all these areas to provide wider opportunities for the artists and talent we work with to distribute their work in unique ways. For example, my live events team for our music division, Big Noise, built our entire Find Your Grind festival called FYGU on college campuses across the country. We’re plugging in a ton of our emerging artists into these festivals which is allowing them to practice being in front of larger audiences and gaining them national exposure. Our education company Find Your Grind started out of my recording studio in Los Angeles and the goal of that was to expose young kids to a career path in music and giving them real hands-on experiences with music gear, mentors, and more around this same time was when I met Mike Smith who was the #1 youth speaker in the country and had a live events tour in high schools where he was speaking to thousands of students every day about “finding their grind”. When I met Mike, this was the AH-HA moment for me to take Find Your Grind from a small activation at my studio to a much larger brand that could have impact in front of real students. From here, we created a curriculum, filmed tons of content on mentors and bring real tools that teachers and students could use into the classroom.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Not being afraid to fail, not being afraid to try new things and not being afraid to make a ton of mistakes. Really it sounds cliche but it’s all so true. I never enjoyed school and wasn’t an academic learner and wished there were more tools that catered to me as a human and what my skill sets and interests were. Teaching to the “whole student” is so important. My personality is naturally so driven to make things work and build ideas that are exciting to me, I love to throw myself into the fire and enjoy as much of the process as I can.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
My advice would be that there isn’t anything bad in hobbies or pastimes. If you want to go ALL IN on an idea, make the decision and stick to it. I have plenty of other hobbies that I enjoy doing, that doesn’t mean that all my hobbies have to be businesses or that I have to do them for a living. Try to be really self aware of what makes you tick and gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning and go after THAT. Time is short, it goes by quickly, so I would suggest really spending your time in an area that you love and that allows you to live through your work and enjoy your lifestyle.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Start with the lifestyle you want to live first, look at the strengths you inherently have, and then look at careers and opportunities last that line up to your lifestyle interests last. The goal is to do something for a living that allows you to feel good and LIVE through your work. Waking up to work for the man 9–5 has never been something on my radar as something interesting to do, but to some people that might be a huge goal for them. It all depends. Careers are changing quickly, the way people are getting hired is completely changing, and the freelance economy will only get larger moving into 2025/2030. There are more ways than ever now to create ENJOYABLE careers and work. I always think it’s important in whatever work your doing to spend some time separating yourself from the work and coming back to it. Even if it’s for a few days, it will keep things fresh!
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I love being in control of my own business and empowering others that work for the business. It’s great having the flexibility of building your own thing, but that also comes with a lot of responsibility. The downsides of running your own business are dealing with the people that inevitably sometimes leave the company, re-hiring the right people while also trying to grow the vision and business mode. Showing up and being prepared to put in long hour days is how I’ve overcome the constant change of my business.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
This is exactly how I thought it would be.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
I’ve never thought about that. I believe I was born to be in control of my own destiny and how my life develops. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing WRONG with working in familiar areas or taking a safe job to get your feet underneath you. Having side hustles and working side jobs for a lot of people can provide you the foundation you need to start on a personal business idea. Just try to stay focused, go to the gym, get yourself in a positive mindset and set goals for yourself each month and goals for the year. I write things down religiously and check things off as they progress.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when first starting Find Your Grind was planning what I was going to speak about on stage for the first time on our High School National tour. It felt too rehearsed and I completely messed up my talk and what I wanted to say because I wasn’t being authentic and speaking from the heart! I learned a lot from that moment, just to speak openly and honestly as best you can. People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you said it.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
My new baby boy inspires me every day to be a better and better leader. He’s my first, so I’m so stoked. The best thing in the world! I also read a lot of books to stay up to speed and gain more knowledge. Also, the people I’ve hired into my businesses at Gross Labs push me to be a better leader every day. Leading a team of people requires a lot of characteristics that some of us are born with and some of us have to develop over time.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I created a foundation and started to give back to youth by providing them experiences to grow in their area of interest. I really believe knowing what direction you want to go in comes from having DONE things and experienced things and a huge part about your surroundings. If you don’t know what’s possible or how to get there, it makes it a much tougher road.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s going to be a long road, be patient. I want things to allows happen fast. When I got my first record deal with my band, I thought we had it made. Little did I know it was going to be a long process from there and LOTS more work ahead.
- Dream hard and dream long. It’s important to manifest what you want and knock out your goals by writing them down. I used to watch Youtube videos for 6 hours a night watching drummers I aspired to be and put myself in their shoes until it finally happened for me. I used to love watching Blink 182 play TRL back in the day and I always wanted to do the same thing. I made sure to make that happen and when I was 18 got to play TRL!
- Practice like you Play. How you do anything is how you do everything. Don’t practice at a different level then how you expect to perform when it comes down to crunch time.
- Enjoy the process. Taking a step back to enjoy the process has been a huge one for me that I wish I knew earlier. Not always thinking about the destination but appreciating the direction is key. With Find Your Grind, sometimes we get caught up in the outcome we want to have 24/7 which is HUGELY important, but the process of what we’re doing to get there is just as important.
- People don’t remember what you say they remember how you say it. Speaking and directing your vision with authority and conviction is more important than the actual content in my opinion. Obviously, know what your vision is and where you want your company to go, but make sure to convey that in an affirmative way.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d make an effort to really focus on our climate, environment, and clean water for the world. I feel people don’t respect the planet enough and the power that the universe has. We’re all made of energy and we need more positive energy in the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The Future Belongs to the Misfits. “
I love this one because it really resonates with everything we’re doing at Find Your Grind. We live by this quote. The future is going to belong to those who are thinking differently about the future, preparing for what’s ahead and are able to be critical thinkers, collaborators,and innovators. Misfits don’t fit in with the manufactured way of “how things should be”. They are redefining the future of industries and ideas and working on their own terms.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to sit with Gary Vanerchuk or LeBron. True game changers and thought leaders with incredible mindsets. I believe they would both resonate well with helping people find their grind and find their true calling. I’m sure it would be a very productive lunch with huge outcomes!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.