About

About Nick Wolny

Nick Wolny is a senior editor, a freelance writer, a business consultant, and a leading voice on LGBTQ capitalism.

Contributing For

USA Today
Business Insider
Next Advisor
FOX
NBC
Fast Company
Time
Fortune
Social Media Examiner
Out
CBS
Entrepreneur

I stumbled into business and marketing by accident.

Growing up in a low-income household, I didn’t have financial resources or journalism training. But I did love to think and create. As a kid, I would draw mazes and devour fantasy novels. I wanted to one day study mathematics or architecture.

In fifth grade, I had a chance to sign up for band class. My last name begins with "W", so by the time they got to me, there were only two instruments left: French horn and tuba. The French horn weighed less, so I picked that.

And... my whole life changed in that moment.

Music let me express myself fully when I wasn't ready to come out of the closet yet. It’s an outlet that forces you to be both technical and creative – like architecture. Music became my thing.

About

So I spent 14 years of my life mastering how air flows through a brass tube. I won competitions, got to play at places like Carnegie Hall, and was even admitted to Juilliard. I leveraged this offer for a full scholarship to Rice University, another top music school.

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When I graduated from conservatory—which is a fancy word for “music college for nerds”— I was shocked to find that my skill set of sitting in an orchestra and following a man wave a stick around did not immediately qualify me for meaningful, high-salary work.

Playing the French Horn isn’t what you’d call a versatile skill. In fact, it turns out the only thing being good at the French Horn qualifies you to do is a job that requires you to... play the French Horn. Such jobs, it turns out, are rare. (There are very practical applications for this skill set — especially in writing, behavior, and business. At the time, however, I hadn't discovered them yet.)

So I found myself experiencing the now all-too-common plight of the millennial generation: Educated, but very unemployable. In fairness to millennials, most of them major in something a bit less niche.

My prospects were grim. I was broke, had no skills, and was tens of thousands of dollars in debt With little else to do, I packed away my French Horn and joined the working masses, opting into a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of uninspiring jobs:

  • Barista
  • Administrative assistant
  • Retail associate
  • Fitness instructor

I went in for my part-time retail job and watched a decal dry on a window for seven hours. The day after I got my Master's degree in classical music,

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Simple as these jobs were, I wasn’t particularly good at any of them because I had spent most of my formative years in a windowless practice room. Basic work skills were foreign to me.

I was so incompetent that I ghosted my second day of work at that retail job because I couldn’t read the weekly schedule, which was sent out as an Excel spreadsheet. Who knew spreadsheets had tabs?

Embarrassed at my inability to read a Excel file – but too shy to come out of the closet a second time as "spreadsheet-illiterate" – I stayed home and felt sorry for myself, blaring out a mournful tune on my stupid French Horn. Which is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.

The French Horn is not meant for playing the blues.

At least, I didn’t think so. But I wasn’t actually sure.

So I pulled out my laptop and Googled “French Horn blues.”Turns out there were some scales.

I opened them up and began to play, sipping on a whiskey-spiked coffee between my bluesy dirges.

I mangled the the first time through. But inside of an hour, I had them mastered. Sitting there, at a kitchen table, I realized something. 14 years of musical training hadn’t given me a ton of practical skills… but it had given me the ability to learn new skills.

About

Learning how to think and practice effectively had given me the ability to learn just about anything. And so, as I became increasingly passionate about business, behavior, and LGBTQ capitalism, my ability to “practice” the techniques entrepreneurs use to make consistent forward progress quickly became my best battle ax.

That ability is what has helped me develop my writing style, launch a successful consulting business, and find my footing online.

Identifying (and then taking) the right steps in the right order is why I've been able to get so much traction over the last few years, despite:

  • No bestselling book to my name
  • No fancy startup experience
  • No degrees in technology, journalism, or earth-shattering science (Hello, French Horn)
  • No massive social media presence

Music gave me a deep understanding of how to think as a creative, find clarity, and get ahead. Now I share what I’ve learned and what I’m seeing in business with thousands of readers every week in The Slide Grease, my weekly newsletter.

Join us for free by subscribing to The Slide Grease here.