What this rapper can teach you about winning at life
When it comes to looking up to people who have succeeded in their careers, many of them have had success in not just one genre but many in order to get to where they are. DJ Khaled is a perfect example of that as he is not only a fantastic DJ and rapper, but also an entrepreneur who has built his brand from the ground. He’s also carved out a place for himself as something of a lifestyle guru: touted as the first “Snapchat” celebrity, the Miami native and two-time Grammy nominee has developed a name for himself by endorsing positive behavior and introducing readers to “the keys”: a set of principles for life and career that are meant to help people rise above. Along the way, he’s worked with iconic superstars including Nicki Minaj, Drake, Nas, John Legend and, this week released a single with Beyonce and Jay-Z.
DJ Khaled has taken the “keys” life and turned them into a book that’s part memoir, part inspirational self-help manual. Named “The Keys,” the book recounts early episodes of Khaled’s life, including sleeping in his car and hustling to carry music equipment to his own shows interspersed with current scenes from his mansion and garden in Miami, and the lessons he has drawn from the trip. The “keys” in the book are the lessons he has unlocked to becoming a self-made millionaire.
Khaled’s approach is an inclusive one, rooted in a conviction that anyone can use the same tips to advancement. As he mentions. “Everything you see me do and say can be interpreted for any job, any age and any aspiration…we’re in this together, and together I truly believe we can be great.”
With all of that said, here are the ten best pieces of career advice that DJ Khaled gives in “The Keys.”
Reject the naysayers
Khaled describes the people who are considered “they” as the enemy in how you continue in life. “The person who wants to distract you from your studies or your career with their drama? That’s a ‘they’. That’s a big ‘they’.”
Khaled goes about the word “they” as people who he thought were originally “haters”, but go beyond that. They will get into your life, try to manipulate it and above all costs tell you that you won’t be enough. “They don’t want you to have stars on the roof of your Rolls Royce,” Khaled writes, evocatively, to show how “they” don’t want to see someone else winning at life. He recounts the “they” he knew: he was told he wouldn’t have a hip-hop album because he can’t rap, or become something after being a high school dropout, but he did. A lot of this stems from, according to him, “people who can’t elevate their own vision because they don’t want to progress in the pursuit of prosperity. Instead of being inspired to new heights, they want to drag you down to their level”. It boils down to keeping the naysayers out of your life and focusing on bettering yourself and the people around you who supported you from the beginning.
“We the Best”
This was probably the best piece of advice that I took from reading Khaled’s book, as confidence is a huge advantage when it comes to your professional self. It can be a tough thing to say “yes, I am the best” at something, but in his words, “you have to speak your success into existence, because absolutely no one will do it for you.”
Envision something, like a dream board, and it will happen. Khaled asked to be referred to as “Billi” because, and I quote, “I’m going to be a billionaire, so now I want you to greet me and call me Billi. This way everything will affirm and reaffirm my vision.” In other words, start talking and thinking of yourself as the person who has reached the goals you set: if you pay attention, it will keep you accountable, and it will keep you uplifted.
Don’t Ever Play Yourself
Self-sabotage is real, and we are often our own worst enemies. “Don’t do anything foolish to compromise your joy and prosperity,” warns Khaled. He relates a vivid anecdote of how he endangered his money and career: he drove repeatedly with a suspended license in Miami, where he kept getting ticket after ticket — each of which he laughed off. Finally a judge finally had enough and locked him up in jail for a night, which required bail and endless embarrassment. Sometimes, your confidence can grow so big that you forget that you aren’t untouchable, and in this case, he definitely wasn’t. He realized his hubris in not admitting when he made a mistake, and move on.
The lesson: Stay away from the foolishness, pay attention to the road and and stay focused on what will truly better your career overall.
Resilience: Weather the Storm
“Throughout one’s career, they are going to have to ride the wave in terms of highs and lows of it, especially dealing with the lows.“ Khaled discusses that the road to his success has been met with a ton of storms in the mixture of sunny days, but “to keep your head up and work through with your mind focused. Life is like school, you will be tested. The key is to pass it, and you have to do well on those tests over time in order to graduate”.
The tests for Khaled in this case ranged from everything that included having to sleep in his black Honda Civic when he moved permanently to Miami to having his own electricity in home shut off to pay his studio bills. But he has no regrets. “When I look back at my life, I wouldn’t trade any storm in my path if I had to do it all over again. Every time I had to struggle, I learned how to avoid it the next time or how to get out of it faster.” When it comes to weathering the storm, Khaled’s key advice is simply “always give it your best, no matter if you are up or down. Never surrender.”
When you find yourself becoming successful in your own career, whether it is entertainment or something else, you can find that your ego can swell and you can become arrogant or cocky with how far along you are moving. Khaled’s key is no matter what, to always stay humble.
He doesn’t want you to mistake being humble as not confident. He’s aware that he is the “greatest to ever do it,” but that “being humble means being grateful for your blessings and remembering everyone who helped guide you to them.” Whether it is touring with Beyonce or being personally invited to the White House by former President Barack Obama, he claims that “I’m on a level of grateful that I can’t even properly articulate. It’s amazing.” It’s a very interesting way to look at being humble when all it takes is the gratitude of others to get you there.
“Respect the Code”
Respect the Code simply means “treat people the way you want to be treated.” In career mode, it makes perfect sense as you can maintain some amazing relationships that can help guide you to bigger and better things.
Be honest, be up-front and be yourself, and the other person will be as well. “When everybody respects the code and moves with a clean heart, everybody thrives.”
“Keep Two Rooms Cooking at the Same Time”
When it comes to creativity, “don’t invest all your energy in one place. It’s like financial investments- spread it around.” I love this key that Khaled discusses because it allows you to find as many rooms as possible to creating what you are hoping to achieve. It’s all about keeping those juices flowing and understanding that your career is somewhat like a car, in that there is a ton of moving parts that need to keep it running.
Fan Luv for DJ Khaled is always about giving back to his fans and the people that helped him get to where he is now. It’s about appreciating who is around you, and letting them know how they helped you grow. You may not have fans screaming your name, but it’s likely you have mentors, supportive peers or others who cheer for your progress. It’s true in the entertainment world and rings the same for people in any sort of industry.
“Inspire the Young World”
As you get older, a new generation of people are coming into the work world and are looking for someone to inspire them in some sort of way. For Khaled, it is about breaking the “cycle” when it comes to uplifting the newer generations. “You’ve got old people mad at the new people, coming up on the Internet. It’s always been a cycle, for hundreds of years, no matter what game you were in. Old and new always fight when innovation changes the way things are. This can be scary to people, but to me this just means the opportunities come faster and faster. I love the new era. It’s all about perspective and it’s all about looking forward, not back.”
In other words, embrace the new, while still teaching your own ways on how you got there. It will get both generations much further in this path we call “work life.”
“Don’t Deny the Heat”
“What do I mean by heat? I mean that combination of special magic that makes a hit. It’s that rare energy that is unmistakable and undeniable. No matter where it comes from, if it comes, you’d better take it.”
The last and final key that I thought was worth mentioning is exactly this- if you have something that you think is really worth it in your career, run with it. This key encompasses all of the others to really get you where you need to go. That’s the beauty of your career- taking something you know can work, and watching it blossom.
Bonus Key: “Secure the Bag”
An important key that Khaled discusses in his book essentially is making sure that your finances are in order. Have money before you spend it, and remember that money is not just your path to freedom, but that it can also help you invest in further growth. Or in his words, “Sometimes when you secure the bag, then you can secure a bigger bag…it’s about having a down payment for the next investment.”
Many big life decisions have a financial aspect. Always make sure you are secure so that you can take advantage of opportunities to grow, or even start something new down the line. Then you can be, as DJ Khaled instructs, self-made.