This was supposed to be a newsletter about resolutions, motivation and goals for the new year. I had my new Muji notebook and cute little pen all ready. Then my friend Eric sent me this video of DJ Khaled— shirtless, sweating and commanding a one-man dance party—and I knew that I could never motivate you the way he can. "Ideas is flowing and im GLOWING ! Producing something special!" he captioned on Instagram. "#WETHEBEST ALL CATEGORIES. When shirt come off jus know."
Actually, I have no idea what he means. Nobody does...It just gets the people going, as they say. DJ Khaled is something of a treasure in hip-hop. Despite his name and the fact that he has released 12 studio albums, he's not a DJ, artist or even producer in the traditional sense. People often ask: "What exactly does he do?" There's no answer. Somehow his energy, feel-good vibes and propensity to use the phrase "we the best" over and over have made him one of entertainment's most successful, connected and happy people.
So, what can we learn from this shirtless hip-hop guru to make 2022 the year that we're the best?
Started from the Bottom: The mainstream public has known DJ Khaled from around 2015, when his ability to turn himself into funny viral clips made him the "Snapchat King" (RIP Snapchat). But those in hip-hop, especially in Miami, have known him as a radio personality and dot-connector since the '90s. Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was DJ Khaled— or you. Don't feel pressured to accomplish everything in one calendar year. 2022 is a step on the much longer journey. It's a marathon.
New Friends: Khaled once released a record called "No New Friends" with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne but that's the furthest thing from who he is. One of the multi-hyphenate's biggest strengths is networking with everyone. And I mean, everyone. The first time I interviewed him was at a strip club. True story. Still, he has no problem schmoozing beyond hip-hop and entertainment into the circles of business, politics and fashion. Those connections could pay off today or in 10 years. Remember: Your network is your net worth. Make sure that you're connecting (yes, even during work-from-home) with like-minded people in your industry and beyond. Use social media, LinkedIn and Zoom happy hours to your advantage until we get back to business as usual.
Take the Call: I recently joked that I need Khaled's branding agent because this guy stays getting money. Shout outs to Lenny S from Roc Nation. I'm not just talking about deals typical of hip-hop artists either. This guy has checks from Weight Watchers, Dolce & Gabbana, energy drinks and everything in between. It might not be possible that we all go sign to Roc Nation, but what we can take away is to be open to every single career opportunity. Sure you have a job title now but that doesn't mean you can't pivot or add nuance to it. Take the call. Just because something is outside of your purview doesn't mean that it's not a great opportunity.
As a kid, my "dream job" was to work at a record label as a product manager. If any of you know me, that would not be a good fit in retrospect. If I hadn't entertained unexpected opportunities in writing and become comfortable being in front of the camera, I wouldn't be here now. It was scary. Some people, even "friends," had things to say—mostly subliminally—but guess what? I don't care. Haters gonna hate.
Be a Buddy: Khaled doesn't just hype himself up, he's everyone's hypeman. Whether Beyonce needs an opener or Joe Biden wants help rocking the vote in Miami, you can call him. It's easy to be in a selfish mindset when you're chasing a goal but you have to give a little to get a little. Step back and see where you can add value to other people's dreams and aspirations. And don't keep tabs. Just pay it forward, knowing that you are accruing good karma.
Lean In: I wonder if DJ Khaled has read Lean In? Either way, he has fully leaned in to who he is. He has embraced the things about himself—like being Muslim or a dad—that some would hide and has made it a part of his brand. He's a goofball. He likes to be shirtless (regardless of what his Weight Watchers group might say). People gravitate towards authenticity. He even makes his toddler sons the executive producers on his albums. So, be yourself. Post that video. Forget the critics. It doesn't matter what people will say (or write in a newsletter)about you.
Say What You Need to Say: Words have power. What you say—to yourself and out loud—shapes your reality. When your entire existence is aphorisms about success and winning, that has influence. And it doesn't stop at just "We the best!" Khaled has literally named his music with titles like "All I Do Is Win" and Grateful. Call it self-fulfilling prophecy or good vibes but it works.
Let's kick off 2022 with one of my favorite sayings from the man himself, which I hope guides and inspires you all year long: “All I do is WIN, WIN, WIN no matter what.”
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