Here are the notes I took while reading DJ Khaled’s book called The Keys.
1) “They” represents those who want you to fail. “Keys” are the guiding principles to prosperity – commandments that’ll lead you to success. And “they” definitely don’t want you to have the keys.
2) Success doesn’t come fast and the work never ends. The keys will keep you focused, no matter how many days or weeks you feel down-and-out.
3) Be thankful every minute of every day for what you have. Don’t complain. Keep your energy and vibe clean so that other good people want to be around you.
4) Being able to do what you love without any pretense or filters is a gift. You feel like you have the greatest job in the world.
5) “We the best” means exactly what it says. Emphasis on we though. For Khaled, that means him, his fans, his crew, and everyone around him with love and positive energy. You have to believe you’re the best at what you do. Own it. Speak it into existence. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest – I said that even before I knew I was.”
6) Stay away from “they.” Keep your circle small and your “they” detector dialed. When you discover a “they,” cut them loose. Do it quick and clean. You have no choice if you want to prosper and experience true joy – a life that’s free of hate, doubt, envy, and trash vibes. Always do the exact opposite of what “they” want and you’ll succeed.
7) Be yourself. When you’re an original, you’ll look crazy at first… but eventually people will know exactly what to come to you for. Having a distinct brand and voice helps you corner the market. When you’re not yourself, how do you live with yourself? Learn who you are. Combine natural talents with what makes you happy and you’ll be unstoppable. Don’t forget to take out the trash. Remove anything from your life that makes you unhappy. Sounds obvious, but people forget to do this. Being yourself is powerful. It’s also one of the toughest keys to master. Not being true to yourself is how you know that “they” are in your head. Being real when other people are fake is what sets you apart. Make peace with who you are, accept that you’re one of one, and love yourself so that others can too.
8) “Special cloth” means you’re special edition. When someone compares you to everyone else, it doesn’t even make sense. It’s scary and challenging to be unique; and “they” will try to change you. Don’t let them. Study other “special cloths” who made it big and find courage in their stories. “Overstand” (do more than just understand) what made them great.
9) Don’t ever play yourself. Meaning, don’t do anything foolish to compromise your joy and prosperity. And when you make a mistake, learn from it. Grow. Don’t make it again. Foresee the consequences so you can sidestep the setbacks.
10) “Secure the bag.” Be responsible with your money. Know where it is at all times. Have enough of it on hand to jump on opportunities that come your way. Sometimes it means hitting pause on your dreams. Early on, DJ Khaled took a year off, moved in with his parents, and worked as a busboy to save up so he could make a real run towards his vision.
11) Don’t complain. Complaints are just excuses. People who have long-winded explanations about why they can’t do things never become bosses. That’s a fact.
12) “They” will try to close the “door” (present obstacles); just open it. If you can’t open it, break it down, rip the door off, and put the hinges in the haters’ hands. Either way, once you’re in, be smart. Keep your eyes open. Ask questions. Learn the game. Don’t make the mistakes other bosses are making. Look for the next “door.” Get through it. Repeat. Some obstacles take time, but once you overcome them, they pay out big time. Example: it took DJ Khaled a year to get a verse from Jay Z. Today, Jay Z is Khaled’s manager. That was a “door” worth getting through.
13) Stay humble. Be grateful for your blessings and remember everyone who helped you along the way, especially when there were “storms” (dark periods). Become familiar with the legends of your industry. And respect the up-and-comers.
14) “Respect the code.” Treat people the way you want to be treated. Keep your word. Be trustworthy. Stay loyal. Don’t be evil. Do all these things together, and always have a good vibe around you, and you’ll have the best relationships with those who matter most. Sometimes, this means passing on money. When everyone “respects the code” and moves with a clean heart, everybody thrives.
15) “Bless up.” Acknowledge your blessings. Spread positivity and gratitude and come together with those around you.
16) Go harder than everyone else. Always. It doesn’t matter how big you get. You can’t be afraid to keep taking risks; you can’t worry about someone telling you no; you can’t sweat “they” seeing you fail.
17) There’s no such thing as “there’s nothing to do.” Create something to do. You have to keep cooking when you’re hot. Care about your career. Do as much as you can every day to advance it. Secure multiple bags. There’s no limit on success. The more “rooms you’re cookin’ in,” the more you minimize risk.
18) Temptation is a type of “they.” Whether food, booze, drugs, infidelity, or anything else, you can’t maintain respect if people see you out of control. Don’t advertise any signs of weakness. If you fall into temptation’s trap, you may never get out. Let winning be the ultimate high.
19) Choose your own wins. Risk it all and bet on yourself. This means “securing your bag” and doubling down on your vision. Never let “they” diminish your value.
20) Glorify your own success. Why? Because nobody else will. So enjoy the moment. Celebrate a little. Give thanks to all those who made it possible. Think about how far you’ve come. Marketing yourself beautifully is a major key because you never know who’s watching. It could be a mogul who wants to do business with you in the future. Winners don’t hide their wins. Don’t let “they” tell you you’re bragging. Glorifying your wins lets “they” know you kept your word and went out and did what you said you’d do. It’s contagious. Everyone wants to work with winners.
21) Once you have food on the table and a roof over your head, stop chasing money. Let it chase you. And you should be busy chasing the vision. Besides, settling for quick and easy money often leads to work you’re not proud of.
22) Win, win, win, no matter what. The only way you’re guaranteed to stay being able to do the work you love doing is if you’re successful. The answer is always more success. Going hard can never stop. Winning can never stop. Getting comfy is dinosaur sh*t. Not watching your back for what’s next will lead to extinction. You’re never too big to fail. The second the “wire hits” (you score a payday), you need to be thinking about the next win and the one after that. Keep as many deals going as you can without sacrificing quality. Know your limits but be willing to push past them.
23) Don’t just be a star; be a superstar. Keep winning. Each success is an opportunity for more success. Which is what DJ Khaled means when he says, “And another one.” Then, one day, when your life is filled with so much joy that you feel like your heart will burst, share that joy and teach others these keys.
Now here’s some “Fan Luv,” as Khaled calls it: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but The Keys is one of the best books I’ve read about business, mindset, success, happiness – all the above.
I love hip-hop, so yeah, I’m biased. But I think this book is far more real and fun and useful than the dozens of dry self-help books I’ve read. I can’t recommend it enough.
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