There are many different paths to success. But if you want to be hugely successful, “world-class,” as Bill Gates once put it, then figure out what one thing you’re most passionate about and then give it your full and complete focus. Even if following that focus means different jobs or even different professions at different times.
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For Steve Jobs, his big passion was combining technological innovation with beautiful, simple design. He followed that single passion from Apple to NeXT to Pixar and back to Apple again. For Elon Musk, it’s inventing new technology that solves ambitious problems, whether that’s reducing carbon emissions at Tesla or colonizing Mars at SpaceX, or even circumventing the legendary Los Angeles traffic at the Boring Company.
For world-renowned DJ Steve Aoki, who is also a musician, record producer, recording engineer, event organizer, and record label founder, that passion is creating a culture around dance/electronica indie music. He used the phrase “creating a culture” or “building a culture” over and over in the hourlong interview used to create the brief video at the top of this page. Here’s how focusing on a single passion worked for Aoki, and how it can work for you, too.
1. Figure out what you really love.
For Aoki, this happened early, when he was attending college in Santa Barbara, California, and he and his friends began inviting indie bands to perform in their apartment and then sleep on the floor. Aoki discovered a love for supporting and helping to develop these bands and creating opportunities for them to be heard. He put together small club gigs (the next step up from the apartment gigs), helped them record their music, and soon started his record label, Dim Mak.
“It was all about the culture,” he said in the interview. “It was the lifeblood of what I was doing, and it just strengthened the business. It strengthened the culture, more importantly, the culture that Dim Mak was part of.”
2. Figure out how to make it pay.
Dim Mak was a big success, but not a financial success. To get himself out of debt and keep his record label afloat, Aoki began DJing four nights a week, upping his fees as his popularity grew. Being a DJ and running a record label are certainly two very different pursuits, but they both came out of Aoki’s singular focus on creating a culture and a home for the indie music he loved. There was synergy between his two jobs, for instance when Dim Mak artists turned up as guest stars at his DJ gigs.
Sometimes your first attempt at turning your passion into a profession may fail, or at least may fail to provide you with a good living. But as Aoki demonstrates, there’s usually more than one way to build something you love into a highly successful career.
3. Figure out how to keep growing.
Once you’ve found a way to turn focusing on what you love into a successful career, don’t consider it a done deal. You will always need to keep changing and growing.
After hitting it big as a DJ, Aoki’s next step was to begin recording albums of his own. “I always want to challenge myself by doing something different from what I normally do,” he said. “If you do it successfully, you will evolve.” If you fail to successfully evolve over time, he said, “you die out as a person of interest, someone of influence who can create or help grow a culture.”
Which, of course, is his single biggest passion. What’s yours?