The Steve Aoki Guide to Winning at Work


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Lessons on how to summit your potential, from the hardest working man in music

Written by Lance Chung 

Steve Aoki is a businessman. While most may know him for his EDM beats, pin-straight locks, and cake-throwing theatrics, make no mistake, the Grammy-nominated DJ (who has consistently been amongst the top 10 highest-paid DJs in the world) has been fast at work laying down the bricks for his growing empire.

Aoki’s hustle is the stuff of legend. Playing 300-plus shows a year leaves little room to pursue other ventures, and yet the son of Benihana founder, Rocky Aoki, has managed to launch and cultivate a staggering amount of businesses built off of the Aoki brand: an eSports company, a record label, multiple restaurants, a lifestyle brand, a non-profit – the list goes on.

It begs the question: How does he do it?

While in Toronto for the Canadian debut of his fashion line, DIM MAK Collection, at Saks Fifth Avenue, the high-adrenaline, multi-hyphenate entrepreneur shed light on what he’s learned about building a business.

Photo courtesy of Steve Aoki

Assemble a kick-ass team

Who you decide to recruit to your team is essential to the success of your company. Sometimes it’s not about the hard qualifications, but rather, a shared vision.  

“I’m not looking for people who are the most experienced. I’m looking for those that show me the passion; that they are down to fight the fight. If they fail, that’s fine as long as they are giving me everything, and they really, truly, authentically believe with me, together, that we’ll get there.”

Be disciplined with your habits

Building a business will undoubtedly force you outside of your comfort zone at times. Facing that feeling of discomfort head-on through a disciplined routine is needed in order to familiarize yourself and grow.  

“Discipline is all based on habits. If you want to bring something new into your world that will help you be more productive, you need to do it in a transitional way where it’s awkward to start, but becomes more comfortable as you turn it into a habit.”

Know your strengths and delegate your weaknesses

Being in a leadership position on your team does not mean you have to be good at everything. Rather, good leaders are able to recognize and outsource their deficits so they can focus on what they excel at.

“At the end of the day, it’s understanding where your strengths and weaknesses are. Wherever your weaknesses lie, you bring a team on to help you perform those duties so that you can really apply your strengths to your work.”

Be present, be nimble

Being prepared is essential to the success of any business, but one can only plan so much. Just as important is the ability to think on your feet and understand the motivations of others.

“After I read the book, The Power of Now [by Eckhart Tolle], it changed my life. Since then, I always [remind myself] that everything in the past has gone and the future is a question mark. You can’t be short-sighted, and you can’t be farsighted. You have to be in the now, and nimble enough to think quickly on your toes. You almost have to be a sociologist and be able to study people, their motivations, how to convince them otherwise, and direct the situation, accordingly.”

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