The Godfather Of EDM On Teaching Orwell And Never Missing A Football Game

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Routine Behavior is a series where we talk to guys who successfully juggle businesses, careers, and parenting about the routines that keep them on track. Up next is Disco Donnie Estopinal, “Godfather of EDM” and founder Disco Donnie Presents, which brings over 1,000 electronic dance music shows and festivals to cities nationwide every year.

As one of the world’s largest EDM promoters, Donnie’s life is a spectacular balancing act. On any given night he’ll be making thousands of neon-clad fist-pumpers bounce to the melodic warbles of robot sex, but he still finds time to cook dinner, attend soccer practice, and explain Orwellian symbolism to his 8 and 12-year-old sons. And woe to the man (or natural disaster) who comes between him and one of their football games.

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What time do you start answering emails in the morning?
Pretty much as soon as my eyes open. Let’s just say, as soon as I wake up, I go right for the email. The early morning is the best time to answer emails. Nobody else is really responding at that time, so you can send them out and not get 10 back.Disco Donnie doing that thing with his elbowsHow do you reconnect with your kid when you get home from work each day?
Normally, I’ll go to football practice or soccer practice. I’m often on the phone and doing emails the whole time, but I’m basically there, and I can take them home in the car. Then that conversation starts with “How was your day? What’d you do today?” You know, asking them about what’s going on in their lives. That’s kind of a good time to pick up a lot of information, when I’m not online.

Does your wife stay at home or work?
She works. She’s a veterinary ophthalmologist, which is very specialized. She has her own practice, so she’s very busy as well.

What services do you pay for (cooking, cleaning, yard maintenance, oil changes, etc.)?
We do have a maid. Then we have a — I don’t know if “nanny” is the proper word but — a kid helper who picks them up at school and gets them to practice. Whatever activities they have to go to in the afternoon, she basically fulfills that. She takes them to soccer practice so that I can go pick them up — waits for them until I get there. We have help on that end. As far as gardening, we don’t have that much grass, but we have somebody that cuts it.

“They pointed out to me the double standard of me being able to look at my phone when they couldn’t use their iPads.”

What’s the one piece of kid-related gear that you can’t live without?
Anywhere we go, we have a soccer ball or a football in the car. It comes in handy a lot more than you would think.

How many times a week do you get home for dinner and do you ever cook?
I actually cook a lot. I used to cook a lot more. Before dance music got so big, I used to cook every night, but I still do cook a couple of days a week. My wife cooks. We eat out a lot. My office is in my house, so if I’m home I’m always there for dinner, unless I’m traveling or have people in town or something. But I love to cook.

How much exercise do you get in a given week and what kind?
My goal is to go to the gym 7 days a week, but it normally works out to a couple times a week. I’ll try to push around 2 tiny weights and do some cardio. It seems especially easy for me when I’m on the road in a hotel to just walk downstairs and work out than when I’m at home. I’m trying to be good, but everybody knows that story, right? It’s almost as if there’s no time.Donnie and kids salutingWhat’s the longest you’ve ever played with your kid without looking at your phone?
We were trying to do this thing where we went to dinner and put away the iPads and the phones and everything like that. I was banning their iPads at dinner, but they pointed out to me the double standard of me being able to look at my phone when they couldn’t use their iPads, so I kind of succumbed to that. That’s a really tough question. Sometimes I can turn off, put it down. I’ve had to work in spurts when I’m with them. I’ll hang out with them for like an hour. Then I’ll catch up with everything for an hour, then go back with them. It all depends on what’s the scenario and where I’m at.

How often do you travel for work and do you look forward to it or dread it?
I live in Puerto Rico. Maybe I’m out 120 days a year. It’s always kind of a dread to go to the airport and pack and stuff. Once I get out, I’m fine. It’s a little bit hard on the kids sometimes, but they’ve got a good understanding that I need to travel for work. It sucks to be away from your family for that long, but there’s really no other option.

What’s your go-to when you need work-related inspiration?
I basically look at the kids as my inspiration. I see them together and having fun, the 2 brothers playing. It makes me really happy to see them doing that. I know I’m working for something. I’m working for their future.

“I can watch any sport really … Grab a 6-pack of beer and really get into whatever sport’s on TV — swimming, doesn’t matter.”

What’s your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
I’m a big sports fan, I can sit there and watch ESPN. I can watch any sport really. If you ask my wife, it doesn’t matter if it’s cycling or tennis or golf or whatever. Any sport that’s on, I can just tune out and get into it, so that’s my man time: Grab a 6-pack of beer and really get into whatever sport’s on TV — swimming, doesn’t matter.

How’s your attendance record at your kid’s events/games/milestone moments?
Milestone moments: It’s probably going to be in the high 90s. Games: I’m very good at that. I made my oldest son a promise last year that I wouldn’t miss one of his football games. I ended up with [an event] in Nashville; they had some kind of freak ice storm, so I missed my flight in Miami. It was maybe midnight, and I had to fly private from Miami to San Juan to keep my promise.

I try to make as much as possible. I might be on my phone and not 100 percent there, but I try to make all of those moments. I go to every practice that I can when I’m in town. I sometimes miss the singing and tap dance recitals, but I don’t know if in the end they’re going to look at those as being key moments in their lives. What’s your kid’s favorite book at the moment?
My oldest one just read Animal Farm, which I loved, and he hated it. I’m trying to explain to him the social issues behind it, but I haven’t had good success. He’s reading Fahrenheit 451 right now, which I loved as well. He seems to like the science fiction stuff a lot better.

What’s your kid’s favorite toy at the moment?
On traditional toys, the place we live has a lot of land, so they like to ride their bikes everywhere, like when I was a kid. If I was to say the toy they have in their hand most, it has to be the iPhone or their iPad — I don’t know if that’s a toy or not. They should be outlawed.

What about a new parenting app that’s recently proved useful?
I have none, but I probably need to be using multiple ones.

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