Kash Shaikh is the CEO and Founder of #besomebody, the world’s fastest growing motivational movement with more than 3 million participants. Yet, in addition to being one of the tallest people I’ve ever met, he is also surprisingly real. After just two hours of sleep the night before, he walked into our interview dressed in a t-shirt and baseball cap and without even slowing down to take a sip of coffee, took a running high dive into our conversation.
Over 48 hours last week #besomebody brought street art with a message to Dubai, a city that until now has never permitted graffiti to tag its public spaces. The ever cutting-edge Alserkal Avenue hosted #besomebody and together they offered a previously dull wall the chance to inspire an entire community. Cincinnati-based artist Danny Gamble free styled the tag, channeling Dubai’s iconic charm and emerging artistic side for inspiration. The project was just one stop on a challenge to “tag the world” as a team of four Americans hit 15 cities in 11 countries over just six weeks. In crazy contrast, their time in Dubai was sandwiched between stops in a rural village Tanzania and urban Manila, Philippines.
To join the #besomebody movement, one simply has to use the hashtag in social media—it’s as inclusive and open-ended as that. The real beauty of #besomebody is that it is universal and can never be neatly labeled. “Definition is the enemy,” Kash repeated several times during our interview. Leaning in, and placing his lanky arms on the wooden table, he explained, “If I say #besomebody to a room of 10,000 people it’s going to mean something personal to each one of them regardless of borders or boundaries, it doesn’t need to be translated because laughter and kindness sound the same in every language.”
In no place along their journey was this clearer than in Tanzania, where the team tagged a wall in the rural village of Shirati. Unaccustomed to visitors, the local children followed solemnly behind the team at first, but then quickly opened up, and eventually created a song and dance to celebrate #besomebody. The lasting piece of art that was left for these children will continue encouraging them to chase their dreams as they walk past it toward their school each day.
Originally, #besomebody was a mantra that Kash wrote about on a personal blog as he traveled the world, first as a marketing manager at Proctor & Gamble and later as an executive at the multi-billion dollar success story GoPro. #Besomebody was meant to be “the punch in the gut” needed to push people to let go of fears and live their greatest dreams out loud. But even though he was inspiring so many other people, Kash secretly felt hypocritical. Of his life during that time he says, “It looked good on my newsfeed and sounded nice, but how many of us are really going after what our dream is and putting our fears aside and going after our passion?”
In a now-famous blog post titled Price of a Dream he wrote, “Forget the money. I want meaning” and called himself out for talking the talk yet not actually following his own dream. He remembers that, “One week after I wrote that I walked into the CEO’s office and resigned.”
Although his personal story is powerful, he’s careful to emphasize that #besomebody is not Kash Shaikh but is actually about the people who relate to and add to its platform. Although the organization is US-based, 75% of its members are global, many of who can’t afford a computer and communicate by tweeting on their phones. Although Kash worked in brand marketing for ten years in the corporate world, he loves the fact that “With #besomebody we’re turning the traditional business model upside down. This is the world’s first crowd-sourced brand for the people and of the people.” To all you enquiring business minds, #besomebody is self-funded, doesn’t earn money at the moment, and Kash has consciously decided against selling out to corporate sponsorship.
As a brand new blogger, my interview with Kash charged me up as though I’d been struck by heat lightning. His blog is the ultimate success story, because although he started out writing just for friends and family, his posts went viral and continue to bring profound meaning to millions of people’s lives all over the world. He is consistently fearless with his writing and publicly faces his demons and angels, fears and longing, even writing about relationships and breakups.
But Kash wasn’t always this courageous with his words. He told me, “When I first started the blog it was more traditional. I would write what I felt inside but I wouldn’t have the courage to publish it on the blog. One day I wrote a post called A Conversation with Love and it was the first time I bared my soul. Hitting the publish button I was so excited and nervous.”
I want to personally thank Kash and everyone at #besomebody who has ever written bravely and lived fearlessly. I recently starting carrying this quote around on a little scrap of paper in my dress pocket, “life starts at the end of your comfort zone” The members of #besomebody are living examples of this philosophy, the courageous daredevils of this business we call life. You might find me at Alserkal Avenue soon, sitting on the sidewalk across from the #besomebody tag, a notebook in my lap and a pen in my hand, remembering the time the #besomebody spark ignited Dubai.