Members Spotlight #4: Keshav Bhatt
Kindred is a place for people to meet with an open-mind and an inquisitive spirit, to be interested in new connections and to explore new conversations.
So when meeting a member who is a poet, a YouTuber, a social entrepreneur, a life coach and a motivational speaker, you might not be entirely sure what to expect. What sort of person would you find with that list of labels preceding him? It turns out, Keshav Bhatt is all that and much more. The chance to catch up with him finally came the day after he emerged from a four-day leadership summit in Wales, cut off from the technological world, immersed in conversations with fellow attendees about challenging privilege.
“Systems and structures that we live in like putting us into boxes” he suggests, as the next question tries to do just that. By asking if there’s an easy way to define him you quickly find out that no, there really isn’t. The “qualified life coach, probably an influencer (although that feels trite), spoken word artist, surfer, uncle, social activist, reader, chess player and social entrepreneur” talks affably about his extensive portfolio with positivity and patience, willing to discuss any aspect but not waste a second worrying about the labelling.
“I’m just Keshav, and people can describe for themselves what that is.”
In his words, everything he does “is related to his purposes and his passions” but taking that approach, and being truly comfortable with it, is something that has only happened recently. “I just stopped caring about how I’m seen” he says, matter-of-factly “Even if I introduce myself by saying ‘Hi I’m Keshav, the founder of Revolution Hive’, it doesn’t mean all the other things stop existing”.
While some would take Revolution Hive (the social enterprise he co-founded and acts as CEO for, delivering education and development to young people) as enough to be going on with, that doesn’t seem to scratch all of Keshav’s itches. He splits his time and with recognition, followers and success coming, he seems to be managing it pretty well.
“I stopped worrying about posturing and that gave me license to be myself. Allowed focus on things I wanted to focus on” he explains “I don’t do a traditional 9-to-5. I made those choices a long time ago but now I’m able to understand what that means”. Being willing to pursue so many avenues could be intimidating or inspiring, depending on your point of view. Keshav’s point of view has flowed from developing “a real sense of who I am and trusting myself…I just decided this is what I am, am I fulfilled?” and spending his time doing the things that interest him. If it interests him enough, that seems to be the only justification he needs, no matter how varied those paths turn out to be.
With such a strong online presence and identity, an element of personal branding is inevitable. With different audiences in the different parts of his life, how does he strike a balance between what is natural and what is cultivated? “The same way I’d cultivate my garden!” He laughs, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I can plant a rose and let it grow. It’s natural, I can create the conditions for it to bloom”. He gives the example of an upcoming motivational mixtape, featuring recordings of his own therapy sessions and conversations with friends. “I had a strike a balance between being performative and being authentic.”
Being performative doesn’t necessarily equate to being fake. If anyone wanted to challenge him, somebody else has already got there first.
“I’ve done so much work on myself that it’s no longer a concern for me (what people say). There’s no criticism I could have at this point that I haven’t given myself in a safer environment” he says, with the hint of a shrug.
That seems to be at the heart of every varied thread of his life. Talking to Keshav now is talking to someone who has challenged himself, who has answers ready, or, at least, a willingness to discuss them, because these aren’t new questions. He is open in saying that a difficult year of mental health has given the unavoidable opportunity to be broken down and built up, helping him to see himself as “flawed and prone to ups and downs like anyone else. Those external gratifications (online likes etc)… you don’t really take it too seriously. As much as I get that, I get online trolls too.”
“Don’t get caught up in the hype, the hate… in the middle, that’s you”.
But why Kindred? Here is a man whose eclectic workload doesn’t keep him tied to one place long. “It’s providing a space for those that don’t fit into a box and don’t want to” he suggests, speaking enthusiastically about the ethos of bringing people together, “We’ve lost that tribe in the world, it’s such a part of being a happy human being”.
Community is easy to talk about in a removed way, as being about the group, but Keshav is self-aware enough to articulate the benefits to him as well. “I need kindred spirits, on my own I’m susceptible to laziness” he admits, reflecting that it is “spaces that evoke my greatness that keeps me on the right track… I have to show up as the best version of me. I can’t just walk in there in my pyjamas, I have to show up”. He credits the “rogue, renegade rebels” within the community as being key, explaining that “speaking to them gives me permission to be me”.
This series of spotlights on Kindred members is broadly about highlighting who people are and what they do. For Keshav, that might be off the mark. A conversation with him leaves you with the undeniable impression of someone who knows himself, certainly better than could be summed up now. His approach to what he does is striking, perhaps even more so than the wide variety of projects themselves. It is that reflective, self-challenging approach that feels so relevant, so applicable to anyone no matter their profession.
“If you don’t own your story, someone will do it for you” may have been Keshav talking about himself, but it is as true for any other Kindred member as it is for him. If you want to hear his story first hand, go have a coffee with him and find out for yourself. Even better, go to one of the monthly dinner’s he hosts at Kindred. And when you do, go with an open mind, because chances are it’ll end up opened anyway.
Keshav’s new mixtape ‘The Lotus that Blooms Forth‘ is out now
This post forms part of a series of behind-the-scenes interviews with members of the Kindred team and community
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