As Thinkup GCC celebrates its 3rd anniversary, our editor in chief interviews her old friend Saleh AlBraik (@SalehAlBraik), the man behind it all. The interview is divided to two parts; the first part was published in October’s issue and covered Thinkup’s different phases since its launch. This month we publish the second part, and it is more about Saleh himself, and his reflection on his journey.
Sail: You’ve taken a break from your career during this year, to focus on ThinkUp, how did it go?
Saleh: It helped me personally more than it helped the company. I was starting to constantly wonder what if I had ThinkUp as my only focus, where can that lead? As a result of my time off and focusing on Thinkup, though it didn’t remain stable, it definitely grew, but to my surprise, it was the same steady growth whether or not I made it my sole focus.
I don’t think I would have gotten to that conclusion if I continued working, or if I jumped into another job directly; I would have always wondered “what if”.
Sail: You have recently dropped your nickname “Fearless In Dubai” after being associated with it for five years. What made you finally do it?
Saleh: I am a firm believer in timing. Everything comes in its own time. When I came back from my undergrad studies in the UK in 2009, I wanted a fresh start; I didn’t know anyone except my family. I was so happy being anonymous in the UK that I wanted to continue that anonymity. So I created this persona. It was the most entertaining and most difficult performance that I have ever done in my entire life, because that persona was essentially being 20% of who I really was, the 20% that I didn’t want to lose. It was something I felt the public needed to see, or I felt I wanted read. I have met so many special people through those years of anonymity.
It’s only recently that I’ve left my previous job, I’ve achieved things in my life, and people know who I am now. When I looked at a lot of people on social media, I felt envy, because they were who they are and who they wanted to be. I wanted to be myself in front of people, but I was just afraid of it.
I don’t think people can understand what it was like, living under the shadow of that persona. I was being introduced to people as “Fearless in Dubai”, even to diplomats and Sheikhs. Some days I loved it, some days I hated it.
The reason the change came now is that I was starting a new chapter in my life with my new job, and I recently got married, and will sooner or later start my own family. I’ve grown as an individual. I found myself, I know who I am. 2009’s Saleh didn’t know who he was. I am ready to be myself and to show the entire world who Saleh AlBraik is as an individual. Judgment will come regardless, but at least now, I will be judged for who I am, and not just for a piece of me. It’s a huge relief because I’m not a persona anymore, I don’t have to put a mask.
Sail: How did you feel about the journey of ThinkUp so far?
Saleh: It’s a humble feeling of self-acceptance. I keep having an out-of-body experience where I’m just thinking oh wow! It just makes you realize, in 3 years you managed to do all this, so you have no excuse not to change your life, improve your life, or go after what you want.
Sail: Who’s your role model?
Saleh: My dad. I might have not said that pre-2008-crisis. My dad comes from the real estate sector, and during the crisis, it hit us really bad. Nonetheless, never once did he flinch. I saw him through all the problems that came our way, and he would always say: “It will get better. When you have good intentions, God will make it better.”
There were some nights that I thought he was crazy, I think there were nights everyone thought he was crazy. My mum & I kept saying that he’s getting delusional, but it did eventually get better. Every time it gets tough for me, I refer to him. My dad had hundreds of employees, a family of 4 boys, his wife, living with his sister, and with our way of living and our expectations, with all that, he never once made us feel we had anything to worry about. I think that is very admirable. For that, he is my role model.
Sail: What advice would you leave for the youth?
Saleh: Make as many mistakes now while you still can, because it will just bring you closer to what you want to do. If you have something in the back of your head that you want to do, then go ahead, do it because you want to do it, not because someone else wants you to do it.
Finally, I’d like the youth to realize that the entire world has shifted, we’re in a different age now. We shifted from careers and goals that were focused on specific industries to an idealistic world where you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do. Take that opportunity despite all the odds, you might find that you are interested in something else, but you’ll find what it is that you want to do, and you won’t end up with all the “what if” scenarios. Never ever have a “what if” moment.
Quick Facts About Saleh
Sail: Current read?
Saleh: Kiera Cass: The Selection Series
Sail: Favorite spot in Dubai?
Saleh: When I want to hide from the world it’s my mother’s house, otherwise if the weather is good then Park Hayatt because it’s on the creek side; you have the whole skyline of the Burj Khalifa, and it has a Greek design to it.
Sail: Favorite sport?
Sail: Favorite drink?
Saleh: Karak, you can never get enough karak.
Sail: Favorite cuisine?
Sail: Favorite artist?
Saleh: That’s a tough question to answer as a ThinkUp founder, with all the amazing talents we feature. I like the Photoshop work of Khalid Al Ramsi(@imaginekhalid). His photo manipulations are incredible. Food: Bader. Photography: Aref Hareb, he takes modern pictures with traditional twists and the effort that goes behind his photos is amazing.
Sail: Favorite movie?
Saleh: Mrs. Doubtfire and Chocolat.
Sail: Favorite quality time?
Saleh: The time I spend with my sister’s kids.
Sail: One person you must take a selfie with.
Saleh: Richard Branson. If I had any regret in my life, it’s about him, because I saw him at the Dubai Government Summit and he was sitting at the table next to me, but I didn’t take a picture with him.
Sail: Someone you’d like to interview.
Saleh: HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, I just need to know how he thinks.
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