Stephen Kassim: Don’t Sleep Until You Succeed (Part 2)

Did you have any mentors?

Darius, Sid, and Osman had the biggest impact. There were others as well. They’ve all been on the board every year I was a student. So as you get more involved, you start networking the board just seemed like a natural progression, like, this was what my mentors done. There’s kind of like an expectation.

And so when you ran, did they help you?

They didn’t feed me anything, they didn’t tell me what to do. It was tough because I didn’t get as much support as I thought I would get. There were people withdrawing support just like ‘you’ll find a way know what to do’ I was very hurt. I was lost and I felt alone its terrifying running an election like that. I guess I was hurt in a way.

After I got elected, I understood why. I think the reason why I didn’t get that support because it’s easy to have something handed to you but when I have to work for it, it really shows what kind of person you are. They believed in me, but I had to earn it. The best part was at the end of the day, I got to say I did this all by myself. No one helped me. I wasn’t fed this, I had to fight and struggle to do it

Now, tell me about your campaign.

I spent a year preparing for it. I learned that you need to run on as a slate, individuals cannot win unless you’re like a one in a million superstar. Because you’re running with other slates too. You’re stacking your support.

I’m the only introvert out of the three of us. And typically you don’t see introverts on the board, you don’t see them on the RSU, you hardly see anywhere. We have a hard time. We have to work twice as hard it’s that extra challenge to get people to ore for you we took our first photos and I did not like how I looked at all I didn’t smile in photos and I did heavy research into past members and past campaigns it’s always candidates who smile win. So I had to practice. I never took photos of myself. I hated photos of myself. I hated smiling. After that first photo I had to do a lot more takes. I had to look welcoming and happy it’s something you have to learn, going in front of an engineering class of 300 and pitching. Every hour you have to go to a different classroom, and in between you’re In the hallways talking to students. You’re talking to so many people. When people ask me how I did it, I just say I forced myself. it’s not like I had a choice, either I want to win or I don’t want to win

How did you keep motivated?

There’s this video I used to watch every day during reading week. I’d be postering on campus until 5am I’d go into my office at athletics, sleep in the floor and wake up at 7am. That was my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in university. Emotionally, physically, and mentally it was very draining. There were lots of times where I wanted to give up. Lots of times when I thought I wasn’t cut out for it. I was just like, ‘whatever, who cares any more’ and then I’d watch this video, it’s called ‘How Bad Do You Want It’.


t talks about wanting to succeed as much as you want to breathe when you’re drowning underwater. That motivated me. You have to want it more than anything. More than partying, or looking cool, or sleeping. Sleep was a big one for me, but you miss out on opportunities when you sleep. In the video, it mentions a reporter asking 50 Cent who was working on a movie and recording the soundtrack at the same time, “’when do you sleep, 50?’ And 50’s like ‘I don’t sleep.’” There was a point where I asked my friend if I was sleeping too much at two hours a day because in those two hours, I was afraid my opponent was getting ahead.

I like to underestimate myself and overestimate my opponents because I feel like if I put 100 per cent  and I lose that’s okay because I did all I could’ve done, because what else could I have done? I did all I could have. But if I could have done more and I lost, you always have that knowledge that you could have done more. But you didn’t. And now you’ve lost. And I can’t live with that. That’s the worst, knowing you could have done better.

How long did this go on for?

This went on for three weeks. The planning process went on for a year, a lot of planning went from late October to March. The most intense period was the end of February, those last few weeks were intense because we had to get our materials printed out, our design work and video had to be finished,

How were you by the end of election week?

It was horrible. I was living off Red Bull, elections were four days. On the fourth day, all I had that day was a litre of Red Bull.

How did this affect your body?

I lost a lot of weight, and I’m already pretty skinny haha. But yeah, I was really weak, I was physically exhausted. I never really drank Red Bull before this, I was drinking Red Bull and Monster and they were both eating away at my lips. My lips were peeling. I don’t know what’s in it, but my lips were constantly burning.

Would you do it again?

Hm, I already did it once, so I wouldn’t do it again. But if you mean, whether I’m glad I did it, then definitely yeah I am. But elected politics is not what I enjoy doing it. It’s very toxic. We had these giant banners printed out in the business building and my face was punched in one of them. People thought I was going to be upset, they went up to me as if someone had died when they found out one of my posters had been vandalized.

I went up to it, and I was really quiet for a while. They thought I was upset, but I was just thinking, you know, the last few years I wasn’t involved with any politics on campus and the reason I ran in this election is because I really love this school and I want to make a difference. And, you just can’t escape the negativity. That’s what I was thinking about. No matter what you do, there’s always people out there and you can’t control their actions. There will be people who want to tear you down.

At what point in your life would you consider yourself to be successful?

When you’re actually making a difference. I’ve thought about this before, I researched this. Scientists estimate there have been 107 billion people who have lived on this planet, which is an incredible number. If you think about all those people, and what have they done? So many people have existed and come and gone, it doesn’t.

Well, there are some people who stand out that everyone knows like Mother Theresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin…

Well, yeah! But compare those people to the number of people who have ever existed. It’s so minuscule. I don’t want to just be another number. I don’t want to be somebody who has come and gone and the planet is still no different. I don’t want to just make a difference to my family, friends, or within my region.

What drives me, maybe it’s also a fear, it’s a fear of just passing away and doing nothing. That’s what motivates me to change something, to do something, to make an impact and make things better. I guess I could make things worse, but I’d rather make things better. I don’t want to be a Hitler, even though we share the same birthday, April 20 hahaha.

I know it’s almost impossible and there’s a very slight chance, but that’s what drives me. For now, at Ryerson, I want to make a difference, I don’t want to just pass through as a student who goes to classes and goes home. I want to change things.

What’s one of your best memories at Ryerson?

I got to go inside the gardens during construction, actually in the basketball court, I picked the paint colours that they used for the lines and the logos because I work with all the logos. I had to make sure that the colours match the conversion from RGB to CMYK. I’m not a very sentimental person, but when I actually went in there, I was really emotional. I actually took my camera phone and took photos of everything. My boss was laughing at me because that’s not like me.

Whatever your definition of success may be, whether it’s reaching that goal in your workout or diet, studying through exams and midterms, or landing your dream job, here’s a video to motivate you to power through. “When you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”