Let’s start talking about a dream, not mine, but my father’s dream: Since I was five or maybe less, my father, who is a maths teacher, had always this big dream, that his only son would become a hero; and for him a hero was a doctor or at least an engineer. I still remember and I still have all his gifts, which were books about science, astronomy, engineering, cars, plants and airplanes.

So, after 19 years of hard studying, training, and doing my best to achieve my father’s dream, I became a data processing engineer. Right after my graduation, I was lucky to be hired as an aircraft maintenance engineer. Back then; I was in charge of 4 airplanes along with their security and maintenance programs for 2 years.

Exactly at this moment, everything seemed fine. I had the job that made my father finally proud of me, even I still did not become a doctor. I had a beautiful fiancée who wanted to get married as soon as possible. I was like an idol for the next generation of engineers and family. And my relatives never missed the chance to ask my parents how they raised me this way.

The truth is – at this moment, I was living two different lives

There was a a life that everyone has seen and there was a life that only I saw. In the first one, people have seen me as a successful engineer and talented violinist, a lover and a friend. But that was only one side of the coin. On the other side I was someone who was struggling intensely with depression. Many people think that depression is just being sad when something in your life goes wrong, when you lose a loved one, when you break up with your girlfriend or you do not get the job you want; but that is sadness, a natural human emotion. Real depression is when everything in your life is going right but you feel sad. Beneath my smile, there was a struggle, beneath my light, there was darkness and beneath my strong personality, there was a hidden pain. In fact, I was afraid of getting to the semi-retirement point, 30 years from now, and having regret that I did not follow my passion and had chosen the safe path.

Day after day, I began to feel that my job was boring, frustrating and too stressful. I was losing my spark and faith. But no one cared. Until this evening, when my boss called me in his office and told me: “Khaled, you have to look for another job and you have only two months left“. For him, I was another dead soldier. I was another broken doll.

At that moment, my life changed. My best friend and roommate kicked me out, and I found myself homeless for days. My lovely fiancée broke up with me because I was not the kind of man who can manage a family and take responsibilities. It was hard for me to find another job, to reset my career or to convince myself to do something that I probably hate. In the summer of 2014, I was nothing. I had nothing. I felt that I was fully destroyed. I even took pills to sleep. I lost weight. I was literally dying.

But then I realized that my greatest passion, but also my greatest fear, was to create something by myself. Taking the risky path, living my real dream. Today – 18 months later – I became entrepreneur, founded my company IRIS Technologies and if you ask me to describe myself, this is what I would say: I am the Tech Entrepreneur of the year in Tunisia from among more than 1000 other startups. I am the winner of Univenture, one of the greatest startup competitions in Tunisia. I am the winner of souk Attanmia, a competition of the African Bank in Tunisia. I am one of the top 25 startups in the biggest incubator competition in France and I raised more than 160.000 Euro in 4 months.

Actually that is something to celebrate, something that makes me proud

But with success people start asking me all kind of questions: “Are you afraid that you will not have any success?” or “Are you afraid that the humiliation and rejection would harm you?” The answer, the very short answer for all these questions is simply: yes! I am afraid about all of these things, and I am afraid of many other things that most people can not even think about or expect. And maybe I am not the smartest person you will ever meet but let me tell you a secret that could be useful for you:

  1. Every day, when I wake up or before to go to my bed, I try to feed my mind with positive words that I wrote, words that I say to myself.
  2. Every day I tell myself that it is possible. I can do this. I can make it happen. No matter how bad it is or how bad it gets. It is possible.
  3. I believe that if you feed your faith. Your doubts will starve to death and believe me, I am seeing them right now dying while writing this text.

by Khaled Bouchoucha