11 achievements my 5 years younger version would never think possible

Khalil Tarhouni
6 min readSep 27, 2023

We are our own limits. I’m not going to blame society, neither education or my parents. We — human beings — were made to think of the limits before anything else. We were also taught — more and more in the past decades — to dream big. It’s easier said than done, and some of us dream big without even starting small. And it depends on the personality and background of each one of us. What I learned from my very humble experience is that great things are achieved by doing extraordinary things, and that dramatic change is possible but not easy. In this post, I’m honestly sharing 11 achievements that the 5 years younger version of me would have never thought I could accomplish. Let’s get started!

While it was tricky to list the 11 accomplishments by priority (it was a subconscious process) I tried to group them by categories such as physical health or work & career. But it’s important to mention that they are interconnected and impacted each other in a profound way.

Physical health/Sport

1. Losing +40 kilos

The bell rang after a medical diagnosis in 2015. It took me 2 years and a career move to realize that I needed — and I was capable of — starting exercising. I bought a mountain-bike and started cycling from time to time. I also started a step-by-step diet: less sugar than no sugar, less bread than no bread. I reduced progressively the quantity of alcohol per week, less salt…and so on. I never went to a nutritionist but I’m not the best example. I started measuring weight every Wednesday at 7am. Looking at the spreadsheet of over 150 weeks (measures) gives me goosebumps even today.

Long story short, consistency was key and managed to go from 130Kgs to 93kg in less than 5 years. This achievement embarked me in a whole journey of installing healthy habits and taking care of myself.

2. Running 5 half-marathons and a 30KM trail

Cycling helped get the ball rolling and start feeling that indescribable sensation that sport achievements procure. I then fell in love with running. Many supportive friends helped along the way. The best advice I got is to have specific goals. So, that’s what I did. Register for a race, prepare a training plan, follow the training plan, enjoy the race, and repeat. Thousands of kilometers of cycling + hundreds of kilometers of running per year, we just can’t get enough. I’m happy that I was a finisher at 5 half-marathons and a 30KM trail. Achieving new personal records and pushing my limits time and time again.

3. Double preparation for a half IronMan

If your dream doesn’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. And in early 2020, the big dream was to participate at the half Iron Man of Nice (France). That’s the 70.3 Triathlon with 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21.1km run. Three month of pre-preparation + five month of preparation. Meticulous plan, weekly appointment with the physio, an average of 6 activities per week totaling during peaks 20 hours of training per week. During this first preparation, I joined the 5am club, and it completely changed my life. “Triathlon is for someone who’s rich, single and jobless.”, but we managed to really keep it balanced. Unfortunately, 2020’s edition was postponed. We kept training and we started a second preparation in 2021. It was less intense but just as joyful as the first one. Again, I was unfortunate and couldn’t make due to visa issues. Triathlon taught me a lot and got me into multi-disciplinary sports. I’m currently practicing the three disciplines and have added Tennis and Padel to the list.

Travel

4. 31 countries visited

I’m very proud of this achievement. If you want to read the full story of the dream of 30 before 30, check out this article. Traveling has definitely contributed to who I am today. My personality, my network, my habits…etc. Visiting over 60 cities is amazing: weddings, road-trips, family-trips, festivals, bachelor parties, business trips…I had them all. This passion for travel — shared with my close friends — helped strengthening our relationship and draw unforgettable memories. I’m happy that I spent most of my savings on the only thing in the world that you buy and that makes you richer.

Personal development

5. +10 books vs ≈0

I used to hate reading for several reasons. The main two are: 1) My dad obliged us to read for at least 1H everyday during summer vacation, 2) I couldn’t focus when reading so I found myself spending 20min on a single page. I always had so much respect for bookworms. Fast forward to 2017, I committed to reading my first book in English after so many years, and I sustained this habit. Today, reading is a part of my daily routine. I mostly read business, entrepreneurship and personal development books. Recently, I started reading books in Arabic about Tunisia’s history.

6. 5 Certifications

It’s not that I never thought I would get five certifications in Marketing, low-code/no-code technologies, and other software. It’s the way I embraced the growth mindset and lifelong learning that surprised me. Year after year, these shiny concepts became personal values that I cherish and live by every day. Making your personal development a priority will take you to places your younger self would have only dreamed of.

Work/career

7. Big career shift

A very close friend of mine told me during our first year at the university that I was playing it very safe and that I’ll end up as a banker behind the front desk doing the same thing for 25 years. It was a bit shocking and maybe a trigger to zig when everyone else zagged. I proudly shared 7 lessons from a decade of professional growth in this article. But to be honest, after almost 8 years in entrepreneurship support, I never thought I would have the courage to leave the “ecosystem” to join an IT consulting SME and support its management to draw the growth trajectory and implement tens of initiatives that dramatically transformed the way we were doing business and managing talents.

8. Jumping off the cliff

Rading that report in which 42 was declared as the ideal age to become an entrepreneur was so comforting. I kept saying to myself that it was still early for me to launch my start up. In early 2023, I started Vndit.io with a bunch of other serial entrepreneurs, and so far, the experience is just amazing and full of learning.

Personal challenges

9. Driving license

I failed 3 times in 2009 at the driving exam, and I thought I will never get it. The driving license was on my bucket list for so many years after until I let it go. In 2020, a friend of mine encouraged me to a give it another try. I started everything from scratch and I go it on February 29th after the first attempt.

10. The Car

The following milestone was to buy a car because it’s hard to be independent in a country like Tunisia if you don’t have one.

11. The 1st real estate investment

I know that some of you might argue about investing in real estate in 2023, especially with the relatively high interest rate in Tunisia. Since we don’t have access to other types of investments like crypto or the stock exchange, investing in “walls” was the decision I made. Many of my friends thought that I was preparing for marriage because this is what you should do at a certain age. The car, the flat, the wife, the kids…

My motto for many years was “Far from where I once was, far from where I want to be”. And it’s still the case. Writing this article was a reminder for me that I should be proud of myself, that change is possible, that it always seems impossible, until it’s done, that you have to work hard today, and even harder tomorrow, that nothing is granted. This is not the milestone; I’ll be done when I’ll decide it will be done.

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