Embracing the Rock star within me!

How being a Heavy Metal performer made an impact on my life and my career!

"Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity" - Khalil Gibran

People always come to me and tell me how my presentations are always filled with passion. They tell me how my persistence and the way I engage them in a topic gets them motivated and fired up. They also tell me how my confidence radiates the room, and that my presence is always felt positively.

It is true though… I do work with passion and motivation. I am persistent and I never give up. I always follow through. And I am always confident in what I do & I do work hard. All this was the result of me learning from my parents to follow my dreams no matter what. To always aim for success and never give up. Never be afraid to take on a challenge I believe in.

This all started when I was pursuing my dream of being a Rock Star.

Passion & Persistence, the key ingredients to becoming a Rock Star.

Early 2000s, I started my first band. I was a university student back in Cairo, Egypt, I was into Heavy Metal & Hard Rock and I had the passion to write, perform and even sing. So the next thing that naturally happened was, together with a group of friends, we decided to start a band. A Heavy Metal band. This was very exciting, I was 18 years old and I was pursuing a passion of mine.

Yet, it wasn’t going to be easy to make it as a Heavy Metal band in Egypt!

You need to know that we were not in it for fame. We wanted to have our music and our voices heard. What you need to know is that, especially in that period, Heavy Metal music and its fans in Egypt and Middle-East have been perceived by many as being westernized, disturbed, dark or evil. I remember back in 1997, some of the older students in my school were arrested along with around 100 Heavy Metal fans, just for being a fan. In other words, it was not safe, I think till now it isn’t, but I was persistent, and I was motivated to pursue this dream of making it on a stage, where our voices can be truly heard.

"Do not be a follower, be a leader. Rebel, Rebel, Rebel!" - Nadair Desmar

I faced much criticism for forming a Heavy Metal band, we were even harassed by the police. Yet we never gave up. I was so persistent, that one day I met the band at a studio in Heliopolis, Cairo, and I surprised my band mates with a venue that I have already booked for our first show! They were both excited and worried. Excited as it was our first show and worried of the reaction from both people and authorities. I urged them to prepare for the show, and we did. We rebelled against the social conventions that existed back then, we didn’t take no for an answer & we made it our mission to get our music out there!

(The first Concert, in El Sawy Culture Venue back in 2004. — Cairo, Egypt)

Always believe in yourself, it all starts there!

Let me explain to you the pressure I had when I was in the backstage, hearing the audience voices getting louder, and a friend of mine came to me and said; “Aymen, we have around 250 people in the audience!”. This was thrilling, I have worked hard for this! Spreading posters across universities, in the streets, and hanging them on the street walls. This was our moment, and as I was the band’s front man and lead vocalist and my band members were a bit hesitant and afraid of facing the audience. The pressure downed on me…

Yet, I remembered why I was doing this, I remembered why I am pursuing my passion, and how being dedicated for it and fighting all stereotypes to showcase our music made me feel. I have an important role to play here, not just for me, but for all the ‘Metalheads’ out there in Egypt! And the moment came, and I had to step out under the spotlight. Seeing all those youngsters looking at me, my band right behind me, waiting for me to take the lead and give them the courage they needed to make a great show.

“We are Gift of Pain, and tonight, we will rock this stage!” These were my first words to a big audience like this. And it was a promise that we managed to keep. We rocked the show! We played for around 90 minutes. The moment I saw the audience having a great time, cheering us up & headbanging with our music, that’s when it hit me. How did I manage to build this confidence to perform in front of 250+ people? How did we manage to engage with people who never heard of us before? I will tell how, it was our passion and belief in our product. We knew very well that we played great music, but it was our stage presence that fueled up the audience. While my band members were a bit shy and afraid, I had the pressure to perform without fear, to install confidence in them, and it worked perfectly.

Later that night, I had people coming to me, asking for my autograph, asking to take a picture with me, telling me how a great showman I was & how great performance we had. And this was the fuel I needed to keep on this pursuit. For the next 2 years, I performed 5 big concerts with my band, where we had around 500+ fans attending. And I didn’t stop there… I feed my hunger for performing and passion for music, and had 6 side projects, where I performed around 20 shows, was on the national Egyptian TV, and appeared as a guest in major radio segments.

Few years later, the confidence I have built during the time I was a Heavy Metal performer, was growing. And I used my confidence in my life and career, which helped me grow. I am a great salesman, always closing, never failing in negotiations and when I became a consultant, it helped me take on new challenges, get out of my comfort zone and always pursue the impossible.

Always be performing, you will never know when it is your greatest show!

I know I stopped playing music, but the “Metalhead” inside of me never ceased to exist. The “Almost Rock Star” in me is always there. I use all the confidence that music gave me in both my work and my life.

I use this firing passion inside of me still, but instead of using it to perform music, I use it to make an impact in what I do and the people around me. When I need to present a concept or a strategy, I don’t just present, I “perform”. I go all in! All in for the win. I always make sure to engage my audience, to get them convinced with what I am showing them & make sure I don’t just get their buy-in, but I do my best to get my audience motivated & have them believe in what I urge them to do or approve.

I remember back in 2009, when I had my first public speaking event, where I had to present the Customer Experience strategy I have developed for my company in Dubai, back when Customer Experience just started to get noticed, and when I went up on the stage, I saw 100+ professionals sitting there, waiting for me to present. Some of them never knew what Customer Experience was and all of them didn’t know who I am.

Yet, I took the stage, and started “performing”. I was motivated and confident in who I am, I know what I am talking about and I know exactly the message I want to bring across. By the end of my “performance”, lots of these professionals approached me, telling me how my “performance” motivated them, how I encouraged them to adapt some of my Customer Experience techniques in their business, asking for my contact information to exchange ideas and ask for my opinion. This was such a fulfilling moment for me, as I realized the impact I can have amongst my peers. How my confidence and passion was transmitted to the audience & how one man can make an impact.

From that moment, my life has changed, and I realized where my passion is and how to use it. I was self-aware of my confidence, and I knew that with hard work, motivation, drive and knowledge I can achieve anything. Everyday for me was an opportunity to make an impact, to make a difference. Everyday was an opportunity to make a great show!

" Being a Rock Star is the intersection of who you are and who you want to be."  Slash

So here is what I want to leave you with…

Embrace yourself & embrace the challenge. Let go of the harsh self-crimination and accept your own identify and uniqueness. Take on a challenge without fear of failure, but with the confidence & passion to stretch your boundaries and improve your self.

Don’t fear being controversial. I believe that what Yoko Ono once said is very true; “Controversy is part of the nature of art and creativity.”. Never fear being different, or having an opposing opinion. Always speak your mind with respect, even if you know those around you will oppose you.

Rebel, rebel, rebel! Rebels are those who break rules to explore new ideas and create positive changes. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Behavioral Scientist explains being a rebel is having five core strengths: novelty, curiosity, perspective, diversity, and authenticity.

Persist until you succeed. Always have a goal or a vision that motivates you and drives you in life and work. Being persistent is being a dreamer and a visionary with a higher purpose. Make your vision ingrained deeply within you, make it your focus, make it your energy and your drive.

Life is a show. There are no rehearsals, no retakes, no repeats & no rewinds. So cease every opportunity, and make everyday a chance to make a great show.

So to all of you out there, embrace the Rock Star in you. Be a rebel and never backdown! Persist, persist, persist…

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Aymen Ismail

Aymen Ismail

🧠🫀Passionate CX & Customer Engagement Thought Leader •⚡️🚗Electric Mobility Enthusiast • Currently making an impact with smart Europe