A post of appreciation for people of inspiration....
I sometimes get asked, what's the inspiration for Haagse Fiets Chic and/or my photography?
The answer to that, really ranges and varies because so many things and people provided individual bits of inspiration - I sometimes feel all I did was start assembling that into my own inspiration, peppered with fresh ideas or approaches of my own.
One bit of particular inspiration - the inspiration to unleash my own personal potential with Haagse Fiets Chic - came both directly and indirectly from my own former CEO at T-Mobile, Mark Klein.
After 20+ years, I'd personally seen a lot of CxO's go in and out of the front door, but when Mark came in as our new CEO, I knew something about him was different, both as a CEO, a German and a human being. He seemed inspired by what I might call "true leadership" and sought to foster and environment and culture that itself fostered a very positive and self-engaged culture of leadership. He believed in creating an environment where individuals could unleash their own potential for the betterment of themselves, and company and the consumers. At first Mark seemed so positively unique, I used to jokingly refer to Mark as "The UnGerman", but as time went along and I really recognized how authentic Mark's character was, I started very fondly referring to him as my own personal "Col Winters" - an off the cuff reference to both Col Winters of Easy Company and my very own step-father, a USAF General (Retired) - two men who in my eyes, were seen as "true leaders" by the very men whom they served.
Mark didn't just inspire me. He inspired hundreds of people at T-Mobile. It took a long while for him to get the ball rolling, but he never gave up, and finally, people started listening to him, they started doing things different. Really different. Because he was doing things very different.
When Mark showed up, I was already doing my 'daily photography walks' to and from work, and always tried to be clear to my colleagues - it's something I do "outside of my work". But with the change in company culture, many a colleague would tell me "it's not work, if your on your break anyways." and that quickly transformed into "you're going to be there anyways, bring the camera and photograph our team / dept event."
Along the way, a few colleagues got inspired to come to me saying they didn't want to take away from my normal job, but maybe, if I was around at lunch, I could photograph their team (not my own team or dept). Then it was an administrative council asking for a team photo. Then people were asking for Linked-In portraits. Then I was asked by CorpComms and other departments for photographs. Various colleagues started writing about Haagse Fiets Chic on their own private blogs and it got featured on the corporate Intranets a few times. My colleagues who wrote about me as a source of inspiration, because my own inspiration as I sought in turn to proudly feature many of my own colleagues on Haagse Fiets Chic. In turn, social and business bridges were being built, and business blockers and social barriers were knocked over and removed. Many others thought it was fantastic, and by no means was it limited to just myself. Others all around me were experiencing it too and taking charge and responsibility of our own futures, both inside and outside of T-Mobile. It was many of those inspired people who took me aside and provided their own inspiration to me, personal words which lead me to take the bold decision to unlock my own personal potential one step further and unleash my own personal potential.
Regardless of what any profit-loss statement or any business pundits say about his tenure at T-Mobile, I found Mark to be a real leader among men, a man who very much created an environment where lots of positive things could result, which further creates positive results of their own, completely inside and outside that value stream, even things that benefit the local community.
Mark did something else while he was here. From the onset, he proclaimed he was "Going Dutch" and raised that bar so high, I personally was impressed as he successfully strove to meet that challenge he sat for himself.
A year and a half ago, I thought I was fortunate enough to have spotted Mark on his bicycle riding to work on cold foggy and drizzly Monday morning on approach towards Holland Spoor station, about to cross into the bicycle tunnel to the other side. I was coming up the other direction, camera and hand, and saw there was no way I could make it in time to catch him before the tunnel.
Breaking my own hard steadfast rule to never run with my camera, I ran like a bat out of hell, and _barely_ raced past Mark on his bicycle under the tunnel (he rides quite fast btw), and continued across the street (fortunately for me, it was clear and safe to proceed like bat out of hell) and setup for his approach before his last turn at the side of the T-Mobile HQ. I unfortunately didn't have time to check to see if I was on burst mode (I wasn't) but got lucky enough that I caught him perfectly, which later I posted on Haagse Fiets Chic. Mark later told me how much he and his wife really liked the photo, but like a bone-head, I completely forgot/overlooked to ever offer them a high resolution copy for themselves. It seems, kind of silly oversight now, but I guess when we did talk, mostly it was about "real work" issues and I never really wanted to unnecessarily take up his busy time with talk of my photography. It was only later that I learned he had used the photo for his Twitter page.
But I was nonetheless still completely stunned, when a couple of weeks ago, many months after I've long departed ways with T-Mobile, I was approached by my former colleague from the CEO's office. It was proposed to present Mark with something that best described, summarized and reminded him most of his time "Going Dutch" in the Netherlands. And with that, they approached me with the idea to use the photo I'd featured on Haagse Fiets Chic more than a year ago and give him a proper high resolution and framed photograph of it.
Honored and partially stunned with disbelief, I agreed. Sadly, I couldn't attend the farewell party because of other commitments, but was especially pleased to see the outcome and hear he was very appreciative of the farewell gift he received.
So to summarize and answer the question - who do I get my inspiration from? From many people and things, but I selectively choose good and positive inspirational people around and near me to inspire me. People that inspire through their actions and approaches if as much or even more so than their words, to push my own boundaries and better my own community, culture and environment. Maybe they don't win every battle and maybe they don't meet every single challenge, but they keep on fighting the good fight regardless. They continue to inspire others to be inspirational, long after they themselves are gone.
Some of them, like Mark Klein.
Good luck to you Mark. I truly hope our paths cross again.