It was about 8:00 pm when Winnie introduced the first speaker, and at that exact moment, we knew the event had begun. It was an evening we had all looked forward to ever since it was announced. Organized by students, we were anxious to see how it would turn out. It didn’t feel like a project that had been proposed or an assignment that had to be done in order to get a good grade in class; the team entirely poured its soul into preparing for the event. It in fact felt like preparing for a short notice wedding, but this wedding in particular was dubbed, “Riding through Success.”
What does that even mean? The posters displayed in the foyer couldn’t explain what the words meant; something that made most students inquisitive. Aside from the name and the date of the event, the poster had a man with a brief case, sprinting towards something. Perhaps he had ridden through success! It still didn’t make sense, at least not to everyone, not until they heard about the guest speakers that were going to be present. During ticket sales, the team made an effort to explain to everyone what the event meant both through word of mouth and social media.
By 7:00pm on 28th November, 2016 the foyer of Antwerp Management School began to fill up. It wasn’t just the ordinary vintage foyer that groups of students occasionally held meetings in or sat down for a cup of coffee to catch up, the set-up had completely been transformed, decorated with a touch of black and gold. A little over 100 guests who were warmly welcomed, indulged in a brief meet and greet before the event officially started.
As the guests filled up their seats, Kyra Koeken welcomed everyone. She thanked them for attending the event and also gave a brief introduction that explained the meaning of the event. Riding through success was organized to support an aspirant Indian Cyclist named Sarvesh Sangarya, a 23 year old boy who dreamed of competing in the Tour De France cycling championship but didn’t have a team or the appropriate funds for training and facilitation. It was stated that all the proceeds of the event were to be given to him. A video of Sarvesh was then presented on a projector for all the attending guests to have an insight about whom Sarvesh was, his brief background, how he discovered his dream and what has motivated him since.
When Winnie introduced her as the first guest speaker for the evening, she gave a brief background of who Sofie Goos was. A Belgian triathlete who made her big break into sport in 2008, with wins in Ibiza, Knokke, Mechelen, etc. and continuously in numerous races including the Florida ironman and the Barcelona Challenge. In respect to her years of success, Sofie was once nominated as the female Belgian Athlete of the year, and in 2010, she became a full-time professional triathlete. However, Sofie is mostly known for the fateful event in May 2016 which almost crippled her career. While training in Antwerp one day, Sofie was stabbed by an unknown man, for no ultimate reason, a particular tragedy that forced her to be treated in intensive care. On the same day, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sofie was to be interviewed by Jonathan Albers and Anthony Verstraete to provide an insight of her career both before and after the fateful event, and what to her, was the true meaning of success.
During her interview, Sofie explained that the man who stabbed her was mentally disturbed and that even if the tragedy caused a stumble in her career, she couldn’t control it. She revealed that after her recovery, she turned all the negativity into motivation and started training again. Further still, she competed in her first race in September 2016, knowing that she wasn’t expected to win. In her words, this wasn’t her official comeback. According to Sofie, the true meaning of success is believing in oneself and not giving up on one’s dreams no matter the circumstance.
The second guest speaker that was introduced was Ronald Gaastra, the most successful coach in the Belgian Olympic History. He is a Dutch swim trainer who started in 1989 as technical director at the Flemish Swimming Federation and led several swimming talents to medals and European titles throughout his career. He is recently recognized as the coach of the national team of Belgium at the Olympics of summer, 2016 a team from which Pieter Timmers won a silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle.
During his speech, Ronald strongly urged the guests that success shouldn’t be looked at as merely a dream, but as a reality. He advised that in order to succeed, we should set reasonable target goals, and then work towards them. He in fact warned that most of the time when people set unrealistic goals, none is achieved as time is wasted without a strategic plan. According to Ronald, you have to work hard to achieve success.
Jamie Anderson, the final speaker for the evening told his story about how he let go of his dream of becoming a professional cyclist and devoted his life to school and a new career path. Jamie is an academic, author and speaker who has been named as a “management guru” in the Financial Times, and as one of the world’s top 25 thinkers by the journal Business Strategy Review, alongside internationally renowned thought leaders such as Gary Hamel, Philip Kotler and Henry Mintzberg.
He was ultimately successful as at the top of his career he was married with two children and had a well-paying job that could provide for his family. In fact, almost everyone who had chosen his career path, would want to be in his shoes, or at least strive to earn as much as he did. As Jamie poured his soul into his career, he had less time for his family and was very unhappy. He in fact, showed a photograph that was taken of him a couple of years ago while at the top of his career, a picture that portrayed anything but happiness.
Jamie took a turn in his career by quitting his job and joining cycling for older men. He even competed in one race where he won a bronze medal, and had his family beside him. When Jamie quit his job, he went after his passion, a turn that gave him time for his family, inspiration and above everything happiness. According to Jamie, that was success. Over the last years Jamie has delivered more than 300 keynote presentations and lectures at conferences and workshops, where he passionately talks with a good dose of humor about leadership, creativity, innovation and strategy, an exact dose of what we got.
Kyra Koeken, once again thanked everyone for coming to the event. She introduced the organizing team which in turn presented the guest speakers with bouquets of flowers as a gesture of appreciation. Kyra finally informed the guests about the Crowd funding campaign that was taking place at a table at the back of the foyer for anyone who wanted to donate some more to Sarvesh. Additionally, there was a sale of creative engraved laser cut bicycles that were going for only 1€. The event came to an end with a cocktail where all the guests had a chance to interact with each other and most importantly with the guest speakers.
Riding through success left all the attendees with one question running through their minds: “What to you is the true meaning of success?”
Yasmine Vetters, Anthony Verstraete, Ann-Sophie Tack, Winnie Kisakye, Erin Dooley, Kyra Koeken and Jonathan Albers – Master of Management- Innovation and Entrepreneurship