Darren James talks about how a Mastermind helped free him from the shacklesof his businesses  

I must say that when I had the opportunity to join my first Mastermind I wasn’t overly keen. That may sound strange to you, but perhaps I should provide some context to my trepidations.

You see, I’m a very deep thinker and speaking in a group is something I really don’t enjoy.

Truth is, through my entire life, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than to stand up in a group of strangers and offer advice or an opinion.

Then, in early 2016, I found myself at somewhat of a crossroads.

After 24 years working at the coal face of my businesses I had decided that something needed to change.

Either I needed to allow others to step up and reach their potential or the stress would more than likely kill me.

That may sound a little dramatic but it was a fact.

I decided to step down from running my businesses and promote the long- term management teams to run the day to day. I would be accessible but no more would I be the first in and last to leave, locking the gates behind everyone else.

The transition was tough, it was cold turkey and serious withdrawal symptoms. Not only for me but also for my wife and family as Dad was the guy who was gone before dawn and back, if you are lucky, just in time to read the bedtime story.

Suddenly, I was helping to do some of the school runs and was there when everyone got home. Even attending school concerts, sports days and other activities.

I was juggling feelings of sheer joy at not having the stress, but mostly the downright guilt at not being there at the beck and call of the businesses.

I am sure there are many reading this who would kill for a successful multi- million-pound business that was able to run without them but I can promise you, the suddenness of my exit was a tough bag of emotions to handle.

So, it was at this time, the opportunity arose for me to join my first Mastermind group. As I have already said it was with real trepidation that I signed up and attended my first summit.

Fast forward over 12 months and my opinions have totally changed.

Without exaggerating, the process has changed my life.

I was at a stage in my life where I was looking for where my next challenge would come from, and asking if there was, in fact, any life outside of work.

I began not really knowing how a quiet man like myself could possibly add value to anyone. My group made it easy and I found myself enjoying being able to help others by drawing on my experience.

When it came to setting my own objectives for the next 3 months, as opposed to business related, it was clear that I needed to work on myself and my family life.

I started reading as part of my daily routine, and I’ve now read over 15 books that have been recommended to me by my group. I’ve enjoyed it so much and in some cases, I’ve read books more than twice as I enjoyed the content so much. I feel so much more con dent to draw upon this new knowledge now.

My group helped me work on my feelings of guilt and made me realise that I deserved this period in my life and that I should enjoy my new-found freedom.

I started exercising regularly and taking long walks in the evenings, often listening to audio books as I walked.

My new-found confidence allowed me to help a friend going through difficult times and, with the skills I had picked up through the group, I coached and mentored him. I was so proud of him when he told me he’d just had promotion in work… he’s moving into management after a life on the tools. I hope I’ve helped him realise some of his potential.

Family life has never been better.

To be able to spend time with my young family and my wife has been a blessing.

Some may find this unbelievable, but I consider this summer of 2017 as the first ever summer I have ever been able to take a proper stress free holiday with my family, and enjoy the light mornings and evenings.

I feel like the whole process has allowed me to stop, take a breath and see life for what it is and to evaluate and make better decisions.

My Mastermind group gave me the ability to do all that and so much more. I so hope that others can benefit as much as I have and if you have any doubts, then take it from me, you should take the opportunity and run as hard as you can with it.