Changing the Game with Nick James | OYNB 085

One Year No Beer Podcast Episode 085 – Changing the Game with Nick James

Today’s guest is the founder of Expert Empires, the cofounder of the Elite Closing Academy, and the creator of the Expert Empires Mastermind. Nick James joins the podcast today to talk about a secret sauce he’s discovered that will help him grow his businesses even more – and it’s a secret that OYNB members already know about. 

Nick started running events in 2008. He recalls that 8 people showed up for his first event. His most recent event attracted 1500 people. He brings in experts and speakers to talk about how to successfully grow businesses and establish brands, and he’s already successfully grown his own business quite a bit. But when he sat down to set his intentions for 2020, he wanted to find a way to grow even more and help even more people.

“This is not fashionable in the personal development world, but I actually don’t read books. But I like to digest content through audio.”

An audiobook prompted him to ask himself what one thing he could do to make everything else either easier, or unnecessary. And the answer was for him to be more present, have more time, and become an even better leader. And Nick decided that the best way to accomplish that was to give up alcohol. 

Nick says that he had set this intention before. Reducing his alcohol intake was on the list every year, and it was the only intention that he fell short on every year. He decided that trying to moderate his alcohol intake wasn’t working, so the answer was to give it up entirely. 

Nick describes feeling very worried during his first week of going alcohol-free. He was a public figure and he’d posted his intention on Facebook, so if he failed, he would be failing publicly. He was also afraid that even if he succeeded, he’d hate it, but be stuck with it. However, he found that after that first week, it was much easier than he’d expected to abstain.

Listen in to hear Nick talk more about his alcohol-free journey. He talks about how much the OYNB community has helped and how the change has affected his business. He explains how he has more energy, more productivity, and more time now. And Nick and Ruari talk about what a game-changer it would be to get this message across to other entrepreneurs.


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Episode Transcript

Ruari: Welcome to the One Year No Beer podcast. It’s Ruari here today. I am your host with a very special guest, one I’ve known for the last four or five years and watched his business go from strength to strength. Nick James is the founder of Expert Empires, co-founder of the Elite Closing Academy, and creator of the Empires Mastermind.

Most importantly, Nick has found a magic secret sauce (or not)that is going to see his business plans go absolutely global this year—well, you are already global—and he’s going to share that magic sauce with us all today. Side note and secret hint, it is something that if you are in OYNB, you’re already doing.

Welcome to the show, Nick.

Nick: Thanks for having me, mate. Really, really a pleasure to be here and hopefully, I can add some value.

Ruari: It’s been a while since we chatted. We’ve done lots of WhatsApp-ing and things, and a bit of Facebook-ing. Especially now that you’re giving the chance, we’ll get back to that.

We met back in 2016, I think it was. We were literally fresh off the boat thinking about this great big OYNB thing. You were the king of events at the time, I think, and I seemed to remember, we’ll go back into this a little bit later, but we came up with the idea of alcohol-free Ibiza […]. I’m still sad that that’s never happened but maybe next time we can get onto that.

Listen, Nick, tell us a bit of back story, tell us where it all began for you and how it got you here today.

Nick: I’ll try and give you the short version, so we can get into it soon.

Ruari: Oh you embellish yourself.

Nick: I suppose the short version is I’ve been around the kind of personal development […], so went to Tony Robbins events, started when I was 12, way from my childhood and teenage years because my mom was a Tony Robbins kind of disciple […] expression, and he’d been a trainer for his organization, so I got involved in it. I was already in the personal development success role attending a lot of events.

It made sense that that was always going to be the career or the path that I chose because it’s something that I was passionate about. I knew that’s what […]. You said in the intro when you met me in 2016, the reason we connected was because you weren’t right. We wanted to get into doing […] events for OYNB and Nick knows that. When you’ve been around for as long as I have, it becomes second nature. The marketing live events, selling tickets, the running of […]. While making everything just work […] work, that’s what I do.

I started out doing my own very small events. I actually worked for an event company for about 18 months to really learn the business of it up close and personal, then started running my own events in 2009. Our first one had eight people. These ones […] date now we’re 11–12 years down the line. We’ve had our biggest one so far, we have just over 1400 at a conference we’ve had last summer. All paid, we never do free events. It’s grown significantly, I suppose, over time.

What we do today, as you mentioned in the intro, is we have Expert Empires as our flagship. We bring in the best speakers in the world to come in and share their wisdom about growing a business and establishing a personal brand. People would go there and […],  Grant Cardone, et cetera. So, that’s our flagship event. This year, we’ll do over 200 days of training in a training center in Birmingham which is self-training days, niche growth, […] how to use LinkedIn to grow your business, how to get more leads through Facebook and that kind of stuff.

Ruari: Brilliant. Lots of stuff to get into. You’ve got Expert Empires coming up shortly. You’ve got somebody I met very briefly who’s really impactful and his name is Trent Shelton.

Nick: We’ve got Trent Shelton and Ed Mylett as the two headline speakers for Expert Empires which is this month, 19th–20th of March. We run two to three of those events a year. We’ve got a big one planned for July which I’m really excited about.

Ruari: Brilliant. There’s something you hinted at the beginning here. There’s something you decided to do this year, which is your secret sauce for taking your business global. Do you want to share with us what that is?

Nick: Yeah, of course, happy to. Maybe I’ll give you the thinking behind it as well, first of all. I’m fairly ambitious and aggressive when it comes to the growth of my businesses. We had a really good year last year, broke all of our records in terms of revenue and numbers in events, the business as you said […] since you and I met each other.

I looked up the year ahead. In 2019, I looked at 2020 and what are my outcomes? How can we grow even bigger, even faster, help even more people, how do we do all that? I’m a big, as you would expect, I run a lot of my own events, I run my mastermind programs, I have mentoring clients, so I invest in those things as well.

I have coaches, I have mentors, I’m part of mastermind programs. I was actually attending a mastermind event last year with my business coach who was the host of it. The pre-study for that mastermind day was to read a book. The book is called The One Thing. Now, this is not fashionable in the personal development world. I actually don’t read books, but I like to digest content through audio.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts, that kind of thing because I can do them in the car, on the way to the gym, on the way to the office, it’s a good use of my time. I actually listened to the audio of this book called The One Thing. What came out of me listening to that audiobook effectively […] but I highly recommend it and I could summarize it very quickly for you, which is a question.

Literally, when I heard the question and when I answered it myself, there was only one obvious answer. Of course, I’m looking at this question through the context of how I grow my business next year. The question was, what is the one thing that when you do it will make everything else easier or completely unnecessary? Then I went, “Hmm. What is the one thing that when I do it will make everything else easier or completely unnecessary? Well, maybe we could spend more money on Facebook or maybe we could recruit more sales teams, or maybe blah-blah-blah.” I looked at all these things and went, “Yeah, I could do all those things, but how different if that’s what we already do? Not much.”

The one thing that’s going to make the biggest difference here is me having better energy, being more present, being more on it, having more time, being a better leader, that is the one thing. I went, “What’s the one thing that’s going to make that happen?” and I went, “I’m going to have to give up drinking alcohol. That’s it.”

We were talking about this just before we started recording, Ruari, which is when we first met (which is like four or five years ago), I remember thinking what you guys are doing is amazing and I should really do it, but I was scared. I was like, “I’m not ready.” All these things I’m going to miss out on. Social activities and time with my friends. It was a nice idea but I didn’t feel that I could do it, I wanted to do it, or was ready. Listening to that audiobook and answering that question was the stimulus to which I made the decision.

That’s it, it happened, and I did a couple of things which I think was smart, which was immediately I did something […] complete accountability. I went to the mastermind and shared that, that was the decision I’ve made, that was […] I was making. I have my coach and a couple of people I already knew about it. I told my wife first. As soon as I made the decision, I told her. She’s an incredible human being and the first thing she said was, “That’s amazing, I’m going to do it with you.”

I said to her, “Look, by the way, I’m not telling you this because I want you to do it with me. I need to do this for myself, for our company, for our family, and I’m committed to doing it. If you’re going to do it, you do it for your own reason. It will be amazing because you already support me, but I’m not saying you have to do it.” She was like, “No, I mean it and I want to do it.” I’m sure we’ll dive into this a bit more, but we’re not that far in. As we record this, we’re on day 64, but it’s been already a life-changing decision.

Ruari: Yeah, already a life-changing decision. Amazing. You think I’ve been talking crap for the past. What is amazing about this and where it came from right in the beginning with Andy and I, is that we recognized that nobody wanted to hear it. You don’t want to hear it. Also, because of the marketing, social conditioning, peer pressure, and just the way our society is, we’re like, “The last thing I want to do is not drink.”

Then there’s this niggling in the back of the brain; you were talking about this earlier as well. There’s this knowing the way, “I think I should listen to this.” “No. I’m having fun, this is my social lubricant, this is helping me do business. That guy would’ve done business with me if I didn’t drink.” Then you remove it and you go, “Holy […], I can’t believe I didn’t realize this before.”

Nick: Yeah. I’m actually way better than before. I know it’s an old adage but when the shooting’s ready to teach your peers. For me, I may have said it tongue-in-cheek, but it’s not that the last four or five years you’ve been talking rubbish. I knew you were talking sense four or five years ago, I just wasn’t ready. When I became ready, then it all made sense. Then I discovered things that I didn’t even know about before, which have actually made the whole process a hell of a lot easier than I could’ve possibly imagined.

Ruari: Okay so if you dive into that and you say what was the getting ready process? What do you think of the dominoes that went off? What were the realizations you had between the knowing and the actual execution?

Nick: Well, over four or five years?

Ruari: Yeah.

Nick: Let’s say, it probably is a compound effect of not even four or five years. It’s probably a compound effect of the last 20 years.

Ruari: Twenty?

Nick: Yeah, it’s the truth. Again, we’re probably going to be off […] here but I think it’s useful. As I said, I’ve been in the personal development world for a very long time and every single year we do a process as a family where we set our goals, intentions, for the year ahead. Only every year that I can remember reducing alcohol intake as being one of the things. Only every year without fail has it been—I’m not saying it’s the only one—the one that every single time I’m falling short, without a doubt.

It led me to the realization and it’s something you talk about a lot in the OYNB community. I know all this because it’s early days when you guys have been doing what you do for a very long time, but to me, moderation didn’t work for me. I’ve tried reducing alcohol intake, it was something I’d committed to doing every year. I tried reducing it and each year failed. It was just too easy. 

I’m a […] thing kind of person, so my realization really was that, knowing that […] kind of person (which is my greatest strength probably or also my greatest weakness), that in order to really succeed at reducing alcohol intake, it would have to be an all-or-nothing decision which was why I decided that it was right I’m going alcohol-free for the whole year.

Ruari: Brilliant. Then Nat joined you which is amazing, so now you’ve got local support championing you. You’ve joined us in One Year No Beer, which is brilliant, and you’ve been posting into the challengers’ group, I see that and I’ve been enjoying your story and your posts. How’s that experience been for you?

Nick: It’s been brilliant. I think having the group, the community, first of all, I think it was really helpful on a number of levels. My personal experience now is—I know we’ve talked about this before we started recording, I don’t know how this is going to sound—it’s actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. That’s my experience. A lot easier.

Now that book, that said, the first few days I was actually—I’ll be honest—I was scared. I was actually scared. I was scared of failing because I made a public statement that I could do this and I’ve shared it on Facebook. When I share something on Facebook, a lot of people see that. I was scared of failing. I was also scared of the thought that if I hate every minute of this the whole year, this is going to be horrible, so I was scared of the experience and what it might be like. It was really hard probably the first week, actually. Not that I was wanting to drink, that wasn’t the problem. It was fear of what was to come, that was the problem.

The community was really helpful. What was cool was I joined at the start of the year and literally, the first couple of days, there were loads of posts from people doing the exact same thing a year previous and were telling that we’re celebrating their success and their wins, and sharing their experiences.

At first, it was like having a mentor. I have a mentor for a business who’s walked the path I want to walk. Actually being in the group, being in the community is like having mentors. You see somebody post and say, “Hey, I’m on day 90,” or, “Hey, I’ve just achieved day 365.” It’s like, “Wow.” I’m getting inspired by the stories of people already further off.

Rather than me having a group of people that are on the same stage as I am, that probably wouldn’t have been that helpful because we’re all struggling, we’re all fearful, we’re all doubting ourselves at the same time, it gives people a further ahead. It also gives you the chance to contribute and I haven’t been […] enough (and I should, probably), to contribute and say, “Hey, I’m on day 64. Here’s my experience. For those who are just starting out, here’s what it was like the first few days, and I was scared and fearful.” I suppose that’s part of […]. Even if one person who’s on day one, two, three, four, who is feeling like that, […] hopefully it will help them support themselves on their journey.

Ruari: Absolutely. I think a couple of things you mentioned, there’s one, a lot of the communities actually just subconscious. The whole point about this and why the community. We nearly didn’t launch with a community. We didn’t really think that a community was important, we thought content was important. It turns out the community is the most important thing and here’s the reason why. Community is what keeps you drinking. Social conditioning, peer pressure, marketing. Society at large is what keeps us drinking. It’s what makes us fearful of being slipped up because you’re going to get peer pressure or you’re going to meet a moment when you’re thinking, “Want to have a drink?” That is the main shroud around our drinking.

What happens when somebody says, “Why are you not drinking? What’s wrong with you?” What they’re really saying is, “Are you really a man/woman? What’s wrong with you? Do you not belong to this tribe anymore?” and that is incredibly triggering for a human being. Do you know why? Because it triggers your sense of belonging and belonging is so important to humans.

If you’re going to go and change your relationship with something, and it doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s going against society and you don’t have a tribe where you feel belonging to, you’re most likely to fall back into that behavior. You don’t even know that when you’re sitting there and you’ve got the phone in your pocket, you just know the community is there, subconsciously, that when somebody says to you, “Why are you not having a drink?” that it gives you the power entirely to say, “No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight.” That is the power subconsciously of the community. It’s really great.

Nick: I think for me the community likes seeing the successes of those who are really powerful. Actually more than anything because I use Facebook a lot for business, so I’m on Facebook, not that much, but more than any other platform, let’s put it that way. Definitely use it more than any of the social platforms.

In the first few days, two weeks, I was reading a lot of the posts that were being put in the community to my own benefit. Of course, the way Facebook works, the algorithm means that the more you digest, it is everywhere. It’s exactly what I needed. What I needed was […]. Every other post I was reading was from OYNB, which was brilliant and exactly what I needed. That was really positive for me now.

I agree with that thing you just said, Ruari. If you’re asking me what the big thing is, that it’s maybe easiest, is it was I do think I went more aggressive than most when it comes to public accountability. I really went for it. I told everybody on Facebook, on stage at my events. […] literally now thousands of people but no one commits into this. Not just thousands of people—I think there’s 14,000–15,000 in the OYNB community—but I mean thousands of people that know me that are clients of ours. The commitment is so great that failure is not an option.

It was interesting. The first few people I told, who are not in that world but my mates and stuff, there was a combination of, “Good for you, that’s amazing,” or, “I wish I could do it,” kind of thing. There were also a couple of people who kind of went, “You’ve got no chance.” Actually, what was really interesting was because I know me, probably better than they do, what was really interesting with that response, what I realized is what they’re really saying is there’s no way they could do it.

Because of the degree of public accountability I’ve given myself, people are going, “Oh, do you fear you might slip?” I’m like, “I know I won’t.” The amount of certainty I’ve got is beyond ridiculous. There was no chance that it’s going to be a slip because the truth is, it would be like death. It would be so embarrassing to me because of the degree of public accountability and how much of a big deal I’ve made of it. Literally, I’ve set myself up that I cannot fail. I think that’s something that any of us could do. It’s burning the bridges […]. There is no going back.

Ruari: And banning yourself from the pub, barring yourself from the pub. You’re just forcing that hand. But as well, I always ask myself a question. I’m able to, I don’t call it moderation; I call it total control (we do), so I can drink as much as I want, whenever I want. I just usually choose never to drink, so I can be as flexible as I want.

The thing is, I was looking at how can I get to that place? How did I get to that place? Well, it’s because thousands, tens of thousands of people are expecting me not to be drinking. That gives me a set of expectations. When I go out and meet friends, it’s like, “Do you want an alcohol-free drink?” not, “What do you want to drink?” That’s the expectation. All of those things have been set in my favor. But the thing is, I’m not happy with just how I do it for me, I need to know how I’m going to do it for others.

I think this is a big part of the evolution of OYNB is how we start to create our ambassadors. Those people who want to be able to be more accountable, to keep them accountable, how do they become an ambassador for what OYNB is […], it’s what we’re really focused on this year.

I want to bring it back for a second to specifically business because you said in the beginning the words “game-changer.” I want to know in this short period of time, what really has in this […] that your business differently? What do you see is going to impact it going forward? You already had a very successful fast-growing business, so what is that this has given you?

Nick: As I said, all the intention that I’m making the decision was more energy, more productivity, more time for me, and that has been the case. It wouldn’t be uncommon. I think when I first made the decision I said to my coach, I went, “Look, I believe that I’ll probably operate in around 80% of my potential. If I’m not greater than 80% of my potential, then how are my teams going up? They’re going to be operating 80% of their potential, probably less, it’s the truth,” which means how much of the potential, the business, is remaining unfulfilled either directly or indirectly for that reason.

It’s probably at this stage which is still relatively early […] great starts in the year in January, we’ve got a lot of exciting things planned for the remainder of the year. I think more than anything, I’m coming into the office every day. We do a lot of measuring of our energy in our company, so the question we ask a lot is, “Hey, 0–10, where are you on the energy scale as it were?” I’m literally bouncing every day at 10, there’s no question. Whereas that just wasn’t the case before, I’d be at sevens and eights most of the time.

I think as a leader, as an example for the rest of the team, for starters that’s important. I literally got more hours in the day. Literally, I’m getting up earlier. I’ve got more hours, more time for being productive. Still, as an owner-operator of the business, we’ve got a team of 18–19 people, but still, there are certain things that I need to do that I’m uniquely qualified to do in the business. Got to track content, being a big one, which is probably where I’ve fallen down a bit over the last year, in particular. That’s the one thing that I need to do more but I don’t have the time to do it because it’s not critical. Content creation has been one that I’ve been able to dedicate a lot more time and focus more energy to so far this year.

Ruari: Brilliant, that’s absolutely awesome. One thing we are now speaking a lot more to companies. We’re speaking to companies, some of which another mastermind myself, and I’m going to do a 10-minute talk on how this is The ONE Thing. Interestingly, that’s a big part of One Year No Beer, we talk about The ONE Thing in our challenge in getting laser-focused on that, the one thing that can make everything else irrelevant, et cetera. You said it much better in the beginning because you’ve read it recently.

The game-changer is to get this across to other entrepreneurs. Could you imagine that 25% (and maybe more because you sound like you’re really coming in 110%), could you imagine that 25%–35% uplift in productivity in your business as an entrepreneur trying to grow their business? The extra focus, the time to do stuff, this is the message that we need to be getting out to more entrepreneurs.

On that note, I’m happy to send you books for your masterminds and stuff for you to give to people on your masterminds because I’m sure you’ll be sharing this message. If there’s anything I can do to support people and get the message out there more to entrepreneurs or people that are building businesses, that this really is the game-changer. We’re all searching for upgrades.

Nick: I’d love to help you push that message to more of our clients for sure. Here’s something else that was really interesting. When I made the public accountability I told friends, family, posted on Facebook, told our clients at events, there has been—I’ve lost count now—how many have also made the decision. I mean, it’s more than I could count on one hand. The people that have gone like, “Amazing, I’m going to do it, too. You’ve inspired me, I’m going to do the same thing.” There’s a number of people in my world that have done the same thing.

I think the key is you’ve got to live by example in some respects. Like I said, why didn’t I do it four or five years ago, I wasn’t in the place where I was ready. I’m sure that there’s plenty of our clients who have not made the decision yet for themselves and maybe they will, maybe they won’t. The point is, when I said it, they were ready, and I went bang […].

Ruari: I’m in. Yeah, exactly. That was the last domino. For most of us, we were starting to awaken that we’re realizing the impact it’s having. I mean it is early days for you, very exciting, I think we should get you back on maybe towards the tail end of the year.

Before we go, I think the Expert Empires, could you tell me a bit more about the event if anybody wants to come and join your next event? It sounds like it’s going to be awesome with Trent there.

Nick: Yeah, what do you need to know?

Ruari: Tell us a bit more about the event and where they can find out info or come and join.

Nick: All info you can get at, although, I think you’re probably going to put a link with this into your guest anyway. […] check it out for your link. Again, you may or may not know these guys.

Ed Mylett, who’s amassed a $40 million fortune and is extremely talented when it comes to getting messaging out through social media. If you’re running a business in the expert space, you want to build your personal brand using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and so on, he only actually got on social media believe it or not in 2017. He’s now got multiple millions of people following him on social. He’s done it organically, so he’s going to share how he did that.

Trent Shelton, again, is an ex-NFL American footballer, but now the standard line that I’m hearing that he uses is that he’s now regarded as one the top motivational speakers of our generation, and again, has millions of people weekly subscribing and watching his content on Youtube and other platforms.

These guys have really built a massive personal brand and used social media to do that. Also along, we’ve got Rob Moore also speaking about how to start and grow a podcast, just like you guys have, and how to get onto podcasts to spread your message. Effectively, whatever the message is, your business, how do you get it out there to more people, how do you raise your expert positioning in your rendition in particular.

So, 19th and 20th of March, we’ve got all of the speakers that I’m talking about; they’re all amazing. Bottom line, it’s going to be all about how you can raise your profile, generate more leads for your business, get more sales, help more people, and grow your company. So, 19th and 20th of March, go to, and […].

Ruari: Wembley in London, it’s awesome.

Nick: Yeah, so we’re at the Hilton Wembley. A couple final things that I thought might be just fascinating for you because you don’t even know unless you can follow me on social. I know it’s only 64 days in but I’ve probably put myself through bigger tests than anybody else could possibly imagine.

One was I went to Vegas for five days. It’s probably the city on Earth that you most need to avoid if you don’t want to drink. What was interesting was I don’t think I would have gone, I know I wouldn’t have gone if I have not made this decision. It was a conference […] business conference. […] but the truth is, I know that if I’ve been drinking it would have been a complete disaster. It’s just too easy to waste time and drink lots and not make the most of the experience, most of the event. Because I wasn’t drinking I was like, “Hey, I can go to this conference because it’s going to be brilliant. I’m going to be ready and productive, and get loads while I’m there.” It was actually four days I was there in Vegas which was amazing.

You guys talk a lot in the community about alternatives and there were a lot of great alternatives available. I think it’s becoming […] now, I’m seeing it through new eyes. I don’t know a few alternatives, what’s always there, or is it just becoming more and more common. The alcohol-free solutions are available, so that was great.

The reason that I’m sharing this is because we were at an event at the Hilton in Wembley, and I was at Wembley on Sunday for the Lee Cook final because I’m an Ashton Miller fan. We were playing […] final, we lost, but we’re down there all day in the pub, there were all singing and drinking and all that going on, and I had a great time.  I took my kids with me, they loved it and we had a great time. I guess those were the kinds of things that I was fearful of […] on before I made the decision. Actually, those experiences have been enhanced.

Ruari: That’s awesome. I’ve been there exactly. You’ve made it even better. That’s awesome. It sounds like I need to be speaking to the audience at Expert Empires one of these days.

Nick: You definitely need to get in the OYNB message in front of our audience. We can definitely discuss how we can possibly make that happen.

Ruari: Awesome. Listen, Nick, thank you so much for sharing your journey, thanks for being a part of One Year No Beer, and thanks for letting us know into the events. It’s been great to have you on the show, and we’ll definitely get you back on towards the end of the year.

Nick: Yeah, man. I love to. Thanks for having me.

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