Hello, I'm Simon Darnton.
I could start this piece with some unique selling points. Like that I bring experience of the psychology of world-class motorcycle and mountain bike racers combined with significant business experience and the philosophies underpinning Tai Chi Chuan.
Instead I think it's more honest to tell you that I don't easily fit in. Which is why my clients use me.
With that, I can't promise that I help similar, niche clients to solve similar problems by offering similar solutions.
What gets me up in the morning is that I work with a variety of unique clients to navigate their unique challenges in unique ways. My clients tell me this fits in with the complexities of their world.
The reality of my work is that whilst the majority of my time nowadays is spent within the business environment, I might still be spending a day on the side of a mountain or at a race circuit and the very next day be sitting in a room with a group of leaders who are figuring out how to scale their business.
I don't offer solutions. I don't work in a niche, nor do I want to, because the world is too full of fascinating things to explore.
With my interest and passion for the human dimension of work, life, and business, what I do offer is:
A restorative human space where you can take some 'you' time to access yourself, your intuition and wisdom, and be present; a space where you can keep learning, to play with your creativity, to innovate and develop different perspectives.
I offer a journey that helps each of my clients to navigate their own path.
A client put it much better than I following work within Deloitte:
'Simon has helped us to change how we think about what we do and to realise how we can do things differently.'
When I was young, people would come up to me and talk about their problems. I could listen and be with them and they'd go away thanking me for my help. I felt like a fraud because I thought I hadn't done anything. But actually I had. I'd listened with my heart and asked the right questions that unpicked what needed to be unpicked, and it resonated with them.
When I was going through a really rough time as a teenager, being particularly alone following an international move, I came across The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck. It had a big impact upon me because it taught me it's okay that solving problems can actually be a painful experience. Confronting our problems helps us to develop our self-understanding.
I'd started riding motorcycles and my dad bought me Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I got what he was talking about because I kept on breaking my bike and having to fix it too; I even had to mend my engine once on the overnight ferry coming home from Sweden. The message that sat with me was about a balance and co-operation between Zen-like 'being in the world, in the moment' and more detailed technical, scientific, reasoned existence. I liked that and it has infused my way of mind ever since..it's perhaps what drew me to Tai Chi Chuan.
As I grew I was drawn more passionately towards the inner lives we all lead and the effects it has on us. I was studying Aerospace Engineering, solving a hugely long equation when I realised this was wrong for me and I wanted to work with people. I quit my degree and went to train as a counsellor.
I studied psychology, consciousness and being, yoga and meditation too, you name it; much of it from Eastern influences, but also shamanic and other indigenous traditions.
This was the road less travelled for me.
Meanwhile, I had to work to earn more money which directed me into the world of business. First at the lowest, most basic of levels and then I hit upon something that seemed to be for me.
The world of technology was rising rapidly and I found a place being a kind of human advocate in large scale projects; projects that were about changing the way work was being done, the implementation of new technologies, and then the questions of creating, capturing and sharing knowledge in the organisation.
I spent my time communicating, listening, influencing, understanding, connecting people to people, helping people to understand both themselves and others better. I solved problems. I designed services. I've held my own profit and loss. I did these things in some very large, well known companies as well as start-ups and scale-ups. Rising up the ranks.
Then I fell ill. I couldn't function any more. I couldn't work. I couldn't do any of what I did before.
So began probably the most difficult chapter so far in my life.
First I had to navigate a medical system that didn't look far enough to understand the cause, and then it just ignored the patient. They gave me the wrong diagnosis, told me it was all in my mind and wouldn't accept otherwise.
When I least needed a fight, I had to have one for my health. These were dark days for me.
When they found nothing in my mind, they told me that was also my fault. Nothing to do with them, so they showed me the door.
Here we went again, until I found light in two amazing specialists. They injected the humanity back into my care and showed me the true skill and art of differential diagnosis. I was diagnosed correctly and finally found a long and winding path to rehabilitation.
The specialists determined that I had acquired a kind of balance disorder which had some complications. I was at a place where moving around made me feel ill, and not moving around made me feel ill - there was no respite and I was exhausted.
Our balance is one of our fundamental connections with our world. It's one of our major senses. When it changes, as it had for me, it changes your relationship with the world. It changes your relationship with you. You're no longer who you used to be.
This reaches into your very identity, as I have found do most major illnesses and injuries.
My condition still travels with me as an unseen companion which, strangely and ironically, forces me to keep a balance in my life - which I help my clients to do also.
Here, I found two massively important things for me: Tai Chi Chuan and Psychological Coaching.
It's a funny term really, but what it means is quite important to anyone who wants to solve problems, grow, and become better in what they do.
Psychological coaching is about starting from you in the now without any preconceived ideas that anything is wrong. It's the opposite of that, assuming that everything is right - this provides the foundations for changing things and getting better. And this is a major part of what I do with my clients: helping them to change and get better at what they do.
For me, psychological coaching is also about understanding the processes we use personally to think things through, to know ourselves and to find ways to navigate our challenges. From this place we may also accept that in the reality of the complex world, there may not be clean solutions to problems.
I hold a Master's Degree in Psychological Coaching from Metanoia (accredited by London Southbank University). This has given me an understanding of the major schools of psychology and psychotherapy; in how they approach human flourishing, as well as contemporary theories and practises of adult learning and development, particularly for personal and professional growth.
Something in me had always been drawn to the importance of living life with a balance between head and heart. My research project drew me deeper into the philosophies that underpin Tai Chi Chuan. Because to function most effectively in our world, Chinese philosophy says that there must be the appropriate balance of the heart-mind.
Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi formed the bedrock of my rehabilitation and it's now part of my daily routine. Tai Chi is a lived, functional, syncretic expression of several of the world's major philosophies.
All my work with clients is infused by this, essentially relational and complex view of the world and human nature.