It took Londonderry father-of-three Gary Doherty to lose everything he had ever worked for to discover what he wanted in life.
fter a traumatic time when he lost his home, estate agency business and possessions during the 2009 property market crash, Gary has bounced back with a new outlook and a new company aimed at helping people to reach their full potential.
As founder of The Think Network NI, the 45-year-old grandfather has been empowering people across the globe to achieve their dreams.
He has a particular love for helping young people and for female empowerment.
Gary’s passion has persuaded some of the world’s leading figures in self-empowerment, wealth and business to get on board, mentoring members in what he calls his exclusive ‘Mastermind’ group.
His inspirational TEDx talks on self-empowerment have proved far-reaching, inspiring audiences of tens of thousands across the globe. Now that he has found what he believes he was born to do, his passion for helping people is palpable.
Married to Elizabeth (43), who works in the business with him, he has three children, Amy (25), Ben (20) and Calum (15) as well as two grandsons, Mason (5) and Noah (3) who all live together in Derry.
During the property boom in the mid-2000s, Gary saw an opportunity to make money and left his job to set up his own estate agency and letting business.
Four years later he lost it all and the trauma of that time proved a huge turning point.
“We knew our home was going to be repossessed but they don’t tell you when,” he says.
“I arranged for us to rent a house and it is just as well I did as the very next day the bailiffs turned up unannounced and changed the locks on the doors and told me to leave the property. At the same time a big loader appeared in the driveway and took our cars away.
“When I look back it was horrendous, but these things all happen for a reason. In moments like that you find out what you are made of and also just how supportive the people around you are.
“My father-in-law gave me advice that never left me. He said I could recover and build and go again or roll over and let it defeat me.
“I decided to use the time to get myself an education and two days after I was made insolvent, I enrolled for a degree in business studies at the University of Ulster, even though I had left school with only two GCSEs.
“I put all my anxiety into studying and that filled a huge vacuum of self-pity and stopped me going in a downward spiral.”
Gary went on to study for five years, also completing a master’s degree in management.
His goal was to achieve a stable job in management which he succeeded in but despite the responsibility of his role and the security of a good wage, he never felt that he was reaching his true potential.
“The entrepreneurial spirit never left me. I also felt that I had more to give and even though I had a good job I felt boxed in,” he says.
Three years ago, as a hobby he became a motivational speaker. He soon saw the power in bringing people together and how through mentoring each other, good things happened for those in what soon became an ever-growing network.
He says: “It just grew and grew and became sort of a movement. As a young man I didn’t have much confidence or self-belief and it was as if in my 30s I was finally starting to flourish.
“When I was at my lowest my father-in-law believed in me and I felt that was something I could give to other people and the more I talked to people, the more I realised that people needed inspired. I suddenly realised this is my purpose in life, this is what I am here for.” Gary bravely walked away from his job as a business development manager last April, just a month after the first lockdown and launched his empowerment company The Think Network.
A little over a year later he has a mailing list of 10,000 people who have subscribed to one of his talks or courses and around 200 active members from all around the world. He has set up Londonderry’s first TEDx studio where he records and broadcasts inspirational speakers.
He has also recently established TEDx@YouthDerryLondonderry in conjunction with the charity Young Enterprise and is working with 20 local schools to organise the first ever youth TEDx conference to be broadcast on YouTube this autumn.
Helping young people is a particular passion for him and he also aims to deliver ‘Self confidence for Youth’ workshops across Northern Ireland.
“I remember being a youth myself and having dreams but not the confidence to do anything about them,” he says.
“I want young people to know how to do it now and have the tools to achieve what they want.
“I have secured the first ever TEDx youth event for October 15 when around 20 young people aged between 13 and 19 years will take part in a conference that will be broadcast on YouTube.
“I am so, so excited to do it and I think it will be my most satisfying achievement to date. These young people have been mentored by us and will have a platform to spread their ideas around the world and give people a new perspective on current ideas.”
Also, actively championing female empowerment he has set up partnerships with numerous women-led initiatives including working with Mairead Mackle of Evolve Women and Pinky Ghadiali of Netwomen.
“I’m one of the very few vocal males championing this. It is something that is close to my heart as I really feel in society, business and life women are not getting the same opportunities or pay as men, especially in male-dominated industries such as construction.
“We hosted our first ever TEDxDerryLondonderryWomen event last November and had 15 people from around the world sharing their ideas and promoting female empowerment.
“We are not just saying it, we are doing it and I would like to see more people taking action than just talking about it.”
This year he established the first ever NI Empowerment Awards which he aims to make a flagship event in the province’s annual social calendar.
While he is making an impact on lives at home, his global reach is also impressive.
Already his work features in the book ‘Miracle of Intention’ by award-winning entrepreneur, author and public speaker Karen Weaver.
He is also featured in a new book ‘Yise Guys’ by Russ Moore, profiling men who view the world through different eyes, in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families.
The more people he inspires, the more Gary is living his own dream.
“It feels very humbling, and I feel very proud and very grateful to be doing what I am doing,” he says.
“The purpose of Think Network is to bring people together to connect, deepen relationships and add real value to the world, whether that is through online events, physical events, workshops or private groups.
“We are on a mission to make a positive change in the world one connection at a time.
“It does feel like I am living my dream and following my passions in life while helping other people to follow theirs.
“My purpose is to add value to the world and make it a better place. But people like me don’t have it all figured out, we are still learning all the time.
“I am dealing with people at a high level who have accumulated great wealth and success and they haven’t figured it out either.
“You don’t have to have it all figured out. Fear can hold a lot of people back from doing what they are passionate about. We want to help them to move forward. If you think you can’t do something you want to, give it a try anyway, you might surprise yourself. I certainly have surprised myself.”
To find out more about how the THINK Network could empower you, go to www.thinknetwork.co