Bringing your Gift to the World: Introducing the Borderlands Project

Samuel P.N. Cook

Dec 21, 2021

Yesterday I had my weekly call with my coach Benoit.

Last week, I spent two days with him doing some deep work together over a few days in Belgium.

We were working on my mindset when it comes to getting SanityDesk to the next level as a company.

To do this, we are heading into a round to raise several million dollars from venture capitalists.

But to do this, as Benoit reminds me, I need to have the right mindset and energy going into the process.

I have been struggling with this lately.

And yesterday we had a breakthrough on this topic.

Usually, he comes to these sessions asking me what I want to work on.

But this time, he launched right into it me with some insights he gained based on our work together.

“The reason you are avoiding raising the money your company needs,” he told me “Is because you don’t recognize the true value you are bringing to the world.”

After a lot of back and forth, he told me:

“Your superpower Sam, is that you believe in the greatness in other people and you are fanatical about giving them a chance to show it to the world.”

I let that sink in for a moment, and I laughed.

The evening before the call, I had spent an hour on a zoom call with a client that has been quite hard to deal with.

In fact, my customer success manager told me that I was risking losing a few team members if we kept her.

So I decided to spend my own time trying to get to the root of the problem and find the gold in this difficult relationship.

She is not a high value client paying a lot of money for services.

From a pure accounting standpoint, me spending my precious time (I bill $1,000 an hour for consulting) was not worth it.

But I spent the time on the call because I believe she has value to give the world, I value her feedback, and I am determined to learn from the situation.

After I shared this story with Benoit, he hit me with the knockout punch.

“The great tragedy here, Sam, is that while you are so good at seeing greatness and bringing it out in others, you are blind to your own greatness.”

When I heard this, I laughed, and told Benoit a story about my father.

He was a Pastor of a Church, and one day I asked him why he chose that profession.

His answer was simple, “I was afraid I would not believe in God otherwise.”

Benoit continued…

“Exactly, we tend to pursue in life a mission that helps us solve our own problems or confront our deepest fears.”

“That is why you are struggling with and avoiding raising money. To raise money, you need to be authentic, and know and appreciate the value you are bringing to the world. Until you do that, you won’t be successful raising money.”

This hit me like a ton of bricks.

Based on this deep insight, I know what I need to do to get ready psychologically for the hard few months ahead.

I will spend the next few weeks on vacation, mainly working on my own mindset and developing an inner appreciation of what we have built, and what we are building.

And again, my biggest insights on how to do this come from my gift of finding the best in people.

Before our call the other day, this particularly difficult client wrote me this note on WhatsApp.

#

On our call the other day, she shared with me where the big disconnect was in our relationship from her perspective.

She thought we were a mature, well established tech company based on the quality and personalization of our funnel.

But the reality of her experience was there were some rough edges in the delivery of our support compared to what she experienced.

Now that she knows me, and knows we are a startup, and we are working to address all of the challenges, she is much more understanding.

The feedback she shared with me on the newsletter re-enforced another point to me.

This summer I filmed 5 videos on the history and future of the Digital Age based on Ukrainian history.

This is not your typical Software company content marketing series.

But for some reason, people really appreciate the blend of history and the future of the digital age that I bring to the conversation.

And with Susan, I realized that his newsletter is my way to be authentic about my thoughts about the world, and use that to connect on a deeper level with our audience.

Talking to Susan, I realized that my newsletter has created a community of passionate early adopters who are willing to fight through the friction as we build this global mission.

Just as we are doing this newsletter every week, I would like to encourage you to do the same with you and your business.

Connect with your audience every week with your own insights.

Write what you are passionate about. Tell stories, and see what happens. It could just transform your business.

You all have a gift to bring to the world. 

Just like me, oftentimes your greatest gift to the world is your greatest blindspot in your own life.

Until this point in the Newsletter, I have been holding back a little on some of the things that I have really wanted to share.

So I am going to share with you an idea I have been developing for a long time, which will form the foundation of the next 5 issues of this Newsletter.

The Borderlands is an idea I have been developing that will become a recurring theme of of my writing in the future.

SanityDesk is based in Ukraine, which literally means “Borderlands” in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish.

Right before Christmas of 2021, as I write this, there is a real possibility that Russia will invade Ukraine, my adopted home for myself and SanityDesk.

Here is an article that I wrote about why SanityDesk started in Ukraine. 

This series of articles I will write will give a background to this crisis, and why you as a business owner should pay attention to it.

First of all, a war in Ukraine could have huge consequences not just for Europe but for the world.

History has a way of sneaking up on you, just like COVID came out of nowhere and changed everything.

The one constant of history is the sheer unpredictability of the future.

This series will take you through the history of Ukraine, and in doing that, i will draw lessons for the future of the Digital Age that you can apply to your business.

 

The Origins of the Ukraine Crisis


In mid-October of 2021, head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency flew on an urgent mission to Moscow.

U.S. intelligence had recently picked up strong signals that Russia was preparing 175,000 troops to invade its neighbour, Ukraine.

At first dismissive of the intelligence, the Ukrainian government under President Volodomyr Zelensky has warned that an invasion could come as early as late January of 2022.

If you are a European citizen, you are probably shaking your head in disbelief that a major war could really break out in Europe in 2022.

But if one should, there’s no denying the ripple effects in both refugees and disruption of energy supplies would be immediate and severe.

If you are an American citizen who just watched our chaotic and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, you are probably thinking, “Why should we care about Ukraine?”

And while it’s tempting for us to retreat behind Fortress America, two world wars and our subsequent rebuilding of the European economy as our main trading partner should have taught us that we cannot ignore what happens in Europe.

I am an American who taught Russian and Ukrainian history at the United States Military Academy at West Point before I left the Army.

Before my time teaching at West Point, I had the privilege of serving as a U.S. Army Cavalry Officer from 2000 - 2008, and served 2 tours in Iraq.

Since leaving the Army in 2013. I made the decision to move East to the Borderlands of Europe (Ukraine literally means Borderlands in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish)

If you are curious about the long story about why I decided to move to Ukraine, you can read my article called 

War and Peace by Vladimir Putin here.

For those of you who don’t live in Ukraine, and are wondering why you should care about whether or not Russian invades Ukraine, I have prepared a series of articles called the Borderlands Report.

In these articles I am going to argue that The Future of the Digital Age will be won or lost in Ukraine.

Now this might sound strange to some of you, but there is a very good reason for this.

And before we can understand the future, it’s time to take a little trip through the past.

 

The Guns of August

On June 28th, 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand (the first in line to the Throne of the Austrian Empire) was assassinated riding through the streets of Belgrade.

The suspects were quickly apprehended and were part of a shadowy group of Serbian Nationalists.

The Austrian Empire immediately sent a series of ultimatums that it knew Tiny Serbia could not accept.

Serbia prepared for the pending invasion, and Austria invaded.

Germany, pledged to stand by it’s Ally Austria-Hungary, and started to mobilise because it’s war plans depended on a rapid strike against France to forestall a drawn-out 2 front war.

The Russian Empire, France’s Ally, threatened by Germany’s mobilisation, started it’s own mobilisation.

Great Britain, treaty-bound to defend Belgium, declared war as soon as Germany violated Belgium’s neutrality.

Four years and 20 million lives later, the victorious European Allies imposed a punitive peace on Germany and broke up the Austro Hungarian Empire.

Germany by treaty bore the guilt and the financial cost of the war and the peace settlement.

But it’s people, military leaders, and politicians never could accept this verdict.

And in Great Britain, politicians and economists also started to realise that the price of punitive peace could well lead to another war.

And of course, they turned out to be right.

But they tried desperately to avoid this war by adopting a policy of appeasement towards Germany and it’s new ruler Adolf Hitler.

Coming out of the Great Depression, Hitler had suspended the democratic system in Germany in 1934 and effectively became dictator for life.

Supremely popular, and with a free hand to do so, he stimulated the economy by rebuilding Germany’s War Machine.

What drove Germany’s population into Hitler’s army was this tremendous sense of wounded national pride that arose from what they viewed as an unjust peace.

While the German army had collapsed on the Western Front, they remained victorious on the vast Eastern Front, and it’s people never had to suffer battles on German Soil.

There was this pervasive theory that arose that they had been stabbed in the back.

 

The Ghosts of Munich


The policy of British Appeasers in both business and politics made sense.

If Germany were led by a reasonable, rational and trustworthy leader, then it made sense to try to right some of the wrongs which many came to believe was an unjust peace.

But Hitler proved himself time and again to not be a rational, or trustworthy adversary.

Starting with his activities in the Spanish Civil War, the re-occupation of the Rhineland, and then the Annexation of Austria.

In 1938, Hitler had led Europe to the brink of War.

He was demanding that the newly formed state of Czechoslovakia cede the Sudetenland (it’s Western Mountainous Border territory) or face an imminent invasion.

Hitler’s excuse for this demand was that the Sudetenland was occupied by a major of German speaking inhabitants.

He promised - just as he had with Austria - that this would be his last demand of European powers.

All he wanted to do was re-assemble the German-speaking peoples under the new Third Reich.

But the problem was there were also German-speaking people in many other countries including Poland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and even as far as Ukraine in the Soviet Union.

But the leaders of France and Britain decided to negotiate the future of Czechoslovakia, which they were treaty-bound to protect, without allowing the Czechoslovakian government into the key meetings with Hitler.

In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain triumphantly returned from a conference with Hitler in Munich, Germany declaring he had secured Peace in our Time.

But sadly, he had secured nothing but 1 year of peace, at the cost of securing Europe’s best chance to stop Hitler.

The Czechoslovakian Army was ready to fight behind it’s modern armed technology and extensive mountain defensive positions

Hitler was bluffing, and the European leaders flinched and failed to call his bluff.

As we learned after the war from the German Generals, the German Army was not ready to invade at all.

In fact, there is evidence that if Czechoslovakia had fought, and Hitler had invaded, his generals would have ousted him in a military coup.


Putin’s Obsession with Ukraine

It should have come as no surprise to the leaders of the day what Hitler really wanted.

He wrote it all down in a book called Mein Kampf.

Winston Churchill made a name for himself as the one politician in Europe who saw through Hitler’s broken promises, and saw the depths of the evil of his regime.

And for those watching the Ukraine crisis building at the end of 2021, there should be little doubt where Vladimir Putin stands on Ukraine.

In 2008, he told President George W. Bush told Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference that Ukraine was not a real state.

He has famously lamented the voluntary disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Greatest Geo-Political Catastrophe of the last century.

Like Hitler managed to do, he has finally secured for himself the ability to serve as Russian president for life.

He has built up Russian foreign currency reserves, and rebuilt their military.

And this last spring, he wrote a 7,000 word Essay that essentially denied Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation outside of Russia’s sphere of influence.

While Ukrainian leaders are preparing for a possible invasion as soon as late January of 2022, diplomatic efforts are underway between the U.S President Biden and Vladimir Putin as I write this article.

But this is the second time in just 9 months that Russian forces have massed on Ukraine’s border.

Whether it happens now, or later, Putin has made his thoughts on Ukraine for the world to see crystal clear.

And he is ramping up the social media and state propaganda within Russia to fevered pitch against Ukraine.

Whether this is another dress rehearsal, the world should be ready for the fact that this threat won’t go away even if the immediate danger passes.


Past Doesn’t Need to Be Prologue

Reading William Manchester’s sweeping biography of Winston Churchill and his lonely fight against British Appeasement both was chilling and instructive.

Just because Putin wants Ukraine back, doesn’t mean that war needs to be inevitable.

Reading history, we tend to believe that things were bound to happen because they did.

You can’t go back and run history again.

Just like in life, there are no second chances. 

What happened in the past happened, and we cannot change it.

But just like in life, we can learn from these mistakes.

The great challenge for the leaders on all sides of the pending conflict is to carefully study history and try to avoid it’s mistakes.

In October of 1962, President John. F. Kennedy found out that Soviet Nuclear Missiles were bound for the Island of Cuba.

Once operational, these short range missiles could have destroyed a third of the U.S. Population centres within a few hours.

Luckily for the world at the time, Kennedy was both a student of the fiasco at Munich that led to World War II.

He had in fact seen it first hand as the son of the Ambassador to Great Britain at the time - Joseph P. Kennedy.

He later wrote a best-selling book Why England Slept.

The summer before the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted, President Kennedy had just finished reading the Guns of August, about the outbreak of the First World War.

Through skilled compromise and intensive diplomatic back-channeling, Kennedy and Kruschev managed to avoid triggering a Third World War.

Nuclear Folly: A History of The Cuban Missile Crisis by Ukrainian Historian Serhii Plokhy shows exactly how close we got to a catastrophic Third World War.

There are plenty of Russian and National Security Specialists smarter than me who are recommending ways out of the crisis.

If you want to read a great article on the options for peace, you should read this article here.

My hope for the world is simply to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation, and get all smart minds focusing on finding a peaceful solution that preserves the integrity of Ukraine.

 

Why Ukraine Matters

Ukraine Can & Should Remain Free and not just because the U.S. and Europe think it should.

Over 72% of Ukrainians polled view Russian as an Aggressor state and want to remain free.The tragedy of the situation for Russia and Ukraine is that Russians and Ukrainians have deep family ties across the border.

As late as 2013, only 15% of Ukrainians wanted to join NATO.

This was because most Ukrainians viewed Russia as not a threat, but a benevolent and even helpful (though sometimes overly meddlesome neighbour).

This all changed with the Revolution of Dignity against Russian-Supported President Victor Yanakovich.

Ukraine should remain free because that is the will of it’s people.

U.S. and European leaders must not make the mistake of Munich where the country with the most at stake is left out of the decision-making on it’s fate.

Beyond the moral reasons for the world supporting Ukraine, there is a much more practical and important set of reasons to do so.

And these reasons are the foundation of the five parts of the Borderland Report that you will receive over the next 5 Issues of the Expert Economy News.

Borderlands Report: Why the Future will be Won or Lost in Ukraine

The Story of Ukraine’s history is a microcosm of what has gone wrong in the digital world we are living through.

The world is heading towards a major shifting of the tectonic plates in the world order.

Whether we know it or not, we have to learn from Ukrainian History to Understand the Original Sin of the Digital Age.

If you want to get a sneak peak preview of what I will be talking about in this Article, you can watch this short video I prepared on the Original Sin of the Digital Age.

Once you understand the reason why the Digital Age is broken, we need to discuss a Strategic Plan For Creating a Sovereign World Order.

Ukraine’s struggle through its history as the gateway between two great civilizations provides an object lesson on what failed strategies look like, and how we can avoid the same mistakes.

Once we understand the Strategy for fixing the Digital World, it’s time to explore the way to design the future of the digital World.

In Part 3, we will go over Web 3.0, Digital Property Rights, AI, Blockchain, & Creating a Sovereign World.

I will talk about Ukrainian history in building its own country, and why the lessons they have learned in this painful struggle have created the human capital and innovation hub that can lead us to the future.

And in Part 4, we will go over why the Battle for the Future Will be Fought & Won in Ukraine and Europe.

Ukraine’s struggle to create a free and sovereign society at the heart of Europe is an object lesson for us all in what is at stake.

And finally, I will end on Part 5, where I will Argue that it’s Time for Putin’s Russia to Re-Discovery It’s Kyivan Russian Roots.

No conflict in history is inevitable until we decide it is so.

The future of the Digital World is heading into 3 starkly different directions.

Russia today grew out of the heritage of the old Kyivan Russian Empire that was centred in modern-day Ukraine.

I believe that if it’s people look deep inside their own history, and the way the world his heading, they will be inspired by the example of their Ukrainian neighbors and possibly change course.

Polls show that a majority of Russians do not want war with Ukraine.

I believe that the younger generation of Russians can and will be inspired by the example of their Ukrainian brethren, and could well transform Russia from within.

History has authors. We do not need to be passive bystanders as things unfold.

We can participate in this story in a small way by paying attention to it, and learning the lessons we can extract.

Written by:

Samuel P.N. Cook

CEO

Dec 21, 2021

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P.S.

As always, if you want to share this Newsletter, here is the link to this Issue. 

Also remind anyone who likes this to register for the newsletter here.

And if you want to join the next StoryFunnel Workshop we are holding, I am running a 6 week live training call (2 calls per week - one lesson and one Q&A), where you can learn how to use the power of StoryTelling to build your business.

Here is a video about the StoryFunnel Workshop.

P.P.S.

This Series will be based on the Original 5 Video Series I did on the Borderlands.

If you want to get a sneak preview of what I will be talking about in each lesson, here is a series of videos that I recorded comparing the historical lessons of Ukraine to the future of the Digital Age.

Part 1 - The Original Sin of the Digital Age

Part 2 - Strategy in the Digital Age

Part 3 - Operations in the Digital Age

Part 4 - Tactics in the Digital Age

Part 5 - Why SanityDesk Chose Ukraine

P.P.P.S.

If you want to learn more about my coach Benoit, you can watch a video of a conversation we had about our journey together.

The story with Benoit Carpent above is one of the most profound conversations I have ever had on my own journey of personal development.

If you want to learn more about Benoit and his coaching, you can visit his SanityDesk powered website here.

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