War & Peace by Vladimir Putin

Samuel P.N. Cook

Nov 15, 2021

It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it. - Robert E. Lee

Last week, I got this email from my Managing Director at TechStars LA - which we recently completed

Sam. How worried are you about this situation? 

And what are you doing to mitigate risk (and well being of your team)?

Matt Kozlov

Here is the article he sent me.

Ukraine and Russia Crisis Today

Russian Invasion

I am sure many of our current and potential investors and customers are probably asking themselves the same questions.

On 29 October, 2019, my partner (Tyron Dizon) and I co-founded our tech startup, SanityDesk in Kyiv Ukraine.

Since then, we have grown to over $1.4 MM in annual revenue, and are on track to grow to $5 MM in the next 12 months.

Thirty-three out of our forty-five team members are based with me in Kyiv, Ukraine (the rest are in the U.S., Poland, Philippines, Canada, and Sweden).

1. Do you see what’s going on with the Russian Troops on Ukraine’s Border? 

Of course we see it. Here is a great article by the Atlantic Council in Europe explaining what is happening.

2. Do you think Putin is going to really invade Ukraine?

This is an article that discusses the full range of possibilities.

3. What are you and your team going to do if that happens?

The answers to these questions (which I will explain below) are…

The short answer is, for now, I have decided that SanityDesk is not going to evacuate Ukraine.

This of course could change, and we are planning for every possibility.

To help you understand my thinking, and why we are going to stay here, I have written this post.

NOTE: War & Peace was a long book (over 1,500 pages), and this post is also rather lengthy.

It’s been quite jarring emotionally over the last few weeks seeing the potential for major warfare in my adopted home country.

In this post, I will first share some of my personal reflections on war (I served 2 tours in Iraq as a U.S. Army Officer).

I will then zoom out to place our current state of the world in a broader historical context. 

Next, I will explain how I went from teaching Russian History at West Point to moving to and founding my tech Startup in Ukraine.

And finally, I will explain why I have decided to stay in Ukraine with our team for now given the situation.

Ukraine and Russia Crisis : Personal Reflections

As an entrepreneur, I have had many sleepless nights worrying about the state of my business.

In 2015, I lost everything, ran out of money, shut down my business in Poland, and owed my employees and contractors over $100,000 in back pay (it took me a year to pay them all back).

Just 3 years ago, we faced another near death situation until I managed to raise money from outside investors and found SanityDesk.

But I always say to myself that the worst day in business is better than the best day in combat in Iraq.

People who know I served in Iraq sometimes ask me, “If you had to do it all over again, would you do it?”

I find this question hard to answer.

On one level, I regret believing my government’s propaganda leading up to and through my service in Iraq.

But as soon as I got on the ground, any pie in the sky idealistic motivations melted in the realities of the hot sands of Iraq.

Once we understood what was really going on in Iraq, we simply committed to accomplishing our mission, fighting to keep each other alive, spare the local population,  and do our duty with honor.

Admittedly, it was hard to do this when the top levels of command were focusing on the wrong objectives (during my first tour).

But I was privileged to serve under COL H.R. McMaster in my first tour, and LTC Thomas Dorame (now a SanityDesk investor and board member) in my second tour.

I could not have asked for a finer example of leadership in each man, which helped us do our duty.If you care to learn more about my experienced in Iraq, I have included some videos at the very end of this article.

While I came to believe with time the war in which I served was a strategic mistake…

...I would not trade these experiences for anything else in the world.

When I got Matt’s email last week asking me about the situation in Ukraine, here is how I started my email.

It’s interesting being on the other end of a potential invading army.

I was on the other side before in Iraq. 

Karma is interesting isn’t it?

As I see news reports of Russian soldiers training for the invasion of Ukraine, I can’t help but think back to being in their shoes.

In 2003, just 18 months after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, I found myself sitting at an airbase in Incirlik Turkey.

My unit, the 1st Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry was part of an advanced force preparing to invade Iraq through Northern Turkey.

The only problem is, the Turkish Parliament (of our NATO Ally) rejected (wisely in retrospect)our request to use their country as an invasion route.

Being young, foolish, and naive, I was upset because I thought I had missed the war.

It wasn’t long before I got to Iraq that I realized why Robert E. Lee said, 

It’s a good thing war is a terrible thing, lest we grow too fond of it.


War, Business & Politics

As I sit here now in the Capital city of Kyiv, it’s chilling to think about the lack of regard we all had for those innocent civilians who were caught sheltering from our bombs.

While of course I have no sympathy for Vladimir Putin, my heart aches for the Russian Soldiers who are drinking the propaganda that may propel them into Ukraine on the orders of their government.

I know all too well how that goes.

Unfortunately, I did not miss the Iraq war, serving 2 tours in the grinding occupation that we endured due to our government’s missteps in the aftermath of the invasion.

Knowing the Ukrainians on my team and the hardened veterans I call friends, I can’t see any Russian occupation avoiding a brutal guerilla war - far worse that we experienced in Iraq.

And seeing how the Russians behaved in Syria when it came to civilian casualties, I don’t see much hope for any conflict avoiding significant and deliberate targeting of the Ukrainian population at large.

War has a way of quickly descending into the worst that human nature is capable of.

At least in the U.S. In Iraq and Afghanistan, when civilian casualties or atrocities did occur, the higher commands investigated and punished them when appropriate.

This article by the Atlantic Council does a great job laying out what is at stake here in Ukraine for European security.

I hope it doesn’t come to this, but it seems that should Putin up the stakes in Ukraine, he may be tempted to do so.

And the U.S., fresh off it’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, is in no mood to commit troops to the defense of a country outside of NATO.

The Impending Fall of Pax Americana

In the last issue of this newsletter, The Expert StoryTelling News, I shared the story about our company team day at SanityDesk.

On our team day, we all had to answer the question:

“What would you do in life if you had the courage to do it?”

Here is a copy of last week’s entire Issue if you want to read it: Be Courageous (On Entrepreneurship)

One of our 26 Angel investors, Richard Golden - an American living in Amsterdam - wrote a lovely reply:

If I'm lucky, about once a decade I read a book that so impresses me that I buy a bunch of copies and press them into the hands of friends, saying "you HAVE to read ." 

About ten years ago, I did so with a book called "Justinian's Flea", about an early wave of the bubonic plague.  

It is actually the first book by William Rosen, an editor of many years at a major publisher.  

A wonderful blend of history, medieval commerce, biology and the evolution of how a specific bacterium eked out an existence on a specific species of rat, which then got transported in ships of grain from Alexandria throughout the Mediterranean.  

I used to read the book aloud to my family when taking midday breaks while hiking

with a donkey in France.  They aren't readers, and yet they found it fascinating.  I myself knew absolutely nothing about the late medieval period.

Anyway, your comment above is a nice echo from the author's postscriptdedication to his wife.  

He wrote:

"My wife asked me, 'what would you do if in advance you knew that you could not fail?', to which the answer was "this book".

Richard’s reply to my email struck me at a particularly introspective time in my life.

Although Richard promised to give me a copy of it when I visit him in Amsterdam, I decided to buy the book on my kindle and tear into it.

Richard’s email was perfectly timed to step back, read history,  try to place the real potential for this geo-political turbulence in a larger historical context.

The book is a riveting journey through the fall of the Roman Empire under Justinian, based on Constantinople.

It’s hard not to see the historical parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and the potential collapse of the American-dominated World Order.

I had thought that the Roman Empire had fallen under the weight of successive barbarian invasions from the East (out of Mongolia, Russia, and Ukraine).

But right before the Bubonic plague struck, Emperor Justinian had successfully re-conquered most of the ancient lands from the new Eastern Capital of Constantinople.

The real fall of the empire was precipitated by the world’s first great plague which ended up killing 25 million people before it disappeared.

The author argues that this plague irrevocably damaged and fractured Europe compared to the great Arab and Chinese Empires of the time.

It took Europe over 1,200 years (including a Renaissance and the Enlightenment) to finally catch up to China in wealth and living standards.

Historians tend to focus obsessively on wars and diplomacy at the expense of everything else.

There is a great book called Guns, Germs, and Steel that highlights the impact biology has had shaping history.

More people have died by plague and disease than in wars throughout history. 

Until the dawn of modern medicine, most soldiers died through disease rather than actual combat.

I am amazed at how we always think that we have somehow transcended human and mother nature.

Recent events have since reminded us of our continuing struggle with Mother Nature...

A day after I received Richard’s email, the WHO sounded the alarm on the new South African Variant of the COVID-19 Virus.

I won’t say much more on this politically toxic subject.

But this whole pandemic thing isn’t new to the pages of history.

No matter what your beliefs on the science of the current pandemic, I think we can all agree that the story is having a profound impact on the world and our behavior.

Every major pandemic in the past has had profound effects on the subsequent world order.

This one, I suspect, will be no different when it’s all said and done (whenever that is).

But more on that in the next few issues of this newsletter...

And of course, the situation in Ukraine reminds us that we have not yet transcended Human Nature

The Great power competition that we once assumed was a thing of the past is coming back with a vengeance.

All this reminds me of the pending decline and potential imminent crumbling of Pax Americana we are observing.

After Rome fell, it took Europe a while to rebuild and recover.

For a great podcast on the potential for the collapse of American society, you should listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast episode with Balaji Srinivasin.

Watch for more on my thoughts on the future of the world order, and technology’s place in it, in future newsletter issues.


My Personal Journey Into Russian & Ukrainian History

My first encounter with Russia came from my early years reading Winston Churchill’s 6-volume history of the Second World War as a young historian studying under my father.

My first understanding of the Soviet Union and Russia came from reading about Joseph Stalin, who ruthlessly led a massive army from the East that swallowed the German Army on the eastern front.

In college I was surprised to discover the depth of the Russian character when I read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy during a summer in Germany while studying at West Point.

To get a sense of the majesty of the book (1,500 pages plus), you can also watch this  7 hour epic of War & Peace by famed Soviet Film-maker Sergei Bondarchuk at the height of the cold war.

War & Peace

This book taught me that the Russian character was not just fierce, but at the same time deeply passionate.

Years later, this is something I would soon learn from personal experience meeting a number of Russians and Ukrainians in New York City.

When I went back to teach history at West Point after serving 8 years as a Cavalry Officer, I was given the choice between studying and teaching Russian and Chinese history.

I chose Russian history, and was lucky to be accepted into NYU’s Russian & Slavic Studies department studying under titans of the field such as Yanni Kotsonis, Elliot Bornstein and Jane Bubank.

It was during this period that I also learned that the original seat of Russian Civilization started in Kyiv - well before the founding of Moscow.

The spiritual, political, and cultural home of what we now call Russia originated in Kyiv which became the most powerful city in Europe north of Constantinople by the 12th century.

It was the Mongol invasion on December 7th, 1240 that destroyed Kyiv, and led to the split of the Russian world into the Eastern and Western half.

I also had the privilege of studying under the legendary Richard Wortman who specialized in Russian Intelligentsia (Russian Intellectuals who spoke up and out against the excesses of Russian society).

When the Russian Army led Allied Armies into Paris in 1814, this great Empire had not yet produced even its first great novel.

But within a generation, a Ukrainian-born author, Nikolai Gogol produced the first great Russian Novel.

Within a generation, Russian Literature produced some of the most profound concentration of intellectual thought the world has ever seen.

Unlike the U.S. or Western Europe where politics is the main arena for policy debates, the extreme autocracy of Tsarist Russia confined all meaningful debates to the confines of Literature, poetry, and Art.

It was during this period, that Taras Schenchenko, the first great writer of Ukrainian poetry emerged.

He spoke longingly of the day when the serfs of Ukraine and across the empire would be freed from servitude.

It’s not a coincidence that the Southern States  slavery regime in the United States was a mirror in some ways to the Russian system of servitude by their peasants (Western European peasants were freed hundreds of years earlier).

Here is a video that I made comparing the current state of the digital world to living on the lands of Tsarist Russia.

history #1 - Taras.jpg

At the time, I was staring deep into the mystery of the former Soviet Union lands, I was living in Manhattan.

My first employee for my side hustle - My Walking Tour Company - was a kid named Dmitry, from Novisbirsk in Siberia, Russia.

My first girlfriend (fittingly) after 4 years of being single and 2 combat tours in Iraq was a girl named Anastasiia from Crimea, Ukraine.

She told me stories of her family hiding seeds of grain in the dirt under their house as Stalin’s henchmen came for it during the Ukrainian Holodomor, where between 4 - 7 million Ukrainians died of a state engineered famine.

She also told me stories of her grandmother who served as a famous sniper against the Germans on the Eastern Front in the Second World War.

When I broke up with Anastasiia (I was in no shape psychologically for a serious relationship), her mother sent me a cryptic message in Russian that my friend Dmitry refused to translate.

“Wow man,” he said, “it’s best I don't tell you what she said. Just avoid her at all costs.”

I became fascinated and a bit intimidated by this fierce country called Ukraine.

It struck me from my interactions with her and several other Ukrainians in New York City, that they were just like the Texas of the old Russian Empire.

They loved their freedom, and hated being told what to do.

One thing that struck me was my ex-girlfriend’s strong disdain for the Ukrainian Country as a whole.

She was from a Russian nationalist military family that moved to Crimea a few generations before it was given to Ukraine.

To try to understand Ukraine and Crimea in particular, I decided to do my Master’s Thesis on Catherine the Great, and her conquest of Southern Ukraine and Crimea.

The best book on the entire history of Ukraine is Serhii Ploky’s epic chronicle called The Gates of Europe.

Ironically, the next girl I met and dated seriously for a brief period in the summer of 2013, was also from Crimea.

We met in the U.S. (where she now lived) in July before I was due to leave the Army. 

On August 8th, as I was driving from New York City to Washington D.C. to see my friend. I was talking to Yuliia when I got the call that my little brother, James, had died unexpectedly.

My Journey Eastward to Ukraine

Stricken with grief from the loss of my brother, on top of calling off a wedding a month before he died, and leaving the Army that summer under less than ideal circumstances, I decided to run away from my grief and travel the world for a year.

Starting in October, 2013, I began my trip around the world that would eventually land me in Ukraine.

I was in Stockholm, Sweden, in November of 2013 when I first saw the news about the protests in Maidan Square in downtown Kyiv in the middle of November.

As I traveled the world that winter, I watched both transfixed and horrified as Ukrainian people fought in the streets against the government of Victor Yanakovich who went back on his campaign pledge to sign a EU economic agreement with Ukraine.

I was still in touch with Yulia through social media at the time, and she also - to my surprise - was strongly supportive of the Russian annexation of Crimea.

After four months of street fighting, over one hundred anti-government protestors were gunned down in the street by the President’s security henchmen, and unknown snipers among the police.

On February 22nd, Victor Yanukovich fled to Russia with hundreds of billions of dollars in government cash.

It wasn’t until I moved to Ukraine 3 years ago, that I watched a riveting Netflix Documentary - Winter on Fire that shows this period in detail.

Winter On Fire

In March, Russian troops entered and seized Crimea in a bloodless takeover executed at gunpoint.

It was during the summer of 2014, Eastern Ukraine erupted into full scale armored warfare on a scale not seen in Europe on this scale since the Second World War.

During the summer of 2014, I decided after a visit to Poland (right next to Ukraine) to move to the ancient city of Krakow, in Poland.

There is a riveting documentary on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine called Breaking Point on Amazon that I also highly recommend.

Breaking Point

After a year of traveling the world, I decided it was time to stop running from my grief and put down roots somewhere.

But I didn’t want to go back to the United States, and Poland felt like home.

In November of 2014, I visited Kyiv and Odessa Ukraine for the first time.

The bricks were still not replaced from the street battles where protesters were.

I will never forget having dinner with a girl who had a thousand yard stare as she spoke about her fear of living in a country that seemed on the brink of collapse.

Back in Poland, my company hired a lot of Ukrainian team members over the years.

This company, however, rose and fell quickly.

At the time, I made a big splash in the Polish Tech Scene, starting a podcast called Project Kazimierz.


I hired a whole team of elite designers and developers to start working on the original code that would become SanityDesk.

Within 1 year of arriving, I had crashed the business because I ran out of money and failed to find investors.

For some strange reason, I decided to come back to Poland and restart.

I recorded a podcast episode right after I came back to reflect publically on my failure, what I learned, and what I planned to do next (I wanted it on the record at the time).

But the sting of failure (not popular in the startup scene in Poland then), and the burden of paying people back (I owed $100,000 to my team there), I decided to get a fresh start in Warsaw, Poland in early 2016.

In Warsaw, I built a great new marketing Agency (James Cook Media, named after my late brother).

We first made our name as a StoryTelling marketing agency when we launched now international best-selling author Peter Sage’s Sage Business School with our unique brand of StoryTelling.

Here is an example of the StoryTelling Videos that we created for him that helped him launch his brand.

The notoriety we gained within Peter Sage’s community for doing his marketing led us to create the StoryTelling in the Digital Age MasterClass, which is one of the top selling training on StoryTelling in the world.

Ironically, to this day, at SanityDesk we cannot beat the cost per lead and reach of this StoryTelling Training.

It was the earnings from this MasterClass that allowed me to slowly rehire all of my old developers to keep building what would become SanityDesk.

In Warsaw, due to the large influx of young Ukrainians fleeing the war, a majority of my team members were Ukrainian.

Vadim, the most talented marketer in our company, actually moved to Warsaw to join our agency after I tried to sell him on our annual coaching program that cost more than he made in a year.I immediately invited him to join us, and he got on a plane the next day from Odessa, Ukraine to join us in Warsaw.

But after 6 months in the city, he told me that he wanted to go back to live in Ukraine.

At the time, I had just broken up with my Polish girlfriend who was living in London, so I decided to take a trip back to Kyiv for a weekend and see why he wanted to go back.

The city was transformed from the time I saw it on the doorstep of national death in 2014.

Not wanting to lose Vadim, and fascinated by the chance to go visit Ukraine more for business, we decided to open an office there (when those were still a thing!)

Over the next year, I realized that operating 2 offices was not a smart move financially, so I had to make a choice.

I chose Ukraine.

The Birth of SanityDesk in Ukraine

In the summer of 2019, we shut down our Polish Office for my media company James Cook Media.

Vadim and I packed my bags on a sleeper train (on an old German Train car called a Schlafwagen) from Warsaw, to Kyiv (it took me 3 more train trips to fully transport everything to Ukraine).

In Kyiv, we rebuilt our team under Vadim’s leadership in Ukraine.

It turns out, moving to Ukraine was the best move I ever have made.

In the summer of 2019, we were about to run out of money.

I had seen this movie before, so I knew that I had to go back to the U.S. to raise money.

So I decided to go back to the U.S. to couch-surfwith my roommate from West Point while I looked for investors in San Francisco.

Before I left, I brought my entire team into the room.

I told them I had run out of money before and wasn’t able to pay my team back for an entire year (in late 2014 I ran out of money building the first version of SanityDesk’s code).

I told them point blank: if I didn’t raise money on this trip to the U.S. in the next 3 weeks, I wouldn’t be able to pay all of them on time.

I gave all of them the chance to leave at that point.

Based on my past experience being late on pay before I ran out of money, I didn’t want to go there again.I half hoped most of them would leave so that I wouldn’t have the crushing pressure to pay them.

But they all decided to stay, knowing the risks.

And thank God they did, because SanityDesk wouldn’t exist today without every single one of them.This was due to the great leadership of Vadim (now the CEO of James Cook Media along with his now COO Ievgen Krasovytskyi) and my Chief Operations Officer Oleksandr Golovan who now is the COO at SanityDesk.

I remember sending daily updates by a private Messenger Group to the entire team on every investor conversation and lead I had, giving them hope when there seemed to be little cause for it.

I certainly wouldn’t have been able to garner this type of loyalty and toughness in the U.S. or even Poland (the job markets in the U.S. and Poland were too good at the time).

While I did manage to find some brave early investors during this period to keep us alive, it was less than we needed to pay everyone on time for an excruciating five months (August 2019 - February 2020).

But my entire team stuck it out, and despite being late on pay through this tough period they all stuck in there.

On October 28th, 2019 we incorporated SanityDesk as a brand new company in the United States, and Vadim and Ievgen became the CEO and COO of my company.

During the darkest days of the pandemic, I was stuck in the U.S. on a fundraising trip. 

Again, the team all agreed to take a 30% pay cut together and I would forgo all pay in order to attract our lead investor - Sandor Hatvany - to invest $50,000 at this crazy time (we ended up cancelling our pay-cut when he got his brother to also pitch in).

What will SanityDesk do if Putin Chooses War vs. Peace?

I have to admit, the last few weeks have been unsettling.

As a student of History, I recently read Serhii Plokhy’s book on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

We came far closer to war incinerating the planet in radioactive ash than anyone knew at the time.

It wasn’t until the Soviet and American diplomats and military officers met in a conference in the 1990s that they finally realized how close things really came.

One miscalculation by Putin, NATO (as a bloc, or a frontline state like Poland), and the United States could lead to war.

From the Balkans crisis of 1878 until the Moroccan crisis of 1913, repeated war scares in thirty years leading up to World War I, time and again diplomats found a way to stop short of full scale war.

The book Guns of August documents the tragic series of missteps, miscalculations, and waves of emotions that led to the First World War.

Four years with 20 million people dead, the war ended right as a brutal Pandemic that killed 55 million people in the last year of the war (1918) and the following year.

Reading the history of the Second World War and Czechoslovakia now in William Manchester’s Biography of Winston Churchill  it’s hard not to see the similarities between Ukraine and Czechoslovakia caught in between 2 superpowers (France and Germany).

The challenge for President Biden is to not sacrifice Ukraine for the sake of avoiding a greater war, while not enraging Russia with ever more aggressive support of the Ukrainian military.

My old Commander in Iraq, LTG McMaster served as the National Security Advisory for the United States from 2017 - 2018 and is the author of the book Battlegrounds.

Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World

He devotes the first chapter of this book to the threat to world peace from Russia.

So when people ask me, will Putin Invade?

As a Russian Historian, former military officer, longtime resident of Poland and now Ukraine, and avid Putin watcher, I don’t know.

I am not even sure if Putin knows himself yet what he will do.

But this week I told my team we had to start preparing for it in detail.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief has warned that an invasion could come as soon as late January.

It would be irresponsible to not plan for this obvious threat.

The fact that 33 of our more than 45 team members are in Ukraine makes this an urgent matter for our clients and our shareholders.

While we are a U.S. company, we simply don’t have the budget right now to evacuate everyone to the U.S. right now.

Moreover, the immigration red tape to even do this in time would be impossible to navigate (even if we did have the lawyers to do it).

Most team members would not want to leave Ukraine without their family members anyway.

So we are preparing first to relocate to a safe location in Western Ukraine to relocate to in the event of hostilities.

We will have a secure location planned, back-up plans for internet and electricity, food and water supplies, and transportation secured in advance.

At the first signs of potential hostilities, we will move to this area for an extended team retreat to see things out.

Beyond this, if the country starts to collapse or we cannot do our jobs there, we will look to move to Poland or beyond.

Wars never go as planned, so our role is to not guess but to be safe but do our part.

Russia could do a limited incursion at first, or it could launch an all out coordinate air campaign to decapitate the government in Kyiv (I saw this happen as an Army Officer in 2003 from an airbase in Turkey).

We will also make plans for a move out of the country to Poland if that becomes necessary.

While I had my moments of fear and foreboding lately, I have found comfort in the fact that my entire life has been preparing me to lead my team through this tough period of uncertainty.

As for me, I am not going to leave Ukraine as long as a single member of my team is here and cannot get out (some may well choose to stay and fight or contribute in other ways).

... if the worst does come (which I pray it doesn’t) I don’t plan on losing a team member, or any member of their family if I can do anything about it.

I didn’t lose a single soldier of the 200 under my command in Iraq (by grace alone)

Ukraine has not only given birth to my life’s work (SanityDesk), but it has also brought me home from a long, dark period in my life.

After my brother passed away, I left the U.S. to run away from life. I had a pattern of running away from connection.

Thanks to the help I have received from clients of my agency and SanityDesk I now call mentors and friends.

I am now blessed to have met the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

And due to their coaching and help, I am ready to be with someone like her.

Katya, thanks for teaching me how to love again :)

Sam & Kate

My girlfriend and her family (her parents and 2 elderly Babushkas - grandmothers), are also in Ukraine.

As long as any of my team is stuck in Ukraine, (if they want out), and the family of the woman I love is here, I will stay to make sure they are safe.

So what does this mean for our customers?

We are committed to delivering the same great customer service uninterrupted.

My co-founder and our senior architect and support technician are in the Philippines.

Our CMO, People and Culture Chief, and our senior engineers are all in Poland.

Our sales team is all in the U.S., Canada, and Sweden.

The rest of us will figure out how to manage our customer support and success team duties as necessary.

For our investors, the situation is a bit more complicated.

I had originally planned to raise our Seed Round in early January, just as we are about to pass $1 MM in ARR.

But it will be hard for me to leave Ukraine during this period if the threat of war is still looming.

Whatever happens, if given the time and space with events, I will work on raising our round remotely through zoom on whatever hours are necessary.

We are speaking to our existing investors for contingencies just in case the situation in Ukraine makes raising our round more difficult and longer than expected.

But whatever the case, we will be fine.

The mission will continue, and we will not give up.

And more importantly, although concerned, the team is doing fine overall.

As I know all too well from bitter experience, and perfectly summed up by Tolstoy in War & Peace.

“It's all God's will: you can die in your sleep, and God can spare you in battle.”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

I will conclude this post by introducing you to the SanityDesk team filmed at our team week 15 - 22 November.

Written by:

Samuel P.N. Cook


Nov 15, 2021



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.

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.


I included a Ukrainian history video in the article above on the Original Sin of the Digital Age.

If you want to learn more about Ukrainian History, 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


Robert E. Lee was right about war being terrible.

But he also was right about the fact that all soldiers miss it in the end.

There is a great book on Why Soldiers Miss War by Nolan Peterson, a war reporter here in Kyiv Ukraine.

I think we all as Soldiers have to tell ourselves stories to help ourselves get through the memories and make sense and meaning of the experience.

Here is a documentary I made during our first tour in Iraq. I was serving as the Regimental Adjutant at the time for COL H.R. McMaster, the commander of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.

This was my first foray into film-making (completely voluntary work I did form midnight to 3 am in the Regimental Headquarters at night).

Serving under COL McMaster was a privilege, because he cared deeply both about the soldiers, but also the local Iraqi population under our charge.

His relentless, and tough but humane approach to warfare saved countless lives during this campaign.

Here is a video where I spoke to a group of Swiss Army Officers about my experiences in Iraq and counter-insurgency.

Here is a link the Article I wrote on Counterinsurgency that formed the foundations of this talk.

I remember between my first and second tours in Iraq, I almost decided to leave the Army and avoid the burden of commanding 140 soldiers in Iraq

Inspired by his example, I was able to also model his successful approach to ensure that there were a minimum number of casualties in our area of operations.


Despite the pride that I took from my service in Iraq, there was the inevitable damage that it took on my psyche.

It took me a long time to both realize the effects, and find a way to come home from Iraq psychologically.

The greatest privilege of doing what I do is that we attract amazing business owners who genuinely want to make the world a better place.

With the help of great mentors like Benoit Carpent, Rory Kilmartin, and Peter Sage, I have managed to find the part of myself I left on the battlefields of Iraq.

This video with my life coach and SanityDesk Customer discusses my journey back home from this period.

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


Before I could untangle the impact that Iraq had on me, I had to deal with the obvious trauma that I suffered with the early passing of my little brother.

I met Peter Sage in early 2016, two and a half years after my brother passed away.

He gave me the opportunity to build and launch his new Sage Business School, and from that, recover from the wreckage of my first business failure.

But Peter’s mentorship on personal development also helped me unwind and deal with the trauma around my brother’s passing.

This interview with Peter is a detailed history of the years that led up to the founding of SanityDesk.

NOTE: Peter Sage is an international Best-Selling Author and one of the fastest growing personal development authors in the world right now.

If you sign-up for your Free SanityDesk account, you can watch Peter Sage and I build his entire strategy as part of our StoryFunnel MasterClass 100% Free with your Software installation).

You can also watch the Website 101 MasterClass 100% Free -  a 3-part masterclass where I help him build his entire Website for the coming Sage Business School re-launch.


After Benoit, Rory, and Peter, the next mentor I have had the privilege of meeting and calling a client, investor, advisor, and friend was Brad Furber.

NOTE: If you are a startup founder and want to raise money at a higher valuation with less dilution, and avoid getting ripped off by investors, don’t hesitate to buy Brad’s Masterclass (premium version) and speak to him about getting his coaching on raising money.

It will be the best money you ever spend. Period. 

To get started, take the Investor Readiness Test hosted by SanityDesk’s software and see where you stand on raising money.

Once you take the test, watch the entire results video, and buy the top plan where you get to speak to Brad personally to apply.


Yes, that’s a lot of P.S’s here (7 to be exact), but this post is named War & Peace, after all.

After Iraq, and my brother’s death, I went from chasing love earlier in my life to avoiding it.

The man who brought me back from this, and is the world’s top relationship trainer is a man we also had the privilege of working with.

Rory Kilmartin, whose program on the Invitation of Love is transformational.

The best training I have ever seen, with the highest watch rate of any video I have produced, was Rory’s 90 minute MasterClass on love.

Here is a short preview of the MasterClass that helped launched his coaching business many years ago on one of the earliest versions of SanityDesk.

Finally, I wanted to thank you for getting through the entire story here of how it is that SanityDesk came to be born in Ukraine.

It’s my home and the home of the team and woman that I love. I hope for the best, but am planning for all possibilities.

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