What do you do if you have a degree in International Studies and a Master’s in Global Finance?
Well, if you’re Sam Sokol you create a new board game. The Graticube game to be exact.
Sam Sokol went to Smoky Hill High School and then graduated from the University of Denver with the above degrees.
Sam’s first job out of college was working for an international trade company. The owner had made a lot of money with an online travel company but this company failed. “I saw the writing on the wall about 6 months before it went out of business, and decided to go out on my own,” Sam remembers.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid. Put a shovel or a rake in my hand, and I could make some money. Working for the finance company I didn’t get to choose the agenda, and I wanted to choose my own destiny. When I stepped into more of the entrepreneurial role, it was great for my spirit.”
Sam had been curious about computers and spent a lot of time delving into software. He figured out how to do a website for his company – My Computer at Work – and then started helping others create theirs. The company morphed into “Tech Umbrella Group”.
“I was never formally educated in computing, but I was always curious about computers. With the internet, you could look at the code and figure out how something was made. I uploaded my first website in 1996 and played with creating websites throughout college. After leaving the international trade company, I started helping people with their online presence.”
This was the beginning of selling on eBay. If you had a good photo, your item was more likely to sell. The better the photo, the more you would make. Along comes, eBay Live – a tradeshow-style event dedicated to helping sellers improve their results.
“I had started working with a photography accessory startup company that made a salad-bowl-looking attachment. It took the best photos of shiny objects, which were notoriously hard to present online. I didn’t know photography or digital photography, but I learned quickly through trial and error. I traveled throughout the US for a few months teaching people how to use their cameras with this attachment to get great photos. Once they understood how to use THEIR camera, they would buy the accessories.”
At eBay Live, there was a Nikon representative presenting to a crowd of about 500. Unfortunately for the audience, he was ill-prepared. Some were snoring, loudly. “I was on a stage with this salad-bowl-looking thing and people were curious. I was invited by the Nikon people to answer the (many) questions that he couldn’t. He knew the theory of photography, I knew how to use a wide variety of digital cameras. It was a great opportunity to help some very frustrated people.”
Sam is a generous fellow. He organized SamFest to celebrate his birthday for several years, and the celebration helped others. SamFest included a silent auction and BarLympics - with 100% of the money going to The Gathering Place (a daytime refuge for women and children in Denver).
Generous heart? It’s been a plus and a minus. “There are lots of takers, and people want to give. It’s important to find balance…I still give.”
The genesis of Graticube spawned from an idea of how to share the secrets of business success. “In 2006 I took a 2-day workshop from Marshall Thurber. He was very successful in real estate and other industries and taught business theory by playing games. I had never experienced anything like it. I felt like I learned more in those two days than in all of business school.”
People came from all over the US, and sometimes from other parts of the world. Many were interested in making more money, some were also interested in personal growth. The workshop was both about learning from “the business guru” and learning from each other.
“I joined his business group called the Positive Deviant Network (PDN).” (When you think deviant, maybe your mind goes to the negative, like Bernie Madoff. But, what about the positive? A person like Mother Teresa? She’s also a deviant.) The members of the group had significant success. “Not only were they doing something different to make millions of dollars, but they also had a higher social and moral purpose.”
“I enjoyed applying the principles I learned to my entrepreneurial endeavors and wanted others to benefit. I wanted to share experiential learning through gameplay with 100% of humanity.”
Enter Burning Man. “As I was driving home after attending the Burn in 2018, I had lots of time to think about the experience. I left with a lonely feeling that I didn’t fully connect with others as I had hoped. I considered our conversations…how much of an interest did I take in them? Did I talk too much about myself? What if I listened more? What on Earth was missing?!”
Everything at Burning Man is radical, so what if he returned in 2019 in radical silence? He did. He was silent for a week, and it was profound in every way.
In that “hi-hello” with other Burners, Sam shared this small card,
“Since I learned to speak, I haven’t stopped.
I’m taking this week to listen.
If you have a story you’d like to share,
I promise I won’t interrupt.”
And so the stories flowed, and he listened. Strangely, people thanked him – even saying it was a gift.
He added question cards to the interaction. And, the cards became an invitation to connect deeper.
Amongst the turbulence of hot dusty desert storms and thousands of curious characters…beautiful stories emerged.
“At first, I thought I could share the magic of this experience in a TED talk. But, while there are lots of TED TALKS…is anyone listening, and is watching a video the same as learning?”
“All of this got me thinking about gamification. What makes for a great connection? What is it that everyone can relate to?” Combining prior personal development and the power of connecting with others through story…he started to create a little game with a big heart called Graticube.
Using the elements of time, space, and a continuum of cards, the game began to take shape as Sam collaborated with his friends and clients. One of these friends was Terry Torok (from the PDN). He liked the idea and became a co-creator.
“We started play-testing it with next-gen entrepreneurs around the globe. We’ve now played the game hundreds of times with people of diverse ages, backgrounds, cultures, religions, etc. Players describe the Graticube experience as ‘an inspiring journey from head to heart,’ ‘a lifeline,’ ‘a game that will make you feel something profound every time.’ Once we saw consistently positive results, we knew we had a great game.”
Along the way, Terry mentioned he was doing work with Deepak Chopra. He asked, “could a version of Graticube be inspired by a book?” Sam answered, “let’s try it.”
So, they read and mind-mapped Total Meditation, created a second game prototype and in late-2021 set out to present the game to Deepak Chopra in Florida. He invited them to dinner with friends. When one of his friends began playing the game, Deepak asked, “what is this?” She replied, “Deepak, it’s your game, come play it!”
Deepak rolled the dice, and pulled a card, “What does success mean to you?” He answered with an absolute, “Joy is the only measure of success.”
Graticube is currently working with values-aligned people like Deepak to bring the game to a larger audience.
Their Kickstarter was successful, and Graticube is now available on Shopify and Amazon.
“We’re excited to be hosting playdates at unique locations like Meow Wolf. The next playdate is at the United Nations February 23rd, 2023. We will be playing with interns from all over the world. These are people who are fluent in multiple languages, facile with technology, and determined to make a positive impact for humanity.” Next, they’ll be playing in Orlando, FL at the beginning of March with big-name leaders in the fields of mental, physical, and emotional health.
Graticube is also launching the Gratisphere. “It’s a way for curious people to playfully connect online in gratitude through trust and vulnerability.”
“I am a grateful guy. I start my day by breathing in and considering what I’m grateful for. Sometimes I concentrate on just one gratitude, and other days more.
The gratitude practice comes from believing that my mindset/heart-set determines everything. If I don’t set my context, “the world” will set it for me.
Playing Graticube reminds me of the power of the relationships around me. I feel inspired every time I play.
I hope the game becomes a powerful tool to be used by 100% of humanity to up-level their relationships and their lives.”
People ask, “how to I win at Graticube?”
You’ll have to play to find out.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Lol, eggs. I eat them sunny side up almost daily!
The Matrix. A game-changer at the time, and still relevant today – especially with our fascination with AI!
What do you like to do with free time?
I’m very active and love road cycling, acro yoga, skiing, rock climbing, hiking and volleyball.
Game design and testing. Woodworking (furniture building). Engraving things with my CO2 laser!
What trait do you most despise in others?
Favorite vacation spot?
Costa Rica. I love the people, and enjoy the forests and beaches.
What are you looking forward to or planning?
Developing our next adaptations to Graticube for children, business and beyond.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are those who take action beyond their selfish needs/wants to joyfully serve others. Paramahansa Yogananda, Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla, Fred Rogers…and many more.
Favorite or treasured possession?
I don’t have any favorite possessions. I do have some favorite tools. I use my computer and my phone a lot to connect with the world around me. I’m grateful for time with and without these tools!
Yes. I don’t dwell on them. I make lots of mistakes and attempt to course-correct as best I can.
“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.” ― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj