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Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan – 05 November 2021

This is the first of a series of Global Investor articles that will explore our four key principles – Freedom, Wealth, Adventure and Connection.

My office this week overlooks the Irtysh River in the East Kazakhstan regional capital of Ust-Kamenogorsk.

Few people will know where this is located. Picture yourself at the center of the Eurasian continent – 3000km (1800 miles) from Beijing and the same distance from Moscow. Travel east another 400km and you will be standing where China, Russia and Kazakhstan meet, just a stone throw of 40km from Mongolia.

This thriving city of 305,000 people was founded in 1720 when the Russian Empire established a trading post at the confluence of the Irtysh and Ulba Rivers.

Today, it is a regional hub for mining and mineral processing, and is home to several of the largest mining companies in Central Asia. The region is rich with gold, zinc, uranium and a host of other precious metals.

Walk down the streets and you may be surprised to find great restaurants, shopping malls, grocery stores and parks. The City caters to a population of educated professionals, entrepreneurs and industrial workers.

Aside from extremely cold winters where average January temperatures dip below -20 degrees and high levels of pollution caused by mineral processing plants, Ust-Kamengorsk is a good place to live.

Why am I correlating Freedom with an industrial city in the center of the Eurasian continent? Odd though it may sound, this off-the-radar city that few readers have ever heard of – let alone visited – epitomizes the point I’m making today about freedom.

The definition of freedom is:
the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

You see, during the Soviet era and into the first two years of Kazakhstan’s independence, Ust-Kamenogorsk was a “closed” city. It was home to significant industrial production facilities engineered to support the Soviet side of the Cold War. 

Only local inhabitants were allowed to be in Ust-Kamenogorsk. No one could come and go as they chose. Foreigners were forbidden.

My colleagues and I were the first foreigners to freely walk the streets of Ust-Kamenogorsk in January 1993.

In early 1994, the Minister of Education – who remains a close friend today – shared his vision to create a university to educate future entrepreneurs and business professionals.

His idea became the Kazakh American Free University (free as in open) which has graduated thousands of students in a wide range of disciplines over the past 27 years.

I count many of these graduates as friends and a few as colleagues. They are entrepreneurs who have started and successfully exited businesses. They are CEOs, COOs and CFOs.

They are raising families, creating wealth for themselves, experiencing the world and exploring new horizons. They are acting on their freedom.

While some remain in Kazakhstan, they also litter the globe.

Not bad for people who were born into a closed city and society.

Listening to their stories and witnessing how they live provided me with a fresh glimpse of freedom. It also inspired this article.

It makes me ponder why so many healthy and wealthy people I know do not live so freely as do my friends in Ust-Kamenogorsk.

Living Freely
For me, the ability to travel and experience the world are key aspects of freedom.

I am on week three of a five-week trip that began in Dubai and will end in Bucharest when we will start filming 0600, the film investment that we told you about earlier this year.

Honestly, I have not felt this free in nearly two years.

Being out in the world and experiencing life outside the norm is freeing. Encountering new people. Seeing first-hand how the world operates. Living in and exploring vibrant cities. This is freedom.

Yes, circumstances have added layers of complexity to that sense of freedom. PCR tests, online certifications and having to check entry requirements for each country are cumbersome at best. I even had to have a PCR test to attend a meeting.

I am also cognizant that many people I know do not feel free today. I have great empathy for friends in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere who have been imprisoned in their own countries, and for those who are otherwise restricted due to the choices they make regarding their own health and wellbeing. We will save that discussion for another day.

Are You Free?
Do you have power to live as you choose?

Do you live in a country or society where you can exercise your freedom? If no, what are you doing about it? You have choices for where to call home and what passport to hold. We can help you act upon this reality.

Are you achieving the wealth you require to live the lifestyle you desire? A common thread among Obris members is that we are committed to making our money work for us, rather than working for our money. That alone liberates us to experience much more in life.

I will talk more about this in the next edition of the Global Investor when we focus on Wealth.

An Obris Definition of Freedom
Freedom is paramount to Obris members and our community. We live to be able to create our own destinies. We thrive when we are free to travel and explore the world. We choose where we want to live, who we want to live with and how we want to spend our lives.

The Obris team work very hard to further such freedoms for our members. We do so by cultivating a phenomenal community. By educating our members and helping them make their money work for them. By enhancing their lives with unique experience and events.

James on behalf of the Obris Team