Category Archives: Motorcycles

In The Turn

Last Crop in Fallsville: A Lesson of Love and Compassion

Like you, I’ve been inspired by the many kindnesses shown to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Neighbor helping neighbor.

But it shouldn’t take a crisis for us to show love and compassion to those around us.

I have a favorite story about a chance encounter years ago when I was learning to ride a motorcycle – and it happened on Labor Day Weekend. It taught me a lesson I’ll never forget about the opportunity we have as leaders to impact others for good every day. Please enjoy…

“By the fall of 2009, I could confidently say I had made the turn toward a journey mindset that brought balance to my destination style of leadership. I wasn’t there—I’m still not there—but I was on a better course.

So when Labor Day weekend rolled around that September, I had no problem rolling away from my work and enjoying a ride on my bike.

Raye and I met his father, a good friend, and another couple just as the sun came up for a beat-the-heat ride through the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. Our self-appointed navigator was born and raised in these hills, so we fell in line behind his Harley as we started out from Fayetteville. The general plan—after a pit stop for biscuits and gravy in Huntsville—was a ride through Newton County, a sparsely populated county with winding highways that are quite popular among cyclists.

The first hour or two of our ride took us through small towns, some beautiful rural areas with tree-covered hillsides, sprawling farms, and tiny churches with inspiring signs like, “We use duct tape to fix everything. God used nails.”

By mid-morning, we decided to stop at a bend in the road called Fallsville. The small gravel lot had a lone white building with a single glass door, and three old-timey gas pumps. No credit card swiping here. You’re gonna have to go in, which was our intention anyway. We needed a stretch.

We discovered the only available restroom didn’t require a key—outhouses apparently don’t need that much protection. As we laughed about this, I noticed not far from us an old pickup sitting under a tree. An overall-clad gentleman was perched on the edge of the passenger’s seat with the door standing open.

Sprawling around the truck were piles of plump green-striped watermelons. I didn’t need a cutting to know they’d been picked at the height of their juicy glory. I decided to wander over for a visit, and Gentleman Gene, as I think of him now, broke into a smile at the prospect of a buyer approaching.

“How’s business,” I asked, curious if he had—or if he really expected—to sell any melons that day.

“Picking up,” he said. “They’re beauties, and better than anything you’ve ever tasted.”

Certainly a convincing argument, especially on a hot summer day.

“You raise pretty melons,” I agreed as I looked them over.

He got out of his seat and leaned on the side of the truck. The entire bed was filled with dozens more melons.

“I’m just trying to get whatever I can for them today,” he went on. “They’re not mine. They’re my neighbor’s.”

Gene, as it turned out, was a proud farmer who just couldn’t stand the thought of letting perfectly good watermelons rot in the field. So he had driven to his neighbor’s house that morning and convinced him to let him load up his truck and come to the gas station to try to find a home for as many as possible.

“Why wouldn’t your neighbor bring them himself,” I asked. Seemed like a nice but strange thing to do, hauling off your neighbor’s bounty. Was his neighbor lazy, tired of eating melons, tired of giving them away?

His answer caught me off guard. “He’s just not up to it this year. He’s got cancer pretty bad. He’ll never make another harvest. This is his last crop.”

A new appreciation for the melons flooded over me, and their natural beauty just shone. Gorgeous shades of green, smooth round skin, plump centers. Just the way they were at rest on top of each other looked as if someone had carefully placed each one in a certain spot to catch the morning’s light through the trees. I began taking pictures of them.

Gentleman Gene went on to tell me how his neighbor had lived off the land his whole life, reaping what he sowed and scraping together enough along the way to feed and clothe fourteen children. An experienced chef after a fashion, he had taught all the women in the area to make homemade sorghum molasses. Gene grinned, “I think the most he ever made in a year was $1,200. Some of it from his melons.”

No doubt.

Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of motorcycle engines. I looked past him to our group. They were putting helmets on and folding maps. Time to get going again. I thanked Gene for his story and apologized for not being able to take some melons with me.

“They don’t make saddle bags big enough for melons,” I said. “But I want you to do something for me.” He leaned forward. “Please tell your neighbor you met someone today who thought these were the most beautiful melons she had ever seen. That she took pictures of them and promised to share their beauty with others.”

He laughed. “That will make him smile, and I haven’t seen him smile in a long time.”

As we rode away, I thought about fall, but not with the welcome anticipation I’d felt that morning. Harvest is a time of plenty but it’s also a time of endings. I never used to think about things winding down in life; I was always too wound up. But of course there is a time of harvest that comes for us all. The real question is what are we harvesting?

Gentleman Gene had done his neighbor a favor, but he’d done one for me, too. It may have been a last crop, but it won’t be one that’s forgotten. ”

P.S. You’ll find this story at the end of Chapter 12 in my book “Leading Through the Turn.”

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In The Turn

Are You Powered by Purpose?

Are you living with purpose?

I think a lot of us ask this question wondering if what we do really matters and if it’s changing the world for better.

Last week on Facebook Live, I sat down with Workmatters president and my good friend, David Roth, and shared some thoughts on what it means to find purpose in your work, make the journey matter and go with the detours in life.

I hope you’ll watch  — and join us for this year’s 2017 Workmatters Leadercast as I’m excited to be the keynote speaker sharing what it means to be “Powered by Purpose.”

You can also read the transcript below.


David Roth: Welcome, Facebook Friends. My name’s David Roth. I’m president of WorkMatters and it is my privilege today to be with my friend, Elise Mitchell. Welcome, Elise.

Elise Mitchell: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

DR: Elise is our keynote speaker at our 14th annual WorkMatters Leadercast and we’re going to spend a few minutes this morning diving into a little bit of what you’ll talk about at the conference.

Elise, Leadercast is about three weeks away and the theme for the conference is Powered by Purpose. Purpose is such a crucial word in our work. Tell us a little bit around what that looks like from a leadership standpoint.

EM: You know, it’s a great question. I cannot imagine not having a sense of purpose in our work. But, I think a lotof us wonder does what I’m doing really matter? Is it changing the world for better? Am I making a difference in other people’s lives? And while we search for purpose – which is a great thing to do, I’m excited we’re going to do that with Leadercast – I think part of that search begins with looking inward.

Really knowing yourself and understanding yourself is important. You have to ask yourself, ‘What are my gifts and talents? Am I really using those in my work? What are my values?” For many of us that’s driven by our faith. ‘What do I believe in? How does it align with what I’m doing?’ And then ultimately, of course, ‘What do I want my life’s work to be about?’

Some of that can be seen over the course of a career, but honestly, I think you want to have that sense of purpose every day. The tasks that I’m doing every day – is there purpose and meaning in those things? It’s very important.

DR: You wrote a book. An incredible book that’s been out for two or three months, Leading Through the Turn. And in the book, you talk about your passion for riding motorcycles. And through riding motorcycles, you learned a number of leadership principles. Tell us a little bit around how those things came together and what that looks like.

EM: Well, it’s funny because motorcycling came at a pivotal point in my life. Honestly, David, there was a time – and you’ve known me a long time, so you know this about me – there was a time when all I thought about was winning at work. And I didn’t have time for hobbies – actually I didn’t make time for hobbies, and that needed to change. My life was suffering because I was focusing on work and needed to reinvest in those parts of my life.

So my husband and I decided to go on a trip together, which we hadn’t done for a number of years — we were just busy with work and raising our kids. I agreed in a moment of insanity to get on the back of his motorcycle and take a 10-day trip. And I remember thinking this is going to be uncomfortable, I don’t know why I’m doing this. But you know what? I got on the back of his bike and I never looked back. I was hooked.

Motorcycling is one of the most exhilarating ways to travel. The sights, the sounds, the smells. It’s such an amazing experience. And most importantly, it taught me about joy in the journey. I realized I was so focused on reaching destinations in my life that I wasn’t really appreciating the ride and the joy of life. I wanted that to change.

I remember when we came back from the trip and my husband said, ‘Elise, you were meant to ride. You should ride your own bike.’ So when I took the motorcycle safety course, I learned a fundamental principle of motorcycling called looking through the turn. It works like this: as you approach a turn in the road, which is where a lot of the hazards are, you determine whether or not there are potholes or oil slicks that might make your bike wreck.

But you don’t stare straight into the turn because, if you do, you’ll drive right into it. Your bike will follow your eyes. Instead they teach you to keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up. Looking through the turn.

When I heard that, I thought to myself this is a powerful metaphor for business and life, and it really stuck with me. I thought, ‘How do I become a leader who is looking through the turn, or in my book, leading though the turn? How do I become a leader who does that?’ Ever since that time, I’ve really made that my mantra and tried to live that way — and lead that way. That’s what inspired me to write the book.

DR: That’s awesome. Also in your book, you talk about bumps in the road. You talk about plans that you had that maybe were different than God’s plans and how you overcame those, how you dealt with those. I know there are a number of people watching this video that are struggling with that. Maybe they’ve had some setbacks in their career. Can you speak to what you’ve learned around changing plans and how you dealt with it?

EM: Well, it’s funny. We always make these plans in life. I liken it to when my husband Raye and I go on motorcycle trips. We get on the computer, look at the map and plan very carefully all the roads and the routes that we’re going to take. But a lot of times the ride doesn’t turn out like that. You have these detours that occur. And I thought how similar that was in life.

I remember a very specific time in my life when I had a big detour. It was a career-changer. And it was not what I wanted. It was very unexpected. And I had a choice at that time that I could go and be bitter about this change or I could go and let it make me better. It just reminded me it’s not as much what happens to you in life, but it’s how you respond to what happens to you that really matters and defines who you are as a person.

I learned some very valuable lessons around that. The idea of being willing to go with detours in life because you’re probably going to end up in some pretty terrific destinations. You can see God’s hand in those detours. I know many people are in personal detours, they’re in professional detours, they’re in health detours, things that are unwanted. And we have to figure out how we’re going to respond in those moments.

DR: That’s powerful. Well, I’ve read the book, of course, a couple of times and I know that what you’re going to share at Leadercast is going to be extraordinary, so much deep teaching from your life as an entrepreneur, the hard lessons that you’ve learned through your life.

We’re really looking forward to you unpacking this in more detail in about three weeks at Leadercast. Before we close, though, I do want you to share with our audience a little bit more about your book and how they might be able to buy it and listen to it.

EM: Thank you. I appreciate that. So the book is called Leading Through the Turn. Published by McGraw-Hill, came out just a few months ago. There’s a really simple thing – one thing that people can do if they’re interested in finding out more – is to go to my website, which is elisemitchell.com.

Everything is there. You can buy the book there. I have a very active blog where I share not only lessons from the book, but leadership lessons in the trenches, things I’m learning every day now. So I post regularly to it. We invite people to join our list there. They can subscribe and get notices of when we post to our blog.

Also – this is kind of exciting – my publisher asked me to do an audio recording of my book. It is available now on audible.com. I actually recorded it myself. The beauty of that is that my publisher wanted it to be a really authentic read from the author, to share the emotion and the passion that comes with sharing my own work.

 

DR: Well, for our viewers here today, we hope that you’ll join us for the 14th annual Workmatters Leadercast. There will be over 1,000 people there that day so I want to encourage you, if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, to attend Leadercast, but also don’t come alone. Bring a co-worker. Bring a friend. Bring a family member. And for those of you that lead teams, I highly encourage you to bring your entire team.

I can’t tell you with 1,000+ people there, how many people, small companies, literally shut their companies down to attend. Leaders that have a small or large team bring their entire team.

Work is hard. We’re running fast. And this is such an incredible opportunity to just slow down and listen to leaders like Elise Mitchell and nine other speakers from around the United States.

They’re some of the greatest leaders in the entire country. So, I want to encourage you to buy your ticket and here’s how you can do that.

Click on this video and it will take you right to the website. Or you can go to the website at nwaleadercast.com and you can buy your tickets there.

Look forward to you seeing and hearing Elise. And also, just know, that Elise’s resources will be available at Leadercast, as well, so if you want to purchase them then.

Thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.

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In The Turn

Three Essential Steps to Make Your Dreams a Reality

View this blog on Facebook Live here.


“I Have a Dream” is one of my favorite Martin Luther King speeches. There is one quote in particular that really moves me – “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”

The fierce urgency of now – what a compelling thought.

I love this because I think Dr. King was telling us we need to be leaders who dream, but also leaders who take action. That is the hardest part, right? We all have dreams, but making them a reality is so hard.

We have countless excuses that hold us back like…

  • “I’m busy with living life right now so I can’t make a dream happen.”
  • “I’m worried I’m going to fail.” or
  • “I’m worried about what other people will think of my bold ideas.”

You can’t let excuses hold you back.

My question for you is this – do you have a dream? Do you have something you want to make a reality? Could 2017 be the year you make it happen?

I’d like to share three steps that I hope can help you make your dreams a reality.

1. Just get started – Take the first step – that’s where it all begins. I remember when I knew I wanted to build a company. I slid a proposal across the desk to my boss and asked him to be my first client. It wasn’t until I had the courage to make the ask that it had actually happened. Of course, I didn’t know how to start a business – I had to figure out how to do that! But at least I got started.

The same thing is true when I decided to write my book. I thought about it for years, but until I sat down and wrote chapter one I didn’t have a book in the works. You need to take that first step, and the rest will take care of itself once you’re rolling.

2. Deal with the uncertainty – One of the things that holds us back is our fear of the unknown and our anxiety about what might happen. We come up with plan B and plan C. It’s OK to have plans for things but you must accept that you won’t ever really know what’s going to happen. That’s part of it.

Being a journey-minded leader means you’re willing to live with the tension of uncertainty and tell yourself, “I don’t really know what’s going happen, but I am talented and capable enough to learn as I go. I’ve got smart people around me who will help me, and I know I can figure out what I don’t know once I’m moving forward.”

3. Live with no regrets – I don’t know if you’re a country music fan, but there’s a song I really love by Tim McGraw called “Live Like You Were Dying.” It’s a very moving song because it’s a story of a man who figures out that he’s getting ready to die. He begins to think about how he wants to live life in those last few days – and of course, he wants to live life to the full!

Nobody gets to their death bed and thinks “Gosh, I wish I’d been more conservative in my life.” No, we wish we’d taken more risks, stepped out of our comfort zone. We wish we’d taken that leap of faith. We wish we’d love sweeter, and we wish we’d given more forgiveness. These are all the things that make life rich and full!

So don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t live with regrets. Could you become an entrepreneur? Could you write a book? Whatever your dream is, don’t look back and regret that you never took that chance.

I want to close with a quote that I included in my book, Leading Through the Turn. I won’t tell you the whole story around the quote, although that story’s one of my favorites in the book (hint – it’s in Chapter 11).

But I will tell you why this quote means so much to me. Someone shared it with me when I needed it most – and he didn’t know how badly I needed to hear it. I was really at one of the lowest points in my life, and this quote spoke to me in such a powerful way.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

—THEODORE ROOSEVELT

The lesson for us is this: Get and stay in the arena. That’s where all the action is anyway.

When my friend gave me the gift of that quote, I actually got up out of my chair and took action that changed my life. I wanted to be in the arena fighting for my dreams, not just sitting on the sidelines!

What about you? Where do you want to be? Why not make 2017 the year your dreams become a reality?

It’s up to you. Go make it happen!

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In The Turn

 5 Things You Can Do to Avoid BurnOut

6zxwp5xpbpe-jamie-street How are you sleeping these days?

Do you find yourself lying awake night after night processing challenges you face at work? Perhaps you have goals you want to accomplish, yet you feel an enormous burden and anxiety about reaching them.

When this goes on for too long, you risk burnout. German-American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined this term in 1974 to describe physical and mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Inability to sleep is also a common symptom.

If you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans (48%) report lack of sleep due to stress. I’ve experienced burnout at different times in my career. During one of the worst times, I stopped sleeping for several months. I was exhausted and mentally and emotionally depleted.

Since then, I’ve learned to become more of a journey-minded leader, putting my fears and frustrations into context and viewing life as more of a journey and less of a destination.

In last week’s interview with Claire, she touched on this and shared her solution – she took a sabbatical.  While that might not be possible for you, there are some simpler things you can do to hit the “pause” button and minimize stress-related anxiety.

And before you say, “Elise, there’s no way I can hit pause,” I will tell you some of the strongest leaders I know live out these lessons and are better leaders, parents, spouses and friends because of it.

So do me a favor. The next time you’re on the edge of burnout, I want you to stop and consider these five things.

· Stop pushing yourself so hard – You’re harder on yourself than your boss, right? Destination leaders often think they need to take on every extra assignment offered, skip lunch or constantly stay late. Yet no one specifically says, “I expect you to stay late” unless it’s a special situation.

Stress and chaotic days are a part of being a leader, but be smart about how you spend your time. Always observe deadlines, but recognize it’s not as much about the quantity of time as it is the quality. If you’re unclear about how to stop pushing yourself, have a conversation with your boss and ask what their expectations are for you. This could help clarify how to invest your time so you’ll know when it’s OK to turn the computer off and head home.

· Prioritize – Think about the different areas of your life – personal, professional, spiritual, etc. What needs to happen now, what can wait? It’s important to have both short-term and long-term goals for these things. But don’t try to focus on everything all at once. That leads to feeling overwhelmed. Instead, keep a running list of immediate tasks you need to accomplish in deadline order so you can knock them out on time. Keep a second list of long-term goals with specific actions to take so you can make progress towards those things over time.

· Let it go – Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes you just need to let it go. I’m sure you’ve heard “perfect is the enemy of good.” I am as guilty of this as anyone I know, but I am learning to let things go when they are good and delegate authority to others so more things can move forward. Don’t be guilty of being a bottleneck that holds things up simply so you can review and approve everything. When you do that you miss out on the incredible feeling of having a great team that can take your business to new heights you never could have imagined. There are plenty of things you can let go of and empower others to decide. Just be selective about which things you need to see, and what others can approve and move. Tip: Consider the root/trunk/branch/leaf approach to decision-making.

· Put a fence around the things that matter most – If something is important to you, don’t allow your demanding schedule to make you miss it. That could include a special project at work, exercise goals, or family activities. I always attend my son’s college football games even though he is in another state now, and for seven years I traveled with my daughter to her competitive cheer competitions. It’s taken a lot of juggling, but I work my schedule around these activities so I can be present for them. It really matters to our kids that my husband and I are there for them. So I put a fence around these activities and do everything possible to make sure I am there.

· Keep something in the reserve tank – There’s a common myth that motorcycles have a reserve gas tank, but there’s only the one that sits between you and the handlebars. The tank does get smaller at the bottom, however, where there’s an intake straw. When the fuel drops below this point, your motorcycle sputters and comes to a stop. But by turning the petcock valve you can access the gas that’s still in the tank and travel another 20 or 30 miles.

I love this illustration because when we’re dealing with challenges, we all need access to a reserve of internal strength and determination that allows us to power through the critical moments when most others will quit.

But in order to have that reserve when you need it, you must build it up in advance by fortifying your emotional capacity, clarifying your sense of purpose and strengthening your desire to succeed. You must also take care of yourself physically, not becoming so run-down or out of shape that you lose the stamina and clear-mindedness to face challenges.

If you haven’t been doing so, now is the time to reinvest in your own health. Get to bed earlier (check out Ariana Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution), put the phone away, take up some sort of physical activity to get moving again, cut back on the carbs. A stronger you will allow you to deal more effectively with whatever comes your way.

I’ll admit some of these steps are easier said than done, but I promise you’ll experience more joy and fulfillment when you start trying them. By doing so, you’ll avoid burnout and become an even better leader than you are today. Learning how to pace yourself is the key — and one of the first steps you can take to becoming more of a journey-minded leader.

 

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In The Turn

How motorcycling helped me find the right balance between success and happiness

my-view-from-the-bike

Motorcycling is truly an out-of-body experience. I first got on the back of a motorcycle 10 years ago while vacationing with my husband and was hooked. The sights, sounds, and smells of traveling on two wheels can spark an explosion of sensations that is absolutely intoxicating. The adventure and thrill of the ride makes the journey matter just as much — if not more — than the destination.

When was the last time you felt that way — found pure joy in the journey?

A lot of leaders I know, including ‘achievement addicts’ like myself, are destination-driven.  We’re determined to reach our goals no matter what it takes. For me, I was so focused on my career and where I wanted to be in 20 years that I didn’t care about the 19 years that would help me get there. I worked myself so hard that everything — and everyone else around me – soon began to suffer. Even worse, I found myself asking the question “Is this all there is?”

Focusing on a destination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Going full throttle in both your work and your personal life has its advantages. But it can’t be all you’re about.

Many people are searching for a better balance between the journey and the destination. You can only go so fast for so long. Is there a way to strive for your goals and still enjoy the ride of your life?

Through motorcycling, I’ve been inspired to think about the journey and take a different approach to how I live and lead. I found some answers in a principle called “looking through the turn.”

Looking through the turn

One of the biggest challenges motorcyclists face is handling turns. As you approach a turn, you must look where you want to go rather than focusing on all the potential hazards within the turn itself. The difficulty comes in keeping your eyes focused on where you want to end up while using your instincts and experience to adjust within the turn — all at a moment’s notice.

The concept of “looking through the turn” has influenced my journey, both in leadership and life. It was also the inspiration for my book, Leading Through the Turn.

Here are three ways “looking through the turn” can help you find the right balance between success and happiness.

• Keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up – It’s easy to get distracted. We hear about destinations others are headed for, goals that sound more interesting. Our heads get turned by what sounds like a better job or happier life. Not that you can’t course-correct, but if you do that all the time, you’ll never accomplish anything substantial.

Getting clarity about what you want is essential if you’re serious about achieving something big. Don’t get spread too thin. Stay focused on your most important goals regardless of the distractions, and you’ll increase your chances of getting there.

• Find a way around the obstacles – Hazards happen. We must develop instincts and experience to assess what’s going on and maneuver around those things that cause crashes. Adaptive leaders are good at recognizing challenges when they crop up unexpectedly and mobilizing others to solve problems in real time.

Our personal lives are filled with obstacles too – relationships, parenting issues, health and financial problems. The key is to develop the react/respond muscle so it works as quickly as possible and keeps us moving forward.

Don’t let obstacles become an excuse for why you’re not finding success or happiness – or both. There is always a way around an obstacle if you’re willing to keep trying.

 • Live in the moment – Many times we’re so focused on the destination, we forget how to enjoy the ride. Life is meant to be savored and experienced. We only cheat ourselves when we miss the scenery along the way.

When we ride, my husband and I will occasionally pull our bikes over, put the kickstand down and just drink in how beautiful it is. This always makes the journey more enjoyable and memorable.

How often are you pausing to celebrate success at work? Saying thank you to others? Letting those in your personal life know how much you value them? Take a good look around and appreciate where you are right now. You must make time to live in the moment, because it will be gone before you know it. Embracing the journey is key to enjoying the ride.

By looking –and leading — through the turn, you can find greater balance between your desire for success and your longing for happiness.

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    We live in a rapidly changing world.

    The pace of change has never been greater, and its impact on organizations never more significant. As a leader, it’s your job to manage through change and leverage the opportunities change can present.

    This guide is a roadmap with five questions to help you and your team navigate the challenges you’re facing and develop a game plan for moving forward. It also includes a worksheet to chart your answers.

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    BECOME A JOURNEY-MINDED LEADER

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