The Only Thing That There’s Just Too Little Of


In the spring of 1965 singer Jackie De Shannon released the single “What the World Needs Now is Love.”  By mid-July the song, written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, had worked its way up the Billboard Hot 100 to peak at number seven in the US and number one in Canada.  Written during the Vietnam War it is a folk anthem originally intended to bring people together regardless of their political views.

The song popped into my head recently while I was flipping through some journal notes.   A few months back I wrote, “every community of love can love more”.  As I read those words, quite unbidding into my head popped the lyric:

It’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.

We live in anxious times.  Back in February I heard that over a quarter of Canadians surveyed said they would be fearful of being around someone with a serious mental illness.  I get it, mental illness has a unique capacity to make us all feel helpless.  If you have ever spent time with someone suffering from anxiety or depression you know that it doesn’t take long before you are feeling completely inadequate to help.  At that point it’s just easier to walk away and leave the afflicted to the “professionals” but the fact is that people suffering from mental illness need community more than they need clinical intervention.

And that was also before COVID, before we all started dealing with enough severe stress and anxiety to be classified as mentally ill ourselves.

It’s true that perfect love drives out fear, but repeated exposure just desensitizes us.  So the best way to manage fear and anxiety is to suck the drama out of it and just admit that it is part of being human.  Draw together, do not run in fear from one another.  We are designed to bring healing and wholeness through one another.

In addition to love at times like this we could also use a bit more justice and a bit more hope.

“Lady Justice” – there is a reason she’s always blindfolded

Justice has been a big topic lately, ever since race relations successfully bumped COVID19 off the front pages of newspapers around the world.  But we don’t want just any justice, we want the kind that puts people and things into right relationships with one another and justice that doesn’t add burdens to the already over-burdened.

And we need hope, the kind that is tied up with honesty.  We need the kind of hope that says we believe things can get better while acknowledging that things aren’t right at the present moment.

So, I guess there is more than one thing that there is just too little of, Love, Justice and Hope to name a few.  But that wouldn’t make for a very good song.

 

 

 

 

The New Xenophobia


Fear and the Death of Community

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My wife and I went for a walk to the drug store yesterday.  She hadn’t been out of the house in three weeks and cabin fever had set in.  We didn’t really need anything, but her aunt is turning 100 years old in a few weeks.  Since we won’t be with her on this momentous occasion, we decided we at least should send her a card to let her know we’re thinking of her.

For a few minutes we debated the need to go.  Is it responsible for us to go out at all?  Should just one of us go?  We eventually decided that we both needed to get some fresh air, the store is only a couple of blocks away so a walk would be good for the both of our souls.  If we felt uncomfortable when we got to the store, one of us would stay outside while the other went in, get what we need and leave as quickly as possible, while still practicing physical distancing as much as possible.

As we walked, we met a couple of other individuals and family groups, out for air as well.  Approaching these other people, we adjusted our strides, slowed down, walked in single file and gave a wide berth as we passed on the sidewalk.  We made eye contact, smiled and nodded at each other and said thank you for respectfully keeping a safe distance apart.

When we got to the store, we decided it didn’t look too busy so we both went in.  I stood at the end of the aisle while she went down and picked up what we needed.  We tried our best to stay the requisite 2 meters away from any other humans and didn’t touch anything unnecessarily.  This was especially hard for her as she likes to browse, touch and smell things.  You break it you bought it became you touch it you bought it.

The whole experience was surreal.  I couldn’t put my figure on it at first but as I began to reflect, I started to realize that what I was feeling was an underlying sense of fear coming from everyone.  Contrary to FDR’s inaugural address from 1933, we are now being told that fear and suspicion is an appropriate response.

Xenophobia is the fear of the other.  The term has mostly been used to describe the way in which societies organize around the exclusion of certain people groups.  Closing boarders, limiting access to social services and denying basic human rights based on religion, skin color, or country of origin has been described as xenophobic.  But today xenophobia can be more literally and broadly defined as the fear of neighbors.

COVID19 is not your grandparent’s crisis.   Ninety years ago, the economy cratered due to a cascade of events set off by the collapse of the overvalued stock market.  This led to tightened lending criteria at the banks, reduced consumer spending, and higher cost of exported goods as a result of a tightened money  supply.  FDR became president at a time when people were afraid, not of each other but for each other.  His speeches and famous fireside chats were designed to give people a sense of calm, encourage community service, sharing and cooperation.

Today we are being given a very different message.

“Enough is enough.  Go home and stay home.”  Justin Trudeau, March 23, 2020

Gone are any encouragements to go out and spend money and keep the economy going, like President George W Bush so famously declared in the aftermath of 9/11.  All non-essential businesses have been shuttered or forced to sell only on-line with curbside pick-up.

Gone too are encouragements to get together and work for a better community.  All community involvement has been reduced to, “do your part, stay home.”  But that doesn’t build a sense of community at all, it simply leads to isolation, stress and depression.

Last week, as I stood in line to get into Costco, (that being a head trip in and of itself, retailers have never before restricted access to their stores), one staff member walked up and down the line reminding us all to keep our distance because “everyone is a threat to your safety.”  It didn’t register with me until days later, but this is the perfect example of how we are being taught to live in these times.

Fear Everyone!

The economic, social, and psychological impact of this crisis has yet to be felt in its fullest form.  We are trying, but without real human connection there is a key element missing.  When all human interaction is done at a distance of 2 meters and shrouded in caution, like the Costco employee so starkly reminded us, we lose a piece of what it means to be human.  Our economy will inevitably suffer but the long-term damage to the social fabric and our psychological wellbeing my well far outpace any financial losses we will experience.

When we can’t get together in groups all attempts to maintain connection through other means are but a poor facsimile of the real thing.  This fear will kill community in ways we may never fully understand, it’s already started.    Not to mention the people without access to modern communications technology, the elderly, the poor, the physically and developmentally challenged.

I have no advice to combat this feeling of isolation and depression.  We are in uncharted waters.  Humanity is not made for this and we are completely ill-equipped for a long fight.  We need each other, there’s nothing more to say.

 

Living on the Edge


Transferable Lessons from Athletic Training for Life During COVID19

Depending on when you choose to start counting, we are now somewhere around 20 days into the brave new world that is COVID19.  As fate would have it, the morning before the province locked down the schools I went to my local public library, (the city locked them down the next day) and picked up a few books that I had been waiting for.  I now have these books for an indeterminate time, so I’ve been taking a slower, more studious approach to reading.

The first book I read was, “Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That Is Revolutionizing Sports” by Dr. Marc Bubbs.  I heard about this book on a performance podcast for triathletes and decided to check it out.  Dr. Bubbs was interviewed by a triathlon coach that I follow, and I was intrigued by some of the things he was saying specific to triathlete nutrition, so I decided to get his book.   Don’t tell my wife but, I’ve been considering hiring a nutritionist to help take my training to the next level, she already thinks I’ve lost my mind with all this triathlon stuff, I can’t wait to see her reaction when I start pouring bone broth into my coffee.

Dr. Bubbs is the Performance Nutrition Coach for Canada’s national basketball team and has consulted with professional NBA, NHL and MLB teams all over North America.  What I was expecting to get out of the book was a lot of information about athletic fueling and while there was plenty of that what I really learned was more about training load and recovery strategies.  It turns out you can’t eat in a vacuum all aspects of life affect your results.

Last night after a particularly stressful day managing our lives and businesses in this new world (we are both self employed) my wife and I each had a mini nervous breakdown.  The stress of not knowing what to do or how long this is going to last finally got to us and as we talked it out, I noticed I was using the same language Dr. Bubbs uses to talk about athletic recovery.

Here are the terms I learned from the world of elite athletics that we can all apply to life during the outbreak of COVID19.

Functional Over-Reach

It’s a well-known fact that you build muscle and endurance by continually placing stress on the area you want to increase.  That’s what lifting weights and running wind sprints are all about.  Functional Over-Reach (FOR) is the act of continually pushing training to the razor’s edge of complete exhaustion and then backing off.  By doing this repeatedly you can quickly build up muscle and endurance getting faster and stronger over a short period of time.  Most amateur athletes and weekend warriors never reach the stage of FOR however and don’t get the full growth benefit of their training.  In order to get to FOR you must push past the initial tired stage and find that next gear.  Some people call it the second wind but even if you can find it very few people will push it all the way to total exhaustion.

Critical to the build phase, once you’ve completely exhausted yourself you must take adequate time to recover before going out and doing it all again.   Recovery times vary depending on the athlete and what you are trying to build but the point is, stress and recovery go hand in hand.

Non-Functional Over-Reach

If you fail to give yourself the proper amount of rest between heavy training days, you will inevitably enter a phase of Non-Functional Over-Reach (NFOR).  Simply put, you’ll stop getting any growth benefit from your training.  Your strength, endurance or speed will plateau, and you might even start to get weaker.  NFOR is the alarm bell or blinking red light that your body sets off saying “slow down, we can’t do this anymore!”  A coach or athlete that keeps track of their training metrics will recognize NFOR the minute it starts and go into a prolonged rest phase or ratchet back training to include fewer hard days.  You don’t get a second wind from NFOR, there is no benefit to continuing to push a body that has stopped absorbing training.  The only thing to do is rest.

Over Training Syndrome

Finally, if you miss or ignore the signs of NFOR you will begin to experience Over Training Syndrome (OTS).  OTS is quite simply an injury waiting to happen.  Stress fractures, cartilage damage and repetitive strains all tend to be the result of OTS.  Since you failed to recognize the signs of NFOR and didn’t get adequate rest your body simply breaks down and forces you into an even longer period of rest.  In extreme cases OTS can end your athletic career altogether.

 

So, what does all this have to do with COVID19?

As I explained to my wife, it’s as if we have all entered a phase of mental NFOR.  The first couple of weeks we could push ourselves to adapt.  It was tiring but we could go to bed and night, get some rest and be ready to go again the next day.  But now, with no end in sight, and no escape it’s not fun anymore.  We aren’t growing, we aren’t getting any better at adaptation and we might soon start to experience prolonged anxiety, depression and mental illness as a result.

We all need to take a break.  Phone a friend, watch a good movie, go for a walk, take up a new hobby.  Anything really that takes your mind off the news and your social separation.  Do it as often as you need to.  For me that means completely shutting down all news sources between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, texting a friend at least once a day, getting up from my desk to move around every few hours, and going for a walk every afternoon.  Whatever it is for you find something that gives you a mental break.  We can all get stronger through this, but only if we avoid mental OTS.

Keep your chin up!  Don’t over train, we’re all in this together.

Lauren

Holy Moses, What a Week!


Covid19, Oil Price Shocks and a general stock market meltdown. The NBA and NHL are shutting down for the foreseeable future, no air travel from Europe, schools are closing across Ontario for 2 weeks. And the shelves at Costco are eerily devoid of toilet paper.

The world is in facing a crisis like nothing we’ve seen in my lifetime.

Here is my rif on how stay sane and not become too isolated while the world figures out how to deal with a virus no one understands.

 

Flotsam & Jetsam


Over the last few years Labor Day has become the annual deep clean and purge weekend around my house. 

After I emptied out the “Harry Potter Closet”, aka the cupboard under the stairs, I took this video and posted to Instagram…

I realize that to some of you this may not look too bad.  My wife and I are far from what might be considered hoarders.  And, I am happy to report that after a trip to Value Village to jettison a few books that have followed me since High-school, some old knickknacks and a few Christmas decorations, everything fit back in the closet.

All of this got me thinking about how we tend to accumulate so much flotsam and jetsam as we go through life.  Flotsam and jetsam are marine terms referring to debris found floating in the ocean.  Flotsam is debris from a shipwreck, jetsam is debris thrown overboard deliberately to lighten the load and avoid said shipwreck.  I guess with those definitions in mind what I have would be considered jetsam (short for jettison) but if I were to hang onto it until I die, that would be more accurately considered flotsam (from the French for floater).

My mother-in-law is moving into a retirement home next month.  She has a lot of jetsam, close to 50 years worth of it to be exact. Much of it has been stored away in the cupboards and corners of her house since she first moved to the city in 1971.  Her husband, my father-in-law, was a hoarder.  When he retired, way back in 2001, he promised to go through everything he had accumulated through life and start lightening their load.  Then he started showing signs of dementia and died before anything got done.  Going through his possessions and paring down a lifetime of accumulation from a three-bedroom home with full basement, to a one-bedroom apartment in a retirement community is not easy. 

typical hoarding household, my mother-in-law would kill me if I showed you an actual picture of her home….

Hoarding is an actual mental disorder that my mother-in-law had the misfortune of dealing with for over 50 years.  According to the Mayo Clinic, Hoarding Disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.  A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items.  Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs. 

My father in law would often say that he was keeping things because he thought he could fix them, use them or sell them.  But the economics of collecting, selling and reusing items have changed.  We live in a throw-away and freecycle society. No one pays for used items anymore, regardless of their cost or value.  It’s just too easy to buy new.  Stores like Value Village, where I dropped my jetsam, cater to a niche of consumer that is both cost conscious and wants to support local charities.  The local garage sale has gone on-line and is only good for larger items of a certain value.  It’s more common to find smaller items offered for free. 

Bottom line – it just doesn’t pay to be a hoarder.  Jettison your jetsam now before it becomes flotsam for someone else who has to clean up your crap. 

Why I’m Seeing a Shrink


It’s true but technically she’s called a psycho-therapist.

I decided to make an appointment with her because I sensed my life was starting to go off the rails a few weeks back.  I was sleeping in longer, having trouble concentrating and feeling a general sense of dread and malaise.  I woke up one morning and rather than go to the gym as I had planned, sat nearly catatonic in my kitchen for 45 minutes, unable to move.

I honestly think that everyone, at one time or another should see a shrink, or at least some type of counselor to help gain some perspective and keep their life on track.  Your friends are too close, and mentors tend to be too distant and focused on just one niche of your life.  When things start to go off the rails, you need to take a holistic approach under the guidance of a professional.  It helps too if they share at least some of your personal values.  In my case I sought out a counselor who also shares my faith so that there wouldn’t be any spiritual conflict.

High octane entrepreneur types like me tend to ignore the signs and end up crashing with spectacular speed and maximum destruction.  I didn’t want that to be me!  So how did I know it was time to see a shrink?  After I broke out of my catatonic state that morning I did a survey of my life and found at least seven signs that I was headed for a crash.

 1 – My Gym Bag was dusty

I had gotten up that morning fully planning to go to the gym but I hadn’t made it there in 5 days and the longer I waited the worse it got.  Physical health is paramount to mental health and when your commitment to exercise starts to slip that should be the first sign that you are about to go off the rails.

2 – I was self medicating

Junk food is my Achilles heel.  It’s not the worst vice there is, I’ve never self medicated with drugs or alcohol but mindlessly eating potato chips and cookies still only provides temporary relief and is not a cure for anything.

3- I had a squirrel brain

I was struggling to stay present even when there was nothing pressing going on, constantly checking social media, and email trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

4 – While at the same time I was ignoring important things

Leaving people hanging, not responding to questions or requests for information that were going to take more than a few minutes to answer.  Completely avoiding tasks that were going to be hard and possibly stressful.  Screening calls from colleagues and clients and ignoring emails.

5 – I hadn’t taken any time off in over a year

Not even a long weekend.  I was working 6 days a week and thinking about work 18+ hours a day.  It was exhausting.

6 – I had a short fuse

The gap between action and reaction was almost non-existent.  I wasn’t taking time to thoughtfully respond to anyone.  I was just snapping back as quickly as I could.

7 – I was snarky

I mean, I was resentful of other people’s joy.  Seeing pictures of vacations, family fun times and other relaxing moments on Facebook and Instagram was making me angry and I couldn’t look away.

 

So that’s when I sought out a shrink.

I now have professional help to give me perspective and get me back on track.  If you see yourself in any of the things I described above, please do the world a favor and seek help too.  There is no shame in admitting that you can’t do it on your own.  Your mental health is too important to leave unattended and your friends and mentors, while an important part of maintaining balance, aren’t qualified to fix you when you are broken.

 

 

 

 

Putting Insomnia To Bed


Not getting enough sleep? Here are eight strategies that can help.

As the saying goes; “You snooze, you lose.” But when you don’t get enough sleep, nobody wins. When we’re tired, we tend not to exercise or eat right either. We also get more irritable, stressed out and are more likely to get sick. And we don’t work as well when we’re tired. By some accounts, sleep deprivation costs Canadian businesses more than $15 billion a year in lost productivity.

So how do you get the rest you need? Try these strategies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

1 – Create a bed-time ritual

Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekend. Establishing a pattern of calming bedtime activities like taking a bath, reading, meditation or writing in your journal can help to train you mind and body that it’s time to settle down.

2- Put away your smartphone

Blue light from your phone (or tablet) suppresses the production of melatonin. That is why people who spend a lot of time looking at a screen before bed have more trouble nodding off. If you like to read e-books, try a reader that isn’t back-lit or use a screen cover that minimizes blue light.

3 – Take the pressure off

Poor sleep is our number-one response to stress. It’s also a bit of a double-edged sword as not getting enough shut-eye actually increases stress. So how do you break the cycle? Find ways to recharge and calm down throughout the day. Go for a walk, practice mindfulness exercises, or yoga. Small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference.

4 – Cool it

A cool room can help you too relax as well. Our body temperature naturally drops as we fall asleep, an environment that’s too warm may actually inhibit drifting off. Ideal bedroom temperatures range from 19 to 22 C.

5 – Lose the light

Too much ambient light can suppress melatonin production while darkness triggers it. The darker your bedroom the better so if you live in a brightly light city or near a large industrial installation installing blackout curtains and removing electronics with light-up displays can help.

6 – Move more

People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better. Working out three or four times a week can make a real difference. Don’t hit the gym too close to bedtime though, or the adrenalin from your workout could end up keeping you awake. Morning workouts are best but try to give yourself at least 2 hours for your body to return to normal before trying to go to sleep.

7 – Eat to sleep

Certain foods can help you nod off at night too. Vitamin B6 is important for making melatonin. B6-rich foods like fish, bananas, chickpeas, nuts and lentils can help. Drinking tart cherry juice, right before bed has been proven to alleviate insomnia in some cases.

 

8 – Avoid alcohol

We all know that cutting back on caffeine can reduce wakefulness. But most forms of alcohol inhibit sleep too.   This one is a bit counter intuitive until you think about it.  A glass of wine may help you drift off, but as the relaxing effects of the alcohol wear off the fermented sugars take over and you’re suddenly wide awake again.

Still can’t sleep?

Try not to stress about it. Insomnia can happen to almost everyone. If you’re tired all the time, talk to your doctor, maybe you have sleep apnea or another underlying cause.

Sweet dreams….

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

 

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New Book Project!


writingI’m writing again!

Okay, well the truth is I never really stopped, as this blog attests.  But I have not been nearly as active as I was in the past and I have not been working on a larger book length project for over a year.  There are a lot of reasons for this that I won’t go into right now.  Some of my reasons may become apparent as I work on this new project anyway.

For now, suffice it to say two things.

1) After I published Meekoethics I was mentally spent.  That book is deeply personal to me and digging into parts of my past that have shaped me into the man I am today took a lot out of me.

2) I ran out of things to say for a while.  It wasn’t so much writers block as it was just a lack of significant incite to add to the conversation.  I tried for a while to write about leadership but that effort felt strained.  I was reaching for something that I have very little personal knowledge of.  The work felt academic, not personal and if there is one thing I have learned its that I write best when I have some experience with the topic, some skin in the game so to speak and something personal to say about it.  I prefer to write as though I am trying to send a message to my former self and I really don’t have much to say to myself on leadership, at least not yet.

What I do have something to say about is mental health and spiritual well-being.  I won’t get into a lot of the details as to why this is my current focus now, hopefully as I work it through my reasons should become obvious.

chapter1As I did with my previous works, each time I complete a chapter I will post excerpts here for your review and comment. The following is the first such excerpt from the introduction.  Enjoy, please comment and join the conversation so that we can make this a bit of a collaborative effort.

 

Broken – Our Journey to wholeness through anxiety, pain and adversity

I met my first rape victim in 1992. At least she was the first person I knew who was open enough about it to say so.

I knew the statistics, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Victims Services Secretariat, 39% of Women over the age of 16 have experienced some form of sexual assault.   1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes.[1]

I knew, on an intellectual level at least what that meant. Even in our small town, three or four of the girls in my high-school graduating class, if it hadn’t happened already, would eventually be victims of sexual assault and although I was far from a Casanova myself at least one of the girls I had dated would eventually become a victim.

That last thought turned my stomach.

depressedgirlThe more I got to know this girl the more I realized that the scars left on her soul would likely never heal. She exhibited behaviour that I had seen before, sexual promiscuity, fierce independence, abuse of alcohol and a general liaise fair attitude in the face of some truly traumatic events in her life. I began to wonder if this behavior could point to the fact that the other girls (and a few boys too) I had seen acting in this way were also victims of sexual assault. Truthfully, I may never know but to this day I still wonder.

Eventually my encounters with this young girl began to wane as our lives moved in different directions. I haven’t seen or even thought about her in over 25 years, that was, until today. I wonder if she ever found healing. I hope so, but somehow I doubt it.

I doubt it because in the intervening years I have spent time with a number of other survivors of trauma, some of it sexual in nature and some of it not. As I’ve branched out from my relatively sheltered up bringing in a small town surrounded by a community full of “salt of the earth” type people I’ve begun to see the world in a different light.

I’ve taken off my rose coloured glasses as it were and begun to see the world as it truly is, a dark, dreary and often times, downright evil place full of fear, sadness, trauma and shame. In short, the world is broken. But it is also a world of unsurpassed beauty, a world of love, grace and healing.

This is not a book about sexual assault, although my hope is that all victims of trauma of any kind may begin to find some form of healing within its pages. This is first and foremost a book about God, His perfect plan for our lives, His deep pain at our losses and His deeper compassion for our health and mental well-being. It is a book about repairing our brokenness, healing our souls and journeying into wholeness, no matter the cause or depth of our traumas.

imageofgodDr. Greg Boyd, teaching pastor at Woodland Hills Community Church in Minneapolis Minnesota[2] during a Sunday sermon once called all humanity “infinitely valuable image bearers of the divine.” I have unashamedly stolen that phrase and use it constantly in my discussions about God’s grace with the people I encounter.

We all carry with us the image of God imprinted on our mind, body and soul. Even when we are broken, when we are sad, afraid, and full of shame, we are first and always God’s image bearers. And not just image bearers but infinitely valuable, infinitely worthy and infinitely loved by our creator.

We all carry the scars of our past, there is very little we can do about that. May the pain subside and the image of God shine through each and every one of our lives.

Welcome to the journey.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [Jesus, John 16:33]

 

[1] Full statistics available from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres www.sexualassualtsupport.ca

[2] For more information on Woodland Hills Community Church and Dr. Greg Boyd visit www.whchurch.org

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion to people to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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