Bamboozled By Babble, redux

P1

Tuesday, 2:47pm
Reno, NV
Don’t let me be misunderstood.” (The Animals, #15 on Billboard, 1965)

Howdy…

I’ve resurrected another gem from the archives… just because it’s so freakin’ good. Many of the lessons I try to deliver in this blog need to be delivered over and over (the only guaranteed way to finally learn anything in life), and once I nail it, there’s no sense rewriting it.

The clarity I try to achieve below is a solid step toward leading a more examined life… which all great marketers strive to do. There are stages to this if you’ve hit adulthood and continue to labor under false assumptions and bad belief systems. The worst is thinking that what you believe must be true, because you’ve believed it for so long.

This kind of circular cognitive dissonance can hold you up for decades (or even forever)… because our very human minds are hard-wired to listen to our intuition, no matter how often it’s proven wrong or screws up our lives.

We’re stubborn beasts. As a civilian, you just go enjoy your bad self with your silly notions and absurd assumptions. I’d prefer that you not vote, but it’s a free country.

However, as a marketer who desires wealth and recognition and lasting success… you cannot rely on the flawed default settings in your brain. If you haven’t been constantly giving yourself vicious Reality Checks over your career, you’re risking being stuck in a non-productive zone where competitors will fly past you, and customers flee.

I, personally, am very hard on myself. Very, very hard.

My transformation into a real professional meant climbing out of a slacker lifestyle where I got away with laziness, unreliability, and a self-destructive refusal to change… into a new person who cleaned up the messes I made, took proactive steps to fix what was broken in my skill set and personality (so I never “vowed” to do better next time, but actually changed so I DID better), took responsibility and put my ass on the line to get things done, and force-fed discipline into my lazy habits.

It was tough, but required if I was gonna move up a few stages in my quality of life and self-respect and success.

And here’s a veteran’s tip on how to accomplish this yourself: You take it all one step at a time.

The problem with most self-help crap out there is that folks honestly believe that voicing a philosophy will trigger real change. So they visualize their new selves, and chant magic resolutions, and try to hook into some imaginary lifeline dangling from the universe that will do the transformation FOR them.

Not gonna happen. In my career, I witnessed amazing coincidences and lucky twists of fate that — in my lazier days — I would have assigned to mysterious forces. Things DO start happening, once you get moving.

But it’s not magic — it’s the natural result of taking action, goosing your network for opportunities, and being hyper-aware of what you bring to the table and how you might use that to break down doors.

Anyway, this post is just a small part of the larger battle to become more conscious, and more precise in the way you look at the world. Nevertheless, it’s a huge step forward, and many later stages require this fundamental stuff.

So, enjoy:

As a lifelong wordsmith (that’s “writer” to you), I long ago learned to respect language. It seemed a no-brainer to me. Language is our primary communication tool… and English just happens to be the most flexible and use-able one ever created. Unlike every other language out there, it inhales foreign worlds without problem, gives group-hugs to slang, and offers an amazing cornucopia of choices when you want to get your point across…

… just right. Blunt, nuanced or sneaky… English has produced the best patoi since our ancestors started grunting at each other. (French peoples, send me your hate.)

Sacre bleu.

Unfortunately, most of my fellow citizens have vocabularies that ceased growing when they were around 12.  (Newspapers write to a mostly-mythical 8th grade level… and prime time TV shows try to dumb it down even further.)

This can be fine… as long as communication still occurs.  (And I’m a fan of using fancy words only among folks who appreciate them.  Most of my writing, and especially all of my teaching materials, are carefully scrubbed of fifty-cent words… because I want to be understood.  Never use a ball-buster from the Thesaurus when a nice piece of street slang will do the same job, is my motto.)

The trouble is…

… the culture is still pretty much stuck on the 9th floor of the Tower of Babble…

… when it comes to being precise about important words.

I could write for days on this subject.

But I think these few examples, below, will do the job.

These are the words that I see causing the most trouble when I do private consultations.

I used to literally drop my jaw, stunned, when I realized that a client was merrily bustling down a dangerous path… believing he was on the road to happiness…

… when he was actually about to plunge head-first into a pit of misery.

All because he misunderstood a couple of important ideas, as expressed in words.

I see this a LOT.  So listen up:

1. Do not confuse ignorance… with naivete.

Rookie entrepreneurs… and veteran business owners who’ve strayed into mysterious new marketing territory… would do themselves a huge favor by realizing there are vast gaps in their knowledge base.

Just own up to being ignorant of how things get done…

… for now.

Ignorance is the absence of knowledge.  And it’s totally okay to admit to yourself that you’re a babe in the woods at this current stage you’re in.

Your first job is to get a handle on what you don’t yet know… that you need to know.

Then… go get it.  Fill your brain with the data, ideas, secrets, skills and direction necessary for you to succeed.

You’re going to kiss some frogs along the way, so you need to dive in and start sorting it out.

Ignorance can be cured with info.  Just as fast as you can light up your brain nodules with data.

Naivete, though…

… is often a condition that needs bitter medicine to fix.

When I encounter a client who is naive… it means the right thing to do is not pile on more info…

… but rather to perform the most brutal Reality Check they can handle.

The ignoramus just lacks data.  Many will fight having that data absorbed into their system… cuz most folks are terrified of change (especially when it means altering your worldview).

But it can be done.  I was ignorant of pretty much everything about being a freelancer when I began my career.

But I knew I was ignorant… and I gobbled up knowledge like PacMan in an ongoing process of de-ignorizing my bad self (which is still going on today).

Naive people don’t yet realize they are under-prepared and under-equipped to move forward in life.

And — worse part — they tend to aggressively resist being de-naived.  They blunder on, oblivious of their vulnerability to things like experience, savvy and skill in their competition.

So know where you’re at on the scale.

If you don’t know something, fine.  No shame in that.  Get hip, get educated, get mentored, master the needed skill-sets.

And if you’ve been sitting on what you hope is secret self-knowledge that you really don’t understand squat about what you’re doing…

… just get out of your own way.

Stop pretending.  Stop faking it.  Stop believing that good excuses can cover your act for an entire career.

The business world is like the jungle.  The predator doesn’t give a rat’s ass if you’ve got the vapors, or had a bad day, or just aren’t good at some things (because you refuse to get better).

The excuse-model that maybe worked to get you through the miserable school system without consequence… doesn’t do so well in the real world.

And it sucks to get eaten.

2. Don’t confuse experience… with wisdom.

Took me a while to nail this concept.

Back when I was always the young punk at the table (yeah, that was me for most of my career), I knew I couldn’t match clients for sheer years on the job.

And often, I just plain didn’t know as much as they did.

So I sat on my ego… and went to school with every new consultation and meeting with a client.

Didn’t take long before I’d had enough gigs under my belt to qualify for “mucho experience”…

… but more important, I kept focused on what I learned from each experience.

And that’s when the big “a-Ha!” buzzer went off.

Experience does NOT automatically translate to wisdom.

You nearly always need experience before you attain wisdom, yes.  But it’s not a guarantee.

In fact, over my career, I’ve always spent the first minutes of any consultation diving into the experience-wisdom correlation with new clients.

Their ego screams “wisdom”.  But their actual savvy whispers “hasn’t learned shit in all those years”.

The smart ones remember why they went looking for a consultation in the first place, and we can get moving on solutions and fixes.

The dumb ones fight it.

3. Do not confuse ego… with self-awareness.

Ego is bullshit.  At most, it’s a sense of being in the game, and keeping score (often in ways that no one else cares about).

Self-awareness must be earned.

And while most modern people can’t entirely murder their ego… they can at least overwhelm it with self-awareness.  So when it flares up, or gets bruised, or starts interfering…

… you can just say “oh, hell, my ego’s involved in this” and get over it.

Do you set goals?  If you set goals to satisfy your ego, your life will be miserly and grim.

The really good goals in life are always larger than “you”.

Don’t get confused about who’s running the show.

4. Don’t confuse expertise… with fast-talking charm.

I recently met a business owner who was extremely bright…

… when it came to delivering in his biz.

The marketing side?  Not so much.

In fact, as we chatted, he was almost giddy when he revealed he was about to solve all the horrific problems he was having making his online efforts work…

… because he had just paid a small fortune to hire a genius ad guy.

Who was this genius?

Why, the guy behind some of the most recognizable jingles in the history of television prime-time ads.

On Madison Avenue, this genius never has to buy a drink, cuz he’s famous.

For jingles.

I almost choked when I found out the price tag of this jingler’s services (which, I guessed correctly, were centered on bullshit “branding” nonsense that had zero chance of even causing a ripple online).

This problem — confusing charm with real expertise in what you need — is like a weed or rat problem in the entrepreneurial world.

People who can talk the talk… but can’t walk the walk… are causing some serious financial damage out there.

It has ever been thus… until you get hip to how things really get done.

When money is on the line… especially your money (connected to the success or failure of your biz)…

… screw charm.

Some (actually, maybe most) of the best marketing and business minds I’ve ever met…

… are charm-challenged, grizzled, anti-social quasi-nut jobs.

You don’t have to like the dude who rescues your ass.

You just gotta learn to tell the difference between him (the real expert), and the dazzling sociopath pretending to be an expert so he can gut your wallet.

Let your trust be earned, not charmed into submission.

Finally…

5. Don’t confuse asshole customers… with righteously angry folks who have a legitimate complaint.

You blackball the first.

But you embrace the second.  As tough as it can be to hear someone point out the flaws, foibles and blunders in your biz…

… you cannot grow without that kind of reality check.

Getting good advice, insight and direction is almost never pretty.

This is business, folks.  Not junior high.

6. And… don’t confuse real humor… with puns.

That’s just my own personal crusade.

Man, I hate puns.

Brrr.  Horrible little things…

Okay, that’s it for this post.

As a funny side note… I took a break to go watch Conan… and there was PeeWee Herman, doing a hilariously creepy bit on…

… language.

The entire line-up for the show was dripping with pathos.  PeeWee’s career blew up after a peep show bust in the 90s.  Robin Williams has been vilified, gone through public addiction purging, and worse through his equally long career.  Barry Manilow… well, he had to be Barry Manilow all these years.

Butt of jokes and derision.  You don’t really laugh all the way to the bank in those situations, you know.  It hurts to stick your head above the fray and dare to stand out… and get kicked.

Don’t get me started on critics.  Miserable little twerps…

Anyway, have a good weekend.

And if you’re feeling lucky…

… and ESPECIALLY if you love this kind of veteran, hyper-experiential action-oriented knowledge, advice and tactics…

… see if there’s a seat left at the Action Seminar next week down in San Diego (March 22-24):

Grab One Of The Last Seats

Unbelievable line-up of Marketing Royalty will be there.  Spectacular networking, and a chance to see history made… as we renovate the tattered state of the Live Marketing Seminar with real audience interaction (and zero hard sell pitching).

Make 2013 your best year ever… by getting some direct, specific and spot-on advice and ideas from the best in the biz. You may even score a live Hot Seat consultation, on stage, from me and the other experts and Big Dog marketers in attendance.

And… BIG POINT: This may be the last Action Seminar ever. Certainly one of the last opportunities to see me in person at this kind of unique “get things done” event, and get the full impact of what my network of pals and nutcase colleagues can do for your biz and life. I’m semi-retired these days, which of course means that full-on retirement can’t be far behind.

So, if you crave the kind of no-bullshit, old-school, reality-based advice I shovel out, and you want to see what it’s like to hang out with other old-school veterans like me… you HAVE to make the effort to check out the Action Seminar. And get over your bad self and your oh-so-crowded schedule and every other lame-ass excuse you can come up with for not coming.

If you’re serious about your future, you suck it up and do what needs to be done so you CAN come. And then you get on a plane and you arrive, and you absorb the whole thrilling spectacle that is a no-pitching Action Seminar.

Just check it out, first. See what’s up, see why it’s getting so much buzz, see why others will tell you it changed their lives:

See what’s up with the Action Seminar.

There’s a lot of valuable free info on that site, too.

Okay, I’m done.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Do not… I repeat… do NOT leave any puns in the comments section here.

I’m serious.

No puns.

Unless they’re really good…

27 Responses to Bamboozled By Babble, redux

  1. Great post, John. I’d love to see an entire post on this little tidbit:

    “Do you set goals? If you set goals to satisfy your ego, your life will be miserly and grim.

    The really good goals in life are always larger than “you”.”

    Thanks for “Ranting.” It always helps MY de-ignorizing process.

    Cheers,
    Trish

  2. Ah OK

    It’s here…

    “Unlike every other language out there, it inhales foreign worlds without problem, give group-huts to slang, and offers an amazing cornucopia of choices when you want to get your point across”

    • Ah. Thanks, Tom. I changed it — it’s “group hugs”. English likes slang, and doesn’t mind sharing space with it. I appreciate the eagle eyes… I’m one of the worst proof-readers alive, especially for my own stuff…

  3. Nice reference to The Animals hit from 1965 especially since one of the Band went onto manage one of the greatest Guitarists ever to strap on a Strat.Yes that one JH. I think JH and JohnC would have got on like a house on fire…come to think of it JH was a bit of a Pyromaniac in his early days . John still is except when he is being frosty… Wonderful post John I think I need a nap now to drive it into my aging brain…thank you

    • Yep, big Chas Chandler brought Jimi from the unappreciative US, and helped him thrive in London. I was just talking about the Animals with some writer friends, as we argued over the “top 3 rock albums of all times”, and for me, Best of the Animals (’66) was a game-changer for many musicians. They took the loosest blues tunes (looking at you, John Lee Hooker) and tightened ‘em up, while never losing the grit or feeling. Just a great, great band… ruined by drugs and money.

  4. Hi John

    “so I never “vowed” to do better next time, but actually changed so I DID better”

    This has got to be the best action taking sentence I’ve ever read !!

    Theres some real wisdom on this page and the holes in my skills are being recognised and filled with knowledge … slowly – even though I’ve been advised to outsource – I’d rather learn myself :)

    Thanks for another great post (even if it is an oldie) :)

    Cheers Carl

    • Yes, the main problem with “vows” is that you feel better, but if you don’t take proactive steps to actually DO better, nothing will change. It’s the crux of the self-help market, the belief that you can “think” your way past an obstacle. You can’t. You need to get the skills, info and tactics to actual DO it. It’s never just as simple as making a vow. Vows are cheap. Action is pure gold.

    • Ego’s have done more damage than any other part of the human system. And it requires constant supervision — even after murdering your ego and getting real, the little bastard will sneak back into your brain to cause trouble. But the first step, of realizing it’s a problem, is the big one.

      Thanks for the note.

  5. Hi John,

    Intuition is very helpful, but you do have to learn to distinguish your true inner guidance from your mental conditionings and societal brainwashing. Whose voice is in your head? Is it the still small voice of your intuition or is it the parental voice, the voice of peers, the teacher, etc. Learning to distinguish which is which is not that easy, but extremely valuable. I’ve had some crazy, amazing, favorable synchronicities happen, on a regular basis, after I learned the process of following through with my inner guidance. If this topic interests you, please check out my blog and website. Have a great day!

    • I, too, have benefited from amazing synchronicity and connections that sound like fiction but are true. (Like “Think And Grow Rich” actually falling out off a shelf into my lap at the exact right time in my life — I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, homeless and miserable.) I believe, and advise, that the universe rewards proactive behavior. My warning on intuition is that you need to ROAD TEST it before relying on it. How often is it right, how often wrong? Most people ignore the wrong stuff, and glorify the right stuff. Just measure, is all I’m saying. Raw intuition can be mostly wishful thinking.

      Thinking that there’s any “magic” to this synchronicity stuff rubs me wrong. It’s all about movement and being hyper-aware that opportunity is a fleeting whisper in the breeze, and if you miss it it’s gone forever. So you get attuned to how the world works, and you swim into the tides. You’re often, for example, just one bold introduction away from meeting famous people who can help your career. I found Jay Abraham by accident (a passing comment from a colleague), had to get past disliking him initially to become a fixture in his office (over the course of many unpaid months), and met Gary Halbert at one of Jay’s parties. Gary and I then circled each other for six months, finally hooking up professionally and beginning what became a 20 year friendship. It wasn’t magic — it was jumping on opportunity (not knowing how it would play out, or if there even was any reward for doing so), living in a world of constant change and unknown possibilities (which freak most people out), and just always being ready to move quickly on new opportunities (again, without knowing the payoff, if any). I never waited for anyone to call me — I called THEM, and I gave them excellent reasons to appreciate the call. I worked for FREE for Jay for a year, in exchange for free run of his office (so I got to sit in on consultations, and learn from a master how it’s done). It never occurred to me to become a guru as I piled up experience and insight in my long career… and the decision to finally write my book “Kick-Ass Copywriting of a Marketing Rebel” happened in a split second, because it was simply time to do it. I wrote it in 14 days, and it’s remained a treasured classic used and coveted by the best in the biz.

      Again, not magic. Not intuition. Just hard-core movement and staying attuned to the subtle whispers of opportunity.

      Thanks for the note, Christine.

      • I agree with you John that the Universe rewards proactive behavior, but the Universe rewards proactive behavior EVEN MORE when it is inspired by your inner guidance, the kind that comes from one’s deepest soul (rather than just your “ego” self).

        When you learn to distinguish your inner guidance from the garbage or regular thoughts in your head and then develop enough confidence in your inner guidance such that you follow through with it PROMPTLY and CONSISTENTLY, that’s when you tap into a kind of magic and flow that isn’t there when you just depend on hard work / pounding the pavement.

        The following is a real life example, copied from a blog post of mine:

        “About two and a half years ago, I was hiking in the Los Gatos foothills when all of a sudden I received a hunch to call an acquaintance. I had promised to help with a project, and I wanted to let him know I could be counted on.

        I realized I didn’t have his number in my cell phone contact list, but as I was hiking up the hill, I remembered I had called him recently. So I looked through my call history for a (650) area code number and dialed the first (650) number I came across.

        An unfamiliar man’s voice answered, “This is KZSU and you’re the winner. “Can you hold?”

        “Yes, I can hold,” I said, blown away, realizing I had just “by accident” called the radio station where my friend hosted a weekly radio show, wondering if the current host was going to ask me questions I couldn’t answer, or how I was going to explain that I wasn’t listening to this guy’s show at the moment.

        Well, it turns out I won a pair of tickets to the Monterey Jazz Festival (and he did not ask me any questions I couldn’t answer). Even though I had been very confident in my ability to discern and follow through with my guidance by then, this amazing result amplified my confidence even more. (It’s nice to receive such positive feedback from the Universe.)

        Notice that I did not hesitate to follow through with my guidance. Even though I knew I didn’t have my friend’s number, I looked for another way to call him. Notice also that there was a very small “window of opportunity” for getting this particular result. If you wait too long to follow through with your intuition, your window of opportunity will pass you by.” –end of blog post excerpt

        I have an even more amazing example I had blogged on, something happened to a friend. Tell me please that there isn’t SOME magic happening here…

        The link to the blog post is below:

        http://www.christinehoeflich.com/?p=147

        Thanks for your reply! By the way, I read your blog posts consistently and LOVE the way you write.

        Christine

  6. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Don’t know who said that but I agree . . . it all comes down to my taking some kind of action. Nothing happens if nothing happens. Thank you John.

  7. Dear Semi-retired master of words and all things to do with operation money suck!

    I hope like hell you intend to keep your blog going…

    …it’s like ritual for me to knock the invisable bullshit that sometimes (not too often) seeps into my head and starts to swirl around like a trojan virus inside a PC.

    Ego is bullshit: I love that, so true…

    Jingle writer famous on madison ave…getting paid stupid amounts of money for mis-leading biz owners…

    That remined me of an experience of my own this week on Facebook- so called ‘marketing & copywriting’ nerd decided to tangle with me because.

    I have posted few things I’m testing…to generate leads…

    He took the time to see what…

    I had to offer decided after going to college ( we call it university here) thought his so called ‘education’ allowed him to critque me and what & how I was generating leads.

    With most amount of repsect for this guy (clueless bastard)

    I told him long list of guys who…

    I have been learning from (you included) and asked him to send through promo’s…the response…cost per lead, how much promo’s he worked on made.

    His response was classic and could see it mile away…

    He did not feel the need to Google serach anyone…

    I had taken the time to learn from (you included) proceeded to say direct response world was full of sharltons.

    Ha-ha-ha-ha…

    Like an old WW2 battle cruzer…

    I gave him best lapel rattling without being abusive toward him.

    I than detailed some of big boys in our world and what their experience has been from actually doing it.

    Further to that.

    How white space, cool graphics, limited copy will never in a fit beat copy dense pitch done like we would….

    …that if we where to go head to head spilt run test I’m pretty sure using my direct response education, I would slaughter his response rate dollar for dollar on cost per lead…

    …and kindly reminded him that image advertising and branding will lead his clients so far off the path to endless flow of cash pouring into bank accounts as a direct respons from the promotion…he creates

    …one day he will start to beleive his own b.s

    I also told him…

    I have been schooled by guys who have actually applied their knowledge and gotten mega results whilst he has been taught on what suppose based on theroy to happen how being creative & entertaining won’t make single friggin sale.

    I told him unless he can produce samples of his work with all the stats and how much $$$$ it made than please keep your deluded ideas in the world where it’s not important to pull a response…

    …because to me brand and image to me as every day joe on the street does not make me want to go and buy specific product or service…

    In fact when I go to the grocery store I end up with mix of branded and un branded grocerys all because I like the taste or desire the prouct I have in my basket.

    Regardless of what fancy logo or brand name is on the packaging

    I’m sorry for such long reply…

    I really get going when boffins/ wanna be fake experts start vomiting up so much crap they need toilet roll attached to their jaw bone!

    Like the story you tell in one of your DVD sets how romans use to sell thier used chariots by using direct response! (can’t recall if it was copywriting sweatshop or one of your other killer DVD sets…

    Thanks again mate!

    RJ, Australia

  8. I obviously won’t make any puns here after being so sternly warned, but it reminded me of a guy who wanted to win a pun-writing contest, so he wrote ten puns hoping one would win, but… No pun in ten did.

  9. [...] John Carlton’s recent blog post tells how he made changes and transformed his life from one of a slacker (where he “got away with laziness, unreliability, and a self-destructive refusal to change”) to one where he “cleaned up his messes, fixed what was broken in his personality, took responsibility, and became more conscious and more precise in how he looked at the world.” Today he is recognized as one of the best, most “real” copywriters in his field. John writes, [...]

  10. [...] John Carlton’s recent blog post tells how he made changes and transformed his life from one of a slacker (where he “got away with laziness, unreliability, and a self-destructive refusal to change”) to one where he “cleaned up his messes, fixed what was broken in his personality, took responsibility, and became more conscious and more precise in how he looked at the world.” Today he is recognized as one of the best, most “real” copywriters in his field. John writes, [...]

  11. John how we love you!

    But can you please write something new for us? Pretty please?

    It’s always oldie but goodie with you.

    And for us that have read most of the posts, we’d really love something new.

    • I write new posts often — at least once a month. But I’m also tired of people asking me the same questions over and over, which I’ve already addressed in the blog (sometimes multiple times)… so I’m really doing all the lazy asses a favor by recycling the killer articles that never deserved to be forgotten in the first place.

      Got a new one coming up soon, and a new guest post by a favorite colleague, too. Just stay tuned…

  12. Hi John,

    I’m new to your blog and at the risk of inflating your ego I’ve gotta say I love your style of writing!

    For a long time I was meandering along in my business until I gave myself one of those nasty reality checks you mention.

    You say you’re hard on yourself…Well I made myself cry! But I am a girl!

    After that reality check I decided the only way to change was to do things differently, what I was currently doing was getting me nowhere.

    Every Sunday night I now spend a couple of hours reviewing how productive my previous week was, where time and energy were wasted and how I can make the next week better.

    Without these frequent reality checks I’d still be wasting time going round in circles never really getting anywhere.

    Mel

  13. It’s all a matter of taking personal responsibility isn’t it. Instead of trying to fake it till you make it, being humble enough to accept the fact that there is always someone out there who is much smarter, and more experienced than you. You also need to know that it’s smart to seek out those people and learn from them, so that you might also be able to learn something that’s really useful. I have been learning internet marketing now for the past two years, and it’s taken me until really just recently to be able to discern the ones who I should be learning from, from the ones who don’t really have a clue, and are wasting peoples time and money spreading stuff that’s nothing more than rubbish.It’s a shame that when you don’t know something you don’t know, so you can’t possibly know, who are the ones, that will help you to grow, from the others.
    Spend enough time working at finding the people who can teach you, eventually when the time is right, they will turn up and you will know.

    • Good advice there, Sharon. You can’t expect the reality to present itself to you when you climb into a new gig or environment… but if you’re aware and commit to learning and growing, it’ll come eventually. Much faster than you ever believed possible, in fact, once you focus… so be prepared.

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