Brian Tracy is chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. He is the top-selling author of numerous books that have been translated into dozens of languages, including Eat That Frog! and Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life. His writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Success, Fast Company, and Forbes among many others. Learn more at www.BrianTracy.com
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Check out Brian’s book: Get Smart
Things we chat about today:
- Why should people read your new release Get Smart, and what sets it apart from all the other productivity and success books on the market that promise similar results?
- In the introduction of your book, you note that the average person uses only about 2 percent of his or her mental ability – why is that? How does Get Smart help us flex and expand our mental muscles?
- There are a lot of keys to success in Get Smart. If your readers could only take one thing away from this book, what would you want that message or lesson to be?
- What is some of the latest brain research that proves the methods you propose in Get Smart in terms of changing the way we think for success?
- What are some of the key characteristics or practices of successful people?
- What is “back to the future” thinking and why is it important?
Brian Tracy: Ready to go. Thank you very much.
John Lee Dumas: Rocking and rolling. Brian is chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International. The company specializes in the training and development of individuals and organizations. He’s the top-selling author of numerous books that have been translated into dozens of languages including Eat that Frog and Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life. His writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Success, Fast Company, and Forbes among many others. Learn more at briantracy.com. Brian, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Brian Tracy: Well, I have the great good fortune of loving my work. I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful family, and I just love my work. So I’m working now on my next book, as a matter of fact, which will be published later on this year. And before that, yesterday I was giving a seminar in Dallas and this afternoon I’m giving a seminar for about 700 people in Carlsbad. And then I have some friends coming from Australia tomorrow. My life is just quite wonderful. Thank you.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, I love how active and just how engaged you are with everything. Before we dive into some more substance, tell me how do you do it? Like what’s the secret? Is it sleep? Is it healthy eating? Is it a combination of all these things? How do you maintain such high energy all the time?
Brian Tracy: It’s very important that you practice what you preach and many years ago I began studying success and you’ve heard me say this before. I began asking a question which changed my life which was why is it that some people are more successful than others? And I began to study this in every field. When I got married, why is it that some marriages are more successful than others? And then why is it that some children are brought up with greater self-confidence and self-esteem than others? And why are salespeople more successful? Entrepreneurship – why are entrepreneurs more successful?
It’s very simple, just in your face ideas that are amazing to most people, reasons for success and failure. And that’s what I’ve done all my life. But then I practice everything. Just like you and many other people. I don’t teach it or preach it until I’ve practiced it and proven it. And one of the things that I practice is time management. And I started studying time management – Neil Konid back in about 1984 asked me if I would do a program on time management. And I said sure. And it took me almost two years to do the research.
I read everything that had been done in time management and then I created a synthesis of time management ideas which became the bestselling audio program in the world in multiple languages and put every other program off the market. And then I wrote books on the subject. I’m the bestselling author on time management in the world in 42 languages. And most people don’t know that. I’ve sold millions of copies. And I don’t even think of myself as a time management teacher but what I do is I practice all of these things that I teach. And it makes a marvelous difference in my life.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, from Brian Tracy’s mouth to your ears. This is absolute gold. And, hey, 618 episodes ago, Fire Nation, we had Brian Tracy on EOFire. So if you want to hear this man’s incredible journey, his worst entrepreneurial moment we talked about, we talked about a brilliant “aha” moment that he had that he turned into success, we talked about a lot of really cool things in our typical Lightning Round. You want to go back and check out that episode again. It was over 600 episodes ago.
And it’s just crazy how time flies especially when you’re managing it well. And, Brian, what we’re going to be focusing on today is the launch of your new book which I’m really fired up about. And that’s Get Smart. Now the first question that I have, though, I’d love for you to break down for Fire Nation is what sets Get Smart apart from the other productivity and success books on the market that really talk about similar results?
Brian Tracy: I see myself as a synthesizer. I take ideas from dozens, even hundreds, sometimes thousands of sources and I cherry pick the very best ideas and then I mix them together like mixing dough in a bowl. I mix them together and create a whole new presentation. So over the years I came to the conclusion many years ago that you become what you think about most of the time. It’s the greatest discovery in human history. People who are successful think differently from unsuccessful people.
So the more that I think about it, the more I realize that the way that you think is a learnable skill. You can learn to think well. Just for example, if you didn’t know mathematics and you went to school and they teach you mathematics. And for the rest of your life, you can think mathematically. You can make calculations. You can read statistics. You can understand probabilities which is very, very important for success. So you can learn to type with a keyboard. You can learn how to sell effectively. You can learn how to become a serial entrepreneur. It’s just simply learning skills.
So I decided that I would synthesize the very best work that has been done on thinking. Some of the best Nobel Prize winning, really knock your eyeballs out thinking that is really life-changing. It’s the different between success and failure consistently over 50 years of research. Success, failure. Black, white. Up, down. Yes, no. And so if you think in certain ways, you’re chances of succeeding increase by ten times than if you think another way.
So what I did is I contrasted ten different ways of thinking and showed how top people think this way and ineffective, unhappy people, poor people think this way. Wealthy people think this way, poor people think this way. And the publishers, my publishers are Random House and they’re the biggest publishers in the world and they came to me and they asked me for this book. And so they’ll distribute it worldwide, literally, within 30 days.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, one thing that blew me away right in the intro was that you shared that the average person only uses 2 percent of their mental ability. Now can you talk to Fire Nation about that? Why is that?
Brian Tracy: It’s very much like muscles. Your muscles, if you don’t use them, if you tied your arm to your side for a year, it would atrophy completely. And if you don’t challenge your mind continually, if you don’t read, and if you don’t try to learn and attempt new things, what happens is your mind gets soft. Watching television, by the way, makes your mind flaccid. It makes it atrophy. It makes your thinking weak. It slows down.
In all of thinking, you have electrical connections through the synapses from neuron to neuron. And the synapses are like the electrical wires in a power grid in a city and the neurons are the lights. So every neuron is connected to about 22,000 other neurons via these wires. So when you think a thought, it actually activates a whole lot of other thoughts. So the more you learn, the more you can learn. It’s like doing a physical fitness program. You can become really, really quick as a thinker by simply practicing thinking.
And my original title for this book, Get Smart, was going to be called Thinking for a Change. And it was going to be all the different ways that top people think because if you use your mind more – just like you. When you talk about your program, you talk about it with an enormous amount of energy and brightness and quickness and fluency. You’re not grasping for words like some of these radio show hosts that are going “um” and “ah” and they’re shuffling their papers and they’re looking for something to say.
I mean, you call this Entrepreneur on Fire. Well, it’s probably because you’re on fire. But you’re bright. You can see that immediately when you talk to a person. It means that they’re challenging their mind all the time. They’re really working their mind. It’s sort of like these female gymnasts who do the floor in gymnastics and they go whip, whip, whip, flip, flip, turn, twist, twist. I mean, you go wow. That they can use their bodies with such fluency. And that’s how you use their mind. It’s how smart people use their minds.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, I know you don’t want to leave us hanging. You must have some mental exercises for us. Like how does Get Smart help us flex and expand that mental muscle that we have?
Brian Tracy: You know, each person – I talk about this in here. But each person has the ability to contact their superconscious mind. And this is a special mind that fills the universe. Some people call it the god mind, the collective mind, the oversoul. But this mind has been known throughout all of history. So the foundation principle of all religions going back thousands of years is people discovered this incredible power that you have in your mind. But this mind only works for you if you are clear about what you want. And so therefore people who set goals, who write goals down – we talk about short-term and long-term thinking.
People who write clear, specific goals and make plans and the steps they’re going to take to get there accomplish ten times as much as people who don’t have goals. And sometimes 100 times as much. I study the income levels of different groups in America. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company this year earns 281 times the average salary paid in their company. Now the interesting thing is that some years ago that person started in the mailroom, started at a junior job, started at an entry level job along with everyone else. Like a big marathon, they all started the race at the same time.
So I studied why is it that these people start off with a basic salary and now they’re earning 280 times? Last year it was 256 times. Now it’s up to 280 times. How did it – well, the answer is these people are constantly learning. They’re literally learning an average of two hours a day, five days a week. So if you were learning, reading, upgrading your skills an average of ten hours a week – I just finished another program on that. I call it Spare Time. That if you take ten hours of your spare time each week, you will soon be one of the most successful, highest paid people in your field.
It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or what your field is. But if you don’t do that, you won’t. It’s real simple. Yes, no. Black, white. You can’t do it on charm and fast talk. The only way you can succeed today in the information age is by having more information, by constantly learning new things that you combine with other things. And this is proven over and over again by detailed research in thousands of interviews by the smartest people in the world. And this stuff is just laying there.
Just like if you take good vitamins and minerals, you’ll be healthier than if you don’t. If you exercise every day, you’re gonna live longer. This is simple stuff. If you feed your mind continually with mental protein, material that challenges your mind, your mind is like a muscle. It gets sharper and faster and quicker and works better. So the smarter you get, the smarter you get. And the dumber you get, the dumber you get. It can’t be that simple. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. The last person, Daniel Kahnemen, got a Nobel Prize for this just for pointing this out.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, you’re saying that I’m an entrepreneur on fire and I appreciate that but, Fire Nation, listen to Brian’s passion, his energy. I mean, he not only just writes this stuff down but he practices it. He believes in it. He’s just like getting it through the microphone, the sound waves. I mean, it’s just coming in to my body. And if you’re open and you’re listening to it, it’s gonna come in to yours as well. And, Brian, Fire Nation knows this. I love the acronym FOCUS, follow one course until success. Now if Fire Nation could just take one thing away from Get Smart, what would you want that message or lesson to be?
Brian Tracy: It’s a very simple formula. If I had to run on a stage, give a formula and run off, here’s what it would be. And I love your idea of FOCUS. No.1, decide exactly what you want and write it down. Until you’ve written it down, you don’t understand. There’s a magical connection between the head and the hand and 97 percent of people go around with fantasies and wishes and illusions like clouds of smoke in their brain but they never write it down. Like an architect would create a blueprint for a beautiful building. No. 2 is say what one skill would help me the most to achieve this goal? So you set it as a goal to learn the skill that you need more than anything else to help you to achieve the goal.
And then No. 3 is focus, is set priorities and focus and concentrate every day on the most important thing that you can do at every minute. And so if you do those three things, you’re absolutely clear about what you want and you write it down and make a list of the things you can do, you identify the one skill that can help you the most at this time – this turned out to be the reason why Fortune 500 CEOs earn 281 times is because they’re constantly focusing on the single skill or the single piece of knowledge or information that can help them the most. And then third of all, focus, focus, focus.
If you’ll do that, nothing can stop you. You can double your productivity, performance, output. But the greatest thing of all is that you feel really happy when you’re working toward a goal that’s clear and you’re getting better and better at the work that you do and you’re focusing on one task at a time. You literally click yourself into overdrive, what they call flow. And you feel happy and you’re highly charged and you’re more creative and you have more energy. And you can hardly wait to get up in the morning and get going. It’s so simple. 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, there’s so much that I wanted to share with here. I mean, the value bombs that were dropped were amazing. But that last tidbit that Brian just said, I mean that is incredible and it’s so true. If you have that one goal that you’re waking up every morning and you’re driving towards, you’re going to enter that state of flow and everything changes for the good.
Now let’s just break this down real quick. No. 1, decide exactly what you want and write it down. No. 2, define that one skill that you’re going to improve upon. And then No. 3, focus, focus, focus. And, Fire Nation, don’t go anywhere because if you have gotten anything from the first 15 minutes of this chat, believe me the next 15 minutes are gonna be just as incredible if not more so. We’re gonna take a quick minute and thank our sponsors.
So, Brian, we’re back and there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world with brain research, etc. that proves the methods that you propose in Get Smart in terms of changing the way we think for success. Can you speak to that for a minute?
Brian Tracy: One of the pieces of research that I stumbled across that changed my life forever actually came out in the ‘60s. And it was a work by a man named Dr. Banfield of Harvard. And he did 50 years of research into what he called upper socioeconomic mobility which is why is it that some people move up and make more money year after year, generation after generation. And what he found was that you could take everything away because they’re all independent variables: education, background, family, grades in school, and so on.
And you could bring it down to just one predictive factor and he called it long-time perspective. He said successful people, successful families, successful companies are people who think long-term. And what we found in countless books is that the greater clarity you have about where you want to be long-term, the easier it is for you to make decisions today that will assure that you actually get to where you want to be long-term. If you do not have absolute clarity about where you want to be in five or ten years then your natural tendency will be to react and respond to what’s going on [inaudible] [00:15:38]. And you’ll basically spin.
I’ll give you a perfect example. If you have very clear goals then you use your time well. But if you don’t have clear goals, you play on the internet all day. And this is what’s happening now. An entire generation is being lost almost to an epidemic of distraction if they can’t stop checking their email. They can’t stop communicating on the internet. And what this does, they’ve found, is that it actually tires your brain and makes you dumber. At the end of the day of continuing reacting and responding to email messages, sending and receiving, at the end of the day you lose ten IQ points. You actually get stupid each day. At the end of the day you’re a little bit you-know-what faced.
Somebody says, “What do you want for dinner?” You say, “I don’t know.” I don’t know. What do you want to watch on television? I don’t know anything. You cannot even make a simple decision because your brain has decreased in intelligence because of constant tuning in to the internet. What we find is that the average adult now is up to 145 times a day. They check their email 145 times a day. Walk down the street checking their email. One of the major sources of urban accidents. See these accidents of people walking into poles while they’re checking their email.
John Lee Dumas: There’s a whole YouTube channel, Brian, of just people checking their phones in New York City walking into poles.
Brian Tracy: Yes. Smashing their faces.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, checking email and social media literally gives you mental fatigue. You only have so much mental bandwidth. You need to be focused on what you’re using that mental bandwidth on. Do you want it to be liking somebody else’s post or responding to somebody else’s Facebook message or do you want it to be creating something special that can add value to this world long-term?
What Brian and I are creating right here, this is going to be listened to tomorrow. It’s going to be listened to next year. This is going to be listened to in five years. This is an evergreen podcast that will always be there for you. What are you creating that’s that evergreen value? Now, Brian, there are some super key characteristics of successful people. Break down a couple for Fire Nation.
Brian Tracy: They just did some very detailed surveys on self-made billionaires. These are about 66 percent, 67 percent of billionaires started with nothing and made more than a billion dollars in one generation. And so they interviewed these people and they say why do you think you’re successful. And you guys know what the answers are? No. 1, clear goals. Clear goals and objectives. I always knew what I wanted and if something came up and I wasn’t able to achieve it then I changed the projection of my cannons and I focused on a different goal. So they’re very clear about their goals.
No. 2, continuous learning. They say that continuous learning, especially today, is absolutely essential because there could be one new piece of information that occurs somewhere that could totally transform the decision you’re about to make or the decision that you did make. So by continuous learning, you’re continually feeding your mind with new ideas. No. 3 is the willingness to take risks. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone and take intelligent risks. Intelligent risk is one of the thinking styles I teach in my business.
Get Smart is informed thinking versus uninformed thinking. Informed thinking is where you do your homework. So you really, really know thoroughly what you’re getting into before you make a decision. Uninformed thinking, when it sounds good you just go for it. Mark Zuckerberg did it. If Mark Zuckerberg could do it, I could do it with no knowledge or information, no skills, no contacts or anything else. No. Smart people – and I work with millionaires, multi-millionaires, and billionaires, they’re all very thoughtful about what they get into. They’re all very careful and they take the time to gather their information.
So there’s other things as well. Networking is spending as much time as you can with other smart people. You heard that saying “you never want to be the smartest person in the room.” If you’re networking, you want to be around people who are smarter than you. So you always seek out people who are smarter than you. As Jim Rohn used to say, go where the demands are hard. Work well with the tough crowd. Go where they’re really smart. And it’s a really good thought. So continually look for opportunities to associate with people who are smarter than you.
John Lee Dumas: Brian, you use the phrase “back to the future thinking.” I’m intrigued. Why is that important?
Brian Tracy: Well, I’m going just as fast as you are but they found eight years ago in peak performance thinking – and just like I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, long-term thinking. Successful people project forward to the future and they ask this question. And I teach this to multi-billion dollar international corporations when I do strategic planning. I say let’s imagine we have a magic wand. And I carry one with me. It was sent to me by one of my clients. So I take out my magic wand and I wave it and I say, “Imagine that five years from now this company was perfect in every respect. If that were the case, what would it look like? And how would it be different from today?”
It’s the magic question, by the way. If your life was perfect sometime in the future: your house, your family, your income, your health, your waistline, your bank account. What would it look like? Clarity. Clarity. And how would it be different from today? So you project forward into the future and they found that top people do this. It’s almost like you take a time trip into the future. And then you look around. You say where am I living? How much do I earn? Who am I working with? What level am I in my business? What kind of car do I drive? What sort of lifestyle do I provide for my family five years from now?
And then you come back to the present. And they look back to the present, like you climbed a mountain and you’re looking back at yourself beginning the climb, and you look down and you say how would I get from there to here. I call it the chemical question. WWH2H. What would have to happen – WWH2H. What would have to happen for me to get from where I am today to where I would ideally like to be sometime in the future? This is called idealistic thinking. And we say long-term thinking dramatically improves short-term decision making. If you’re really clear about where you want to go then you save an enormous amount of time.
Let me give you a time management technique that will make you rich. And it’s so simple it should be illegal. And I’ve shared this with other people. I’ll be sharing it this afternoon. Imagine that you have two sets of activities in your life: A activities and B activities. A activities are those activities that move you toward the goals that you say you want to accomplish: happiness, health, wealth, success, fitness, the goals that you say you want. Not somebody else’s goals. So those are A activities. B activities are activities that do not move you toward the things that you say you want. And even worse, they move you away from the things that you say you want.
So here’s the key to success: do only A activities. Don’t do any B activities. Just stop doing B activities. As Nancy Reagan used to say, “Just say no.” Warren Buffett was asked his secret to success last year and he said, “It’s very simple. I say no to everything. I only do two or three things and I say no to everything.”
And you know how Warren Buffett spends his time at the age of 84? He spends 80 percent of his time reading and upgrading his knowledge and skills on his businesses. Only 20 percent of time is interaction. He has no Skype account. He has no internet account. No Facebook. So he comes to work, his staff basically forms a circle around him and keeps away everything so he can be free to just work his brain and study his businesses and his companies 80 percent of the time.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you need to find people who are where you want to be and then study them. And, Brian, I love that you brought up Warren Buffett. I studied him for years and years and years. I literally have studied everything there is about Warren Buffett. Like I’ve studied that material so much so that I moved on to Charlie Munger. I now am in love with Charlie Munger. And the No. 1 gift that I now give is Poor Charlie’s Almanack. Have you read that book?
Brian Tracy: No. It’s that good?
John Lee Dumas: It is a big book by Charlie Munger. I mean, we’re talking like a coffee table book. It’s only sold in the physical form. It’s called Poor Charlie’s Almanack. It’s in reference to Poor Richard’s Almanack from Ben Franklin’s days. And it is a work of art. Now, again, read everything you can about Warren Buffett. It’s amazing. But I’ve now moved on to Charlie Munger and it is so – I mean, they have very similar beliefs. In some areas, Charlie even takes it to the next level which is fascinating. And I’ve had some new ideas and “aha” moments from that book just in the last couple of weeks.
And, Brian, the reality is this, my friends. Your time is incredibly valuable and I’m so honored that you spent some time with Fire Nation to break down what’s going on in your book Get Smart and all of just what’s going on in your mind. I mean, again, you had a busy morning. You’re gonna be taking off to speak in front of 700 people in the afternoon. And here you are talking to Fire Nation. You’re giving, giving, giving. So thank you for that. Let’s end today’s interview with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you but specifically the best way that we can connect with the book Get Smart and get our hands on this. And then we’ll say goodbye.
Brian Tracy: I would just give one insight which I discovered many years ago. I did, a vast many years ago, I had to write a program on self-made millionaires to give a seminar to 800 business owners. So I did some intensive research on self-made millionaires and I found that they all have certain qualities in common. And I designed a program called the 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires. It was a one hour program which became a 90 minute program which became a half day program like an accordion. And I started giving the one day version of it all over the world to hundreds of thousands of people.
And what I found is that self-made millionaires have one particular quality. It’s that they love what they do. Like you do. Like I do. Like the people you meet. You know, you can always tell an enthusiast because when you meet them, they’re enthusiastic because they love what they do. And in order to be successful and overcome all the obstacles and difficulties and setbacks, you have to have, like a rocket, you have to have a lot of energy driving you forward over the bumps of life. And if you don’t have this love for what you do then what will happen is you’ll quit.
And most people quit when they hit a bump or when they hit a wall. They say it wasn’t meant to be anyway. It’s the economy. It’s amazing how many people – I look at this support for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders has one message: everything free. Everything free. Everything you want will be free. Elect me. It’s free, free, free, free, free. Where will we get the money? We’ll get the money from working people. From people who are working and earning money and paying their bills and supporting their families. We’ll just tax them to death to give you free stuff.
And young people, mostly young people, say that’s a wonderful idea. I love that idea. Free stuff, free stuff, free stuff! You just shake your head and think wow. Because they’re not doing anything that they love. If they did something that they loved, they’d probably do it well.
By the way, you can never become excellent at something unless you love it. And you can never be successful until you’re excellent. So one of the greatest responsibilities of adult life is to find – try lots of different things. But find exactly what it is that you love to do and then throw your whole heart into becoming very good at that. And so if you ask self-made millionaires what do you work at? They say I don’t work. I do what I love to do and I get paid really well for it. I love to do it and I get paid really well for it.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, truer words have never been spoken. Brian, where can we get going on this just masterpiece that I’m gonna call Get Smart?
Brian Tracy: Well, Get Smart is a short book because I know people don’t have a lot of time. It is ten different ways of thinking. The first way of thinking is long-time perspective versus short-time perspective and how to set goals. How to think and plan long-term. Back from the future. And the last chapter is the difference between rich people and poor people. Rich thinking versus poor thinking. And it’s absolutely amazing, rich people are rich because they think a particular type of rich thoughts. Maybe they came from rich families that taught them how to think or maybe they associated with other people or maybe they read Buffett’s and Munger’s work.
And what happens is when you read that stuff it starts to change, actually, your brain. You know, the great breakthrough today is called brain malleability. And what it means is that you actually can reprogram and rechange the channels and wiring of your brain by feeding yourself a constant source of new ideas. So many people start with nothing and come from foreign countries and they come here and they start to think rich.
And if you think rich then eventually you’re going to be rich. And if you think poor, you’re going to be poor. I mean, what is hard about this to understand? So find out how rich people think and find out how rich people act and then just do that over and over again and you’ll become one of them.
John Lee Dumas: And, Brian, how can we get our hands on Get Smart?
Brian Tracy: It’s available everywhere. Every bookstore. Amazon just bought several thousand copies. Every website. So just – you can’t miss it. As a matter of fact, if you can’t find this book then you’re too far behind to get smart.
John Lee Dumas: Now you’ll love this, Brian, because I’m a huge Jim Rohn fan as well and I end every episode of EOFire, now over 1250, with, Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with BT and JLD today. So keep up the heat. And head over to eofire.com. Just type Brian in our search bar. His show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve talked about today.
Of course, there’s going to be a link to Get Smart there and there’s gonna be a link to his other episode, Episode 618 on EOFire. Again, where Brian and I dive deep into his journey as an entrepreneur, his ups, his downs, his fears, his successes. So you want to listen to both episodes for sure because this is a person, just like Charlie Munger, just like Warren Buffett, that you want to study. And, Brian, I honestly just from the bottom of my heart, man, I want to thank you for sharing again just your knowledge, your wisdom with Fire Nation. And for that I salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
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