Jedd Harris

Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jedd was educated at St Benedict's College and attended Wits University, where, after dabbling in Actuarial Science and Law, he finished with an Honours in Economic Sciences. Midway through his Honours year, he started at Investec in the Private Banking division. He then moved onto strategy consulting, working as a Business Analyst at Kearney, helping some of the world's largest companies with their most pressing problems. He is currently an educator at St David's Marist Inanda, where he heads up the school's swimming programme, as well as teaches Maths, EMS and Business Studies to bright up-and-coming South Africans. In 2020, Jedd launched Disrupt Tutoring: a free, online, personalised tutoring platform open to anyone with the burning desire to learn or teach. Jedd is an avid traveller, with the desire to travel the world. He also loves scuba diving. When fit and ready, he participates in half-marathons, bicycle races, open water swims and triathlons.

The new normal: same same, but different

Despite the masks, physical distancing and reliance on hand sanitiser, there is little doubt that we’re heading back to some sense of normal. It’s most welcome. And the feeling seems to be mutual all round (introvert and extrovert alike).

We’ve heard the phrase “new normal” thrown around a lot. I remember how much my sister despised the phrase. To her, she didn’t want a new normal. She desperately desired the old normal. A way of living that was defined by close community, not just metaphorically, but literally. And I’m pretty sure she wasn’t alone.

After six months of pretty hard lockdown, we’re heading back to some degree of normal. Schools have returned, much to the delight and dismay of learners (largely dependent on the grade the learners find themselves in). Hotels are buzzing with holiday makers, only too happy to escape their homes, which have felt like holding cells. Restaurants are full again, the ambiance elevated by laughter and chatter, adding to the lighting, decor and sounds of meat sizzling on the grill. 

I’ve returned to the classroom, I’m back on pool deck and relishing the opportunity of physical interaction, without the need for an internet connection, some sort of screen and a mute button. The feeling seems to be mutual, among staff, learners and parents. Irrespective of extroverted or introverted tendencies, there is little doubt that humans are social creatures, and crave connections with other humans.

When it comes to the introverted/extroverted scale, I feel we all have a little bit of both in all of us. Personally engaging with people nourishes my soul and replenishes my energy stores. But it can also exhaust me. All dependent on the day, time, place and person (quite heavily dependent on the person, in all honesty).

The start of lockdown was glorious. And it was right up my introvertedness’s alley. The Zoom calls, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams meetings provided a good level of protection. Arrive to a meeting early? No need for that awkward small talk – just hit mute and continue with that Netflix binge. Looking a little worse for wear? No worries, there’s a button for that too. The medium of communication was so good in fact, that I started to fear a return to normal. Actually interacting with actual people was a terrifying thought. And, as we edged closer to the day of return, anxiety slowly built.

And the day arrived (as it inevitably would). Dusting off the old suit and tie, trudging through the traffic and arriving back at a bustling campus. Like none of it had ever happened. Sure the masks, teaching behind screens and constant reminders to learners to sanitise acted as constant reminders to the plague among us. But back-to-normal felt way better than expected. The introverted anxiety was replaced by extroverted excitement.

All around, the extroverted nature of all I met emerged. The suppressed social interaction, six months of solace was unleashed all around. Marking was taking longer than usual, as teachers reached for coffee over red pens. Swimming sessions shortened, as more banter than normal was dished out by coaches and swimmers alike. Less content was covered during class, as learners and teachers discussed new gaming trends, memes and their Netflix movie/series recommendations.

It certainly seems to be a new normal. We’re doing all the same things (albeit as though prepped for surgery – not quite but you get the point). It seems the “new” before normal represents our age-old seriousness of the day being replaced by a deep desire to connect, care and interact. If that’s the case, long may we live in the new normal.

Timeframes – moments in time

“My life flashed before my eyes.” Yeah, probably not though. Far too much content to flash by in an instant. So what actually flashes before your eyes? I have a theory. I call them time frames.

Life is an accumulation of moments. Moments stored in your internal hard drive. But there isn’t much storage space – we’re not quite at the point of evolution where we can store our memories in a pensieve and call them up on demand. Well, not yet anyway. I have a sneaky suspicion that Elon Musk is trying to do something about that with the development of neural link. But let’s assume that before you die, you won’t be able to store every moment that you can retrieve and experience again later on.

To add to this, as much as we would like it to be so, not every moment is memorable. And, if every moment is, then the constraint is trying to remember them all. This is where my theory of time frames comes in – building a mental camera roll, that is on standby to roll at the moment your life flashes before your eyes.

What are these moments? Moments in which you become wholly present. In which you become completely aware of the now. I liken blinking in these moments to the click of your camera, storing the moment forever and automatically uploading it to your mental camera roll.

These moments don’t necessarily have to be good moments. In my experience, the moments stored to my mental camera roll are real. With a tangible sense of emotion. Happy. Sad. Whatever the emotion, it imprints itself within the timeframe, aiding the embedding process. Recalling these moments reignites all five senses at the time of its capture.

What can you do with this information? Awareness of the concept of timeframes allows you to embrace the moments in real time. Learn to love the feeling, irrespective of it being “positive” or “negative”. The true beauty of life is that balance, and learning to love the good and the bad is the secret to enjoying the journey.

Life lessons from my golden labrador – meet Dolly

I have been blessed with amazing animals in my life. From the laziest bulldogs, slobbering all over the place to the most aloof cats sparing affection only when they deem it deserved. Then there is Dolly. And there is something different about her. She’s been with us for just over a year now, and has passed on some invaluable life lessons. Amazingly, without needing to be taught. Just natural wisdom about presence, love, openness and friendship.

It’s not uncommon for us humans to be moved by animals. Sure, we may have made it to the position of apex predator, top of the food chain and what not. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all wisdom rests with us. On the contrary, it could be argued that one of the reasons humans have been so successful, is how perceptive we are to the guidance given by other organisms.

Therefore the title of this blog post is not as surprising as it may initially seem. The impact Dolly has had on me is simply so profound that I decided to spend some time and distil some of these important life lessons. This could be for two reasons: (1) Dolly’s demonstration of the qualities listed below may have been so profound that I couldn’t help notice them or (2) I have become a little more observant of these qualities, without the common overthinking that tends to plague me. The latter would be a pretty interesting one to unpack, but we will reserve this for another time. Let’s just say a delicate combination of one and two has led to the text below.

Why do I find Dolly so special, you ask? Simply put, her energy. Her aura. There seems to be a deep sense of presence that flows from her; a pure love for everyone and everything she meets (which still has space to grow as the relationship develops over time); an ever-ongoing openness to experiences (new and old) and a deep desire to befriend everyone and everything she meets, albeit cautiously, more out of concern for the other than hurt of self.

Life lesson 1: don’t overthink, just be

What not to say to someone who overthinks. Sort of like telling someone who is upset, not to be upset. Or someone who is not relaxed, to relax. Unfortunately though, it’s an important reminder that needs to be repeated.

Dolly best represents this in her transition from sleep to being awake. Never a long face for being woken up. Never the cold shoulder for interrupting her slumber. On the contrary, her reaction is one that asks why you hadn’t woken her up earlier. This is not to say that Dolly is a poor sleeper. She is actually pretty good at it. The observation here is that she immerses herself in whatever the activity is. Her mind is where it is, in the now, not the when or then.

Life lesson 2: love easily and unconditionally, without fear

Reading this one makes my chest tighten up, with my arms folding up in front of my stomach to protect it from the imminent pain that follows the intense vulnerability that easy and unconditional love calls for.

Dolly loves easily. This is because Dolly is happy when she is happy. Dolly is sad when she is sad. And she is totally accepting of both. Her delight of being close to those she loves is palpable when they are close. And her sadness of being apart from those she loves is palpable when they are apart. She embraces the emotion in the moment. She doesn’t question it. She doesn’t fear it. She doesn’t try to avoid the “bad” feelings and embrace the “good” feelings. This enables her to love easily and unconditionally, probably because the joy it brings far outweighs the pain.

Life lesson 3: be open to experiences (new and old)

We are often told to be open to new experiences. We aren’t really reminded to be open to old ones. Is this because we assume since we’ve done something once, we are implicitly open to it. Is it because there is only unfound joy or excitement in experiences not yet experienced?

Dolly does not have this problem at all. She embraces all experiences with the same enthusiasm and openness. Perhaps the lesson here is that it’s not the activity that generates the feeling. Perhaps it’s one’s approach to the activity that generates the feeling.

Life lesson 4: befriend fast, but with caution, not for self-care but care for the other

Building trust. Weird how I think of this process inwardly. What I mean by that is when interacting with someone, we tend to guard ourselves, we tend to wait for trust to be built up by the other person. Perhaps the trick is to approach this process outwardly. Enabling the other person to have no reason to doubt you, giving them the time and space to do that. Being cautious not for self-preservation, but for the care of another.

Dolly is a social butterfly, in the most introverted way. Never meaning to dominate the room, but letting others know she is not only available, but also only too eager to chat. Every single dog and every single human we pass on a walk is approached in the same way. Not with over-aggressive barking, not with an intense pulling of her lead dragging me along behind her. Every single dog and every single human is met with the most amazing humility. Enough forward movement to indicate her desire to connect, but with enough restraint to let them know she is not a threat. Amid all of this generally is the emptying of the bladder, but that’s beside the point (although, be sure to do your best to hold it in your own personal interactions – humans tend not to be as forgiving when this is done by humans).

Where to from here.

I tend to get so caught up in my overly active mind, pondering the what-if’s that seldomly manifest themselves in reality. This tends to result in those feelings of anxiety or depression, as a result hampering my ability to be present. As a result, Dolly’s reminders, not through words, lectures, blog posts or podcasts, but through her consistent actions, are always welcome to aid me transcending from my head into my body and allowing myself to just be.

Overall, this is a tribute to a very special dog. And to all other animals who had a profound impact on my life. Who have taught me that love is not reserved for those like you, but for anything capable of love.

Easing anxiety (well, we can only try) – the four pillars of wellness

Easing anxiety is a journey, potentially a never-ending one. And I can’t necessarily claim that I have defeated the beast. But I have realised it holds you back (needlessly). And it is intimately related to your lifestyle. So I have drawn up my own plan of action – let’s call it the four pillars of wellness (according to Jedd). They seem simple, but with the volume of thoughts swimming around my mind, it’s useful to have a reminder handy. I hope they can help you too.

Easing anxiety is the dream. Because it’s the worst. That tight elastic band across your chest, the surge in heart rate, feeling like there is a lion constantly in the room. I used to think the feeling was just nerves – after all, it has been named after an emotion. Plus, it’s all in your mind, right? Did I turn the oven off? Did I lock the front door? Did I say the right thing? Is she upset with me? What if they don’t make it home safely? What if I forget how to speak during the presentation? These are the thoughts that echo in one’s head, triggering that hormone release that starts off the physical response. Doesn’t your heart rate just surge at the mere thought of them?

The irony is, or should I say, life’s great contradiction

In the moments when a healthy lifestyle is needed most, the body tends to crave anything but, and a huge amount of energy is required to overcome that intense lack of motivation.

  • Sure, a salad would make me feel light and energetic, but how instantly gratifying would that slab of chocolate be?
  • Sure, science says that the endorphine release following a jog, bodyweight exercise or boxing class will lift my mood, but how much better does a dark room and Netflix binge (with pizza, of course) sound?
  • Sure, the benefits of sleep are countless, but how much better does it sound to overthink most of my interactions during the day, and slowly ease into a restless sleep?

And then we obsess, even though we know we shouldn’t, even though we know it affects nothing. The feeling brain is in control of the consciousness car, and the thinking brain sits shotgun, tightly strapped in, hoping the airbags deploy on impact. Hopefully you can relate to these, and it’s not just me (?). For more on the thinking brain vs the feeling brain, read this by Mark Manson.

Stick it on the fridge

So in clear view, neatly magneted to my fridge is a handwritten (untidily so) list, with four points, seven words and 31 letters with a message so blatantly obvious, that naturally us overthinkers tend to forget it. The image that you can download below is not the one on my fridge – it’s a little neater and free to download in case you want to paste it up on your fridge too.

I only realise how weird it must be to have this message on my fridge when people visit. Not so so good at hiding their bewilderment, but strong enough to resist the urge to ask. I think it’s pillar four that really raises their eyebrows. Right, I reckon that’s enough of the context setting, let’s get into the four pillars and how to go about easing anxiety.

Pillar 1: eat right

Deep down, we all know what this means, even though dieticians seem to struggle to agree on the right answer. Ditch the refined carbs.

Think that burger will go down well? Ditch the buns. Would you like a salad or fries with that? Tricky question (not really though). You should totally go with the salad. Would you like your chicken grilled or fried? We all love that glorious coating of golden crisp deliciousness, but we know, deep down, that it’s probably the wrong decision. I don’t have much more to add here. Nothing scientific, just gut instincts (pun totally intended).

Ultimately, be aware of cause and effect. Feeling nice and light – what did you eat? Feeling overwhelmed, anxious and lacking motivation – what did you eat? Keep reworking your diet until you find a good balance of nutrients that aid the good vibes all round. For legal reasons, I should probably mention that I’m not a qualified dietician, health practitioner or foodie.

Pillar 2: move

Our favourite Bold Brunette says it best in her article, “Exercise is way more beneficial than you think“.

This is one of my body’s favourite things to avoid when the elastic band starts to contract, despite the good vibes sure to be delivered after exercise. Pulling yourself out of bed / off of the couch to throw on a pair of running shoes, head on down to the gym or get the overenthusiastic dogs ready for a walk around the neighbourhood is a little bit too much to process in that heightened state of anxiety.

The best way to overcome this is to practice self-awareness. Specifically, identify exactly what stops you getting off of the couch, so you can do your best to make it as easy as possible for yourself. Hate getting up early to exercise? Then don’t – do it in the afternoon instead. Hate running? Then don’t – there’s lots of other stuff to get you moving. Hate the silence? Podcast or music it up, or reach out to a friend to gym buddy it up.

Another thing to really think about is what motivates you? Is it success – finishing a tough workout? Is it being held accountable – by yourself or by a gym partner? Is it the process – seeing the results as the lean stomach starts to show or your heart rate lowers even as sets intensify? Is it the outcome – rush of endorphines post workout?

Tailor your movement regime to best align with what motivates you, to make it a little easier to get back out there.

Pillar 3: sleep

I only truly appreciated the importance of this pillar when I neglected it. I would often get home from work between 3am and 6am, after an 18-20 hour workday. I knew this was problematic on a few occasions:

  • That time I partially blacked out, falling forward into my cupboard while choosing the socks that matched my outfit least (as one does)
  • That time I almost fell asleep driving home from a client – luckily my manager was driving shotgun and noticed my head drooping down
  • That time I went for my check-up and, for the first time, showed signs of borderline high blood pressure

The mind fog was also real, as well as the out-of-body experiences, which I can only liken to the body defaulting into autopilot – similar to the remote control in the movie Click, automatically fast forwarding through the activites Adam Sandler has previously fast forwarded through (the dangers of machine learning, I suppose).

It’s tough when your mind slows down or you can’t truly immerse yourself in moments shared with friends, family and colleagues (being present, in other words). Utimately, this leads to lowered levels of performance, which leads to the tricky conversations with management and then, ironically, to heightened anxiety and an inability to sleep.

A few tips (all anecdotal)

There are a couple of things I have noticed that aid to an easier journey to sound sleep (I should probably use them a little more regularly).

  • Meditate – focusing on the breath, on the counteracting forces of gravity pulling you down, and your bed pushing you up, on areas of tension in your body. Forcing yourself to simply acknowledge your thoughts, but not react to them. Before you know it, your stilled mind will have you enjoying some well-deserved REMs. There are some great mindfulness apps that can walk you through this process. Before you spend any money though, there is so much great content on YouTube freely available.
  • Eat earlier and cut the carbs – I’ve started moving my main meal towards lunchtime (in which I have upped the protein, lowered the carbs and become less stressed about fats). Eat something light for dinner, a little earlier than usual to avoid your body activating its digestive process. I’m still working on this, but avoid refined carbs at all cost (especially before bed) – these spike your energy levels and get the mind racing.
  • Ditch the tech – another thing I’m not very good at, mostly because of this whole Disrupt Tutoring thing (?). Try and avoid the blue light before bedtime.
  • Count your blessings (be grateful) – through prayer or by integrating a gratitude theme into your mindfulness practice, you will be amazed at how powerful gratitude is in releasing some of the feel good hormones, easing the mind and helping you sleep.

Pillar 4: don’t be obsessed

Cue eyebrow raise. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally empathetic to the looks of judgment on my visitors’ faces, especially when one considers the defintion of obsession:

When someone is obsessed, they’ve lost control of their feelings about the object of their obsession. The adjective obsessed is often used to simply mean “very interested,” but when someone is truly obsessed, their interest has become compulsive, and they’ve begun to lose control over it.

www.vocabulary.com

I like to think of this pillar as a continuum. At one end (let’s call it the good side), you have passion. At the other end (let’s call it the bad side), you have obsession. Put simply, the goal is to edge to the side of passion, and stay away from the side of obsession. Seems pretty simple, but most things are when typed out in words – it’s the practical application that’s the tricky part.

This pillar is intimately related to the first three and can oftentimes determine your success or failure in upholding them. Obsession contributes to meals missed, or easy on-the-go snacks, with lowered nutritional value. Obsession contributes to that forgone run or workout, as whatever is consuming your mind, has left little space for anything else. Obsession leads to nights spent behind the laptop, or replaying an event (past or present) without an ending, or with a reimagined one each time. This means sleep is set aside.

In short, to have any success of living up to the first three pillars, learn to identify when your passion turns into obsession. More importantly learn how to transform your obsession back into passion. Easing anxiety starts here – ensure your energy is directed towards the good side of the contiuum.

You’re up – easing anxiety is totally possible

I’m not a fan of quotes, but this one by Mark Twain (well, I hope it was him) really resonated with me (just to be clear, I’m talking about my thinking brain – highly doubtful my feeling brain will do anything about it):

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Mark Twain (or so I have been told)

The four pillars of wellness are not going to take your anxiety away. They can help ease the regularity and intensity of it. Consider them a guide to direct your mind and actions to a certain way of behaving. Download the picture above or write them up, stick them on your fridge and let them become the mantra to your day.

Be compassionate. Be empathetic. To yourself. In short, practice self care. Know you’re not alone.

Finally a disclaimer from me. If you see me around or we interact, you’ll probably notice that I don’t eat right, don’t move enough, don’t sleep enough and I can get a little obsessed at times. These pillars are tricky ones to stick to, despite the benefits. It all goes back to your consciousness car – the thinking brain knows the way, but the feeling brain tends to lead the way.

A success formula – empathy + self-awareness + patience + work-ethic

A simple success formula. Four words. You’ve heard them. You know them. But have you ever contemplated their potential impact? Your journey to success starts here, but it’s not going to be an easy one – there is no secret.

The success formula. Did you just start paying attention? Why though? Is it because you feel you haven’t quite succeeded yet? If that’s the case, be warned. This isn’t the secret. It’s going to require a lot more than just sending good vibes into the universe. It’s going to require a shift in perspective, some serious graft and tenacity. It’s going to require you to develop a deep love of failure, replacing the fear. It’s going to require separation from your insecurities. In other words, start reacting the same way to positive feedback as you do to negative feedback. This may seem overwhelming, but it’s a process. All you have to do is learn to love the journey, without focusing on the destination.

Quick digression

I’m not a fanboy. Seldom do I dote over celebrities. My fandom is limited to the likes of Jack Johnson (with a vibe as chilled as Banana Pancakes), Gordon Ramsay (brutally honest, but an exceptional change management practitioner), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter – need I say more?), Ted Mosby (yes I know, not real, but the archetypal character when it comes to pursuing love).

Then there is Gary Vaynerchuk. A social media mogul, a five-time New York Times bestseller (without actually penning a book), owner of Vayner X and a major advocate of the power of the internet. Without meaning to, Gary Vee has become a world-renowned motivational speaker, with a philosophy that inspires a shift in perspective, elevating offence above defence.

The success formula

Over the past few years, I have consumed hundreds of hours of Gary Vee’s content and have noticed that there are recurring themes. I have distilled them into a success formula.

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Patience
  • Work-ethic.

Nothing revolutionary. But intense commitment to their application is required.

Let’s turn our attention to the four words – the building blocks of the success formula.

Empathy

This requires a significant amount of EQ. Being present and acknowledging one’s own feelings without losing sight of the feelings / underlying intent of the other person.

Have you ever posted a video on YouTube and received some nasty feedback? I’m not talking about constructive criticism. I’m talking about blatant, uncalled-for hate. You’re ugly. You’re stupid. You should stop. This can cause some serious hurt. Worst case scenario, you never post again.

Let’s shift your perspective. Have you ever stopped to consider the life @therealpussinboots79 (our hypothetical hater) leads? Imagine taking the time, firstly to watch your video, but then to comment negatively. I’m almost 100% sure you would never even think of doing something like that.

This type of thinking makes it easier to practise empathy, rather than internalising the comments, which inevitably makes it harder for you to share your talents with the world. Imagine if you felt sorry for @therealpussinboots79. This compassion replaces your hurt, which safeguards your self-esteem and maintains your confidence. Wish them well and continue to do you your thing the way only you know how.

Self-awareness

Knowing one’s self. Man, this is a powerful one. Sadly, the society we live in spends way too much time focusing on its weaknesses. Can you imagine outsourcing those weaknesses instead (to those who view them as strengths), and spending the same time and money on fine tuning your strengths?

Gary Vee is a perfect example of this. He was a really poor student and I often see grammatical and spelling errors in his posts on Twitter and Facebook. Yet he is a five-time New York Times bestseller. How did he manage this? He hired a ghostwriter. He didn’t need to be a brilliant writer. Someone else could do that. He honed in on his gift of storytelling. Is it still his book, you ask? Of course – it’s not about the writing. It’s all about the message.

Naturally, the first step to self-awareness is introspection. Reflecting on your likes and dislikes. What are you good at? What are you bad at? This requires you to immerse yourself in a range of experiences. Try things. Some you will like, some you won’t. Some you’ll be naturally great at, and some not so much. The sweet spot is identifying what you like and what you are good at and finding a way to monetise that. This has a good chance of resulting in a happy life.

Patience

This is a tough one. Especially if you are under the age of thirty, hoping to wake up to a viral post that propels you into influencer stardom overnight. To sum it up in a simple sentence: patience starts by acknowledging that all good things take time.

The trick to embracing patience is to start focusing on enjoying the process, without continuously longing for the outcome. Once you start enjoying the process, every day becomes fulfilling and happiness is no longer a fleeting moment. If you focus on the outcome, the journey becomes less enjoyable, your happiness is fleeting and attention is immediately turned to the next outcome. Essentially you live in the future, and fast forward the present.

You’ve probably heard the story of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race. Gary Vee is all about speed and patience. He overcomes this contradiction in style, by relating his message of patience to the macro – macro patience, micro speed. Be agile and act fast in the short-term. But understand that the journey to your macro success will take time.

Work-ethic

I love the word graft. No one who has ever been successful has ever done it without insane amounts of hard work. There is a quote by William Shakespeare that I once disputed in a Grade 9 English speech. It went something like this: ”Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” He scored a one out of three for this one.

Walt Disney wasn’t born with a pencil in his hand, Barack Obama’s first words were not “Yes we can” and Michael Jordan could not slam dunk before he could walk. It’s a process combining talent, graft and serendipity. Ultimately, anyone you aspire to emulate has taken that place in your mind as a result of the enormous amounts of hard work put in.

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the 10,000 hours principle. To become a true expert or master performer, he believes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That is a total of 417 days of pure commitment to your craft. Nearly a year and a half. And this is a rule of thumb. It doesn’t include inherent talent, access to opportunity and quality of your practice.

This isn’t meant to deter you. Or create the perception that the mountain is too difficult to climb. It’s intended to give you a feeling for the work required to truly succeed. You may not necessarily want to become a master or expert, so it may take less than 10,000 hours. Nevertheless, a significant amount of hard work is required if you desire to succeed. It’s about being practical and is intimately related to patience.

What is success anyway?

In short, it’s about waking up happy.

Like anything, the four components of the success formula require practice. Try and fail. Love the process. Embrace your failure. Don’t be deterred by your haters. Focus on you – the only thing you can control. And remember, perfection is a figment of your imagination.

Empathy + self-awareness + patience + work ethic = your new mantra. Stick it on your fridge and apply them every day. Strive to wake up happy. If you do, then you’ve already won.

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