Plug In to the Power of Personal Reflection

Sometimes life is like a treadmill.

Power of mind concept.

Occasionally you’re on a calm jog and the belt speed never outpaces your strides. Sometimes, you push yourself to the limit but find the challenge ideal. But in certain seasons, the treadmill is moving too fast to handle. You long to step back from the grind, but this seems like an impossible luxury.

It’s ok to press pause. It’s actually GREAT to press pause. Often in our battle for success, we never stop to address broken systems in our home, health, or careers. Simple adjustments might bring substantially better output, but we rarely prioritize personal maintenance. The decision is yours: will you make time to reflect and adjust or continue relentlessly until life dumps you in a heap?

Take Time to Press Pause.

Once you’ve slowed down (yes, really slowed down!) what should you do?

Perhaps you should begin with a simple pleasure (a walk, coffee treat, or nap?) to allow your mind to unwind. Then consider an intentional approach to reflection.

Psychologist Robert Taibbi (author of “Boot Camp Therapy: Action Oriented Brief Approaches to Anxiety, Anger andDepression”) suggests you begin by defining a problem area as concretely as possible. Avoid being vague or grouping several problems under one umbrella (i.e. “this house is a disaster!”). Instead, identify specific areas of struggle (“this coat closet is overcrowded”) and decide on a personal plan of action.

Don’t be overwhelmed by what you CAN’T do, instead focus on manageable steps that will move you forward (“lower coat hooks would be better”). Begin with a positive spirit and an intentional ownership of the solution. Make a plan, ask for help, or take action as soon as possible. As you make even tiny strides, you will be empowered to continue.

Find Tools for Growth.

Sometimes a perspective shift requires greater insight than we have on our own.

Consider some coaching, mentorship, or tools like workbooks or discussion groups. Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson has been fascinated by the therapeutic effects of writing for decades. Experiments dating back for decades show that writing can reduce depression, increase productivity, and even cut down on doctor visits.

Peterson and his team have recently rolled out several tools for self-reflection, including virtues and faults analysis, past and future writing exercises, or a full “self-authoring” suite that allows people to locate and resolve problem areas so they can better dream and achieve in the future. “The act of writing is more powerful than people think,” Peterson says. The decisive results of Peterson’s research prompted NPR to dub his reflection tool the “writing assignment that changes lives.”

Make a Plan.

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

What part of your week do you devote to reflecting on your goals or challenges? Do you take mini-retreats to refocus? What if you set this as a top priority and allowed your reflection time to dictate your schedule priorities in a given week, month, or year?

Look for natural cues in your seasonal schedule (i.e. Daylight Savings changes, pre-scheduled auto maintenance, your half birthday) and seek to align some intentional reflection with these cues. Add smaller goals (like a monthly “plan of action”) to put wheels on your long-term vision. Find a friend or mentor to keep you accountable or schedule regular check-ins (alone or with others) to get yourself back on track after a derailment.

Just as professional performance reviews are a priority, how much more essential is self-review? Make regular deposits into your own well-being and soon your bank account will grow!

 

 

 

 


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Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact

The winter of 2013 was a hard one for Georgette Carter.

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As a single mom raising two young boys while she cared for a father with dementia, money was very tight. Then, she totaled her car and found her resources – and her hope – were nearly gone. That is, until a 1996 blue Ford Contour arrived from the Connor Brother Collisions “Recycled Rides” program.

Conner Brothers of Richmond, VA, overhauls donated cars and awards them to people who have been nominated by community members. Carter said her heart was rehabilitated almost more than the car she received:

“It turned my life around. I can get to my job on time, and I don’t have to maneuver to get my child out of daycare. I’ll never take that for granted again.”

Getting Others Involved

Small businesses like Conner Brothers are creating innovative giving models that not only impact people but strengthen the business and the character of the companies themselves.

Kevin Conner said his company donated its first car and was looking to extend the “Recycled Rides” program to three other locations, but they had some pushback in the process. Some objected to giving away freebies when they were working so hard to earn a living themselves. But Conner says this mentality changed when employees got physically involved because compassion comes from being part of an experience instead of merely giving a donation:

“I got them involved in actually giving the cars away, handing over the keys,” Conner says. “Now the guys at the shop call me and ask, ‘When is our next car?’ It would be easy to give money or a service here or there, but it’s the teamwork behind the program that creates an amazing atmosphere for a successful company.”

The car giveaways have become such a cornerstone for Conner Brothers that the program helps define the type of employees the company wants.

“Giving back is a huge part of our company,” Conner says. “I challenge the guys every day to give back in some way, to give customers more than they expect. People remember that.”

Giving That “Changes” Lives

Another giving strategy comes from literal pocket change, as givers round up or down for charity.

For example, the ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for military appreciation and human rights campaigns. More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in the first two months!

Grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and retailers have also invited customers to donate change to worthy causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, small businesses have challenged staff members to round down their net pay to the nearest dollar (or tenth dollar) and give the difference to charity. While painless or even unnoticed, these small donations add up to a collective impact with heartfelt results.

Whether your employees give financially, volunteer together, or embrace a community partnership project, innovative giving helps your business to:

  • Stand out from competitors or set itself apart in the community
  • Make matching donations alongside employee giving to multiply impact
  • Use positive feedback from supported causes to provide content for print and digital marketing
  • Increase team unity as employees give toward a common cause

While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative giving strategies begin with small business. Join us for part two of this series to gain more inspiration for a culture of charity that will strengthen your business.

 

 

 


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Printed Gifts Are Perfect Any Time of Year

Providing your customers with a small memento of your business is one of the best ways to keep your brand top-of-mind.

Checking documents

However, many business owners struggle with ideas about what they can use as gifts that are cost-effective, memorable, and useful to their clients. There are plenty of options on the market today in terms of promotional products, but a thoughtful printed gift may be the ideal option for your business.

Here are some of the ways that businesses are making themselves memorable in print!

The Gift of Humor

Knock knock. Who’s there? Etch. Etch who? Bless you, friend.

There are few things that will put a smile on someone’s face more quickly than a corny knock-knock joke. You know they are terrible, but you still have to smile! Your customers will feel the same way, so why not gift them with a little light and laughter in their life? A small printed joke book is the perfect way to let your customers know you’re thinking about them. Humor has been shown to build trust and inspire creative thinking — what better gifts could you provide to your best customers?

Giving Notes

Many organizations are clear and consistent with their message of helping others, so why not extend this concept?

A simple printed postcard or notecard showing your clients that you contributed to a specific charity on their behalf is a terrific way of showing your commitment to giving back to the community and the world. Prefer to have a more lasting memory for your customers? Printed magnets or labels will also help you share the message of generosity.

Office Supplies

Who “borrowed” my notepad this time?!?

Offices throughout the country hear this cry on a regular basis, so why not take away some of this pain? Printed pop-up notes or notepads are an inexpensive gift that will be appreciated for weeks — or even months. Plus, you can add your brand in a way that not only are you sharing your message with the individual sending the note, but the recipient will also have a positive association with your brand, too. Instead of doing a simple blank note, why not print inspirational statements on them or create bold “Thank You” messages on the notepad? Your customers will love being able to share them with friends at work.

Desktop Prints

Motivational posters or prints are always a welcome gift, as they help clients stay encouraged even when they’re going through a rough patch.

A simple mini-print is ideal for this situation, and you can even upgrade to a small matted display for your best customers. Help customers see how much they mean to you by sharing a heartfelt note that brings together your brand promise and shows how far above and beyond you are willing to go to provide top-notch service.

These are only a few of the ways you can share the appreciation that you feel for your clients on a daily basis. How do you show appreciation for your clients?

 

 

 

 


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Don’t Throw in the Towel!

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Down but Not Out

They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

 

 


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How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

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There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

 


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6 Over the Top Things to Look for in Business in the Future.

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Business isn’t going anywhere. In fact, here’s where the most probable types of market exchange will happen with customers according to famous futurists:

  • Remember those Star Trek episodes where people used a transporter to go from place to place? In the future, it’s likely that business will use something similar to deliver goods, from your printed materials to food to durable products delivered right into a person’s room as ordered, bought, and sent from a business electronically.
  • Michio Kaku sees a technology-driven convergence of thinking, consciousness, and the internet. Instead of thinking of the internet as a tool, people will become the Net by connecting their brain to it for full immersion and interaction, as well as contributing to real-time synergies in information generation and use. Business, no surprise, will become far more intangible as a result, adapting to the mind-environment to keep pace with where the new demand exists.
  • Personal augmentation with technology will be commonplace. Just being a regular, average human being won’t be good enough. Instead, people will carry their technology within them. Not to be confused with “on” them, but tech actually integrated with their bodies. We won’t need a computer to design what we want to print; the idea will come straight from a digital connection to our minds translated to electronics and then produced by a vendor as we desired.
  • James Canton sees robots and artificial intelligence giving human-led business a run for its money due to the fact that robots and AI will be able to easily grind millions of bits of statistical data and produce probabilities of what consumers want well before any humans can realize that want or need on their own.
  • Some folks don’t even look at business in typical environments. Instead, Jason Silva sees cars becoming so advanced, our need to drive will be replaced by our need to get lots done in a car while it dries itself. And that includes business, generating new ideas, printing and producing inside a car, and getting work and life done while traveling from point A to point B every day. Business services will tailor themselves to people working remotely all over the place, delivering what they need where they are, and when they need it.
  • Finally, our bodies won’t necessarily want to live longer just because our technology advances. So instead of relying on a failing system, the medical community will embrace body part production and printing, creating organ replacements designed by computer to work specifically with an individual patient. The term “batch order” printing replacement organs will take on a whole new meaning in hospitals.Long story short, business will likely still be around years from now, but how it delivers goods and services to consumers will change dramatically.

 


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The Persisting Power of Loyalty.

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What is loyalty? Loyalty is words combined with actions. It is devotion tested by time. It is steadfast security that grows from a most prized character quality. Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is better to be faithful than famous.” American author Elbert Hubbard agreed: “If put to a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

Relationally, loyalty builds trust, security, affection, and the ability to thrive. The same is true professionally – only as we build loyal customers and employees will we begin to see business prosper and flourish to its fullest potential. So how can you grow something so intangible, yet so critical, to the foundation of your organization?

Three Primary Pathways

The good news is, you already have buy-in at some level. Whether you have a small business or thousands of employees, customers and co-workers have entrusted you with their money, their well-being, or their future. And people who have “bought in” are looking for reassurance that they’ve made a good decision! How can you move them from the point of trial commitment to a place of wholehearted ownership? Here are three pathways to press into:

  1. Cultivate Loyalty. Being so focused on bringing prospects through the front door, sometimes, you can forget about those going out the back. Enduring connections happen when you urge your clients and employees to stay the course by encouraging them to renew their commitments and helping them VALUE what is VALUABLE.
  2. Celebrate Loyalty. This can be as simple as a Christmas card or as heartfelt as a personal phone call. As a company, be sure to set tangible goals and conspicuously celebrate the progress that’s been made. Look for strategic ways to cast vision, gather testimonies, craft impact pieces, and honor important milestones. Creatively appreciate your clients and co-workers, and publicly commemorate a job well done!​
  3. Reward Loyalty. According to the book Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, and they typically spend 67 percent more than first-time clients. Additionally, persuasive personal recommendations are most likely to flow from your base. What are you doing to reward that devotion? Aren’t your most valuable clients or employees worth a little extra expense? Consider personalized incentives, tailored service packages, or preferential terms, discounts, or benefits. Give these influencers personal access to your leadership and go the distance to meet and exceed their expectations. Don’t forget, authentic personal relationships are a powerful motivator.

Prioritize People

Are you looking to cement your customer base so your organization can flourish to the fullest? Prioritize people as you cultivate, celebrate, and reward loyalty. Companies that can do this will experience enormous benefits through a thriving reputation, consistent customer retention, and enhanced employee satisfaction.

 


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Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age.

 

Brand concept. Fresh and green grass on wood background.A brand is more than just a company logo, and it’s bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it’s the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It’s what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.

A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately.  48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase.

That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we’re now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don’t work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.

Consistency is Key

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn’t provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels – whether you’re talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.

Don’t Wait For Your Audience to Come to You

Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don’t necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.

Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you’re putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative.

The Unmistakable Benefits

Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don’t wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.

Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don’t, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.

 


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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

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Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.

Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.

One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions

Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.

In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.

A Great Persona Makes All the Difference

Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.

The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


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Keeping Employees Engaged During the Dreaded Month of January

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Returning to work after the fun and
exciting Christmas season can feel like
an uphill battle. If you really want to keep
your employees happy, healthy, and engaged during the dreaded month of January, there
are a number of essential things to keep in mind.

Encourage Your Employees to Spend Time Outside

Part of the reason why January is so terrible for so many people comes down to SAD, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It’s a very specific type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and is often brought about by how cold and dreary January has a tendency to be.

The key to combating this is, thankfully, a simple one – encourage your employees to get outdoors as much as possible. Take them out for lunch at that great new restaurant down the block and insist that you all walk there. Get as much natural light into your workplace as possible. Even getting just fifteen minutes of quality sunlight exposure every day can have a big impact on their mood and their productivity.

Along these same lines, consider starting an exercise program at your office in the new year. Not only will this play an important long-term role in keeping your workforce as healthy as possible, but this type of physical activity will also go a long way towards combating SAD head-on.

Encourage Frequent Breaks

It’s important to take an active role in the work/life balance of your employees during the Christmas season, particularly when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Guess what? This idea doesn’t stop being any more important just because the calendar now says “January 1.”

Look for any opportunity that you can find to give people a bit of a break from the important tasks at hand. People always need to recharge, but this will become especially important during January and the rest of the cold winter months of the year. Make sure that people are getting out of the office and home at a decent hour, too. Once again, you may think that pulling long hours will help productivity in the long run, but all you’re doing is compromising the quality of the work that people can provide you.

While it’s true that nobody (yourself likely included) likes to return to work after the fun of the Christmas and New Year season, it isn’t as bad as you probably think it is. Indeed, so much of keeping employees engaged during January comes down to a matter of perspective – one that you can fully control just by remembering tips and tricks like those outlined above.

 


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