Ian: Hi, and welcome to the Essential Tennis Podcast. Your place for free, expert tennis instruction that can truly help you improve your game. Today’s episode of the Essential Tennis Podcast is brought to you by ProTranscript.com and tennistours.com, where you can receive a discount off of professional tennis events’ tickets by using the promotional code “Essential” with a capital ‘E.’
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Let us get to today’s show. We are not going to waste any more time. Sit back, relax and get ready for some great tennis instruction.
My guest today on the Essential Tennis podcast is Raj Guverla, who is a professional speaker, author and coach, and he is going to be talking to us about a special topic today having to do with mental tennis, but a little bit different angle than what we have covered before on the Essential Tennis Podcast.
But, Raj, I first want to introduce you and say hi. Welcome to the show.
Raj : Thanks for having me, Ian.
Ian : Yeah, you bet. I am happy to have you on. And you and I first talked several months ago, I remember we had a phone conversation, and we talked for quite a while I think about different tennis topics. Why do you please take a minute or two and tell my audience a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you are involved with tennis.
Raj : Well, I played tennis all through high school, and I was not very good. However, I started getting better, and today I am a very good player. Of course, I am not on a pro level by any means. And I got into professional speaking, and mostly what I do is I help organizations increase their productivity and profitability by improving their mindset, and using motivation. And I work most exclusively with sports teams.
Raj: So this podcast will focus more on the tennis team itself and going from what I call a fixed mindset to a grow mindset, and using mindset mood motivation tools.
Ian : OK, great. Well, David Grauping, who has been the other kind of main mental tennis guest that I have had comes at it from a similar angle that you do. He also works with business people, and likes to work with athletes, as well. But, the difference is . . .
Raj : Who?
Ian : Go ahead. Sorry, Raj.
Raj : Yes. Go ahead.
Ian : Oh, I am sorry. I thought you were trying say something. It sounds like the difference between you and him is that you specialize with teams, and I find that really interesting because most tennis players at some point are going to participate in some kind of tennis team competition or activity, which is great.
And I really recommend that my listeners go out and do that, whether it be a high school team or, if you are lucky enough, a college team, or a club team, USTA, league team, all are really great experiences, but it kind of brings a unique mental challenge to the table for a lot of us, and I know that you have a little outline here that we are going to follow, and four main points. Why do you not go ahead and give us a little introduction and get started on our main point, Raj.
Raj : Sure. Yes, you really, really honed in on it. Being on a team really brings a lot of different dynamics. And tennis itself, although a lot of times it seems that it is an individual sport, in doubles, of course, there is a team there, or again, as you mentioned, USTA, even Vegas Cup, the team aspect.
So, even if you are a singles player, you have a team in the sense that you are working with a coach, and the higher you get, you probably have a mental motivation expert, you will have other people there part of your team. In fact, Roger Federer a lot of times when he wins, he credits his team, because it is not just him doing it, although he is the star attraction.
Ian : Right.
Raj : But today what we are going to talk about is going from having a fixed mindset to a grow mindset, and the way that we are going to do it is through mindset, mood and motivation tools.
Dr. Carol Dweck wrote a book called Mindset. She is a Stanford University researcher, professor and psychologist. And she talks about in her book going from a fixed mindset to a grow mindset.
So I want to talk about how to go from a fixed mindset. I’ll give some examples. To a grow mindset using what I call an ‘adaptability link. And the first adaptability link that we will use will be to use logically emotion.
Ian : OK.
Raj : Shall we start from there?
Ian : Yeah, sure. Sounds good.
Raj : To use logical emotion, notice that I put logic before emotion, and I do that for a reason, because we know through research that emotion comes before logic. However, we know that one without the other is very short sighted. If we have just emotion, then we do not have any thinking. There is only a certain emotion, a certain ingredient, it has no purpose.
But if we have logic and not emotion, well, we have a plan, but we do not have any action; we do not have the emotion part to get any type of will actionable purpose.
But put both of them together, because you can probably well relate if you have ever talked with your spouse or your tennis partner, and there has been some kind of conflict, well, if you used just emotion, that conflict can really get you in trouble. Or if you use just logic, it is shortsighted. If we know that a thought has emotion into it. And that emotion creates that action, because logical emotion is very important.
Ian : Is it not funny how similar those 2 relationships are? [laughter] The husband and wife and doubles team. I have definitely compared those 2 before, but I think it is funny that you come at it from that direction–from kind of a communication standpoint– and having to put the 2–the logical and emotional– side together. That is very interesting.
Raj : Yeah, it really is, and to give you the first example, on a tennis team the bottom line is to win a championship. And so, since the bottom line– now that might build too much pressure for some people– but what is the top line. Well, the top line is to make a positive difference or to grow. And if you are doing that, then obviously the championships will come.
But a lot of people use either logic or they use emotion and not logical emotion, because I go on talks with teams, and let us say that they are winning, well, I go in there and tell them here is what, you are going to win the championship. And they look almost dumbfounded, like who is this guy? We are winless. And there is a reason I do that. It is because you deserve just as much as anybody else to win a championship.
Now, it is not just going to happen magically, because obviously, they are going to come up with excuses saying that, oh, we are not that talented, or we do not have the skills, or last year this team had just these awesome players, and they are going to be there again in the playoffs, and I do not know what we are going to do. And I understand that those are all challenges, but the way you remove obstacles is through logical emotion and by using the tools to get there.
So, I am going to define first what mindset is. Mindset is simply what we think and the way we think. So, obviously, right there we know that we need to work on their mindset a little bit. Our mood is the bottom line. The bottom line in any kind of team sport is to win the championship. And then our top line is motivation and inspiration. Now, there is only 2 things I left out and that is attitude and subconscious.
So, l et us start with David Grumping had talked about earlier in that self talk. And there is a lot to be said about self talk. It is just that with self talk, I think there is confusion between self talk and what I call self think. And self talk is what to me is verbalized, whether it is to yourself or to someone else, but it is verbalized. And usually it is verbalized to yourself. Sometimes people do talk to things, just trying to get them psyched up.
Ian : [laughter] Yeah. Right.
Raj: However, self think is actually what are we thinking during the match, because that is really ultimately what is the critical component to make us win. It is what we are thinking. And if we think our match through and our games through, you know what I find find is that people enjoy their sport so much more.
Ian : Do you find a correlation between how positive or negative a player or a team self think is and how successful they are on the courts?
Raj : Definitely. I think that what happens is that their self think is really their foundation. And if they are not continually adding to that foundation and growing through an adaptability link, and the adaptability link here is logical emotion, which is going to get us from a fixed mindset to saying that, OK, I am only so talented, I am only so skilled. Well, now we want to go to a growth mindset through this adaptability link called logical emotion.
Ian : So can you give us I guess a tangible or a method that our listeners can go through to make that connection from saying I have got this much talent, I have got this much skill, I can only win this many matches this season. How do we actually work on making that connection from that fixed mindset to a more grow mindset?
Raj : Well, one is through using the adaptability link. And in this case,one mindset tool is logical emotion. Let me give you some examples.
Ian : Yes, please.
Raj : For example, Bjorn Borg. He was a great self thinker. And, granted, self thinking is much more important and critical to the self talk. However, you never really saw him use much self talk. However, he is arguably one of the best players ever. However, now time has progressed, and during the Bjorg era there was Jimmy Connors.
And obviously Jimmy Connors had great self think, but he was a better self talker, because you knew when he had Yvonne Lindahl in the US Open Finals year after year, that eventually he was going to get pumped up, fired up, starting pumping his fists, start talking to himself to the crowd, and once he did that, he got into a zone that hardly many players ever really get to. And Lindahl lost year after year.
And then, of course, we have John McEnroe. John McEnroe again is a great self think and he is a great self talker, but he used more self talk than he did self think. However, you can see that he did have greatness in self thinking, because as a commentator he is excellent, and he really shows the subtleties of the game, and how he really did think the game through. However, he used self talk, put emotion aside and linked both of those together.
Now, sometimes he got in trouble, because he abused the umpires and things of that nature. In fact, Dr. Carol Dwork uses an example of him as being someone who is extremely successful in that fixed mind set. And he could still be extremely successful but even John McEnroe today says that if he did not do some of the things that he did, he would have been even more successful, and that would have been really quite amazing to see.
Ian : Yeah.
Raj : And then I give you another example. Of course, we have Pete Sampras. Pete Sampras, again, great self thinker, but not one to do much self talk. But, did you notice that towards the latter part of his career he started to. And even the commentators they would start to see that maybe something is being done here. You see that consistently adding skills and talents and growing your skills and talents will let you to continue to go to another new best level, because they want to grow. They want to raise their game.
And Pete Sampras definitely did that, because Arthur [inaudible] one of the greatest ever, he had the most grand slams until Roger Federer came along, and that did not happen until years later. And, of course, you know, Pete sometimes would throw up and win a match, and you knew he was going to win if he threw up, but I do not highly recommend that.
Ian : [laughter]
Raj : And then, lastly, of course, [empty]
RX launched today Roger Federer. You can see that he is a great, great self thinker. However, you are starting to see slowly and slowly that he is using self talk to get himself to use this adaptability link logical emotion.
And then on the women’s side, there is Serena Williams. That was the biggest tip from Tony Robbins, who is one of the top motivation and spiritual speakers that she hired. He told her, use emotion. You have a great self-thinking concept, but your logic is there, your emotion is missing. And some players use one more than the other, but when you can find that nice congruent balance is when you get the best results.
Ian : Alright, I have two questions for you, Raj. First of all, how exactly do you go about developing this with an individual or an entire team, just in general? And then, my second question is, for for those of us who may already have plenty of self think and self talk going on, but maybe it is not constructive. Maybe we have have negative mindsets and what we are doing in our heads is not helping out very much. How do you train somebody to be more constructive with their self think and talk?
Raj : Well, one way is again through an adaptability link to let us say a another profession. For example, I am also a professional speaker. And if you notice that the words I use, especially when I am professionally speaking, versus doing a radio interview or a podcast interview, are a little bit different. And in professional speaking you want to have the most dynamic, most powerful meaningful, purposeful sentence, but you want to do it in the fewest amount of words.
And the fewer words you can use, and the better the word choice, the better the speech. And the same thing applies to tennis. You want to unclutter all of that chatter that is going on in your mind. You want to quiet it down, [inaudible] or not, and then at the right moment, you want to be able to activate it, whether it is through self think, which is going to create the synopsis in your mind, that is going to cause an action, thought becomes an action, which becomes a result.
And then self-talk is the same thing except for it is verbalized, and it is very important that with both of these areas, it is critical, to have self think and self talk put together, because again, one without the other can be very dangerous and can really hinder your progress.
Ian : Can you give an example of why that is dangerous exactly, of why we do not want to use just one or the other? What if, like myself personally, I am a very–people find this surprising–introverted person. I am kind of quiet, by nature, so what is wrong with me going out and playing and using mostly or all self think? What is the danger in that?
Raj : Well, what is the danger in that is you are not giving your body the ability to express itself.
Ian : Huh?
Raj : And as an engineer, because that is what I was before I became a professional speaker and sports team mindset motivation coach, and I was somewhat introverted. However, I was not as introverted as most engineers. And I wanted to grow, and I think that was one of the reasons I reached out to this profession is because I was not allowed to grow. And that is what I am saying is that it stymies your growth if you use one more than the other.
Ian : Hm. Interesting. Well, before I ask my next question, I want to remind my listeners about the official sponsor of the Essential Tennis Podcast and that is tennistours.com, Championship Tennis Tours.
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Well, I have another question here that kind of goes back to when we first started. You were talking about walking in and first addressing a team that you were working with. It sounds like you are making it very clear that you want them, or you are kind of putting the expectation on them that the point of them playing is to win a championship. And then you are talking about how that is typically very surprising, especially to a team that is used to losing.
Now, I am sure that you have probably heard from other coaches, maybe other speakers or maybe parents or players that well, you know, have you not heard, it is the 21st century, and sports and competition are all about having fun. And everybody is supposed to go out there and do their best, and as long as they try and they have fun, then great. And everybody should be happy. What is your response to that kind of mindset?
Raj : Well, I do believe that sports is there and we are supposed to have fun, and I do know this that every time that I have won or I have won a championship, I have had a whole lot more fun than if I did not. That is #1.
Ian : That is a good point. [laughter]
Raj : And #2 is that I am not just putting someone on the island with these extremely high expectations. I am giving them the mindset, mood, mental motivation tools to make this happen, to help them to grow. And that is the thing that they are missing. You see, they focus totally on the emotion side of, oh gosh, this guy wants us to win championships, and we are not that good. Whereas, they do not have the logic side.
Or you can be reversed. The team that has won, let us say, 2 years in a row, well, they can have a lot of the logic. Well, we have already won 2 years in a row. We should win again next year. And that is logic stuff, but then they are missing the emotion side, because they still have to go out there and perform. And so it is really important.
So I give them a tool, and I have put together another adaptability link called the Winning Mental Pyramid. And I have worked on this leading edge research for 5 years now, and it shows the relationship between motivation and inspiration: attitude, mindset, mood and subconscious. And to quickly summarize it, motivation has a relationship with inspiration, and motivation controls your attitude. Your attitude controls your mindset. Your mindset controls your mood, and mood has a relationship with subconscious.
And so in order to put yourself or use this self talk, self think appropriately, well, in a team dynamic, the way that I have come into teams and I explain what the Winning Mental Pyramid research is, and I apply it to their team, well at the beginning of the year it is applied differently, because we want to get the team to gel, to mesh together, to come together, to bond, and really, really focus in on a lot of the team aspects as far as communication, as far as how we are going to handle things, as far as what is going to happen if there is some obvious challenges or some conflicts, and really sets the tone so it is almost like as if this is the degree in your hand.
When I was in college, all 4 years I just focused on having that degree. And my bind, because I had that in my mind, all I would think about whenever sometime something would come up [inaudible] is I want that degree in my hand. I want to hold that degree in my hand, and automatically that would create that logical emotion connection for me.
And so where we figure out what that is for a team, because for every team it is going to be different. Let us say you have 10 people on the tennis team, you are going to have a lot of different personalities, a lot of different characteristics, and people. You are are going to have different talents, different skills, and so we want to be able to learn from that and to grow with that. What I found is that the best tennis players, the best teams in the world, when you really know you have a good player is when you really have a player that makes other players, other teammates better.
Ian : Yeah.
Raj : And so I use this Winning Mental Pyramid. Now, let us say I come in in the middle of the season. Well, it may be a little bit different, especially if the team is losing and I come in. Then I use it differently. But let us say the team is winning and I come in. Well I am not going to make a whole lot of adjustments. I mean, the day before, or halfway through the season, if you are winning and you are undefeated, I am not really making a lot of adjustments.
What I am doing there is giving you more incentive and keeping you pumped up to stay on that leading edge so that you do not lose that momentum as you start going into the playoffs and into the championship realm. Now let us say you are in the playoffs. You are winning and you are about to go into a championship game. You are undefeated or if you are not undefeated, you are favored to win it all, well, again, I am not going to come in there and try to introduce something that is totally new.
In fact, If this team has never heard of the Winning Mental Pyramid research, I probably will not even mention it to them, but I will apply it in doing pre-game motivation for them before their big match, and usually and hopefully they will win, and we will have a post-game victory celebration. So, it is a combination of the 2. And so I am using the Winning Mental Pyramid. However, in that case I am not really telling them what I am doing, but I am giving them the pre-game mindset, mental motivation, then the post-game victory celebration.
Ian : When you come in and you first start talking to a team, whether it is a sports team or a business, I guess especially with a losing team, do you ever find that the players or participants have a hard time believe you or buying into what you are talking about? I mean you come in talking about winning and getting championships and all this stuff, and I guess especially on a losing team it seems to me that there might be a tendency for them to not really buy into it, and maybe even actively resist it. Do you ever come across that, and if so, how do you deal with that with a player who is kind of fighting against having a positive mental attitude?
Raj : That is a great question. And the way that I combat that is through my analysis. I do a lot of upfront work with the coach, and then I learn about each of the players. So when I am walking in and I am on the platform in front of them, I am already telling them things (and they have never even met me) that I know about them.
And see, that automatically gets them to a comfort level, because then they say, well, golly, this guy has really done his research, and he has really done his homework. He is really invested in us. Let me perk up here and listen to really what he really has to say.
And then once they see that I am not here to basically try to bully them to do better, I am really there to give them the tools to help them grow, and it is like anything else in the sense that if you are a child, let us say, or even a boy or an adult and you have never had a computer, then all of a sudden somebody has given you this magnificent tool and they show you how to use it, well you become more productive, right?
Ian : Sure.
Raj : And you grow. So, that is what I am doing. I am giving them that computer. I am giving them those tools in order to make that happen. And then also, the biggest thing that I want them to benefit from, because they are going to be together a lot longer than my how much ever time I am going to be in front of them, so I want to give them the opportunity to work with one another, to know one another, the tools to do that, and by using this leading edge research, the Winning Mental Pyramid, I do that and I bring them up front and I will ask each one of them to tell me about a time that they were in the zone.
And probably other players on the team have not even heard this story, because again, most teams, they do a great job of taking advantage of having their coach or coaches, but they do not do a very good job of taking advantage of having teammates, and that to me is what I see is the difference between a bad team that goes to a good team, a good team that goes to a very good team, and a very good team that goes to a championship team.
Ian : Last question for you, Raj, and this is all really interesting stuff, and I am sitting here on the other side of the microphone just kind of trying to absorb as much of this as I can, and hopefully I am asking good questions or my listeners?
Raj : Yes, you are.
Ian : I know that I have many listeners who are actually coaches: high school coaches and team coaches. Obviously, I have a lot of listeners who are just players, and they might be on a team who needs this information, and obviously I am sure my coaches listening are very interested in actually being able to take this information and use it, and try to spread these methods throughout their own teams.
So, in our last couple of minutes here, I would like you to please talk to the coaches and talk to the players out there, and how can they implement what you are talking about? Is this something that they can do for their own teams, and start to build up the success of their own teams as players and coaches, or do we need an expert like you to come in and try to help us out?
Raj : They can definitely start to implement it, but they do need someone like me, or they do need me to come in and really show them how to apply the research. Now, once I have applied the research, the Winning Mental Pyramid research, I also have another new tool called Winning Leadership Teamwork Chairs that help really resolve conflict, and to gather strategy, and it is a really, really neat tool where 2 people, 2 players sit back to back, sometimes it can be 3, sometimes it can be 5, and sometimes it can even be all 10 players. We can even do it that way.
But notice what I am doing is I am taking away the visual, because I want them to feel. And I think it is really important to think and feel. And when you do that then obviously you are in a very good zone, and that is the kind of leadership teamwork that I want, and everybody has a thought and opportunity to participate. However, once I leave, the coaches are very well versed in actually applying it.
And what they will do a lot of times is apply it own their own, because now they have seen how it works, and then they will consult with me, give me a call, and I am going to talk with them about the match coming up and give them advice in that way. So, it really depends on the 2 dynamics.
Then, of course, the third dynamic for a championship type of game or match is bringing me in and let us have a victory party so we can have like a nice celebration act where we really celebrate and have a good time and prepare again for next year.
Ian : Alright. Good stuff.
Raj : And also .. .
Ian : Go ahead.
Raj : Well, I appreciate that Ian. And also you can go to my website.
Ian : Yes, please.
Raj : It is www.rajgavurla.com (which is my first name and last name, R-A-J-G-A-V-U-R-L-A ), and there you can see the Winning Mental Pyramid, there are a couple of articles even that I have where I have written about some of content I have used in working with teens and working with developmentally [inaudible], and working with youth, and even in businesses, and even in facilitation, where people that have mental health challenges.
And I would also like to finish off with logical emotion and give you a couple of examples. As a boy, there were 3 things that my tennis instructor told me. And at the time, I really did not think much about it, and they did not work for me. And they did not work, not because they were the wrong message, but it was because I did not understand it. I only used the logic or I only used the emotion. One was my tennis instructor would tell me to punch the volume, like I was punching.
Ian : [laughter]
Raj : OK? So I would grab my racket and I would punch, punch, and it would never really have that zip on it that I would see like a McEnroe get or somebody on TV on his volleys, and I just never knew why. And until later, when I was an adult, I know now why, because it is common sense, it is because I was not gripping the racket tight enough.
So, when I would punch my volume, I had a naturally soft grip, so therefore I was never able to give that real good [silence] . And I was thinking that, OK, well my fist is clenched and I am punching in the sense that I am making that forward motion. However, I never gripped it tight enough.
And now, today, that clearly explains why I have such great drop volley, just like McEnroe, although he could hit both volleys. I had a great drop volley, because I had such soft hands. And I could literally take almost all of the pace off the ball when it came, but later in my tennis development I realized that was the reason I was using that same grip, as far as the tightness of it in when I was trying to hit a regular, hard put- away volley.
The other one was to put top spin on the ball the instructor would say, OK, go low to high. So I would go low to high. And then sometimes he would say brush on it, brush on it, brush on it.
And again, being a boy, I would just a different mindset than an adult, I just did not really pick up on what ‘brush’ meant. I could pick up on low to high, but today, now that I know what brush means, I I literally when I see the ball coming I have my eye on the ball. And I literally brush as in the sense that I go from low to high and I literally with my wrist, lift up, brush upwards on the ball like I am painting upward, and I have tremendous, much, much more control now. And of course, because I am bigger and more balanced I have more power.
And then the last thing is losing. And I think we have all been there where we have been in a match and we have been losing. We say, OK, what is going on? What is going on? Well, the first thing we need to do is recognize that losing in the Winning Mental Pyramid is under attitude, because you are supposed to be winning, right, in a tennis match? Well, losing is under attitude. So, we have got to recognize that attitude.
OK, so now, once we recognize that, sense this attitude, then we know that, OK, motivation controls attitude, so, now we have got to create these synapses in our mind that says, OK, we are supposed to be winning. What is going on?
Now, we start using logical emotion, self talk, self think. Then attitude does what? Attitude controls the mindset. Now we have got to understand, OK, what is the actual thinking process that we need here? What is the tool we need?
And lastly, the way that teams really improve and players really improve and coaches really improve is really keep and mark down in a notebook what worked, what did not work, what surprised you that maybe was an excellent shot that you may not have hit ever or you may hit only every once in a while, but how could you add that as a permanent part of your weaponry.
And if you add that to your foundation, then that is another option and tool that when the timing is right, you can really bring that up, and make it happen, and include that in your arsenal. And as you do, then tennis becomes a whole lot more fun. It is no fun to just go out there and keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
We want to keep adding and growing, and go to that grow mindset, and that is what really keeps us ahead of the competition. Because you know that if you are not adding skills and talents that someone else is, and that is the reason that they are growing, and that is the reason that they may win the championship and not you. And I would much rather be in the other position.
Ian : Well, Raj , you have gone a couple of minutes overtime, but I know that my listeners are really going to appreciate listening to your insights and your thoughts. So I want to thank you very much for your time today, and spending the time talking to myself and to the listeners of my podcast as well. Thank you very much.
Raj : Thank you, Ian. Thanks for having me, and I really appreciate what you are doing for tennis and for your listeners. They are very fortunate to have you.
Ian : Well thank you, and I look forward to having you back again in the future hopefully. I get the feeling that on a lot of these topics we have just kind of scratched the surface and introduced them. And to my listeners, definitely go and check out Raj’s website at rajgavurla.com. See the materials that he has there, and Raj, hopefully I will be talking to you again soon in the future.
Raj: Thanks Ian.
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Ian : Alright. That does it for Episode #112 o f the Essential Tennis Podcast. Thank you very much for joining me today and my guest. Hopefully you guys enjoyed the show, and before I wrap things up, I want to send a special thank you out to those of you who have donated to the Essential Tennis Podcast in the last week.
Starting off with Jason in California, who sent a $20 donation. Thank you very much, Jason. David in Alabama did a $5 a month subscription donation. Thank you David. Steve in North Carolina, $5 subscription. And Charles in Maryland, also $5 subscription donation.
So thank you very much, I appreciate it. And Jason in California, I am going to send you an Essential Tennis shirt since you donated the most this past week. Thank you very much. And if Essential Tennis Podcast has helped you improve your tennis game, I would really appreciate your support through a small donation, either monthly or one time. It is totally up to you. And you can do that by going to essentialtennis.com, and in the lower right there is a box that says ‘donate.’ Just click on that. I thank you guys very much for your support.
Alright, that does it for this week. Thank you everybody very much for joining me. And I look forward to the next episode of the Essential Tennis Podcast next Monday. Take care everybody, and good luck with your tennis.
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