Beyond Success And Failure: Ways To Self-Reliance And Maturity

What follow are my personal notes and direct quotes from the amazing book Beyond Success and Failure: Ways to Self-Reliance and Maturity.  I read quite a few books each year and along the way I do lots of highlighting and typically write notes into a Google Document.

This time around I figured that it would be better to just put the notes on Taming Life since others may find this information valuable.

Overview: The book helps people who are depressed, anxious, nervous, etc overcome these tendencies and become more self-reliant.  Much of what causes unhappiness is firmly rooted in childhood patterns people carry with them into adulthood. These tendencies can be overcome with a combination of awareness and hard work.

Self Reliance and Confidence

  • “Keep track of your initiative. Know where it is at all times, the same as if it were in your pocketbook. It is far more important than your money.”
  • “His self-confidence is based on his ability to achieve his goals and is in no way held up by, or dependent on, the opinion of others.”
  • “It begins when we are determined to do everything we can possibly do for ourselves, emotionally and physically, in preference to seeking someone to do it for us.”
  • “…the self-reliant person habitually minimizes the dangers ahead of him, whereas the one lacking in self-sufficiency habitually exaggerates them.”
  • “One’s mental health is in inverse ratio to the size of his ego and the demands for pampering it makes upon one.”
  • “…the goal of the emotionally free individual should be: “Life means us to be a help and not a burden.”
  • “The most important job each of us has is to keep his personal initiative intact at all times so as not to be touted off by outside forces.”
  • “You are free the moment you do not look outside yourself for someone to solve your problems.”
  • “The individual who is physically and psychologically self-reliant will not allow anyone to lean on him, as it would result in his enslavement if he permitted it.”
  • “You will know that you are free and feel free inside yourself when you no longer blame anyone, or anything, not even yourself, for unhappiness.”
  • “The free mind, on the other hand, is not distracted by the need to find a master on whom to lean. It moves spontaneously on target to deal with the situation. Its function is automatic because it has not been contaminated by the habit of wishful thinking; it is content to look directly at the What Is of the here-and-now and is able to deal with things as they are-not as they ought to be in some idealized but nonexistent situation. The free mind is not trapped by a desire to edit, escape, distort, change or evade what it faces and thus postpone movement or the solution of the problem. It has no need to take endless thought and fall into a quandary in which the mind consults the mind about the mind. It does not need to look outside itself for either help or stimulation. As we have seen earlier, the free mind manipulates impersonal circumstance-not people. “

Self Expression

  • “Creation is a built-in attribute of each of us. It waits, however, for the awakening touch of self-reliance to shape its parts and aspects.”
  • “…we cannot begin either to enjoy our own inner capacities, association with others, or the world around us until and unless we have liberated ourselves from our leaning, dependent, derivative, enslaved, imitative, competitive, subaltern, childish habit of mind.”
  • “The gross inability of many of us to program, structure, organize or fill our own time is often masked by television, chores set by others, our job, rituals and customs of the community which keep us busy without calling on our own ability”
  • “…the various functions of the mind as well as those of the body do not perfect themselves or come into focus unless we stand firmly on our own feet.”


  • “The ultimate tragedy of dependency is that the dependent individual does not develop his inborn ability to bring his own powers into focus and direct them to solve his own problems.”
  • “If we have not developed physical and emotional self-sufficiency and must therefore depend on our ability to supply our needs through others by influencing them to serve us, we often run out of ways to bring pressures on them. At that point, we are driven to attack them more openly to get our way.”
  • “You can’t have a lack of self-reliance without having the feeling of being underprivileged and undervalued. They are the front and back of the same thing”
  • “…since habit never rests, we never fully get over our grasping, possessive habits. Our only hope of being relieved of them is to be wholly aware of what they are doing at all times.”
  • “Dependency always degrades. It degrades by mutual enslavement of both the dependent and the one on whom he leans. Both are equally guilty of dependence.”
  • “Depending on others makes manipulation inevitable.”
  • “Dependency, we must remember at all times, is most of all a habit of mind; it is an habitual approach to confronting problems in which we look outside the self for answers and support instead of finding our own inner direction.”
  • “…the one who leans and the one who allows himself to be leaned on are equally lacking in self-sufficiency”
  • “…anything less than full personal initiative is the source of all our pain”
  • “If you do give up your initiative, you have no one to blame except yourself-and your complaints are not justified, since you invited and earned the consequences. “
  • “Dependency generates the feeling of second-class citizenship. Out of this grows the habit of competition, envy, making comparisons and similar mistaken compensatory striving that we create in our effort to assuage the pain of feeling second class in relation to others. Humiliating feelings of inferiority produce the gnawing, distracting, disruptive, destructive craving for personal recognition and prestige, with its inescapable fear of failure.”

Manipulation of Others

  • “The dependent individual must use others as his crutches and he cannot go either farther or faster than he can influence his crutches to carry him.”
  • “We must be taught to manipulate circumstance in the impersonal outside world and to give up the childish habit of manipulating each other, as is now the common habit.
  • “Man is a manipulator of his environment. He has in his power the ability to remake the surface of the earth, to free himself of diseases, poverty, war, crime and similar worldwide evils. But this is only possible if he manages to educate himself for total self-reliance.”
  • “If we have not developed physical and emotional self-sufficiency and must therefore depend on our ability to supply our needs through others by influencing them to serve us, we often run out of ways to bring pressures on them. At that point, we are driven to attack them more openly to get our way. “
  • “Those who lack self-reliance have no alternative but to live or die by their ability to exploit others.”

Suggestibility Due to Dependence

  • “When the leaning individual is confronted, he is helpless and must search for someone on whom to lean for help in the solution of his problems. Looking about for assistance opens him to all the evils of suggestibility and uncertainty. He vainly runs from one person to another, like a lost dog at a parade looking for his master to lead him safely home again.”
  • “The leaning, dependent mind, however, is at the mercy of outside stimulation and outside support. Every voice it hears is magnified into the voice of authority which must be obeyed. Each suggestion becomes a command, and every person becomes ten feet tall.”
  • “Suggestibility deadens the mind and eventually destroys the ability to see and hear what is happening around us at the reality level.”

Civilization Encourages Dependency

  • “Civilization conspires to keep us on the path from A to B to C instead of liberating us.”
    • Our abundant societies have gotten TOO good at supplying our needs and we have the ‘luxury’ of depending on outside things for almost anything – be it food, education, entertainment.  The hyper-consumer culture of today has only made things much worse for us all since this book was first published.  Traditionally children have been consumers and adults producers.  When we consume so much and have our every need met by outside forces we are not self reliant which pushes us into the direction of being in a sort of perpetual childhood.

Childhood Habits

  • Manipulative habits we picked up in childhood due to dependency on our parents are are core of most later suffering since the same habits are still being used in adulthood.
  • “That leaning on others emotionally or physically is a child’s way of life. We should not permit this habit to follow us into adult life, since dependency is the root of all feelings of inferiority.”
  • “A mature adult finds no need to beg. He is an explorer and a doer. He does not have to compete and aspire to be the favored one. Only the child or the infantile adult has to worry about his status in the eyes of those around him. “
  • “Life demands that we go directly and spontaneously on target from point A to point C at all times.”
  • “All emotional failure arises from the fact that the individual is still trapped in the A-to-B-to-C approach to the solution of life’s problems.”
    • See illustration in book for A/B/C explanation
  • “The adult, then, must be consciously aware of any mental or physical habits he has that remain from his childhood and are keeping him in a subaltern, juvenile, dependent frame of mind. He must put away childish dependency.”
  • “When the greedy eyes of a child look on the smorgasbord of reality, the feeling of being deprived and thwarted arises.”
  • “the feeling of being deprived is the memory of the old pain of self-pity which we experienced as children when our desires were frustrated.”
  • “The individual’s approach to life is a result of early self-training due to his interpretation of his situation. He can change it in later years only if he realizes that his disturbing, conditioned responses are nothing more than inappropriate, inadequate holdovers from childhood.”
  • “ is useless to try to escape the pain he creates for himself trying to solve adult problems with a child’s tricks and evasions, since problems are only situations for which we have not trained ourselves.”
  • “We spend most of our childhood on the path from point A to point B developing our political skill in exerting influence over adults to get them to vote for us. And it is from this root that we have the neurotic acquisitive desire to make a good impression on others. It is at this point of our life that we get the idea that we must habitually lean and depend on the good opinion of others and fear their disapproval.”
  • “If we do not trust the Grazing Principle in us-our intuition-we cannot do anything except shuttle back and forth within the limits of the safe old formulas of the past.”
    • Grazing principle is taking life moment by moment based on our internal intuition rather than fears and excessive planning based around things to avoid / strive for (that’s a form of wishful thinking)

Being Praised and Blamed

  • “The more a person becomes addicted to praise, the more vulnerable he becomes to the chills of blame. The dependent adult wants an approving world with never a shadow of disapproval.”
  • “Why are we so vulnerable to this seemingly magical power that lies in praise? Why do we seem to be so defenseless to its sound? The answer is not far away; sounds like the old, remembered voice of our parental authority-figures still seem to manipulate us and influence us, now as then. We remember these voices all too well, and we remember our dependence on them, as children, for approval of our aims. Disapproval brought swift punishment.”
  • “The self-sufficient person is in no danger of being seduced or intimidated by praise or blame, since he is leaning on no one else and thus can’t be lifted up or let down by them.”
  • “Old conditioning of the nervous system cannot be erased; it is like nail holes in boards. It is possible, however, to minimize the dangerous conditioning of praise and blame. Praise is a weapon for domination. We use it to seek power over unwary victims and fear it unconsciously when it is used on us.”
  • “The hypersensitive person is at a total disadvantage in this world. Trying to support the greedy demands necessary to an inflated ego is like trying to support a heroin addiction. Every day it takes more flattery and support, and costs more effort, even if one has to turn to crime to do it. The ego is insatiable: there is no limit to its appetite for praise. It is a tyrant to the one who has it. “
  • “It is not our high moral nature that produces guilt feelings in us but our fear of the opinion of others. It is our lack of self-confidence and self-reliance. The person who is living fully on his own initiative and responsibility will not have to do anything for which he will later feel ashamed or guilty.”


  • “All the mistakes that we bitterly complain about, then, are really projections of our own mistakes that grow out of our own lack of self-sufficiency.”
  • “We may not excuse ourselves for lacking self-reliance by blaming someone else because he does not take care of us for our advantage.”
  • “The purpose of blame is to hide from oneself the necessity to become more self-reliant and productive.”
  • “Nothing that happened and nothing anyone does to you is to blame for what you do! What you do comes out of your mistaken ideal of what life ought to be according to your imagination.”

Negative Emotions

  • “Nervousness, irritability, hypersensitivity and reactivity are separate words that all mean the same thing: we are being frustrated in our efforts to manipulate someone. They won’t stand still for us nor respond to our controls. We do not like their obvious insubordination to our wishes.”
  • “Anger arises when we have been leaning on, or planning to lean on, something -and it is suddenly denied us”
  • “All the tears we shed in sorrow are tears shed only for ourselves. The self-sufficient person sheds no tears and has no regrets about the past. He has no need to mourn his losses since he has not been leaning on them. He does not go into a depression. Tears are shed over loss, not for the dear departed.”
  • “That unhappiness, loneliness, neurotic symptoms, crime and similar distresses arise directly from this unresolved habit of leaning and depending on others whom we immediately feel we must try to control, rule, dominate or exploit for our own benefit, since we cannot otherwise support ourselves physically and emotionally.”
  • “…envy is the Siamese-twin of competition; they are never found separate and apart.”
  • “envy is the name we give to dependence at the emotional level, and competition is the term we use to describe the result of dependent behavior that accompanies it at the action level.”


  • “Addictions are nothing incomprehensible or mysterious. They are merely ways of evading demands of everyday life. The nature and intensity of our evasion is in direct ratio to the demand and our fear of meeting it.”
  • “Addictions are designed to provide an alibi for not facing what is demanded of us by life; they provide an escape.”


  • “Conformity is a way of life in which one can escape his own initiative and responsibility for creating his own happiness.”
  • “The conformists lean on Lady Luck or a mother substitute.”
  • “A person who dares not express his hostility openly merely masks or submerges it; it then appears as anxiety. Thus he can remain at a distance from the situation, which is precisely what he wants to do. “
  • “Our fear of the unknown is a strong force of inertia that tends to carry us along in the same old direction of conformity!”
  • “Some estimates indicate that about 90% of the population lives in the stew of conformity. It is this lack of adult initiative that is at the root of our emotional problems.”


  • “Being contrary and contradicting others only breeds resistance in them and in us. All resistance only deepens our dependence on the thing we are resisting. Fighting only ties us to our enemy. To free ourselves, we must “let go” and “walk on.”
  • “The habitually negatively obedient or positive conformist cannot imagine how he would structure, program or organize his daily activity if he did not depend on outside initiative to do it for him.”
  • “The openly submissive person betrays his rebellion by myriad forms of negativity, resistance, animosity, evasion, ineptness, clumsiness, apparent incompetence. He acts out the appearance of “I cannot” when it is evident to others that “he secretly wills not to participate in a useful way.”

The Curse of Wishful Thinking

  • We build up this a self-destructive habit of wishful thinking when we are helpless children – wishing things were a certain way. We do so because we are powerless at that time.  Big problems arise when we are in the ‘real world’ and we theoretically have the power to create our own destiny but still rely on this wishful thinking. Reality doesn’t cooperate with this, however. The difference between our wishful thinking and reality causes suffering. The more inline with ‘reality’ – no matter how harsh, the better, since our inherent ability to creatively solve our own problems will be unleashed.
  • “To free the mind of wishful thinking must become the central aim of all our thinking… reality appears immediately after our illusions are destroyed.”
  • “That defects of self-reliance and the inescapable pain that accompanies them can be changed only when we fully realize that the pain we suffer is but the other-end-of-the-stick of our leaning, dependent, subaltern habits of mind.”
  • “He is trapped in ideas of what should-be or what ought-to-be-ideally.  Such wishful thinking is a basic illness of the mind.  Only when we transcend such a habit of mind can we hope to go beyond this trap and discover our own essential nature.”
  • “The person who wants to help himself must be willing to see that all his trouble arises out of his ideal expectations and not, as he thought, from the main tent, the side show or from his childhood.”
  • “All flight into the ideal, the should be, the ought-to-be, is illusion. All illusion is alienation from the now.”
  • “Our degree of alienation-or distance from the living now-is in direct ratio to our habit of wishful thinking.”
  • “Wishes are the fool’s gold that tempt us into alienating ourselves from the now.”
  • “Dreams or illusions avoid, postpone and abort action.”
  • “Each of us must consciously choose between two ways of facing life: we must (1) live in direct, spontaneous contact with the emerging now or (2) live fearfully on the deferred-payment plan as an alien from reality in a world of wishful thinking, ideal expectancy and endless searching.”
  • “We want to escape and to live like a worm in an apple, without effort or pain. Our aversion to pain is in fact the basic source of our pain.”
  • “Psychological pain does not arise from the level of What Is. Pain lies in our effort to resist pain.”
  • “people who habitually seek inspiration are given to the habit of wishful thinking.”
  • “Hope entices us to postpone living in the present as if there were a future on which we could depend. The more one depends on hope, the more one fears for his situation.”

Living in the Present Reality

  • “We must develop in ourselves the habit of total non-judgmental awareness of everything we are doing. If you are against smoking but find yourself with a cigarette in your hand, sit passively by and watch yourself light it, cough, put out the match, drop ashes on yourself-and every move you make. At the same time, listen to yourself saying to yourself how you ought to give up smoking for your health’s sake and what a weak character you are, smoking in spite of high resolves to quit. “
  • “Physical and emotional self-reliance is possible only as long as we are fully planted in the present. The problems of life demand response and activity. Any evasion of the now is a way of trying to postpone activity. If we abdicate our initiative, we become passive-receptive victims of on-coming circumstances.”
  • “You cannot change the world except to the extent you change yourself. It is your move! You cannot change other people. They are as they are. You can change yourself, however, only to the degree you alter, modify or become aware of your unrealistic ideal expectations of what-should-be. It is the what-should-be that bars the gate to reality. You and you alone can change your fate. “

The Double Bind / Impostor Syndrome

  • The Double Bind is a split motive within individuals – on the one hand you have a job to do, on the other you are concerned about how you are being perceived by others
  • “The function of pain is the same for both the mind and body; it tells us when we are not living rightly. And, when we stop to look at emotional pain, we will always find the Double Bind. “
  • “The Double Bind is the point at which the impact of past habit comes into conflict with the demands of the here-and-now, and all immaturities are immediately exposed as inferiorities”
  • “This Double Bind is the core of every human emotional problem. The job demands a clear mind that is not subordinated to outside authority.”
  • “Failure, then, results from this unfortunate split in the attention of an individual. His old conditioning leads him to seek the master he loves to lean on the most; he looks fearfuly about in his ambition for personal recognition. He must find a way to seem to be a big shot and thus avoid the task.”
  • “The desire to manipulate, impress and exploit has the fear of failing built into the core.”
  • “Stage fright is an excellent example of being trapped in the Double Bind. A person who is dependent on the good opinion of those around him fears making a speech; he is afraid that he will not impress the audience favorably and they will not love him. He prepares his speech and finds he is able to do it without faltering at home or before his family. But when he stands before his audience, it suddenly goes out of his mind and he cannot recall a word of it. He merely stands and trembles. It is obvious to us what has happened. He didn’t really want to make the speech in the first place as it represented a possible loss of esteem if he did not make a big impression. He merely wanted attention. When he finally faced the sea of strange faces, his full attention flew to the pursuit of his favorite rabbit; his desire to make a good impression and win personal recognition. Thus his mind is a blank as far as the content of his speech is concerned. He has no psychic energy available to put on the task he came to do-to make a speech.”
  • “We must give up all dependence on outside authority figures and be willing to walk alone; the way out of the fire is through the middle! Only an increase in self-reliance can release the Double Bind. “

Raising our Own Children

  • “Self-reliance, then, is the greatest gift any parent can give a child, for it is a habit of mind that follows him all his life and levels the mountains before him as he goes.”
  • “Adults who are themselves emotionally mature have free minds and do not play dominance-submission games with their children, so that their children have a chance to develop initiative.”
  • (speaking of children raised by self-reliant adults) “Their transition from childhood to adult life is not a stormy series of defeats and struggles against outside authorities. It is a quiet growth in self-confidence in which they learn that there are few irremediable mistakes, and they regard a mistake as nothing more than a friendly invitation to keep trying-not a loss of love, approval and prestige, or as a humiliation to be avoided at any cost.”
  • (A child going into the world after having been inadequately raised) “It demands that he be a help and no longer a burden. He is expected to operate in the world outside the home and become a producer of goods and services. He finds that he is expected to produce these values and offer them in exchange for the benefits he seeks from others. To his dismay, he finds that nothing is granted freely without cost to him, as when he was a child. Now he must pay for what he wants.”
  • “It should include the idea that he learn to “be a help and not a burden” to those around him.”


  • “The person in search of greatness lives only for appearances, for things, for the opinions of others and for recognition, so that he misses the substance of life itself. He laboriously cracks the nut, eats the shell and throws the nut away. He believes that others do the same!”
  • “Live as a first-class citizens who put no head higher than our own”
    • And also don’t put your head higher than others.  Both putting oneself above or below another are related to childhood tendencies of depending on our parents and trying to be the favored child.  True adults need neither of these things and can stand on their own two feet, not needing external validation.
  • “The individual trapped in the struggle for prestige, recognition and appearances, is a helpless victim of his own wishful thinking.”
  • A person feels expansive, confident and adequate while he is in his active self-reliant phase. But the moment he compares himself to someone, whose head he puts higher than his own, he feels a chill. He is suddenly aware that he feels deprived, empty, lonely, weak, defenseless, inadequate, put back or frightened.
  • “It is only when we seek benefits from others that we fear or hate them.”
  • “Competition is conformity to a pattern, and conformity breeds stupidity, narrowness, bigotry, idolatry and other forms of exclusiveness.”
  • “…initiative produces spontaneous action, whereas competition produces only delayed reaction to stimuli from a pacemaker!”
  • “The release from the stranglehold of competition lies in the increase of self-reliance, since competition can only arise out of a lack of self-reliance!”
  • “The ambitious, competitive individual, then, is an unfortunate who is still trapped in the childhood desire to become the favored child.”
  • “…the competitive person operates out of constant fear. Fear always limits and degrades us.”
  • “A man is valuable and secure in this world only to the extent that he is not distracted by competitive ambition (envy) and is able to turn his interest freely to productive, constructive activity that gives him a legitimate place in the exchange of goods for goods that must go on in the main tent.”
    • The Main Tent is the “Real World” of society composed of individuals, each with their own needs/wants. These people are not going to take care of you like your parents did. The ability to see clearly this reality and make your own contributions are the only way to deal in the main tent, otherwise you are living in a world of wishful thinking which inevitably leads to suffering.
  • “Fear is only the dark and terrifying shadow cast by the ambition for personal recognition. Ambition is desire, and desire brings the fear of not getting what we seek.”
  • “The main emotion that accompanies pride is self-pity.”

Authority Figures

  • “Authority figures are merely creations of the human mind; they do not exist outside of it in the realm of reality.”
  • “We create authority figures exactly as primitive people create idols out of clay and then bow down before them. In both instances, the purpose is the same-to escape personal responsibility and to shift personal initiative from the self to the non-self. We want to regain the original irresponsible situation of dependency, where we can lean on and exploit parent figures. If we achieve emotional self-reliance, we have no temptation to put the heads of other people higher than our own. We see them only as projections of our own imagination.”
  • “…we do not stand in awe with feelings of inferiority to a person in a position of organizational superiority; he is just another individual trying to earn his living. When he is not acting in his official capacity, he has no power to influence us. We have no need to fear him or be paralyzed in thought or action in his presence. “
  • “…we invent and use psychological authority figures so that we can abdicate personal responsibility by putting it on their backs.”
  • “psychological authority figures are our own invention and exist only in the head of the individual who evokes them. Their sole use to us is so that we can pass the buck at times when we ought to be acting on a self-reliant basis.”
  • “Anything done out of a sense of duty is done from outside initiative and is an act of subordination.”
  • “The free mind refuses to accept a single shred of such degrading subordination commonly called “reverence for higher-ups.”


  • “If we can’t eliminate all the rough behavior of other people, then we must find a way to protect ourselves from our irritability without demanding that they change. “
  • “Why do I expect so much of him? Why am I so lacking in self-reliance-and why do I lean on him so much? What could I be doing instead of fighting him and his ways if I were more self-reliant?”
  • “My complaints against others only draw their attention to the manner in which I am leaning on them for their support.”
  • “The more a person becomes addicted to praise, the more vulnerable he becomes to the chills of blame. The dependent adult wants an approving world with never a shadow of disapproval.”
  • “If you want to understand yourself or another person, close your ears to anything that is said or what you think and watch only movement. What a person does is his real understanding and intention.”
  • “Revenge, retaliation and similar forms of hitting back clearly indicate dependence. It shows that we lost our initiative to someone who used our dependence against us.”
  • “Arguments are attempts to manipulate and subordinate others. We argue only if we feel weak.”
  • “Arguing is a form of nagging and is always a clear sign of dependency.”


  • “Cooperation is a joyous affirmation of the full initiative of oneself and also that of every other person.”
  • “Conformity is mutual enslavement. Cooperation is mutual liberation and freedom. “
  • “…cooperation is only the free activity engaged in by equal adults, each of whom has kept his personal initiative and seeks no reward from the other.”

Loneliness vs Aloneness

  • “And as far as the greatest of all fears is concerned-the fear of loneliness -we are only able to be free of this fear, once and for all time, if we find our own center–of-gravity and personal initiative.”
  • “Aloneness is freedom-from-dependence! Loneliness, on the other hand, is the dependent lost child crying as it searches for the parent or baby-sitter it has lost and cannot find.”
  • “Aloneness is the basis of our greatest strength; loneliness is a sign of our greatest weakness.”
  • “Loneliness is the emptiness felt by a leaning, dependent individual when he has no one on whom to lean for comfort, entertainment or support.
  • “The dependent person has not learned how to occupy himself in any interesting, productive manner. He seeks someone who will amuse, divert, distract and reassure him, so that he will not become aware of his inability to face the world alone. In short, he seeks a baby-sitter. He has not trained himself to invent activity of his own, to build, to make or to discover, explore and improvise in the world around him. He seeks someone to take him by the hand and lead him into greener pastures of enjoyment. When he can find no one who will make him the center of their support and attention, he comes into contact with a deep and abiding loneliness. “
  • Aloneness, on the other hand, is very much like the stars coming out at night. We are unaware of our inner voice while our ears are filled with the clatter of outside voices – just as we are unable to see the stars at noon because of the sun’s glare. The mature individual has learned to close his ears to conflicting voices outside himself and to listen to the sound of his own inner world.

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