What Martin Scorsese and Tinder Have in Common: If You Want Success You Have to be Human

The maestro, Martin Scorsese was recently quoted in Harper’s Bazaar talking about Sharon Stone in Casino and the process for the actor auditioning (and then working) for a director.

“What you’re looking for, always, is not for someone to give you exactly what you envision but to surpass it, to use their own intelligence and instincts and imagination and talent to bring the character to life—actually, to get to a place where they’re surprising themselves.”

That comes from embracing the inherent chaos of the moment and the willingness to create within it. No matter how well things are planned, rehearsed, memorized, strategized, “prepped”, deliberated, controlled or executed – the goal for the actor is to simply allow what’s happening to happen.

It’s everything. And it’s not easy. Perhaps even more so nowadays. Because it requires us to be human and reveal our inherent vulnerability. And sadly, we’re living in a time where technology is chipping away at our humanity and creates a disconnect from our essential nature.

How many times have we hidden behind our cell phone, pretending we’re on it when we’re not – because we’re too scared to connect? How often have we been distracted by nonsense that’s being tweeted or reposted, rather than allowing ourselves to look up from our device and notice the living world all around us? Whether it’s about masking our low self-esteem because we’ve got a device in our hands and we feel more comfortable with it, or it’s contributing to our ADHD and inability to focus, or the science now that’s showing that young people may be having a harder time reading people’s facial expressions because they spend more time interfacing with a screen than with another human. I also noticed personally that it’s eroding our ability to simply be with people we connect with on dating apps.

There was a revealing piece in Vanity Fair about the “Dating Apocalypse” ushered in by that dating app we all love-to-hate, Tinder.

What the piece indirectly reveals is that apps like these are speeding up the process of getting to know someone and the end-result is we “connect” (at whatever superficial level that may be) and then move on to the next “match” when our base needs are fulfilled. So that’s not connection at all. That’s simply our dopamine levels being spiked each time someone new pings us. Our wiring tells us there’s always someone better coming along, so it enforces our inability to be fully human. We let the social constructs (and “rules”) of an app dictate and then habituate human behavior; not the other way around.

I’m on Tinder. I’ve been challenged the same way. What was a process of getting to know someone over a few weeks or months has now boiled down to this:


From Hello

To flirting

To asking someone out

To getting their phone number

To being courted

To exchanging G-rated pics

To expressing your feelings

To hooking up

To dating exclusively

To making a commitment

To exchanging X-rated pics

To making future plans together

To then being too busy

To not hearing from him or her so much

To being avoided outright

To getting a divorce

To being “un”-matched


All in like 30 minutes!

Welcome to the new world order. Oh, connection, where have you gone? If we don’t keep practicing ways to be human, we’re screwed. As actors, our job is to reflect what it means to be human back to humanity. That’s all we have. Don’t lose that ability in the name of the latest app that has to be installed on your phone.

Sharon Stone mentions in the magazine article that she’s currently single. For her sake, I hope she doesn’t resort to getting on Tinder.

Are Your 20’s Like Your 40’s . . . And Beyond? Yep. (if you keep seeking the unknown)

I realized the other day that there is no primer for understanding the phases of life that we inevitably go through. I thought it odd as so many people have come before us, and yet, I personally haven’t seen a manual describing what I might expect to find around the next turn in the road.

Geez, that would be helpful.

You know, so that you don’t think you’re going crazy. Or the only one suffering from some incurable thought like, “Does it ever get better?” or “Do dreams come true?” or “What happens now when I want to chuck it all and move to Tahiti?” Brando did it. “What should I do?”

Maybe one of the things that might help us negotiate through our current phase (no matter where we are) is to realize that most life phases are bookended by the same principles we work through throughout our lives.

Namely, the “known” vs. the “unknown.”

So our formative years when we’re in our 20’s are when everything is new and exciting and weird and funky. Our still-developing reptilian brain wants to react from it’s fight-or-flight wiring, and it’s scary because everything seems unknown to us. I mean everything is sort of unknown. Will we find love? What’s going to happen in our career? Can we make it as an artist? Should we have never left Idaho? Where will we be in 10 years from now?

But if you’re brave enough to keep taking action and step into the unknown where the answers to these questions exist – eventually you’re going to get there.

But then what happens when you do get there (wherever there is!), is you become accustomed to the known. As we get older and experience things and gain knowledge we also become comfortable in our knowingness. (Hello! Have you ever heard the term “know-it-all”?) The familiarity that knowing creates, also, simultaneously becomes its own prison. You get used to the comfort and safety of what you’ve accumulated and accomplished that you’re scared to take leaps into the unknown.

So it’s two different vantage points in life phases but still presenting the same dilemma.

There is only one solution.

Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that means beginner’s mind. It’s important for us to always approach all tasks – even those we’ve done a thousand times – as a beginner. That is, open, eager, joyful in learning and not cluttered with the ego’s preconceptions of the way something should be. That mindfulness right there will keep us open to the unknown. Which ultimately then, is everything we want to be in, far beyond our comfort zones.

So do it. Take the leap. Commit to the unknown. And you’ll find that no matter what phase of life you’re currently in, you’re doing pretty damn awesome, even if there’s no manual telling you that!


7 Rules to Improve Your Acting (and Your Life)

I think we’re living in an exciting time, because the rules of acting that are really becoming popular (and understandable) are those that follow the same rules of life.

It’s not really hard to stop “acting” and get real. But then again, look how often we don’t want to do that in life. So what is hard is not learning to “act” per se, but instead learning how to become more honest with our feelings in life.

I believe good acting “rules” also intersect among different acting art forms, because if they’re good rules, they’re universal. So improv basically follows the same rules of really great scene study work, which follows the same rules of stand-up comedy, which follows the same rules of physical theater, which follows the same rules of musicals…and on and on it goes.

It’s all about listening, and presence, and expressing yourself fully, playing, showing up, and going for shit-not giving up and saying yes to the moment. It’s about getting out of your head and taking the focus off yourself (and your ego). It’s about getting lost in the spontaneity of the moment, and being willing to be vulnerable.

Hard principles to grasp? I don’t think so. Often what they require is to give up not only your pre-conceived ideas about acting (and life), but also to allow yourself to see life through a different prism-a prism of play and wonder, not cynicism and fear.

There’s a beautiful saying. “I am available to anything that wants to happen in this moment, including that which is beyond imagining.” But that requires us to let go of the certainty that we have all the answers. We don’t.

Comedian Dani Klein Modisett, who teaches the rules of standup at UCLA, wrote a book based on those rules to create more laughter and fun in her marriage. The book, “Take My Spouse, Please,” shows us how to bring comedy back to relationships, and in so doing, improve them.

These are great rules for life, relationships, and acting. (I’m sharing a few of hers below with my thoughts.)

1. Show up. Don’t give up.

2. Get present. Half the time we’re not, so we miss the gift of the moment.

3. Listen to everything, not just the words. Words are sent with intent and feeling. They aren’t just typed letters on a page. When you actually listen to them in the context in which they are sent, they will naturally affect you. Acting is simply listening and reacting. But you can’t react to something if you aren’t listening in the first place!

4. Embrace the element of surprise. If you allow yourself to deeply listen, there’s no way you can’t be surprised, because life is constantly throwing us curve balls.

5. Be patient. Impatience is the belief that what you want won’t come.

6. Don’t quit after a bad night. It’s all relative anyway and everything further serves our lives and our work.

7. Get help to get better. That’s the truth for everything. Whether it’s a great acting class, going to a therapist, surrounding yourself in community, or simply telling someone the thing you’re too scared to say, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s surely a sign of the most tremendous amount of strength.

Stop making acting harder than it is. Get in the game of acting (and life) by showing up fully with the rules listed above. You’ll start to see that not only is it easier than we’ve made it, it’s also a hell of a lot more fun. And, your relationships might just get a whole lot better, too.

5 Rules for a Better Life (and 5 ways to improve your acting)!

1). Stay open when you want to hide, shut down or retreat. This sounds easier said than done, but staying open and leading from the heart is going to be the major calling of our lives. It’s so easy to let our resentments and judgments (primarily formed from the past) seep into and distort our present moment. At the very least, try to be neutral about things. Remember life isn’t happening to you. It’s just happening. But if you can just stay open, you’ll find that the things that do happen are much better than you imagined.

2). Embarrass yourself. By making an attempt to connect to others, you run the risk of embarrassing yourself – but that simultaneously generates its own reward. It simply means you’re engaging with the world in ways beyond your comfort zone. Being alive is fraught with embarrassment. The only way you’re going to avoid it is by avoiding putting yourself out there. There’s a wonderful contemporary visual artist named Margaux Ogden who has a painting entitled Being Human Is Embarrassing. Indeed. It means to live fully is to be at risk.

3). Take the leap and then the net will appear. I don’t know why the universe is constructed this way – but it is. Anything you want in life requires you to take the leap. It doesn’t ask us to wait first for a safety net to appear before we take the leap. It just asks us to trust and jump and then a net appears. So practice doing it. That is the Physics of Risk-Taking. And remember, just because you jump and the net appears – it still doesn’t mean things are going to work out the way you thought they would. That’s not the point. The point is to leap. Ultimately, things do work out but you have to be willing to stay open (see #1) to let things reveal themselves in ways that are as equally as beneficial than just our limited ways of seeing them.

4). Get mad. It’s preferable than being passive-aggressive. Or shutdown. Or a constant whiner or complainer. And that’s the only way you can break the surface to other feeling – namely gratitude, surrender, acceptance and love. All feeling is connected to all other feeling. So stop judging yourself for having feelings that you don’t seem to think other people have. If people are honest, moments make us angry. That’s okay. Go into it fully and look at why you get triggered. Because you have expectations? Because you’re trying to control things? Ultimately, by feeling authentic feeling, you will learn what it is the moment is trying to show you and you’ll stop shaming yourself for not having it all together. No one does.

5). Express your love in unexpected ways. It’s easy for us to love when it’s easy. It’s not hard to love our parents, for example. (Unless it is!) It’s easy to love our new girlfriend the first 5 months of meeting someone. The kind of love I’m talking about is the expression of self in unplanned, spontaneous, honest ways. Surprise yourself. You might reveal a part of yourself to a friend you’ve never dared to share. You might simply text someone you’ve intended to reach out to for months and just say, “I was thinking of you.” Love isn’t just the big sweeping gestures we’ve learned from watching movies. They’re little things. Saying “Hi” to a stranger. Looking someone in the eye. Paying the $1.00 parking fee for the car behind you in the parking garage at the exit gate. Being nice to a bank teller, rather than yelling at her because you had to wait for 10 minutes.

These are all simple acts. But done mindfully they can change your life in big ways.

The How to Use What Were All Seeking (to Your Advantage) In The Audition Room

I was at my dental hygienist the other day and she was telling me about her latest dating woes. As I looked up from my reclining chair into her eyes – somehow clear and glassy even through her gigantic safety goggles and SARS-like mask reaching well above her nose almost obscured them – I suddenly started to cry.

I realized in that moment, listening to her as she asked for help – even though the only help I could really provide was to be there for her fully and listen – was that we all are seeking the same thing. Especially at times when our hearts are conflicted. When we don’t get what we desire, or are struggling with a life issue.

We all want the same thing. To be heard. To be seen. To be acknowledged. To be received.

So then she started to cry. And I was thinking, “Oh, Lordy hold that drill steady sister, please! You’ve got sharp, pointy, metal things very near my mouth!”

Despite my dentistry worries, deep connection was created. All the more deep with a “stranger.” Where was it along our journeys that we were told it was only okay to connect with people whom we know? Our friends, family, lovers, parents?

Deep, meaningful connection is everywhere and all around us with all people if we but keep our hearts and ears open. Ironically, when we connect with people in inspired ways, we learn lessons and get information most unexpectedly. Sometimes, exactly the thing we most need to hear. The things she was telling me were the same things all of us struggle with. Fitting in, liking ourselves more, believing we deserve the desires of our hearts.

I was shocked because here in front of me was this funny, smart, beautiful human being who couldn’t see any of these things in herself and was punishing herself because she didn’t feel anyone could see them in her either.

So perhaps the thing we’re looking for through only one vehicle, wants to be created for us in many ways.

The insight here in terms of acting is the answer to a question I often get asked about casting situations. Actors are often (mistakenly) under the impression that casting directors aren’t happy to see them because they’re always in a rush or impatient and then the actor doesn’t know how to deal with the energy in the room.

Don’t get thrown. Yes, they may be busy. But it’s your audition. You are being called in. It’s your 3 minutes to show someone what you want to create.

So take the moment to breathe and actually connect with them. You take the moment. Establish contact. Drop in. Relax. Smile. It may happen very quickly, but looking someone in the eye and really establishing that you are there really changes the dynamic in the room. Just like in life. It may – or may not – be perceptible to them. That’s not the point. The point is that you’re about to engage in a moment-to-moment interaction with another human being so to create that space where you feel empowered because you’re actually there can make all the difference.

It’s actually the physics of all interactions. Business meetings, first dates, being on set, talking to an agent about yourself – connect with people at that level. Really get in there. Search for – and seek out – the connection.

Try to engage with people the way you would most want to be seen, heard and received.

What would happen when you did that? Nothing short of a miracle.


You’ve Got All The Goods Inside You. (Why are you looking for them somewhere else?)

Why are we obsessed with doing things perfectly or “right?”

Why do we believe there’s some magic formula to creating or acting or life itself?

As maverick filmmaker, John Cassavetes said, “It is all surprise and discovery and deep feeling. It is all vulnerability and creativity and mutability. It is all heart and hammering and purpose. It is a constant forge.”

Amen. That’s not perfection, that’s figuring it all out while doing it.

Maybe we’ve grown up with the need to have perfect answers for everything. We’ve been taught that if we can wrestle something to the ground and apply left-brain logic to the most perplexing of questions, we’ll feel safe or be in control. Even if the answers ultimately don’t provide long-term proof to that which we seek, or even maybe go deep enough, it’s as if, when we reduce things to their most basic, we feel satisfied.

And maybe that’s also our species’ propensity to not dig deeper. If someone says the world is flat, it must be so.

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes (pretty much everyday) when I think I “understand” life, I’m thrown a curveball that makes everything I thought I believed put into question.

And maybe that’s good. Maybe without those riddles and enigmas, mysteries and contradictions, life and its philosophies would become dogmatic. And that’s dangerous-to adhere to principles so rigidly that we have no flexibility for other interpretations, leads to a non-evolving life.

The thing about acting is that it follows these same vicissitudes of life because…well…acting is life.

So we have to allow it to live and breathe in these margins where the answers you’re looking for can’t be satisfied by pat, rote, one-plus-one-equals-two explanations.

I know this can be maddening because human beings like the answers for things now. We don’t understand process-or rather, we’d rather avoid process and just cut straight to the finish line and get the victory prize. We forget that the real victory is the process!

I was teaching in London recently and someone asked, “If I don’t use ‘sense memory’ in my work, where does that allow for catharsis in the actor’s process?”


At first I thought it was 1980 and I was being interviewed by James Lipton. I literally did a double take, partly because I didn’t understand the question and partly because the question itself started with a false premise. It’s all sense memory. Science has proven that we carry within us atomic bits of everything that have come before us in the universe. At a personal level we emotionally carry everything we need within us. It’s all autobiography. Our bodies have been imprinted with everything (pain, trauma, sadness, joy, love) and all these things are swirling about constantly-for every human being, not just actors. I don’t call it sense memory. I just call it who we are. It’s called being human.

Where is catharsis in the actor’s process?

Being alive is catharsis-waking up every day, facing your fears, having to go to work when you’d rather chuck it all and go on vacation, giving a homeless man a dollar, getting a divorce, taking a shower, going to the grocery store, saying hello to a stranger being rejected, planting a flower, taking a piss, moving to a new city, letting someone go, crying, laughing, smiling, shouting, breathing.

It’s all catharsis. We need to stop separating acting into some alien subset that adheres to different rules than life. It doesn’t.

And maybe with that realization right there we’ll breathe a little more easily into being OK without having perfect answers for things that are weirdly imperfect. And trusting that engaging in a process will reveal things to us in more profound ways we could have ever imagined (or reduced to one way of experiencing). Maybe then we’ll realize it’s all “surprise and discovery and deep feeling.” Indeed it is a constant forge.

Why Actors Must Keep Their Hearts Open

Just stay open to receive.

I can’t take someone else’s hand in my own if I continue to clench my fists.

It all sounds so easy. And at one level, it is. But we become so conditioned by the conversations of the mind that eventually, we become more shut down to life (and it’s possibilities) than we realize.

The challenge of staying open is that life is going to inherently throw us curveballs. It’s going to rain on our parade, piss on our party, and poop in our pants. The work isn’t about pretending that obstacles don’t exist or denying when something shitty (no pun intended) happens. What staying open means is that in the moment, you find a way to reinterpret the information in a way that doesn’t shut you down. You see that often, events are actually neutral, but we just label them as “bad” or unwanted because they go against our own personal agendas.

When our agenda isn’t fulfilled we get mad, and we blame everything and everyone.

That’s well on our way to experiencing system shut down.

Staying open simply asks us to do just that: stay open.

Don’t get down on yourself. Don’t get negative. Don’t let your knee-jerk reaction to things ruin an entire day.

A breath can keep you open. A smile, perspective, a new way of thinking about something that seems impenetrable.

The Tibetan Buddhist master Chgyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “We must continue to open in the face of tremendous opposition. No one is encouraging us to open and still we must peel away the layers of the heart.”

Look, if a Tibetan monk (whose country has been held hostage by the Chinese government for more than 60 years and is unable to be its own Sovereign State) can talk about the art of staying open in the face of tremendous violence and human rights violations and oppression, then you certainly can stay open when getting a parking ticket.

You can adjust when you don’t book the job and not let it define you.

You can smile when you’re stuck in traffic and not moving.

You can willfully keep your heart open when it’s easier to bitch or complain.

These aren’t hard concepts to grasp. But as Rinpoche says, there is tremendous opposition-not only from external sources, but from our inner self. Our own mind wants to shut us down. Our own thoughts want to close our heart. Our own habits want to tell us something is impossible. So we become imprisoned.

So stay open as if your life depended on it. Because in truth, it does.

3 Goddamn Great Realizations (!) About Love


It’s our natural state. It’s all around us. It permeates everything we do. It’s the greatest force driving our actions and creative lives. (Although fear can be a very powerful distraction!)

Think of love as a metaphor for our acting. Why we do it is very important to remember.

I think one of the goals in life is to become more aware of that great act and to create with it more consciously.

Love is service. It’s self-expression. It’s creation itself.

And it’s absolutely essential to let our work and our lives flow from this inexhaustible, rechargeable resource.

So here are 3 principals (about life and love and acting) that we want to apply on a daily basis.

Let go of control. You’ve heard it said many times before. It sounds so easy. That’s not just in life, but in our work. Let go. Controlling isn’t empowerment. It’s very scary to trust that the moment supports you. But without implicit trust into that moment, the magic can’t appear. It’s like a strange Buddhist Koan. What you want is right there in the moment of letting go but in order to experience it you have to trust that it’s all going to work out. But we don’t, so we hold on, thereby missing what it is that letting go would provide us.

In our work, no one wants to see controlled, premeditated performance – we are all in it to experience the free-fall of the spontaneity of the moment. I know it’s scary because it requires us to stop working out our agendas through all things, but try it. The results are so much more powerful when you let someone else take the wheel.

Get in the crazy. Love madly, truly, deeply. Create with abandon. Stop apologizing for yourself and the choices you make. Stop editing yourself before you’ve even had a chance to experience what can come out of going for things fully and committedly.

We respond to people who are alive. Not some dead representation of living. Not mimicry. Not trying to be someone else. Get in the crazy that is your own life. (And incidentally, you’ll never have to do a “substitution” again, because you’ll discover you have very, very rich raw material to choose from if you just follow the 1st point and let go of control to allow yourself to share it.)

Don’t get stuck on any one form of love. It comes in all forms. The capacity to have an open heart is all that’s needed to find love. To stay open when it’d be easier to shut down. When you’re rejected or fired or you can’t seem to book a job. It’s all part of the same process. A process isn’t just picking and choosing the stuff that is always great. The stuff that’s challenging and maddening is also part of the process – and I would say more important than the good stuff – as it forces us to either open up or give up.

Life is constantly trying to open us. Just let it do what it wants to do.

Remember all these qualities are inherent to being human. If it’s part of being human – it’s going to be part of your work. We don’t think about qualities like this because we’re so often taught to do things perfectly or according to someone’s reductive, textbook answer to an acting question. But in reality – exciting, dynamic work comes from a person letting loose and being brave enough to do it his or her way.

And that’s ultimately the greatest expression of Love right there.

Actors in the video (in order of appearance): Justin Loyal, Angelina Assereto, Jack Turner, Nina Rausch, Adan Rocha

How Listening Can Win You A Million Dollars

Listening is an act of discovery. It completely has the power to transform our lives. In our acting, it is the principle that can take us to unexpected places of feeling and experience that can shock us, surprise us, make us fall in love, and express things we never thought were inside us.

Listening’s power in the moment is what makes our experiences as actors so exhilarating and also, at times, scary.

And obviously the rest of the world is catching on to this inherent gift possessed by each of us (actors have just been aware of it for a long, long time). Our ability to listen and tell stories from that place is part of our DNA as human beings.

This year, the TED Prize, a $1 million award given to the TED Talk that most inspires people to bring about positive change, was awarded to a talk that celebrates the art of listening.

Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, which has evolved into the single largest collection of human voices ever recorded, has used the money to create an app to make it possible for people anywhere to digitally archive their interviews with another person contributing to the “collective wisdom of humanity.”

This is what the art of acting-and listening to story-throughout the ages was utilized for. The role of theater was to pass on stories to new generations to keep the knowledge and traditions of cultures alive in a community.

Storytelling was-and still is-living theater.

The simple act of listening to what someone is telling us is the most profound tool to carry on a memory of that person. Before technology, that is the only way people would honor the stories of those who came before them.

We don’t think of listening as a gift, but we all have the capacity to listen in a way to take someone in, being with them in an intimate and empowering capacity.

They are not only heard, but listening also makes them seen.

So the benefits of listening are infinite. To the person who feels they have no voice, being taken in and received through listening creates a space for them to feel and share. For the person who’s doing the listening, that act of reciprocity awakens us to new ideas, aha moments, inspiration, and connection.

So this listening thing is a win-win for everyone who participates.

So finally and completely, let listening open you-let it bust you open. Let it expand your heart to places you didn’t think were possible. Stop protecting yourself. Life isn’t about self-preservation. It’s about sharing and learning how to love, especially while we’re here and still can. Listening will do that for you, but you have to be willing to open not just the auditory segment, but the heart and mind as well.

As Isay says, “Listening creates grace and respect and beauty and appreciation. It is poetry.”

Listening makes each of us a poet, lover, artist, creator, avatar. Which is who we are anyway-but listening sure helps us to remember.

#SorryNotSorry: The Art of Learning How to Stop Apologizing for Your Existence

Stop apologizing.

When you’re at a restaurant and ask the waiter for more water, “Sorry, can I have some more please?” Or you lean in at the Starbucks condiment counter grabbing a packet of sugar, “So sorry, just want to grab this!” Or passing someone on the street and you accidentally bump them, “So sorry!”

We excuse ourselves for simply being.

We apologize for our existence.

We feel badly for asking for that which we deserve.

Stop apologizing when you go into an audition and you make a “mistake.” Stop saying sorry for showing up and doing your best and then apologizing when your best doesn’t seem to measure up with the idea you have of that in your mind. Stop excusing yourself for kicking ass (!) but then feeling it was “incorrect” or “not what they wanted” or “too much” or you feel shame for simply being vulnerable.

The hilarious comedienne Amy Schumer has a sketch (watch here) on her show that demonstrates the cultural tendency for women (especially) to excuse themselves and apologize for their brilliance, intelligence and power. It speaks to our conditioned “politeness” and tendency to shrink ourselves when other people feel uncomfortable in the presence of our greatness. (And even though women may do it more often than men, guys do it as well, in more subtle, self-effacing ways.)

Listen. If you step on someone’s foot, say you’re sorry. If you hurt someone and need to apologize do so.

What we’re discussing here is how we use the word “sorry” as an implicit statement to the universe that diminishes our power. It cancels out our presence and suggests that there is a mistake in you simply being here.

You are not a mistake.

Watch how often you do this in life. Start using the words, “Pardon me,” or “Excuse me,” instead of sorry.

You have nothing to be sorry about. For being human. For being you. For being powerful and funny and weird. For allowing yourself to be vulnerable. For sharing yourself in a way that might make other people feel uncomfortable. That’s their problem. It’s not yours. And certainly something you shouldn’t ever feel sorry for.

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