I Might Just Take Over The World

To take over the world, or whatever else you feel needs doing, you don’t need to be all that smart. So says Unconventional Man, Chris Guillebeau in his new book, The Art of Non-Conformity,


(No perpiration, can pass that one.)

What you  need to be is determined, says Chris.

(Okay there, too. Can be surpassed on chasing my new life only by Wynnie chasing a mouse!)

Why you gotta be determined, even immovable about this: “we live in a conventional world and doing what you want can be surprisingly difficult “. In short, “you had better be prepared to work for the life you want to create while making the world a better place at the same time”.

(Work, assumed. Better world– happy to do my small part.)

I first heard of this amazing young man, influenced by 9/11 to strongly consider the life he wants to lead on terms personally meaningful to him,  through the online newsletter of Barbara Winter,  author of Making a Living Without a Job.

She was running on ideas for small businesses you could start up for less than $100, and I saw an idea from Chris. Jumping on it, I wrote to him. He promptly wrote back, which made me like him right off.

His idea was buying and selling things online, through eBay, for example. I have since learned that’s how he started working for himself, originally selling off things in his apartment, then realizing he was making an hourly wage greater than his $7/hour job. I asked how to learn,  and he referred me to respected internet marketer Jim Cockrum.

That was close to two years ago.  I took his advice and got on Jim Cockrum’s mailing list and membership site. And I continued to follow Chris’s own newsletter and website–www.chrisguillebeau.com

For someone who has worked at too many conventional jobs around too many conventional people,  it makes me literally jump for joy to come across someone with the message: What excites you? What bothers you about the world? What can you do about that? Instead of settling in to pay for a mortgage and two-car garage while he works up to middle and top management, then to put his (future) kids through college, this expert in changing the way we see life hits the road. His goal is to see every country there is, as well as encourage as many of us like-minded folks as he can from lessons he has learned.

So it was amazing to actually meet up with Chris in person last week, as he passed through Nova Scotia on his “unconventional book tour”. When his publisher told him  “we don’t do book tours”,  he decided that attitude didn’t work and created his own.

His central message is “be one of the monkeys who actually grabs the bananas” as opposed to all the ones who don’t even try. In person he is exactly like he sounds online.

My graduate student friend, Catherine, alerted me from the west coast over Christmas about the Halifax stop.

Catherine graciously posing for new camera







She caught me here quizzing Chris on something profound (the pronunciation of his last name, which he says is “Gwill-a-bo”).

Hannah meets Chris Guillebeau







I now feel much more informed on world domination, and think I will add it to my to-do list for this year. It’s for sure that it’s within my capacity.

(Thankfully the year is still young.)

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What do you really, really want to change?

Whatever that is, it’s what marketing coach Suzanne Evans (www.helpmorepeople.com) calls your “movement”.

You can also figure out your movement by asking who the people you want to help are. Once you know that, you know enough to start something, working for yourself.

Not hard for me to answer. Knowing that a day, a month, a year, a decade–once gone–is gone forever, I would have people understand that they need to work at what matters most to them. I get more satisfaction helping other people shine by learning who they were meant to be and how to take action on it, than I do in making myself shine.

In the summer of ’10, I got a lesson about fellow workers who might like to know how to work at something that matters to them personally. And some who didn’t.

I needed cash, and showed up for this valley’s fruit and berry harvest, along with hundreds of other local and not-so-local people.

None of us had the status or benefits of employees. We were casual laborers. We either “took” conditions (read “egos”) as we found them or “left” them. Showing up implied we “took”.

The only attraction was getting paid. There is nothing fun about laboring under scorching sun or getting bitten and stung.

It wasn’t hard to do the math–the longer and faster you worked, the more you got paid.

Nine-year-olds got it. Entirely money.

You could not count on any particular daily wage, though. A blueberry picker has no control over how many berries there are, how spaced out they are (huge clusters of fully ripe berries are a picker’s dream and it seldom happens that way) or what overnight weather does to picking time.

Whether the berries are “good” or “bad”, as the workers say, you have to put in as much time as it takes to get your flat picked. How many flats you pick is up to you, but most people want to earn as much as possible.

You pick a flat, receive a ticket from a supervisor on the back of a truck, and cash it in at the pay office on your way out.

From the perspective of the field owners, they are going to get a flat picked by you, however long it takes, and they are going to pay exactly the same for a flat that takes two or even three hours to pick, as for a flat that takes an hour or less. They are going to make the same profit from a flat, but you are going to pay for it with longer hours of work. The owners know full well they can count on people showing up summer after summer, eventually coming back with their children and grand-children.

They don’t have to advertise.

They don’t even bother competing with the higher pay at a smaller operation,  knowing it doesn’t have enough berries to steal their workers away.  (The smaller farm enjoys many a private chuckle about the bigger, yet the reality is they load their berries on the back of the bigger farm’s trucks when it comes time to  head to market.)

The larger farm pays $5.50 a flat. That doesn’t change from year to year.  Pickers groan sometimes that they’re actually making $2.25 an hour or less and then counter that complaint with the local attitude that it’s $2.25 they otherwise wouldn’t have. Those who come to pick know the pay works out well below minimum wage, but they show up anyway.

Some pickers have jobs, some are retired, some unemployed. This last category is literally picking for what they can earn to buy supper that night. I fell in that category last summer, picking up supper on the way home.

One loud-mouth who showed up daily, used anyone in earshot as his “stage”. His theme, “my wife–she doesn’t understand me, she’s trying to break us up,” broadcast out over the rows, was a popular form of entertainment among a certain crowd.

“I gotta get me some candy! I’m talking about C-A-N-D-Y!” he would sing out. “I don’t K-N-O-O-O-W what YOU guys are talking about! You guys are perverts!” (Guffaws from his supporters, both genders, who seemed to have little conversation of their own.)

One of them, a woman who said she was a member of a local evangelical church and a federal employee, declared she wouldn’t miss a day in the fields because neither her job nor home-life compared to the fun of being around **Tommy (**not his real name) and his gang.

One retired male picking near me called out, “Hey, Tommy! I’m on a chocolate diet now! The only thing I can eat is chocolate!” Most people understood he was a white man married to a dark-skinned woman, and if they didn’t already know it, they were informed by the senior himself.

It didn’t bother him a ten-year-old picking by himself, the next row over, was close enough get every word.

Tommy would answer back, and on it went–stimulus and response. According to Tommy, people compared him to a horse in a certain activity. Snorts, giggles. Tommy was the Man!

When I protested by yelling back, “Excuse me, there are children present,” Tommy began calling from row to row, certain people would co-operate by getting my name for him.

I squelched it with an immediate “none of his business”.

I took my protests to my immediate supervisor. She sounded shocked and said she would take it to the field manager.

Instead she went on vacation.

After several weeks of Tommy and his single theme, I took my own objections to the field manager. He had been there the whole time. Either he had his ear buds in all the time or he heard what went on.

I guess I was thinking he would be ashamed and apologetic that such language dominated a workplace he was responsible for, especially considering there were children working. That he had been merely distracted, up till now, and would speak to Tommy. The tone of conversation would be cleaned up, and maybe–hope, hope–Tommy would be sent packing.

Sometimes I can be so naive.

“This field is like a court of law, ” he snarled, pointing a finger at my chest. “What you’re saying is hearsay. I was here and I say it never happened.” With that, he ordered me to leave the field and not return.

A man who travels from several provinces over to pick in Nova Scotia’s blueberry harvest saw me leaving and asked what happened. I told him I had been “fired” (if you can be fired as a non-employee) for speaking up about Tommy and his gang.

“I know. Those guys should have their mouths washed out with soap,” he fumed.

I said if he spoke up, it would be a second voice, and then maybe others would speak up. And just maybe the field manager would be outnumbered and think better of comparing a berry field to a court of law. If enough pickers said “we’re mad as anything and not taking it anymore,” maybe the owners would find the field manager not the right person to supervise their harvest after all.

He said, “I’m sorry,” put his head down, and went back to work.

I, too, am sorry.

Sorry that good people are so beaten down that they allow themselves to get caught up in improving someone else’s bottom line for low wages and bad conditions. They could be having the richly rewarding experience of figuring out how to help other people based on what matters to them. Of getting paid for it, probably much better than berry wages.

Whatever makes their heart sing is what they should be doing. What makes them jump out of bed in the morning, eager to find out what the new day will bring.

Seems to me years of being conditioned to “get a job” and “put up or shut up” in order to keep it have left many dulled to the possibilities. Left them forgetting that before 1900 and the machine age, virtually everybody worked for themselves. It’s not a crazy new idea.

At the very least, it has a lot more to recommend it than being told reality is whatever a field manager says it is and having your pay depend on it.

The good news, says the marketing coach I was referring to–Suzanne Evans–anybody, (even field managers) can break the work-for-someone-else habit, though, simply by identifying what’s important to them. So also says Barbara Winter, author of Making A Living Without a Job (www.barbarawinter.com) And Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was (www.barbarasher.com). And caring passionate people who will coach you on that, like Bonnie Pond, the Relaunch-Your-Life Coach (www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com).

Your starting point might be some tough times you have lived through. If so, people will be helped and inspired by how you’ve already worked through it with tips to share. Your difficult story sets your clients free to work on their tough situation.

For the most part, except in certain fields like brain surgery, people do not so much care about whether or not you are a certified “expert”as that they can know, like, and trust you to help them through their situation, says Suzanne.

Or perhaps you have acquired a lot of information in a certain area, like a hobby or travel you are extremely passionate about. There are people who want that information. Their lives are busy, and they are happy to pay you for your expertise.

This is not called the information age for nothing. People need what you’ve got, and will pay you for it. Your”job” is to quit feeding someone else’s bottom line and start feeding your own with what you think about all the time and would rather be doing.

If picking berries doesn’t do it, figure out what does. Think about what excites you. Watch the level of involvement in your own life story rise as you set about making your contribution to the world from that.

My guess is that Tommy and people like him are really also searching for what makes their hearts sing. He might be settling for the pleasure of being center stage with a few who are easily impressed, when he ought to upgrade his entertainment skills to performing on a real stage. He might have to work at it, but he might enjoy the new identity more than that of sexually mature loudmouth berry picker working for teensy tiny wages.

When you make your decisions based solely on how much money you can get by working for someone else, you are removing your uniqueness from the equation.

“Surely one of the tragedies of our time is that a highly industrialized and urbanized society has robbed millions of deep vocational satisfaction…When we mistakenly put the cart before the horse and pick our jobs primarily for the material rewards, something devastating happens. Some shining quality goes out of work. Then we wonder why life holds so little excitement and why the things that we buy give us limited satisfaction,” writes Catherine Marshall (Moments That Matter: Inspirational Thoughts For Each Day of the Year).

Just trying to blend in with the others who think life is about being earners so they can be consumers isn’t a goal to challenge, inspire, or encourage personal growth. It is merely trading away valuable life’s hours for dollars. It becomes a vicious cycle. Work-eat-sleep-get paid-work (eat-sleep-get-paid). Isn’t life more precious than that?

Easy for you to say, Hannah, you may be thinking.

Not really. I scare myself regularly with my ambitions. I have as many fears and anxieties as the next person.

Then of course there’s Bonnie, to nag, inspire, and otherwise hold me to them. She browbeat me into doing this blog. Okay, strongly suggested! 🙂 She’s my accountability.

I put in plenty of time on bad work, is all, well before the berry experience. And I am willing to do something about changing that possibility for others, scared and all.

Yes, I lost pay the day I walked out of the field. All I know is, it would cost me far more to do nothing about the things I care about than it would to see what I can change and whom I can help.

I can speak up about “good work” and how to create it, joining my voice with those working to inspire people to want more, need more, expect more. To not settle.

As I see it, Suzanne, my movement is finding people who could be encouraged to create a better way of life, who really would like to know how. People who want to spend their time making a life, not merely a living.

Those people would not be interested in trying to squeeze themselves into someone else’s mold for a pay check, once they knew how to replace it with something more unique and inspired. Something entirely of them.

And I am reminded of what Jim Cockrum keeps saying, which is, “people with skills work for people with ideas”. If you’re an out-of-work computer programmer, it would be better to be the guy or the gal with ideas other people implement. I think our society struggles with knowing that each of us is important because we are so accustomed to being a cog in someone else’s wheel. And advertising works hard to keep us all the same person so it will be easier to sell us consumer goods.

We really have to work at being hard to convince, not blending in, not going along, not accepting bad situations that could be changed. It means knowing what we believe and having the courage of our convictions. It means not being shaped by the agendas of loud-mouthed workers, corporations, bosses, and maybe even politicians. It means finding out who we are and knowing that’s far more important then feeding someone else’s bottom line.

Now that the internet has exploded, making it possible to have customers or clients all over the world, the time is ripe for the people with the ideas. You’ve seen the news photos–highly-skilled people willing to work for food. Be the ideas person, you eat more regularly.

Won’t be long, berry pickers will figure it out, too. Their goodwill towards field supervisors who make up their own reality will evaporate. Skinflint farm owners will to have to look far and wide for workers so desperate as to accept their bad work and poverty wages.

People want to engage in activities that provoke, challenge, engage, and inspire. They want to make a difference with their time in this world. They dream about it, thrill to a movie that represents it, talk about it over a meal out with friends, and they are going to start settling for nothing less.

There is too much helpful information around, too many passions- into-profits coaches for people not to find out how.

It’s easy to get informed. Everybody knows, you type your question into Google’s search box and see what comes up.

What’s YOUR movement? Just know that the world is waiting.

Get a team for support and accountability.

If you’re looking for a coach, an excellent place to start is www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com. That’s Bonnie! I know she cares that you get going on your best life for 2011 and has some tools to help you get there!

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It’s Only A Mountain If It Makes You Upgrade to Possible, Can Do!

Wynnie and I finally arrived in our house-sitting job seven days ago. It is achingly beautiful here in the mountain stillness. Lots of tall trees wearing white winter smocks. I look out over the same valley I have struggled in, the past six years,  slowly gaining new perspective. New environments should give us new perspective.

Early in the day I saw this great posting in Dr. Mercola’s free medical newsletter about the difference exercising before breakfast makes. Also drinking water when you do.

So I enjoyed my pre-meal stretches and kicks a little more knowing the time of day held a certain significance. As for the water, it’s all I drink (except evenings when the wood stove is crackling and I remember the Baileys Irish Cream in the cupboard and the chocolate syrup in the fridge. I wonder if that’s how the nurse and her artist-husband who normally live here take it, too? I guess I’d better re-stock before they come back and assume I had nothing better to do than invade their liquor cupboard.)

Back to exercising: it occurred to me if I were attending some type of transformational boot camp, I might be urged to stretch the mind, too, while stretching muscles, before getting bogged down with the day’s duties. Accordingly I kicked, bent, and flung my arms around picturing my proposed LOOK GOOD FEEL GOOD campaign for a fitter, healthier me. I also figured I needed to move faster on learning to use the new digital camera I got last week so I can post images online. (I had been wanting a camera for thirty years. Rent always got in the way.)

As I stood in front of the wide wash basin upstairs in this lovely mountain cottage this morning,  it was a visual reminder that I have to widen my mind to let in new ideas. If I don’t, I will get locked into living the same life I did last year. The fear and anxiety that hung around here yesterday didn’t get any place to lodge this morning. It’s going to take disciplined practice.

Lacing on sturdy boots belonging to the nurse, which she said to use, I clomped up the icy drive behind their energetic hound. You could say the boots were too big or you could say it was just another reminder to expand my thinking. To let new images and possibilities flow.

To be intentionally expansive and large right now. Not to close down exciting possibilities from entering the mind, first as pictures, then figuring out actual action steps.  I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with workshop participants in the future if I weren’t working through it, now.

Overcoming what overcame you is serious business for serious people, but what dividends it’s going to pay!

We are on the way to new expressions of ourselves–you and I. We are carving out new trails for exciting adventures. We are not scratching in the dirt. And definitely not looking back! Onward! Place make room in your mind for earning really good money from your new goals. Not everything you do has to make money, some things you just do for fun. But operate with the assumption there is a way to help other people using your passions and get paid.

My feelings of anxiety and fear yesterday were based on the limitations that have hemmed me in for so long. They have come to FEEL like reality, but they’re imposters. A person really has to  guard what they allow in their mind.

Many people refer to negative situations as “reality”. When there’s good weather, they say  “we’ll pay for this'” as though bad weather is reality and they can’t enjoy the moment so they’re going to bring on that which nobody loves by talking about it.

Living intentionally is not allowing oneself to fall into easy, patterned living. If an activity doesn’t fit with where you’re headed, you really can’t afford to spend time, energy or money on it, no matter how weird it feels to stop it. It will eventually feel normal to be freed up to getting on with a great life designed by you in which you are fully functioning, fully present. You’re just not used to getting what you’d like to have, yet. It feels unattainable, unrealistic.

I’m focusing on moving  towards what attracts me, not being pushed by what has driven me.

Even though I haven’t grown comfortably into the identity of a successful internet marketer in seven days, or conference center owner or workshop facilitator, I know it is like any other achievement. You do it one day at a time. Tomorrow, it will be one step closer because of today. I’m starting to see mental pictures of me in those roles, though. Once you have mental images,you know, you’re halfway there. Got yours? Make it vivid!

We have all finished schooling one day at a time. We have all learned new jobs where we assumed new identities. We have not stopped being able to create a new path for ourselves…the memory of those other achievements will help this one.

We just need to apply the appropriate action to the goal we’re moving towards.  No getting off to go do some easier activity. I am learning that even though hopeless and helpless feelings aren’t going away overnight,  I can combat them by immediately defining my purpose for that moment, and adjusting, if off course.

“I am exercising to look better, feel better.”I get out of my need to have a neat room when my greater need is to tone and trim my body.

“I am blogging to let people know they too can move out of exasperating and challenging circumstances, that we are not defined by present circumstances.”I do not have to check the latest personal message in my inbox when there are people who need to hear from me as I steer myself out of difficult circumstances into the life I would love to live.

“I am studying downloaded marketing materials to be able to set up my own online businesses, and bring in the income that affords me what I need plus more, to give.” The animals are fine, fed and exercised. They should know by now I love them. I don’t have to spend time worrying about them. They’ll let me know when they need something.

It’s interesting to find that the feelings change as I positively get down to work on the activity of the moment. Positive feelings seem to depend on purpose, which I imagine is good news to sufferers from certain types of anxiety.

Beyond expanding my mind, today’s other lesson is one that I’ve been a student of a long time. Where I am limited, I am connected to a limitless God whose supply of creative ideas and resources is limited only by my willingness to open my hand and receive them.

For a long time now, I’ve been praying the famous verse in the Old Testament book of Hosea, about turning “the valley of trouble into a door of hope”. Here I am, now, literally living on a mountain for a couple of months. No longer in the valley. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

How great is that for watching for the door of hope?

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We Don’t Know Who We Are Until We See What We Can Do

“Another *@#&!*  day–you know how it goes!”

The bus  paused in front of a local grocery store to take on a passenger,  last night. I was startled out of my own thoughts because I knew the voice! ANYBODY who has passed through this person’s grocery checkout would know it. It is thrillingly deep and resonant,  authoritative.

Four years ago, while ringing through my cleaning products, the owner of that voice and I had a discussion across the conveyor belt about how it could bring him both satisfaction and money.

“What would I do?” he had asked at the time.

With THAT voice–was he KIDDING?

Well, off the top of my head–without giving up the security of his pay check,  he could fool around at home with a little digital recorder, to get a sense of what strikes him as a way he enjoys using his voice. He could record commercials he hears, or any other stuff on radio or TV that kind of grabs him. In the beginning, mimic. Then branch out and do his own thing.

If he wants to go with the kind of recorded announcement he hears everyday at work, he might simply try writing and recording a commercial about that day’s food specials for the public address system. The grocery store might see him in a different capacity–one that’s more personal and interesting to him. Not everyone can do what he’s already equipped to do.

Or if he has an imagination, he might create a dialogue between  a little girl and her grandfather,  towing their buggy through Deli,  Frozen Food, Produce, and Bakery. Maybe they would be discussing the ingredients of a scrump-delicious  meal they will make as a surprise for a special person.  He could do both voices. It could be humorous or heart-warming, depending on the style he adopted. Maybe it would be accepted by management, and played on a really busy night. If it went over well, maybe it they would invite him to have a regular spot that shoppers would come to recognize and look for. He could end his short piece with a signature line like , “the way I see it, anyway!”.

Another way of exploring to discover: maybe he is into talking about his favorite sports. There ought to be a way to make a sports-related comment and get it played somewhere  people will hear it…see where that leads.

In the beginning, it would be about finding out who he is, what he likes to do, and what other people like to get from him. Worrying about paying customers is a different step and he should not to be putting the cart before the horse. We are talking about the initial exploration stage, here.

Another possibility would be testing his wings as an apprentice emcee for concerts, plays, or fundraisers. The first few would be freebies, to gain experience and see what’s great and what’s merely good about it.

What about deejay stints in pool halls or other places where people congregate to relax? If he could attract larger numbers of paying customers, the establishment owner would probably  be more than happy to pay him a percentage. He might also like to volunteer on internet radio programs. And he could do his own free talking blog at blogtalkradio.com for experience and recognition.

If he enjoyed using this wonderful  gift of his to the max, he might decide to develop it by training as a voice-over actor, or traffic reporter, or airport flight announcer through any number of websites. There is a great introductory training video, for example, at  www.suchavoice.com.

If he then decided to invest in training, (that is, using his present job to pay for his passion instead of being mad about the time he spends at it), he would be taught how to “woodshed” a script for a commercial or a documentary and  “bring it in” within a set time. And to be himself, not adopt a phony sound to be like  someone else.

Most of us have to work hard to build on foundational gifts to the point where they enhance other people’s lives and bring us income. He probably has voice learning to do, too, but he certainly isn’t going to have to learn the basics about how to make the voice resonant, the way voice students work at it. He’s got that, already.

We live in wonderful days where new ides about work center on working from who we are. Many of us have become so used to conforming  to an organization’s expectations that we define ourselves by our job. I’m a night-clerk, we say. A farmer, a hair stylist. A bus-driver. A used car sales person. To stop and figure out who we really are, though–not simply what we have been doing to pay the bills– is one of the most challenging and rewarding things a person will ever do.

This guy also needs to unlearn the notion that the only way to have an income is to improve someone else’s bottom line doing something he’s not particularly interested in.

Most of us know instinctively there are better choices than sticking with something you dislike. The world does NOT need one more bored and irritated person leaving their place of work at the end of the shift. (Thank you for allowing me that rant!)

The trick is to move from saying “it would be nice, but”–to making a call, writing something down, finding out if anyone is already doing what you’re dreaming of.  Then just try it out, the best you can approximate it for the moment, all alone in your room. No one to see or hear or comment but you.

Think out how you might look, move or sound in the circumstances you’re dreaming about. As a teenager, Bill Gaither used to practice “announcing” the gospel groups he heard on the radio while doing chores. Decades later, he’s still announcing singers on his TV Homecoming series, along with writing the music they (and he) perform.

Small modest achievements on a regular basis can be all any of us needs to start down exciting new paths. I really like the “small” part of “small steps”–it doesn’t put a lot of stress on me to be more than I can in any one day. I don’t have to do hugely great things today. I do, however, have to take my small step for that day.

New stuff takes us out of our comfort zone. It can feel like we suddenly need to go clean something–but we’re going for EXCITING, not easy! (Clean around the edges, maybe, but don’t get caught up in it as a way of life.)

As to the success of regular daily steps, I remember the surprise and awe of a Biggest Loser (TV ) participant who concluded, “I learned I could do almost anything. I just had to show up and put in the time!”. Achieving weight loss and better health turned out to be a means, not an end.

Nobody has to see your first attempts, while you are figuring out something you might be passionate about. Just give it your best shot every day. In seven days you will have learned something and gained new skills and ideas.

It is entirely possible for our thinking to get closed down by routines we have set for ourselves when we don’t examine our purpose on a daily basis. Things that once were right for us can end up draining the life right out of us. Why continue to cling to routines if they no longer work? Whom do they serve? Change is a natural progression in life, or you and I would remain a babies until we’re 90, and there would be only one season.

I am so hoping the owner of the stadium-style voice does not allow ANOTHER four years to pass before he takes action! There are people who will be missing out, including me, if he does. I don’t believe he was born to be merely a consumer and bill-payer.

That guy needs to see his ability to use his voice as one of the unique tools at his disposal that can take him where he wants to go. He may have lots more.

Right now, you and I have a fresh year to begin what we want to begin– another opportunity to choose differently. Our circumstances may be challenging–I figure they are or you wouldn’t be reading a blog called “Up From Here”. Personally, I am not starting with any resources at all beyond what I learned in 2010, soaking up other people’s books, blogs, and websites.

Please don’t you allow yourself to drift into mediocrity. Get cracking, get connected, get in the dialogue, start something meaningful.

If you don’t already, adopt the creative habit of testing your ideas in the middle of wherever you are, doing whatever  has meaning for you, in whatever way you can, if only for five minutes. If all you can manage for today is to write it down and start investigating it on the internet, DO IT!. Want to! Want to so much you can’t help but take a tiny step today.

Figure out what has to go to make room for that much of a change. Get a fire going in your mind and belly! You have no need to reinforce the old you by doing the same things you did yesterday, last year,  five–even fifteen years ago–unless they are unchanging in their capacity to grow you and fulfill.

And, if you can get to a library, I urge you to check out the book Make The Impossible Possible, by Bill Strickland. Find out what it took to transform him from a lackluster student in a poor black community to one of the most inspiring people around today.

He lives his message so that people like you and me will choose to go UP FROM HERE! No matter WHAT!

“The world is really good at making us do what it wants us to do,” says  follow-your-passions coach and author, Barbara Sher. “But it is lousy at making us do what we want to do.”

We will be taking those first scary steps with what motivators call “high intention/low attachment  to the outcome”. You go at it with all of what’s in you, but kind of watching yourself from a distance, in an amused way. Nobody has to be great at something the first time they try it. In fact, we need a sense of humor about failing as many times as it takes to succeed.

We all need support from the kind of people who know what it is to dream something up and go after it, despite the struggles. In my case, I have Bonnie, who slave-drives me into the steps that terrify me. Mind you, she was slave-driven herself by her marketing coach this past year.

Want to know what she’s like? Check out the Relaunch Your Life coaching site at www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com Or listen to  her internet radio program at (www.blogtalkradio.com/relaunchyourlife).

We know no one is coming to our door with a TV camera to ask if we’ve started yet. In fact, you and I will run into uninformed “experts” who make it their business to tell us why we can’t do something. Suggest they read Bill Strickland, and move on. There are plenty of people who are in this world to help and inspire.

We need accountability partners or like-minded success teams, but we do owe it to ourselves and the world to get up and get going! As for me, I LOVE that I am not a finished work yet. And I am really excited to find out all the Rest Of Me I don’t know about yet!

Isn’t this liberating and provocative at the same time:  all new ventures begin with a picture in the mind? It doesn’t say “all new ventures begin with many possessions and a big bank account”–now, does it? Because I wouldn’t qualify! The playing field is level for any of us. I like that, since I haven’t got much in this world.

New ventures for January? Don’t tell anyone…I have this image of a gorgeous new me–feeling great, toned, colors that enhance, great hair!

The LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD campaign is about to begin!

Look out, grocery store clerk.

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A Little Light AT The End Of The Tunnel

In a previous post I talked about being suddenly without a roof over my head, and setting off in darkness for the farm of a friend, cat in jacket, traveling “by thumb”.

I was thrilled at how quickly a ride opened up for us, even though weary from cleaning and three months of trying to get a place to live. Mostly worn down from the identity of being “homeless”, which also felt like “helpless”.

Since our stay at the farm, our temporary “roof” has also included that of a senior who was trading free (but not “private”, as in separate entrance and locking door) housing in his basement apartment for a nighttime presence. As it was described to me, it was about being there in the event of an emergency. A couple of sessions of being present while he wheeled his walker out to the kitchen at four in the morning for reasons only he could understand left me uninspired about this as a way of life.

But I could think of no way to leave and still have a roof over my head. It seemed there was nothing to do but to hang in with the commitment until the end of December.

At the same time, my  feline was digging up the worst behavior in his repertoire. Certainly there were chemicals from new carpeting and paint present in the basement apartment, maybe some mold, too. One time I sat up most of the night, struggling to breathe. I was nauseated, headachy, and depressed the whole time we were there. Wynnie, of course, was much closer to the floor than I. Was he affected, too?

Then, during our pre-breakfast walk one morning, he was attacked by another cat. I stood by trying to break up the fight with a water spritzer. When I moved in to nab him he was still fighting mad and unable to distinguish my hand from the other cat. I should have thought that through.

Covering the injured hand, I did my watching back inside, while the old gentleman pushed his urine out to the kitchen, his way of proving he “was not dead”. (I didn’t know that was in question.) Back to my private space, I  washed and dressed,  trying to keep  from fainting until I could get to expert help at the medical clinic.

Fortunately, I was able to use the bandaged hand to hit at the right side of the keyboard that afternoon, and accomplished some writing in an odd sort of way. I am really grateful that both of us–human and cat– healed without infection. I had refused the tetanus shot and antibiotics, so had to listen to a well-meant lecture. As you may guess, I do not have hundreds of dollars to pay a vet for clearing up an animal infection. For myself, I really value the use of both hands to type, clean, and play the piano.

And then, things got better! There was a bachelor pad available right next door. And—it had been there all along, had I only known it. When I was writing the check, the owner even told me she had seen my note in the church bulletin, the previous month, asking if anyone had temporary housing. She had assumed anyone wanting a place for only two months would want it furnished, so had not spoken up about her unfurnished apartment.

We were so grateful to have our own space that the lack of furniture didn’t register. We shared a futon mattress on the floor, which was also a great place to read. I’d say it took about two hours to get back to being ourselves, human and cat.

And, I am joyfully anticipating the 29th of December, when we will be going to a little mountain home I love, belonging to a couple who will be traveling. It has a separate artist’s studio and sauna. There is a gorgeous view of the valley, which is also a south exposure. It shows up in many of the artist’s paintings. I am looking forward to many a sunny afternoon, reading, working, and enjoying their dog and my cat in wintry isolation.

I will be working my darndest to apply internet marketing principles I have been following online. Then of course, I’ll be reviewing my plans for career change coaching.

One of the great challenges will be to make room in my mind for replacing things this year took away—computer, phone, car, housing. A person can only go as far as their mind will take them. I don’t want to limit the supply of any good thing with a poverty mentality.

A crisis can lock a person in place. But, with even the smallest let-up, I intend to be moving forward with fresh ideas, and insights gained from the crisis.


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I’m Not Going To Be Here Forever

I had been planning on saying something like “trouble in my life, yes, but not standing still” in this post. I would have talked about the future I’m taking steps toward, often steps so small they slip by my own radar, but hopefully adding up to forward movement. (Like: advertising and getting house-sitting assignments for this coming winter without the use of a phone, car, or advertising money, when I had had enough of apartment life. Joining the membership site of a well-known and credible internet marketer, fits in there, too. I did that to learn how to have an internet income no matter what passions I am following at the time. I made the first payment with the sale of my old car to the salvage dealer.)

But two things remind me today that, although moving forward is extremely important in life, and a natural human desire–so is the need to make my days count for something.

One is a dear person who sometimes comes along when I am writing or doing a search on public computers. She tells me her time left is limited to a couple of months. I am wanting wisdom in this, as I discuss beliefs on this life and the next with someone of a different understanding. To be wise, patient, loving, and have both ears open. To treat as I would be treated.

The other is yesterday’s newsletter from Chris Guillebeau, who is normally focused on the Art of Non Conformity (http://chrisguillebeau.com). His letter talks about the “need to live deliberately, instead of just passively filling the days”, and about “living in the present”. He brings up something that has occupied my own thinking this year, throughout the loss and hardship: figuring out what really matters  before some crisis forces you to.

In order to do live intentionally, it seems to me, I have be settled about what meaning my earth life has, however short or long it may be, and where I am going when it’s over. We all know this life is temporary and relatively brief. I believe this life is about the next one, which is why our daily choices matter.

As I try to get a handle on it, it might be helpful for me to hear from other people on how they see my life. I guess I might not like some of what I hear, and maybe some of it would really surprise me. We often have little sense of the way we impact others.

Chris Guillebeau ends his newsletter with a quote that goes, “Tell me—what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Anyone reading my first blog will know I was impressed by the radio program which encouraged listeners to spend their life on something that will outlast it. So that is my personal answer, these days.

So as I make my tiny steps towards my dreams,  I also bear in mind I have no control over the length of my days, and that much in this world is unpredictable. My need is to live with purpose, to leave something that makes the world a better place.

Serious stuff.

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I’m Getting Out Of This No Matter What

My definition of “crisis” is: that experience in which we find out what we’re made of and what we believe.

I am not saying I look forward to them or want any more this year, just that I know they’re character-building.

If you’re facing loss this year—perhaps loss of income, health, housing, family members, animals who’ve been your best friends– you already know about the need to be grounded in something solid enough to get you through.

Often the very time you have to come to terms with a world that is not working for you, you have to be on your feet, moving– no time to stop and reflect on what you believe. You have to already know what you believe or develop it on the spot.

What step to take next? Will it do anything to resolve the situation?

I hate being scared in desperate moments, because it kind of wipes out all hope of figuring out what to do with calm rationality. If survival is taking up my life’s energy, I don’t want to be further drained by negative emotions. I am learning from this experience why we need to work on negative emotions before the emotions do us in more than the crisis itself.

When I see personal disaster heading toward me, I’m supposed to know better than worry. But I know I give in to this unhelpful state of mind at least some point in the day. I unburden myself to people I think will listen, and take every action step that seems reasonable. My praying shifts to intense mode but I think it should be there all the time. More work on this, too.

Worrying adds nothing and it sure takes away peace of mind. Those of us who say we rely on God whose power is the supreme reality have no business insulting the supreme reality by acting as though He is not up to the present situation.

So my story is–this year I lost comparatively minor material things like my computer, phone service, internet and cable connections.

Life goes on.

You shift to public computers. Maybe you get limited access, uncertain internet connection, microwaved food smells—the result of a volunteer supervisor who is always eating or talking about it. Maybe you compete for air in a small room in an old building where only two windows open and the same supervisor generally prefers them closed. Maybe the flu circulates often, (the supervisor coughs and sneezes and clears his throat a lot without covering mouth or nose) but you show up, wash your hands when you leave, and hold on.

There will be a time when a private computer will be available to work with, in peace, tranquility, and cleaner air, in the future. Work  towards it.

Then– more major things disappeared from my lif: my car, which wore out before I could replace it, and three weeks ago, my housing.

That kind of exhausted my “holding on” patience. A cloud formed over my head.

An unpredictable little crisis, the lack of housing stems from two factors: house-sitting commitments for the winter months, and a rental lease coming due two months too early to make everything work out neatly.

Even though I have used mental resources and spiritual beliefs to weather each thing, the housing situation wore me down during the three months I tried to find alternate housing. I could see the date approaching for which I had nowhere to live.

In the back of my mind, the real issue behind the frustration was  not yet  being able to afford property on which to build my dream house and conference center. I had thought, by this age, to have this dream up and running. It felt like failure. If I were smarter, faster, better, this wouldn’t be happening. I would be in my own little cabin, in a corner of that property, and no rental leases would budge me.

This dream, now ten years strong, drew me to this beautiful agricultural valley and its bordering mountains, in 2004. My dream was to purchase a huge property with plenty of breathing room, and finding designers who create wonderful natural structures from wood, stone and glass.

I had to overcome lifelong illness first. You get as healthy as you can if you want to really enjoy living your dreams.

So far, I have managed to retrain as a career coach who helps people follow their preferences and passions in creating work they love to do, (through Valerie Young at www.changingcourse.com). As well, a wonderful health book found me, the kind that which details how to turn around illnesses that traditional medicine has a hard time solving. My health and weight changed remarkably. That story is for another posting.

I am grateful to have achieved those things. It’s just that I expect to stay in “full steam ahead” mode  every day. I am learning about the value of daily small steps, though, in the process. They add up to forward movement, and are a good reason not to ever give in to inertia.

I should state here that I am the most fortunate of people to have a success team partner who also trained as a career change coach. She did a stellar job keeping me anchored and encouraged during this year’s challenges. Many times I printed out her perceptive messages to reflect on.

Back to the dream property. It would be on one of the mountains overlooking this valley in Nova Scotia, of course.

I envision the conference centrer as a geodesic dome of wood, stone, and glass—beautiful inside as well as out. Sustainable energy, certainly. I am influenced by Bill Strickland’s (Make The Impossible Possible) belief that beautiful settings are essential in inspiring people to learn how to create what they need in their lives. No less me.

Along with the conference dome, there would be a music hall (does two pianos sound too grand for this dream?) and dining hall with skylights and a south exposure. Well, better throw in a greenhouse, too. What a great place to work on a winter’s day, around plants, light, and sunshine!

On Saturday nights after the evening meal in the dining hall, we—workshop participants and friends, old and new– would push the tables back, and hop around to expert fiddling and banjo playing.

For sure there would be gardens, the edible kind and the restorative kind that are a delight to the senses and help you regain your equilibrium.

My own dwelling—that simple one-room log cabin–would be tucked up in a corner of the property, behind a stand of trees. A second small cabin nearby, complete with sauna and wood heat, would serve as guest house. I am not sure where I am housing those future workshop participants, yet. On the property? Nearby motel?

The dream, after ten years, is still intense. At times I can picture it completed, with workshop participants arriving from anywhere and everywhere in the world. I like to think they would be excited about gaining tools and techniques to create work that’s right for them and about connecting with each other. They might find a team partner as good as mine!

I can picture certain people I would like to visit at meal-times, enjoying yummy repasts in the dining hall. And I hear singing in the music hall—and maybe other places as well.

Many days the whole thing feels close and attainable, and so very right. As I write this, I sure am happy. I feel like I’m there.

Other days I cannot seem to effect any forward movement on things near to my heart, and imagined voices in my head are going, “how are you going to do that?” (These voices, like career-change coach and author Barbara Sher writes, almost always sound sarcastic and critical.) And there is no shortage of real voices, either, informing me how foolish my dreams are. Don’t want too much, because you don’t get what you want in this life. Settle.

As aggravating as things can get at times, I know I‘m not going to settle. I believe life was meant for living, not settling.

Back to the housing problem, which was about finding temporary accommodations for two months–almost everything rentable  is taken up by students just now.

I posted notices online, in the town, at the university, in church bulletins, and knocked on doors with my card. I was even hoping to find a retired person who owned their own home who might not mind having company for two months.

Despite trekking around country roads asking for information, my best efforts to find a temporary place to live came to nothing. Suddenly, on October 31, it was time to move.

There was no Plan B, like “moving in with Mom”. I couldn’t think of a single person who might agree to take me in for sixty days.

But I did ask someone. And so, on Hallowe’en night, after moving all day and doing the final cleaning, I stashed last minute items with my kind-hearted neighbor. Then set off on foot, cat tucked into a sling made from a sheer curtain, knotted at the back of my neck by my neighbor, who then zipped my jacket around the cat.

Rain dripped off my umbrella and shoulder bag. Wynnie rested his front paws contentedly outside my jacket and looked around with great curiosity at the Trick-or-Treaters passing us. It was long since dark.

“They have homes to go to,” I told Wynnie. “We don’t. This is not fun.”

But he registered only a sense of adventure, so I didn’t belabor the point. If we were going to be homeless, at least we would do it together.

Exhaustion set in, almost as soon as we left what had been “home”. We were headed for the highway, to beg a ride.

The day before, while putting my belongings in storage, I recalled a newspaper story I had once seen about a man who had nowhere to go, and was sleeping in his storage unit, with his dog.“Is that going to happen to us?” I asked myself. It seemed hugely possible at the time.

For the next curve ball life throws at me, I want to have developed the toughness to prevent myself from giving in to unhelpful thoughts and images based on negative feelings. Feelings have never been any measure or predictor of reality. I did not end up living out of my storage unit, so why should I have ever tortured my mind with that image?

As we moved toward the highway, I thought about the words taped up on my wall throughout this year of loss:

  • Don’t imagine the worst and call it “reality”
  • Don’t reckon without God

(I had picked that part up from the books of Catherine Marshall, who wrote A Man Called Peter, Christy, Something More, and others. I’ve also heard it reinforced in hundreds of sermons. )

  • Who needs my services?
  • World Headquarters of Possibility Thinking

The “who needs my services” part, and “world HQ of possibility thinking” seemed totally irrelevant to the moment, though.

My last practical step that morning was to ask a lady I had done some work for if I could possibly stay with her family a little while. It was definitely not an ideal time to ask, but she and her family have their beliefs, too. They would not see me without a roof– at least for a week. After that I would have to have something else in place.

So now we were making our way twenty-five miles to the farm, in the dark and wet, without a car. I didn’t bother feeling sorry for myself that my car had died, the month before, but that didn’t stop me from recalling the many times I had shot out to the farm for vegetables, quickly and easily.

That was then. This was now. I liked then a whole lot better!

Buses don’t run out here in the country on Sundays, and try as I might, I couldn’t think of a single person with a car who would give the “yes” answer to a request for a ride. Maybe I didn’t consider my list of acquaintances with clear thinking, I don’t know. There was no one right around me who would have done it, anyway.

Taxi fare was out of the question.

I dragged myself up the bank to the road. By this time my four-footed pal had stopped viewing our walk as “adventure” and was howling his unhappiness. I wanted to do the same.

My back ached from the final clean-up and his weight around my neck. I forced one boot in front of the other, reaching the edge of the highway. I was not new to hitch-hiking. But this time it was in rainy darkness. I had read news stories of people displaced from their homes by armed takeovers, running by night for their lives. See how easily my mind identified with them, and yet I do not live in a war zone and have never had to run for my life.

I rested on the edge of the highway a couple of minutes, wanting to howl my fatigue and hopelessness.

Then I thanked God for helplessness (Catherine Marshall ought to know I take her advice seriously) and committed to Him our need for a safe drive. I stood up, cautiously edging a leg over the guard rail, cheek down to Wynnie.

I knew our chances of being seen on the road were limited. I had neither a light, nor reflectors, nor light clothing. Even Wynnie is coal black.

The third car stopped. It was a former military person, passing through to visit his brother at a military base.

“I could make out an umbrella, so I knew it was a woman, and you seemed to be holding some kind of animal,” he said. Bless him for stopping! This stranger, whose name I should have asked, drove us to the door of the farm. If he had not, I don’t think I could have walked another step.

I can only marvel at the timing of God’s loving hand. While I was wondering “what now?”, He already had the right driver moving toward us at the right speed. No way I can frame that as a coincidence. It was nothing I did. My negative feelings did not wipe out the help coming all along, so they were pointless. Feelings are not the real us, writes Catherine Marshall– the real us is the will.

A week later, I was writing the church secretary about the incident. Her email said, “God knows your circumstances and is taking an active interest in your life.”

Yes, Penny. If only I can remember that for the next scary moment.

You don’t get a bulletin announcing how God is going to provide. You simply trust Him with your heart in your mouth. Active trust, doesn’t mean– for me, yet—that all fear is gone. But I would like it if it did. Hopefully I will develop in this regard. Rather, active trust amounts to a decision you make about Who or What you depend on when the chips are down.

One day when my brother and I were still teenagers, Mom announced, “Some people go down in adversity—you two go up.” Not much choice, there. I remember the living room in our small sixties apartment which was turned over to my Marine brother, on leave from Vietnam at the time.

Mom couldn’t know when she said it that Wayne would be gone in six weeks, giving his earthly life in a medical evacuation mission. Or that she herself would be gone in two years.

It looks like I get to be the one to try living it.

Well, I really do prefer being an overcomer to not being able to deal with what life throws at me. But I have to be honest and say I would much prefer being an armchair overcomer to actually living it. Let’s just watch someone else do it on an inspiring TV program and then get on with a safe life!

However, I firmly believe hardship and loss are just things I’m passing through. I’m not planning on living here, permanently.

I am also not letting circumstances define me. I am determined to create a future with the things that are presently lacking from my life, even in the current economy, or perhaps especially in the current economy.

That future contains the conference center, and the fiddler in the dining hall Saturday nights, Bonnie, my friend, and team partner reminds me. People will be coming from all over the world to find out how to follow their dreams, and hook up with like-minded people. She won’t let me give up on that. Lucky for me.

So it seems appropriate to title this blog UP FROM HERE. I don’t know if Mom had in mind all those years ago what I would do with what she said, which was probably nothing more than a spur-of-the-moment lesson for her kids. The teenage me certainly had no trouble dismissing it from her mind. But I’m glad today for the directive. That is one of the things that helped to form my Crisis Beliefs. Life might change, but probably is not going to get easier from here on out.

As to how we frame the happenings and situations that are less than what we’d like, Barbara Winter, career coach and author of Making A Living Without a Job, as well as the newsletter Winning Ways, (www.winningways.com), tells the story of how she had once stayed at a YWCA in a strange town. She was giving a career- change seminar. It was raining, she had taken the bus, and the whole trip was stressful and hard. Years later, she found herself staying in a highrise hotel in the same town, overlooking the same YWCA. This was a well-appointed hotel. She reflected on how her circumstances had changed. “I had to stay “down there” the first time, she concluded, “in order to get up here”.

She would say there is an order to things—a progression. One thing serves as a stepping stone to another. Know it as you take your purposeful steps. You’re on your way, with small daily steps.

About realizing we may have to pass through our present trial in order to get someplace much better: while acknowledging that life is often less than ideal, I suggest working on two things in a crisis– YOUR BELIEFS, and taking the best possible ACTION you can at the moment.

Oh, and attitude of gratitude, despite what’s happening. (If you want to send out your gratitude to some impersonal “universe”, just know that I am expressing mine to the God who has revealed Himself through Creation and through Christmas and Easter.)

Add in one more essential belief:  you are NOT STAYING HERE—no matter how long it takes, you’re moving on to a better future.

Maybe you were born to adversity, or maybe you’ve had very little of it until recently. Maybe your Mom gave you no choice about being an overcomer in bad times, either. I’ll bet you have some amazing insights to offer from your own experiences.

If you plan to make your life experiences count for something by growing your beliefs and ability to take action, stick around. This is not just for our own sakes, but for others who need us.We are not watching our life story unfold in an hour-long TV program. We are living it and recording it ourselves.

Your obituary may not record that you had an easy life with no challenges in which everything went wonderfully well, and accomplished all you set out to do, dying safely in bed at home.

More likely it will read that you had to overcome so many challenges that you went on to do great things for your community and society in general. And left a light on the path for others to travel by.

A memorable radio program I heard last year talked about how the best use of your life is to spend it in the service of something much larger than your own life. I guess that echoes the sentiments of the famous George Bernard Shaw quote.

I hope there is no “lofty” ring to this message, because, I am experiencing the struggle as I put one foot in front of the other, like you. I haven’t arrived at the Brighter Future, yet, but I’m working hard to get there.

If there is a simple message, it’s that we are headed better places, and we are not giving up.

Earlier in this decade, there was an interesting documentary on CBC TV about British “Guest Children”. It described what life was like during World War II for British children who were sent out of range of the bombing in London. One story in particular stood out for me. As I recall it:

A twelve-year old girl and her brother were placed on a ship bound here, (Canada), by their parents. The ship was torpedoed crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Before they sailed, her parents had asked her especially to look out for her younger brother. After the ship was hit, she found herself alone in the water, clinging to an overturned lifeboat. Then, a hand came up on the other side, another girl holding on in the dark wet coldness. Less alone now, but prospects still seemed bleak.

“Didn’t it occur to you,” asked the interviewer, “ that you might not make it? Not much hope of a ship seeing two small girls in the Atlantic Ocean without a sail or a flare.”

The lady, now a senior, paused a moment. Then, looking directly into the camera, said emphatically, “we had come this far. We were not in the business of giving up.”

This young girl might have been about six years younger than my own mother. Was she raised under similar influences, I wonder?Did she get the same attitudes in her parents’ home as my own mother who then passed them on to us kids?  What causes some to give up when no help is in sight and others to hold on, blindly trusting?

After some time in the water, they were picked up by a passing ship. She was put to bed in a state room. The day the captain came by to see how she was doing happened to be her birthday, and he seemed to have been informed about that.

Sitting up in bed, she noticed how big he seemed in his greatcoat. He announced, “I have a birthday present for you”, and stepped aside. There stood her brother, who had been hiding behind the greatcoat. She said she was very relieved to be able to tell her parents she kept him safe.

Like this courageous woman, whatever we are passing through—it may be horrible, and you may have to remind me of my own words if the pattern of loss continues for me— you and I are not in the business of giving up, either.

I do hope we are able to practice being “rescue” captains as well, when we are able. The world sure can use a lot more of them, with or without greatcoats.

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