love a job you hate

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

~Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Two weeks ago I wrote an article about How to Hate Your Job. It was the most popular article I’ve ever written.

That scares me.

Hundreds of you wrote in with horror stories of situations you dreaded but didn’t feel you could get out of. I was reminded of how difficult it can be to leave your present situation to pursue something more meaningful. It’s often downright terrifying.

We too easily over-exaggerate our worst case scenario and we feel stuck.

When you’re involved in something you don’t like, you have two options. You can either change the situation or reframe it to make it more useful. As important as it is to do everything you can to find and do the work you love, sometimes that’s just not an option in the immediate moment.

We often can’t just quit and start over. And that’s usually not the best first step, anyway.

Before we can do what we love, we must first start by loving what we do.

Unfortunately that doesn’t usually happen overnight. Sometimes it does, but it’s rare. It generally takes a boatload of hard work and experimenting. Once you find it, it’s more than worth the effort. But even if you have a vision of what’s next, what about right now?

Hating your job is a choice.

You may be in a spot you don’t feel you can get out of right now. Perhaps because you have a huge mortgage, kids, an unfortunate divorce or any one of the other million possibilities that don’t allow you to totally push reset. That’s fine (for now). But that also doesn’t mean you condemn yourself to career complacency and sleepwalking.

Take a second to reread the quote at the top. Even if we have nothing else, we have the freedom to choose what things mean and how we interpret our experiences. If Viktor Frankl could find meaning in his tortuous years spent in a concentration camp, you can certainly find it in your work.

If you tell me your job sucks, I bet you haven’t gotten creative enough.

How to make your job fun:

1. Be candid with your boss.

No boss wants their employee to be miserable. I know it might seem that way but there’s no question that happy employees do better work. Your boss knows that. And with hiring a replacement costing an average of $50-100k, I doubt they want you taking off.

They just might need a brass tacks talk to show them how bad it really is. They honestly might not realize it yet. Be nice about it, but be truthful – don’t hold anything back. Tell them you want to stay but need to figure out something more enjoyable. Put it on them – or on both of you to figure out together. I bet they’ll come up with something interesting. You are worth more than you think.

2. Understand your strengths.

Then spend your time using them. And find a way to stop doing the things you suck at. If you love spreadsheets but hate making sales calls, then find a coworker who has the opposite skills. Offer up a trade. Your situation might not be that clear, but I guarantee there’s room to work.

I hammer home the importance of strengths in almost everything I write. It’s been the biggest single contributor to fulfillment in my work. Everything is so much better when you fill your time doing things you’re awesome at. Strengths Finder 2.0 is the best test I’ve found to start the discovery. Better off, be the office hero and have everyone take the test. You’ll save your company a fortune.

3. Find a bigger reason why.

When you’re stuck in your sixth set of spreadsheet gymnastics, it’s all too easy to lose sight of life. Find a way to connect your seemingly mundane task (assuming someone else can’t do it) to the overall purpose of the company or the people your product is designed to serve.

Maybe pitching newsrooms isn’t your favorite part of your public relations job. But once you connect with the fact that your pitches are what is going to get the word out to support the juvenile diabetes campaign you’re working on (and the kids affected), I bet you’re going to be a lot more eager to pick up the phone. You have to identify with the underlying why.

Everyone can find a reason. Chip Conley wrote a whole book (called Peak) on just this, where he describes an approach for even janitors to find fulfillment in their work.

4. Get really f*&#ing good at something.

Becoming an expert is unbelievably fun. And one thing’s for sure, it beats the crap out of doing mediocre work. Not only will your boss be impressed, but you’ll also feel mountains better about how you spend your hours and you’ll become a ton more marketable for when you finally decide to pull the ripcord.

Pick something in-line with your strengths and get specific. Maybe you decide to be the best presenter, salesman, relationship builder, analyst, product usability guru or number cruncher. Pick one and start running. People will start to notice. The better you are, the more you’re valued and the stronger your leverage. Let your natural strengths and talents lead the way.

5. Knock something out of the park.

Think of a project or role that looks like a ton of fun. I don’t care if it’s outside your job description – if you hate your current role, then maybe it should be. Find a way to take it on or at least pitch in to help. Do kick-ass work and before long you’ll be given more of it. All of a sudden, you’re having fun.

6. Negotiate working from home.

Sometimes being in the office and dealing with a commute is the worst part of your role. You might love the work but get lost in the b.s. of a bureaucratic office. You’ve got to convince your boss you can do better work at home. Start with asking for half a day on a Friday and then maybe a full day.

Be sure to be massively productive and send him everything you did on your day off. Explain how much more productive you are in a quiet, focused environment. Then show him the results. If a half or full day is too hard to negotiate, then take a day off and tell him you have to stay home with your kids or wait for the plumber. Pick something realistic (and true).

Take a vacation day but then crush a ton of work out while you’re gone. Then follow up with a note that you had more time at home than you thought and here’s all the stuff you did. A big part of happiness is owning your own calendar. This starts with training your boss to focus on output, not time in office. With that comes freedom.

7. Make someone’s day – everyday.

Humans are hardwired to want to help others. It feels awesome. If you can find nothing else redeeming in your job (which I doubt), then pick someone who could use an extra smile and decide that your job is to give it to them. If Camille in accounting looks miserable, then tell her some jokes, go out of your way to say hi, buy her a latté or ask how she’s doing. Someone always has it worse than you do. Get over yourself – create a connection and help how you can.

No matter how small, find something. Make it fun. Changing the state of those around you is one of the most powerful ways to impact the world. Nothing feels better.

8. Begin your side-hustle.

Just because you don’t like your current job, doesn’t mean you can’t start making progress on your escape plan. Working on a passion project on the side can do amazing things not only for your confidence and excitement, but also for how you experience your regular work day.

Building up something on the side also usually makes way more sense than quitting cold turkey, and makes the whole prospect of making a change a lot more approachable. The problem with dropping everything and quitting today is that the fear of having no idea of what’s next often causes people to panic. Panic and fear cause poor decision making and you’ll likely scramble to find another job as fast as possible. But if you haven’t made the proper discoveries about what you want to pursue next (or what went wrong and why at your last role), you’ll grab the next gig for the same wrong reasons as before and likely end up just as miserable six months down the road. Talk about a waste.

Start by dedicating 30 minutes a week to your project and exploring what’s next. Then build it up to 30 minutes three times a week. And so on. If you care enough, you’ll find time. You won’t believe the momentum that can build over a few months.

Finding Good is a Habit – Learn it.

You just have to be willing (and at times extremely creative). So you have to stuff 10,000 envelopes – you finally get to work on that meditation practice you’ve been putting off. Perfect.

If you’re working at Starbucks and you’re starting to wonder if there’s more to life, how about you make it your personal job to make every one of your customers feel like a king? Make getting their coffee from you the best part of their day. Why not? You get to practice a priceless skill – building rapport, and your effect on them will start to ripple through their world. Or perhaps you apply your passion for art to making the most amazing foam latte designs your customers have ever seen. The small stuff can be more powerful than you think.

A friend of mine (and an award-winning motivational speaker and coach), Jim Cathcart used to rave about a McDonald’s where one of the women who worked the morning shift knew every regular customer by name and had their order ready before they even got to the front of the line. Her job was no longer Burger Flipper. Instead, it was Awesome Day Maker for dozens of people every morning.

Small shift in perspective = massive shift in experience and results.

Or how about the police officer who had the “miserable” job of directing traffic all day? What if he made his job into some stupid-looking hilarious dance? That’s exactly what one dancing traffic cop did. Plenty more followed. This stuff isn’t difficult. It just takes creativity.

Making Good of Today Does Not Mean Sacrificing Passion Tomorrow.

Let’s be clear. The above is not an excuse to stay in a job you hate. None of us deserves that. It’s simply a short-term solution to a problem that millions of people face.

You are still on the hook for finding your most meaningful work. It’s out there. But remember, there’ll never be a perfect time to make the jump. Wait as little as possible.

In the meantime, start by understanding how you can put your dent in the world. The more you understand that, the more likely you are to do something about it. Our Live Off Your Passion Guided-Discovery course and community might be a good place to start.

Work your plan. Make your current role part of it and suddenly your meaningless keyboard bashing will have a little purpose to it. That’s a start.

It’s on you.

If you’ve done this, you’re in one of two places: you now actually like your job and want to stay, or you’ve at least found some enjoyment in it but still know there’s more to life.

Either way, if you’re going to stay (for now) you might as well have some fun.

But it’s likely going to take work to get there. Welcome it. If you aren’t happy with your current situation, then sack up and do something about it. We’ve been over this before …

Happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.

It’s on you – always has been, always will be. No excuses.

You can either sit idle while your story gets written or you can wake up and start writing it yourself.

Either way, someone’s got the the pen.


Need More in-depth help?

If you are currently stuck in a pile of meaningless work and desperately need a change, there’s a good chance we can help. That’s exactly why we created the Live Off Your Passion Guided-Discovery career course – to help you find passion and build a career around work that actually matters to you and to the world (including building out your side-hustle while at your current gig). You are always welcome to try the course out risk free if you think it’ll help. Here are all the details and member stories.

Image Courtesy of Helga Weber

  • Hugh

    Great post, Scott. A great idea to follow up on your last one and respond to what we the readers are asking for. I think this is relevant to many people who want to change their position in life, but for one reason or another, need some time. There are some great tis in here that anyone can use, even those who like their jobs.

    On another note, there are McDonald’s breakfast regulars? That’s disturbing!

    • Scott

      Ha! Funny about mcdonalds. He told me he didn’t even really want it for breakfast anymore but he loved the special treatment too much to stop coming back!

      I agree that people need time and that’s fine AS LONG as they still take action in what they really care about!

      • Ameya Deshpande

        Thank you Scott for all the insightful posts you’ve written. I was a guy of the McDonalds woman type for the first 2 years of my job. I’ve been working in software support and testing field and have some of the clients whom I talk to regularly as almost my friends. But I somehow (probably because I kept procrastinating on making the jump for one reason or the other, and kept getting promoted and being given additional responsibilities during this time) over the last two years have been living with the feeling like, “I just have to stay here arrested because there is no other better way even though I am getting a feeling of saturation.” This post has worked as a reassurance that my approach was actually good and I can resume it until I complete the present responsibilities in my hand and make a move soon.

  • Jason @ Stop & Breathe

    There are so many great points in this point I don’t know where to begin…

    Finding good is a habit is something I have believed for a long time and I know it has make my life so much more fulfilling and helps to keep me in a positive frame of mind even when I’m feeling down. At a very dark period in my live (having spinal fusion surgery, bedridden for 6 months, becoming addicted to prescription painkillers and going through a hurtful divorce) I was still able to find some good in every day. It wasn’t always easy, but I did it. And I don’t think I was just fooling myself either. That’s an important point for me. Life truly did have a lot of good in it, even during those times.

    Two years ago I approached my employer about working at home and used a number of the 4HWW tips. They declined despite regular attempts and one of their greatest concerns was that I wouldn’t get as much work done. I wish I had tried your suggestion of taking a vacation day and pounding out a lot of work as an example. Thankfully it’s not an issue for me anymore. ;-)

    Finding a bigger reason why was a great way for me to deal with my time at a job that wasn’t fulfilling me. It gave me purpose and additional motivation.

    Okay, I could keep discussing all of your points in this post, but I don’t want to make this comment to long. Thanks for providing such valuable information. I hope you’ll expand on each of these points in future posts.

    • Scott

      Glad it resonated Jason. So glad you’ve made it through that tough time (and clearning come out stronger). The other great news is that it looks like you’re long past the days of having to convince your employer that you can do better work remotely! Next time you’re in town, we’ll have to dive into more of this stuff in person. Speaking of diving, the Alcatraz swim is this weekend… wish me luck. Total Immersion swimming style!

  • Mani Masuria

    Scott, once again you have impressed me with your amazing insights and clarity within your steps to change a life. I love step four, I have been practicing the art of being f@king amazing at what I do for the last three years and already I have become one of the top dogs within my field. I get calls and offers from lots of firms requesting to hire me for my services. My salary has gone from £29k to £84k (after tax) and growing, and I dress how I like, have more time to do what I want, although being far more productive then I was. I am a changed man, a job (more so the people I used to work with) I used to hate has turned into a World I call mine which I control. I Intend to raise my revenue to £120k (after tax) by the end of this year and have the same amount of chillax time available, which is highly likely and very realistic. I may stick to my current expertise or go in to something totally different, that’s the beauty of controlling ones own World… We are masters of our Worlds, we are masters of our actions therefore reap the benefits within our Worlds. Let’s go out and get what we truly deserve today.

    • Scott

      You are doing it and you are crushing it Mani! You could have written this article better than I could have ;). So awesome to hear how aligned everything is right now. It truly makes all the difference. I love hearing that you have about as much chillax time as a guy could need!

      You have realized what I realized about two years ago. Once you start making your own dreams come true and really going after the things that matter and making them a part of your life, you realize that it’s all possible. While before most things seemed impossible, now impossibilities are the exception (if they exist at all). I am a firm believer that we all have at least 5-10 businesses in us or ways that we will impact the world in our lifetime. All it takes is building a couple to realize it’s true. My psychology is forever changed!

  • Kala |Embark-lovethelifeyoulive

    “No boss wants their employee to be miserable,” Scott great article but I do disagree with this statement. I was in a work situation where inflicting pain on underling was part of the drama. YES we can reframe and use anything for our growth and I did-but in an academic position where I was at the complete mercy of tenured faculty who would decide my fate-part of the power dominance played out by making employees suffer-and not just me, others in fact left and some managed to stay but unhappily. It’s very important to see what a “job you hate” is saying. Often it’s that we are not in the right situation for us and are compromising-KEY issues, hopes and desires out of fear. Hence the conflicts and unhappiness that result. I blog about living a life of ones’ dreams and it is possible-whether self-employed or with a company that values your work.

    • Scott

      I could not agree more Kala. Everyone in this world can do work that actually matters to them and that they enjoy, as long as they are willing to work their ass off for it. Sadly there are situations out there like you described. I just spent the weekend with Keith Ferrazzi, relationship building expert and author of Bestseller Never Eat Alone and he reminded me of what to do in that situation. If someone is treating you terribly then do the following: 1. Feel their pain–try to empathize and see their side somehow and 2. Be complementary–tell them what you respect about them. Do this often enough and most people will stop treating you poorly.

      But more importantly the above article was nothing more than a quick and TEMPORARY fix for a tough career situation. There is only one long term things to do with a tough career situation–get out of it. The above is to help you deal with it and find joy while you plan your escape route. It is not an excuse to stay in a miserable work environment. No one deserves that.

      Great point Kala.

  • David William

    I see a lot of this sentiment on this topic, but unfortunately it just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t understand how people work in an office where they could maybe leverage working from home. I work at a private, non-profit university and there is no chance I can work from home.

    Maybe I just need a new job. Bummer.

    • Scott

      Often the idea of working from home seems impossible until you start thinking through it and getting creative. If that’s important to you then it’s worth investigating. If it’s not then no need to worry about it!

      All that matters is that you are happy and purposeful with what you do for work. If not then a change is required. The world will be better for it.

      • Sean


        Working from home is impossible for me. I’m an aircraft maintainer in the US Air Force. As far as the tips you gave go, #1 would be marginally helpful at best. My boss knows I can’t just quit because I signed an enlistment contract. I can’t transfer because that’s decided by Air Force Personnel. #2 doesn’t help because I have little choice in what I do each day. As long as the order I get from a superior isn’t illegal or immoral I am required to obey it. For #3, this is something that the higher-ups try to convey to us but it rarely helps, that what we do matters. We fix aircraft so that pilot’s can fly them but then they just come back broke again. It is a Sisyphean task. #4 sounds good in principal but in practice it is disastrous!! I’m good at what I do and that means when there is an extra difficult task, I’ll get called in on my days off to do the work that my less qualified co-workers can’t. But I don’t get paid any extra for it. #5 doesn’t work for the reasons I said for #2. I don’t have choice in what I do each day. #6 is actually impossible, they aren’t going to bring a broken C-130 aircraft to my house for me to fix.

        I try to be nice and cheer other people up but that gets harder each day because each day I feel like a bit of me dies while I’m working. As far as an escape plan if I had any idea what I want to do and what I’m passionate about I probably wouldn’t have joined the military in the first place.

        Sorry to be such a Debbie-downer but just wanted to give my perspective.

  • Drew D’Agostino

    I’m really glad that you wrote on this, because it’s definitely not a subject that’s in the conversation enough.

    What I mean by that is that most blogs in the category are fixed squarely on the idea that entrepreneurship is the only means to doing what you’re passionate about and enjoying the freedom of working on your own terms. Working in an office is typically picked on the most.

    I’m totally not the office type, and I’m an entrepreneur, but I can totally understand why it’s appealing and necessary for some people to have a job that I may consider boring. People have different values. Entrepreneurship can be so glorified sometimes that people who are really ‘stuck’ in their jobs for serious financial or personal reasons can feel like what they’re doing is hopeless. I’ve been reading Carol Roth’s material on entrepreneurship ( and it’s refreshingly blunt.

    I think you wrote once that if you’re not happy with what you have now, you probably never will be. That can be applied to your career too. You may be more fulfilled pursuing your dream than in a cubicle, but if you can’t wake up every day with a smile on your face, thankful to be alive, then you need a change that extends beyond your career.

    • Scott

      Right on Drew. Yes, first you must be happy. I did say that and I fully believe it. Doing what you love and living your passion does not mean quitting your job and becoming an entrepreneur. That is not always the answer. I fully believe that more people could do that and would love it than is currently believed but to be honest, you can do what you love in all kinds of settings. Although it usually does end up requiring you to quit your job since most people got involved with their current job for the wrong reasons (money, status, etc). So once they wake up they realize that what they really want to do is so far from it that they need a massive change.

      It’s not about entrepreneurship in the traditional sense. It’s about being your own Life Entrepreneur and the CEO of your own life. Let that take you where it does. You’re in charge…

  • Samantha

    Fantastic job Scott. I could have added a horror story of my own about teaching teenage boys with severe Autism at a school in England and getting physically beaten up every day! It seems that was part of the job!
    I was way beyond hating the job – I went to work terrified every day!
    So…several injuries later, I walked away.
    Some jobs just aren’t worth hanging onto, regardless of the money. I am now (will be soon) working from home, in safety!

    • Scott

      Glad you made the switch Sam! There really is no other option but to change things up when you know you’re in the wrong place. Looks like that job gave you plenty of reasons to jump. Enjoy the new life owning your own calendar! Come back and share you’re experiences once it’s all underway.

  • Jen

    Wow! What a challenge! I personally know how hard this is; after struggling thru 4 years of hating my job I literally did a mental shift and changed my own mind and attitude; what a difference it made in my heart and daily job! Lo and behold just a year later I was out of there and starting my own company! I banged my head against a wall for 4 years to learn this but once I did wow! What a change at my old job and what exciting opportunities awaited me!

    • Scott

      Awesome Jen. It’s so crazy how much a simple shift in perception can make. My guess is that now that you’ve seen the light of entrepreneurship, you know what’s possible and you will never go back. Would love to hear more about what you’re creating if you want to come back and tell us.

      Nicely done!

  • Robbie

    I oscillate between loving my job and hating my job mostly because I really want to be doing more meaningful work – making my great contribution to humanity! – and I don’t like being stuck in one place all the time, especially at weekends when I see others out there leading more “normal lives” …but I know when I make peace with where I am I can see I am making progress, that indeed making good of today lends itself to getting excited about tomorrow…

    “Stuckness” is a mindset, each day at work can either be used to lament where we are, or see possibility…

    Really like your outlook, so thanks for this post.

  • Scott

    Could not have said it better Robbie! “indeed making good of today lends itself to getting excited about tomorrow…” “Stuckness” is a mindset, each day at work can either be used to lament where we are, or see possibility…”

    Thank you for that! May we all take it to heart.

  • W. Michael Hsu

    I love this! We try to make our company a fun place to work and help our team members love their job – but it is very cool to know that they themselves have a choice too. Very cool. Especially love #3 and #4 – for us it’s purpose and mastery. Same idea, different words. Cool stuff.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ritu

    Great post, and several insightful points to ponder :) I’m new to your blog, but liking it already. I’m still on the journey to “discover” my passion (I think I chose the double ‘after college’ AND ‘after grad school’ sleepwalking route). Funnily enough, I am a business owner, make a decent living and have (relatively) free time but not quite feeling the wake-up-excited vibe in life. *Sigh. Don’t hate it, but don’t love it either. I am somewhat envious of those who know exactly what they want to do–clarity and vision are SO important….I’ll wrap up my tangents now. Great post, and congrats on finding IT.

  • Tihomir

    I’ve seen the quote, “happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow” splashed across many of your posts. It really resonates with me. It’s empowering and really motivates me to not waste another second doing something I don’t enjoy and instead pursue something I do. Everyone should have this quote tattooed to their forhead. =)

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  • Nick

    Find a bigger reason why! I can whole heartedly agree with you 100% Scott. How we will succeed is not as important as WHY we will succeed. If it is important, we will find a way.

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    Actually, research shows that being a janitor is one of the most fulfilling professions there is – they consistently rank the highest for job satisfaction and overall happiness.

    I think it’s because there’s great satisfaction in seeing the results of your hard work. If there’s a light bulb out, you change it, and you know your work was done well, and has made a difference to everyone who uses that building. The same cannot usually be said for spreadsheets.

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  • Sarah

    Hi Scott,

    I’m relatively new to your blog but have long been on the search for a more meaningful living and satisfying work. I loved your post and can take a lot from a number of the points but I note that is seems geared towards people in ‘boring’ jobs where there’s time in the workday to spare.

    What advice do you have for those of us who hate jobs that are extremely stressful and time intensive? While many of the principles you outlined in the post are applicable across the board, some are challenging in an environment where 12 hours at work a day aren’t ever enough to get the job done (believe me, I’ve tried). I would love to hear (more of) your thoughts.

  • Becky

    What a wonderful article! What advice would you give to someone who just cannot talk to their boss? and whose boss is the main reason for being unhappy? My boss is somewhat of a bully and if you mention you are unhappy you get more of the ‘well that’s the job, so tough’ attitude. And how do I tell my boss that actually, it is them that makes me hate my job? I think my best solution is perhaps not to stay…?

    • Nerea

      Hi Becky!

      Do you actually really think the best solution is not to say anything to him?
      Do you think if you would tell him it would solve the “problem”?
      Have you thought of any other solutions at all?

      Just wanna make you think harder :)


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  • Nerea


    I have loved the post as usual. Scott you are one of the person I feel closest to in terms of what you talk about and the advices you share with people.
    I agree with the full post as I have experienced it myself.
    Was working in an “awesome” job in finances, building relationships with the main bankers in Europe, with unlimited credit card and attending to great events, but that voice in the morning came EVERYDAY! telling me, “What are you doing with your life? Is this what you have came to the world with? And my other voice: No, is not!”

    I did reframe my job everyday looking and finding the good (like “I can practice my coaching skills with my clients”, I can try the best restaurants in London and around Europe”, “I may never get to this events again…”, “this experience is going to teaching a lot for my future projects” (which it did), etc., also one year before quitting I also started to work in the evenings in projects I had in my head, to check what else could I do, once I had more clarity and a clearer (Let me highlight I read The four hours workweek from Tim Ferris which inspire me a lot, I did not know about Scott yet) I went to ask my boss if I could work from home, he said no, then I asked if I could get a part time job, he said no, then I said I did not want to work there any longer as my dreams were different, as well as my ambitions. He was a bit shocked as anyone on my age with that job would have sticked into it!

    Let me just point that I did enjoy my job, but it was a decision and an attitude of reframing and finding the good!

    You can also imagine my friends and family, there were all terrified but I was so proud and happy with myself, with no voices anymore in my head.

    The fact of knowing I was going to leave in three months helped to even make more money!! So having a vision, a PLAN B, an alternative will help you o enjoy your job much more that what you are enjoying it at the moment because you are including it in your journey, in you plan that follows our passions and values.

    Hope my story can inspire someone.

    My Recommendation: INCLUDE WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING IN YOUR PLANS (it is your journey anyway), it will make the difference in the way you look at things and will let you be calm and proud of yourself.

    Thank you Scott and everyone who is in this helpful community.


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