The Myth of the 4-Hour Work Week

4 hours?? I doubt it.

“I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work the more I have of it.”

~Thomas Jefferson

How many hours a week do you work? I bet it’s not four. Yeah me neither.

And I was talking to Tim Ferriss a couple weeks ago and I have news for you. Neither does he. He works 60+ hours (unless he’s launching a new best selling book in which case 60 is light).

So what on earth is all this talk about only working four hours in a week?

Everyone seems to complain to me about this whether it’s online or in person.

The thing is, I am one of the bigger Tim Ferriss fans out there. I work in an office of four close friends who all quit their jobs years ago in search of something more meaningful, after reading his book. None of us have looked back. The New Rich rarely do.

I give about ten or more copies of The 4-Hour Work Week out a year. So far my “quit rate” is about 80%. It’s that powerful.

I just picked the book back up, as I have every year since I first read it in 2007. Each year my new level of life and business experiences shed fresh light on the concepts that never quite resonated the year prior. I love it. (Being down in Argentina as I do this year’s review happens to be especially helpful.)

With that said, I am still the first to say that the idea of a four-hour work week is a myth. Yes a myth. As it should be.

You see, these people are missing the damn point.

The only reason he gave the book that title was because it got the most clicks in a google Adwords test (Tim’s an incessant tester). At first he was going to name it something like Dealing Drugs for Fun and Profit. So let’s get over the title.

We have to first understand what work is.

Work = anything that you either want to do less of or do solely for the financial benefit.

This is how Tim defines it and I’ve adopted the same.

Are you doing what you love?

This is what actually matters. Not some arbitrary number of hours spent in a day.

Are you doing work that matters? Are you doing work you actually care about?

If you aren’t then what on earth are you waiting for? When is now a good time to do what you love? There is no saving up so you’ll enjoy more later. That deferred life plan doesn’t fly. It’s just an excuse for inaction. An excuse to not get out there, take a risk and stumble upon your life’s work – You’re great work.

If your answer is Yes, then who cares how many hours your’re ‘working’? Jonathan Mead nails this in his Zero Hour Work Week. If you are living congruently, on purpose and with a boatload of passion for the dent you’re putting in the world then it doesn’t matter if you spend 4 hours a week or 80. In fact you’d probably prefer 80 over 4, if it’s that bad ass.

This is going to be a huge focus for me this year. For my writing, my coaching, this blog and beyond. There are few things more important than doing work that matters to you.

I ‘work’ my freaking ass off!!

And I love it. I could hardly sleep this morning because I couldn’t wait to spend time with one of my coaching clients, write this post, dig into a couple new investment ideas and meet with a few people in the space. I was up at 5am because all I could think about was ‘work’.

But I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t dreading something – All emotions that come with doing things that don’t matter to you.

No. I was excited. Simple as that. And with excitement anything is possible and life becomes gravy.

That’s not to say that I am not up until midnight or later writing or that I’m not in a coffee shop on a Saturday or Sunday cranking on things. I often am. But I do it because it lights my life on fire (in a good way).

Oh and I’m also working when I’m out Crossfitting or running with friends, on a date with my wife or exploring a new part of the world. All of it gives me ideas and experiences to relate and share in the work I do. Life Entrepreneurship is just that. All encompassing.

You’ve heard me say it before…

Happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow. There is no waiting.

Trust me. You can do what matters to you and get paid for it. I spend time with people in those shoes everyday (present company included).

But there is one requirement. And it’s a big one.

You have to care. You have to care more than anything in the world that leading a meaningful life is worth it. It takes work. It takes ridiculously hard work and long hours to never stop learning, to understand yourself so that you can get a clue as to why you’re on this earth. And it never ends. But you learn to love it. You get addicted to it.

You’re reason for being may be different today than it is in a year. In fact it probably will be. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is you’re doing your life’s work right now. Because that’s all there is anyway.

May we all be fortunate enough to ‘work’ 80 hours a week. Because when your projects become your passions, the concept of work fades away and all that’s left is life, which is all you started with in the first place.

So I challenge you…

Understand yourself.

Do work that matters.

Change the world.

What are you waiting for?

What do you do everyday that truly matters to you and the world? Tell us in the comments below and may we all be inspired to do more of the same!

Do you know someone who needs a push to do work they love? Please email this to two people and share it once on twitter below. The world needs it.


  • http://www.twitter.com/MikeSchuricht Mike Schuricht

    Scott, this is one of your best posts since it shows some tenacity to disagree and use some titles to draw attention. I think it will be one that will draw a lot of interest, sharing, and backlinks in your future blogs.

    Keep it up.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      Thanks Mike. The article has had incredible traction and more importantly I believe its contents to my core! Getting to know Tim a bit more has been helpful too, to better understand what he’s about.

      Let’s connect soon. I want to hear more about what you’re building with all these blog and branding questions you’ve been asking. Onward!

  • http://www.nicolasdecorte.be Nicolas De Corte

    “but you have to be willing to work very hard for it” could have been a great subtitle for the Four Hour Work Week. But then maybe the sales wouldn’t have been that good.
    It is quite a funny contradiction (to me) that you need to be passioned about something if you want to make a business out of it, so you can generate a passive income so you can stop doing what you’re passioned about.
    But still I believe that what Tim says is true and that in theory you could build a passive income system so you only have to work 4 hours a week. The only question is why would you stop doing what you love to do.

    • http://www.lifeforinstance.com Lori Gosselin

      I’m replying here to you Nicolas, because you said everything I was thinking! Particularly your last line, “why would you stop doing what you love to do.” I can’t imagine “retiring” from what I do now. Why would I want to stop?

      It’s a whole new world, isn’t it!? Great post Scott!
      Lori

      • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

        Then you are both in the perfect place to have the biggest and most rewarding impact in the world. Hat’s off to you guys.

      • http://1igameaday.blogspot.com/ Shakthi

        Why would you stop doing what you love to do?
        Ans:To make a living

        Passion, hard work may fade away unless you persist. Especially, you need to answer the cynical society.

        I was searching for some weekend inspiration and found a blog by Tim Ferriss (I didn’t knew about 4hww by then).
        http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2011/01/31/feeling-stuck-read-this/
        Now I feel its a reply to this blog and a disclaimer to his book.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      It is a crazy contradiction. That’s the beauty. Sure you can find a 4HWW if you really want to but it won’t last because we all want to do what we love. That’s unstoppable.

  • Tom

    So now he has run off with all the easy book sales with a book that is just another copy of every “passion” fluff book you are defending him so as to support your own delusions, you and everyone who supports him should get mental health help.

    • Stepan

      And you sir, need to learn how to use a period.

      • Kevin

        Perhaps the problem is in his colon? Or semi-colon?

    • Ivan Sol

      Even for a so called non partisan who browsed the 4HWW, I instantly found some useful ideas and tips to improve my life. I just can’t fathom why people have to hate and diss – he actually wrote a book to propagate his ideas and share ways to improve lives. What have you lot achieved by coming here and also nit picking and criticising(instead of being) critical and discerning of a great post that Scott has put up.

      Just to tell you Scott, I stumbled upon this website in between my Pol Philosophy essay – needed a bout of inspiration –
      I love it, I’m deleting a whole series of useless bookmarks and you’ve made it to my top 20 although I’ve only been here for maybe 10 Minutes or so – I read 2 pieces, the one with Warren Buffett and the mini review of the 4hWW and enjoyed it

      Cheers

      Ivin Soul

  • http://janahadams.wordpress.com/ Janah Adams

    I just wanted to say that I love this post. I’m a graduate student dreaming of a PhD and while the “work” I do researching, writing, revising, teaching, and commenting on student work are certainly challenging, they also make up some of the most rewarding parts of my life. The unfortunate truth is that it isn’t everyone who can do what they love…your post made me think of this quote, so I thought I’d share it…

    “…what you think of and plan for day by day, in spite of yourself, so to speak–you will get. You will get it more or less. That is, unless you are one of the people who get nothing in this world. There are such people. I have lived too much in mining works and construction camps not to know that.” He paused as if, though this was too dark a chapter to be gone into, it must have its place, its moment of silent recognition. “If you are not one of those, Constance and Niel, you will accomplish what you dream of most.” -Captain Forrester, from Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      Thanks for that Jonah. The key is to always be doing or working towards doing something you love and that leverages your unique strengths. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE will make the world better if they focus their energy here. It doesn’t have to mean quitting your job either. Just a small shift can move mountains.

  • http://yournucleardreams.com Dominic

    I agree with your point that the 4 hour work week is indeed a myth.

    In order for us to pursue our passions and live with purpose and impact, we need to work and work really hard in order for things to happen. Also, I believe that when we engage in work that is meaningful and fulfilling, we will be passionate and resonant when we are at it. However, the converse is true. If we find no connection or purpose in our work, then it will be seen as drudgery and even miserable.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      Right on Dominic. I am still searching for the right word to describe this 80 hour “work week” that happens when someone is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing and loving it. Does anyone have any suggestions? It’s such an important concept for us all to nail!

      • Catherine McLennan

        Scott,
        Perhaps the word you are looking for is ‘dharma’? I take ‘living your dharma’ to mean that you are living and breathing your life purpose and as a result you are in alignment. As you said this infuses every aspect of your life, so perhaps the word ‘work’ is becoming less useful because of all the old hang ups about the term.
        Ps thank you for this website, it’s amazing, I’m just about to start doing the online tool kit, very excited.

        Muchos admiration and gratitude.

  • http://howtolivehappily.wordpress.com/ HowToLiveHappily

    I don’t believe that hard work is what makes you successful. What makes you successful is Love – but it gets mistaken for hard work way too often.

    How do you tell the difference?

    Hard work: Throughout your days, you keep trying hard to overcome your unwillingness, and force yourself to do all those things you’d better not be doing.

    Love: A few times a day, you unwillingly admit that your body does need a rest – and you are forced to interrupt whatever you are doing.

    While I’m not a religious person, there’s a Bible quote that comes to my mind whenever I think of this. It says that Jacob served for Rachel for seven years, but to him they felt like just a few days – because he loved her. (Genesis 29:20)

    BTW, Scott, I loved your article. I wasn’t aware of your blog, but now I’m a fan.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      Welcome to the adventure! I hope you’ll stick around.

      It sounds a bit cliche but it’s so true. It starts and ends with love. With true love, “work” in the conventional sense does not exist.

  • http://www.nononsenseconference.com Shawn Frey

    Well said Scott,

    We all need to remember that work is only ONE area of our life… and if we just work for works sake then eventually all work will suck the life out of you. Ferris said what a lot of people were already thinking… my life sucks! How can I design a better life with minimal work… i.e. to focus on a happier lifestyle not just a work-style.

    That’s what I’ve done since 2007… I’m far from having the perfect lifetyle… but I sure as hell enjoy my life more and am making more $$$ per hour as a direct result of focusing on what’s important.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      That’s what I’m talking about Shawn! You are rolling. Ferriss was right on and we needed that kick in the ass to make some change happen. I’m grateful to him.

  • http://www.better-decisions.com Mani Masuria

    I couldn’t agree with you more, I work 60- 80+ hours a week, and I still get time to workout, spend time with my family and quality time with my wife. I love what I do, and I am the best at it (just being honest), because I action 20% of my time, learning new areas within my line of work, practicing new improved methods and teaching others to do just what I do.

    I truly believe this is the way forward, my philosophy is, “not try and see the people you admire, act in such a way, that they would want to see you, includes my own self”

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      That’s what it’s all about Mani. No matter how hard you”work”, you will find time for your priorities. Awesome to hear that you certainly have.

  • http://humbleobserver.net Dr. Christopher

    If tomorrow were your last day on Earth, what would you do today?

    I’d work, and make money because of my work.

    • http://humbleobserver.net Dr. Christopher

      Great post Scott. A fan of yours and Tim’s.

      • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

        Thanks my man. As long as the answer is “I’d do what I’m doing right now” then you are on the right track!

        • http://www.practicesuccesstools.com Deborah

          Great post. I just heard your interview with Leo Babauta, and was browsing your site.

          I have 3 questions I ask my therapy clients, and I posted about it on my practicesuccesstools.com blog. First, what would you do if you won the lottery? Second, what would change if you knew you had only 10 years left to live? Finally, if you found out you had 24 hours left to live, what would you feel you had missed?

          Those questions clarify what happens if we aren’t worried about making more money, and what we really care about when money is no longer going to make a difference. Hopefully, we are working on shaping our lives to get closer and closer to our answers to those questions.

          (And I’m really glad to hear that Tim Ferriss doesn’t manage to do all he does in 4 hours — sometimes, I’m just too literal for my own good!)

  • http://sensational-yoga-poses.com neil keleher

    Hi Scott, I just got your article re: A list blogger boot camp. Really nice letter. Thank you.

  • http://thedanceofshiva.com neil keleher

    Love these four lines:

    Understand yourself.

    Do work that matters.

    Change the world.

    and as for the 4hww: if you are doing “work” that you love or that is your passion then it doesn’t seem like work. However, there may be some things that you have to do, the stuff that’s a pain in the butt but it supports what you are doing. Maybe that’s the stuff that you reduce to four hours or less.
    What are you waiting for?

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      So true. That’s what outsourcing is for! Those three lines about are going to play a big role in the what I build on this site and beyond going forward. Stay tuned…

  • http://www.Savvy-Writer.com Rebecca

    I like what T. Harv Eker and Bob Proctor say about work, “If you do what you love, it’s not work.” I love writing and today I have an interview with an animal hospital. I love animals and enjoyed volunteering at The Arizona Humane Society. My plan is to create a not-for-profit for animals and one for children. Will it be a lot of work? Yes, it will. But I’ll love what I’m doing so it will be fun.

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      What a story Rebecca. Hat’s off to be doing what you love. Music to my ears!

  • O

    Do you have a family? Can you income support a family? Are you able to spend enough time with the family?

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      Those are the magic questions. Answer then and the world is yours. As for my answers: Yes on all fronts. I am grateful!

  • http://www.writingworksltd.com Matt

    Fantastic post, Scott. I remember soon after I launched my own business in 2005, having a conversation with a friend (himself an entrepreneur) and saying “there ought to be a different word for work when it’s something of your own choosing.” At that point, it ceases to be *work* altogether, doesn’t it?

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      I could not agree more Matt. Have you found this word?? I am in an all out search for it. If you or anyone else has ideas, please share them here. I’m all ears.

      • Mitch

        Don’t work, just be.

  • http://www.livingalways.com Livingalways

    I liked your comments on the book. I always tell people that I am going to retire at the end of this year, on my terms. This basically means I do what I love and which inspires me and I only deal with people I like. I do not want to do stuff I don’t like and deal with people I do not like simply to pay my bill at the end of the month. If you do this, the 4 hours of “work” may end up being some administrative stuff for your life (tax returns, make sure the bills get paid, buying stuff you need etc.), which were never considered as work in the beginning. You probably also start liking this “work”!

    • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott

      So stoked for what you have ahead this year. What a year! I am here to help in whatever capacity I can. Keep me posted. This is my favorite topic to crank through with my coaching clients. So invigorating!

      Here’s to a huge year,
      Scott

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  • ~R

    Wow! I just discovered this blog and am loving it. You had me hooked in the first para..

    I read 4hWW a couple years ago. Liked it but thought it had many impractical tips. Having read this blog, it seems like you all knew that already.

    I’m a firm believer that big impact come from making small (but important) changes.. Like working on yourself and making it a lifelong pursuit :) Tomorrow is my last day at work. I’m quitting to start a food truck in Washington DC. Woohoo!

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  • http://www.fanpop.com Nilda Kilbert

    Thanks – Enjoyed this update, can I set it up so I get an email every time there is a fresh article?

  • http://4hwwsuccess.com/ David

    Hi Scott

    Just found your site through google and I really enjoyed reading this article of yours. Personally I wouldn’t mind being able to come up with something that creates a constant stream of income (not necessarily great riches) and then allows me to focus on making the most out of life, whatever that means in the end for each and everyone.

    Regards from Greece,
    David

  • Fab

    Hi Scott,

    nice article!!

    I read that book ( the first version ) by Tim Ferriss and I liked it very much but it has been written by a sort of Superman and so in some parts it’s a bit unrealistic!!

    Anyway, in my opinion it doesn’t matter if you work 4 hours a week, 40 hours a week or 80 hours a week because the real point of the issue is the definition of success and the best I’ve found till now is:

    “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do”
    by Bob Dylan

    Source:

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/bobdylan122816.html

    It’s a strict definition of success but in my opinion the most honest!!

    QUESTION:

    Did Tim Ferriss work so hard for his second book just for passion??

    I don’t think so, money still counts for him!!

    It’s enough strange because in his book he praises very much a young American lawer who gave up his well-paid job to marry a Brazilian girl and set up a small water sports business in Brazil!!

    Anyway, Tim remains a great guy but sometimes he goes slightly over the top to sell more and more!!

    Fab,greetings from Italy.

  • Fab

    Correction!

    Not:

    Did Tim Ferriss work so hard for his second book just for passion??

    But:

    Did Tim Ferriss work so hard for his two other books just for passion??

    All the best!

    Fab

  • Soul Patch

    Just to tell you Scott, I stumbled upon this website in between my Pol Philosophy essay – needed a bout of inspiration and something different. I feel like an undiagnosed ADHD young adult stuck in a kid’s body often times running off and just exploring a new topic at random. Often felt guilty and unfocussed but now I realise its a blessing as much as a lil curse or positive distraction :D
    I love your site, I’m deleting a whole series of useless bookmarks and you’ve made it to my top 20 although I’ve only been here for maybe 10 Minutes or so – I read 2 pieces, the one with Warren Buffett and the mini review of the 4hWW and enjoyed it

    Cheers

    Soul Patch

  • Andrew T. Birdsell

    Great Post! I’m a 4-hour work week rookie -trying to define my passion and ready to take the leap into the rest of my life. Can I actually do what I love? Yes, I can. Thank you!

  • April

    You really should learn the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Misspelled words detract from your message.

  • Samim S

    Scott!

    Thanks a lot for this AWESOME post.

    I had been gripped by Tim’s book since the time I touched it, though as others chimed in, fears held me back(sounds like an epidemic :))

    Years later when I stumbled across this page, I can recollect my own learnings and experiences, and my mind resonates 100% with each of your words.

    Nice to have found you Scott!

  • Bryan Williams

    Interesting post. I too have read Tim’s book/s multiple times. The message being delivered does change as one develops and changes views. I myself write this from Colombia on an extended mini retirement/further education. I am spending time whilst also seeing Latin America doing some education on the same points that Tim, yourself and others make. People like Michael Ellsberg make a valid point regarding the misuse of higher education. I myself a veteran of a misguided pointless degree, fully support your message on doing what excites you, such a better way to live! keep it coming. the word needs to spread.

  • http://www.dylanvarian.com Dylan

    Nice post. I recently wrote about how I only work for four hours a week, just like the famous book, and still manage a good business. You can actually read about it here if you’re interested – http://bit.ly/11bbtgM

    • http://twitter.com/daily_paa Joanna Finn-Stephens

      Nice post Dylan. I’m slightly biased though as my company, dailyPA
      provides virtual personal
      assistants
      to small & medium sized companies, as well as busy
      individuals. Money is obviously very important, but time is the single most
      valuable resource any of us have. We should use it wisely & it seems like you do.

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  • http://www.greatlivingnow.com/ David Loker

    There is a great quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius

    At that point, the number of hours are irrelevant. If each moment you’re doing what you love, it ceases to be work.

  • Raj

    What I want most in my life is to be able to speak to a group of people confidently. But I am scared to death to speak in front of people and I avoid most of the situation where I have to be in front of a group. Does it mean I have to give up my dream? Can anyone help?

    • http://www.facebook.com/mdparker04 Michael Parker

      Raj,

      Don’t ever give up on your dream …. Never! You can do it. Just today I read that up to 75% of all people are afraid of public speaking. I couldn’t stay if it is that high or not, but you’re definitely not alone. Search the internet and you’ll find tons of articles to help you overcome this irrational fear In the end, that’s all it is. It’s just like someone who is irrationally afraid of harmless spiders. Trust me, I’m not judging you though. I’ve been afraid of speaking too long as well. If there are any Toastmasters meetings near you, start attending those. The only way you’ll overcome the fear is by doing and gaining more confidence.

      Michael

      • Raj

        Thanks for you inspiring words Michael!!

        • http://www.facebook.com/mdparker04 Michael Parker

          I just hope in some small way it inspires you to take action on your dreams. Don’t live a life of regret. I started my first toastmasters meeting today. Wouldn’t you know it, they called on me to give an impromptu speech. It was bad and I felt some embarrassment, but who cares. I learned from the experience and I know that I will get better and more comfortable in time.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=720342055 Tatiana Khodova

    ok we all have got the message , so many people are sharing this kind of message..but honestly it is not easy. i wish there were more practical tips for that possible?

  • LifestyleOutlaws

    So many people get hung up on the title of the book and think that a 4HWW means you spend the rest of your time sitting next to the pool sipping margaritas. More people need to understand the distinction between “work for works sake” and work you love to do.

    All we can do is educate people one person at a time… to show them that freedom is within their grasp.

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  • Matt

    Let’s get over the title? lol

    You mean let’s ignore the fact that the title was intentionally misleading to get more sales?

    Would you do the same thing, Scott? Since you’re supportive of the deception…….

  • Ahmed

    Hi scott and everyone,

    Its very nice post. but I want to know the risk of doing what you love for living or better! it seems to me too risky and dont keep you feel stable which is a very important state of well being and health.
    and can you give me brief ideas about making living from what I love?

    Kindly regards.

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  • James Boyle

    Good and interesting post Scott but I think it should be noted that it is possible to have some businesses which only require 4,5,6 hours a week from the owner mainly online businesses. I agree that ferriss created the title to basically sell a shed load of books and I do not believe it applies to all types of business, I believe Tim works some 60 hour weeks and some 4 hour weeks but as you say it all comes down to what your definition of work is. The book is aimed at people who hate their job and want to start their own business to create the lifestyle they want but I agree with you, if you love what you do then its not really work as per our definition, ever hear tv and radio people say that what they do isn’t work, a comedian can easily work a 4 hour week. However regarding ferriss, if he was still running his sports supplement business he would still be working a 4 hour week because he outsourced and automated the business however he did that so he could travel and write a best seller which now has him working 60 hour weeks because that’s what he wanted to create and to him that is not work because its what he wanted to do. I think our definition of work is doing something we hate for someone else for money.

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  • Evan

    Great post!

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  • Yadgyu

    I guess the main problem I have with the “do what you love” and “follow your passion” speeches is that I think doing these things are only temporary solutions. I find that the people that actually follow their passions end up stuck on doing the grunt work and are underpaid. Also, most people get bored after years of practicing their “passion”.

    A person probably will have to get used to doing a lot of things over one’s lifetime. There is really no one true love that keeps a person going. Passion waxes and wanes. Besides, many people that quit their jobs to follow their dreams usually end up broke.

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    Scott,

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