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The Path to Ikigai: Unraveling the Mystery of Meaningful Living with Nick Kemp
Episode 4913th March 2023 • Be Well, Do Well. • Amin Ahmed
00:00:00 00:25:39

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In this episode, Amin Ahmed speaks with Nick Kemp, an ikigai expert, about the intersection of Japanese culture and ikigai. Nick explains that ikigai is "the reason for being" and that it can be found at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you're good at. Nick and Amin talk about the power of relationships in discovering your purpose and Nick shares his ah-ha moment in discovering his own ikigai. Listen in to learn more about ikigai and how to discover your purpose for being!

Episode chapters:

## [00:00:00] Start

## [00:00:06] Introducing Nick Kemp

## [00:00:43] Learning about ikigai

## [00:06:07] The connection between ikigai and Japanese culture

## [00:07:57] Ah-ha moments

## [00:08:44] The power of relationships

## [00:10:43] How to discover your purpose for being

## [00:24:54] Connecting with Nick

Transcripts

Amin Ahmed:

Hello and welcome back to the Be Well, Do Well podcast.

Amin Ahmed:

I'm really excited today to be talking with a remarkable entrepreneur, that he, himself is a podcaster and an author, Nicholas Kemp has discovered a lot about Ikigai.

Amin Ahmed:

And today we're gonna be talking about what it is, how you can use it in your life, and also what it isn't.

Amin Ahmed:

Nicholas, I'm happy to welcome you to the.

Nick Kemp:

Thanks.

Nick Kemp:

I should probably say, can you please call me Nick, or you'll, you are sounding very much like, my mother

Nick Kemp:

. Amin Ahmed: You want me to, you want me to redo the intro?

Nick Kemp:

I can redo the intro.

Nick Kemp:

no, that's fine.

Nick Kemp:

That's fine.

Nick Kemp:

Joy to connect and be with you.

Nick Kemp:

Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Amin Ahmed:

Awesome, Nick.

Amin Ahmed:

Let's get going.

Amin Ahmed:

So first I'd love to hear a little bit about your story of how you discovered the concept of Ikigai and what led you to, Wanting to learn more about it?

Nick Kemp:

Sure.

Nick Kemp:

It's an interesting journey.

Nick Kemp:

It may have started when I was five, way back in 1977.

Nick Kemp:

My father was a physicist and he was doing research, and he was asked to share his research around the world.

Nick Kemp:

So it was given a ticket, a first class ticket, or the money for a first class ticket.

Nick Kemp:

and he purchased a family ticket and took my brother and I and my mother around the world and one of the places he had to stop and share his research at was Tokyo.

Nick Kemp:

So we went to Tokyo and I don't have a lot of memories of that trip, but I do remember.

Nick Kemp:

A wonderful babysitter who looked after me and my brother.

Nick Kemp:

One evening my parents had to go out, obviously for dinner, and I think she was very playful and folding origami.

Nick Kemp:

So I think that trip must have planted a seed about Japan, and I found myself going back there almost 20 years later as a trainee chef and spent a year in Japan.

Nick Kemp:

In 95 and really enjoyed that experience.

Nick Kemp:

And then the company I was working for, they had this plan to open a chain of restaurants in, in Melbourne and all these grand plans, and they fell through.

Nick Kemp:

So I thought, I don't want to even work in hospitality.

Nick Kemp:

It's long hours and low pay.

Nick Kemp:

So I thought I wanna go back to Japan.

Nick Kemp:

And so I went back to teach English.

Nick Kemp:

and yeah, I was, young and ambitious.

Nick Kemp:

And I remember the first day of starting my job there, I was on a lunch break with a coworker speaking Japanese and trying to, impress people, , and yeah, this coworker casually asked, oh, what's your Ikigai?

Nick Kemp:

I'm like, Ikigai.

Nick Kemp:

What's that?

Nick Kemp:

And she gave me this incredible explanation that.

Nick Kemp:

made me think, wow, you have one word that articulates all that, the purpose and the reason why we battle on through life.

Nick Kemp:

So yeah, I was really inspired by this one word and I remember going back to the school, staff room and telling all the other foreign teachers, have you heard this word?

Nick Kemp:

Yeah.

Nick Kemp:

I was like, wow, that's amazing.

Nick Kemp:

So I remember going in to work the next day.

Nick Kemp:

This was my second day on the job, so I didn't really know any of the staff or teachers, but I had connected to this one coworker and found out she'd been transferred.

Nick Kemp:

And I remember the disappointment.

Nick Kemp:

I was like, oh no, I can't have another conversation on this word.

Nick Kemp:

And yeah, life moved on and I guess I.

Nick Kemp:

Forgot, forgot about the word.

Nick Kemp:

And 20 years later, I start seeing the word pop up in this, in the center of a Venn diagram.

Nick Kemp:

And it was, yeah, really strange.

Nick Kemp:

I thought I remember that word, but that's really strange.

Nick Kemp:

It wasn't articulated like that to me.

Nick Kemp:

and Japanese would never define a word like that, so I passed it off as must be a Western interpretion.

Nick Kemp:

but then I kept seeing it on, LinkedIn, Facebook, books came out on the concept Ted Talks, and I was thinking, why is almost everything about this concept either factually wrong or just romanticized?

Nick Kemp:

So it's romanticized as a secret to a long and happy life with, connections to longevity.

Nick Kemp:

a lot of people believe it's from.

Nick Kemp:

Okinawa, like it's Okinawan word.

Nick Kemp:

, which is not true.

Nick Kemp:

And yeah, most people understand it as this sweet spot in a Venn diagram and that's not what it's about.

Nick Kemp:

And I knew, obviously I knew at the time that, oh, this is all wrong.

Nick Kemp:

And I kept saying someone should do something about this.

Nick Kemp:

And I thought, can't be me.

Nick Kemp:

Cuz at the time I really didn't know what it was.

Nick Kemp:

I just knew it was deeper and broader.

Nick Kemp:

Japan has many words like this that articulate a philosophy or way of thinking, and then about two years later when I saw it on the World Health Organization website as the Venn diagram for right, I'll do something about it, I'll start a podcast.

Nick Kemp:

And so it all started with a podcast and I thought if I could interview one professor or author from Japan, that would kickstarted.

Nick Kemp:

And that's essentially what happened.

Nick Kemp:

So it all started a long time ago, but with this desire to present the Japanese perspective with a podcast.

Nick Kemp:

. Amin Ahmed: That's interesting that it, you held onto that thought, maybe not even remembering it, that there's this idea of Ikigai that

Nick Kemp:

you mentioned that, that you went to Japan.

Nick Kemp:

I think it's really cool.

Nick Kemp:

I've always wanted to go to Japan and I love the culture of Japan.

Nick Kemp:

Is there a connection between Japanese culture and Ikigai as a concept, or is it something that any culture can adopt.

Nick Kemp:

It is a universal concept.

Nick Kemp:

What's interesting about Japan is they have one word to articulate it, whereas we might have to have a fairly long discussion because it involves all these areas of, it's philosophical.

Nick Kemp:

It's very relatable to positive psychology.

Nick Kemp:

the first person I interviewed, professor Akido has said it's a field, it relates to fields of pedagogy, philosophy, and psychology.

Nick Kemp:

so we might relate it to things like intrinsic motivation, positive psychology, existential positive psychology, where you overcome something and you have a strongest sense of self and you realize you're capable of more.

Nick Kemp:

, so it might be close to you, Damon.

Nick Kemp:

. That's how we might relate it, but it's definitely a universal concept.

Nick Kemp:

It's just, yeah, we don't have this language like Japan where they can articulate these concepts in one word.

Nick Kemp:

And from that one word, I guess Japanese understand it.

Nick Kemp:

the irony is Japanese use it very casually, so it's a word they grow up with.

Nick Kemp:

, they don't make it out to be this grand big thing where in the west it's been pumped up to, your one life purpose or entrepreneurship.

Nick Kemp:

But Japanese have, the language, has many words like this.

Nick Kemp:

There are, I'm sure you've heard of what's like Wabi sabi or kaizen, and they get misunderstood in, or they get lost in translation to some degree.

Amin Ahmed:

Interesting.

Amin Ahmed:

There's a, entrepreneur that, that was on Dragon's Den up here in Canada, which is of like Shark Tank in the US.

Amin Ahmed:

his name is Brett Wilson.

Amin Ahmed:

And I remember listening to a podcast with him and he was talking to, to the host of the show, and he was talking about the moment that he.

Amin Ahmed:

was really successful, and then something felt off in his body, went to the doctor, realized that he had cancer, and at that point he is wow.

Amin Ahmed:

Everything I've been doing up until now has been, and I'm paraphrasing, but has been selfish.

Amin Ahmed:

It's been for creation of wealth.

Amin Ahmed:

Wow.

Amin Ahmed:

And he said something that really stuck to me, and I've wrote it, I've written it down, is that cancer saved his life.

Amin Ahmed:

, and that really stuck to me like cancer saved his life.

Amin Ahmed:

And when he had that big moment, that aha moment, that, wow, like there's more to it than just wealth creation.

Amin Ahmed:

It almost feels like he discovered his Ikigai at that moment.

Amin Ahmed:

Have you also gone through something similar where, you were doing your normal things and then you had a moment, a reflection and, an aha moment or an epiphany, whatever you wanna call that, where you thought, okay, there's something more to life than just cranking out the job and making a paycheck?

Nick Kemp:

Yes.

Nick Kemp:

I dunno if it's been a aha moment, but it's definitely been.

Nick Kemp:

This realization that relationships, and we can have all these types of intimacy, we can have intellectual, obviously emotional, physical, spiritual, even creative intimacy.

Nick Kemp:

So social connection I think is far more important than the pursuit of success.

Nick Kemp:

And we.

Nick Kemp:

We tend to define success as wealth and individual success.

Nick Kemp:

And of course we all want to pursue something meaningful and be good at that, but we often relate that to, yeah, wealth creation and we certainly sacrifice relationships, time with family to that.

Nick Kemp:

So I think that's what I've.

Nick Kemp:

Learned, I've thought I have to be successful.

Nick Kemp:

and not maybe really clear on what that meant other than financial freedom or something.

Nick Kemp:

. And at the end of the day, your relationships really matter and I'm sure, yeah.

Nick Kemp:

If you're faced with something like cancer, both my parents started cancer, so I know at the end of the day for them it was.

Nick Kemp:

people that mattered more than money or success.

Nick Kemp:

And yeah, , I think most people are stuck in this insane loop of more wanting more, Wanting more money, more success, and we are never satisfied.

Amin Ahmed:

Yeah.

Amin Ahmed:

That hamster wheel, that rat race, . So are there some common practices or activities that help people develop their Ikigai.

Nick Kemp:

Sure.

Nick Kemp:

we should touch on that Ikigai is something you feel.

Nick Kemp:

So it's again, relatable to intrinsic motivation, doing things that simply feel good.

Nick Kemp:

there's actually a pioneering researcher who defined Ikigai as you have Ikigai sauces.

Nick Kemp:

So it could be a relationship, a hobby, aspects of your.

Nick Kemp:

even.

Nick Kemp:

Even memories.

Nick Kemp:

And then you have ik, which means, I guess Ikigai perception or Iki guy feeling.

Nick Kemp:

So it's something you feel.

Nick Kemp:

So there's a few things we, we should focus on.

Nick Kemp:

Life satisfaction, for example, instead of happiness.

Nick Kemp:

We all wanna be happy.

Nick Kemp:

And I think if you ask, any parent.

Nick Kemp:

, what do you want for your children?

Nick Kemp:

The sort of stock standard answer is, are I just want 'em to be happy.

Nick Kemp:

But if we thought about that question, we'd probably I want them to be creative.

Nick Kemp:

I want them to be resilient.

Nick Kemp:

I want 'em to believe in themselves.

Nick Kemp:

I want them to learn and grow.

Nick Kemp:

So to cultivate your Ricky guy, and it's not really something you find it's something in you that you just uncover and cultivate.

Nick Kemp:

And.

Nick Kemp:

I think often when we remember our childhood or early adulthood, there are hobbies or things that we really loved that perhaps we gave up to pursue work or because of, we get married and become parents.

Nick Kemp:

So things that you used to do that were, yeah.

Nick Kemp:

That gave you a sense of freedom or life satisfaction or helped you grow.

Nick Kemp:

Would be your sources of Iki guy and this pioneering researcher came and mi, she, I identified seven Iki guy needs and they were life satisfaction, change in growth, having a bright future resonance, which is really social affiliation.

Nick Kemp:

a sense of freedom, self-actualization, meaning and value.

Nick Kemp:

. And then she also spoke on the importance of having a sense of purpose.

Nick Kemp:

And that didn't have to be a big, grand thing, but you could have a sense of purpose in the way you cook, or if you're into weaving or writing, or it could be a sense of purpose in your profession.

Nick Kemp:

. So it has all these elements.

Nick Kemp:

yeah, very relatable to positive psychology, but I guess the easiest way would be to do something intrinsically motivating.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah, there's many times I can think that before you mentioned kids, right before we had kids, there was a lot of things that we did that gave us that sense of joy and purpose and meaning.

Nick Kemp:

And some of that was, hiking.

Nick Kemp:

Hiking in the mountains.

Nick Kemp:

and I'm not just talking about, putting on a little backpack and walking up.

Nick Kemp:

I'm talking about taking your food and your tent and your sleeping bag and a little camp stove and staying up there for days.

Nick Kemp:

And that was amazing.

Nick Kemp:

Like that feeling is so good and it's hard to.

Nick Kemp:

later in life when you have kids, and maybe they're too young to do that right now, but it's hard to bring that feeling back.

Nick Kemp:

And so I like this idea of, not having to have this grand purpose where you're gonna change the world, or you're gonna, revolutionize something.

Nick Kemp:

But these little micro purposes where you just do your best work in this one little area and that gets you into that state of flow and it feels good.

Nick Kemp:

It's interesting you say that because, I think one of the last Japanese person who wasn't a friend who asked, what's Yuki guy, he went back and thought about it and said, camping, camping with my friends.

Nick Kemp:

And so yeah, it's personal, it's subjective to each person, each individual and often it.

Nick Kemp:

mean, often it's a coping mechanism too for people who do have a stressful life.

Nick Kemp:

And I think in Japan where if you're the typical salary person, yeah, you are working long hours, you have the commute, you have very little time to yourself, but the few hours maybe that you have on a Sunday where you can just read.

Nick Kemp:

pursue a hobby or maybe that, that one weekend you go camping.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah.

Nick Kemp:

It really makes your life feel worth living.

Nick Kemp:

That's perfect.

Nick Kemp:

That's what I was gonna just ask you about as well.

Nick Kemp:

So I think you're, reading my mind here is that when it comes to feeling stuck or having something happen in your life, maybe a loved one passes away or you get news that you're ill.

Nick Kemp:

How does, how does having a sense of Iki guy, or even just knowing about Iki guy, how does that help you be more resilient in times of difficulty?

Nick Kemp:

that's an interesting question.

Nick Kemp:

So going back to me, came this pioneering researcher who wrote a book in the 19, sixties.

Nick Kemp:

Her study group for her book.

Nick Kemp:

And she was a, a doctor.

Nick Kemp:

She was a linguist.

Nick Kemp:

She was a translator and.

Nick Kemp:

. She also was a psychologist and her study group were lepers.

Nick Kemp:

and lepers in Japan were pretty much ostracized.

Nick Kemp:

They were shipped off to islands and they had all their basic needs met, but they weren't allowed to have children.

Nick Kemp:

So men were sterilized, there were forced abortions and obviously, Disfiguring disease.

Nick Kemp:

Many were blind and didn't have fingers, and she interviewed them and spent time with them trying to understand how do they feel a sense of life worth living.

Nick Kemp:

And I guess unsurprisingly, most of them didn't, they really did struggle with life.

Nick Kemp:

But there were a handful that could buy an icky guy in things.

Nick Kemp:

They really.

Nick Kemp:

I don't know, they just cared about or resonated with.

Nick Kemp:

So one example was a blind lady who would listen to the sounds of nature and orally compose haiku, Haku poetry, or Amin who, yeah, had no fingers and was blind and he wanted to learn the harmonica.

Nick Kemp:

And so he would read braille with his.

Nick Kemp:

Tongue and lips to the point where he would bleed.

Nick Kemp:

And yeah, it was tied to this idea of hope and I guess growth.

Nick Kemp:

So that sort of touches your answer, but I guess to fully answer your question, This idea of a bright future or you are working towards something can help you get through dark times.

Nick Kemp:

And you can even feel leaky guy in the moment despite all the troubles you're going through.

Nick Kemp:

So this idea of your life moving forward or you have this bright future, seems to be that aspect that helps us pull through our challenges.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah, I'm actually really happy.

Nick Kemp:

Sorry.

Nick Kemp:

Sorry, go ahead.

Nick Kemp:

I was just gonna say, so it is, it's weird because there's these elements of sensory, appreciation and being in the moment and being present, but also this idea of how you guys tied to your perception of the future and how that gets you through tough times.

Nick Kemp:

. That's wonderful.

Nick Kemp:

I was gonna say that, that makes me really happy to hear that because, I'm not sure if you know this or if you've seen this on our website, but I've talked about it on previous episodes where we have a planner called a Be Do Planner.

Nick Kemp:

And the way that the planner is structured is that you start your morning by writing down what your ideal future looks like.

Nick Kemp:

and then you plan your day according to that.

Nick Kemp:

And you say, if my, like for me, for example, is I'm really excited about kayaking or going, canoeing on the lake in the summertime.

Nick Kemp:

Now if I want that to happen, what do I need to do today to make sure I can reach that goal?

Nick Kemp:

So maybe it's eating better, exercising, or maybe I need to work on growing the business so we can go off to a more remote destination.

Nick Kemp:

And then at the end of the day, you focus on your gratitudes and things that you could have done better and that sort of thing.

Nick Kemp:

The, it ties back to what you're saying is that when you have this future that you're working towards, that almost fuels you and it pulls you into it rather than being pushed from behind.

Nick Kemp:

And I've mentioned before in other episodes where there's two kinds of.

Nick Kemp:

Motivation, there's push and pull pushes where, we'll go back to the being sick example.

Nick Kemp:

Let's say you're, you've gained extra weight during covid, now you're being pushed because you can't fit into your clothes, literally.

Nick Kemp:

the other is pull motivation where you know you want to buy a new car, maybe you wanna buy a Tesla and you need to earn just a little bit more.

Nick Kemp:

Just make some more sales in your business, right?

Nick Kemp:

And so that's being pulled to that.

Nick Kemp:

So it's really cool to hear that.

Nick Kemp:

from what you're saying is that having that future, having, being hopeful actually brings them closer to their goal and gives them that sense of purpose and being, what is it that you're really excited about right now that's pulling you into the future for yourself?

Nick Kemp:

Ooh, I'm in the process of organizing an summit.

Nick Kemp:

, so I've interviewed.

Nick Kemp:

I guess quite a few Japanese and non-Japanese guess experts in the field of Ikigai.

Nick Kemp:

And one of my community members who's based in, Lisbon and he's into community and, social businesses thought, ah, Nick, we've gotta have an summit.

Nick Kemp:

So yeah, that's something where we're planning.

Nick Kemp:

. Yeah.

Nick Kemp:

As it's not easy organizing that sort of thing.

Nick Kemp:

And you've got, I've got all these time zones to deal with cause, I've got speakers from Japan or the States or Europe, and it made me realize, wow, I've got access to all these amazing people who are willingly giving their time and seem to care about spreading this authentic.

Nick Kemp:

Version or respectful version of Vicky Guy with the world.

Nick Kemp:

And yeah, that's something to look forward to, to bring that event together.

Nick Kemp:

And despite, there's uncertainty, how's it gonna go and how am I gonna organize, how am I gonna spend the whole day, potentially 10 Zoom calls in a row.

Nick Kemp:

How I'm gonna pull that off, and make sure we don't run into problems.

Nick Kemp:

So there's also that, that uncertainty or fear of failure.

Nick Kemp:

But if you focus on the goal or the vision or the hope, and you're grateful for the people involved, yeah.

Nick Kemp:

your mindset changes and then you are, you're motivated to take action.

Nick Kemp:

So that's something I'm looking forward to.

Nick Kemp:

. That's exciting.

Nick Kemp:

I love summits just cuz it brings together people that are really smart, really exciting, really interesting.

Nick Kemp:

all the best of luck for you for that cuz that's gonna be amazing.

Nick Kemp:

I don't think there's been a icky guys summit yet, has there?

Nick Kemp:

No.

Nick Kemp:

, no.

Nick Kemp:

No.

Nick Kemp:

So yeah, that will be, it'll be interesting to see how it goes and if we make it, something we do every year.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah.

Nick Kemp:

That's very cool.

Nick Kemp:

So you've shared a lot of information about, Japan and Ikigai and that, and I'm curious if one of your friends were here, would there be something about you that they would be genuinely surprised to learn that they may not already know?

Nick Kemp:

One of my friends,

Nick Kemp:

well,

Nick Kemp:

you mean like a Japanese friend or an old school friend?

Nick Kemp:

, anything at all?

Nick Kemp:

Something interesting about you that you know, people that you know may not know about you?

Nick Kemp:

, I think a lot.

Nick Kemp:

Some would be the people who don't know would be surprised.

Nick Kemp:

I wrote a book because I struggled with English at school.

Nick Kemp:

I had to do extra English.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah.

Nick Kemp:

So people are surprised that I've, yeah, written a book I think, and.

Nick Kemp:

Yeah, I guess that would be one thing.

Nick Kemp:

yeah, it's an interesting question, another thing is I think people have the perception on podcasts and with your own business that you don't have, anxiety or stress.

Nick Kemp:

So I actually have a lot of anxiety and.

Nick Kemp:

yeah.

Nick Kemp:

Most of my community wouldn't know it.

Nick Kemp:

They see me as this, fun, positive guy.

Nick Kemp:

So that's something.

Nick Kemp:

And the problem with Vicky guy, the only problem with Vicky Guy is it can't help you with anxiety.

Nick Kemp:

it's some research that suggests it can help with, things like depression and whatnot.

Nick Kemp:

But we all just get anxious because of, trying new things.

Nick Kemp:

and yeah, we just have to bring ourselves back to the moment, work out what to do next and move on.

Nick Kemp:

So yeah, there's various health benefits to Tweaky guy, but the research is still of ongoing on that.

Nick Kemp:

But it seems like anxiety's one area where icky guy can't really help you other than it can.

Nick Kemp:

Switch your focus onto the positive and help you look, towards the future.

Nick Kemp:

yeah.

Nick Kemp:

, a lot of people wouldn't know.

Nick Kemp:

I get anxious.

Nick Kemp:

, I think you can almost, Assume that every entrepreneur has some level of anxiety, cuz I hear that many times.

Nick Kemp:

It's just that, anxiety and, feeling that you know that up and down, right?

Nick Kemp:

not to go as far asmatic depressive, but like, when the highs are high, they're really high, and then when they're low, they're really low.

Nick Kemp:

so thank you for the vulnerability in sharing that.

Nick Kemp:

Now, your book is called Icky Guy.

Nick Kemp:

K.

Nick Kemp:

and I think it's a great title.

Nick Kemp:

and you mentioned about, why it's called that.

Nick Kemp:

that's wonderful.

Nick Kemp:

Now, before we started recording, you did, generously offer to give away a couple of copies of your book as well.

Nick Kemp:

Sure.

Nick Kemp:

So thank you for that.

Nick Kemp:

And what we'll do is we'll run a quick little contest on the week that it airs.

Nick Kemp:

And, for anybody listening all the way to the end of this episode, it'll be easy for you because one of the questions is gonna be, something we talked about here.

Nick Kemp:

And Nick, if anybody wanted to get ahold of you or learn more about the work that you do, where can they do that?

Nick Kemp:

Yeah, the best place to go would be ikigai tribe.com and they're, worksheets download, or they can listen to my podcast and have a look at.

Nick Kemp:

Services and things there, Awesome.

Nick Kemp:

We'll put that down in the show notes, icky guy tribe.com and they can find that there.

Nick Kemp:

Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Nick Kemp:

I really appreciate your time and your energy and your presence.

Nick Kemp:

This has been really fun for me and I'm glad we had a chance to chat.

Nick Kemp:

Likewise, Amin.

Nick Kemp:

Thank you so much for having me and yeah, look forward to having another conversation, hopefully in person in the future.

Nick Kemp:

Absolutely.

Nick Kemp:

Thanks so much.

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