Thoughts On Leadership: The Four Agreements

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Texas, prepping for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention, which will take place March 10-12 in Las Vegas. (Learn more at www.bhhsevents.com.)

For Sales Convention each year, the team selects a theme and this year we’ve chosen ALL IN. The concept of ALL IN is particularly meaningful, not only from the perspective of the wide-ranging technology, resources, marketing and education the brand provides but also from the perspective of a leadership philosophy that starts and ends with you. To be ALL IN means to commit fully to your own success, knowing that you and you alone are responsible for your happiness, prosperity and your positive perception of the world around you.

In the past two weeks, I’ve listened—twice—to The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz. (If you haven’t yet read or listened to The Four Agreements, I recommend downloading it or visiting your local bookstore and purchasing it today. Over the years, I’ve listened to it at least five times.)

In the book, Ruiz outlines the knowledge and practices of an ancient society known as the Toltec, who were scientists, students and artists living centuries ago in Teotihuacan, just outside of Mexico City.

Ruiz describes the Toltec body of knowledge as a “way of life, distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love.” In other words, following the guidance of the Toltec allows you to be ALL IN, taking back the freedom to let yourself be free.

This might sound too theoretical or spiritual to be an actionable leadership philosophy, but the Four Agreements are directly applicable to all aspects of a leader’s personal and professional life. Here are my key takeaways after a recent twice-over digestion of the author’s impactful ideas:

The First Agreement – Be Impeccable with Your Word. This agreement, as Ruiz writes, is “very, very powerful.” Any words spoken allow the speaker the ability to create, like a magician, something from nothing. People can harm or help others, wage war or spread fear just through the awesome might of their words. “The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life,” Ruiz writes. He explains how the word “impeccable” itself is loaded with meaning. In Latin, pecatus means “sin” and im means “without.” To be impeccable with your word is to use the word without sin. “You take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself,” Ruiz says. He also notes we should understand the weighty magic our words contain, brandish them wisely and know that the words others use derive from their singular version of what they believe to be true. Someone can say, “You aren’t good at writing.” We can choose to believe this as truth or, we can take the phrase as just a collection of sound, uttered from the misinterpretations and misgivings that have formed in that person’s mind.

The Second Agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally. “Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me,’” Ruiz writes. He says all people live within their own mind and perceptions, shaped by their own thoughts and dreams. He says: “When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.” He likens hurtful opinions or gossip to poison and says when people deliver this poison and we take it personally, their poison becomes ours. If we understand that all opinions are manifestations of someone else’s reality, truth and beliefs—and they have nothing to do with ours—then we are given the gift of immunity to the poison. Nothing and no one can derail your happiness because it is solely determined by you.

The Third Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions. Ruiz writes: “Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.” In any relationship—business, personal, familial—we assume someone else knows exactly what we are thinking. But, as Ruiz explains, no person is inside our minds and no person has the exact same belief system or dreams that we have. We assume everyone sees and experiences life just like we do, yet no one experiences it like us. This means even the tiniest assumption can cause unhappiness and suffering in a relationship. Ask questions, communicate clearly and cleanly, and assume nothing.

The Fourth Agreement – Always Do Your Best. Of course, our “best” is relative but as we instill the habits of the Four Agreements into our lives, Ruiz says this “best” will become even better. “If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself,” he writes. “Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community to everything.”

So, what’s the message? To be ALL IN as a leader really means to commit to making the necessary changes in your mindset, lifestyle and life that will lead to greater happiness and fulfillment. To be ALL IN is to understand that every word you speak carries intense meaning. It means realizing that others’ opinions should have no bearing on your own perception of yourself and the world around you. To be ALL IN is to assume nothing and question everything in order to better understand the people and particulars of your life. Finally, to be ALL IN is doing your best, however you define it, and knowing that when you’re ALL IN, you can never lose because just making the conscious decision to give it your all means you’ve already won.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Super Bowl

This week my travels found me first in Atlanta, where I got to watch Super Bowl LIII with Chris Stuart, CEO of HSF Affiliates. After Atlanta and a victorious Patriots celebration, I flew to Northern California and finally, I reflect on my week from (somewhat) sunny Southern California, where I’m in alignment sessions, film shoots and meetings.

But let’s return to the East Coast for a while and talk about leadership lessons from the Super Bowl. As you may know, this past Sunday the New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. The franchise is now tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins in the 53-year history of this epic American sporting tradition.

While on paper, the number of wins may be the same, what differentiates these two football franchises is that every Super Bowl win by the Patriots is credited to the same coach and quarterback. Yes, you read that right. Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are the only two constants leading a team that has now made it to nine Super Bowls. This is a record most football followers believe will never be attained again.

And on a side note as a lifelong fan of football, I’ve never seen so many Tom Brady jerseys as I did on Sunday when I scanned the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its estimated 70,081 Super Bowl attendees. The stadium was a veritable sea of 12s—Brady’s number—and it seemed like every other person was wearing a Brady jersey.

Anyway, back to the game. If real estate is about location, location, location then football’s most lofty achievement in its history is about leadership, leadership, leadership. (A convenient twist for our Thoughts on Leadership series.)

Leaders are often characterized by how well they inspire others, delegate when necessary and also by the examples they set. So, let’s evaluate these two leaders by that criteria.

Belichick is considered by many, if not most, as the greatest NFL coach of all time because of how deftly he delegates. Brady is called by most football aficionados as the greatest quarterback of all time or the G.O.A.T. (“Greatest of All Time.”) His status is due in large part to how well he inspires others and leads by example.

The indispensable quality that is the thread between the achievements of Belichick and Brady is exceptional and unmistakable leadership.

First, let’s consider the quarterback position, which is an assignment that relies on solid leadership. Even though the coach is the ultimate leader of any football team, the quarterback is often likened to a coach on the field.

As New England’s resident coach on the field, Brady leads by example, which is a requirement we’ve identified as necessary for any leader. He possesses legendary calm on the field while in the midst of so-called battle and is impeccably devoted to his fitness and preparedness. He is also renowned for bringing out the best in his teammates, displaying humility and always professing the importance of teamwork. For example, Brady famously took less compensation, giving up an estimated $60 million in his career with discounted contracts, so his team could acquire other players of value.

Brady, however, is an extension of his team’s ultimate leader, his coach. Should Brady not be willing to be a disciple or follower of his coach, then the winning alchemy that is required for repeated championships would be undermined.

For his part, Coach Belichick epitomizes the characteristics of great leaders: He’s an effective communicator and a tireless learner. Coach Belichick was forever influenced by watching his father coach at the United States Naval Academy, one of the world’s greatest citadels for leadership development.

In addition to figuring out how his father dissected the game of football, Belichick is also devoted to studying and learning about the lives of other great leaders throughout history. For instance, Belichick looks to Paul Brown, (the co-founder and first coach of the Cleveland Browns, a team which now sports his name) as a shining example of leadership and excellence.

In addition to a constant penchant for learning, effective communication is another staple of successful leadership. Belichick is renowned for delivering what is arguably the single-most iconic leadership message in all of sports: “Do your job!”

This profoundly simple yet simply profound call-to-action is monumentally resonant because Belichick has first painstakingly educated every member of his team and coaching staff, so each team member understands precisely what “doing your job” entails. Belichick also underscores how it’s not only about doing your job but also understanding how your performance at your job affects the jobs of others. This interplay is critical to the Belichick coaching philosophy. Therefore, his leadership creates both individual and team responsibility and complete clarity.

Belichick and Brady stand at the forefront of the “do your job” mantra. Both are known for their interminable willingness to do their job then figure out how to do their job even better than they did the day before. This requires an unending eagerness to learn and prepare. These qualities—collaboration, accountability, clarity, preparedness, a willingness to learn—create a winning team culture. Everyone knows they must do their job or be gone.

When comparing the scoreboard, other organizations will point to what a great coach or incredible quarterback the Patriots have and say that these two things alone can explain the team’s astonishing success. This rationalization is easy; it’s much simpler to explain away lesser success by attributing it to the overwhelming athleticism or intelligence of player and coach, rather than conceding that the differentiation may very well be due to leadership. While some teams have a single, stand-out leader, the Patriots are blessed with two—Belichick and Brady. Fortuitously for their fervent football fans, they each landed in Foxborough, Massachusetts nineteen years ago and have been leading—and winning—ever since.

So, what’s the message? In the end, it comes down to discipline, teamwork and a profound willingness to do your job. Then, when you do it and win, you must still think about how you can do your job even better tomorrow. James Harrison, two-time Super Bowl champion, former Defensive Player of the Year and former Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker (who played one season with the Patriots and Brady) said it best in a recent Super Bowl LIII interview. (Watch the full interview here.

He recalled that when he first arrived in New England, he wanted to “hate [Tom Brady] when I got there.” He thought the hype surrounding Brady couldn’t possibly be real. Then, he watched him in action and Harrison’s entire opinion shifted. The former Steelers’ linebacker noted that Brady was just as friendly with him as he was with teammates who he’d been playing with for a decade or members of the practice squad. “He’s very consistent and that’s why guys love him,” Harrison said, adding that he’s never seen anyone with Brady’s incredible study habits. In the span of a season, Harrison recognized exactly why Brady finds success year after year, and when asked during the interview if he thought Brady was the greatest quarterback in the history of football, Harrison replied without hesitation, “Best quarterback, no question.”

Thoughts On Leadership: The Perseverance Of Goal-Setting

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in New York City, networking with brokers in the Big Apple then taking a day trip to Pennsylvania for a visit with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodrick Realty. I was honored to deliver presentations on three topics: 1. Creating an unstoppable mindset. 2. Building a morning routine and 3. Exercising proper time management. These are three key components to sustainable success. The team at Hodrick Realty is energized for the year ahead, and their enthusiasm and passion to unequivocally succeed reinvigorated my own.

Success has been something of the tangential theme for our January blog posts, which really center on goal-setting, the great gateway to a successful career, a successful business and a happy life. If you set small goals then execute and achieve them, you’ll always be on a path toward greater success.

To explain, let’s use the metaphor of food, an industry simmering at the very heart of Manhattan; some of the finest chefs in the world prepare some of the very best dishes in this city that never sleeps. Now, imagine life as an all-you-can-eat buffet rather than a one-time meal. Instead of a waiter or waitress serving you, in the dining establishment that is your life, you always serve yourself and you always pay before you can eat the food you’ve put on your plate.

Some people idealize life as a sit-down restaurant; they want the bill after their meal is served. It makes sense, as that’s the process we’re used to, but in the buffet of life, you can’t enjoy success then expect to pay later. It simply doesn’t work that way. It’s just like sitting in front of a fireplace before you build a fire and expecting to get warm.

Real success takes work and perseverance. Remember, you’re the one serving yourself and the payment—the work you put in—comes before the meal. And yes, this work is hard but it’s the hard that makes you great. We shouldn’t expect success to come easy, otherwise everyone would find it. As Zig Ziglar said, “The elevator to success is out of service. But the stairs are always open.”

Your ability to persevere in the face of tough challenges is directly proportional to your ability to achieve your goals. In fact, it may be the single-most important human characteristic you need to possess in order to accomplish them.

Another characteristic related to perseverance is courage, as it walks hand-in-hand with persistence. Winston Churchill once wrote, “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.”

If you have courage, you’ll start to see those challenges as merely payment for the pay-off of success. But courage isn’t some intangible ideal; it’s a habit we can create through our actions and mindset. Here’s a process to build courage:

  1. Recognize that you can learn anything, even how to be courageous.
  2. Realize that to overcome the fears preventing you from achieving, it’s important to take time to identify, define and analyze them.
  3. Take out your journal and write down all your fears. Leave nothing out—from the very biggest fear to your smallest fear. Then, review the list and prioritize your fears from the ones that have the greatest impact on your life’s philosophy to the ones that impact you the least.
  4. Next, for each fear, start from the top of the list and ask yourself: How is this fear preventing me from achieving my goals? What would happen if I eliminate this fear from my life?
  5. Once you answer those questions, you’ve begun the process of objectively removing the fears from your life by viewing them from a practical, goal-setting perspective.

So, what’s the message? Above any other factor, persistence—and the courage it takes to persist—means that winning is not an uncertainty but an inevitability. When you persist in the attainment of your goals, no matter what life throws your way or how many obstacles stand between you and the completion of your goals, eventually, with persistence, you’ll achieve them. I’ll end with this statement from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, who I coincidentally quoted at a past Sales Convention. He wrote: “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful [men and women] with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons Learned from the King

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, on conference calls, in meetings and of course, this past Monday, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a time taken each year to commemorate the life of a titan in leadership.

The story of Martin Luther King Jr. is a lesson in the perseverance of leaders. Did you know, as Darren Hardy pointed out in this inspiring video, in college, King received a C in public speaking?

Yes, the very thing King is best known for was exactly the topic he struggled with most in school. What changed? Well, he exercised persistence, passion and perseverance. Over the course of his 11-year career in civil activism, he traveled an estimated 6 million miles and delivered 2,500 speeches. At age 35, he was the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. (An interesting fact that speaks to the character of this leader: When notified he had been selected, King publicly announced that he’d turn over the $54,123 in prize money to the civil rights movement.) He also has about 900 streets named after him today and is widely regarded as one of the greatest public speakers to ever live.

To understand how King made the dramatic transition from C-student in public speaking to world-famous orator, able to move proverbial mountains of prejudice with a single speech, we should travel back to Oct. 26, 1967, when King delivered a speech at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. Tragically, the words he would utter to this group of students arrived just six months before he was assassinated but their resonance would endure, ringing true even to this day.

King addressed the students as the impressionable youth they were, understanding that like him, this was a critical, transformative time in their lives, when they could take whatever failures they encountered and turn them into unbelievable triumphs.

At the opening of the speech, King asked a single question: “What is your life’s blueprint?”

He explained: “When a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well-erected without a good, solid blueprint.”

He said that in their life blueprint, the students should put two things:

  1. A deep belief in their own dignity, worth and “somebodiness.” He said, “Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”
  2. The determination to achieve excellence in whatever their life’s work turns out to be. King quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who famously said: “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

King told the students to study hard—“burn the midnight oil”—and when they discover their life’s purpose, they shouldn’t just set out to do a good job. Instead, he said, “Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.”

For King, realizing your “life’s work” wasn’t about becoming rich and famous, building the tallest building or owning the largest house. He said even if your life’s work is to become a street sweeper, “sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera.”

So, what’s the message? In this short speech, delivered during the very last months of King’s life, the philosophy he implored his listeners to follow was one that allowed King to speak so powerfully on that very stage. As you build your own life’s blueprint, if you strive to become the very best at whatever it is you do, the world will reward you in kind, and you’ll forever be the architect of your own greatness. As King said to end his plea to the students in Philadelphia, “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

Thoughts on Leadership: In Remembrance of Bruce Mulhearn

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California, meeting with colleagues, brokerage leaders and superstar sales professionals. But more about that next week. This week, I want to focus solely on one leader … one extraordinary leader … who the world lost and subsequently celebrated this past Saturday in Long Beach, California.

I was fortunate enough to speak at the Celebration of Life for Bruce Mulhearn, president and broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, who passed away Dec. 26 at the age of 80. He was a true legend of leadership, followed by a legion of admiring fans. More than 1,000 people attended his Celebration of Life, punctuated by the sound of bagpipes to signify his English heritage—he was born ina coal mining and ship-building town on the border of Scotland—and an American flag that waved proudly in recognition of his time served in the United States Army. (It’s almost poetic that his humble beginnings were in a coal town. Coal, when put under enormouspressure, turns to diamond, a geological trajectory that closely reflects the life of Bruce.)

Surprisingly, Bruce got his start in real estate in New Zealand, where he purchased beachfront property in Toa Loa, which he would coincidentally sell for $1,500 after he decided to move to the United States. This was when the transformative epiphany happened. After delighting in the profit from the land, he thought, “If I did this by accident … what could I do on purpose in California?”

 

Immediately, the transaction sparked a life-long passion for real estate that would eventually lead Bruce to Jan. 1, 1967, when Bruce Mulhearn Inc., Realtors opened for business. The brokerage quickly expanded to become one of the fastest-growing real estate companies in California.

On Saturday, his widespread success and admiration was evident. It was astounding to witness the depth of respect and love that poured out for Bruce from all corners of our country and industry. Words like these were used to describe him: “there will never be another like him,” or “his range of talents was immense,” or “he brought a level of sophistication and humanity to our industry.”

Let me add the words that Mike Ferry, one of the real estate industry’s premier coaches, trainers and my own mentor, recently relayed to me about Bruce: “I met Bruce in the early 1970s while working with my broker Pat McVay,” he said. “After meeting Bruce with Pat, Pat said to me, ‘You’ve just met one of the smartest and best real estate people you will ever meet!’ And that’s been proven for years.”

You’ve heard the phrase one in a million and ironically, there are approximately 1 million REALTORS® working today and Bruce was one in a million. To prove it, we have our own special story and it begins in 2013.

It was May of that year, just as the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand was readying to launch. The top 50 Prudential Real Estate franchisees gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the Gibraltar Circle Conference. Prudential had just sold the Prudential Real Estate network to Brookfield then Brookfield sold a majority interest in the network to HomeServices of America, Inc.

The latter transaction created the “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices” brand, and the Jackson Hole gathering was an opportunity to sign Prudential Real Estate franchisees to this brand-new brokerage network.

Frustration, concern and unease tainted the mountain air and with each brokerage leader given the choice of joining Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, no one had yet committed. Everything was on the line, nothing was certain and that’s exactly when Bruce asked for the microphone.

(A note about Bruce Mulhearn, as explained by the moving eulogies at his Celebration of Life: He was an adventure seeker and daredevil. A lover of skiing, who raced down to the bottom of a soaring mountain only to climb back up to the top and do it all over again. He thrived on challenges—like navigating his company through five economic downturns—both personally and professionally. His daughter Elaine told a moving story about her teenage years, when her father would wake her up at the crack of dawn to run along the beach. One morning, the beach was a mess; record-high winds and waves had hit the shores. Still, Bruce woke her up to run, and they jogged around the debris and on top of giant, fallen pylons. “He taught me that there will be horrendous hurricanes in your life and you will have to run through them,” she said on Saturday. “The values of perseverance, grit and self-discipline were taught [to] me by my father because he lived it.”)

 

In Jackson Hole, Bruce’s fighting spirit was on full display. He calmly asked the audience—many of whom were leaders at some of the most prestigious brokerages in America—to open their eyes to the possibility of adding the name “Berkshire Hathaway” to theirs. The combination would be magic, Bruce explained. He said the brand equity and reputational strength of Berkshire Hathaway would be important for the new brand moving forward. And Bruce was absolutely right. It was.

Bruce said the association with HomeServices of America and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. would be worth its weight in gold. And Bruce was right. It was.

He said the brand would change the face of residential real estate in America. And again, he was right. It did and continues to do so every day.

The meetings in Jackson Hole seemed to turn on Bruce’s voice of reason. Brokers looked deeper into the brand as well as their minds and hearts. The first Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchisee was signed in Jackson Hole and many, many commitments came in rapid succession, including one from Bruce and his team at what would soon become Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.

Now, exactly five years and one month after Bruce launched Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, our brokerage network has amassed nearly 300 companies, 50,000 agents, and more than 1,400 offices across the United States and Berlin, London and Milan.

So, what’s the message? Bruce’s legacy will forever be tied to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices narrative. There are a lot of good people in our industry, a few great ones, and then there was Bruce Mulhearn. I speak on behalf of our entire organization when I say thank you, Bruce. We will always respect you as an inspiring leader, revere you as an incredible real estate visionary, and miss and love you as a great, unforgettable friend.

Thoughts on Leadership: Owning Your Goals

By Gino Blefari

“Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.” – Jim Rohn

This week my travels find me in Dallas at the MidAmerican Energy National Sales Meeting. I was invited to speak by Ed McGreen, president of MidAmerican Energy Services, LLC a Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company. It’s been an honor to share my knowledge with such inspired and dedicated sales professionals who thrive on goal setting and more importantly, owning those goals to completion.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Visualizing And Realizing Your Goals

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Scottsdale, AZ for the 2019 Executive Leadership Conference, hosted by Berkshire Hathaway Energy. I’m excited to spend time among such visionary business leaders, who not only set goals but also achieve—and surpass—them.

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Thoughts on Leadership: New Year, Same Follow Up

This week my travels find me in Northern California, reviewing my goals and flipping through the pages of my journal. In late December, during that expected lull just after the jolly whirlwind of the holidays temporarily dims, right before the excitement of New Year’s Eve begins, I always grab my journal and go through each entry. As I review, I note what I’ve accomplished and what still needs to be completed before the clock strikes midnight on a brand-new year.

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: A HOLIDAY LESSON

This week my travels find me in Northern California, in meetings, on conference calls and in general, preparing for the upcoming holidays and new year. Beyond the joy, cheer and merriment, there’s one underrated theme of the holiday season and that’s leadership. And when it comes to holiday leadership, I can’t think of a more solid leader than St. Nick.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Let’s Celebrate!

This week my travels find me in Southern California, celebrating the holidays with our HSF Affiliates team at our Irvine, CA headquarters. In fact, as I type this to you now, I’m preparing to leave for our annual holiday party, a chance to reconnect with colleagues and deepen the bonds that make us not only co-workers but also friends.

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