A Conversation with Amy Waninger – Part 2

Education, Leading Ladies, Podcast

Don’t Cut Your Own Bangs Episode 25

Danielle: Just a friendly reminder that these are conversations intended for adults, and there is the potential from time to time, for the conversation to lean into adult subject matter or adult language.

Danielle: Hey, You’re listening to, Don’t Cut your Own Bangs, season three. With me, Danielle Ireland and my guest, Amy Waninger. You’re about to jump into the second part of our conversation, and I just want to take a brief moment to thank you. Thank you for listening to this point.

Danielle: If you’ve been skipping around, hey, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here. If you’ve been following in chronological order and listening to part one and two of each episode, I can’t thank you enough. These podcasts are such a fun process for me, and I hope that you can feel that through your earbuds, or through your Bluetooth, or through your car, or however you’re listening. Thank you so much. And without further ado, here’s Amy Waninger.

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Danielle: Now, something I noticed about your website that I wanted to ask you about. I noticed that there… I can’t remember exactly where it was placed, but that you’re a certified women’s business enterprise, and a certified LGBT business enterprise. So I’m curious, first of all, if you could explain what those two things are to me?

Amy Waninger: Sure.

Danielle: And what drives the passion to really promote those two’s aspects of your business?

Amy Waninger: Sure… Let me back up and talk about what those things are. So, for companies or government organizations… I’m sorry, government organizations and for companies that do business with the government, they have certain thresholds that they need to meet certain targets they need to meet, where they bring in suppliers who have some disadvantaged status.

Amy Waninger: Now if you think about… Let’s back up a little bit more, sorry, this is going to be a long answer, but if you think about how deals are done, typically, somebody gets a deal because they’re out on the golf course with a guy that needs to hire the guy that… And it’s usually guys, and it’s usually old white guys.

Amy Waninger: It’s really easy if you’re networked and you play golf, and you know people because you went to school with them, at some elite school, and they own a thing and you own a thing. It’s really easy to get in face time with them to do business.

Amy Waninger: And that’s considered a very acceptable way to do business. Now for people who don’t have the benefit of those backgrounds and relationships and identities, it’s a little bit harder to break in and make those deals. There are certain targets that exist, to help close that gap between who has those relationships and who doesn’t, so that everybody gets a little bit fair of a shake.

Amy Waninger: To have contracts with government entities, and with the businesses that subcontract for the government. That’s the first thing.

Amy Waninger: The second thing is, a lot of companies in general, because they want… Even if they don’t have government contracts, they want their workforce and their supply chain, to reflect the communities, and the consumers that they serve. again, they may not have relationships, personal relationships within those communities, different communities. They’ll set internal targets of, we want our suppliers to be 10% of our contracts to go to women this year, specifically, or whatever the number is, and those vary.

Amy Waninger: There are certain organizations that exist to help certify businesses as being, owned by people who are otherwise disadvantaged in business. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, is one of those and they have regional… I’m going to screw up the details, but they have regional affiliates, that handle their certification process for them. And what being a certified was women’s business enterprise means is, that I’ve presented the documentation that says that I’m a woman, number one, and number two that I really do own my business. I’m not a figurehead for some other entity, that’s trying to get a backdoor into an organization, without having gone through the proper channels, or whatever.

Amy Waninger: Then once I have that certification, they look through all of your financial records and all of that, make sure that you are who you say you are, and you’re doing what you say you’re doing. And then, you pay membership into their organization. And then they have events where you can meet with supply chain managers, in larger companies, and things like that.

Amy Waninger: It’s just kind of a way for me to have conversations with people I wouldn’t otherwise rub elbows with.

Danielle: That makes sense.

Amy Waninger: And the same thing with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce… This is actually really funny, I hope that I can share this, and if not, you can edit me out later. But, I’m a woman and I’m married to a man. I have three children. For the LGBT certification, you have to prove that you own your business, and that you’re a member of the LGBT community. Typically you would do that with, papers documenting the same sex marriage or adoption papers, documenting the same sex relationship or, some sort of medical papers, documenting a transition if you’re a transgender individual, something like that.

Amy Waninger: But for me as a bisexual woman married to a man, I don’t have, I don’t have papers, I got nothing.

Amy Waninger: So I’m looking at their website, I’m like, “Well how do I prove that I am who I say I am?”

Amy Waninger: And one of the things was, “Well, you could have letters, testimonial letters, from people who know you well, to say that yes, you identify as a member of this community.”

Amy Waninger: I was like, “I don’t even know how to do this.” So I actually went on Facebook and I’m like, “Okay, friends, need a favor. If you’ve known me for a few years and you know that this is how I identify, and that I’d been active in the LGBT community for decades and whatever, could you please write a letter of recommendation?”

Amy Waninger: I’m thinking about the people that I know. And the people that I’m friends with since college and whatever, “And please for the love of God, do not start the letter, Dear Penthouse.”

Danielle: Oh that’s-

Amy Waninger: Because you know how your friends are.

Danielle: Oh of course, yes.

Amy Waninger: So I got my letters, I get people to attest that I am who I say I am and I also, I have a whole chapter in my book about coming out and I use that as supporting evidence and so I did get the certification. But again, it’s a way for, you know, and a lot of, a lot of organizations, like a lot of women’s business enterprise, a lot of LGBT business enterprises, they want, when they subcontract, they want to make sure that they’re spending their dollars in their community and supporting their own community too. It doesn’t just give companies access to the big, you know, Ford motor company or Intel or whatever. It gives me access to other WBEs and LGBT Bs that may be looking to, mentor or bring somebody along and help share in their success.

Danielle: Is we bees is at the women’s…

Amy Waninger: Yes, and then there are also MBEs, which are minority business enterprises and don’t qualify for that. There are veterans, business enterprises and those kinds of things. And there are a bunch of certifications that you can get in different markets and different industries. But those are the two that, that I thought would be the most helpful for me.

Danielle: Thank you so much for that explanation. That was really insightful. I am curious, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given? You seem like someone who, I know that what you do is, a coach in your company. It’s more than giving advice, but it seems like you probably have a lot of good advice. And I’m curious what the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given was.

Amy Waninger: When I was an intern back in the day before I’d even graduated college, I had a woman who was my mentor and she was my project manager and she taught me everything from like what side of the page to the staples go on.

Amy Waninger: And I’m not even kidding because if your landscape and you do it wrong. It screws everything up, for real.

Danielle: No, I believe you.

Amy Waninger: Because when you get out, you know I’m first generation in the, in the professional world. I didn’t know these things. I didn’t know you had to like do emails a certain way, just whatever. But one of the best pieces of advice she gave me in Vera Lawson and if you’re out there listening, I’d never forget this and I use it all the time. If I’ve done something wrong, tell me if I’ve done something right, please tell my boss.

Danielle: I love that.

Amy Waninger: I use that all the time. It’s part of, I do a session on giving and receiving feedback and a lot of people are really bad at taking a compliment. But if you can learn to say thank you so much for letting me know that I had an impact on your work, would you mind letting my boss know? Most people are happy to do it. It never would have occurred to them otherwise. And your boss is thrilled because then they know what you’re doing all day.

Danielle: That’s funny because I feel like a lot of what I see at least, like when you look at online reviews, people are more apt to complain digitally and publicly not to the person. And for anyone listening who is familiar with the, the Patachou foundation in the Patachou restaurants like public greens, Patachou, Petite Chou, Napoli’s on the menu it says, I can’t think of the exact phrasing, but it’s tell a human. If you have an issue, tell a human. And I think that’s, but that leading back to encouraging people to kind of sit with that uncomfortable space, it’s, it’s hard to look someone in the eye and say, I don’t like this or this is bothering me or this is hard, or the words that you use that impacted me in a negative way or that hurt my feelings, that’s hard for us to do. That’s really hard for us to do. I think that’s fantastic advice, please tell my boss if I did a good job, and in my case, write a review.

Amy Waninger: Exactly, exactly. I’ve gotten, as I’ve transitioned from the corporate world to entrepreneurship, I have learned to say thank you so much for saying that. Could you put that in a LinkedIn review for me? Because that’s, my new bosses everybody, I need-

Danielle: Public opinion.

Amy Waninger: I need that. I never asked for anything dishonest and I never asked for somebody to go out of their way, but if they’ve already written me an email telling me how great they think I am, it’s pretty easy to copy and paste that into a LinkedIn review.

Danielle: I love that. Own it. Now is the segment of the podcast where I love to learn a little bit more about moments that maybe didn’t go quite as planned. I call them my don’t cut your own bang moments. Amy, I’m very interested to hear what your don’t cut your own big moment is.

Amy Waninger: About two years ago, I got this idea for this company, this business that I started, and it started as a blog and I had my name all down, it was ready to go. The real Genesis of this was I had gone to a conference and I wanted to do something for the conference. I wanted to give back to the conference. And I had noticed that there were some really good presenters, but they were presenting material that I’d already read elsewhere. And there were some presenters that had really good material that was new, or at least new to me, but maybe their presentation style was just a little stale. There were a few that got it, got both sides of that right. But not a ton. I mean, it was really good conference, but it’s just, to me, I was like, eh, I think I could, I think I could do this.

Amy Waninger: I think I could do it in a way that would kind of marry the two. I submitted a proposal for the conference for the next year and they accepted my proposal.

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Danielle: Oh my gosh.

Amy Waninger: It was awesome.

Danielle: That’s amazing.

Amy Waninger: It was. It was on formulating like what I knew what I wanted to talk about. I didn’t know what I was going to say. All that eventually came, became my book network beyond bias, but it started first as a blog and a website and whatever, I had this one engagement, speaking engagement and I thought, this is it. This is it. I’m going to be a public speaker. It’s going to be great here.

Danielle: Here come Oprah, I’m going to be our next-

Amy Waninger: That’s right. I didn’t have a book yet. I didn’t have anything, anything that I have now. I had nothing, none of it. I had like a talk and a framework and that was it. And I was so excited and I look forward to it for months and months and months and I just knew. I didn’t even know to call myself a professional speaker, not a public speaker. I just, but I just knew that this was going to be it and I was going to be the thing that was going to change my whole life. So I’m waiting for it. I’m waiting for it. And a hurricane comes through Florida and the conference is canceled.

Danielle: No, I mean no for the hurricane, but no for no.

Amy Waninger: Because it’s all about me. Forget all the devastation that happened in Orlando two years ago. What about my talk, and I realized because I’ve, I had already written that blog post how selfish I was being and how traumatized I was and how ridiculous and self centered and, and just fool it. It was so, so silly, but I was devastated, and so, I cried for a while and my best friend was going to meet me because it was Orlando. She’d never been to Disney. And I was like, meet me down there, come to my talk and then we’ll go to Disney and we’ll spend a few days at Disney. She said, okay, great. So I called her and I said, Oh they canceled my conference. She goes and she goes, well we’re still going to Disney right? And I said, I don’t want to go to Disney. I just want to hide under my bed and never do anything ever.

Amy Waninger: And she goes, cause I’m taking this hurricane personally, which come on guys, really. I said, yeah, let’s do it. She said, I think we need to, she said, I’ve already got the time off. We’ve already got our tickets. Let’s just go. I said, all right fine, we’ll go. So we went, we had a wonderful time. Well while I was down there waiting for her to get there, cause I still went for the whole thing. Cause that’s when my tickets were, there was no conference. But I’m wondering around this empty resort. I started thinking about it and I said, okay, in every movie where there’s a hero and the hero wants to accomplish some great things like the Hobbit. They encountered trolls and dragons and setbacks, there’s probably an earthquake or something. This is my troll.

Danielle: The hurricane’s your troll.

Amy Waninger: The hurricane was my troll, and I thought, okay, here’s the thing, I’ve got this talk prepared. I know I’m going to make a book out of it at some point because what I created was so powerful for me that I wanted to share it beyond the 150 people that were going to be maybe, maybe if they showed up in the room. I thought, well, okay, this is just a test, and the question is how bad do I want this? The answer is really bad, really bad. It’s not this conference, I’ll find another conference, I can present this talk at. I didn’t find another conference to present the talk at, I found 35 more In 2018 I went from, 2017 I had one speaking engagement lined up, one unpaid speaking engagement. Hurricane came. I went from one to zero. Then over the course of 2018 I did 35 speaking engagements in my first year. Not even as a full time speaker. I was taking time off from my job, literally taking days off to go speak at conferences at different places. Then I ran out of time off so I had to quit.

Danielle: Oh my goodness. That is one of my favorite. Don’t cut your own big moments I’ve ever heard. Actually this podcast was birthed out of rejection literal and of course a series of rejections like throughout my life that I just, turning into jokes with my friends. My first season, cause we’re not recording season three, my first season of this podcast I went to a workshop where I was basically learning how to apply for my first major speaking conference a friend said, I think you should go. And I said all right if you think so. I kind of stumbled in last minute. I’m in workout gear and everyone around me is super professional and they have all these things like mission statements, websites, all of this, They have all of the legitimate things that make them legitimate and, everyone in that group got selected, but me, and one other person but the opportunity that I was able to create by being in that room and seeing those people and getting to know them.

Danielle: Basically everyone in that room was season one with the exception of maybe one or two other people. It’s amazing. Literally, this podcast was birthed out of a big rejection and Oh, I love that. That’s so, that’s so inspiring. One turned to zero and zero turned to 35 that’s amazing. Well, Amy, what would you, knowing what you know now, having done, let’s say, upwards of 40 talks, I’m assuming at this point, maybe even more knowing what you know now and doing what you’ve done now, what would you tell the version of you roughly two and a half years ago, whose dreams were crushed with a hurricane? Hurricane troll.

Amy Waninger: Hurricane troll. I think I would tell her what I told her at the time, which is, this is not about you, and if you want this, go find a way.

Danielle: Go find a way.

Amy Waninger: If you know it’s important, if it’s important to you and you think it can help somebody else, go find a way.

Danielle: I like that. Go find a way. Well, the, a lot of the themes that I’ve been interested in exploring this year personally, but also professionally and for this season of the podcast is where permission, perfection and procrastination serve as roadblocks. They are stumbling blocks in the way of us. To me, those are my emotional trolls, the emotional goblins. And, Oh God, what was, what were those creatures and Lord of the rings, the-

Amy Waninger: The Orcs.

Danielle: Orcs. Thank you. Thank you. Those are my Orcs. They’re keeping me or keeping me from getting to Mordor and throwing the ring in Mount Doom and that whole thing. I love things. But anyway, I guess thinking about how those themes play into what you’ve just shared, it sounds like you gave yourself permission to go after it. Is that, would you say that, that’s true?

Amy Waninger: It wasn’t that moment, but before that I got permission from someone else. Who was that? There’s a woman named Jennifer Brown. She is a rock star, diversity and inclusion consultant. She consults all across the fortune 100 she’s brilliant. I met her at a conference. I was watching her. It was when I was still formulating what I was going to speak about at my own conference that didn’t happen, the hurricane troll conference. I saw her and I said, I can do what she’s doing. I know, she did a really good job and I said, I can do that, I know I can. I talked to her in the hallway, she was signing books She said, she’s doing her sales thing, What do you do? Where do you work and what do you do? And I said, well, I want to do what you do. She looked at me, she’d met me four seconds prior and she goes, you totally should. You’d be great.

Amy Waninger: I don’t know who comes up with that kind of generosity in the moment.

Danielle: I love that.

Amy Waninger: But she gave, I took a deep breath and I said, I’m going to. And Jennifer Brown wrote the forward for my book the next year I saw her at the same conference and I said, she said, I’m so, she recognized me and I cried because, and she said, Oh, I’ve wanting to see you. She said, where are you? What are you doing? Did you start, did you do your? She remembered, which I couldn’t believe. And I said, yeah, I started, I’m doing it and I’m getting ready for my book to come out. I could use a foreword for my book and she goes, send it to me.

Danielle: I Love that. Oh my goodness. It does take that fortitude from within. I think it takes that moment of decision where you decide, I’m not going to try, I’m going to do it. And then also someone looking you in the eye and saying, go do it. Do it. I definitely have those people in my life. I’ve definitely had those people in my life.

Amy Waninger: And it’s funny because when you get permission like that from a total stranger, I don’t know why that means so much or why it’s why it’s that that person-

Danielle: Because, they don’t owe you anything. They’re not just trying to be nice to… good friends offer that same thing, but when it comes from a total stranger, they have no reason to. They don’t owe you anything.

Amy Waninger: But then I think about, I didn’t realize I was waiting for permission. Sometimes I think it’s just the recognition that we’re waiting for somebody’s permission. Because then if you can think about it and okay, well I can’t do that yet, why can’t I do that yet? Well I’m not, and I’ve noticed that the two words, I’m not, are my, my orcs. I’m not, my thing is typically like for video. Because I’m really freaked out about video for some reason and everybody says you have to do video. And my thing is I can’t do video because I’m not pretty. I look at people who are like wildly successful with their videos, sure they’re wildly successful. Their videos are great, but nobody’s, people aren’t going to tune in unless they have a reason to tune in. And why do they tune in? They tune in because you’re pretty. The first time, you hook them with the good stuff. But most people, you’ll catch their eye by being pretty.

Amy Waninger: I always have these, I’m not right, I need permission because I’m not, I’m not pretty, I’m not this, I’m not this, I’m not this, whatever the I’m not is. In the moments where I can get it in my gut to say, okay, who’s permission do I need? Then if the answer is, I actually do need somebody’s permission because I need to use their money or their equipment or their time or whatever, okay, let’s go get it. And if the answer is, I don’t know, well then the real answer is I need my own permission. Can I summon that? In the case of video, I’m going to be a very bad example and say, no, I can not some in that, for some reason I cannot get there for myself, but there are so many things that I have given myself permission to do because I realize I’m waiting for somebody to tell me I can do that. I’m just going to go figure it out.

Danielle: Now, where do you feel like perfectionism or procrastination fall into that story?

Amy Waninger: Oh boy, so many places. I was scared, so I had my book look like 85-90% finished, and I stopped. And I said, I’m going to write a different book first. I’m so not kidding. That’s exactly what I said. I’m going to write a different book first. I had a friend who, by text, if he had been in the room, he would have grabbed me by the shoulders and shaking me a little bit. And he’s said, you’re just to finish it, get it done. Set a deadline and promise it to somebody and get it done. And I said, but I really think I should go write a whole other book first, and he’s said, no. He kind of like refocused me. He’s said, what are you afraid of?

Amy Waninger: Well, I’m afraid to put my book out there. That’s scary, and what if it’s not good? What if it’s not perfect and what if it’s not? You know what, it wasn’t perfect. I had to part six’s and no part five. I look at the table of contents, it’s like part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, five, five wait a minute, there’s a problem here. So I was in tears, I’m calling my book coach, she said, no, no, no, nobody’s even going to notice. Not one person said a thing to me about it. I don’t think anybody even notice if you’ve got a very early addition to that book, you probably got to part five’s and that was the first printing. It.

Danielle: It’s just the first edition.

Amy Waninger: It was the first edition, it happens and okay, it doesn’t have to be perfect, the first one is beta, just get it out. The point was it helped people, not that it had two part fives. I just keep reminding myself, just keep going. Just keep going.

Danielle: Well, like your friend with the shoes or maybe, I don’t know if it was your friend or a client or just someone, I can’t remember the context of that relationship, but the shoes, I didn’t look the part, I didn’t look the way I needed to look so I couldn’t show up. That is exactly what it does for me. If I know it’s not going to be perfect, which it never is the first time, second or third, like this third season. It’s better than the first, but it’s not going to be perfect.

Danielle: It is not going to. I have a gold bar standard and it usually involves a combination of speakers and presenters and usually Oprah is at the top of that, of that pyramid. But it’s never going to be that.

Amy Waninger: Well, I’m going there next after I leave here.

Danielle: Oh good, tell me how everything is, but I thank you for sharing that. I think that’s so true and relatable and true and true and true and true. And I don’t think I can hear those messages enough.

Amy Waninger: Well, I think perfection is not just our own enemy in getting things done, but perfection keeps other people from accessing us. If I see somebody who’s doing everything perfectly, I think, okay, well they’ve probably got a team of 50 people doing everything for them. Really there’s so much to do.

Amy Waninger: When I see people doing things perfectly… Are they even real people? Can I really learn anything from them because, do they even struggle? And I think there’s something about, being seen as a human. I’m a real honest to goodness human who, fails a lot. I do stupid things and I don’t automate well, and I don’t do this and I don’t do that. There’s all these things that are not perfect, but I got to keep moving it forward because it’s important.

Danielle: I kind of think that’s, and this is just my own observation, it’s all anecdotal, but I think that’s partly connected to why we probably become so addicted to Netflix and television. We’re hooked in stories. We crave adventure, we crave the struggle, we crave growth but our life isn’t a montage, We can’t gloss over all of the hard, sweaty, uncomfortable moments where we get beat down and beat down. And then the glorious moment where we rise, who knows where that moment’s going to be. But what we feel is the struggle. And we’re like I’d rather watch someone else do it or.

Amy Waninger: In 30 seconds with an upbeat soundtrack.

Danielle: Then at the end, or in worst case scenario, it’s a part two, or worst case scenario, it’s the season of Game of Thrones, which is really broken up into two seasons that I’m really upset about, but I digress. It’s just, we do crave that hunger and adventure and I think it’s almost easier to, I crave vulnerability from other people, but like anyone else, it’s harder for me to access and share my own.

Amy Waninger: Because we’re worried that we’re going to be found out. That were fakes, we’re a big ol phony. But it’s not that at all. You’re real. I love that you said that about the montage because I will frequently, when I know I’m getting ready to struggle with something, I will say, well I’m just, I’m creating the footage for my montage, in my head and I’ll even say that to people. Oh I’ve got this, I’ve got this huge thing I’ve got to do. I’ve got to get through all of this. It’s 150 steps. It sucks and it’s painful. And then I’ll just, I’ll think, I’ll go back to the Rocky theme song. I am creating footage from my montage. Yes.

Danielle: I love that. That’s going to be one of my greatest takeaways from this, and creating footage, my struggle is creating footage for my montage.

Amy Waninger: You’re just going to go and it’s going to be okay. You’re going to get better and better and better and you’re going to see the improvement. And it’s not going to be 30 seconds with an upbeat soundtrack. It’s going to be, months, years maybe of, just getting up and trying again and trying again. But you know, that’s how we get better.

Danielle: So Amy, do you think that the version of you like 30 years from now, who’s written 10 more books and hit some New York Time best sellers and you’re BFS with Oprah and you’re on her Super Soul network, creating leadership and inclusion content for the world. Do you think that would be the advice she would give you? Or would she tell you something else?

Amy Waninger: Oh, I thinks so. I think it would be just keep going. Just, be a little better tomorrow than you were today, or at least practice what you did right yesterday. If you can’t get better, practice what you did right yesterday. I love your vision for my company by the way, I felt like I had a pretty bold vision.

Amy Waninger: My cringe-worthy vision if you will, is to be the Stephen Covey of diversity and inclusion. I want to make it, cause what did for leadership was make leadership accessible to everyone. These are principles that you can use to be a better leader wherever you are, and of course leadership teams fawn all over it, but it’s really like anybody can do these things, anybody can sharpen the saw, anybody can begin with the end in mind. I want to do that for diversity and inclusion. I want everybody to see themselves in that. I want my programs to be syndicated and licensed by companies and used all across the country to help people build the environment that they would want to work in, and that others want to be a part of. But your vision where you know, I’m sipping tequila with Oprah, I kind of dig.

Danielle: You know, her favorite drink. Oh my God, girl. Amy. I think we just became best friends. That was our, that was our stepbrothers velociraptor moment. You knew Oprah’s favorite drink. I knew I liked you for a reason. Oh that’s outstanding. What Renee Brown did for shame and vulnerability. That’s my gold bar standard for what I want to do for permission, perfection and procrastination. And of course be Oprah’s bring the best friend and with Gail, obviously before I find out-

Amy Waninger: I don’t want to supplant Gail, I’m happy just for a seat on the couch, somewhere at some point. Let’s just put it that way.

Danielle: Oh my God. Well, I could probably riff on this fantasy tangent for the rest of the day, but I want to be mindful of your time and our listeners time as well. I’m sure all of you have loved this. I will include all ways to connect with Amy in the show notes. Thank you Amy so much for being here. Thank you all for listening and thanks so much. We’ll catch you next time.

Amy Waninger: Thank you.

Danielle: Thank you so much for listening to season three of Don’t Cut Your Own Bangs. This has been a blast for me to make. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening, and if you have a moment, please rate, review and subscribe. Have a great day.

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