The “My Life Is Better Do What I Say” Conundrum


There is so much to say here that I may very well go on 1,349 tangents and hide my actual point in a metaphor or 3. If you don’t want your brain to do backflips maybe read twice before decoding what I’ve actually written.

Life is like a box of chocolates … kidding, that’s not my metaphor. ;) (Run Forest!)

Also, I’m not going to use any metaphors. Let’s make this simple. :)

Recently Norcross wrote an article called Designing The Hate Lifestyle about his issues with this whole lifestyle design / minimalist thing. A lot of people are entering this niche and talking down to others who aren’t living their lives in a very specific way.

I have many of the same issues as Norcross. I’ve always refused to call myself a lifestyle designer and I don’t think I’ve ever used it in writing here. (P.S. I also dislike location independent; don’t believe I’ve used that one either.)

My specific issues with those phrases are exactly what Norcross pointed out: they’re just buzzwords. Essentially meaningless. Location independent? WTF does that really mean? I’m fully dependent on my location (wherever that happens to be). Otherwise I guess I’d be a ghost. As for “lifestyle design”? Don’t we all design our lives? Unless you’re a robot or a slave you already design your life. Maybe it’s not your ideal life, but you still design it.

Can this whole thing still be a positive, world-changing movement? Can we still have Freedom Fighters? Can we still seek our ideal lives?

Yes. Consciously improving your life will never be a bad thing.

Are all the people who use the buzzwords bad people doing bad things?

No way. I’m friends with quite a few of them and they rock.

And that’s the issue I brought up in the comments to Norcross’s article:

From my own experience and from the experiences of a lot of people I know, many of us *were not* satisfied with life. That’s not to say that *you* can’t be satisfied just because you own more than X number of things and don’t constantly travel. If you are happy, that is awesome, but the vocal majority (different than the statistical majority) doesn’t seem to be very happy. And when we write we speak to those who are seeking their ideal lives not those who already have it.

I hate the exploitation and the “I’m not making any money, but I’m going to show people how to make money and be location independent anyway” type of thing that’s happening as much as anybody. It’s really sad when that happens because people aren’t being true to themselves and lots of people are being led astray.

If you are currently caught up in something that isn’t you and isn’t true to your values there is no reason you can’t stop and change directions right now. The cool thing about humans is that we’re, in general, very forgiving beings when we’re dealing with an honest person exposing their dishonesty.

But my favorite point that Norcross made doesn’t have anything to do with “lifestyle design” and it’s one I haven’t always done an exceptional job of embracing myself. That is “connect outside your bubble.” Some people call this “incestuous blogging.”

It’s like a Phil Anselmo lyric: “live in a hole, stay close to my kind.” And that’s an utterly foolish way to live or run a business.

You could even say it’s “safe” in the most unsafe way. You surely have varied interests and you’ll learn a lot from other perspectives.

Am I going to stop enjoying Hilah Cooking just because I’m not going to eat a lot of the meals? Nope. I’ll just infiltrate the show and make vegan chili! ;) Am I going to stop hanging out with friends in bars just because I go through 6 month phases of not drinking? Nope. I can enjoy a water just as much as a beer and still party as hard as the rest of ’em.

I’m glad I got through this without any metaphors or tangents. I did have to throw away ~1,500 words, but we’re all the better for it.

What do you think? How do you feel about the location independent lifestyle design niche? Does it make you run and hide or do you embrace the good points and the good people and shut out the rest?


  1. Hi Karol! I just heard you on the Foolish Adventure podcast and just checked out your blog. You have given me a lot to think about with my new blog to just check myself.

    To comment on this post: I understand your point about not wanting to use these phrases because they are misused. I like what you said on his post because “life style design” should mean using your business to design your ideal life style. Your ideal life style might be similar to mine in some ways, but it will never be the same. Those who use the term to mean a specific life style that everyone should want and strive for is wrong. It really stinks when people misuse a phrase so much that you actually have to fully explain things :)

    I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • Hey Nate, thanks for stopping by from Foolish Adventure. :) “Your ideal life style might be similar to mine in some ways, but it will never be the same.” – agreed. :)

  2. HA! I didn’t know we were being infiltrated!

    This post is great and something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I completely agree with you about incestuous blogging. There are a TON of great ideas and some really inspirational writing coming out, but over the last few months it does seem to have gotten really incestuous. It’s kind of like an echo-chamber. Even though I really liked the first handful of minimalism ebooks, it feels like the ground has been pretty covered at this point and I’m not sure how much there is left to say on the subject. After awhile it just becomes another niche like “make money online” or something like that.

    The really exciting thing about technology and the tools we have at our fingertips is that it gives us the freedom to create a life that is in harmony with who we really are. For some people this is traveling with a backpack, for someone else it could be living like a recluse in a mansion or a trailer park.

    My favorite part of this post: “Location independent? WTF does that really mean? I’m fully dependent on my location (wherever that happens to be). Otherwise I guess I’d be a ghost.”

    • haha, maybe infiltrated was the wrong word :)

      This is so true: “The really exciting thing about technology and the tools we have at our fingertips is that it gives us the freedom to create a life that is in harmony with who we really are.”

  3. Hey Karol,
    I was just writing a post about this, will be online tonight.
    I think there are a lot of people pretending like there is a big bad world out there, telling them what to do. They are the brave ones escaping the “Status-Quo”, and tell their readers to do the same.
    In principle, they are just the digital version of the backpacker, the entrepreneur or the people reading Tony Robbins books.
    As you said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that, but I think it is not a good thing they pretend they change the world with it, they are only changing their own life for the better, and that is all, and that is fine, and that is life.

    • Hey Niels, thanks for commenting. I’m not sure I fully understand what you are saying, but I will say this about changing the world: changing your life does change the world. When you make a positive impact on yourself you will make a positive impact on others.

  4. Right on, Karol. I liked it when you posted Norcross’ link to Twitter, and I like your own commentary. I’m a teacher, and I like being a teacher, and I truly feel it’s my “karma” to be a teacher; I guess I am very location dependent, as it were, but I don’t feel trapped.

    BTW, my new year is starting with the MCM. So far, I dig it.

    Thanks Karol!

    • Ahh, this is important: “I don’t feel trapped.” I think that’s the key to knowing if you’re living your ideal life. Do I feel trapped? No? Fantastic! Yes? Time for change.

      Thanks for the MCM love. :)

  5. very well put Karol!

    I agree, and I must that I am somewhat guilty of “I’m not making any money, but I’m going to show people how to make money and be location independent anyway” syndrome that you mentioned.

    This year my goal is going to be apply what I already know, take action, and do a little less talking (writing).


  6. Great post !
    I have an issue with subscribing to anyone’s way of living, be it location independant, minimalisism etc. But I do love getting ideas from everywhere to improve my life.
    A lot of blogs (including yours) can sometimes come across as “if you are not living this way, your life is not as good” which can sometimes turn people outside the bubble away. Me, I just pick the good ideas and try to ignore the bubble exists.
    Great that this is being agknowledged. We need more inclusivity :)

    • Thank you Rosa! “I do love getting ideas from everywhere to improve my life.” and “I just pick the good ideas and try to ignore the bubble exists.” Two very important points. :)

      And yes, inclusivity, great word.

  7. Great post. I sometimes feel preached to by those who no longer have a “real” job or can live whereever they want, when they want. I don’t think they’re really preaching to me, but it does seem to me that they think that unless you’re living just like them, you aren’t living and you are just a hanger-on to this movement. The “one-size fits all” minimalists. I’ve stopped reading those types of bloggers. I also wonder if too many people that are fed up with the way things are in the world are just trading one lifestyle for another insteading of being true to themselves. They’re trying to live the “minimalist” life being pushed and defined by a few people in an attempt to find meaning in all of this crap we call society. It’s like, “Hey, I saw that guy on TV so he must really know what he’s doing.” Well, he may know what he’s doing….for himself…but how does that relate to me or you?

    • Hey Arron, the truth is a lot of people aren’t happy. I think it depends on how minimalism is approached. I truly believe every single person reading this can benefit from getting rid of extraneous stuff from their life. That includes people and things. Personally, it’s the most stress-free positive way of living I have ever experienced. :)

      • I, too, have gotten rid of a lot of the things I owned (the extra car, the clothes I never wore, the books I don’t read) and I love that aspect of minimalism. I don’t like reading on certain other blogs (which I shall not name) that I am a spineless tool follower for still living in my house, still having a job and being happy that way. It’s almost like they need others to be like them because, well, misery loves company.

        Well, as Obi Wan once said, “Who’s the more toolish? The tool or the tool who follows him?”

  8. I believe you hit the nail on the head with this. My biggest problem with the minimalist bloggers in the past has been the ones that constantly push their agenda’s down the reader’s throat. I like to believe that you have to find something that works for you. The minimalist idea isn’t necessarily sell all your stuff and go live on Cape Horn, but it’s a way of thinking. The aspiring minimalist should be asking himself/herself, what is the minimum I can live with and still accomplish all the goals I have set for myself. Will this effect my internal values? I don’t believe that all or nothing is the way to happyness. Do the research, find the information that best applies to your values and goals, and take action. Then, if you end up in Cape Horn, with only a sleeping bag, a MacBook, and a margarita, more power to you.


    • Very well put Justin. Thank you. :)

      “what is the minimum I can live with and still accomplish all the goals I have set for myself? Will this effect my internal values? ” – I like it. These are good questions anybody, aspiring minimalist or not, could benefit from answering for themselves.

  9. I think the reason the buzz words of ‘minimalism’ and ‘lifestyle design’ are catchy is because people have to put a name to leading their best life. Everyone wants to be able to describe where they’re trying to get to and the simple phrase ‘I want to live my best life possible’ sounds hokey to most and doesn’t provide them with something to Google or follow. A lot of people want something to follow.
    No one wants to hear more about your diet if you just say ‘I eat as healthy as possible’ but as soon as you throw out a name like ‘Paleo’ or ‘Atkins’ or ‘Jenny Craig’ people can look it up and get some specific information.
    Reading about other people’s philosophy should be thought provoking rather than thought replacing.
    Thanks for another awesome thought provoking post!

    • “Reading about other people’s philosophy should be thought provoking rather than thought replacing.” love this!

    • Good point Katy. Buzz words are easy to grasp, but when they hit a tipping point they become a bit useless.

      Like Rosa, I love this as well: “Reading about other people’s philosophy should be thought provoking rather than thought replacing.” That is a great way to view life. :)

      • I agree with Rosa, and I disagree with Karol’s point about these buzzwords hitting a tipping point and becoming useless. Hitting a tipping point means they’ve become popular, so people are hearing about them and using them, which means they’ve become useFUL. The label “buzzword” is also arguable. A buzzword is something that’s become meaningless, but Lifestyle Design and Minimalism are still meaningful labels. When does naming something make it useless?

        • Minimalism is pretty straightforward, but “lifestyle design” really doesn’t hold any meaning, as stated in the article. The truth is I never used the phrase because it’s Tim’s. I respect Tim and would rather not use the phrase he created.

  10. You have captured my thoughts very well.

    I too am very dependent on every location I visit. The idea of being a ‘rolling stone’ is very romantic but I only know of a few people that even come close to being truly nomadic.

    The ugly side of all this is that there are a lot of buzzwords and bullshit, most designed to sell ebooks or training programs. The great side is that many people are finding role models or at least beginning to question their assumptions on what a good life is.

    My biggest problem with the lifestyle design and location independent niches is that too many bloggers are portraying the idea that you need to travel and work as little as possible to ‘kick ass’ or be extraordinary. In my view the people really contributing to the world are the volunteers, doctors, teachers, nurses, garbage collectors and countless others that show up and do the work that many of us don’t want to do. I am sick of the lousy service of all the unattentive staff I see in most western companies. Everyone thinks they are a rock star and their job is beneath them.

    Greatness isn’t about making lots of passive income or fantasies of fame and fortune; it is about what you give back to society.

    • Thanks John. “The great side is that many people are finding role models or at least beginning to question their assumptions on what a good life is.” Good point. And so, in that respect, buzzwords and overused movements are good. :)

      I don’t agree that just because someone is traveling and working as little as possible that they’re also not contributing to the world. Although I definitely respect the people you mentioned who do the work that so many of us can’t, don’t want to, or wouldn’t do.

  11. Location independence and lifestyle design are just lenses to examine your reality through. They frame the question in an interesting way. I personally find those lenses helpful in asking what I want out of life. I enjoy reading the good stuff from the good writers (even ones who challenge you to live like them), and I don’t worry about the scammers or the poseurs. The writers and entrepreneurs who provide genuine value will be successful, and be happiest, in the long run. The people who sell ebooks by preying on others’ insecurities will be eaten by termites.

  12. Now if I wrote something like this I would be accused of being jealous because I’m not one of the cool kids ;)

    I completely agree that we need to live in a way that is true to our selves which may or may not include minimalism, simplicity or even happiness. What I am discovering, is that I go through cycles in my life where certain phases are good for changes and others are good for letting life flow and these phases last around five to ten years. Right now is a time for change which means that I can get a whole lot from the locationindependentlifestyledesignerclique, but that is no way that I want to live.

  13. I think this can go both ways. Some people are just honestly pumped about what they’re doing and how happy it’s making them, so they want to shout from the rooftops (or in most cases the blogtops) about their life changes. So we get people who talk all about the amazingness of owning less than 100 things, traveling non-stop or eating paleo. I think as humans it’s natural to want to share your “secrets” to happiness with other people. In truth I read many of these blogs and through them have been inspired to set my sights on living my dream life.

    It goes the other direction when condescension and judgment enter the equation. It’s a shame when people feel that everyone has to live like them, no matter the lifestyle.

    I find it easiest to just take the inspiring pieces and bypass other parts that aren’t a good fit for me. After all many of these successful blogs wouldn’t be as compelling if they didn’t intensely love and talk about their chosen lifestyle.

    • Great point Mallory. And it’s one I left in the full comment on Norcross’s article. I know when someone makes a big life change they want others to try it as well and it can come across as both inspiring and condescending.

  14. I’m a first time visitor and interesting how I came around to your site. I really liked what you said on an interview with Satya at the Freedom Summit page and then I clicked through to your site. Then I saw and watched your link to the chili clip and I’m like so cool, he’s vegan too and he’s living how I aspire to live as well. I’m gonna go and try the chili. Great post….you’ve got a new subscriber.

  15. Funny thing about buzzwords…in my short time in the blogosphere, I’ve observed that when a new buzzword like “minimalism” or “location independent” comes along, lots of people jump on it and bloggers write about it and the comments are full of “hell yeah, right on, I agree!” Myself, guilty as charged. :) It’s easy to get fired up about new things that call to your soul. But then when the buzzword starts to wear out, it gets people thinking, like you said, “WTF does that mean anyway?” Then you start seeing anti-buzzword posts, and lots of people start agreeing with the bashing. But also, lots of people start thinking their own thoughts. From my perspective, it’s all part of the learning curve, and I’ll be more discerning in the future. :)

    • No doubt about this: “It’s easy to get fired up about new things that call to your soul.” I respect that people get fired up. Also, I love the phrase fired up. :)

  16. I’ve been reading your blog regularly for a while now, and I always enjoy what you have to say. This post especially. I agree with many of the commenters here – it’s all about being true to yourself. Whether it’s a movement, a lifestyle, a fandom, or a system of beliefs – there will always be those at the extremes who make a lot of noise and get most of the attention. Ignore them or agree with them, what you take away is up to you. While I might aspire to the minimalist lifestyle, I know that it’s not for me right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t gain insight or inspiration from reading other’s ideas or adventures.

  17. My name’s Jonathan Manor, and I’m new to your website, but the whole minimalist, location independent, opinion caught my eye.

    Minimalism and not having to work in an office is an idea that I’m all for and hope to encompass myself. Tim Ferris got me to start blogging in the first place, and then I found a blog by Colin Wright,, that just gave me inspiration on a direction. It gets people thinking in an unconventional, “everything’s possible” sort of way. It’s all very moving when you take it to heart.

    Awesome site, Karol, I hope we could keep in touch.

  18. Well, I’ve gone and pushed away some barriers of my own by posting up on my blog about what I think about this too – feel free to go take a look, but be warned…

    Love the blog btw, only been reading a short while but it’s helped me push myself forward into something I probably wouldn’t have done by myself – keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Mike. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that there are so many people coming into minimalism and blogging about it. That’s exactly what we need. My issues are more with holier-than-thou attitudes … which I’m guilty of sometimes as much as anybody. :)

      Glad you enjoy the blog and congrats on pushing yourself forward!

  19. Karol, I think nearly everyone could benefit by adopting some level of a minimalistic lifestyle. What that level is will vary widely from person to person. The challenge for minimalist bloggers should not be to see how extreme they can be, but to find ways to introduce the minimalist lifestyle to the millions of people who would benefit from it, but know nothing about it.

    I was introduced to minimalism last August and my life has improved because of it and it will continue to improve as I find the level that works for me. I want others to have this same opportunity to improve their lives if they choose too. I may say the same things others are saying, but I’m saying it to a different audience.

    In response to Niels comment about not changing the world, I think I got this quote from one of your posts and used it in one of mine:
    “You write in order to change the world…
    the world changes according to the way people see it,
    and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people
    look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

    • Hey Rick, so great that you’ve embraced parts of minimalism and it has improved your life.

      “I may say the same things others are saying, but I’m saying it to a different audience.” That’s a great point that I sometimes forget. Thanks for reminding me. :)

  20. Live and let live, that’s my way of thinking. I have no problem with people writing in a way that tells people they should change (as long as they actually have some kind of authority). It’s the freaking internet, if you don’t like what you’re reading just exit out of the page. It’s that simple. Go find something that you relate to more.

    Lots of good thoughts here, Karol. Still thinking through a lot of them, that was just my initial reaction.

    Great shit dude.

    • True, but I wasn’t specifically referring to change. I obviously try to get people to change as well. But you’re right, it is very simple to hit the back or delete button on anything we don’t like.

  21. I wouldn’t ever pretend that “location independence” is for everyone, but I for one find the label useful (inasmuch as any label is useful). To me it simply means that one is able to pretty much up and leave on short notice without having to worry about all the details nearly every other westerner would have to worry about, and that you’re still able to make enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month from wherever you are. There’s nothing wrong with labels if they’re not being used from a perspective of pride, IMHO.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Drew. :) I agree the label may be useful sometimes, it’s when it is being used by people who are not “independent” and selling that dream that it becomes a problem.

  22. I don’t think your niche is any different than any other facet of life from an exploitation standpoint. Anytime people see revenue generating opportunity they come a runnin. It’s how this world turns. It drives me crazy, but it is what it is. Gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find love (so they say) and sometimes you gotta read a lot of blogs to find truth.

    As far as connecting outside of your bubble, I’ve always enjoyed gaining different viewpoints from people that are different than I am. It makes me think and challenges me. It’s gotten me to eat vegan chilli and veggie burgers, drive ferraris and lambos, think about clinical studies, clubs, blogging, and on and on and on. It’s pretty much what I do daily. I think it’s crucial to growth. Too easy to surround yourself with people who are just like yourself.

    Way to do it Gajda!

    • “Too easy to surround yourself with people who are just like yourself.” Yes! Thanks for pointing that out Kenny. That’s the easy way, but it’s not exactly the most fulfilling.

  23. As with any buzzword that describes a central philosophy, they can easily swing the pendulum from authenticity to hyped up marketing. Everyone has their own take on a word, and those who market, will.

    Overall however, words and labels do serve a useful purpose – if you can look past the crud that surfaces with it. In the case of ‘Lifestyle Design’, ‘Location Independent’, ‘Digital Nomad’ and the one I embrace, ‘Technomad’ – it helps folks living (or striving) for these philosophies to find each other. Whether for inspiration, information, community, friendship, sharing, etc.

    My partner and I have been traveling full time for over 4 years now, while running our software development business (that I was running for over a decade before hitting the road – we specialize in healthcare applications, and often work long hard hours with everchanging office views). We started blogging to chronicle our journey and adventures for family & friends. Some asked questions how we made logistics work, so we wrote about that from time to time. And soon, we started getting listed on ‘Lifestyle Design’ and ‘Location Independent’ blog rolls and such. We, like many others we’ve met doing similar things, didn’t set out to be lifestyle design location independent bloggers. We set out to share our lives.

    Despite some resentment for the less transparent LD LIPs out there making wake that distracts attention from the many just doing it – we do appreciate the awesome and amazing people have been brought into our lives as a result of labels that help identify like minds. Connecting with peers, being inspired by others and being able to inspire others. Becoming part of communities – both nomadic and locally with those we’re blessed to be able to visit and get to know as we pass through. Inspiring people are everywhere, and they will stand out from the others !

    We’re always fighting the line between growing our reach to keep meeting others and keeping it real, transparent and non-commercialized. We have no desire to earn an income off our blogging efforts, and sincerely enjoy the interactions we have been gifted via our efforts. The last thing I would ever want is to feel dependent upon having to blog about an epic day just to keep funding my lifestyle. I like having my income stream completely unrelated to our social networking ‘brand’ (and I use that worse ever so loosely).

    So yes.. labels are good. Despite some mucking up the waters.

    – Cherie

    PS. I see SXSW on your schedule. We’ll be there as well, paneling a talk on ‘Technomadism – Living & Working on the Road Full Time’. I hope we can cross paths!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Cherie. :) I actually like the technomad label as it actually perfectly describes what you do/are. Technologically dependent nomad. And you’re coming from a different place than so many who are, as you put it, “mucking up the waters.” :)

      Yes, I’m aware of your SXSW talk and looking forward to meeting up!

  24. I think you can promote the value of having a more authentic life without having to make it all about escaping the evil clutches of the status quo. But hey, whatever sells books, right?

    • That’s true. Although I do fall into the camp of believing there are evil clutches and lots of people would benefit from escaping. ;)

  25. Like a few of the other commenters, I too find it frustrating that the “lifestyle design” people seem to almost always assume that somebody’s ideal lifestyle involves wanting to get up and go somewhere else at a moment’s notice. I’m tied to my current location by family, government benefits that only apply while I live in this state of this country[*], and the fact my disability is so severe that travelling would create massive health problems for me at the moment. Even if none of the disability-related things were relevant, I still have strong ties to family and friends that would make me reluctant to move much away from here – people are one of the big things in what makes me happy, so a life where I didn’t have RL friends and family (whether chosen or blood family) would be very much less than ideal for me.

    I do embrace voluntary simplicity, although I am probably less with the physical minimalism aspects than those who move frequently – it’s just not as vital to happiness if you’re staying in one place, at least for me. And because of all the disability issues I don’t have a regular job, although I’m managing to bring in some internet-based income now (yay!).

    I find that many of the “minimalism blogs” are indeed very preachy about what your designed lifestyle should look like which seems very backwards to me. If people are saying “live the life you want” then to also say “this is what you will want” seems oxymoronic to me! I find this site to be my choice of reading material partially because you’re significantly less “preachy” than most, and I just skip the posts which are all about the travel aspects – it works fine for me! One thing I’d really love to see is profiles of people whose chosen lifestyles are not like yours in terms of the specific choices they made, but who (like you) made those choices consciously and are happy with their choices – people who are bringing up kids, people who are looking after elderly parents, people who are teachers like one commenter above. Spread the word that you really can design any life you want even if your choices and/or constraints are very different to the stereotypical location-independant internet-based-employment.


    [*] I’m working on not needing these, but it’s tricky because there’s a stupid catch-22 where I stop being eligible for the benefits at an income which is very much lower than what the benefits themselves are worth, so I would have to magically jump my income by a huge amount at the point where I hit the cut-off line to be able to cope financially. Living with a disability can be very expensive!

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts Ricky. It’s a lot to take in and I really haven’t formulated any good thoughts. I just wanted to say thank you and I appreciate you giving it to us from your point of view.

  26. Karol,

    Hey, Freedom Fighters is still rocking; thanks for the encouragement! I’ll keep this short and sweet as so much has been covered. We were discussing these very issues over dinner, something must be in the water right now! Busy day and hadn’t caught up with fave blogs til late island time. Let’s keep grappling with the issues, sharing as concisely as possible and keep it real and relevant. It’s more important at this point to be genuine with what we are attempting to communicate than original. Maybe everything has been said that you or I need to hear about simple living or the tech nomad lifestyle; but others are recognizing a pull all the time towards minimalism, so genuine content will be fresh…for them. Mahalo for so much!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Gena. I definitely don’t believe everything has been said and I welcome more people writing about minimalism or living life on purpose or whatever else they please. :)

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